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Argonne Partners with Industry to Study Benefits of Blending Natural Gas and Gasoline

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are partnering with Ford and FCA US (formerly Chrysler Group) in pre-competitive research to study blending natural gas and gasoline using natural gas direct injection to enable more efficient engines. The project is a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) resulting from the 2014 DOE Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).

The project’s objective is to understand potential benefits and demonstrate targeted blending of gasoline and natural gas in an engine that uses half as much gasoline and shows a 10 percent increase in overall efficiency and a 10 percent improvement in power density.

Natural gas has much higher resistance to knocking, which is caused when the fuel/air mixture in an engine’s cylinder auto-ignites. Mixing natural gas with gasoline would allow the engine to run without fuel enrichment and with optimal spark timing, thereby enabling higher engine efficiency and minimizing conditions that might otherwise cause knocking and potential engine damage.

The team plans to explore technical opportunities to adjust ratios of the two fuels on the fly based on the load of the engine. For example, the engine under heavy load could run more efficiently with more natural gas, whereas under lower load it could use a blend heavier in gasoline. Additional factors that might influence the mixing ratio include the amount of each fuel available on-board as well as the engine’s thermal state.

“This project provides the opportunity to advance alternative fuel technology, particularly the technical challenges and potential of natural gas direct injection and its integration with the gasoline fuel system in dual-fuel strategies,” said Tom McCarthy, chief engineer, Ford Powertrain R&A.

The project is funded by DOE’s Office of Vehicle Technologies within the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. It will take advantage of many of Argonne’s recognized core and enabling capabilities, including modeling of combustion processes, engine optimization, vehicle modeling and X-ray diagnostics at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science User Facility.