Large-Engine Technology

With more than 45 years of experience in engine development and testing, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) applies its expertise to research and development programs for large engines such as:

  • Locomotives
  • Stationary power plants
  • Gas compressors
  • Marine engines
  • Offshore drilling
  • Power generation

Internationally recognized for its locomotive engine research, SwRI operates the world's largest independent large-engine research facility. The Institute's array of comprehensive services addresses industry needs in:

  • Alternative fuel evaluations
  • Emissions research
  • Control system development
  • Engine performance improvement
  • Engine and component design services
  • Fuel injection system development
  • Standardized testing and services
  • Modeling
  • Noise evaluation
  • Engine familiarization workshops

Alternative Fuel Evaluation

SwRI performs experimental studies on many types of alternative fuels for large-bore engines, including:

  • Compressed and liquefied natural gas
  • Liquefied petroleum gas
  • Ethanol
  • Methanol
  • Coal and water slurries
  • Biodiesel
  • Vegetable oils
  • Dimethyl ether
  • Fischer-Tropsch liquids

SwRI engineers also have extensive experience in designing and developing engine configurations such as:

  • Open chamber
  • Precombustion chamber
  • Dual fuel
  • Micro-pilot dual fuel
  • Direct gas injection

Using advanced computer models, SwRI staff members determine optimum mixing techniques of the fuel and air in the main chamber for improved emissions and efficiency. These models also provide keys to successful design of prechamber and fuel injection parameters.

Institute engineers are evaluating the use of ceramic valve seat inserts in a large natural gas engine. Results show significant reductions in wear, which should reduce maintenance and long-term operating costs in these engines.

Emissions Research

Recent and pending state, federal, and international regulations lend increased importance to exhaust emissions in large-bore engine design. Using state-of-the-art equipment and development tools, SwRI staff members routinely develop and perform emission reduction programs for large-engine manufacturers and end users worldwide. Institute services for large-bore engines include:

  • Measurement and analysis of engine emissions, both on- and off-site
  • Optimization of the engine's combustion process
  • Design or modification of aftertreatment devices

Control System Development

SwRI engineers have designed and assembled the Rapid Prototyping Electronic Control System (RPECS), an engine control system to rapidly evaluate complex control and diagnostic algorithms. Using this flexible system, staff members can evaluate all fuels and a variety of cylinder, ignition, and fuel delivery configurations. RPECS provides engineers with an effective tool to replace original equipment manufacturer and off-the-shelf control systems in the evaluation of components and operations of engines under development.

Engine Performance Improvement

Emphasis on performance and fuel economy has led SwRI to develop procedures that accurately assess engine performance changes caused by engine and system modifications. These procedures enable engineers to measure changes of less than 0.5 percent in power and fuel economy.

In cooperation with the gas compressor and pipeline industries, SwRI is introducing new technologies to improve performance and reduce emissions of an aging group of large-bore, slow- to medium-speed engines.

Engine and Component Design Services

Institute engineers and scientists provide engine design services ranging from component redesign to a complete new engine design. SwRI aids engine manufacturers and end users in:

  • Improving engine power and reliability
  • Reducing production and maintenance costs
  • Extending engine and component lifetimes

Supported by computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems and full analytical and finite element analysis modeling capabilities, SwRI engineers design projects include fabrication of single-cylinder research projects, testing, and performance improvement. Engine design deliverables include:

  • Conceptual and detailed designs
  • Prototype procurement
  • Final engine assembly

SwRI engineers perform testing and support pilot production at client facilities and welcome client engineer participation in studies performed at the Institute.

Fuel Injection System Development

SwRI has developed, assembled, and tested different fuel injection systems for large-bore engines. These injection systems include:

  • Staged injection
  • Gaseous fuel injectors
  • Electronically controlled injectors providing high-pressure injection at variable timing throughout the engine operating range
  • Dual-fuel systems that inject liquid and gaseous fuels, providing multifuel operation
  • Spray and atomization
  • Pump line nozzle

SwRI engineers design a wide variety of injectors for large-bore engines to meet requirements for different configurations including direct-injected gas and diesel engines.

Standardized Testing and Services

The Institute offers a variety of standardized testing programs and services for large-engine systems and components. Combining industry-recognized and Institute-developed tests, SwRI staff members evaluate and validate aftermarket components, lubricating additives, and fuel enhancers. The SwRI standardized testing programs and services include:

Association of American Railroads Recommended Practice (RP) No. 503

The RP-503 procedure evaluates the effect of a fuel or lubricant additive on the durability, performance, and emissions of locomotive engines.

EMD Lubricating Oil Evaluation

The EMD lubricating oil evaluation, also described as a 25-hour silver lubricity test, is used to qualify test oils for locomotive engine applications.

Fuel Injection System Evaluation

SwRI engineers design and assemble fuel injection test benches (liquid and gaseous) for measuring injector performance parameters such as motion, pressure, rate, timing, and flow and fuel spray characteristics, including penetration, cone angle, droplet size, and droplet size distribution.

Durability and Reliability Testing

The Institute routinely conducts durability and reliability testing on diesel, gasoline, and natural gas-fueled engines of every size, type, and application. SwRI's modern facilities include more than 200 test stands with capacities ranging from 3 to 6,000 horsepower.

Large-bore test engine availability
EMD 2-567C Two-cylinder research engine
EMD 12-645E3B Twelve-cylinder engine
GE 7FDL Twelve-cylinder engine
BSCRE-04 (1-251 Plus)
Single-cylinder research engine

This brochure was published in August 1997. For more information about large engine technology, contact Tom E. Boberg, Principal Engineer, Engine, Emissions and Vehicle Research Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-6267, Fax (210) 522-2019.

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