Caterpillar to develop natural gas fuel system

By Helen Wright06 June 2012



Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has teamed up with fuel specialist Westport to develop natural gas technology for off-highway equipment.

Westport supplies clean-burning fuel technology for engines, including compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), hydrogen, and renewable natural gas (RNG) fuels, such as landfill gas. It has also developed High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) technology for these fuels.

Caterpillar - which itself manufactures diesel engines for off-highway equipment - said the two companies would combine technologies and expertise to become the first in the market to offer a Westport natural gas HPDI fuel system for high horsepower, off-road machines.

Caterpillar will fund the development programme, which will initially focus on mining trucks and locomotives, and Westport is expected to supply key components.

The companies said development programmes would start immediately for both new and existing engines, combustion technology and fuel systems. Commercial production is expected to begin in about five years.

David Demers, CEO of Westport Innovations said the agreement represented an opportunity to transform the off-highway equipment industry.

"The substantial price difference between natural gas and diesel fuel is resulting in a strong financial incentive to enable off-road applications to take advantage of low natural gas energy costs without sacrificing operational performance," he said.

"There is also a clear environmental incentive because of the reduced carbon emissions. Adding to the solid business case for this programme is the potential to convert existing field units to natural gas - opening up a whole new market opportunity," Mr Demers added.

Customer demand

Steve Fisher, vice president of Caterpillar's large power systems division, said many of Caterpillar's customers were asking for natural-gas powered equipment in order to reap the financial and environmental benefits.

"The programme positions Caterpillar to offer the broadest product line of natural gas-fuelled machines and equipment, and capitalise on the attractiveness of natural gas as an alternate mobile fuel."

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