Powerful, efficient engines of many types supply the energy needed to deliver electricity or drive in the energy supply sector. The oil and gas industry uses combustion engines in three primary markets: power plants, compression, and pumping. In power plants, the engines burn fuel that cannot be used in turbines; in pumping, they provide the mechanical drive; and in compression, they’re used in gas distribution lines. The most popular type of combustion engine in use in these fields today is the reciprocating engine.

What Are Reciprocating Engines?

A reciprocating engine, also known as a piston engine, is one of two types of combustion engines, which work by combusting fuel to create energy. The other type is an earlier form called a rotary engine, and while still in use today, reciprocating engines are more common in many industries. A rotary engine has four separate compartments, and in each one, a specific job is performed: intake, compression, combustion (or ignition), or exhaust. On the other hand, the piston(s) in a reciprocating engine perform each of those four jobs within a single cylinder.

How Do They Work?

The power created by reciprocating engines comes from pressurizing fuel using a piston or pistons to create combustion and, in turn, produce a circular, rotating motion. This process is called the four-stroke cycle as, like a rotary engine, reciprocating engines rely on a repeating pattern of intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust to function. The first step is the intake, in which fuel is injected into the cylinder, pushing the piston to the bottom. Next, during compression, the piston is pushed to the top of the cylinder. This puts pressure on the fuel, and the spark plug ignites it, creating the next step: combustion. This ignition pushes the piston back down, creating energy. Waste is released in the last step, exhaust, and the cycle begins again.

What Are the Advantages of Reciprocating Engines?

Reciprocating engines are the more modern of the two combustion engine types, and in many cases, they have proven to be more efficient. While there is certainly still a place for rotary engines in the market, their uses are much more limited. For example, they’re built into many race cars because they allow for higher torque value, which, in turn, allows for maximum acceleration. However, rotary engines are much more difficult to seal and often have trouble with pressure leakage and lubrication problems. Reciprocating engines come in different configurations to fit specific machines or tasks and are the most common type of engine found in today’s vehicles.

What Sort of Service and Maintenance Do They Require?

Just like the engine in a vehicle, a reciprocating engine in an energy supply facility must be properly maintained and repaired for the highest output and longevity. At Petrotech, we provide solutions for any type of OEM equipment to help our clients monitor, automate, and maintain their reciprocating engines, helping to maximize efficiency and minimize the need for repair. Because we’re able to design and install custom control systems around existing facility equipment, we can help our clients optimize functionality without the extra time or cost of rearranging machinery. Our control systems can include control and monitoring of the following maintenance considerations:

  • Engine Speed
  • Turbocharger Speed
  • Torque
  • Air-to-fuel ratio
  • Exhaust Temperature
  • Air Manifold Pressure
  • Vibration Air Manifold Temperature
  • Ignition timing

Systems are user-friendly and tailored to each client’s requirements.

Petrotech has over 50 years of experience in the energy supply industry and offers turnkey services for single vendor responsibility, including free 24/7 technical support and troubleshooting. Learn more about the custom integrated control systems that we can provide for reciprocating engines.

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