What Is The Best Generator? Diesel Or Natural Gas

If you rely on your generator to keep your company moving when the main power goes out, or if you work in a location where an electric grid is just a distant dream, then you need to know you’ve got the absolute best power source to back you up. But is that a diesel or a natural gas generator?

Essentially, the end result is the same. Both systems will provide you the electricity you need to keep going when the power goes off.

So, what are the differences between a diesel and natural gas generator?

1. Availability.

If your business already uses natural gas then you can draw it straight from the grid.

On the face of it, that’s a major advantage. But just like the electricity company, your natural gas supplier can suffer breaks in the service and that means your back-up might not be completely secure. You can buy Methane in tanks, too, but if you run from the grid and a tank then you’re adding layers of complexity to the system and that can cause issues of its own.

Diesel comes from a local supplier and you get full control over the power supply. It’s also easy to buy, as diesel is used around the world for agricultural machinery, trucks and cars.

2. Cost

Diesel is a winner when it comes to the cost, even though it costs more on paper. Simply put, diesel offers a higher energy density per unit volume and that means it’s much more efficient. In summary: it gives you more bang for your buck.

This used to be a complete no-contest. Diesel won hands-down just a few years ago. Natural gas is closing the gap, though, and we’re heading towards a tipping point where gas could actually take the lead when it comes to energy efficiency. But we’re not there yet.

A diesel generator is generally more expensive to buy, which you have to factor in. But if you rely on it and use it often then it will repay that initial investment many times over.

3. Environmental Impact

Natural gas has the advantage when it comes to the emissions and overall environmental impact. It takes less energy to extract it from the ground, it’s cleaner when it comes out and the sulfur, carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions are significantly lower.

Diesel has come under fire for its emissions, especially NOx. The industry is working tirelessly on next-gen filters, though, as well as diesel engine efficiency. Newer diesel generators are also much quieter than the early models. This really matters with businesses like hospitals where noise pollution is an issue.

Natural gas has the advantage here, there is no getting around the fact, but the gap is not as large as you might think.

4. Safety

Natural gas is highly flammable and any leak in your pipeline can be a major fire risk. It’s a volatile substance that is more likely to explode if it isn’t handled correctly. That can ramp up your costs when it comes to containment.

Diesel is a relatively safe substance. Of course, you still need to take care with any fuel, but diesel burns at a much higher temperature and it doesn’t require spark plugs. That means its much safer than natural gas.

5. Longevity

Diesel engines have to withstand higher forces and they are famously reliable. Even in the passenger car industry, the life of a gas engine is far lower than that of a diesel-powered alternative and that is a consistent trend with generators.

Conclusion

It’s tempting to go for the lower cost and apparent convenience of natural gas. If you only use your generator occasionally and it isn’t mission critical, that could absolutely be the right way to go. But if you rely on your generator, you use it often or you simply cannot afford to be without power, then diesel still has the edge.

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