combustion engine systems grabbing niche in Asian industrial markets

combustion engine systems grabbing niche in Asian industrial markets

By Tim Hennagir, Contributing Editor

Combustion-engine projects remain a viable solution for power development needs, especially for Asia`s emerging industrial markets. Textile mills, steel manufacturers, cement factories and other companies equally affected by power shortages have become prime customers for captive power applications.

Recent regional equipment contracts awarded to engine vendors Caterpillar Asia Power Systems Pte. Ltd., Wärtsilä Diesel Oy and MAN B&W Diesel AG are indicative of this trend as countries strive to develop reliable power supplies.


Mongolia is currently making the transition to a free market economy, emerging from 70 years of communist rule. The government has embarked on a widespread program of reforms, including measures designed to improve the Mongolian power sector.

The government`s goal is to speed economic growth in a country the size of western Europe but with a population of only 2.2 million. With one of the world`s lowest population densities, small pockets of power generation represent a new market niche.

A good portion of Mongolia`s generation was originally set up to support a giant, coal-fired district heating scheme that did not work. Earlier this year, Caterpillar clinched a pioneering deal to supply what is thought to be the first western combustion engine set order in the country–a Caterpillar 550-kW generator delivered to the remote town of Altay at the edge of the Gobi Desert.

The equipment will replace aging eastern European-manufactured units as part of the Mongolian Ministry of Energy`s energy sector modernization. Mongolia is concentrating on exploring use of its vast mineral wealth as a source of revenue to finance social rebuilding and power sector change.

New Guinea

Wartsilia Diesel`s recent (US)$25 million engine order to supply equipment and material for a 57-MW power plant on the Lihir Island in Papua New Guinea is another industrial example of diesel power generation inroads in the Far East.

The contract includes fast-track delivery of nine Wartsilia Vasa 32 generating sets, plus ancillary equipment. The plant is part of an extensive infrastructure investment taking place at Luise Harbor, adjacent to a mine. The Lihir project is subject to Papau New Guinea legislation and regulations applicable to the protection of the environment.

The plant will be used for baseload power for mining and ore processing facilities and other infrastructure. The generating sets are designed to operate on low-grade residual fuels.


The Indian captive power market represents an order volume of about 350-MW annually. In 1995 alone, Augsburg, Germany-based MAN B&W Diesel AG won 160 MW of the total, giving the company a 45 percent share in this key international market.

Indian companies remain in dire need of more reliable and efficient power supplies. Diesel engines represent an economical and efficient type of captive power generation and their use in power generation often involves limited investment and short installation periods, which can lead to fast amortization and high returns.

The wide spectrum of diesel power applications found throughout Asia compares favorably with other types of thermal power stations in terms of economic efficiency in sizes approaching 200 MW.

Industrial operators are turning to independent, reciprocating engine plants to generate electricity that is vital to business development and recent orders from countries such as China and India continue to document the popularity of the dependable diesel.

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