Energy, Power

Engine donation supports research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Caterpillar donated an industrial natural gas engine to West Virginia University to bolster research aimed at developing new technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves fuel consumption at natural gas production sites.

By West Virginia University June 2, 2021
Courtesy: West Virginia University (WVU)

A powerful industrial natural gas engine donated to West Virginia University from Caterpillar Inc. will bolster research by engineers at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources aimed at developing new technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves fuel consumption at natural gas production sites.

The in-kind donation supports a $1.5 million research project led by WVU in partnership with the United States Department of Energy. Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of diesel and natural gas engines, is a collaborator on the project.

Caterpillar’s contribution is the largest natural gas research engine in WVU’s arsenal. Principal investigator Derek Johnson, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said it sets WVU apart from other institutions, as only a handful of academic laboratories nationwide have similar engines available for research.

“Our faculty have a long history of collaborating with Caterpillar, and we are excited for this new opportunity to continue our collaboration with them on a federally funded research project,” Johnson said. “Our research team is excited to have this engine. We are grateful for the donation and look forward to continuing our relationship with Caterpillar.”

Jason England, senior laboratory instrument specialist for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, prepares to lift the engine with an overhead crane to attach a generator. Courtesy: West Virginia University (WVU)

Jason England, senior laboratory instrument specialist for the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, prepares to lift the engine with an overhead crane to attach a generator. Courtesy: West Virginia University (WVU)

The engine will primarily be used by a small group of researchers – three faculty members and at least four graduate students – for the DOE project, which runs through 2023. Their goal is to develop and demonstrate an economical methane mitigator system that simultaneously boosts efficiency, reduces environmental impact and offers economic benefits for natural gas production operations.

Johnson hopes the engine will have a lasting impact on WVU and its students beyond the immediate research work.

“We hope that it will serve as new research platform that will serve us for years to come – so hopefully many more future students,” Johnson said. “We are working with our Department, College and Facilities to develop a dedicated research space for this engine on the Engineering Campus, so that it can be used for promoting our research program to current and future students.”


West Virginia University