Werner Funk, CEO of Omnitek Engineering Corporation, talked about the new technologies developed by his company in natural gas powered engines and emissions control; gas vehicles situation in the United States; and future of the industry at international level.
How would you describe the activities developed by Omnitek Engineering?
Our main focus is on diesel-to-natural gas conversions of new and in-use diesel trucks and buses (medium and heavy-duty engines). We understand that many diesel vehicles are relatively new, or still have many years of service left in them, so we do not expect that fleet owners will buy new natural gas trucks and buses, just to use natural gas as a fuel. Especially if converting diesel engines to natural gas is such a relatively economical solution. We offer fleet owners the option to convert their existing diesel vehicles to natural gas. Under this option, the savings from using less expensive natural gas over diesel will generally pay for the conversion in 8 to 14 month. Omnitek has already sold more than 4000 Diesel-to-Natural Gas Conversion Kits and has customers in 12 countries.
Omnitek also offers new NG engines, which can be used to re-power diesel trucks and buses with natural gas engines, or to manufacture natural gas power generators.
What are your latest products to be launched in the market for gas vehicles?
Last year we introduced our diesel-to-natural gas conversion system for V8 and V16 engines. We can now cover every engine from 1 cylinder to 16 cylinders. This can be a truck, bus, irrigation pump, generator or boat. We also introduced a low-pressure system, which can be used to convert diesel power generators and allows the have the engine connected straight to a low-pressure gas line. No high-pressure CNG storage tanks needed. When converting a generator to natural gas the conversion cost can be recovered in 4 to 6 month.
The newest products are service items. Earlier this year, we added a special 12mm long-life natural gas spark plug to our lineup of long-life 14mm natural gas spark plugs we have been selling for many years now.
The newest item is a special CNG Motor Oil. Over the years we have seen many premature engine failures because the wrong lubricating oil was used. We found that after converting the diesel engine to natural gas, many continued to use the same diesel motor oil they always used. This will shorten engine life substantially. Natural gas engines need a different engine oil formulation than diesel engines.
By using the Omnitek long-life natural gas spark plugs and the special Omnitek natural gas engine oil, some fleet owners have reduce operating costs.
As one of the most important NGV companies in the United States. How do you assess the growth of natural gas for vehicles in your country? Do you think it is the right time for NGVs in the United States?
I think the time is right for natural gas passenger vehicles, especially if home-refueling is also offered. In the USA we have such a great infrastructure; natural gas is supplied to almost every home.
As far as Omnitek’s business is concerned, we still have a lot of work to do to convince the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that a diesel engine converted to natural gas can be a low-polluting engine with high reliability. Until that time, we continue to focus on overseas markets where the energy savings aspect of converting a diesel to natural gas is welcome, especially in today’s economic climate.
This year Omnitek has signed agreements with distributors in various countries such as Peru, Turkey and Bulgaria. What are the results of the company expansion in these markets? In what other markets are you present?
The project in Peru is in full swing. We have already shipped diesel-to-natural gas conversion kits and new natural gas engines, trained local technicians on how to do the conversions and have all regulatory issues resolved. Actual engine conversions started in July. In August we formed a joint venture with a local group to operate Omnitek Conversion Centers throughout Peru.
Peru is an important market for us and we are happy to see that the government, gas suppliers and the banks are all supportive of the natural gas projects in the country.
The project in Bulgaria got started in May and we are very satisfied with the progress we are making there converting city buses.
In Turkey the first converted vehicles are running well, but we are still working on government approvals. Early indications show a strong commitment to natural gas conversions by local transportation fleets.
Three new and second-stage projects will start later this year in Egypt, Colombia and Bangladesh.
What should be the next step of technology applied to gas-powered engines in order to assure its massive use at worldwide level? And what should happen with the emissions control technologies?
For the natural gas passenger car population to increase quickly and substantially, more fueling infrastructure and gas price stability is needed. A high crude oil price will also help, but only if the price of natural gas always maintains a significant advantage over gasoline or diesel.
I think there are not enough OE suppliers offering a diverse product mix of new natural gas engines to really have a substantial impact on the heavy-duty natural gas vehicle population over the next 3 or 4 years. Also, we cannot convert diesel engines to natural gas quick enough to really have a big impact on the number of vehicles on the roads.
As emission levels are getting lower and lower, new and expensive technologies have to be employed to reach these levels. Two Omnitek-equipped engines have recently achieved US-2010 and EURO6 emission levels without the use of EGR. This is about the lowest emission level possible with today’s technology. To go even cleaner advanced and possibly not-yet-invented technologies are needed. Some of these technologies may include cam-less valve train technology, ceramic engine parts, after-treatment systems, ultra-lean burn technology and laser ignition, just to name a few.