How Can Drillers Prepare a Mobile Generator for Challenging Conditions?
Dusty environments, subzero temperatures and remote locations can wreak havoc on a diesel generator’s ability to perform on the jobsite. Adding options is a reliable way to customize a generator to combat harsh settings or adapt to unique applications. Many manufacturers offer significant options and configurations that can improve performance and reliability for common conditions that pose a challenge for generators.
Dust is an enemy of any generator, but especially those operating in extremely dry areas or locations that experience strong winds, such as West Texas or the Canadian oil patch. Dusty environments require a greater level of air filtration to keep sand and dirt from entering the package. Dust buildup can quickly clog cooling systems and radiator fins, decreasing generator performance and increasing the risk of machine overheating. Dust that makes its way inside the generator enclosure also greatly increases the potential for it to be ingested by the engine — resulting in major damage.
Options to combat excess dust include installing a large capacity air filter inside the unit and adding exterior filters to help prevent fine particles and airborne dirt from finding a way inside the generator package. Not only do the additional filters protect internal components from exposure, but they also reduce the time spent cleaning radiator fins and air inlets, and wiping out the interior of the machine.
Cold weather poses a number of challenges for mobile generators, particularly those in climates that experience subzero temperatures. Generators don’t inherently produce much internal heat, so cold, ambient air temperatures can have an impact on performance. At just 30 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius), engines can experience startup issues, fluid viscosity becomes a concern and internal components such as the crankcase breather hose risk freezing up.
The most common option for combating frigid temperatures is an engine block heater. The heating element warms diesel fuel and radiator coolant when the engine is shut down to prevent gelling and freezing in cold temperatures.
Other options that can be added to a generator to address issues caused by colder climates include features that limit the amount of cold air entering the machine in order to keep the engine and internal components warmer. For example, Doosan Portable Power offers temperature-activated air inlet louvers that automatically restrict airflow into the machine based on ambient air temperatures.
A heated crankcase breather hose is another add-on option for generators that face the potential for freezing temperatures. The heated hose is installed by the generator manufacturer as a replacement for the engine manufacturer’s hose. The heated element prevents condensation within the breather hose, eliminating the potential for ice particles to form and block the tube, which can have an impact on engine performance.
For generators exposed to subzero temperatures for an extended period of time, a combination of à la carte add-ons may be beneficial. One of the most popular options is the tundra package. The specific components vary from machine to machine in order to meet the needs of the application; however, most tundra packages include up to five options specifically designed to prevent freezing or gelling issues, such as the crankcase heated breather hose.
In drilling applications, it’s quite common for generators to operate in 24/7 applications without a lot of operator oversight. Generator options intended to address safety requirements or extend the operation and service schedule of machines in remote locations should be considered.
The positive air shutoff valve is a relevant option for downhole drilling operations. The shutoff valve is a safety device that prevents a diesel engine from accelerating uncontrollably due to the presence of natural gas in the air — a byproduct of oil drilling. If drawn into the engine, the gas becomes a secondary fuel source causing engine over speed, leading to catastrophic failure and possible engine explosion. The positive air shutoff valve monitors the engine speed and cuts off airflow to the engine if the speed exceeds limitations, forcing the engine to shut down safely. The positive air shutoff valve is mandatory for all diesel generators on jobsites in Canada. While not mandated in the U.S., safety should be a top priority on all drilling sites.
The remote fuel valve option helps to extend refueling intervals by allowing the generator to connect to a large external fuel tank. Instead of refueling every 24 hours as standard equipped, it extends the refueling interval to one week or longer. Similarly, the oil level maintainer option extends service intervals by making it possible for the machine to maintain an acceptable oil level without assistance from a service tech. Both options provide an extra level of protection specific to unmanned applications.
How to Customize Your Generator
Having a generator customized to the specific needs and challenges of an application doesn’t happen by chance. In addition to understanding the options that are available, it’s equally important to know what “options” may come standard from some manufacturers but not others.
A knowledgeable dealer is the greatest resource for finding a generator equipped with options suited to a particular application. A local dealer will have an understanding of the typical challenges of the area — does the temperature drop below the freezing point, are there strong winds and so on. A dealer may have generators in the equipment inventory that are already equipped with options specific to the region and application — saving time on factory-installed options.
Aftermarket kits are available for customers who didn’t select the necessary options when purchasing a generator. Most aftermarket kits can be installed in the field. The most popular aftermarket option? The engine block heater. A generator engine starts to struggle with temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius), and it gets that cold everywhere.
Whether factory installed or purchased as an aftermarket kit, customizing a mobile generator with add-on options helps to improve reliability and keeps a generator performing on the jobsite — and that’s not optional.