marine engines

Got Propane? Run Your Outboard Motor on It

Could This Be Your Next Dinghy Gas Tank?

Could This Be Your Next Dinghy Gas Tank?

Well, soon maybe.  In my apparently Quixotic quest for a single fuel for vessel, tender and toys, I keep looking for new ideas.  Using propane as fuel for an internal combustion engine is not new, but it is for a modest outboard application.  A company I can only identify so far as Marine Green (more on that later) has posted a video on YouTube that shows a small outboard running on what appears to be propane from a recognizable tank near the transom.

To quote the YouTube poster, “The ongoing progress of Marine Green’s R&D program. Propane is a better alternative fuel than other fuel sources. Safe, reliable, it does not go bad, and emits much fewer harmful emissions than gas… ”  Here’s the video:

 Is propane really a good fuel to use for your outboard?  Possibly.  We’ll have to wait and see Marine Green’s final performance and emissions numbers, but we do know a little bit about propane, generically, as a fuel.  Check out the table below to see how propane ranks in terms of its energy density.

Btu Content of Common Energy Units

  • 1 barrel (42 gallons) of crude oil = 5,800,000 Btu
  • 1 gallon of gasoline = 124,000 Btu (based on U.S. consumption, 2008)
  • 1 gallon of diesel fuel = 139,000 Btu
  • 1 gallon of heating oil = 139,000 Btu
  • 1 barrel of residual fuel oil = 6,287,000 Btu
  • 1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,028 Btu (based on U.S. consumption, 2008)
  • 1 gallon of propane = 91,000 Btu
  • 1 short ton of coal = 19,988,000 Btu (based on U.S. consumption, 2008)
  • 1 kilowatthour of electricity = 3,412 Btu

Source:  U.S. Energy Information Administration

You can see that propane has about 26 percent less energy in a gallon than a gallon of gasoline, and nearly 35 percent less than a gallon of diesel.  That means that you’re not gonna get as far on a gallon, but if range isn’t an issue and if you’re already carrying and monitoring propane availability, it might be a solution.  It’s hard to tell what size outboard is in the video; but I might be anywhere from a 9.9hp to a 25hp unit, based just on appearance.  We’ll have to wait until the company’s website is up and running to get more details.  I have also reached out to an individual well-known in passagemaking circles to confirm a rumor that he is at the center of this project.  I’ll let you know what I hear from him.

Ultimately, I would still like to see someone like Evinrude take one of its multi-fuel E-TEC models and just certify it for diesel.  It will already run on the stuff, as well as practically everything else out there; from gas to Jet fuel.  Yes, I know diesel fuel is harder on an engine and it would require beefing up key components, but there are a LOT of diesel-powered yachts out there who would love not to have to carry gasoline for their tenders and dinghies.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Construction & Technical, Cruising Under Power, Engines, Powerboats, Technology

Catalytic Converters for Crusader Inboard Engines

One of the new product innovations I saw while blogging the Miami International Boat Show for Mad Mariner was the new emissions control technology from Crusader.  Crusader inboard engines, with the exception of the largest model — the 8.1L — have been fitted with catalytic converters in order to meet California emissions rules.  Crusader reps at the Miami Boat Show today told me that by 2010, all Crusaders manufactured will have the new emissions control enhancements, which reportedly dramatically lower levels of all pollutants.  The Crusader engineers developed a special system capable of safely existing in a saltwater environment and gave it the trademark of Catanium.

Crusader’s New Catalytic Converters

Crusader has also recently advised its customers to install water-separating fuel filters where gas with ethanol is being used.  These should be in addition to the on-engine filters that already exist.  This means that boaters with gasoline-powered inboards are now subject to the same water filtering requirements as boaters with diesels have been all along.  In fact, I was talking with reps from Parker-Hannifin’s RACOR brand and they indicate the filter material is the same for both diesel and gas filters.  The filter housings are different because of U.S. Coast Guard rules regarding safety in the higher-risk gasoline environment.  Parker-Hannifin and Crusader both recommend using the smallest possible filtration elements — 2 microns would be best.

Copyright ©  2008 by Tom Tripp

Posted by Tom in Technology