Power: clean, dispatchable, and reliable.
Power: clean, dispatchable, and reliable.

Turbines vs. Reciprocating Engines: A Matter of Reliability

Reliability is critical for Oil and Gas production gensets, which are the backbone of field operations by delivering an uninterrupted energy supply. However, the goals of achieving and sustaining reliability is complicated by numerous factors.

In this article, we cover the many factors influencing the reliability of reciprocating engine power generators and how Flex Turbines® from FlexEnergy Solutions, offer operators a clean, reliable, and dispatchable solution.

10 Factors Influencing Reciprocating Engine Power Generator Reliability, Maintenance, and Repair

Here are ten primary factors influencing the reliability of reciprocating engines in power generation:

  1. Fuel Quality and Contaminants. Reciprocating engines are sensitive to fuel quality, as contaminants (e.g., water, sediment, H2S, air, and other) can cause clogging of injectors, fuel lines, filters and other components, leading to decreased efficiency and potential failures.
  2. Maintenance Practices. Regular maintenance practices are essential for ensuring the longevity and reliability of reciprocating engines. Neglecting routine maintenance tasks can result in premature wear and component failure.
  3. Operating Conditions. Harsh operating conditions, such as extreme temperatures or high humidity, can strain reciprocating engines, impacting their performance and longevity.
  4. Load Variations. Reciprocating engines may experience fluctuations in load, which can affect their efficiency and reliability. Sudden load changes can lead to stress on engine components and increased wear.
  5. Cooling System Efficiency. Efficient cooling systems are critical for dissipating heat generated during engine operation. Inadequate cooling can lead to overheating and engine failure.
  6. Vibration and Shock. Excessive vibration and shock can accelerate wear on engine components, leading to premature failure. Proper vibration isolation and damping systems are essential for maintaining reliability.
  7. Air Filtration. Clean air intake is vital for the proper functioning of reciprocating engines. Inadequate air filtration can lead to increased wear on internal components and decreased engine efficiency.
  8. Lubrication System. Proper lubrication is crucial for reducing friction and wear between moving parts. Inadequate lubrication can result in increased friction, eventually leading to premature component failure.
  9. Control and Monitoring Systems. Effective control and monitoring systems are essential for optimizing engine performance and detecting potential issues early. Faulty control systems can lead to inefficient operation and unexpected downtime.
  10. Design and Engineering. The design and engineering of reciprocating engines play a significant role in their reliability. Well-designed engines with robust components are more likely to withstand operational challenges and maintain reliability over time.

READ MORE: Best Practices for Oil & Gas Field Power Solutions

My Reciprocating Engine Generator Failed – What Do I Do?

Reciprocating engines, both diesel and natural gas powered, are commonly used as generator drivers in Oil and Gas applications and packaged into a complete genset. Diesel powered engines used as generator drivers typically include CAT, Cummins and John Deer, while natural gas-powered engines from CAT, Waukesha and PSI are often used. In some cases, these engine companies may provide a complete packaged solution on their own.

Despite their widespread use, reciprocating engines in power generation can, and often do, encounter reliability issues stemming from the factors mentioned above. These challenges can lead to unexpected downtime, increased maintenance costs, and disruptions to operations.

The typical solution for a failed reciprocating engine is to swap it out with a working unit and haul the impaired one back to a shop where it can be repaired. Not only is this practice highly inefficient, but it also results in greater than necessary downtime and relies on having spare working engines in inventory (an inefficient use of capital that makes renting or leasing more expensive).


The 10 Reasons to Step Up to Small Gas Turbines and Microturbines from FlexEnergy Solutions

Gas turbines and microturbines offer a compelling alternative with several advantages:

  1. High Reliability (Maximize Production Uptime). Flex Turbines® have a demonstrated track record of 99.5% uptime, which includes one eight-hour scheduled maintenance annually, typically completed in one shift. The high reliability and few moving parts contribute to the highest uptime and reliability of the Flex Turbine microturbine and the 2.0 Megawatt GT2000S, especially when compared to reciprocating engine generators, safeguarding continuous production and cash flow.
  2. Wide Fuel Tolerance. Runs on gas ranging from 350 Btu/scf to 2,500 Btu/scf (lower heating value), handles sour gas with H2S content up to 6,500 ppmv, safely uses Acid Gas containing up to 70% CO2 and can burn gas with up to 30% hydrogen content.
  3. Eliminates Expensive Diesel and Associated Emissions. The Flex Turbine uses gas produced on site to generate power. This eliminates the emissions associated with the vehicles used for transporting expensive diesel fuel to the well site and provides a lower emissions power option than diesel- or natural gas-powered reciprocating engines. READ MORE: Understanding Field Power Emissions Profiles and Options
  4. Low Operating Emissions. The Flex Turbine represents the lowest emissions alternative, aligning with environmental objectives and regulations. Low exhaust emissions of ≤10ppm NOx and CO (corrected to 15% Oxygen on natural gas at ISO conditions) are less than most electric power grids and meets the most stringent state and federal requirements for air permitting.
  5. Dispatchable Generation. Flex Turbines offer high efficiency, rapidly dispatchable power that can quickly scale-up or down on demand to meet your changing power needs.
  6. Scalable. The modular design of the Flex Turbine allows special and custom turbine configurations to be built ranging from 200kW to multi-Megawatts, including microgrids. Individual main components can be modified or designed out of custom turbine configurations. Multiple Flex Turbines can be combined into a single FlexGrid microgrid that can scale up, or down, based on changing power needs.
  7. Reduce or Eliminate Flaring. The Flex Turbine reliably generates power using collected flare gas and vent gas, converting a waste stream into beneficial use and reducing overall wellsite emissions.
  8. Remote Monitoring Capability. Flex Turbines come equipped with remote monitoring capabilities, enabling real-time performance tracking and predictive maintenance, ensuring maximum uptime and efficiency.
  9. Service Locations. FlexEnergy Solutions has service locations strategically positioned in key oil and gas regions, including North Dakota (Bakken), Texas (Permian Basin), Alberta (Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin), Pennsylvania (Appalachian Basin) and Southern California, for guaranteed swift and efficient support.
  10. Leasing Option. FlexEnergy provides a leasing option, offering cost-effective access to their reliable and efficient power solutions.

The FlexEnergy Advantage

FlexEnergy provides the cleanest and most reliable dispatchable power option in the oilfield today. Here is what makes us different:

Clean. Because Flex Turbines produce lower emissions compared to traditional reciprocating engines, and even most utility power grids, they contribute to environmental sustainability and can help you avoid operating permit emissions thresholds.

READ MORE: Clearing the Air on Oilfield Electrification

Dispatchable. Flex Turbines provide a portable dispatchable power option that and can be quickly scaled up on demand to meet your changing power needs.

Reliable. In addition to a 99.5%+ uptime track record, FlexEnergy Solutions is known for our rapid service response times, minimizing downtime and ensuring maximum uptime.

READ MORE: Reliable Flex Turbines® From FlexEnergy Solutions

Responsive. Importantly, FlexEnergy is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of Flex Turbines. We train our technicians; our people perform the service (not outsourced agents), and we have service facilities located in every major Oil and Gas producing basin.


When reliability, dispatchability, and service responsiveness are priorities, Flex Turbines emerge as the most reliable and efficient solution. Freed from the limitations of traditional reciprocating engines, Flex Turbines can help you generate a competitive advantage on operational efficiency and sustainability.

Contact FlexEnergy Solutions to learn more about our clean, dispatchable, and reliable field power solutions at info@flexenergy.com or +1 (720) 573-7664.