Diesel vs. natural gas generator for data center disaster readiness

Paul Kirvan

We are getting a new generator for our business. What do you recommend, diesel or natural gas? What are the pros and cons of each?

First, determine your electrical requirements (e.g., voltage range) and the potential duration of use (e.g., hours, days or weeks) in an emergency. Next, evaluate the options for both natural gas and diesel generators. In both cases, a key disaster readiness requirement is a reliable source of fuel (as well as one or more backup sources). Consider natural gas generators for small to medium applications and diesel generators for medium to very large requirements.

Advantages for natural gas generators over diesel technology include lower cost of operation, large range of system sizes and outputs for a variety of applications, environmental friendliness (very clean, low emissions), lower cost than diesel fuel and good availability. Disadvantages when it comes to disaster readiness include being more expensive to run than diesel generators, potential explosions if gas line is ruptured and loss of supply if natural gas pipelines are damaged from a disaster.

By contrast, diesel fuel is more cost effective and provides better performance in terms of more energy per unit of fuel than natural gas. Additional disaster readiness advantages include reduced chance of fires and the ability to operate for extended periods of time, which is very important for hospitals, manufacturing plants and any other business that needs uninterrupted power. Disadvantages of diesel generators include noise (although this has been improved in recent years), size and weight (especially for smaller portable applications).

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