An extract on #arkada
For most industrial or nautical applications, reliability is considered more important than light weight and high power.
The lack of an electrical ignition system greatly improves the reliability. The high durability of a diesel engine is also due to its overbuilt nature (see above). Diesel fuel is a better lubricant than petrol and thus, it is less harmful to the oil film on piston rings and cylinder bores as occurs in petrol powered engines; it is routine for diesel engines to cover 400,000 km (250,000 mi) or more without a rebuild.
Due to the greater compression ratio and the increased weight of the stronger components, starting a diesel engine is harder than starting a gasoline engine of similar design and displacement. More torque from the starter motor is required to push the engine through the compression cycle when starting compared to a petrol engine. This can cause difficulty when starting in winter time if using conventional automotive batteries because of the lower current available.
Either an electrical starter or an air-start system is used to start the engine turning. On large engines, pre-lubrication and slow turning of an engine, as well as heating, are required to minimise the amount of engine damage during initial start-up and running. Some smaller military diesels can be started with an explosive cartridge, called a Coffman starter, which provides the extra power required to get the machine turning. In the past, Caterpillar and John Deere used a small petrol pony engine in their tractors to start the primary diesel engine. The pony engine heated the diesel to aid in ignition and used a small clutch and transmission to spin up the diesel engine. Even more unusual was an International Harvester design in which the diesel engine had its own carburetor and ignition system, and started on petrol. Once warmed, the operator moved two levers to switch the engine to diesel operation, and work could begin. These engines had very complex cylinder heads, with their own petrol combustion chambers, and were vulnerable to expensive damage if special care was not taken (especially in letting the engine cool before turning it off).
Medium-speed engines are used in large electrical generators, ship propulsion and mechanical drive applications such as large compressors or pumps. Medium speed diesel engines operate on either diesel fuel or heavy fuel oil by direct injection in the same manner as low-speed engines.
Engines used in electrical generators run at approximately 300 to 1000 rpm and are optimized to run at a set synchronous speed depending on the generation frequency (50 or 60 hertz) and provide a rapid response to load changes. Typical synchronous speeds for modern medium-speed engines are 500/514 rpm (50/60 Hz), 600 rpm (both 50 and 60 Hz), 720/750 rpm, and 900/1000 rpm.
As of 2009, the largest medium-speed engines in current production have outputs up to approximately 20 MW (27,000 hp) and are supplied by companies like MAN B&W, Wrtsil, and Rolls-Royce (who acquired Ulstein Bergen Diesel in 1999). Most medium-speed engines produced are four-stroke machines, however there are some two-stroke medium-speed engines such as by EMD (Electro-Motive Diesel), and the Fairbanks Morse OP (Opposed-piston engine) type.
Typical cylinder bore size for medium-speed engines ranges from 20 cm to 50 cm, and engine configurations typically are offered ranging from in-line 4-cylinder units to V-configuration 20-cylinder units. Most larger medium-speed engines are started with compressed air direct on pistons, using an air distributor, as opposed to a pneumatic starting motor acting on the flywheel, which tends to be used for smaller engines. There is no definitive engine size cut-off point for this.
It should also be noted that most major manufacturers of medium-speed engines make natural gas-fueled versions of their diesel engines, which in fact operate on the Otto cycle, and require spark ignition, typically provided with a spark plug. There are also dual (diesel/natural gas/coal gas) fuel versions of medium and low speed diesel engines using a lean fuel air mixture and a small injection of diesel fuel (so-called "pilot fuel") for ignition. In case of a gas supply failure or maximum power demand these engines will instantly switch back to full diesel fuel operation.