Synthesis gas as a fuel for internal combustion engines in transportation

Amin Paykani, Hamed Chehrmonavari, Athanasios Tsolakis, Terry Alger, William F. Northrop, Rolf D. Reitz

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The adverse environmental impact of fossil fuel combustion in engines has motivated research towards using alternative low-carbon fuels. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in studying the combustion of fuel mixtures consisting mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, referred to as syngas, which can be considered as a promising fuel toward cleaner combustion technologies for power generation. This paper provides an extensive review of syngas production and application in internal combustion (IC) engines as the primary or secondary fuel. First, a brief overview of syngas as a fuel is presented, introducing the various methods for its production, focusing on its historical use and summarizing the merits and drawbacks of using syngas as a fuel. Then its physicochemical properties relevant to IC engines are reviewed, highlighting studies on the fundamental combustion characteristics, such as ignition delay time and laminar and turbulent flame speeds. The main body of the paper is devoted to reviewing the effect of syngas utilization on performance and emissions characteristics of spark ignition (SI), compression ignition (CI), homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), and advanced dual-fuel engines such as reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI) engines. Finally, various on-board fuel reforming techniques for syngas production and use in vehicles are reviewed as a potential route towards further increases in efficiency and decreases in emissions of IC engines. These are then related to the research reported on the behavior of syngas and its blends in IC engines. It was found that the selection of the syngas production method, choice of the base fuel for reforming, its physicochemical properties, combustion strategy, and engine combustion system and operating conditions play critical roles in dictating the potential advantages of syngas use in IC engines. The discussion of the present review paper provides valuable insights for future research on syngas as a possible fuel for IC engines for transport.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100995
Number of pages69
JournalProgress in Energy and Combustion Science
Early online date18 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


  • Combustion
  • Efficiency
  • Emissions
  • Fuel reforming
  • IC engine
  • Syngas


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