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Biogas Engine Maintenance and Siloxane Challenges

by | Jul 8, 2024 | INSIGHT

This case study explores the premature failure of precombustion chambers in biogas engines and offers insights into the underlying causes and potential solutions.


Biogas engines play a crucial role in the renewable energy sector, converting biogas into usable energy. However, these engines often face significant challenges, particularly with the presence of siloxanes in the biogas. This case study explores the premature failure of precombustion chambers in biogas engines and offers insights into the underlying causes and potential solutions.


During a recent visit to a customer’s power plant, a significant issue was identified: the premature clogging of the breather hole in the precombustion chamber. However this failure is not typical and warrants a thorough root-cause analysis. Moreover, biogas, produced from landfills, methanation plants, and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP), is a complex mixture of gases, including harmful components like siloxanes, which are particularly problematic.

Types of Biogas and Their Composition

  • Uncontrolled Systems:
    Such as landfill or marshland sources.
  • Controlled Systems:
    Including municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and anaerobic digestion plants with high organic loads.

    Controlled systems are generally noted for higher concentrations of H2S and siloxanes, while uncontrolled systems also contain siloxanes and high molecular weight hydrocarbons.

Impact of Siloxanes on Biogas Engines

  • Increased Maintenance Costs:
    Frequent maintenance and unexpected downtime for cleaning and repairs. Siloxane buildup necessitates more frequent maintenance intervals and can result in unexpected downtime for cleaning and repairs. This increases operational costs for biogas facilities. Unlike sulfides, silicones do not react with water to form acids. However, during combustion, the siloxane molecules are broken down and release oxygen and silicon.
  • Reduced Engine Efficiency:
    As siloxane deposits accumulate on engine components, they interfere with combustion processes and heat transfer, reducing engine efficiency. To sum up, this can lead to decreased power output and increased fuel consumption.
  • Higher Emissions:
    Furthermore, siloxane combustion can produce silicon dioxide particles, which may not be completely captured by engine emission control systems. Likewise, these particles can be released into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution.
  • Engine Damage: Severe siloxane contamination can lead to premature engine failure due to increased wear on critical components. In this case, this necessitates costly repairs or engine replacements.

Strategies for Mitigating Siloxane Impact

To address the issues caused by siloxanes, several strategies can be employed:


Managing siloxane contamination is essential for maintaining the reliability, efficiency, and longevity of biogas engines. By implementing effective pre-treatment, regular maintenance, optimized engine designs, and continuous monitoring, biogas facilities can mitigate the adverse effects of siloxanes, ensuring smoother operation and reduced costs.

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