The technology used in the construction of all types of piston engines is mature and the nature of the processes involved are well understood. Improvements are continually made but these are minor in nature. Overall the performance and reliability of a piston engine should fall within well-established boundaries.
Performance, both in terms of overall efficiency of operation, reliability and lifetime, should be guaranteed by the manufacturer of a unit. Continuous operation of an engine represents the least onerous regime and performance under these circumstances should be predictable; continual starting and stopping, as encountered in transport applications, puts much greater strain on the machine.
By far the greatest risk attached to the operation of a piston engine power plant is related to fuel supply. Oil prices can be particularly volatile, but gas prices are likely to become subject to the same movements in price in the future. The development of a large piston engine power plant will usually include a long-term fuel supply agreement. However the operation of many smaller units will depend on the purchase of fuel at the current market price. This should always be taken into account when planning a project.
There is evidence that oil and gas supplies will face increasing pressure over the next few decades. This is likely to have an adverse effect on piston engine power plants. If such plants are to continue to serve as power generation units they will eventually need an alternative source of fuel such as hydrogen or biofuel.
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