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Propane Personality: PERC’s Gokul Vishwanathan

December 4, 2020 By    
Gokul Vishwanathan PERC headshot

Vishwanathan

Gokul Vishwanathan
Director of Research and Sustainability, Propane Education & Research Council (PERC)

Education

University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering
Class of 2011

University of Alabama
Master of Science,
Mechanical Engineering
Class of 2006

Savitribai Phule Pune University (India)
Bachelor of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering
Class of 2003

Work Experience

May 2020-Present
Propane Education & Research Council
Director of Research and Sustainability

2019-20
Booz Allen Hamilton
Senior Lead Engineer
2014-19
Lead Engineer

2013-14
Cummins Inc.
System Integrations Engineer – Technical Specialist
2011-13
Senior Systems Integration Engineer

What prompted you to join the propane industry?

“I was always interested in working in alternative fuels. I also thought that, as we are moving into this sustainable low-emissions future, I actually think alternative fuels still have a huge role to play in helping us with this clean-energy transition. Being in the D.C. circuit working in the Department of Energy, I was intrigued by what was happening in the alternative fuel sector. I also thought that there is a tremendous amount of [decision-making] potential in this role.”

Responsibilities at PERC

“I look at emerging technologies that are coming up and have probably a little lower maturity in terms of commercialization. We would like to keep an eye on them and see how they would play a part for propane and propane technologies in the future. Chiefly, my work involves working with numerous agencies, including the Department of Energy, Department of Defense and other federal agencies, and also the national labs like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and all the other national labs that are doing combustion and engines work, and try to include propane in them when it comes to new engine technologies, new combustion technologies and also technologies such as fuel cells where propane could be used. So my market is more the research and the academic community, working with universities, national labs and federal agencies to try to seek out where we can engage with them and form partnerships for using propane as a clean alternative fuel.”

What are your goals as director of research and sustainability?

“People [outside the industry] are not really familiar with propane as much, and I think that those optics need to be severely changed – and they need to change as soon as possible. My goal, once everything is open, is to take basically a road trip around the country, visiting several research institutions and universities, and project propane as a fuel not just for barbecue applications. The second goal is I want to improve propane as much as possible in research and development activities, be it in a national lab, a university, a private lab, the Department of Energy. That’s one of the key goals: To increase open discussions within the various federal agencies, universities and international institutions.”

Technology developments in the industry

“We are working on a new propane engine. The research phase of the project is complete at this point. It’s a 6.7-liter medium-duty engine that is a clean sheet engine designed for propane application. The engine by itself is able to surpass diesel in its top performance, and it’s on par with diesel in terms of its fuel efficiency or the thermal efficiency. From a cost standpoint, we expect the total cost of ownership of the engine would be much lower than the diesel engine. It’s one of the best propane engines that will be available down the road in 2023, 2024.”

Hobbies

“I like to run casually. I also like to read about energy news, not just propane, but what is happening in the electric industry, what is happening in the alternative fuels industry, what is happening with internal combustion engines. [I like to learn] what is happening not only in the U.S. but in Europe, Asia, Canada, other parts of the world in terms of how policies are being shaped. So kind of getting an overall picture of energy, where the world is heading and how we can play a key role. I have an 11-month-old, so running after him keeps my day busy.”

Featured photo: Artal85/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

About the Author:

Carly McFadden is associate editor at LP Gas Magazine. She is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and a native of Cleveland, Ohio. McFadden can be reached at cmcfadden@northcoastmedia.net.

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