Difference Between Gas Turbine and Reciprocating Engine

Gas turbines and reciprocating engines are commonly employed internal combustion engines that are extensively utilized for power generation in various sectors, such as institutional and industrial settings. Although both of these mechanisms are utilized to generate motive power, they possess distinct characteristics that confer advantages over one another making it difficult to distinguish between gas turbine engine vs reciprocating engine.

Now that you are reading here, run through the below analysis that differences between gas turbines and reciprocating engines. Continue reading to discover further information about each of them and the distinctions between them.

Gas Turbine Engines

A gas turbine is a form of internal combustion engine that works on the principle of the working fluid employing gasses such as air. The thermodynamic characteristics of gas turbine operation are conventionally represented by the Brayton cycle. Gas turbine engines operate by utilizing rotational components, resulting in a continuous flow of working fluid within the engine, either in radial or axial directions. The jet engine is mostly composed of these components.

Reciprocating Engine

A reciprocating engine, commonly referred to as a piston engine, is a mechanical device that utilizes reciprocating pistons to transform heat energy derived from a combustion process into mechanical work, specifically in the form of shaft work. The primary propulsion system utilized in airplanes is predominantly reliant on the burning of fossil fuels, commonly referred to as internal combustion engines.

The primary function of an engine is to generate motion by inducing high pressure within a cylinder, which in turn drives a shaft coupled to a piston-cylinder mechanism. 

Difference Between Gas Turbine and Reciprocating Engine

The fundamental difference between a gas turbine and a reciprocating engine is in their respective mechanisms for converting pressure into rotational motion. Reciprocating engines achieve this conversion through the utilization of pistons, whereas gas turbine engines, also known as combustion turbines, harness the pressure generated by the combustion of fuel to drive a turbine and provide propulsive force.

Ensure to run through various criteria that are preeminent in determining the best option for you when it’s time to make a choice between reciprocating engine and a gas turbine. The subsequent considerations illustrate the primary distinctions between these two entities.

Application of Reciprocating Engine Vs Gas Turbine

The gas turbine, whether employed in a simple or combined cycle configuration, is the preferred apparatus for generating substantial quantities of high-pressure steam (exceeding 100 pounds per square inch gauge). Conversely, a reciprocating engine may be better suited for combined heat and power (CHP) applications that necessitate abundant hot water, such as for sanitation or industrial processes.

In addition, it is worth noting that gas turbine engines are employed to provide propulsion for sizable and high-performance aircraft, such as military jet fighters and commercial airliners. Conversely, reciprocating engines find application in smaller aircraft with limited range capabilities.

Proposed Plant Life Cycle Cost Estimation

The life cycle costs of a thermal power plant are heavily influenced by the cost of fuel. However, it is important to include the anticipated load profile when comparing different technological concepts. Accurate forecasting of both full load hours and the growing number of part load hours is vital, with a particular emphasis on individualized predictions.

The process of converting to full load equivalent hours involves the potential danger of disregarding the actual efficiency losses that occur during part load operation. In cases when the load profile is characterized by restricted working hours, part load periods, or frequent starts and stops, the viability of a gas turbine (GT) and/or combined cycle solution may be compromised. The maintenance expenses associated with gas engines frequently prove to be lower than those for turbines, contingent upon the specific features of the project.

Also Read: Gas Engine Vs Gas Turbine: What’s the Difference?

Load Following

In terms of  load following, reciprocating engines exhibit superior performance compared to gas turbines due to their ability to maintain relatively consistent efficiency levels even when subjected to reduced loads. This characteristic makes reciprocating engines more suitable for electrical systems with variable load demands. In contrast, gas turbines see a notable decrease in efficiency while operating at lower loads, rendering them less efficient in load following scenarios.

The Ambient Air Temperature at the Project Site

In the context of gas turbines, the determination of maximum power is frequently predicated upon factors such as the uppermost limit of temperature that the turbine components can sustain, the permitted magnitude of forces exerted on the shaft, or the dimensions of the generator frame. In the context of gas engines, the maximum temperature of the cooling water frequently serves as the constraining element. The performance of the gas engine exhibits minimal sensitivity to variations in ambient air temperature, maintaining a consistent output level of 100 percent until approximately 38 degrees Celsius. During the operation of a gas turbine, it is observed that the power output experiences a continual reduction.

Installation of Gas Turbine Engine Vs Reciprocating Engine

Gas turbines have a compact and modular design, allowing for their swift transportation, installation, and commissioning within a relatively short time frame of approximately three months. In contrast, reciprocating engines often require a somewhat longer duration of 12 to 18 months for the aforementioned processes.

Gas turbines possess the advantageous characteristic of being capable of outdoor installation with low foundation prerequisites. This attribute renders them a very favorable energy alternative for regions necessitating expeditious, environmentally friendly, and dependable power generation.


The choice between a gas turbine and a reciprocating engine rests on the specific demands of the application. For high-power applications, gas turbines remain the frontrunners. Reciprocating engines, though less powerful. Empower your business with the right power generation solution. Contact us today to get in touch.