Westport Innovations (NASDAQ: WPRT, TSX: WPT) is a company that develops alternative fuel, low-emissions technologies to allow engines to operate on clean-burning fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), hydrogen and biofuels such as landfill gas. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, where the company was founded, Westport also has facilities in France, Sweden, Italy, China, Australia and the United States.
Westport is best known for its technology that allows the diesel engine to operate on natural gas without modifications to the engine's combustion chamber. Since its inception, however, Westport has developed technology solutions for a variety of vertical markets.
In the early 1980s Philip Hill, then a University of British Columbia mechanical engineering professor, sought improvements to natural gas combustion in engines. Hill's team of graduate students and research engineers focused on natural gas as a fuel in diesel engines to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and harmful atmospheric particulate matter. At the same time, he wanted to preserve the performance, fuel economy, durability and reliability characteristics of the traditional diesel engine.
With funding limited and finding few suitable commercial components or testing equipment, Hill and his team designed and fabricated their own components and equipment. The theoretical results they obtained from their research and experimentation was a significant factor in the later development of Westport.
By injecting a small amount of diesel fuel before a main, high-pressure, direct injection (HPDI) of natural gas to start the combustion, Hill was able to successfully retain important characteristics of the diesel engine. In 1994, through UBC's University-Industry Liaison Office, Hill met David Demers, who later became Westport's CEO. In 1995 the two founded Westport Innovations Inc. to capitalize on the HPDI technology.