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Using CFD to Reduce Unburned Carbon during Installation of

Low NOx Burners


Lawrence D. Berg1, John Goldring2, Lyle Woodard3, and Joseph D. Smith, Ph.D.4
32nd International Technical Conference on Coal Utilization & Fuel Systems Agenda
Clearwater, Florida, USA
June 10 - 15, 2007

INTRODUCTION
To meet mandated NOx levels, coal plants are using a variety of reduction methods: low NOx
burners, Over Fire Air (OFA), Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR), Advanced Reburn,
Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), etc. In general, low NOx burners and OFA systems are
installed as a first step. Combustion modifications of this sort reduce NOx by decreasing the
amount of air near the primary combustion region, resulting in conditions favorable to fuel
nitrogen being converted to diatomic nitrogen (N2). Unfortunately, these conditions also tend to
increase the amount of unburned carbon in the flyash. In many locations, elimination of flyash
with high carbon content can become a significant economic liability.
European plants, in particular, are interested in maintaining a low Carbon-in-Ash (CIA) level as
this allows them to sell the ash, as opposed to having to pay for removal and disposal. During
the design phase for the low NOx equipment retrofit of a tangentially fired (T-fired) pulverized
coal (PC) boiler in the UK, the client (RJM Corporation) requested Computational Fluid
Dynamics (CFD) be used to verify the CIA guarantees. Previous CIA modeling attempts with
FLUENT (versions 6.1 and earlier) had produced unsatisfactory results. The char burnout model
that had been implemented only allowed one specie (either CO2 or CO) to be evolved from the
char oxidation. If CO only was employed, CIA levels were unrealistically low (~ 0.01% CIA
predicted compared to ~ 6.2% actual) and predicted CO from the furnace was too high. If CO2
was employed as the only product of char oxidation, the predicted CIA levels were too high (~
25% CIA compared to ~6.2% actual) and the predicted CO levels were too low. Clearly a
balance was needed.
Recent experience with coal gasification modeling indicated that the new multi-char reaction
option in FLUENT 6.2 provided better estimates of CIA. This option allows for multi-path and
multi-specie reactions with the char. As a commercial project with tight submission deadlines,
prompt execution time was of the essence. This paper reports on a unique CFD methodology that
was developed using FLUENT 6.2 for accurately predicting trends in flyash carbon. As will be
seen, the model was able to predict CIA with remarkable accuracy.

CIA MODEL
Computational Fluid Dynamic modeling has been utilized for years [1, 2] on utility PC boilers to
understand combustion dynamics and to predict NOx and CO trends. For example, Goldring and
1

Correspondence Author, Alion Science and Technology, Inc. Owasso, OK, USA lberg@alionscience.com
RJM Corporation, Ltd.
3
AES Kilroot Power Ltd.
4
Alion Science and Technology, Inc. Owasso, OK, USA jdsmith@alionscience.com
2

Berg present some of RJMs previous successful application of CFD to various projects and
applications [3]. The CFD models (continuity, momentum, turbulence, species and reactions,
etc.) that were utilized have been sufficiently documented elsewhere [4] and will not be
addressed in this paper. What is of interest, however, is the approach to coal modeling that was
employed / developed for the current project.
For a T-fired PC coal furnace, experience has shown that the k- turbulence model, with either
the RNG or Realizable modification reasonably simulates the turbulent flow inside the furnace.
Even though there is a strong tangential furnace circulation, experience shows that the full RSM
turbulence model is not required. The combustion model includes species conservation and uses
the eddy-dissipation model. A single species is devolved from the coal, and spontaneously
decomposes to form a combination of methane, CO, NO, SO3 and water. The specie split is
calculated to maintain a reasonable mass balance of the C, H, O, N, S and H2O from the
proximate and ultimate analyses.
Boundary conditions (air mass flow rates, temperatures, coal particle size distribution, etc.) are
determined from field measurements and data. The two furnace configurations that were
analyzed will be discussed in greater detail in the next section.
The discrete phase model is used to model particle flow in the furnace. This model is based on a
Lagrangian particle tracking technique, which traces a particle trajectory through the phases of
coal combustion. Figure 1 shows a cartoon that illustrates the steps which occur during general
coal combustion. For the computer code utilized in the present study, these steps are sequential,
and proceeds as follows:
1. Particle begins to heat up - particle achieves the boiling temperature of water, the
temperature does not change until enough heat has been absorbed to boil off all of the
inherent water in the coal particle. Since specie conservation is used, the mass of
water evolved from the coal is transferred to the gas phase.
2. Devolatilization - begins once water has been driven off coal particle. The particle
heats up rapidly due to radiant interaction with the flame. Kobayshi et. al. [5]
discusses volatile yield as a function of the conditions along the particle trajectory. It
is important that a path dependent devolatilization method is employed. The one used
for this study is based on the Kobayashi model which has been modified to allow for
different volatile yields, depending on path conditions.
3. Char Burn-out - begins once devolatilization is complete. The multiple char reaction
model was used. Bartok and Sarofim [6] discuss various competing reactions on page
695 of their book. They provide applicability guidance and list references for specific
rate data. The interested reader is highly encouraged to review this information prior
to attempted implementation. From previous work in coal gasification, the following
reaction set was employed:
C + O2
C + CO2
C + H2O

=>
=>
=>

CO2
2CO
CO + H2

Reaction 1
Reaction 2
Reaction 3

Reaction 1 is exothermic, and Reactions 2 & 3 are endothermic.

4. Leaving Domain - freezes unburned carbon in particle. In addition to leaving the


domain, the Lagrangian tracking methodology require a maximum residence time. If
the particle trajectory time exceeds this maximum time, the particle is dropped out
of the calculation. A good practice is to have a residence time long enough so that
any carbon dropped out in this manner is at least one order of magnitude less than
the total carbon leaving the furnace exit.

MODELING OF EXISTING FURNACE OPERATIONS


Figure 2 shows a wireframe of the furnace geometry with coal injection points identified. The
furnace has four injection levels; A through D with D being the lowest injection level. Firing
coal the furnace has a nominal capacity of 220 MW gross power production. The furnace is
typically operated with three of the four levels in service, with the fourth level kept in reserve.
This allows the plant to maintain a high level of on-line availability. A previous modification to
the furnace included installation of offset secondary air buckets and Separated Over-Fire Air
(SOFA) ports. The geometry of the furnace, existing SOFA ports, and burner corners were
developed from drawings supplied by the client.
As the plant performance is critical, AES-Kilroot Power Limited performed as series of baseline
tests to help establish the existing performance of the plant. The furnace operates on both coal
and oil, so baseline testing of various configurations for each fuel type was accomplished over
about a 5-day period. Of specific interest to this work were two 220 MW configurations firing
pulverized coal through: 1) A-C level burners, and 2) B-D levels burners. During each test,
continuous measurements of nearly two hundred set points collected process information over
approximately a four hour period.
The information gathered during the baseline testing was used to set the flow conditions
(velocity and temperature) for each air or fuel injection location. Modest adjustments were
accomplished to ensure excess O2 matched measured values. After the CFD model had
converged, comparison of furnace exit values to measured data was accomplished to ensure that
the CFD model reasonably reproduced field data. Table 1 compares the CFD model to actual
data for CO, NOx and Furnace Exit Temperature (FEGT) for upper mills (A-C) in service with
excess O2 of 4.3%.
Table 1 - Comparison of Data to CFD Upper Mills Operation
CO
NOx
FEGT 0C
Carbon in Ash (CIA)
*

Data
11 ppm
641 mg/Nm3
1120 0C
6.2%

CFD
2200 ppm
*

649 mg/Nm3
1158 0C
22%

To convert mg/Nm3 to lbs/MMBtu, multiply by 6.655E-04

Iso-surfaces of the predicted CO, NOx, and furnace temperatures are provided as Figures 3
through 5. Since the CO was measured after the economizer, continued CO oxidation is
expected in the post furnace region (i.e., economizer, etc.). While it was not possible to directly
compare the CO numbers, the predicted values were typical of coal furnaces. NOx and FEGT
match reasonably well. As discussed earlier in the paper the CIA prediction was so far off in

the initial CFD modeling that predicted trends were not expected to be meaningful. Thus, what
was needed was a more accurate CIA model.
Using RJMs combustion expertise and building upon experience gained from recent work
modeling coal gasification, the three char reaction model discussed earlier was applied to the
current CFD simulation. Starting reaction rate parameters were taken from literature sources
outlined by Bartok and Sarofim [6]. Not all coals are identical, so it was anticipated that rational
adjustments to the kinetic parameters would be required to match the data. Since each rate
parameter adjustment required a complete re-convergence of the CFD solution and since the
expected affect of the kinetic rate parameters have been shown to be nonlinear on CIA [7], it was
not possible to completely match the predicted data. However, after just a few variations, a
prediction of 6.48% CIA (compared to measured ~6.2% CIA) was accomplished.
This comparison is not particularly remarkable as it was accomplished by adjusting kinetic
parameters to achieve a good comparison. The second baseline test more critically tested the
models ability to match observed CIA for a completely different operational scenario. Using the
same methodology, a baseline CFD model of running the lower mills was executed. Results are
presented in Table 2 (excess O2 of 3.7%):
Table 2 - Comparison of Data to CFD Lower Mills Operation
CO (ppm)
*

NOx (mg/Nm3)
FEGT (0C)
Carbon in Ash (CIA)
*

Data
13
554
1246
4.4%

CFD
1770
560
1185
5.98%

To convert mg/Nm3 to lbs/MMBtu, multiply by 6.655E-04

Again, the NOx and FEGT predictions are reasonable while the CO is high but anticipated given
the relative location of the predictions. In this case, using the adjusted 3 char reaction
mechanism accurately predicted the trend (CIA went down for this operating scenario). This
was especially encouraging, as the excess O2 was reduced from 4.3% to 3.7%.
In addition to the furnace exit predictions, the new CIA model also has the full range of
diagnostic tools possible in a comprehensive CFD code. The following were particularly useful
during the equipment design phase:
Identification of CIA sources
In addition to better accuracy, the new model allows for identification of carbon sources from
individual injection locations. Table 3 shows the predicted Upper Mills Baseline CIA, broken
down by coal injection point. In this case, the first letter is for the mill (a, b, c, or d mill) and the
number is for the particular furnace corner where the coal was injected. Using this
nomenclature, injection c1 means Corner 1, C-mill injection.5 Interestingly, 52% of the
predicted baseline Upper Mills CIA comes from the lowest level C mill.

Absolute location of each corner with respect to furnace nose and ash pit geometry can not be included due to the
proprietary nature of the solution developed for the client.

Identification of C concentrations
Visual diagnostics are also available to supplement the quantitative information. Figure 6 gives
an example of this type of diagnostic. It shows coal particle trajectories colored by carbon
concentration. The B4 injection shown starts off with maximum carbon concentration (red), and
as carbon is oxidized, the path color becomes bluer, with dark blue representing nearly 0%
carbon. This diagnostic not only shows where coal is going in the furnace, but where it is being
oxidized.
Table 3 - Upper Mills Baseline CIA by Coal Injection
c4
b4
c3
b3
c2
b2
c1
b1
a4
a3
a2
a1

0.03877
0.017
0.02169
0.00411
0.0344
0.0185
0.0142
0.00587
0.0296
0.00649
0.014
0.00514

18.5%
8.1%
10.3%
2.0%
16.4%
8.8%
6.8%
2.8%
14.1%
3.1%
6.7%
2.5%

Particle / SOFA Interaction


Using a 10% iso-surface of oxygen, Figure 7 combines the iso-surface with coal path lines
colored by carbon concentration. This unique view shows how coal particles interact with
surrounding air being supplied though either the offset or SOFA ports.

LOW NOX BURNERS AND CIA MINIMIZATION


After completion of baseline modeling, the proposed low NOx burners and modifications to the
OFA system were modeled. Comparison to the baseline model is shown in Table 4.
Table 4 - Comparison of Baseline to Upgrade (CFD) Upper Mills Operation
CO (ppm)
Excess O2
NOx (mg/Nm3)*
Carbon in Ash (CIA)
*

Baseline
2200
4.3%
649
6.45%

Upgrade
4700
4.3%
430
14.70%

To convert mg/Nm3 to lbs/MMBtu, multiply by 6.655E-04

As expected, lower NOx leads to higher CO and CIA. The roughly 33% NOx reduction predicted
was sufficient to provide confidence in RJMs solutions ability to meet the NOx guarantees. The
higher CO number was not as much of a concern. This was due to previous baseline furnace
modeling results which indicated sufficient residence time to accomplish CO oxidation.
However, the predicted increase in CIA number was troubling since it was critical that the CIA
not increase above the value for the existing operation. The following shows some of the
diagnostic power of the new modeling tool.

Three methods were employed to reduce CIA and maintain the same NOx reduction:
1. Upgrade rotary classifiers and reduce overall particle size,
2. djust angle and damper positions of SOFA ports to capture high amounts of CIA, and
3. Identify high CIA injections, and selectively add secondary air.
Option 1 was simple to incorporate into the model by changing particle size distribution in the
model input file. This was accomplished and the predicted CIA value decreased to about 10%.
This was encouraging, but still not sufficient.
The SOFA ports were installed as part of a previous modification and were installed fairly close
(in vertical direction) to the furnace exit. As a result, when the furnace was operated on the
upper mills the residence time for carbon burnout could become an issue especially with the
lower furnace air level being lowered to obtain a compliant NOx performance. Figure 8
compares the carbon burnout for the base case and the upgrade. Clearly the SOFA ports need to
be optimized.
Figure 9 exemplifies how the SOFA ports were optimized. It shows a series of three injections
that analysis had shown were significant contributors to the CIA problem. As seen, they merge
together, in the back left corner. Changing the angle of SOFA air injection on the back right
(top) port, virtually eliminated the CIA. This was a significant finding since the existing SOFA
ports were fixed angle. The client, as part of the upgrade, now knew that SOFA ports with yaw
angle control was required. Figure 10 shows the virtual elimination of CIA with upper mill
operation. In this case a remaining SOFA port was angled into the center of the furnace to
interact with the high concentration of CIA in center furnace. The final predicted CIA is 4.65% nearly 28% less than the original base line prediction.
Lower mill operation presented a different set of problems. As a practical matter, SOFA yaw
angles could not be varied, so the angles that were set for upper mill operation had to be used for
lower mill operation as well. This prevented using the SOFA angle optimization just outlined.
When the upper mill SOFA settings were used, the CFD prediction for lower mill CIA was
7.5%. A good starting point, but still too high. Table 5 shows the CIA levels for lower mill
operation using the optimized SOFA angles from the upper mill study.
Table 5 - Upgrade CIA by Injection Source (Lower Mill Operation)
Injection
d4
d3
d2
d1
c4
c3
c2
c1
b4
b3
b2
b1

Mass Flow
0.0672
0.0272
0.0575
0.0226
0.0083
0.00766
0.0131
0.0323
0.00025
0.0055
0.0048
0.00616

% of CIA
26.6%
10.8%
22.8%
8.9%
3.3%
3.0%
5.2%
12.8%
0.1%
2.2%
1.9%
2.4%

Unexpectedly, almost 70% of the CIA came from the lowest injection level (D mill) in this
operating scenario. When this row of nozzles were modified to a more optimum angle of
injection, the CFD model predicted a CIA of 3.45% - with most of the reduction from the
predicted D mill injections.

SUMMARY
Table 6 shows the final CFD predictions for the upgrade.
Table 6 - Comparison of Baseline to Upgrade (CFD) Upper Mills Operation
CO
Excess O2
NOx
Carbon in Ash (CIA)
*

Upper Mill Upgrade (CFD)


2400 ppm
4.56%
430 mg/Nm3
4.65%

Lower Mill Upgrade (CFD)


2600 ppm
4.3%
416 mg/Nm3
3.45%

To convert mg/Nm3 to lbs/MMBtu, multiply by 6.655E-04

Often, these types of adjustments are made at start-up by experienced personnel which can be
time consuming, labor intensive and costly. In this case, CFD analysis identified additional
equipment modification (yaw angles to the SOFA ports, and modification to the D mill injectors
/ secondary air) and valuable operational settings prior to installation.
REFERENCES
1. Smoot , L. D. and Smith, P. J., Coal Combustion and Gasification, Plenum Press, New
York, 1985.
2. Fiveland, W. A., Wessel, R. A., Numerical Model for Predicting Performance of ThreeDimensional Pulverized-Fuel Fired Furnaces, AIAA/ASME Thermophysics and Heat
Transfer Conference, Boston MA, ASME paper 86-HT-35, 1986
3. Goldring, J. Berg, L.D., How Experienced use of CFD Analysis allow Compliance with strict
LCPD NOx Emissions Requirements, International Power Generation Conference (IPG),
Leipzig, Germany, November, 2006.
4. FLUENT Users Guide, Fluent Inc., Centerra Resource Park, 10 Cavendish Court,
Lebanon, NH.
5. Kobayshi, H., Howard, J. B., and Sarofim, A. F., Coal Devolatilization at High
Temperatures, 18th Symposium (International) on Combustion, The Combustion Institute,
Pittsburgh, PA (1977), p. 411.
6. Bartok, W. and Sarofim, A. F., Fossil Fuel Combustion A Source Book, WileyInterscience Publication, 1991.
7. Smith, J.D., Smith, P.J., Hill, S.C., "Parametric Sensitivity Study of a CFD-Based Coal
Combustion Model," AIChE Journal, Vol. 39, No. 10, October (1993).

Heat Up and
drive off H2O

Devolitization

Char Burn-out

Leave Domain
Or
Incomplete

CO CO2

H2O

Volatile gas

Coal particle

Ash and Unburned


Carbon

O2

Figure 1
Stages of Coal Combustion

a
b
c
d

Coal
Injection
Levels

Figure 2
Furnace Wire Frame and Coal Injections

Figure 3
Furnace 15,000 ppm CO Iso-Surface

Figure 5
Furnace 1600 0C Iso-Surface

Figure 5
Furnace 1600 0C Iso-Surface

Blue is 100% char Oxidation


Red is no char Oxidation

Figure 6
Identification of C Concentrations

10% O2 Iso-Surface
(from SOFA)

Interactions Increase Blue of Coal particles


Interactions also reduce O2 Volume

Figure 7

Initial Burnout not as complete

Base
Upgrade

Figure 8
Base Case to Upgrade Carbon Burn-out Comparison

Coal Inj.
C

Coal Inj.
C&B

Coal Inj.
C&B&A

Figure 9
Three Level Contribution to CIA

<C> at Exit

High CIA in
Center

High CIA at Corners


2 & 4 Eliminated

CIA Reduced by Aiming Left Back


SOFA (lower) into center of furnace

Figure 10
Elimination of Upper Mills CIA