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Effect of Fuel Moisture

on Combustion in a Bagasse
K. S. Shanmukharadhya
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Fired Furnace
Bannari Amman Institute of Technology,
Sathyamangalam 638 401, India Sugar cane bagasse, a biomass material that is readily available, has been used as a fuel
e-mail: for well over 4 decades. However, combustion of bagasse has its own special set of
problems which appear to be due largely to the high moisture content of the fuel. In this
K. G. Sudhakar present research work, in order to gain insight into the effect of moisture on the flame
Principal and GM (Advanced Studies) front, an experimental program is carried out on an operating, industrial size bagasse-
Government Tool Room & Training Centre, fired furnace. The furnace is modeled by the three-dimensional CFD package FLUENT.
Bangalore 560 044, India The results of modeling show a considerable delay to ignition due to the drying of fuel.
The effect of fuel moisture on drying and heating up of the fuel is the key feature for the
investigation done in this work. DOI: 10.1115/1.2748816

Keywords: bagasse, combustion, turbulence, fuel moisture, CFD

1 Introduction various operating parameters on bagasse combustion. Both

steady-state and time dependant calculations suggest a higher
Bagasse moisture has long been known to be a source of igni-
level of instability than indicated by measurements of the test
tion instability in suspension type bagasse fired furnaces. Moisture
is the single factor limiting the further development of bagasse
The work done by Woodfield et al. 7 on the prediction of
suspension firing 1. In fact, one of the key motivations for this
unstable regimes in a bagasse fired furnaces has been considered
present research is the detrimental effect that the fuel moisture can
the measurement of flue gas temperature above the grate. The
have upon the boiler operation. For this reason, in addition to gas
combustion was aided by jets of over fire air nozzles from the rear
species and thermal measurements, numerous observations of the
and front side. Here in the present work the temperatures are
furnace behavior during periods of instability were noted during
measured at various points in the furnace to locate the maximum
the crushing season. The test furnace is actually designed for ba-
temperature zones, and pattern of flame propagation within the
gasse as the main fuel and also uses coal during the off season
furnace. The test furnace has tangential over fire air system to aid
when sugar cane is not available. Here crushing season means
the combustion of bagasse in suspension and under grate air is the
sugar crushing time. The results of these observations are re-
primary air. Moreover, the prediction of operating characteristics,
corded. The effect of the fuel moisture on steady-state model pre-
flow pattern, and the model of mixing in a furnace with the tan-
dictions is examined.
gential over fire air system has not been adequately investigated
2 Related Research
A major work in the field of computational modeling of bagasse
furnaces was done by Luo and Stanmore 2 and they have re- 3 Furnace Operating Conditions and Experiment
ported good agreement between steady-state calculations and ex- The furnace has a tangential over fire air system to aid the
periment for temperature, oxygen, and radiation. Dixon 1 made suspension burning of the fuel. It is a spreader stoker furnace with
studies on the combustion behavior of bagasse and pointed out a traveling grate. Air and bagasse are the two main input param-
that the flame front is not attached to the bagasse spreaders. He eters for the furnace. The main sources of air for combustion are
concluded that it is highly desirable to have a continuously burn- under grate air 60% of the forced draft FD air, tangential over
ing bed at the rear of the furnace to stabilize the combustion. Luo fire air 30% of the FD air, and distributor air 5% of the FD air.
and Stanmore 3 performed steady-state calculations of a bagasse There are five air distributors placed below the bagasse spreaders.
furnace and made some observations concerning the effects of The test boiler operates at a nominal power of 20 MW. The ba-
fuel moisture. They found that the total burnout for the furnace gasse spreaders 5 Nos are spaced evenly in a horizontal direction
suddenly decreases at a fuel moisture content of 60%. Stubington on the front wall of the furnace. The air coming from the ducts
and Aiman 4 examined some of the effects that the fuel moisture forms a large vortex in the furnace. The size of the vortex depends
has upon pyrolysis and found that higher temperatures were re- on the tilt angles and dimensions of the furnace. These air flows
quired for flash ignition of the wetter particles. Abbas et al. 5 from all four ducts result in efficient mixing, due to vortex, rapid
reported that fuel moisture in biomass materials can affect com- contact between fuel and air, and flame interaction, that would
bustion intensity and energy efficiency. Stanmore and Arici 6 ensure a reliable combustion with uniform temperature distribu-
conducted experimental investigations related to bagasse drying tion.
and concluded that the heat conduction through the dry outer shell In order to gain insight into the operation and conditions lead-
is a controlling factor in the drying of bagasse cylinders. Wood- ing to instability, an experimental program was carried on an op-
field et al. 7 did work on prediction of unstable regimes in the erating, industrial size bagasse fired furnace. The boiler operating
operation of bagasse fired furnaces by considering the influence of parameters were noted regularly during the test period. The per-
centage of moisture of the fuel was tested during the test period
using a MB45 moisture analyzer. A specially built k-type
Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication chromelalumel thermocouple in a flexible 316 stainless steel
in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received March 17,
2006; final manuscript received August 23, 2006. Review conducted by Sarma V. SS tubing 8 mm was used to measure the temperature. A digi-
Pisupati. tal temperature indicator was used to record the temperature.

248 / Vol. 129, SEPTEMBER 2007 Copyright 2007 by ASME Transactions of the ASME

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Table 1 Operating conditions of the furnace

C % dry ash free 50.51

H % dry ash free 6.31
N % dry ash free 0.12
O % dry ash free by difference 43.06
H2O % wet 51.00
Ash % dry 5.75
Fuel specific energy HHV kg/kg dry ash free 19,554
Bagasse flow kg/s/ wet 9.13
Under grate air kg/s 26
Distribution air kg/s 2
Tangential air kg/s 15
Bagasse flow m/s 37
Undergarte air flow m/s 7
Distribution air flow m/s 37
Tangential air flow m/s 22
Furnace wall temperature K 623
Stochiometric air/fuel ratio 3.76:1
Equivalence air/fuel ratio at which furnace operated 4.2:1

mp V U
= A pcdU V + g 1
dt 2
The drying model for the entrained particles is based on Spald-
ings B number approach 9,7. Conservation of energy gives the
thermal B number

cgT T p
BT = 2
h fg

Fig. 1 Meshed furnace used for modeling where cg is the gas specific heat; T p is the particle temperature; T
is the free stream temperature; qrad is the radiation flux to particle;
qcond is the conduction heat to flux particle; h fg is the latent heat of
water evaporation; and mw is the water evaporation rate. Conser-
vation of species involves the transport B number
Samples of bagasse were tested for thermogravimetric TG and
differential thermal analysis DTA analysis by using an STA Y w, Y w,s
1500 analyzer. Throughout the test period, the boiler was observed BD = 3
Y w,s 1
to run continuously, not showing signs of gross instability while
samples of bagasse had moisture contents as high as 54% and as Pyrolysis of bagasse is modeled by using Arrhenius kinetic
low as 47%. All the flame temperature measurements were taken mechanism following the work by Drummond and Drummond
while the bagasse moisture content was within this range. When 10
the boiler did experience problems, additional samples of bagasse
were collected and tested at the laboratory for moisture level, and d
found to be on the higher side. At these times there was a notice- = k* 4
able dulling of the light coming from the windows at the grate
level and large mounds of bagasse could be seen to be piling up Here is the mass of volatiles released divided by the original dry
on the grate. The mounds of bagasse at times were in excess of sample mass; * is the ultimate mass of volatiles released divided
1 m high. by the original dry sample mass. The ultimate mass of volatiles
The meshed furnace used in computations is shown in Fig. 1. * is determined as fraction of the original dry sample mass,
The operating conditions and properties of the fuel at 100% including ash. Here k is the Arrhenius coefficient given by
maximum capacity rating MCR are summarized in Table 1.
The test furnace is designed to operate from 60% to 110% MCR.
It depends on the cane crushing capacity of the plant. k = A exp

The kinetic parameters are determined by Drummond and Drum-

mond 9 for sugarcane bagasse under conditions approximating
the flash pyrolysis experienced in the furnace. In Eq. 5, the
4 Computational Modeling of the Furnace preexponential A = 2.13 106s1 and the activation energy E
The bagasse-fired furnace is modeled using FLUENT, a three- = 92.6kJ/ mol. The ultimate yield for bagasse volatiles is 98.8%
dimensional computational fluid dynamics package. The FLUENT on a dry ash free basis 9. The values are global reaction values
code solves the three-dimensional Favre-averaged equations for and follows first-order reaction.
weakly compressible flows. FLUENT uses a finite volume particle Radiation heat transfer between the gas, the bagasse particle
source in cell approach to model the fundamental transport equa- stream, and the furnace walls is modeled by P1 model similar to
tions. Closure is achieved via the k turbulence model. Bagasse the discrete transfer method of Lockwood and Shah 11. Equa-
particles are tracked using Lagrangian particle tracking in order to tion 6 gives the change in intensity with respect to distance
obtain particle trajectories as given in Eq. 1 traveled along the path of a single beam of radiation intensity I

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Fig. 2 TG and DTA result of bagasse


= ka + k p + ksI + kaT4g + k pT4p +


Id 6
accumulation and drying. Drying occurs by both radiation and
convection. The intensity of the radiation incident on the top sur-
face of the fuel is obtained from the radiation model. Convective
The gas absorption, particle absorption, and particle scattering co- heat transfer within the pile is calculated assuming the pile can be
efficients are given in Eq. 7. represented by a porous block at a uniform temperature. Equation
8 gives the heat transfer correlation for drying in a packed bed
ka = 0.28 exp Tg

2.06 Re0.575
Nu = Re Pr1/3 8
kp = A Q
c apn j

ks = A Q
c spn j 7
5 Results and Discussions
where ka = gas absorption coefficient for radiation; and k p In bagasse-fired furnaces, a large low-temperature preignition
= particle absorption coefficient. zone appears between the fuel spreaders and the combustion front.
The coefficients in Eq. 7 ideally should be a function of par- This delay to ignition is due to drying and heat-up of the fuel. The
ticle surface properties and size. The coefficients of Qap and Qsp location of the ignition front and hence overall furnace stability is
are obtained from the work of Mann 12 on coal furnace model- found to be affected by fuel moisture, pyrolysis kinetics, and com-
ing. The expression for ka is a global expression for gas radiation bustion activity on the grate. The computational model developed
in coal furnaces 12. The values of the parameters depend on the agrees qualitatively with experimental data collected.
concentrations of the gases most responsible for absorption at the The kinetics of the pyrolysis of sugar cane bagasse and other
furnace conditions as well as on temperature. biomass materials at high temperatures and high heating rates has
There are two distinctly different mechanisms for the combus- been the subject of much discussion. The result of the TGA analy-
tion of solid material. The first has been termed flaming combus- sis carried out for the fuel is given in Fig. 2. The sample used for
tion, where volatiles are released as gases from the fuel and the the test was collected at 48% moisture.
chemical reactions take place in the gas phase. For the second, In Fig. 2, the first step weight loss in the TG trace occurs
char combustion, the chemical reactions take place at the sur- between the temperatures 25 C and 67 C and is attributed to
face of the solid fuel. During flash pyrolysis, diffusion of oxygen moisture loss of about 10%. The sample is thermally stable along
to the particle surface is inhibited by the flow of the volatile ma- the curve 2-3 between temperatures 67 C and 253 C. The
terial away from the particle and by the consumption of oxygen in sample starts degrading after 253 C and continues up to 355 C
the flame surrounding the particle. A combination of these factors and the weight loss in the second step comes roughly around 53%.
and relatively lower solid material temperatures during pyrolysis Second step weight loss is faster and steeper compared to first step
prevent char combustion from occurring at a significant rate until weight loss due to the thermal degradation of the sample.
pyrolysis is nearing completion. Once pyrolysis has progressed to The third step weight loss also attributed to degradation path
beyond the specified ultimate yield of the combustibles, char com- 4-5 along the curve occurs between the temperatures 355 C and
bustion is assumed to commence. Char combustion is modeled 500 C. The rate of weight loss is less in this step compared to the
using the coal-char model of Smith 13, with char combustion second step. The weight loss in the third step degradation is
kinetics determined by Luo and Stanmore for bagasse 3. roughly around 15% and is much less than that in the second step.
The grate is modeled as an array of cells on the furnace floor. Hence the major thermal decomposition of the sample occurs be-
The model is time dependent and operates in two stages: mass tween the temperatures 253 C and 355 C.

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Fig. 3 Moisture loss details of the particles

Fig. 4 Temperature profiles of the particles on the grate

Beyond 500 C and above the residual weight is around 18%
and this may be attributed to ash due to incomplete thermal de- gasse stream near the spreader. As the particle is projected further
composition or any thermally stable cross linked carbonaceous out into the furnace, its temperature increases and moisture mass
materials and mineral matters if any. loss progresses at a finite rate. m / m0 is the mass of volatile matter
The DTA trace of the sample indicates that the maximum moisture remaining in the particle divided by the mass at time
weight loss corresponding to second step in TG occurs at 355 C zero. The surface area to volume ratio of the 181 m particle is
and the maximum weight loss in the third step occurs at 439 C.
around 4.5 times that of the 668 m particle. Furthermore, the dry
As seen from TG analysis, there are three distinct zones or regions
density of the larger particle is 3.8 times that of the smaller. The
that occur during the bagasse pyrolysis. The first zone is from the
net result of this is that, per unit surface area, the 668 m particle
ambient temperature to onset of active pyrolysis 25 253 C
contains about 17 times as much moisture as the 181 m particle.
path 1-2-3. The second zone represents the major decomposition The temperature profile for particles 181 m and 668 m are
of the material and is considered to occur between the initial tem-
shown in Fig. 4. The 181 m particle reaches the maximum tem-
perature 253 C and the final temperature 355 C path 3-4. The
perature around 0.2 s and reaches around 1630 K, while 668 m
third zone represents temperature above the final temperature of
particle reaches around 800 K, lesser than the 181 m particle
active pyrolysis zone 355 C. In this zone, the amount and rate of
due to its moisture content. The temperatures shown in the figure
mass loss is lower and slower than the active pyrolysis zone. The
are combustion temperatures. The adiabatic temperature calcu-
third zone occurs between the temperatures 355 C and 500 C
lated was 1650.8 K. The temperatures attained by the particles are
path 4-5. In this zone the carbon and ash content of the material
slightly less than the adiabatic temperature calculated. In the fig-
ure it is observed that as soon as the particle enters the furnace its
A typical sample of bagasse encompasses a very wide range of
temperature starts rising and the particle releases its volatile con-
particle sizes. Bagasse particles typically have dimensions on the
tent in around 0.15 s, then follows the thermal degradation. At the
order of 100 m while the largest particles have maximum di-
end of the curve it can be observed that due to some thermally
mension of a few centimeters. The smallest particles follow the
stable minerals present in the fuel ash, the difference in tempera-
gas stream quite closely and are swept upward after entry to the
ture along the curve is negligible as the particle passes over the
furnace, while the larger particles fall to the grate. Particles size
distributions made by Dixon 1 is used in the present work. Fol-
Figure 5 shows that the 181 m particle reaches maximum
lowing are some of the particle dimensions used in the calcula-
velocity due to the influence of distributor air jet. Due to high
tion. The smallest particle selected has a nominal diameter of
velocity distribution air jet, the bagasse particles gain high veloc-
181 m which is the diameter of an equivalent cylindrical par-
ity when they comes out of the spreader. The 181 m particle
ticle. It means the diameter of the particle selected has the same
reaches a maximum velocity around 0.02 s during which the par-
length and the same surface area to volume ratio.
ticle dries and later it follows devolatilization and char burning.
The geometry of bagasse particles is quite difficult to charac-
terize. Dixon 1 and Luo and Stanmore 3 describe the particles Similarly, for the 668 m particle, due to its size and moisture
as cylinders with a characteristic length and a diameter based on content, it reaches its maximum velocity around 0.1 s. These two
an equivalent cross-sectional area. For the purpose of calculations,
Luo and Stanmore 3 describe the particles as equivalent volume
spheres. Here the area and volume of the sphere are in the same
ratio to the area and volume of a circumscribed straight cylinder.
Figure 3 gives the drying history for the particles 181 m and
668 m. The heat transfer takes place via both convection and
radiation. The Spalding transport B number approach is used to
determine the mass transfer. The convection heat transfer coeffi-
cients are used in computing the drying history of the particles.
In Fig. 3, the 181 m particle is dry after about 0.9 s from
entry to the furnace at a position nearly 7 m above the grate and
for the 668 m particle, drying takes about 2 s and appears to be
complete adjacent to the high-temperature zone near the back wall
of the furnace. The moisture histories for both particles show an
initial region where negligible drying occurs 0 0.2 s for the
181 m particle and 0 0.8 s for the 668 m particle. This is the
result of the particle temperature being too low and the moisture
content in the gas phase being too high in the concentrated ba- Fig. 5 Velocity of the particles on the grate

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Fig. 6 Temperature zone in K along the spreader plane

results indicate as the particle size increases, their velocity de- Also this high temperature at the rear of the furnace is due to
creases. The observation of the furnace also justifies the large combustion of larger particles which are projected to the back of
clumps of fuel accumulation on the grate in front of the spreader the furnace by the spreaders.
to support the above.
From Fig. 6, it is apparent that the low-temperature zone 6 Conclusions
stretches across the full furnace width. This low-temperature re-
The pyrolysis kinetics of bagasse plays an important role in
gion is the result of the delay to ignition due to the drying and heat
prediction of the thermal fields and ultimately stability of the fur-
up of the fuel and is the key feature for the investigation con-
nace. This influence is particularly significant in the predicted de-
nected with this work. There are two main zones of intense com-
lay to ignition of the fuel. Size and shape of the fuel also have a
bustion activity in the furnace. One is located on and above the
major influence insofar as the location and rate of deposition of
sloping rear wall of the furnace. It is due to the combustion of
the fuel on the grate. The computational model developed agrees
larger particles which are projected to the back of the furnace by
qualitatively with experimental data collected. The results shows
the spreaders. Temperatures in excess of 1500 K arise in this re-
that the fuel moisture does significantly affect the size of the pre-
gion. Here the combustion activity predicted on the rear wall ex-
ignition zone and hence furnace stability. Fuel moisture plays a
tends for the complete width of the furnace. This can be seen in
very important role in the initiation of instability in bagasse fired
Fig. 6, which is for a horizontal plane 2.625 m above the grate.
furnaces. Actual observations of the furnace suggest that sudden
A second combustion zone arises in the upper part of the fur-
changes in bagasse moisture, which arise due to problems with
nace beyond the cool preignition zone. This high-temperature re-
mill operation, appear to have a great effect on the furnace behav-
gion is due to the ignition of lighter bagasse particles that are
ior. If the cane entering the mill is mixed with a considerable
swept upward by the vertical gas stream. Finally near the neck of
amount of dirt, stability problems appear to occur more fre-
the furnace the temperature rises to 1600 K. quently.
Figure 7 shows the measured and predicted values at the grate The results of modeling show a considerable delay to ignition
level. During measurements, temperatures were recorded along due to the drying of fuel. Also, the important role of the particle
the grate depth at grate level. The trend in increasing temperature size for fuel drying has been clearly demonstrated. This issue is
toward the back wall matches the predicted temperature. It indi- particularly relevant to bagasse furnaces due to the very large
cates the delay to ignition due to drying and heat up of the fuel. range of particle sizes in a given sample of bagasse. It is also
found that increasing the effective surface area for heat and mass
transfer can result in a significant shorter delay to fuel ignition.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support provided by
BAS Cogeneration staff and workers in carrying out this research

Ac effective cross sectional area of the particle
A p particle surface area
B spalding transport number
Cd drag coefficient
Cg gas specific heat
Fig. 7 Measured and predicted temperatures along the grate E activation energy
depth g gravity vector

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h fg latent heat of water evaporation bed void fraction
I intensity of radiation
k reaction rate coefficient References
ka gas absorption coefficient for radiation
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kp particle absorption coefficient ers, Proceedings of Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologies., Mackay,
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mp mass of the particle 2 Luo, M., and Stanmore, B. R., 1992, The Combustion Characteristics of Char
From Pulverized Bagasse, Fuel, 71, pp. 10741076.

m w
water evaporation rate
Nusselt number
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surface 11 Lockwood, F. C., and Shah, N. G., 1981, A New Radiation Solution Method
Y w, water vapor mass fraction in free stream for Incorporation in General Combustion Prediction Procedures, Proceedings
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