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Gas Turbine Fuels and the Roles of Fuel Additives in Corrosion Protection

Presented By: Md. Moynul Islam

Chemical Engineer, Special Interest and Expertise on Fuels & Lubricants
Email: engineer@moynulislam.com, Skype: moynulbd

Special Article on Liquid Fuel Selection for Industrial Gas Turbine and the Role of Various Fuel
Additives in Protecting Turbine Blades from High Temperature Corrosion

January 10, 2015

About GT Fuels and Fuels Specifications:
Fuel related problem is a common problem in both diesel engine based and GT based power plant. The
profitability of your power business is directly related to the quality of fuels. As long as you will feed quality
fuel to your engine/turbine, you will get not only quality output but also extended service life of equipments.
You will have to give less effort on preventive maintenance works; you can eliminate the risk of catastrophic
failure or breakdown maintenance in your highly expensive turbine components. However, before proceeding
discussion on GT fuel additives and their roles in corrosion protection in high temperature alloys used in
blades and vanes gas turbines (aviation or industrial GT), let us know a bit about fuel oils and fuel oils
specifications of gas turbines.

The major difference between aviation GT and industrial GT is that the aviation generates thrust to propel the
airplane by exhausting hot gases at high temperatures and velocities. The aviation turbine section is intended
only to generate enough horsepower to drive the compressor. In industrial GT the hot gases are expanded
across additional turbine stages to generate shaft horsepower that can be used to drive generators, pumps, gas
compressors, etc. As we are concern about hot corrosions in industrial GT, we will concentrate more on
requirements of industrial GT fuel and the effects of trace metals on GT blades and vanes.

Many industrial GT use gaseous fuels but others use variety of liquid fuels ranging from naphtha to residual
fuel oils. Aviation GT fuel requirements are quite narrow because of the varying operating conditions
(altitude, temperature, etc.), which impose limitations on volatility, viscosity, distillation range, etc. Industrial
GT are usually stationary; this means atmospheric conditions do not change as drastically as with aviation GT.
The specification for industrial GT fuels is ASTM D 2880, Standard Specification for Gas Turbine Fuel Oils
(Figure 01) which is slightly different from ASTM D 975, Standard Specification for automotive diesel fuel
oils (Figure: 02).

Figure 01: Standard Specification for Gas Turbine Fuel Oils (ASTM D 2880)

If we compare two tables shown in Figure 01 and Figure 02, then we will see that the specification
Requirements for different distillate fuels are varying based on applications. A comparison table for different
distillate fuels has given in Figure 03. If we closely observe the parameters in Figure 01 and Figure 02 then we
will see the similarities between No. 1 GT (in Figure 01) and No. 1-D (in Figure 02). Flash Point, Water and

Sediment, Kinematic Viscosity Limit, Ash Content and Carbon Residue values are same in both specification
tables. But automotive diesel fuel has Cetane number requirement whereas GT fuel does not.

Figure 02: Standard Specification for automotive diesel fuel oils (ASTM D 975)

Figure 03: Comparison of specification requirements for selected distillate fuels

Parameter D 396 D 975 D 2069 D 2880 D 3699
Flash Point
Water & Sediment
Carbon Residue
Copper Strip Corrosion
Pour Point
Cetane #
Cloud Point
Freezing Point
Burning Quality
Saubolt Color
indicates the property is included in the specification

Major Components and Temperatures Ranges in a GT:

There are three major components in a simple GT: compressor (intended to raise the pressure of operating
fluid), combustor (intended to raise the temperature of operating fluid), turbine section (generates shaft
horsepower). In some complecated cycle the heat in the exhaust gas is used to increase the combustor inlet
temperature without consuming excess fuel. As a result the typical combustor outlet temperature ranges are
in 1093 oC 1482 oC.

Trace Metal Limits in GT Fuels:
We have seen the general requirements of designated parameters for GT fuels in Figure 01. Beyond those
common parameters, an additional list of Trace Metals has been introduced for GT fuels. Vanadium,
Sodium+Potassium, Calcium and Lead are considered as trace metals in fuels entering in turbine combustor.
The limits of trace metals for different grades of GT fuels has given in Figure 04. The sulfur content is also
important because of its interaction with sodium and potassium as well as the effects on exhaust emissions.

Trace metal limits of fuel entering turbine combustor(s).
Trace Metals Limits, mg/kg
Designation V Na + K Ca Pb
No. 0-GT 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
No. 1-GT 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
No. 2-GT 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
No.3-GT 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
No.4-GT Consult turbine manufacturer
Test Method D 3605 may be used for determination of V, Na, Ca and Pb

Figure 04: Trace Metals Limits in Gas Turbine Fuels

Trace metals are metalic compounds dissolved or suspended particulates like rust either in fuel hydrocarbons
or free water present in the fuel. Lower levels of trace metalas are beneficial for GT from corossion stand
point but must consider the cost and availability of such a refined fuel.
About Marine Diesel Oil, #2 Grade (Middle Distillate Fuels):
Take a look on ISO 8217:2010, specification for Distillate Marine Fuels (Figure 05) and see the list of
parameters, their limiting values and designated test methods. If we closely observe the parameters in ISO
8217 table then we will see that #2 MDO is a blend of DMX and DMA. It is obvious that the the parameters
and test methods for MDO/#2 and GT fuels are different. Moreover there is no information about trace metals
that is very important to know for GT operation.
Perhaps the reason of excluding the requirements of trace metals from diesel oil specification is that the
detrimental effects of trace metals on diesel engines are not significant as GT. Although valve burning is very
common issue in diesel engines but the replacement cost of a burnt valve is negligible compared to that of
GTs expensive blades. It is like that repairing a damaged brick in a wall and rebuilding a destroyed wall.
Besides, the temperatures inside the diesel engine combustion chembers marely reaches above 600 oC. So,
most of the time the temperatures of combustion chembers and subsequent hot gases paths are remaining
below the vanadium containing ash melting point. Hence, the diesel engines operators are less concerned
about trace metals in MDO.
As a GT operator, you should have sound knowledge on selecting appropriate fuel, efficient fuel cleaning
system and fuel testing methods to ensure the safety and uninturrupted productivity of your GT. Probably you
are forwarding your MDO/#2 sample to a fuel testing laboratory for routine analysis. The laboratory will
conduct analysis in accordance with ISO 8217 specification list and they have no obligation to look for trace
metals in your fuel (as trace metals are not included in ISO 8217 specification). However, you will receive a
fuel test report having all parameters withinh specification limits but remaining in dark about trace metal
contamination that is very important to know for taking preventive measures on you fuel system before
entering the fuel to your GTs combustor. ASTM D 3605 is the designated test method to determine trace
metals in fuel, and you have to specify the method while forwarding fuel samples for testing.
Figure 05: ISO 8217:2010 Specification for Distillate Marine Fuels

Detrimental Effects of Trace Metals on Gas Turbine:

Vanadium present in fuel can form low melting compounds V2O5 which melts at 691 oC and which causes
severe corrossive attack on all high temperature alloys used for gas turbine blades. However, if sufficient
magnesium is present in fuel, it will combine with the vanadium and forms a self-spalling compounds with
higher melting points and thus reduce the corrosion rate to an acceptable level.
Sodium and Potassium can combine with vanadium to form eutectics compounds which melt at temperatures
as low as 565 oC and with sulfur in the fuel to yield sulfates with melting points in the operating range of the
gas turbine. See the V2O5-Na2O phase diagram in Figure 07.
Calcium is not harmful from corrosion standpoint; in fact it serves to inhibit the corrosive actions of
vanadium. However, calcium can lead to hard-bonded deposits that are not self-spalling when the gas turbine
is shut down and not easily removed by water washing of the turbine.
Lead can cause corrosion and in addition, it can destroy the beneficial inhibiting effect of magnesium
additives on vanadium corrosion. But the significant quantities of lead present in fuel is very rare.
Compounds Chemical
Name Formula o
C (oF)

Venadium pentoxide V2O5 675 (1250)

Sodium metavanadate Na2O.V2O5 630 (1165)

Sodium pyrovanadate 2Na2O.V2O5 640 (1185)

Sodium orthovanadate 3Na2O.V2O5 850 (1560)

Sodium vanadic vanadate Na2O.V2O4.V2O5 625 (1160)

Sodium vanadic vanadate 5Na2O.V2O4.HV2O5 535 (995)

Figure 07:Phase diagram of V2O5 Na2O Figure 06:Sodium Vanadium Compounds and Their Melting
system showing a series of utectic compounds Point
Turbine Blades Composition:
The gas turbine blades principally made of Nickel-based super alloy (Major ingredients base metal Ni ~ 68%,
Cr ~ 20%, Mo ~ 6%, Tungsten (W) ~ 3%, Titanium (Ti) ~ 1.5% and Al ~ 1.7%). The excellent thermal
stability, tensile and fatigue strengths, resistance to creep and hot corrosion, and micro-structural stability
possessed by nickel-based super alloy. These Nickel based super alloy are the standard material for hot stages
of gas turbines, where blades are subjected to high mechanical stresses, elevated temperatures and in
aggressive environments.

We have discussed about Sodium (NaCl) ingression in fuel system through salt water contamination. We
know the presence of Sulfur in diesel fuels is very common that produces SO2 in combustion process. Hot
Corrosion (Type I corrosion) in turbine blades can be intensified in the presence of Vanadium, which produces
V2O5 that combines with sulfates of alkali metals (like Sodium Sulfate, Na2SO4) and while in molten state, can
aggressively dissolve protective metal oxide layers in turbine blades. The ratio of Sodium and Vanadium plays
a vital role in dissolving oxide layers. Sodium (Na) to Vanadium (V) ratio of 1:3, as the lowest melting point
corrosive sodium/vanadium/oxide salts are formed that we have seen in figure 07, Phase diagram of
V2O5 Na2O system showing a series of utectic compounds.

Chemical Reaction involved in High Temperature Corrosion:

2S + 2O2 = 2SO2
4NaCl + 2SO2 + 2H2O + O2 = Na2SO4 + 4HCl
V2O5 and Na2SO4 + High Temperature >>> Molten deposit on blade surface >>> dissolving
protective metal oxide layers from turbine blades. The removal of oxide layers exposing blade surfaces
(having less strength and thermal stability) to facilitate erosion corrosion in turbine blades at elevated
temperature, pressure and flow of hot combustion gas followed by changing shapes in blades.
Progressive changes in turbine blades under hot corrosion environment:
Step 1:
Slight roughening of the surface caused by growth of localized breakdown in protective oxide layer is
obvious. At this stage, neither Chromium depletion in the substrate layer nor loss of mechanical reliability are
Step 2:
At this stage, the roughness of the surface is more remarkable as oxide layer breakdown continues. Although
chromium depletion begins at this phase but mechanical integrity is still unaffected
Step 3:
In this stage, oxidation of the base material has penetrated to significant depth, with obvious build-up of scale.
At this level of corrosion, mechanical integrity should be considered as endangered and the blades require
removal from service. Progression to step 4 will accelerate with or without the continued presence of sodium
Step 4:
At this stage, catastrophic attack occurs. The attack penetrates deeply into the blade while forming a large
`blister' of scale. Failure is likely at this stage due to loss of structural material.

Gas Turbine Fuel Treatment Program:
There are many possible sources of ingressing contaminants in fuels such as inefficient processing at refinery
level, during transportation, inside fuel storage tanks. Whatever the sources of contaminants ingression, the
fuel must be clean before entering to the gas turbine combustor. It is true that finding a fuel supplier capable to
supply MDO/#2 having contaminants and trace metal impurities always within specified limits for gas turbine
fuel. Sometimes we have to operate our gas turbines accepting fuels having one or more parameters
(especially trace metals) residing beyond the specified limits. But selecting appropriate fuel cleaning system
can remove (or reduce to an acceptable level) the contaminants and thus damaging effecs of contaminants on
turbine components can be controlled to a certain extend.
Contaminants may present in fuel oils in the form of suspended solids, dissolved in free water present in fuels
and dissolved in hydrocarbon (oils).
Two possible remedies which can be applied to deal with impurities in GT fuels. Remedy A: removal of
contaminants by onsite fuel treatment and Remedy B: inhibiting the damaging effects of trace metals by using
suitable additives in fuels.
Suspended contaminants like rust, CatFines, Dirts etc can efficiently be removed (Remedy A) by filtration or
centrifugal separators.Sodium and Potassium salts are highly soluble in water, and can be removed (or at least
reduce to a an acceptable specification limits) by on-site treatment process known as Fuel Washing. A high
quality fresh water is first mixed with the fuel to dilute and extract the water soluble impurities and then
separated using either centrifugal separator or electrostatic desalter. Fuel washing is generally applied to treat
highly contaminated GT fuels such as crude oils and residual oils to remove water soluble contaminants.
Distillate-grade fuels like MDO #2 are relatively clean and usually not washed at the gas turbine power plant,
although they are often delivered to the site containing trace amount water soluble Sodium and Potassium
contamination, oil-soluble vanadium and other trace metal contamination.
Vanadium and other oil-soluble trace metals can not be removed by fuel washing or by centrifuge method, and
corrosion inhibition must therefore be achieved through the use of chemical additives (Remedy B) based on the
level of contamination.
Selecting Appropriate Fuel Additives for GT Fuels:
A fuel additive composition is an admixture made up of heavy aromatic petroleum naphtha and a halogenated
hydrocarbon such as 1,1,1 - trichloro-ethane solvent where Polysilicone (Polymers of SiO2), Magnesium
Sulphonate (or Magnesium Carboxylate) and Chromium Naphthanate remain dissolved or stably dispersed.
The formulation process and ratios of different ingredients depends on many factors such as types of fuels,
types of impurities and contamination levels, operating temperatures, composition of alloy materials and
safety related issues, etc.
Magnesium based additives (such as Magnesium Sulphonates or Magnesium Carboxylate) are used mainly to
control vanadic oxidation by modifying ash composition and increasesing the ash melting point temperature.
Through combination with V2O2 at an appropriate Mg / V ratio (generally 3:1) treatment ratio, Magnesium
Orthovanadate [3MgO.V2O5] having high melting point (about 1243 oC) is formed. Corrosion is thus
controlled by ensuring that the combustion ash does not melt, and that remain in solid state in gas turbine
blades and vanes. Through combination with fuel sulfur, magnesium also generates an water soluble
magnesium sulfate as an additional ash component which can be removed from hot gas path by periodic water

Chromium based additives (Chromium Naphthanate, Chromium 2 Ethylhexanoate) are especially designed to
inhibit sulfidation corrosion promoted by alkali metals Sodium and Potassium. Chromium reacts with the
oxides and chlorides of alkali metals and form volatile compounds which pass through turbine without
Silicon based additives (Polysilicone) are also available to manage fuels having high sodium contamination. It
provides added corrosion protection and improved ash friability.

Fuel Additives Dosing Methods and Appropriate Dosing Ratios:

Fuel additives can be mixed with fuel by injecting directly in to the bunker receiving line by a on-line
metering pump while receiving fuel. Thus a balancedmixture of additives and fuel can be achieved in the
storage tank. But the main drawback of this method is that the fuel additives may be settled down inside the
storage tank while storing fuel for a longer period. Although by agitation or recirculation, the additive can be
remixed with the fuel. Again in this method, the dosing ratios of additives can not be optimized. Hence, this
method is no more a recommended method for mixing additives with fuel.
Another widely used and recommended method of injecting fuel additives just before entering the fuel in to
the gas turbine combustor using on-line inhibitor injection system. In this method the the dosing ratios can
finely be tuned based on contamination level in the fuel.
The dosing ratios of additives are not fixed and it will varies based on nature of impurities and contamination
levels. So it will change based on your receiving fuel quality.
Fuel quality plays an important role in the profitability and performance of a GT based power plant. A large
proportion of the total capital in a turbine based power plant is required to invest behind the installation of GT.
The components of a GTs are much more expensive compared to the parts of diesel engines. Hence, intense
care must be taken while selecting fuels and their designated test methods, selecting appropriate fuel additives
etc. A small unintentional mistake on fuels or additive selection can lead a catastrophic/breakdown
maintenance followed by collapsing your profitable power business. So before feeding fuels to the GT, make
sure you have selected correct grades of fuel for your GT and all vital parameters required for GT fuels are
within specification limits. And also make sure you have selected the correct fuel additives in your fuel