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Albrecht Kaupp

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Excess air in combustion


Incorrect amount of air in fuel combustion accounts for the largest losses in combustion systems.

Learning Objectives

Understanding the technical jargon behind combustion technologies Knowing the very basics of combustion fundamentals Appreciating the various methods to calculate excess air levels Being able to relate O2 and CO2 measurements to fuel properties Assessing fuel cost reduction potentials Applying quick estimates to calculate energy losses

Excess air in combustion

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A crash course in combustion principles

As shown in lecture 4, all fuels consist mostly of atomic Carbon (C), Hydrogen (H), Oxygen (O), Nitrogen (N), Sulfur (S), minerals (ash) and water (H2O). Fuel combustion means to let the molecular Oxygen (O 2) in air react with the combustible components of a fuel. As an example the fuel Carbon (C) reacts with O2 of the air to generate Carbon Dioxide (CO2). If the reaction is incomplete Carbon Monoxide (CO), a deadly gas, is generated. It is worthwhile to point out that all combustion products such as CO 2, CO, NOx, CnHm, SO2, SO3, except for the water generated by combustion of H to H 2O, are harmful. There is essentially nothing benign in stack gas, except the water vapor. And even the water vapor, because it reacts with SO3 to sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is not really harmless. This environmental and health threat of stack gas is one more reason to reduce energy consumption per unit of product output. 2. The excess air parameter

One kg of fuel requires a certain minimum of ambient air to be fully combusted. We call this minimum amount of air the stochiometric air or sometimes also the theoretical air to combust the fuel. The stochiometric air would completely combust the fuel to Carbon Dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) if Sulfur is present. If the fuel does not get enough air for combustion it will generate smoke and a potential unhealthy mixture of stack gas products. In addition energy is wasted. The same applies if too much excess air is used for combustion. A less trivial issue in combustion technology is therefore to ensure the proper amount of air that minimizes environmental impact and fuel consumption. For convenience we define the stochiometric air as the air to fuel ratio, AF (kg air/kg fuel), and the excess air factor as

EA =

Mass of air (kg) to combust one kg of fuel Stochiometric air (AF)

The AF is a property of a fuel that can be calculated from the ultimate chemical composition of the fuel. Table 1: Air-to-fuel ratio of various fuels Fuel Very light fuel oil Light fuel oil Medium heavy fuel oil Heavy fuel oil Bunker C Generic Biomass (maf) Coal A LPG (90 P : 10 B) Phase liquid liquid liquid liquid liquid solid solid gas AF 14.27 14.06 13.79 13.46 12.63 5.88 6.97 15.55 CO2 max wet 13.56 13.72 14.00 14.14 16.23 17.91 16.09 11.65 CO2 max dry

Excess air in combustion

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Terminology and equations

Excess air and the excess air factor were defined in the previous paragraph. Note, that both parameters describe the same phenomena. For instance saying a burner requires 20 % excess air to correctly combust fuel oil, is the same as saying the burner operates at an excess air factor of 1.2. A ideal combustion process would require 0 % excess air or has an excess air factor of 1. A combustion process requiring 100 % excess air uses twice as much air as necessary, or in other words has an excess air factor of two. The technical literature and car industry reserves the Greek symbol Lambda () for the excess air factor. Most modern fuel efficient cars have therefore Lambda sensors (= Oxygen sensors) to control the fuel efficiency. In boilers and furnaces they are called an oxygen trim. Instead of EA we will also use the symbol . =

Mass of air to combust one kg of fuel AF

It is repeated, the AF ratio is a fuel specific parameter that has nothing to do with the furnace design or combustion process, while is a parameter that tells us how efficiently a fuel was combusted. The closer is to one, the more efficient is the furnace or burner design and operation. Operating a boiler very close to =1 (or 0 % excess air) will require a oxygen trim that closely monitors excess air and adjusts it. Operating very close to the minimal amount of air (= stochiometric air = theoretical air) has the inherent danger of smoke and CO generation. Once is known it is fairly easy to calculate the mass of stack gas generated from the combustion process by mSG = mf (1 + AF) - mash It is worthwhile to examine the last equation. In case the boiler does not have any leaks, where stack gas escapes we can be assured that the mass entering the boiler must also leave the boiler through either the chimney or the ash bin. In the case of oil we know mash = 0. Therefore mSG = mf (1 + AF) = mf + mf AF = fuel + combustion air Note, that the term combustion air refers to dry air, excluding the humidity in air that could be anything from 1 to 20 grams of moisture per kg of air.

Excess air in combustion

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Derivation of excess air factor,

The amount of excess air can not be measured directly, but is rather derived from a measurement of either the O2 or CO2 content of the stack gas. Whether one measures O2 or CO2 is irrelevant for the calculation of the excess air, or , as long as one has obtained an accurate measurement of either O2 or CO2. As previously shown in lecture 6, various sensors and methods exist to measure O 2 or CO2. There is no simply and also accurate equation to calculate if O2 or CO2 is known. The correct equation based on a CO2 measurement is = where CO2 max VSG VAF mn3

CO 2 max V 1+ 1 SG VAF CO 2

= the maximum CO2 content of the dry stack gas at stochiometric combustion. Given in volume % = dry stack gas in mn3/kg at stochiometric condition = air-to-fuel ratio expressed as mn3/kg = normal cubic meter at 0 oC and 1.01325 bar.

The factor f =

VSG is between 0.93 to 0.97 for fuel oils. V AF

It is between 0.98 and 1 for solid fuels and between 0.9 and 1.9 for gases. It is best to calculate and generate appropriate charts expressing as a function of either O2 or CO2 in the stack gas by computer software. One should appreciate the complexity involved, that has resulted in quite a number of simplistic equations. Most commonly used equations are =

CO2 max 1+ 1 CO2 21 21 O2

All equations apply only if no CO and H2 is found in the stack gas. In case of incomplete combustion, CO is found in the stack gas. In this case is given as =


CO2 max g V SG g V AF


g =

(CO2 + CO) 100 100 0.5 CO 15 H 2 .

Note that CO is commonly measured in ppm and 10,000 ppm = 1%. CO contents of 1,000 ppm = 0.1 % are considered high in the combustion of liquid and gaseous fuels.

Excess air in combustion

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Excess air factors found in practice

As mentioned, the excess air factor of a burner furnace or boiler is a yardstick about its efficiency as well as the skill of the operator. Standard average figures are 1.5 1.5 Gas burners, forced draft 1.1 - 1.3 Atmospheric gas burners 1.25 Oil burners 1.15 - 1.3 Coal dust burners 1.2 - 1.3 Coal firing (mechanical) 1.3 Coal firing (hand) 1.5 - 2.5

These are best values that can be achieved with careful monitoring and constant adjustment of the combustion air at varying loads. In reality energy auditors may see much higher numbers.


Wet stack gas versus dry stack gas values

There can be a considerable amount of confusion and misjudgment of the situation if one does not clearly indicate whether O2 or CO2 measurements were conducted on either a wet or dry stack gas basis. As discussed in lecture 6, chemical cell sensors for O2 and CO measure on a dry stack gas basis while Zirconium Oxide sensors measure the O2 on a wet and hot stack gas basis. Of the four options O2 % (dry), O2 % (wet), CO2 % (dry) CO2 % (wet) only one value needs to be measured. The others are calculated based on the ultimate chemical composition of the fuel.

Excess air in combustion

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EXERCISES Task 1 In actual field work one measures or calculates CO2 on a dry basis, meaning the gas sample is cooled to almost ambient temperature and the stack gas is in a saturated state, with little moisture left. Calculate CO2 max in a dry stack gas and complete table 1 on page 4.

Task 2 Assume the CO2 content of stack gas from a LPG fired boiler was measured at 9 % (dry basis). However we dont know the composition of the LPG. Does it matter for calculation of the excess air? Hint: Generate the Excess Air graphics for Butane (8)and Propane (9) and determine the excess air at 9 % CO2.

Excess air for Butane at 9 % CO2 equals _______ %. Excess air for Propane at 9 % CO2 equals ______ %. Task 3 Assume the CO2 content of stack gas from a coal fired boiler was measured at 14 % (dry basis). However we dont know the ultimate chemical analysis of the coal. How large could the error be? Hint: Use the Excess Air graphics for Carbon, Coal A and Coal B, as well as Bunker C oil and complete the following table. % CO2, dry 14 14 14 14 f-factor 1 Excess air 50

Fuel (#) Carbon (17) Coal A (12) Coal B (13) Bunker C (7)

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Task 4 Complete the following sentences: Excess air of 23 % is equivalent to = ______________________ Excess air of 0 % is equivalent to = ______________________ Excess air of 100 % is equivalent to = _____________________ Decreasing excess air close to 0 % may have the following undesirable side effects: a) ____________________________________________________ b) ____________________________________________________ c) ____________________________________________________

Increasing excess air beyond 100 % may have the following undesirable side effects: a) ____________________________________________________ b) ____________________________________________________

Task 5 It is fairly easy to make mistakes in the assessment of the excess air, if it is not quite clear what basis, either dry or wet stack gas is used. Note, very rarely sensors that measure CO2 in the wet stack gas are used. Assume the wrong CO2 max (wet) is used. Calculate the error for excess air at 7 % CO2 and 13 % CO2 for Bunker C oil, by using the equation =

CO2 max 1+ 1 f CO2

The f-factor calculated by the software is always based on a dry gas composition. The values for CO2 max and CO2 refer to a dry gas measurement. Task 6 Decide whether the following statements are true or false. Statement 1. A CO2 content of 5 % was measured in the stack gas of a coal fired boiler, but the stack looked clean. 2. The excess air of a coal fired boiler is 10 %. 3. A very low excess air means a high energy efficiency. 4. The CO content decreases whenever excess air increases. True Fals e

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5. The CO content increases whenever excess air increases. 6. The CO content increases whenever excess air decreases to 0 %. 7. Smoke generation is a sign of too little excess air. 8. Smoke generation is a sign of too much excess air. 9. The excess air increases at low boiler load. 10. Increased Carbon Monoxide generation is always a sign of too little excess air. 11. Solid fuels have always a higher CO2 max than LPG. 12. The highest possible CO2 max of a fuel is 25 %. 13. The CO2 max of a fuel is changing whenever excess air is changed. 14. Excess air and excess air factor are in principle the same. 15. The air-to-fuel ratio is a fuel property that characterizes a fuel. 16. The CO2 max (dry basis) of a fuel changes with the moisture content of the fuel. 17. Stack gas could have 21 % Oxygen. 18. Stack gas could have 0 % Oxygen. 19. The percent O2 content of wet stack gas is always smaller than the percent O2 content of dry stack gas.

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Statement 20. A weak CO2 adsorbent solution will underestimate the boiler efficiency. 21. A weak O2 adsorbent solution will overestimate the boiler efficiency. 22. Too much excess air increases corrosion. 23. Too much excess air increases the flame temperature. 24. Too much excess air decreases the pressure in a boiler.


Fals e

Task 7 Explore the shape of the Excess Air curve. What happens, if CO2 is very close to 0? Hint: Take any Excess Air printout and extend the CO2 axis to the left. Calculate the excess air for 1 %, 0.5 %, and 0.1 % CO2.. Take the equation for and set f=1 =

CO2 max 1+ 1 CO2

Decrease CO2 in steps from 1 to 0.001% for CO2max =21% CO2 (%dry basis) Excess Air(%) Task 8 Often the power consumption of the forced draft fan, and occasionally an additional induced draft fan of the boiler is not known or data is not available. On the other hand the annual fuel consumption and annual operating hours are fairly well known. Use the equation P where p M+F 1 0.5 0.1

p v in Watt M +F

= pressure drop across a fan in Pascal = volume flow in m3/s of air or stack gas = system efficiency of fan and electric motor (about 0.4 to 0.8)

to roughly estimate the hourly electricity consumption of a boiler that combusts 350 kg/h of Bunker C at 50 % excess air.

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Steps Pressure drop in Pascal AF ratio of Bunker C, kg/kg fuel Real air kg/kg fuel Real air m3/kg of fuel kWh/hour at M+F =0.6

Results (P in H2O) 3 cm 5 cm 7 cm 10 cm

Note, the pressure drop across the system depends very much on the height of the chimney, the stack gas temperature and the setting of the fan louvers. Task 9 In the field one is never sure whether the measuring equipment works properly. Weak adsorbent solutions, or chemical cells, short circuits in the Zirconia Oxide sensors or incorrect calibration will yield false results. A clever way to safeguard against undetected measurement errors is to measure both the O2 and CO2 content of the gas. In this case one can take advantage of the fact that O2 and CO2 are not independent from each other. Once one value is known the other can be calculated. Use the software to explore the functional relation of O2 (CO2) and CO2 (O2).