Harold E. Johnson
Detroit Stoker Co., U.S.A.

A STO KE R of any design is essentially a mechanical means of delivering coal to an air admitting grate for an energy release via combustion. Over the years of design evolution from the man with the shovel, several concepts have been utilized. These can be classified into two broad categories with generally defined principles of operation as shown on Chart A. Stoker performance characteristics with different design parameters is shown on Chart B. This shows that the requirements for marine service are best met by the spreader stoker. In addition to offering performance characteristics most compatible with the needs, the spreader stoker with continuous traveling grate, is built to satisfy the size ranges under consideration for today's marine service. Experience with approximately 3000 RotoGrates installed all around the world is a solid basis for this conclusion. For martine service much of the stoker development occurred on the Great Lakes of the U.S.A. where the spreader stoker made its first appearance in the middle Thirties. The design was basic and the hardware elementary. Ultimately, hundreds of marine boilers were spreader stoker fired before oil came to the fore in this service. The ensuing years brought wide acceptance as well as evolution in equipment and application until the early Sixties, when oil firing largely supplanted the use of coal on the 'Lakes'. Many of these ships are still plying the Lakes, still using coal on the stokers installed during that time - a testimony to the reliability and practicality of coal for such service. Today's technology, therefore, is really a building on the well established past. A straker in the most utilitarian sense is a fuel and air mixing device, the intention being the release of available fuel energy. There are several different modes of coal firing with stokers. The very existence of the differing mechanics posed some difficulties to the earlier entrepreneurs of automatic coal firing on shipboard. The Great Lakes experience is valuable when considering the re-emergence of coal as a viable marine fuel. The pros and cons of underfeed versus spreader stoker, the comparative

merits of intermittent versus continual ash removal, or the degree to which overfire turbulence need be employed need not be debated. Experience leads to the conclusion that the spreader stoker with continuous forward traveling grates is best for the return of coal to the seas. It has the advantages, for the mobile user for whom space is at a premium and fuel availability widely varying, of high burning rates, it burns a large variety of coals, allows the application of many combinations of oil, coal and biomass, rapidly follow load swings with high efficiency and minimum attendance, has high availability with low maintenance and is applicable to boilers over a wide size range. Impacting upon the above, of course, :s the boiler design to be compatible with the products of combustion released, but the traveling grate spreader stoker is a most forgiving "carburetor" or fuel and air mixing device. Exploring further the premise of the stoker as a fuel and air mixing device, the traveling grate spreader stoker essentially consists of four subsystems: Fuel feeders Grate system Overfire air Fly carbon return These four systems work together to achieve the basic principle of coal burning with a spreader stoker. This involves covering a grate with a thin layer of coal so that each square foot of grate receives the same amount of Btu for a given period of time. Air is introduced through the grate so that each square foot receives the same mass flow. This would result in identical release of heat from each square foot of grate. Some of the fuel fed to the stoker burns in suspension, the amount depending primarily on the coal size consistency. To accomplish smokeless, efficient combustion of this suspension burning, as well as of the volatile distilled from the fuel bed, it is necessary to introduce overfire air in the form of turbulence to assure intimate mixing of the fuel with oxygen. Due to the nature of the spreader firing process, some of the combustible delivered to the furnace remains in the exhaust products of combustion and is carried from the furnace. The fly carbon return system is the vehicle whereby this fly carbon loss is reclaimed for reburning in the furnace, thereby enhancing overall boiler efficiency. The fuel feeding system The coal metering function is automatically accomplished to conform to load changes. A single arm at either side of the stoker front receives a signal from the combustion control system and internal linkage alters the travel of a reciprocating feed plate to discharge to the distributor the amount of coal to follow the load. Bearing in mind the goal of delivering the same amount of Btu over each square foot of grate, individual adjustments are available at each feeder to 'bias' the Btu input across the furnace width. This need is usually prompted by some degree of segregation in the fuel being delivered to the furnace. A coal handling system which precludes segregation will, therefore, greatly enhance spreader stoker operation and minimize the need for operator attention and adjustment. Correct distribution over the stoker grate width selected to suit the boiler, is affected by the deployment of the proper quantity and physical size of coal feeders. For all spreader stokers the ideal situation would be to have a continuous feeder for the entire grate width. This, of

course, is not practical. Therefore, the approach is to install sufficient feeders of sufficient width to get as good a lateral spread of coal as possible. We believe the total width of stoker feeder units employed should approach 50 per cent and be not less than 40 per cent of the grate width to insure full coverage of the grate and minimize the chance of a V-shaped 'dead' spot (no coal) at the front end of the grates between the feeders. Lateral distribution is further assured by the curved face surfaces of the rotor blades which propel the fuel into the furnace. This combination of concave and convex surfaces effectively sprays the coal in all directions eliminating the dead spots between properly spaced feeders. Individual blades are not adjustable (eliminating an operator judgement) and the experience of literally thousands of these feeders in service have proven the design wisdom of this approach. Longitudinal distribution is accomplished by the trajectory of the coal into the furnace. Generally, the feeders for spreader stokers have two means of adjusting coal distribution. It is often possible to adjust the trajectory of the coal of each individual feeder which would regulate the distance that it is thrown. It is possible to regulate the speed of the rotor that will also affect the distance the coal is thrown. This latter adjustment should be the same for all feeders simultaneously lest the metering feature of the feeder is compromised for the sake of distribution. Once the trajectory of the coal from the individual coal feeders is set, it is generally unnecessary to make further adjustments in this manner. Speeding up or slowing down of the rotors changes the established pattern to maintain proper relationship to the rear wall. The degree to which this adjustment will be necessary is determined largely by the consistency of the incoming coal and the absence of segregation. The physical application of the fuel feeding system should be such that slag formation does not occur which would impede freedom of movement of the coal coming into the furnace. Strategically cooled surfaces are incorporated to minimize this possibility and special attention is given to the shape of the openings around the feeder. The grate system In the recommended spreader stoker approach an obvious function is to physically support the fuel bed and convey the ash generated. There is a misconception that the term "fuel bed" means the combination of ash and burning fuel. The ash bed on the grates may be as thick as four inches but the aim is for a relatively thin fuel bed of an inch or less. The thin fuel bed is what gives the spreader stoker the ability of following rapid load variations quickly and efficiently. With but two or three minutes of fuel supply in the furnace at anyone time, quick response is available for load changes required for maneuvering through rivers, channels, and in ports. Ash at the bottom of the fuel bed offers long life for the grate due to the insulating effect of this ash cover. The presence of this ash bed also protects the grate as auxiliary oil may be fired above. Since ash is formed at the bottom of the bed, clinkers are held to a minimum even when burning very inferior coals. A non-agitating type of grate is employed to retain the ash below the high temperature combustion area. Alluding again to the carburetor analogy, the grate system functions as the air orifice to meter the air through the grate. Assuming that the incoming Btu has been effectively spread, the air quantity given us by the combustion control system must cause its mass flow evenly across the grate. The degree of success achieved will determine cleanliness of stack, maintenance, and efficiencies of operation.


In order to accomplish this even mass flow, a high resistance grate with about 4 per cent air opening is utilized. All of the undergrate air is expected to flow through this established orifice, free of operator adjustment of dampers, etc. A large number of small venturi type, selfcleaning air openings are provided to assure the metering desired. This is affected very little by the varying depth of ash accumulation through which air must pass to contact the thin fuel bed. To maintain the integrity of the grate as an air orifice, special attention is given to minimize uncontrolled air flow across the grate. Since it can be dealing with preheated combustion air, provision must also be made for expansion of the grate surface without effect on its metering function. The actual grate temperature will normally be within 1000F of the undergrate air temperature and a system of thermocouples to monitor the temperature, record the data and possibly alarm high temperature excursions is recommended. The automatic evacuation of ash is the third function to address. With the utilization of the traveling grate spreader with its undisturbed ash bed, the ash produced is loose and granular and relatively free of clinkers. The coal is burned rapidly with little chance for coking. The air for combustion must first pass through and cool the grate surface, cool the undisturbed ash bed, and only then enter the combustion zone. The ash produced shou Id flow freely from the discharge end of the grate. This facilitates the ash handling and also minimizes operator attention and permits automatic adjustment of grate speed. The ash is continuously discharged from the front end of the grate into the ash pit. The speed of travel of the grate is adjustable through a variable speed drive, a time interval controller or a hydraulic flow control valve, the selection of which is dependent on owner preference for grate drive mechanism. A tie is made to respond to the combustion control system and maintain the correct ratio of grate speed and coal feed to provide for a constant thickness of ash at the discharge. A manual 'bias' is also provided so that the correct ratio of grate speed to coal feed can be established for a coal having a given amount of ash. A thickness of three to four inches of ash depth at the front end is usual. Although remote, there is the possibility that the grate may become inoperative from a conveying standpoint. However, since the grate only travels fast enough to dispose of the ash (rather than function primarily as a conveyor of fuel into the furnace), the unit may still be operated for several hours before an excessive quantity of ash is accumulated. The possibility for manually removing the ash exists.

With a moving grate for ash discharge and bearing in mind the concern for air control, there is a need for effective containment (sealing) of the forced draft air admitted for combustion. The absence of effective sealing will permit air loss around the ends of the grate assembly which stratifies and creeps up the front and rear walls of the furnace. This contributes little or nothing to the combustion process and adds to excess a ir which reduces efficiency and u ndu Iy loads the induced draft fan. When one realizes the small percentage of air opening desired through the grate, the effect of leaks through seals against forced draft air can be substantial. Another area of design consideration is the stoker to boiler closure to avoid drawing excess air into the unit via the slightly negative pressure of the furnace. Again, this contributes nothing to operation. The overfire air system Furnace turbulence is an area which has evolved much since initial coal firing on the Great Lakes. Most of those jobs were strictly price oriented with very much a 'bare bones' approach in the area of turbulence. In fact, the earliest jobs went in with none, later jobs

conceded the use of elemental steam jets, and the last jobs in the late Fifties employed simple overfire air systems. The physical size of the boiler and limited shipboard electrical capacity dictated the minimum in air jet placement and amount of air delivered. Automatic control of overfire air to operate in step with main air supply was minimal. Today, better judgement calls for more adequate designs. Furnace turbulence is employed to thoroughly mix the products of combustion in the high temperature zone.of the furance. Furthermore, due to the depletion of the oxygen delivered to the grate as forced draft air on the properly operated spreader stoker, it is necessary to introduce some additional oxygen over the fire to provide for the suspension firing occurring and consumption of volatiles distilled from combustion on the grate. The absence of a proper system will result in smoke formation. The function of overfire air is as much the impediment of smoke formation as in working on the smoke already formed. The importance of proper furnace turbulence cannot be overemphasized. Systems have been worked out using ambient air temperature, preheated air, steam and flue gases. Ambient air temperature is the most commonly accepted method of providing furnace turbu lence. The amount of air used would be approximately 10-12 per cent of the total air. A separate high pressure fan should be selected to provide a volume of air from 12-15 per cent of the total air requirements at a static pressure of approximately 20 to 30 inches water gauge depending on stoker size. Considering the goal of effective turbulence, the location and number of air jets is most important. The aim is to provide a complete pattern in the high temperature area of the furnace with which the combustion process must interact. The optimum pattern of the traveling grate spreader stoker should have a row of air jets through the bridge wall and a row below the stoker feeders, both at a distance of 12 to 24 inches above the grate. An upper row should be provided through the bridge wall at approximately 5 to 6 feet above the grate, angled toward the coal feeders. An upper row should also be provided above the coal feeders aimed downward toward the rear of the grate. The lower air jets are very important at all loads. They provide the intimate mixing of the fuel and oxygen close to the grate in a zone of high heat and inhibit smoke formation. The upper air jets are useful for high rating operation with its attendant long flame travel and for burning coals with a very high percentage of fines burning in suspension. The permits) to be deprived ment, small jet spacing of these rows should be 9 to 12 inch centers (as boiler tube spacing present no opportunity for the rising gas flow to circumvent the force of the jet and of the turbulence benefits. Since a large number of jets are dictated by the arrangediameters (%" to 1%" venturies) are used to deliver the air into the furnace.

In the interest of efficiency and minimizing operator attention, a system control damper is provided to operate in step with the forced draft supply, thereby raising or lowering overfire air supply in keeping with boiler load. While each row of air jets has its own service damper, these are historically set at boiler commissioning to gain the effective pattern and penetration desired and should not require operator change or manipulation. A substantial change in coals, especially as to volatile content and sizing will require a review of the damper settings.

The fly carbon return system

Whenever coal is burned, there is some carry-over of combustible and ash particulate is at the root of amny of the air pollution regulations and must be considered in design. The carry-over from a spreader stoker is often rich in combustible matter and represents a loss in efficiency if not reclaimed for burning. The amount of this carry-over is determined by design considerations such as coal characteristics, coal size, volatile speed of ignition, percentage of ash; grate proportions, burning rate, effectiveness of overfire, air turbulence system; design of furnace and boiler - shape, height, liberation, gas velocity, turbulence, water cooling, baffling (or absence thereof) and internal trapping. The carbon particles are fairly coarse and readily separated by impact, reversal of flow, and centrifugal action in tubes or cyclones. Fly carbon return systems shipboard on the Great Lakes ranged from nonexistent to very elemental. Due to space and cost considerations, little or no effective dust collection equipment was employed. However, the stoker grates were liberally sized for the small boiler loads and flyash production was minimized. While this aided in lessening flyash production, it worked against smoke control due to the very low burning rates at lower loads. Their efficiency loss was less a concern due to their pecu liar design conditions; the fuel was low cost, and little incentive existed for fly carbon recovery. Today's unit with its higher burning rates, more effective equipment to extract particulate from the gas stream and ever increasing awareness of fuel pricing dictates the return of the combustible fly carbon to the furnace for reburning. The methodology is the continual pneumatic evacuation of collection hoppers which receive the fly carbon which has been captured from the gas stream. Proper distribution avoids too large a concentration of carbon on anyone spot on the grate. This usually results in the return lines being 12 to 18 inches apart across the width of the grate. Since it is low volatile 'fuel' and difficult to burn, the lines enter the lower rear of the furnace in the high temperature zone and are directed slightly downward toward the front of the grate. The conveying air for this pneumatic system is usually supplied by a common blower with the overfire air and the volume used is counted as part of the overfire air total. System control is set up so that automatic modulation of the fly carbon return supply air is accomplished. In determining what the predicted carbon loss for a given unit would be, a set of curves has been developed based on industry experience and these are generally followed by the reputable stoker and boiler manufacturers. The curves for a spreader stoker are termed thirty per cent, fifty per cent, seventy per cent, and eighty-five per cent recovery curves. The degree of recovery desirable is a judgement made on many variables, among them: Coal type and cost Boiler design and heat trap arrangement Governing air pollution codes and the gas stream cleanup equipment Ash handling considerations


The 50 per cent and 70 per cent curves are in common use today but each case should be independently weighed. The stoker manufacturers along with the boiler designer should work very closely with the user in order to arrive at the final satisfactory agreement on the degree of fly carbon recovery.

The use of oil aboard ship and the high degree of automation enjoyed will naturally raise the question of "To what degree can coal firing duplicate this operation mode?" Presumably the desire is a lower "bottom line" on operating costs, but labor saving. will be offset somewhat by the cost of acquiring and maintaining the labor saving mechanisms necessitated. In established usage on stationary sources is an array of television monitors, temperature sensors and alarms, motion monitors, etc. which supplant much activity of the supervisor and afford remote operation. However, these are aids to human judgement and do not take its place. Unattended operation is very uncertain. Our recommendation is periodic observation of the fire. As previously stated, proper results of spreader stoker firing depend on proper distribution of the fuel over the grate. As fuel sizing may change, adjustments to this distribution may be required. The coal feeder drives can be designed so they are capable of remote operation or even automatic operation if a proper signal can be achieved. Whether or not television monitoring of the furnace would provide information for a control room operator to make such adjustments is an unknown. Further, whether or not infrared sensing devices for temperature would allow automatic adjustment of distribution is unknown and untried. A further consideration is the attitude of the regulatory bodies toward such a high degree of automated operation. We recommend that they insist on the human element until the automatic mode has proven to do the job with reliability. A major consideration of Great Lakes experience was the power consumption of equipment. While on board coal crushers were desirable (along with ash grinders to facilitate ash removal), the power to service them was a precious commodity. The following data is an order of magnitude and could be used as input in determining electrical load requirements. Fuel feeders require about 1/3 KWH per ton of coal fed. Power for grate drive will vary slightly with the weight of the ash discharged but is about % KWH per ton of coal burned. Power for the overfire air and fly carbon return fan is about .22KWH per million BTU of coal burned. Thus a typical stoker unit to serve a 140,000 steam/hr. burning 13,585 BTU coal with 5.6 per cent ash, requires about 6.3 KWH per ton of coal burned. Undoubtedly, as coal does emerge as a fuel on the seas, other criteria will develop which can be addressed. While coal burner designs for ship use have lain fallow for 25 years, tremendous strides have been made on stationary coal fired sources during those 25 years. A wealth of experience Iies at hand for our use.

CHART A TYPES OR CLASSES OF STOKERS 1. Overfeed A. B. 2. Fuel comes from above

Spreader Stokers Mass Burn ing Stokers Fuel comes from below


PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION 1. Spreader Stoker A. B. C. 2. Fuel is propelled and is airborne on entering the furnace Fuel is burned both in suspension and on the grate Theoretically - Equal energy is released from each square foot of grate Better known as Chain Grate, Traveling Grate or

Mass-Burning Stoker Vibragrate A. B. C.

Fuel is carried into the furnace out of a hopper, under a gate, by the conveying action of the grate Fuel burning is progressive as it is conveyed through the furnace Unit energy release varies along the grate length


Underfeed Stoker A. B. C. Fuel is pushed out of a hopper into a retort by a ram or auger Fuel burning is progressive as it is pushed out of the retort on to the tuyeres Unit energy release is progressive as the fuel is moved across the tuyeres




Unit has the ability Increase load rapidly Minimize


Spreader Excellent Fair Fair Excellent Poor at all Poor Poor Good Good (stoker Good Excellent

Chain and traveling grate Fair Fair Poor Poor Poor Good Good Poor Good Good Good

Underfeed Fair Fair Poor Poor Poor Good Good Poor Fair Good Fair

carbon loss

Overcome coal segregation Accept a wide variety of coals Burn extremely fine coal

Permit smokeless combustion loads Minimize

flyash discharge to stack

Maintain stem load under poor operating conditions Minimize maintenance

Minimize power consumption and boiler auxiliaries) Handle ash and cinders easily

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