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Fuel 84 (2005) 13031311 www.fuelrst.


Development of advanced technology for biomass combustionCFD as an essential tool

T.F. Dixon*, A.P. Mann, F. Plaza, W.N. Gilllan
Sugar Research Institute, Box 5611, Mackay MC 4741, Australia Received 13 November 2003; received in revised form 7 September 2004; accepted 14 September 2004 Available online 18 November 2004

Abstract Major advances have been made in the development of bagasse combustion technologies and understanding the many processes involved in bagasse combustion and steam generation. CFD modeling has come to form an integral and critical part of this progression. The experience with CFD in the sugar industry through Sugar Research Institute has encompassed the full range of applications from fundamental code development, through the generation and commercialization of new ideas and technologies, to the resolution of practical plant problems. The paper summarises the numerous applications where SRI has achieved successful results utilizing CFD. It is demonstrated that the full benets of CFD in the delivery of commercial outcomes, for new technologies and the solution of operating plant problems, are achieved through the close interaction between the code development and validation via full scale plant simulation. This two-way interaction enhances the code fundamentals by focusing on practical issues and similarly increases the condence in the capabilities and accuracy of the CFD predictions, to an extent that justies rm engineering decisions on commercial plant based solely on the characteristics predicted by the code. q 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Biomass combustion; CFD; Bagasse; Steam generation technology

1. Introduction The sugar industry in Australia has an evolving and developmental culture that strives to advance its wide range of technologies in order to remain internationally competitive. In recent years particular emphasis has been directed to the areas of bagasse (biomass) combustion and steam generation, and more recently gasication, as these processes command by far the single largest investment in capital plant for sugar manufacture. The operating and maintenance costs associated with steam generation also demand attention to increase performance and protability. Sugar Research Institute has maintained for over 15 years an integrated program of research and development, full-scale plant demonstration and commercial proving of a range of plant improvements and advanced combustion technologies. It has emerged that a critical component of this development sequence has been the application of CFD modeling. SRIs involvement with CFD specically for
* Corresponding author. E-mail address: (T.F. Dixon). 0016-2361/$ - see front matter q 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2004.09.024

combustion and boiler applications has embraced the full range of activities from fundamental research into components processes and CFD code development, through to commercial engineering design and problem solving on operational plant. The CFD code has undergone a sequence of progressive enhancement as the focus of application has shifted. CFD modeling has established itself as a critical tool for the development of new ideas and advanced technologies. It has been SRIs experience that CFD modeling is capable of predicting qualitative information (trends), and in many cases quantitative information, to within sufcient accuracy to justify engineering design changes on commercial boiler plant. The focus of this presentation is the applications aspects of CFD modeling for combustion and steam generation technology in the sugar industry. The modeled systems that are described are highly complex and thus model valivalidation is typically in the form of agreement with qualitative, historical knowledge obtained from plant operators and supervisory personnel. Where available, comparisons with quantitative plant data are included and used extensively. Overall, the modeling has been shown to


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have good agreement with qualitative trends and acceptable agreement with quantitative data.

2. Basis of CFD model SRIs workhorse for CFD modeling in the combustion and boiler elds is the FURNACE code originally developed for pulverized coal red boilers at the University of Sydney [1]. Use is also made of the CFX code for specic applications where an unstructured grid conguration is required for adequate problem representation. FURNACE is a three dimensional, structured grid CFD code that can predict the standard gas and particle ow patterns, combustion and radiation in utility and industrial boilers ring a range of fuels. The code also has time stepping capability. The code has been modied over a number of years to model the ow and combustion processes in bagasse red boilers [24]. Details of a more recent version of the FURNACE code are described elsewhere [5,6]. Some comments are pertinent. The standard k-3 turbulence model is used for all simulations. Lagrangian particle tracking is used to predict the motion of particles (bagasse and ash) through the boiler. Turbulent dispersion of the particles is modelled using the technique of Gosman and Ioannides [14]. The code has been modied to take into account the shape and aerodynamic behaviour of bagasse particles. Bagasse combustion is modelled as a four-stage process: particle heat-up, particle drying, devolatilisation and char burnout. Several novel features of the code have been developed in recent years. These include the dynamic simulation of the pile burning characteristics of bagasse that has deposited out of suspension on the boiler grate [5,7], gas turbine exhaust injection in combined cycle conguration (unpublished work), the simulation of tube erosion processes in individual tubes of heat transfer tube bundles including the incorporation of porous regions [4,8], and the accurate simulation of global convective heat transfer within tube bundles, incorporating empirical correlations [9], for the prediction of heat transfer coefcients within porous regions that are used to represent the ow through tube bundles [6]. This takes into account the pressure and temperature drop and ow area restriction caused by the presence of the tube banks. For tube erosion work, sub-grid modeling capability has been added to the FURNACE code. This overcomes the computer processing and storage limitations that prevent detailed modeling of the ow patterns around individual tubes. To use this approach, a FURNACE simulation of the whole boiler is performed but with the inlet conditions (particle velocity, particle size, etc.) to a user dened local region within the boiler recorded by the model. These inlet conditions are then used in a subsequent FURNACE simulation of the ow patterns in this local region. As the physical size of the local region is small, a much ner grid resolution (with improved accuracy) can be used for this

simulation. Information about particle impacts with individual tubes (particle velocity, particle concentration and impact angle) can be predicted and erosion rates estimated using the empirical tube wear correlation. Enhancement of the code is in progress for Conditional Moment Closure (CMC) modeling of CO and NOx generation and dispersion/reaction specically for bagasse combustion.

3. Model applications In this section a range of CFD modeling applications are presented. Depending on the particular design of the boiler under investigation, the modeling grid is assembled with appropriate porous regions relevant to the problem. Fig. 1 shows a typical grid conguration for a bagasse red boiler incorporating a single stage superheater, asymmetrical multiple pass convection tube bank and large gas transfer duct to the vertical airheater/economiser passage. 3.1. Tube erosion Bagasse red boilers have convection bank tube congurations that can be susceptible to excessive tube erosion. The tendency of these designs to erode is accentuated by the gas ow dynamics that differentially concentrate the ash particle streams and alter the angle of impact onto tubes into directions that further increase erosion rates. FURNACE simulations of the more intractable problems typically use a dual particle size distribution consisting of representative large size/variable density particles for bagasse and small dense particles for the ash fraction. It has been found in practice that specic tube erosion areas can be differentiated according to the different ash particle size fractions that occur in the gas circuit.

Fig. 1. Side elevation view of the ow grid used to model the Union Saint Aubin boiler (Mauritius) showing the positions of the superheater and convection bank porous regions.

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Fig. 2. Flow simulations for the as-constructed design. (a) Gas velocity; (b) particle trajectory.

Figs. 2 and 3 show a typical CFD erosion application in a tube bank for an Australian boiler. Gas velocity contours (a) and trajectories for several particle fractions (b) are shown for the as-constructed design (Fig. 2) and the modied design (Fig. 3). Both the geometry of the tube rows in the bank and the conguration of ow deection bafes have been manipulated to arrive at a reasonable resolution of the problem. It has been found that satisfactory improvements in boiler tube erosion performance can be deduced by visual assessment alone of the predicted ow and trajectory patterns. Particular attention is given to particle concentration effects, altered angles of impact and gas velocity distributions. Only in difcult ow conditions is use made of the FURNACE capability to simulate gas and particle ows and calculate erosion rates at specic locations on individual tubes [8]. For several boilers, second stage bafe adjustments have been undertaken to rene ow patterns based on observed changes in erosion patterns. These adjustments usually involve only relatively small changes to a bafe geometry or size to achieve the required erosion reduction. A summary of several tube erosion investigations can be found in [11].

3.2. Convection bank heat transfer A difculty that has emerged with tube erosion simulations has been the conict between reduced erosion and reduced convective heat transfer. It is rare that improvements in both processes can be achieved simultaneously. In most cases the heat transfer of a tube bank will be decreased (less degree of crossow) in order to achieve improved ow conditions that reduce tube erosion. It has been necessary to include in FURNACE the simulation of global convective heat transfer across tube bundles. This approach has been taken to reduce computational effort rather than to attempt the simulation of heat transfer to each individual tube in the bundle. Standard correlations for relevant correction factors for heat transfer to tube bundles have been incorporated [9]. These are applied in a framework that utilizes the predictive capability of FURNACE to specify the point values of gas velocity and orientation throughout the porous region that denes the tube bundle. The global convective heat transfer in the tube bundle is matched to measured data by the use of a matching coefcient or scaling factor that is applied throughout

Fig. 3. Flow simulations for the modied design. (a) Gas velocity; (b) particle trajectory.


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Table 1 Measured and predicted convection bank gas exit temperatures (8C) for several boilers before and after convection bank modications Convection bank arrangement Measured convection bank gas exit temperature (8C) 362 398 440 532 461 454 271 313 Predicted convection bank gas exit temperature (8C) 363 396 440 516 461 454 272 312 Scaling factor

3.3. Airheater corrosion Airheater tube corrosion has existed as a major maintenance cost for many years on most boilers. Research [13] has demonstrated that the problem has its origin in gas and air ow distribution patterns and occurs while a boiler is operating. Measurements of airheater tube temperatures have shown that wall temperatures close to 60 8C, less than the dew point temperature, can occur in airheaters where the mean gas exit temperature was greater than 260 8C. Negligible corrosion occurs during the start-up phase, which has been the traditional explanation for the problem. It has been determined that the uniformity of the gas ow distribution at the airheater inlet is critical for preventing dew point condensation inside some airheater tubes. This is coupled with the matching air ow distribution, which can act to accentuate the gas ow deciencies. Global modeling of airheater performance has shown that the overall heat transfer of a tubular airheater (exit gas temperature) can be improved (gas temperature reduced) in the order of 1520 8C by appropriate correction of the gas and air ow non-uniformities. This is demonstrated in Fig. 4 which shows the gas ow distributions at the airheater inlet before (a) and after (b) the installation of ow bafes. The partial segregation of the ash particle stream in the gas transfer duct provides an opportunity for extraction of some particles prior to the airheater/economiser to reduce downstream erosion effects. Fig. 5 shows one such conguration being developed. The concentration of particles towards the rear of the gas duct allows extraction into an ash sluice for removal. 3.4. Secondary air injection for furnace ame manipulation All biomass red furnaces have secondary air or overre air injection primarily for CO removal. The secondary air jet curtains also serve to interact with the main ame column generated by the bagasse injection spreaders to maneuver the ame pattern, increase fuelair mixing and reduce unburnt fuel particle carryover from the furnace. In combination with the swirl spreader development (Section 3.6) a novel secondary air injection conguration is being investigated as a means of substantially increasing the bagasse ring density within the furnace space. Fig. 6 shows one of the several variants of the upper furnace secondary air injection that has been investigated to date. Both simulations have swirl spreader ring. The conventional secondary air and spreader ow pattern generates a predominant upow column positioned towards the rear-centre of the furnace. There may be a low strength recirculation ow adjacent to the furnace front wall. The trajectory of the fuel particles through the furnace space, which ultimately determines the residence time for burnout, is generally vertically upward with a small ow deection around the nose at the furnace exit ahead of the superheater section. With the advanced secondary air pattern (b), the ow

Saint Aubin original Saint Aubin modied Kalamia #1 original Kalamia #1 modied Fairymead #7 original Fairymead 7 modied Kalamia #5 original Kalamia #5 modied

0.98 1.32 1.18 1.35

the whole porous region. The matched coefcient is then used unaltered in all subsequent simulations. Table 1 shows the results of heat transfer simulations for several bagasse red boilers. In all cases the convection tube bundles and/or the ow bafes have been manipulated to reduce tube erosion. The tabulated gas temperatures are representative values that are the mean values for the exit of the tube bundle but are in reality point measurements. The scaling factor for each boiler has been selected to provide an exact match between the measured and predicted gas temperatures for the original convection bank arrangement. The same factor is then applied for simulations of the modied tube bundles. Two points are signicant. Ideally the matching factors should be close to 1.0. That factors have been found to depart (in some cases) signicantly from 1 is an indication that (i) the global simulation technique for heat transfer across tube bundles is approximate, and (ii) the neglected radiation heat transfer can be masking predictive deciencies for the convective heat transfer. Note that included within the convection match is the radiant heat transfer that also occurs within the tube bundle. Radiation is not modeled specically within the tube arrays. However, it has been observed that for boilers where the scaling factor departs more from unity, these units have more abnormal ow patterns through the tube banks (less clearly dened cross ow segments). Second, the use of the global scaling factor does produce very accurate predictions of the overall heat transfer variations in a tube bank after internal ow modications have been implemented. Predicted temperature differences of less than 5 8C are considered to be an excellent result. The simulations show that in most cases the thermal performance of the convection bank has been downgraded (increased gas exit temperature after modication). However, downstream heat extraction plant (airheater and economiser) mostly recovers the lost energy such that the overall thermal efciency of the boiler is not altered signicantly.

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Fig. 4. Gas ow distribution patterns at an airheater inlet before (a) and after (b) modications.

recirculation within the furnace is deliberately enhanced. This is intended to achieve three objectives; (i) stabilize and anchor the main ow column in the rear 25% of the furnace adjacent to the rear wall; (ii) accelerate the gas ow around

the tip of the furnace exit bafe, centrifuging the larger partially burnt fuel particles into the recirculation ow adjacent to the front wall, and (iii) establish the large, high strength recirculation ow adjacent to the front wall.

Fig. 5. Particle concentration distribution (kg/m3)segregation and removal of ash particles from the gas stream. (a) Original design; (b) particle extraction.

Fig. 6. Advanced secondary air injection for furnace uprating. (a) Conventional conguration; (b) new conguration.


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This ow serves a dual purpose of returning the separated unburnt particles to the main ame zone and supplying higher temperature gases to the entrainment ow of the bagasse spreaders to increase the particle drying rate and improve ignition stability. 3.5. Secondary air distribution for CO minimisation Carbon monoxide (and NOx) emissions are emerging as pollutants of concern for boiler design and operations in the Australian sugar industry. Recent investigations with FURNACE have been directed to quantifying the generation and removal characteristics of carbon monoxide and how these can be manipulated by the use of secondary air or overre air injection. The code modications associated with this work are a companion to the CMC development mentioned earlier. The CO modeling has been focused on the mean residual levels of CO that are ejected from a furnace and the distribution of CO in the upper furnace region in the area where urea injection for NOx control is typically implemented. Incorporation of the CO dynamics in the FURNACE code has been implemented by assigning a fraction of the off-gas produced during both devolatilization and char burnout to be CO. The CO fraction factor has been selected by comparing the predicted value of the mean CO concentration at the boiler convection bank exit plane with operating plant measurements. Typical CO fraction values of 0.1 have been used in the simulations. Ideally the segment of the code incorporating the CO factor should be developed separately based on well controlled laboratory scale experiments. However, the authors are not aware of any published data on mean CO concentrations in the offgas from bagasse devolatilization and char burnout experiments of any type on which to base this validation. In the absence of suitable laboratory scale data, full scale plant measurements are the only means available to calibrate the model. It is emphasised that global code

validation against operating plant data (where available) is always undertaken by the authors as a rigorous procedure to ensure realism and commercial accuracy of the model predictions. This is especially the case for simulations involving previously untried plant congurations. The reaction between CO and O2 to form CO2 was approximated by a modied version of the eddy break up model [10]. This modied version takes into account the kinetic limitations of the CO oxidation reaction at low temperatures and the mixing limitations of the reaction at higher temperatures. The modied eddy break up model helps represent the behaviour of parcels of CO that are much smaller than the computational cell size used in three dimensional models of full scale boilers. Investigations have focused on examination of the number, location, size, orientation, injection velocities and mass ows of the overre air system on a boiler design. The assessment of the success of a particular overre air conguration is based on the visual evaluation of the ow and mixing patterns of the overre air jets with the bulk furnace gases, the manipulation of the main ame column up through the furnace, the variations in the CO contours within the furnace and the mean concentration of CO present in the boiler discharge ue gas. Fig. 7 shows a typical result for a CO investigation. The CO fraction factor used in these simulations was 0.1. The ow velocity contours for a vertical cross-section through the upper furnace are shown as well as the companion CO concentration contours for the whole furnace. The four rows of overre air nozzles of varying size and injection velocity are evident (two rows each on the front and rear furnace walls). The CO contours show high levels of CO in the devolatilization and ignition region in the lower section of the furnace (O12,000 ppm) consistent with in-furnace ame zone measurements. The CO is oxidized rapidly within the main ame zone and a residual column of low concentration CO ows up the centre of the furnace where the ame column is positioned. The overre air jets act in

Fig. 7. Predicted contours for a particular overre air conguration on a bagasse red boiler. (a) Upper furnace velocity (m/s); (b) furnace carbon monoxide (ppm).

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Fig. 8. Simulation of grate combustion instability on a bagasse red boilercomparison of measured and predicted ue gas oxygen variations for boiler operating at high load (C measurements; K predictions).

the upper half of the furnace region. It is the manipulation of this residual CO stream that is the focus of the overre air jet variations. For comparison, the mean CO concentration at the superheater zone exit (start of dark blue region) was 131 ppm with the optimized overre air conguration and 427 ppm when ring with zero overre air injection. 3.6. Ignition stability and swirl burner technology Recent designs of boilers installed in several Australian sugar mills have experienced a combustion instability that is manifest as a periodic oscillation of the combustion rate of bagasse deposited on the grate at the bottom of the furnace. The cause of the instability appears to be excessive energy extraction from the bagasse ignition region above the grate resulting from water cooling of the grate structure. The instability is observed as oscillations of the quantity of bagasse deposited combined with matching variations of ame luminosity, furnace pressure, ue gas oxygen and carbon monoxide concentrations and steam pressure. The magnitude of the instability can be such that physical damage to the boiler structure occurs (failure of airheater

walls, air duct separation, expansion joint fracture) and boiler safety is compromised. The FURNACE code has been modied by the modeling of the bagasse deposition and burning process on the grate, including particle segregation, deposition on the grate surface, moisture removal from the accumulated pile and surface combustion. The code is able to simulate the oscillation dynamics with sufcient accuracy to explore the boiler design and operating factors that impact the process [7]. Fig. 8 shows the simulation of one such instability sequence and the comparison with measured oxygen data on the boiler. An area of continuing CFD enhancement is the application to the ignition stability issues of the high intensity swirl burner technology developed by SRI [12]. Fig. 9(a) shows a schematic of the swirl burner developed for bagasse ring. CFD was not used during the development sequence for the swirl burner technology but is needed to rene the burner design. However, the burner exhibits interesting stability behaviour that requires further investigation and is well suited to CFD exploration. The technology allows the variation of the moisture content of the fuel such that the burner ame can become unstable and exhibit partial detachment. Under these conditions the combustion intensity within and surrounding the central recirculation zone progressively decreases, ame luminosity reduces and the near ame eld becomes visibly transparent with weak ame pockets attempting to remain alight. There is no sudden extinction of the ame. Due to the proximity of adjacent ames, if the swirl burner ame does become fully extinguished and the bagasse moisture content is then reduced, reignition occurs via a reversal of the process just described. It is necessary that a more complete understanding of the ignition dynamics of the swirl burner is gained so that appropriate design and operating parameters can be determined. It is considered that the conditions of particle drying and ignition in the near burner eld will

Fig. 9. Schematic of advanced combustion technologies for bagasse ring. (a) SRI swirl burner; (b) advanced swirl spreader.


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Fig. 10. Predicted furnace temperature characteristics for two settings of the swirl spreaders. (a) Zero swirl level; (b) swirl numberw1.0.

provide an interesting challenge when the CFD modelling is undertaken. 3.7. Advanced swirl spreader technology Development is progressing at SRI for an advanced swirl spreader device for enhanced bagasse combustion. The swirl spreader (Fig. 9(b)) is designed to replace the current technology linear pneumatic fuel spreader. The enhanced mixing and lateral spreading of the fuel generated by the swirl action provides opportunities for boiler design renements that could result in signicant capital cost reductions for boiler plant. Two of the signicant boiler design factors associated with the swirl spreaders (compared to conventional technology) are a 50% reduction in the number of spreader units required for a given ring capacity, and increased drying and burning rates leading to increased bagasse ring rates within a given furnace volume. The swirl spreader technology has been developed to the stage of large scale application on an operating boiler. CFD has been used to optimize the internal aerodynamics of the spreader design and to resolve erosion problems due to unwanted particle recirculation in a critical area. It is also being used to examine the integration of the swirl spreader technology with the boiler furnace. A process of simulation matching of the observed ame characteristics of the swirl spreaders has been completed for measurements on the test boiler at Proserpine mill. Exploration of the design consequences of swirl spreader integration in a furnace is in progress. Fig. 10 shows the modeling of four swirl spreaders in a large furnace (330,000 kg/h steam output), demonstrating the sensitivity of the ame pattern to changes in the swirl intensity. The swirl intensity for the two predictions is (a) zero and (b) swirl numberw1.0. Increasing the swirl level draws the ame column progressively closer to the front wall of the furnace. CFD is a critical element in the full development sequence for the swirl spreader technology. It is being applied to quantify the full operating envelope of the spreaders that includes not only parameters specic to

the device itself but also the interactive effects that derive from spreader integration with the host furnace. The modeling also forms an integral stage of the engineering design of the advanced boiler conguration of which the swirl spreaders are a signicant component.

4. Conclusions Major advances have been made in the development of bagasse combustion technologies and understanding of the many processes involved in bagasse combustion and steam generation over 20 years. CFD modeling has come to form an integral and critical part of this progression. The experience with CFD in the sugar industry through SRI has encompassed the full range of applications from fundamental code development, through the generation and commercialization of new ideas and technologies, to the resolution of practical plant problems. The paper has summarized many of these applications where SRI has achieved successful results. It has been illustrative for SRI that the full benets of CFD in the delivery of commercial outcomes, be it in new technologies or the solution of operating plant problems, have emerged through the close interaction between the code development and the validation via full scale plant simulation. It is fundamental to the applicability of CFD that regular and routine validation with full scale plant data is undertaken. The two-way interaction between development and application enhances the code fundamentals by focusing on practical issues and the need to resolve these effectively. In some cases the physical size of the problem areas that are being investigated, within a commercial plant environment, can be very small. Similarly the condence in the capabilities and truth of the CFD predictions at the commercial scale is enhanced, to the extent that rm engineering decisions are made based solely on the characteristics predicted by the code. SRI now regularly applies CFD modeling to a wide variety of ow and combustion related areas as routine a routine investigation by and design tool. This notwithstanding, it has been surprising to SRI that

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there remains a continuing suspicion of the capabilities and value of CFD modeling to plant design and process understanding in the sugar industry by both plant operators and equipment vendors.

Acknowledgements Funding for the advanced swirl spreader and secondary air technologies was provided in part by the Australian Greenhouse Ofce (through RECP) and the Sugar Research and Development Corporation. Thermal Energy Systems are acknowledged for permission to publish the CO modeling predictions.

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[4] Mann AP, Pennisi SN, Dixon TF, Novozhilov V, Kirkpatrick M, Kent JH, et al. Modeling of boiler tube erosion. Proc Aust Soc Sugar Cane Technol 2001;23:36975. [5] Woodeld PL. Combustion instability in bagasse-red furnaces. PhD Thesis. Australia: University of Sydney; 2001. [6] Mann AP, Plaza F, Dixon TF. Improving the prediction of convection bank heat transfer. Proc Aust Soc Sugar Cane Technol 2003;25. [7] Woodeld PL, Kent JH, Dixon TF. Computational modeling of combustion instability in bagasse red furnaces. Mediterranean combustion symposium, Antalya, Turkey, 813 June 1999. [8] Novozhilov V, Kirkpatrick M, Kent JH, Sazonov V, Zhang L, Mann A, et al. Computational uid dynamics modeling of tube erosion rates in bagasse red boilers. J Inst Energy 2001;74:57. [9] Zhukauskas AA, Ulinskas R. Heat transfer in tube banks in cross-ow. New York: Springer; 1988. [10] Magnussen BF, Hjertager BW. On mathematical modelling of turbulent combustion with special emphasis on soot formation and combustion. 16th Symp (Int) Combust 1976;16:71929. [11] Plaza F, Dixon TF, Dickenson NL, Fitzmaurice AL, Owens M. Performance of bafed boilers with redesigned convection banks. Proc Aust Soc Sugar Cane Technol 1999;21:4327. [12] Dixon TF, Martel H. Commercial applications of the SRI swirl burner combustion system. Proc Aust Soc Sugar Cane Technol 1997;19: 45665. [13] Dixon TF, Plaza F, Mann AP. Prevention of airheater corrosion. Proc Aust Soc Sugar Cane Technol 2000;22:4917. [14] Gosman AD, Ioamides J. Aspects of computer simulation of liquidfueled combusters. AIAA, 1981, Paper No. 81-0234.