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Dimensional Analysis and CFD Simulation of Pool Fire in Harsh Environment

M.M. Jujuly, M.A. Rahman, S. Ahmed, F.I. Khan

Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, Canada

A dimensional analysis and parametric study of pool fire is conducted. A new pool fire model for
predicting mass burning rate is proposed. The dimensionless mass burning rate and scaling
parameter of heat release rate are compared with corresponding experimental results available in
the literature. The discrepancy between the outputs of available pool fire models and
experimental results underscores the necessity for developing new models which can better
capture experimental observations. Representation of the critical parameters of pool file such as
the mass burning rate, the flame height and the heat release rate in dimensionless form would
allow its use to fires with different magnitudes; also it will allow the extrapolation of the results
to different environmental conditions for example for harsh conditions. In order to simulate the
pool fire for risk calculation the input parameters of CFD study is crucial. Sensitivity analysis of
parameters in this study will help to select the proper input of the parameters.

Previous studies failed to correlate the convective and radiative heat transfer mode to the pool
surface and the effect of fuel burning rate based on the size of the pool and fuel type. An
optimum model will require a consideration of both convective and radiative heat transfer modes
in pool fire modeling. The dimensionless mass transfer driving force (B) parameter and the pool
diameter determine the contribution of heat transfer will be the convective and the radiative
fraction of the pool surface. The mass transfer driving force depends on the type of fuel and
burning conditions. In this study the effect of mass transfer driving force on the pool surface has
been investigated. A new method of estimating the mass burning rate of fuel has been introduced.
This method can be used for determining the mass burning rate for a radiation prevailing heat
transfer region to a convection dominant heat transfer region with varying pool diameter.

Burning rate is controlled by the net heat flux absorbed by the pool surface for fuel evaporation.
The major energy fluxes to the surface are:

′′ 𝑇 ′′ 𝑇
𝑞̇ 𝑐′′𝑜𝑛𝑣 + 𝑞̇ 𝑟𝑎𝑑 + 𝑚̇′′ ∫𝑇 𝑏 𝐶𝑝 𝑑𝑇 = 𝑞̇ 𝑟′′𝑟 + 𝑞̇ 𝑟𝑒𝑓 + 𝑚̇′′ (𝐻𝑣 + ∫𝑇 𝑏 𝐶𝑝 𝑑𝑇) − 𝜆𝑠 (𝜕𝑇/𝜕𝑌) (1)
∞ ∞

Where 𝑞̇ 𝑐′′𝑜𝑛𝑣 and 𝑞̇ 𝑟𝑎𝑑 are the convection and radiation energy fluxes from the flame, 𝑞̇ 𝑟′′𝑟 and
𝑞̇ 𝑟𝑒𝑓 are re-radiation and reflection of flame radiation to the pool. 𝐻𝑣 is the latent heat for
evaporation. For a steady burning, the re-radiation and pool surface reflectivity can be ignored.
Based on the literature [1-4] evaporative heat of transfer a pool fire can be written as the
summation of radiative and convective components modeled as:
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1/ 3
  g (   f )   ln( 1  B) 
 
1/ 3
m  0.15 2   B   r  cD(e kD ) (2)
Pr   2  f   B 

In Equation (1), the first segment is the convective and second is the radiative heat transfer
components. Mass transfer driving force, B, the dimensionless coefficient and Pr is the Prandtl
number. Here, μ is the viscosity(kg/ms), ρ is the density (kg/m3), κ is the grey gas emissivity (m-
defined by Fay) and D is the pool diameter(m) and χr is the radiation fraction.

Mass Transfer Driving Force:

The dimensionless number B represents the ratio of the chemical heat liberated by a unit mass of
ambient oxidant to the energy required to evaporate a unit mass of fuel. The dimensionless ‘mass
transfer driving force’, B is defined as by Orloff (1975):

(1 − 𝜒𝑟 )𝑌∞ 𝐻𝑐 − 𝑐𝑝 (𝑇𝑏 − 𝑇∞ )
𝐵= (3)







0.5 2 3.5 5 6.5 8 9.5
B (-)

D=5m D=10m D=20m

Fig. 1. M* vs. B

Here, 𝐻𝑐 is the heat of combustion (kJ/kg), 𝑌∞ is the mass fraction [Fay],𝑇𝑏 and 𝑇∞ are fuel
evaporation and ambient temperatures (K) and 𝐻𝑣 is the heat of vaporization of fuel (kj/kg).Pizzo
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(2008) modified the equation and included 𝑞̇ ′′𝑟𝑟 whichis the re-radiation heat from the pool
surface to combustion zone which is very small and often is ignored. The B number is principal
thermochemical parameter that governs the convective mode of heat transfer. The value of B
depends on the fuel properties, mixing and the burning conditions, for example, the value of B of
gasoline is 5. However, Orloff and DeRis (1975) conducted an experiment to observe the effect
of buoyancy direction and radiation with B. In this study, the value of mass transfer driving force
B has been calculated and the effect of B has been observed.

Radiative model:

Zhang et. al. (1991) presented the influence of thermal radiation on the mass burning rate. The
primary result showed that the mass burning rate increase with the thermal radiation. A portion
of the radiated energy reaches and absorbed by the pool which is defined as radiation fraction (Xr)
and the relation given:

Δ𝑚̇′′ 𝐻𝑣 = 𝜒𝑟 𝑞𝑟 𝑒 −𝐶𝑚̇ (4)

Where, Δ𝑚̇′′ is the mass burning rate only due to the radiation, 𝑚̇ is mass burning rate without
radiation (convective), 𝑞𝑟 is the total radiated heat flux and 𝜒𝑟 is the radiation fraction. C is a
constant. In this equation the diameter of pool fire is not clearly defined, however, pool diameter
is an important parameter for the radiative mode of heat transfer. Fay estimated if the heat
transfer mode is radiation dominant then the mass burning rate would be:

𝑚̇′′ 𝐻𝑣 = 1.6(1 ± 0.23)𝑄̇𝑟𝑎𝑑 (5)

Where, 𝑄̇𝑟𝑎𝑑 is the average surface emissive power in combustion zone. According to the grey
gas model, the average surface emissive power defined by Fay as:

𝑄̇𝑟𝑎𝑑 = 𝜒𝑟 𝜎  c 𝜅𝐷𝑒 −𝜅𝐷 (6)

𝜅is the scaled absorption coefficient, D is the pool diameter, 𝜎 is Stefan-Boltzmann constant and
Tf is the adiabatic flame temperature. Flame temperature can be easily determined by the
simulation model. From the above equations the mass burning rate due to the radiation can be

Radiation Fraction:
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0.25 Xr= 0.279D-0.45

Xr (-)




0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
D (m)

Fig. 2. Radiation fraction Xr vs. Pool dia D

Radiation fraction (𝜒𝑟 ) is a significant parameter to calculate the mass burning rate due to the
radiation mode of heat transfer. Yang[] indicated that radiation fraction is about constant
(χr =0.35) for pool diameter less than 2m and decrease proportionally to D−0.5. McGrattan

and Munoz []found exponential relationship between χr and pool diameter (D).
McGrattan’s prediction for the radiation fraction for a large pool fire is unsubstantiated and
Munoz failed to provide a general correlation between χr and D for small and large diameter of
pool. A general correlation between radiation fraction and pool diameter has been developed in
this study.

χr = 0.279𝐷 −0.45 (7)

Radiation fraction results obtained by McGrattan et al. are relatively close to Koseki
(Combustion properties large pool)data for small pool diameters but does not agree with the data
for larger diameters. Eq. (7) shows a better prediction for the whole range of pool sizes.
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Convective Parameters influence on mass burning rate:

It is recognized that convection mode of heat transfer is a major portion accountable for the fuel
evaporation. Parameters influence convective heat transfer is to the mass burning rate is
important to know. For this, Reynolds number and Prandtl number has been calculated.
Moreover, Prandtl number is an important input parameter for natural convective turbulent flow
in order to simulate pool fire in CFD. The correlation between Prandtl number and dimensionless
mass burning rate has been generated from Eq. 2.


1.00E-02 D=10m

m* (-)




0.75 0.8 0.85 0.9 0.95 1

Pr (-)

Fig. 3.Correlation between Prandtl number and dimensionless mass burning rate.

Anderson showed the expression of Reynolds number is for a pool diameter D (m) is:
𝜋𝑚̇′′ 𝐷
𝑁𝑅𝑒 = (8)

Where, 𝑚̇′′ is the mass burning rate (kg/m2s) and 𝜇 is the dynamic viscosity of fuel(kg/ms). The
correlation of dimensionless mass burning rate (m*) with Reynolds number (NRe) with different
mass transfer driving force (B) is shown in Fig. 3.
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m* (-)



0.00E+00 3.00E+04 6.00E+04 9.00E+04 1.20E+05 1.50E+05
NRe (-)

Fig. 3. Mass transfer driving force with Reynolds number.

Parametric studies:
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mrad/mconv (-)

0.15 D=1.5
0.1 D=20

0.02 0.025 0.03 0.035 0.04 0.045 0.05
k (-)

Scaled absorption coefficient vs. ratio of mass burning rate radiative to convective




m' (kg/m2s)




0.055 D=1.5m
0.045 D=20m

1.50E-05 1.70E-05 1.90E-05 2.10E-05 2.30E-05 2.50E-05 2.70E-05 2.90E-05
μ (kg/ms)

Mass burning rate vs. dynamic viscosity with different pool diameter
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m* (-)






0.4 0.45 0.5 0.55 0.6 0.65 0.7 0.75 0.8

(ρ∞-ρf)/ρ∞ (-)
D=1.5m D=5m D=10m D=20m

Dimensionless mass burning rate vs density change ratio with different pool diameter





T∞ (K)



280 D=1.5m
270 D=5m
0.054 0.056 0.058 0.06 0.062 0.064 0.066 0.068
m' (kg/m2s)

Mass burning rate vs. ambient temperature profile with different pool diameter
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Figure 2 (a), (b), (c): Relationship between the dimensionless mass burning rate (m∗ = ρ√gD)
L m′
with flame height and pool diameter ratio (D = 42 [ρ√gD] ) developed by Thomas (1963). (a)
crude oil pool fire by Koseki (1991), (b) gasoline pool burning data by Munoz (2004), (c) diesel
pool burning data by Chatris (2001). Experimental results are indicated as dots and the dashed
lines are semi-empirical models. Solid line is the proposed model. Here,D (m) is pool diameter,
L (m) is the characteristic length of flame, ρ(kg/m3) is density and m (kg/m2s) is mass burning

Fuel mass burning rate is an essential component of fuel Froude number which is a
dimensionless scaling variable for pool fire model. Non-dimensional burning rate for a variety of
fuel is presented in Figure 2. Experimental data obtained from Chatris (2001), Koseki (1991) and
Munoz (2004). At the Figure 2(a) Koseki used crude oil to generate pool burning data. Fay (2009)
developed his model principally based on large LNG pool fire which cannot explain the burning
phenomena of crude oil or diesel. Fay assumed the radiant heat transfer is small compared to
convection in the model presented in here which is a major cause of the discrepancy. Zabetakis
(1961) model also shows the same deviation as like Fay’s model. Since the proposed model is
considered both radiative and convective mode of heat transfer determined by the ‘mode factor’
B, the result shows the proposed model can better explain the experimental values.

The second objective of this study is to conduct a computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
simulation to determine the consequences of pool fire in harsh environment. The consequence
study of pool fire with different pool diameter in harsh environment has not been performed yet.
Moreover, the discrepancy between the available empirical equations and experimental results
revealed the necessity of developing new models which can better explain the physics associated
with pool fire. Fire and explosions are one of the most dangerous safety issues in process
industries and in transportation sector; especially pool fire accident is the most frequent
catastrophe. Several catastrophic accidents occurred in past few years e.g. Buncefield, UK
(2005), Puerto Rico, USA (2009) and Sitapura, India (2009) caused by pool fire. In order to
avoid such calamity a detail study on pool fire is required to save human lives and protect from
the destruction of the facility. Pool fire characteristics largely depend upon the fuel type, pool
diameter and environmental parameters. The studies in the literature have only considered
gasoline pool fire with the pool diameters in the range of 2 m to 25 m in a quiescent condition. In
this study, a new method of estimating the mass burning rate of fuel has been introduced. This
method can be used for determining the mass burning rate for a radiation prevailing heat transfer
region to a convection dominant heat transfer region with varying pool diameter. The ongoing
CFD simulation will help in scaling the pool fire. The outcome from this study will also be
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helpful in designing the facility operating in harsh environment to mitigate the catastrophic

Keywords: pool fire, mass burning rate, dimensionless analysis, CFD, consequence modeling.


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