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FALL 1997 TEL: (508) 393-3635 VOL. XIV, No. 3

THE LOW-NOX BURNERS carbon monoxide. Secondary air is
added around the primary air-fuel
In the last several years, low-NOX flame to burn the elemental carbon to
burners have been developed and carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide
widely installed to meet the EPA to carbon dioxide. Finally, tertiary
requirements for reduction of oxides or over-fire air is added to assure
of nitrogen, or NOX emissions. The an excess of oxygen and lead to
term NOX lumps together all of the complete combustion; so the flue gas
various oxides of nitrogen into one at the exit is water vapor and carbon
generic collection. When mixed with dioxide. The full available heat
rain, these nitrogen oxides along from the fuel is obtained as the
with sulfur oxides (sometimes final combustion products are fully
referred to as SOX) form acids during oxidized carbon dioxide and water.
precipitation, which is the acid-rain The problem with this staged
problem. These nitrogen oxides come combustion scheme is that all burner
from two sources; that is, nitrogen adjustments need to be nearly perfect
or nitrates within the fuel and the to assure complete combustion within
formation of nitrogen oxide by the furnace. Usually that is not the
reaction of nitrogen and oxygen in case; and the flue gas contains
the combustion air. The formation of appreciable quantities of carbon
these oxides starts at flame monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and
temperatures above about 2600°F, unburned or elemental carbon. And
where the kinetics are favorable. long lazy flames reach into the top
There is little that can be done of the furnace and the pendant
about the fuel nitrogen, but the superheaters and reheaters. Ash
reaction of the gases within the deposits from waterwalls and fly-ash
combustion air can be controlled. deposits on the superheaters and
The higher the flame temperature, the reheaters invariably contain
faster the reaction between nitrogen elemental carbon, proof that, at
and oxygen proceeds, and the higher least on the tube surface, reducing
will be the nitrogen oxide or NOX conditions exist. Under these
concentration within the combustion reducing conditions, sulfides form in
products. place of or as part of the oxide
The route that has been taken to scale on the steel surface. Sulfur
reduce flame temperatures, and thus prints of the tube cross-section will
reduce the amount of NOX is by off- be positive for metallic (usually
stoichiometric or staged combustion. iron) sulfides, further proof of
That is, the complete combustion of reducing environments.
the fuel occurs in several stages. A sulfur print is a replica of the
The fuel is mixed with less air, sulfide distribution which appears as
oxygen, for complete oxidation of a black or dark brown streak on
carbon to carbon dioxide and hydrogen photographic print paper, see Figure
to water vapor. With the primary 1; and note the sulfides are on the
air/fuel ratio less than 1, the fire side only. What oxides do form
hydrogen in the fuel is burned to tend to be porous, and the mixture of
water vapor in the first stage; and oxides and sulfides is inherently
some of the fuel remains as elemental less protective against further
carbon while a portion is burned to wastage.
When the ash deposit also contains Sulfides have been found within the
species that are liquid at the corrosion debris on the surface of
operating temperature, porous oxides waterwall tubes as well as on
and sulfides are more readily superheater and reheater components.
dissolved in these low melting-point Coal fineness or lack thereof may
salts. The protective scale re-forms exacerbate the problems. All of the
by oxidation or sulfidation, and the coal particles need to be small
cycle continues. Metal wastage enough to assure complete combustion
occurs by reaction of the steel with in the time available during the
oxygen and/or sulfur with concurrent short residence within the flame.
loss of the metal. The result is a The usual coal-fineness limits are
thinner wall thickness. Transport of 70% through a 200 mesh and 98%
oxygen, sulfur, and carbon to a through 50 mesh. However, the 2%
cleaned steel surface is also that remains on a 50-mesh screen is
facilitated by the liquid ash still a considerable amount of coal.
constituents. If the plant burns 100 tons/hour, 2%
is still 2 tons of partially burned
coal that will find its way either
into the bottom or the fly ash.
Either way, carbon becomes part of
all deposits. When incorporated into
ash deposits on the superheater and
reheater, the elemental carbon will
diffuse into the surface of the
steel, carburize the surface, and
reduce corrosion resistance. Carbon
Figure 1 contents up to 0.8% and higher have
been measured on superheater ash
In the high-temperature deposits adjacent to the steel.
superheater and reheater, reducing Depending on the particular alloy,
conditions promote carburization of carbon contents up to 0.47% have been
the tube surface. Carburization of a measured in 304H. Reduced corrosion
304H stainless steel or the chromium- resistance translates into more rapid
molybdenum ferritic steels of T-11, wastage. If there are low melting-
T-22, and T-9 leads to chromium- point species of potassium and
carbide formation. These carbides sodium-iron-trisulfate, the
reduce the chromium content of the combination of liquid ash and
alloy and thus reduce the corrosion unburned coal can lead to exceedingly
resistance. The effect is more rapid deterioration.
noticeable in the higher-chromium Thus, it may be necessary to
materials. rethink the coal-fineness
Carburization effects have been requirements in low-NOX burners to
seen in the T-11, T-22, T-5, T-9 assure complete combustion and reduce
ferritic grades and 304, 321 and 347 the amount of unburned coal within
austenitic stainless steels. the flue-gas atmosphere.