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Boiler Emission

Combustion boilers are designed to use the chemical energy in fuel to raise the energy content of water so that it can be used for heating and power applications. Many fossil and non-fossil fuels are fired in boilers, but the most common types of fuel include coal, oil, and natural gas. During the combustion process, oxygen reacts with carbon, hydrogen, and other elements in the fuel to produce a flame and hot combustion gases. As these gases are drawn through the boiler, they cool as heat is transferred to water. Eventually the gases flow through a stack and into the atmosphere. In the past when emissions were less regulated, choosing the right boiler and combustion equipment for a particular application generally involved matching the process requirements with the boiler’s output capacity. Proper sizing and selection required knowledge of the peak process requirements and an understanding of the load profile. This boiler selection philosophy emphasized energy conversion at the lowest possible cost. Reduced emphasis was placed on controlling emissions. Public concerns about air and water quality and enactment of state, and local regulations have shifted this emphasis. The current design objective is to provide low-cost energy with an acceptable impact on the environment. Control of PM, NOx, CO, and SO2 emissions is now a significant consideration in the overall boiler and combustion equipment design and selection process. Heat produced during combustion is useful for a wide variety of applications; however, atmospheric emissions, which are also generated as by-products of the combustion process, must be controlled. Common gaseous emissions include SO2, NOx, water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and CO. The principle solid by-product of combustion is ash, the inorganic residue remaining after ignition of combustible materials. Discussions that follow focus on atmospheric emissions associated with fuel combustion, and factors that influence how effectively it can be controlled. Carbon Monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxides, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur, are now cited as the most insidious of pollutants. They are proven to contribute to respiratory illnesses in humans, damage to the environment and buildings and, ultimately, lead to higher costs for health care and environmental cleanup.

A pollutant can be defined as matter that contaminates air, soil, or water. Air pollutants are airborne contaminants that produce unwanted effects on humans and the environment. They occur as solids, liquid droplets, gases, or combinations of these forms. Generally, air pollutants are classified into two major categories: • Primary Pollutants - pollutants emitted directly from identifiable sources • Secondary Pollutants - pollutants formed by interaction between two or more primary pollutants Major six pollutants : • • • • • • Ozone (O3) Carbon Monoxide (CO) Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 microns) Lead

All six pollutants are directly or indirectly related to the combustion process. The following sections describe the formation and control of the pollutants in industrial boilers, discuss their impact on humans and the environment, and describe the current emission control technologies.

and cause health problems. Thermal NOx makes up the majority of NOx formed during the combustion of gases and light oils. The most significant factors are flame temperature and the amount of nitrogen in the fuel. thermal NOx and fuel NOx. the levels of acid rain and ozone can be reduced. In industrial boilers. post combustion methods and combustion control techniques. the amount of nitrogen in the fuel determines the level of fuel NOx emissions. The majority of NOx produced during combustion is NO (95%). Following is a list of different NOx control methods. Once emitted into the atmosphere. reduce thermal NOx and have little affect on fuel NOx. Thermal NOx Thermal NOx is formed when nitrogen and oxygen in the combustion air combine with one another at the high temperatures in a flame. While flame temperature primarily affects thermal NOx formation. NOx Control Technologies NOx controls can be classified into two types. Other factors affecting NOx formation are excess air level and combustion air temperature. the main reason NOx is considered an environmental problem is because it initiates reactions that result in the production of ozone and acid rain. Fuel containing more nitrogen results in higher levels of NOx emissions. It is NO2 that reacts with other pollutants to form ozone. reduce visibility. is harmful to humans. in itself. Post Combustion Control Methods Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction Selective Catalytic Reduction Combustion Control Techniques Low Excess Air Firing Low Nitrogen Fuel Oil Burner Modifications Water/Steam Injection . Most NOx control technologies for industrial boilers. Post combustion methods tend to be more expensive than combustion control techniques. But in oils containing significant amounts of fuel-bound nitrogen. along with other contributing primary pollutants. NO reacts to form NO2.Nitrogen Compounds Although there is evidence proving NOx. It is rarely a problem with gaseous fuels. Fuel NOx is most economically reduced in commercial and industrial boilers by switching to cleaner fuels. Post combustion methods address NOx emissions after formation while combustion control techniques prevent the formation of NOx during the combustion process. fuel NOx can account for up to 50% of the total NOx emissions. Fuel NOx Fuel NOx is formed by the reaction of nitrogen in the fuel with oxygen in the combustion air. if available. NOx emissions from boilers are influenced by many factors. The principal nitrogen pollutants generated by boilers are nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). cause rubber to crack. damage buildings. By controlling NOx levels. Ozone and acid rain can damage fabric. collectively referred to as NOx. harm forests and lakes. NOx is primarily formed in two ways.

in the boiler exhaust gases at a temperature of approximately 1400-1600°F (see Figure 1). Selective catalytic reduction can result in NOx reductions up to 90%.Flue Gas Recirculation Each method results in a different degree of NOx control. Selective non-catalytic reduction reduces NOx up to 50%. For example. Unlike selective noncatalytic reduction. depending on the catalyst used. The catalyst allows the ammonia to reduce NOx levels at lower exhaust temperatures than selective non-catalytic reduction. Combustion Control Techniques . low excess air firing typically reduces NOx by 10%. The ammonia or urea breaks down the NOx in the exhaust gases into water and atmospheric nitrogen. This is because the ammonia (or urea) must be injected in the flue gases at a specific flue gas temperature. However. the location of the exhaust gases at the specified temperature is constantly changing. Post Combustion Control Methods Selective Non-catalytic Reduction Selective non-catalytic reduction involves the injection of a NOx reducing agent. Thus. And in industrial boilers that modulate frequently. it is not feasible to apply selective noncatalytic reduction to industrial boilers that have high turndown capabilities and modulate frequently. such as ammonia or urea. where the exhaust gases must be approximately 1400-1600°F. selective catalytic reduction can be utilized where exhaust gases are between 500° and 1200°F. it is costly to use and rarely can be cost justified. However. flue gas recirculation by 75%. the technology is extremely difficult to apply to industrial boilers that modulate frequently. and selective catalytic reduction by 90%. when firing natural gas. Selective Catalytic Reduction Selective catalytic reduction involves the injection of ammonia in the boiler exhaust gases in the presence of a catalyst (see Figure 2).

results in lower overall NOx emissions. boilers are fired with excess air. One method to reduce NOx levels from boilers firing distillate oils is through the use of low nitrogen fuel oil. and efficiency may result. Water/Steam Injection Water or steam injection can be utilized to reduce NOx levels. Combustion control techniques are more economical than post combustion methods and are frequently utilized on industrial boilers requiring NOx controls. NOx reductions of 60%-70% over NOx emissions. One of the factors influencing NOx formation in a boiler is the excess air levels. It is most effective when firing natural gas and distillate fuel oil and has little affect on boilers firing heavy oil. If burner modifications are utilized exclusively to achieve low NOx levels. Burner Modifications Burner modifications for NOx control involve changing the design of a standard burner in order to create a larger flame. Water or steam injection can reduce NOx up to 80% (when firing natural gas) and can result in lower reductions when firing oils. Low Excess Air Firing As a safety factor to assure complete combustion. water/steam injection can result in a 3-10% efficiency loss. Enlarging the flame results in lower flame temperatures and lower thermal NOx formation which. There is a practical limit to the amount of water or steam that can be injected into the flame before condensation problems are experienced. in turn. Low nitrogen oils can contain up to 15-20 times less fuelbound nitrogen. By introducing water or steam into the flame. . Low excess air firing involves limiting the amount of excess air that is entering the combustion process in order to limit the amount of extra nitrogen and oxygen that enters the flame. When low NOx oil is fired in firetube boilers utilizing flue gas recirculation. This is typically accomplished by lowering flame temperatures. It is important to address all aspects of NOx control when selecting NOx control technologies. thereby lowering thermal NOx formation and overall NOx levels. Low Nitrogen Fuel Oil When firing fuel oils. capacity. or FGR. Many times water or steam injection is used in conjunction with other NOx control methods such as burner modifications or flue gas recirculation. To comply with the more stringent regulations. Utilizing fuel oils with lower nitrogen contents results in lower NOx levels. CO levels. under normal operating conditions. burner modifications must be used in conjunction with other NOx reduction methods. such as flue gas recirculation. The technology can be applied to most boiler types and sizes. is the most effective method of reducing NOx emission from industrial boilers with inputs below 100 MMBtu/hr. NOx formed by fuelbound nitrogen can account for 20-50% of the total NOx level. flame temperatures are reduced. Flue Gas Recirculation Flue gas recirculation. external or induced. Flue gas recirculation technology can be classified into two types. adverse affects on boiler operating parameters such as turndown.Combustion control techniques reduce the amount of NOx emission by limiting the amount of NOx formation during the combustion process. Limiting the amount of excess air entering a flame is usually accomplished through burner design and can be optimized through the use of oxygen trim controls. High excess air levels (>45%) may result in increased NOx formation because the excess nitrogen and oxygen in the combustion air entering the flame will combine to form thermal NOx. FGR entails recirculation a portion of relatively cool exhaust gases back into the combustion zone in order to lower the flame temperature and reduce NOx formation. Additionally. Low excess air firing can be used on most boilers and generally results in overall NOx reductions of 5-10% when firing natural gas. It is currently the most effective and popular low NOx technology for firetube and watertube boilers.

or SOx. Regenerable FGD converts the waste byproduct into a marketable product. Sulfate particulate is not considered part of the total SOx emissions. are classified as a pollutant is because they react with water vapor (in the flue gas and atmosphere) to form sulfuric acid mist. Induced flue gas recirculation utilizes the combustion air fan to recirculate the flue gases back into the combustion zone. smog. Generally the technology cannot be cost justified on industrial boilers. and 1-3% as sulfate particulate. Impairment of the body’s hemoglobin results in less oxygen to the brain. where they are premixed with the combustion air and introduced into the flame through the burner. Fuel desulfurization and FGD are primarily used for reducing SOx emissions for large utility boilers. Short-term over exposure to . Fuel desulfurization. based on boiler input. or hills. utilizing low sulfur fuels is the most cost effective method of SOx reduction. Today. Dispersion involves the utilization of a tall stack. Airborne sulfuric acid has been found in fog. such as sulfur or sulfuric acid. rivers. which primarily applies to coal. mountains. 15% as SO3. involves removing sulfur from the fuel prior to burning. The level of SOx emitted depends directly on the sulfur content of the fuel. Flue gas desulfurization systems are classified as either nonregenerable or regenerable. acid rain. and snow. Sulfuric acid has also been found in lakes. which enables the release of pollutants high above the ground and over any surrounding buildings. New designs of induced FGR that utilize an integral FGR design are becoming popular among boiler owners and operators because of their uncomplicated design and reliability . and soil. about 95% of the sulfur in the fuel will be emitted as SO2. together referred to as Sox (sulfur oxides). Typically. result in a waste product that requires proper disposal. without the need to install and maintain expensive equipment.External flue gas recirculation utilizes an external fan to recirculate the flue gases back into the combustion zone. and utilizing a flue gas desulfurization (FGD) system. For users of industrial boilers. the most common type. and tissues. A portion of the flue gases are routed by duct work or internally to the combustion air fan. Nonregenerable FGD systems. The level of SOx emissions is not dependent on boiler size or burner design. The combustion of fuels containing sulfur (primarily oils and coals) results in pollutants occurring in the form of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) and SO3 (sulfur trioxide). The acid is extremely corrosive and harmful to the environment. Methods of SOx reduction include switching to low sulfur fuel. Because SOx emissions primarily depend on the sulfur content of the fuel. Historically. SOx emission reductions of 90-95% can be achieved through FGD. burning fuels containing a minimal amount of sulfur (distillate oil) can achieve SOx reductions. desulfurizing the fuel. heart. in order to limit ground level SOx emissions. Carbon Monoxide Carbon monoxide is a pollutant that is readily absorbed in the body and can impair the oxygen carrying capacity of the hemoglobin. SOx pollution has been controlled by either dispersion or reduction. A valve controls the recirculation rate. Flue gas desulfurization involves the utilization of scrubbers to remove SOx emissions from the flue gases. External piping routes the exhaust gases from the stack to the burner. Sulfur Compounds (SOx) The primary reason sulfur compounds. dispersion alone is not enough to meet more stringent Sox emission requirements. reduction methods must also be employed.

the formation of carbon monoxide can be controlled at an acceptable level. 100 percent conversion of carbon to CO2 is rarely achieved in practice and some carbon only oxidizes to the intermediate step. particulate levels mainly depend on four fuel constituents: sulfur. For industrial and commercial boilers. scrubbers. Distillate oils result in much lower particulate emissions than residual oils. Generally. Although a major source . carbon in the fuel oxidizes through a series of reactions to form carbon dioxide (CO2). However. through proper burner set-up. adjustment and maintenance. carbon monoxide. the greatest concern is with PM10. throat. and have a major effect on particulate emissions Methods of particulate control vary for different types and sizes of boilers. Ozone formed at the ground level is the main component of smog. During combustion. particulate emissions can be minimized. Particulate matter emissions generally are classified into two categories. sulfates. The constituents exist in fuel oils. Since ozone is formed by the reaction of VOCs and NOx. Particulate pollutants can be corrosive. carbon residue. Particulate Matter Emissions of particulate matter (PM) from combustion sources consist of many different types of compounds. PM and PM10. and also cause damage to crops. All particulate matter can pose a health problem. PM levels from natural gas are significantly lower than those of oils. However. particularly residual oils. carbons. but not to the extent accomplished by switching fuels. toxic to plants and animals. and asphaltines. Ground level ozone should not be confused with ozone in the upper atmosphere. When burning heavy oils. It is known to irritate the eyes. inspections. electrostatic precipitators. For utility boilers. It also may cause headaches and dizziness in healthy people. Ozone Ozone is a highly reactive form of oxygen. Ground level ozone is a secondary pollutant formed by the reaction of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of sunlight. PM10 is a particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 microns. Through proper burner maintenance. In today’s equipment. The emission levels of particulate matter can be lowered by switching from a residual to a distillate oil or by switching from a distillate oil to a natural gas. methods of ozone reduction focus on the control of these two pollutants. Older boilers generally have higher levels of CO than new equipment because CO has only recently become a concern and older burners were not designed to achieve low CO levels. and lungs. paints. oxides. nose. because of its ability to bypass the body’s natural filtering system. and any uncombusted elements in the fuel. solvents. ash. PM emissions primarily depend on the grade of fuel fired in the boiler. to people with heart and lung diseases. and harmful to humans. or by upgrading equipment or utilizing an oxygen control package.carbon monoxide can be critical. operation. Additionally. domestic products and. and baghouses are commonly utilized. high levels of carbon monoxide emissions primarily result from incomplete combustion due to poor burner design or firing conditions (for example. including nitrates. the most effective method is to utilize clean fuels. decomposition of organic materials such as wood and grass. Sources of VOCs are automobiles. in nature. even fatal. an improper air-to-fuel ratio) or possibly a leaky furnace.

. fatigue. Lead emissions are primarily a result of gasoline combustion in automobile engines and depend highly on the lead content of the fuel. particularly in automobiles. headache. sleep disturbance. result from vaporization of fuels and paints.of VOCs is automobiles. including anorexia. are sources of VOCs. more commonly. New blends of gasoline containing lower levels of lead additives continue to be introduced. They can be vaporized easily at low temperatures. aching bones and muscles. and even the few drops of gasoline spilled when filling an automobile. Efforts to reduce lead emissions have focused on the use of lead-free fuels. and digestive upset. the ozone standards also address stationary sources. hydrogen and sometimes oxygen. They often are referred to as hydrocarbons and generally are divided into two categories — methane and nonmethane hydrocarbons. Lead poisoning primarily involves the gastrointestinal tract and the peripheral and central nervous systems. The use of controls to maintain proper air-to-fuel ratios and periodic burner maintenance checks should result in reducing VOC emissions. VOCs are compounds containing combinations of carbon. including boilers. VOCs can result from poor combustion but. Control of VOC emissions is best accomplished by maintaining proper combustion conditions. Lead Lead poisoning can lead to diminished physical fitness. Leaks in oil or gas piping.