Investigation of Colorless Distributed Combustion (CDC) with Swirl for Gas Turbine Application

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Colorless Distributed Combustion (CDC) with swirl is investigated for gas turbine engine applications due to its benefits for ultra-low pollutants emission, improved pattern factor and thermal field uniformity, low noise emission, and stable combustion with the alleviation of combustion instabilities. Adequate and fast mixing between the injected air and internally recirculated hot reactive gases to form hot and diluted oxidant is critical for CDC, followed by rapid mixing with the fuel. This results in distributed reaction zone instead of a concentrated thin flame front as observed in conventional diffusion flames, leading to avoidance of hot spot regions and providing reduced NOx and CO emissions. The focus of this dissertation is to develop and demonstrate CDC in a cylindrical combustor for application to stationary gas turbine combustors. The dissertation examines the sequential development of ultra-low emission colorless distributed combustor operating at a nominal thermal intensity of 36MW/m3-atm. Initially, the role of swirl is evaluated through comparing the performance of swirling and non-swirling configurations with focus on pollutants emission, stability, and isothermal flowfield through particle image velocimetry. Different fuel injection locations have also been examined, and based on performance a swirling configuration have been down selected for further investigations demonstrating emissions as low as 1 PPM of NO with a 40% reduction compared to non-swirling configuration. Further investigations were performed to outline the impact of inlet air temperature and combustor pressure on reaction distribution and combustor performance.

Next, Fuel flexibility has been examined with view to develop CDC combustors that can handle different gaseous and liquid fuels, both traditional and renewable. These fuels included diluted methane, hydrogen enriched methane, propane, ethanol, kerosene, JP-8, Hydrogenated Renewable Jet fuel, and novel biofuel. Swirling CDC combustor demonstrated emissions below 7.5 PPM of NO regardless of the fuel used, with emissions below 40PPM of CO for liquid fuels and 10 PPM for gaseous fuels.

Further enhancement of swirling CDC combustor was sought next. Various fuel injection techniques have been examined, outlining the importance of fuel injection location with respect to air and hot reactive gases recirculation. The impact of air injection velocity on combustor performance have been examined in terms of increased recirculation (via isothermal flow field characterization using PIV) and enhanced performance with lower pollutants emission leading to 45% reduction in NO emissions with no impact on CO emissions. The impact of fuel dilution on mixing and performance has been also examined as a method to enhance mixing due to the increased fuel jet momentum. Dual air and fuel injection have been explored to outline the impact of multi injection on combustor performance for scaling up of the combustor.

Planar Laser Induced Fluorescence technique was used to evaluate the reaction behavior and its distribution in the combustor through detection of activated OH radicals at different activation lines in different configurations.

The different investigations performed (experimentally and numerically) have been compiled and analyzed with view to develop a "Distribution Index" that evaluated the reaction distribution in a given combustor based on certain parameters. These parameters include, but no limited to, hot reactive gases recirculation (entrainment) rate, air injection velocity, mixing between air and fuel, and operational equivalence ratio and inlet air temperature. The developed distribution index, DI, will be a valuable tool for future combustor design.