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Paper No.


Understanding the Behaviour of Australian Black Coals in Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustion

Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Fluidized Bed Combustion May 16 - 19, 1999 Savannah, Georgia

Copyright 1999 by ASME

Understanding the Behaviour of Australian Black Coals in Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustion
John F. Stubington, Alan L. T. Wang and Yongbin Cui Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Black Coal Utilisation and *School of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry, University of New South Wales Sydney 2052, Australia 15th International Fluidized Bed Combustion Conference, May 1999 Email Phone (02) 9385 4338 Fax (02) 9385 5966 *Mailing address Abstract Ultimately, this study aims to predict the coal combustion efficiency in an industrial pressurised fluidized bed combustor (PFBC) for Australian black coals. This combustion efficiency depends predominantly upon the rate of elutriation of fine carbon particles, which is proportional to bed carbon loading in atmospheric experiments. The bed carbon loading is, in turn, dependent upon the rate of combustion of char particles within the PFBC. A novel batch-fed reactor has been designed, constructed and commissioned to enable separation and study of the mechanisms of coal devolatilisation, char combustion and fine carbon particle elutriation in a PFBC and extraction of coal-specific parameters to describe these processes. The attrition and char combustion rates can only be determined experimentally and it is essential to match the environment around each coal particle, so that the results may be translated to the industrial scale. Therefore, the rig was designed for identical conditions of pressure, temperature, particle size and fluidizing velocity within the bed to those used industrially. The exhaust gas is analysed continuously for oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons as a function of time after coal injection, allowing separation and identification of the devolatilisation and char combustion stages as well as measurement of the combustion rates. The elutriated carbon particles undergo minimal freeboard combustion and are collected in a cyclone and an in-line filter over any period of time during the experiment, for subsequent analysis. The sand bed containing partially burnt char may be quenched at any time during the experiment and removed from the rig for collection and characterisation of the partially burnt char particles. The rig is mostly computer-controlled and the design was subjected to a hazards analysis before construction. Results from the rig will be used in a mathematical model to predict the performance of the coals in industrial-scale PFBC.

STATUS OF PRESSURISED FLUIDIZED BED COMBUSTION Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustion (PFBC) is a commercial Clean Coal Technology utilising combined gas turbine and steam turbine cycles to increase the efficiency of electricity production from coal. Typically, this advantage is around 3-4 percentage points higher than a conventional steam plant with commonly used steam conditions, which corresponds to about a 10% fuel saving (Almhem and Lofe 1996). ABB Carbon has designed and constructed five 70-80 MWe PFBC power plants: at Tidd in USA, 2 at Vrtan in Sweden, at Escatrn in Spain & at Wakamatsu in Japan, starting up between 1990 and 1993. Currently, a sixth ABB unit of this size is being built at Cottbus in Germany for combined heat and power and a larger 360 MWe P800 power plant is under construction at Karita in Japan. In addition, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have built an 85 MWe PFBC power plant in Hokkaido, Japan and Babcock-Hitachi are constructing a 2 x 250 MWe PFBC power plant for Chugoku Electric at Osaki, Japan. These larger units are scheduled for start-up between 1999 and 2002. All of these plants use bubbling-bed combustion technology operating at 850-860 C and 1-1.6 MPa. Foster-Wheeler/Ahlstrm developed circulating-bed technology for PFBC and the U.S. Department of Energy committed partial funds for support of a demonstration of this variant of the technology. Given the competitive position of natural gas combined cycle plants in the de-regulated U.S. environment and the long term prospect for low gas prices in the U.S., there is some doubt whether this PFBC demonstration plant will be built. Australian black coals have been fired in all the Japanese PFBC power plants and in the Japanese PFBC research programs. The larger commercial plants now under construction in Japan will certainly be firing Australian coals, so it is essential that we understand the behaviour of our coals in this new technology to support their marketing into Japan. TECHNOLOGY ISSUES Emissions 90-98 % of the sulphur emissions are captured by in-situ reaction with the limestone (or dolomite) used as bed material and nitrogen oxide emissions are inherently low due to the low combustion temperature and NO x reduction by the bed particles. Further reductions in NO x emissions can be obtained by SNCR and SCR flue gas cleaning technology. Environmental performance data from Vrtan (Table 1) show the inherent cleanliness of this technology (Jansson and Anderson 1997). Table 1. PFBC Performance Data Measured in the Vrtan Plant (Jansson and Anderson 1997) Emissions SO2 NOx Dust mg/MJ 15 10 <1 ppm (6 % O2) 15 14 < 5 mg/Nm3

Efficiency PFBC and integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technologies are often seen as competitors in the technology market for cleaner, more efficient electricity production from coal. However, PFBC is clearly commercial now, particularly in Japan, whereas IGCC is just reaching the demonstration stage for commercial-size plant. Despite the low inlet gas temperature of 850 C to the gas turbine, ABB Carbons standard 425 MWe P800 plant is reported to achieve an efficiency of 44-45 % based on the lower heating value (LHV) of the coal. These efficiencies are already in line with or above projections for IGCC and supercritical pulverised coal-fired steam cycles (Jansson and Anderson 1997). ABB Carbon quote a typical greenfield capital cost of $US 1000/kW for the P800 unit (Jansson and Anderson 1997). Advanced PFBC Technology Current commercial technology uses cyclones for hot gas cleanup and special ruggedized gas turbines to handle the remaining fine ash particles in the gas. Commercialisation of ceramic filters for hot gas cleanup would allow the deployment of advanced gas turbines with higher efficiencies. Current demonstrations of such filters on large-scale PFBC plant are finally showing promise of satisfactory operation. Advanced cycles (such as the Foster-Wheeler circulating-bed technology) raise the gas turbine inlet temperature to increase the efficiency further, usually by partially gasifying the coal to provide gaseous fuel for a topping cycle. A similar approach is also being studied for improving the efficiency of the bubbling-bed technology by simply injecting additional fuel into the freeboard. Together with more advanced steam cycles, higher PFBC plant efficiencies (up to 50 %) can be expected as the technology matures. PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT OF AUSTRALIAN COALS FOR PFBC In the prior CRC project, a preliminary feasibility study into the performance of Australian black coals in PFBC was completed by CRE in the UK (Laughlin and Sullivan 1997). From laboratory studies of 7 Australian & 5 International coals followed by economic modelling of the PFBC cycle, it was concluded that the majority of Australian bituminous coals would make ideal candidates for PFBC. The high melting characteristics of the Australian coal ashes should minimise the potential for bed agglomeration problems and the lower sulphur content Australian coals were predicted to have a lower cost of electricity or higher value for the same cost of electricity, as illustrated in Figure 1 (Stubington 1997a). This would provide an obvious advantage for Australian coals in the PFBC market.


Break-even Coal Price (Aus$/GJ)

Australian International


1.5 0 1 2 3 4 5

Sulphur Content (% adb)

Figure 1. Break-even Coal Price for Constant Cost of Electricity

However, pilot- and demonstration-scale test firing of Australian coals in Sweden and Japan identified potential problem areas, which were not addressed in the CRE tests. Following assessment of the CRE work and extensive discussions with commercial PFBC operators and vendors by John Stubington(1997b), the areas of combustion efficiency, fly ash-related effects and overall system modelling were identified as high priority for inclusion in the CRC's research program on the performance of Australian coals in PFBC. In atmospheric pressure fluidized bed combustion (AFBC), the elutriation of fine unburnt char predominantly determines the combustion inefficiency but no research has been published on this elutriation at high pressure. Research into the unburnt char elutriation from Australian black coals in a PFBC environment is therefore the highest priority, for the following reasons: 1. 2. One Australian black coal has exhibited this problem in a pilot-scale PFBC rig. Australian black coals tend to have higher values of the Fuel Ratio (i.e., lower Volatile Matter), which correlate with lower combustion efficiencies in PFBC test rigs.


The overall system performance is sensitive to the combustion efficiency, as demonstrated in the CRE work. Higher temperatures caused by combustion of unburnt char in the filter cake may contribute to the problem of sticky ash in the ceramic filters.


AUSTRALIAN FACILITY FOR PFBC COAL COMBUSTION RESEARCH A novel bench-scale combustor has been designed specifically to study the combustion behaviour of black coals in PFBC. Figure 2 shows a schematic diagram of the high-temperature, highpressure, computer-controlled, batch-fed PFBC facility at the University of New South Wales, funded by the CRC for Black Coal Utilization and constructed with in-kind support from Pacific Power. This facility has identical conditions in the bed to those used industrially, to ensure that the local environment around the coal particle matches that in an industrial PFBC. It provides time-resolved data on coal devolatilisation and char combustion to allow investigation of the different mechanisms occurring during these processes, and it enables the collection for characterisation of both in-bed and elutriated coal char particles at different stages. The bed has been commissioned and operates well at the design conditions given in Table 2.

Figure 2. Schematic Diagram of the PFBC Facility at UNSW

Table 2. Design Parameters of the PFBC Facility at UNSW Bed Diameter Minimum bed height Operating pressure Operating bed temperature Maximum Fluidization gas velocity Bed material particle size Coal particle size Design metal temperature of combustor Material of combustor Designed Service Life of Combustor Material of Pre-heater In-bed Heater Rating Furnace Rating 40 mm 60~80 mm 1~1.6 MPa 860 C 0.9 m/s 1 mm <6 mm 850 C at 1.6 MPa (abs) 253MA stainless steel 10,000 hours Inconel 600 1 kW 13.5 kW

The major components of the PFBC facility include: 1. Two computer-controlled mass-flow controllers to control the flow rates of the gases N2 and air respectively. The dry N2 gas is supplied from a liquid N2 tank and the air from an air cylinder pack. A fluidizing gas preheater made of a tube coil and an electrically heated furnace to preheat the fluidizing gas up to about 750-800 C. A pressurised fluidized bed combustor with an internal electric heating coil to heat and maintain the bed at a temperature of 850 C. A batch-feed coal hopper with a high-temperature solenoid valve, controlled by computer. This allows a batch of coal samples with a maximum particle size up to 6 mm to be injected into the pressurised fluidized bed through a guiding tube from the top of the combustor. Two exhaust lines from the combustor, each containing a cyclone, a filter and a watercooled condenser, to collect the elutriated fine char particles as soon as they are generated in the bed. Solenoid valves located after the gas cooler allow collection of the elutriated particles over any selected time period during the burnout.






A N2 supply by-pass operated by two computer controlled three-way solenoid valves. This allows the sudden change of the inlet fluidizing gas to either air, N2 or a mixture of the two, making it possible to quench or activate the combustion and characterise the coal/char particles at any time during different combustion stages in the bed. A high temperature metal-seated ball valve at the bottom of the combustor to drop the bed into a nitrogen-purged catchpot and recover the in-bed solid combustion residues. A set of on-line analysers for CO, CO2, O2 and hydrocarbons to continuously analyse the exhaust gas.



The combustor design has been simplified to use a single wall for both temperature and pressure containment. It is fabricated of high temperature stainless steel 253MA with 10,000 hours service life due to the creep rupture limitation at the design metal temperature of 850 C and system pressure of 1.6 MPa. An injection manifold for the fluidization gas surrounds the pressure vessel wall with horizontal holes into the combustor rather than a conventional gas distributor. The combustion bed is supported by inert sand above the bottom valve, which allows the bed to drop for recovery of the in-bed solid combustion residues with minimum further damage. The freeboard has a minimum height, to collect the fine char particles as soon as they are generated from the in-bed processes of coal. Post-bed combustion is minimised by exposing the wall of the freeboard directly to the ambient environment to cool down the flue gas and the elutriated particles. The system is controlled and monitored by a PC with the data acquisition & control software, Visual Designer. The preheater has been protected by a thermocouple monitoring the coil metal temperature and an overheat cut-off switch, since it was identified in the hazard analysis as a potential weak point of the facility. During operation, reaction gases (pure N 2 and air) are filtered before entering the mass flow controllers, and then mixed before entering the pre-heating furnace. The gases are pre-heated up to 750~800 C and injected into the combustor through the circular gas manifold. The exhaust gases are discharged through the exhaust by-pass line before and after the combustion test. When the desired test conditions are reached, the flow is switched from the exhaust by-pass to the testing line. As soon as steady-state is achieved, the coal particles are injected into the fluidized bed combustor with some pressurising gas by opening the computercontrolled solenoid valve, which is then closed quickly. Following devolatilisation of the coal particles and char combustion, the products of combustion exit with the flue gas. The elutriated char and fly ash particles are collected by the cyclone and the in-line filter for subsequent analysis. Some of the flue gas passes into the gas analysis system for determining CO, CO2 , O2 and hydrocarbon concentrations. To quench the combustion and recover the char particles at an intermediate stage, the air line is switched to N 2 and the fluidizing gas is switched from the preheater to the by-pass line to cool down the bed at the minimum fluidizing gas velocity. After cooling below the char ignition temperature, the bed materials are dropped into the bed collector by opening the bottom ball valve and the char particles are then collected for further analysis and measurement.

Facility Operating Performance The observed bed hydrodynamic behaviour and the pressure drop across the bed measured by a differential pressure transmitter showed that the bed was evenly fluidized and the gas and solids were mixed very well. Cold tests with a single coal particle proved that, in this novel design of fluidized bed, the coal particle was well mixed with the particulate phase. After commissioning, all design parameters have been achieved. The pressure was easily and smoothly controlled at the prescribed operating pressure up to 1.6 MPa. For a range of fluidization gas velocities 0~0.9 m/s, the gas temperature pre-heat reached 750~800 C and the bed was heated up to 860 C within one hour, solving the common problem of slow heat-up experienced by most of the previous research rigs. The test temperature was controlled at 850 C during combustion with variation of only 3~4 C due to the release of reaction heat. Initial Coal Burnout Tests in the Facility Figure 3 shows the combustion profiles of 4 ~ 4.75 mm coal particles in the PFBC facility. The timespan of the hydrocarbon profile identifies the devolatilisation process. The char burnout time is around 6 minutes with an oxygen concentration of 3.5 % in the fluidizing gas. Some variations in the CO and CO 2 profiles may indicate char particle fragmentation during char combustion, since initial combustion-quenching tests at the suspected time found fragmented char particles.
0.2 0.15 0.1 0.05 0 -0.05 CO2 vol % CO vol% CO+CO2 vol% HC(x100) ppm

Time (sec) Figure 3. Burnout of 4-4.75 mm Coal Particles in the PFBC Facility Initial Coal Swelling Tests Swelling tests were performed under N 2 by injecting coal particles into the hot pressurised bed, quenching the bed at the end of devolatilisation and recovering the char particles. The equivalent surface diameter measured by Image Analysis was used to characterise the particle size. The ratio of mean particle sizes before and after devolatilisation defined a swelling index of about 1.1 for the test coal particles with sieve size 4~4.75 mm.

Initial Fragmentation Tests No primary fragmentation (i.e., fragmentation during devolatilisation) was observed in the above swelling tests. Secondary fragmentation of char (i.e., fragmentation during char combustion) was found at about 2 minutes after feeding coal particles into the bed, where the CO and CO 2 profiles exhibit some rate changes. The ratio of the number of fragmented char particles (with sieve size > 1 mm) to the number of initial coal particles (sieve size 4~4.75 mm) was 33/20. Further work is essential to quantify such fragmentation, since it will certainly affect both in-bed char combustion and char elutriation. Elutriation of Char Particles The cyclone with calculated cut-off size of 5 m collected nearly all the elutriated particles. The loss on ignition of this cyclone fly ash was up to 30 %, which was about 3~4 % of the carbon fed in the coal. The reactor was designed with minimum freeboard height to research only the in-bed processes, so this level of carbon elutriation is realistic. Freeboard combustion of such elutriated char should be included in the combustor modelling and is not studied in this rig. Visual examination of the fly ash identified some cenosphere formation, which may explain the poor performance of the test coal in Japanese pilot plant tests for ash stickiness in ceramic filters. PFBC COMBUSTION EFFICIENCY RESEARCH PROGRAM The overall objective of the CRCs PFBC Combustion Efficiency project is to characterise the combustion efficiency of Australian black coals in commercial Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustors. Combustion inefficiency is determined predominantly by the elutriation of fine unburnt char, which is proportional to the carbon loading in the bed (at least for AFBC). Two sub-projects are currently underway, with the following specific technical objectives: 1. Investigate which mechanisms for fine char particle generation and combustion are significant in PFBC, develop model(s) for the most important mechanism(s) and measure the coal-specific parameters of the model(s) for 5 coals. Investigate which mechanisms for in-bed char combustion are significant in PFBC, develop model(s) for the most important mechanism(s) and measure the coal-specific parameters of the model(s) for 5 coals.


The first sub-project aims to describe the rate of carbon elutriation from the bed for each coal particle fed to the bed. The second sub-project aims to allow estimation of the in-bed carbon loading in a commercial PFBC; so that, together with the first sub-project, it will describe the rate of carbon elutriation from the top of the bed for all the coal/char particles in the bed. These data, together with modelling of freeboard combustion reactions, will enable prediction of the carbon elutriation loss from the top of the combustor; including all the relevant processes in an overall combustor model.

CONCLUSIONS The results of the commissioning tests indicated that the facility performed very well. All the design parameters and capabilities have been achieved. The bench-scale characterisation methods developed in this program have been demonstrated to provide relevant information for assessing the behaviour and performance of Australian coals in PFBC. Preliminary tests are now under way to fully characterise the operational performance of the facility and establish the range of test conditions for the detailed characterisation of Australian coals. In future tests, the key mechanisms governing unburnt carbon elutriation and the combustion efficiency will be identified and quantitatively studied. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by the Cooperative Research Centre for Black Coal Utilisation, which is funded in part by the Cooperative Research Centres Program of the Commonwealth Government of Australia. The authors thank Mr. Michael Roesch, Mr. David Murphy and Mr. Naranjin Sharma of Pacific Power for their invaluable efforts in construction, assembly and commissioning of the facility; Dr. David Harris of CSIRO for the coal sample; and Dr. Allen Lowe of Pacific Power for his guidance. REFERENCES Almhem, P., and Lofe, J. (1996). PFBC Power Plants: A Competitive Alternative. POWERGEN '96, Orlando, Florida. Jansson, S., and Anderson, L. (1997). Pressurised Fluidised Bed Power Plants. Indo-European Seminar on Clean Coal Technology and Thermal Power Plant Upgrading, New Delhi. Laughlin, K., and Sullivan, K. (1997). Evaluation of Australian Coals for Pressurized Fluidized Bed Combustion. Final report to CRC for Black Coal Utilisation. Stubington, J. F. (1997a). Preliminary Evaluation of Australian Coals for Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustion. First Annual Conference of Participants, Cooperative Research Centre for Black Coal Utilisation, Brisbane, 12 November, pp. 6. Stubington, J. F. (1997b). Research necessary to predict the performance of Australian black coals in Pressurised Fluidized Bed Combustion technology. Report to the CRC for Black Coal Utilisation on project 5.5.