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Proceedings of ASME Turbo Expo 2012

GT2012
June 11-15, 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark

GT2012-68761

DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS OF A GAS TURBINE FLAMELESS COMBUSTOR


USING CFD SIMULATIONS

Levy, Y.*1, Christo, F.C.**, Gaissinski, I.*, Erenburg, V.*, Sherbaum V*.
1
corresponding author, e-mail: levyy@aerodyne.technion.ac.il
*
Faculty of Aerospace Engineering
Technion Israel Institute of Technology
Haifa Israel
**
Barbara Hardy Institute
University of South Australia
Adelaide - Australia

ABSTRACT

This study investigates the performance and the conditions modelled using a skeletal (46 reactions) and a detailed (309
under which flameless oxidation can be achieved for a given reactions) chemical kinetics mechanism. The k turbulence
annular adiabatic combustor. Numerical modelling of velocity, model was used in the most calculations. Overall, similar
temperature and species fields are performed for different flow qualitative flow, temperature, and species patterns were
configurations of air and methane streams injected into a predicted by both kinetics models; however the detailed
proposed design of a gas-turbine combustor. Parametric mechanism provides quantitatively more realistic predictions.
analysis was performed by systematically varying several An optimal flow configuration was achieved with exhaust NOx
parameters: radius of a recirculation zone, radius of the emissions of < 7.5 ppm, CO < 35ppm, and a pressure-drop <
combustor, location of air and fuel ports, air and fuel velocities 5%, hence meeting the design criteria for gas turbine engines.
magnitudes and injection angles. The analysis was performed This study demonstrates the feasibility of achieving ultra-low
initially using a three-step global chemistry model to identify a NOx and CO emissions utilising a flameless oxidation regime.
design (geometry and operating conditions) that yield
flameless combustion regime. The selected design was then

Keywords: flameless oxidation, CFD, kinetics, pollution,


pressure drop, gas turbine engine.

NOMENCLATURE

dAir diameter of air injector (mm)


dCH4 diameter of fuel port (mm)
FOGT flameless oxidation gas turbine
L0 distance between centre of combustor cavity and fuel inlets
l0 distance between centres of the fuel and air injection inlets (mm)
Lch length of the combustor (mm)
mair mass flow rate of air ( g/s)
Nholes number of holes for fuel (and air) injection
P pressure (bar)
Rch radius of the combustors cavity (mm)
RMod (RM) radius of the combustor (mm)
T temperature (K)
equivalence ratio

INTRODUCTION

Flue gas recirculation is an efficient method for off [1]. Nevertheless, it was also found experimentally
reducing NOx emissions. This technique however is by Wnning [2, 3] that for a specific range of
limited by the quantity of gas that can be recirculated recirculation rates of hot exhaust gases, a stable form of
because air vitiation may rapidly lead to a flame blow- combustion is possible. In this arrangement exhaust gas
1 Copyright 2012 by ASME
is recirculated into the air and fuel streams upstream the in commercial engines, can used also in flameless
mixing zone, to yield a stable combustion regime that is oxidation GT technology; hence their safety and
now commonly referred to as flameless oxidation. In reliability can be directly integrated into flameless
this combustion regime the fuel is mixed with a highly oxidation combustors.
diluted hot air and/or combustion products. This creates
a distributed reaction zone, which in turn reduces Furthermore, when compared to the Rich-Quench-Lean
localized peak temperature creating a semi-uniform methods, the flameless oxidation GT design does not
temperature field. This uniformity in temperature leads require dividing the combustor into two physically
to higher radiation flux, and lowers the emission of separated zones (rich and lean). It also does not require
pollutants in comparison to conventional diffusion a special form of cooling since it does not have a fuel-
flames. In contrast, the mixing of fuel and oxidant in rich combustion zone. With respect to geometrical
diffusion burners creates a thin reaction zone (a flame modifications in a FOGT design, only a slight increase
sheet of a few millimetres thick), of a stoichiometric in combustor volume is required to accommodate the
flame temperature, which results in the formation of recirculated burnt gases in the combustor. Fundamentals
higher NOx emission. of the thermodynamic cycle, combustion process, and
geometrical parameters for a FOGT design are
In comparison to classical and more recent combustor presented elsewhere [4-10] and are not repeated here.
designs, the proposed flameless oxidation gas turbine The proposed combustor design presented here involves
(FOGT) is expected to deliver several advantages only minor modifications to the original design [4-10].
without major modifications to the combustors It is a compact and robust design, and does not require
geometry or adding auxiliary equipment, such as supplementary equipment or expensive manufacturing
catalytic materials, or steam injection that may have techniques. This design is expected to offer a safe and
significant adverse effects on the combustor reliability reliable operation without negative effects on
and lifetime. This technology can also use combustion performance. Therefore flameless oxidation
advantageously the trend towards higher-pressure ratios GT is expected to represent an ideal candidate for an
regimes. Indeed, higher combustor air inlet temperatures ultra-low NOx combustion system that can meet the
should improve combustion stability in the flameless stringent emission regulations for industrial gas turbines
oxidation GT combustor, and consequently also and aero-engines.
contribute to further reduction in CO emission.
The ultimate goal of this project is to identify an
Compared to fuel-staging technology, which is optimal design and operating parameters for a flameless
implemented in recent years in commercial systems, combustor for a gas turbine engine using CFD
and the variable geometry (air-staging) technology, modelling as a design tool. In this study Reynolds
flameless oxidation GT design does not introduce Navier Stokes (RANS) models, the work-horse of
additional mechanical complexity or control problems. industrial CFD, are used. In RANS formulation only the
In addition, its pollutant reduction potential is expected averaged governing equations is calculated. The
to exceed any existing technology. Large amounts of averaged flow variables can be represented on a much
NOx is produced in the pilot diffusion flame of a staged coarser grid, thereby drastically reducing the
combustor whereas the flameless oxidation GT design computational requirements, but turbulence equations
has only a single combustion zone with a uniform and contain unclosed terms that must be modelled. For
moderate temperature field, thus minimizing NOx flows where instabilities or transient effects are
emissions. Also, current radial staged combustors important, time-dependent calculations (Unsteady
produce a temperature Pattern Factor at the turbine inlet RANS) can resolve the large-scale eddies in the flow
that is far from being uniform. but not the fine-scale eddies. These fine scales can be
resolved only by Direct Numerical Simulations (DNS)
The proposed FOGT combustor design also avoids or Large Eddy Simulations (LES) methods, both are too
most of the safety problems that associated with partial computationally expensive to utilise at this stage of this
pre-mixing used in the Lean Premixed Prevaporized study.
(LPP) technology. The LPP designs require a premixer
that may be damaged by flashback or auto-ignition of The main objectives of the present parametric study are:
the air-fuel mixture leading to dangerous situations. exploring the effect of various geometries and numerical
Leakage of fuel or gases from the premixer into the hot models (e.g. chemistry and combustion) on the predicted
section may cause severe failures and could even lead velocity, temperature, and species fields; and identifying
to explosions of the engine casing. These safety and quantifying the performance optimal flameless
problems may become worse when using liquid fuels oxidation combustor design.
because of the longer time required for complete pre-
evaporation. In contrast, the fuel systems of
conventional diffusion burners, which have been proven

COMBUSTOR GEOMETRY
from the authors earlier studies [4-9], however its shape
A schematic of the proposed FOGT combustor is shown was significantly modified. The air inlet is positioned at
in Fig.1. A total of 30 holes for air and 30 holes for fuel a fixed location, but the direction of air injection was
injection are positioned uniformly along the modified (blue-green arrow). The flow recirculation is
circumference of the combustor (Fig. 1-b). The achieved by modifying the position and orientation of
dimensions of the combustor are based on calculations the primary and secondary air inlets and the fuel
2 Copyright 2012 by ASME
(methane) injector. The position of these inlets and the burners. The burning of the fuel in a hot vitiated air
unique shape of the combustor create a large stable environment plays a significant role reducing NOx
recirculation zone, which enhances the mixing of the air production while maintaining flame stability.
with the combustion products, rather than mixing the
fresh air and the fuel as in conventional diffusion

RM

R
dCH 4
= 1.2mm
M
dCH 4
= 1.5mm
L
dCH 4
= 1.2mm
(a)
l0

(b) (c)
Figure 1: A schematic of the combustor; (a) Frontal view, I, II, III optional CH4 inlet locations fuel holes shown here are not the
optimal dimensions; (b) 3-D view of the proposed combustor. Red arrows fuel inlet, blue arrows air inlet; (c) chosen
optimal scheme with equal number of fuel and air holes

NUMERICAL MODEL predictions of the mean velocity, temperature and


turbulence fields on one hand, and computational
Initial calculations were performed using a three-step requirements on the other. It is a fast and reasonably
global methane mechanism [11], and the eddy break-up accurate method for performing parametric analysis.
(EBU) combustion model. Thermal NOx, formed by Once a suitable design and flow conditions were
high temperature oxidation of atmospheric nitrogen, was identified, the calculations were then repeated using
modelled using the extended Zeldovich mechanism in a more sophisticated chemistry and combustion models.
post-processing model. That is, computed temperature This included using a multistep kinetics mechanism,
and chemical species from converged solutions are used such as Smookes 46-reaction chemistry model [12] for
to compute NOx concentration. This approach (i.e. using methane oxidation. This chemistry model when used
global chemistry, EBU, and post-processing NOx together with the eddy-dissipation concept (EDC)
models) offer a compromise between the accuracy of the combustion model, was proven to yield accurate
3 Copyright 2012 by ASME
predictions in modelling flameless combustion, as of the cavity of the combustor was assigned a high
demonstrated by Christo & Dally [13]. Their numerical temperature of 2000K, which acts as a numerical
model has been validated against high-quality ignition source to initiate chemical reactions. Solution
experimental data in non-premixed methane/hydrogen convergence is determined by ensuring that the energy
(1/1 by volume) flames issuing from a jet in hot co-flow and mass imbalance is less than 0.5% and that residuals
[14]. The results were also confirmed by study [16] for of all equations do not vary with iterations.
the combustion of methane using Smooke's mechanism
and the study [17] where two combustion mechanisms A high-quality three-dimensional polyhedral mesh was
including Smooke's one were compared with constructed for the proposed combustor design (Fig. 2).
experimental data and both cases showed close results. The quality of the mesh is a critical requirement for
Hence we adopted this model with confidence. In achieving numerical convergence and ensuring the
addition, calculations were performed using a detailed prediction accuracy of the solution. Accordingly, a mesh
kinetics with 309 reactions (a variant of GRI 3.0 was built with a sufficiently fine grid resolution at the air
mechanism that excludes C2 and higher reactions). This and fuel inlets, growing gradually to maintain all the
mechanism includes a set of N-O reactions, which cells aspect ratio and angular skewness to a below 5 and
intrinsically improve the accuracy in predicting NOx 0.8, respectively. A grid-independence analysis was
emissions. The k turbulence model was used in first performed using three grid sizes of 428,000,
most of the calculations; the results were also verified 618,000 and 936,000 polyhedral cells. Comparing the
using k model. predictions of the flow and species properties (e.g. static
temperature, velocity magnitude, NOx), showed a
A 12-degree segment of the full combustor was difference of < 3% between the first and second grid and
modelled. Periodic conditions were defined for the sides less than 1% between the second and third grid. In the
of the segment. A zero azimuthal pressure gradient was first and second grid, each component of the flow and of
assumed across the periodic boundaries. A second-order the principal species was compared and the maximum
discretisation scheme was used for all equations. For difference was found to be less than 3%. Moreover, all
each cell, a total of seven governing equations (mass, species were compared at the exit cross section and
three momentum, two turbulence quantities, and again, the maximum difference was less than 3%. Hence
energy), and 46 (or 309 depending which kinetics model the grid with 618,000 cells was selected for all
is being used) species transport equations, were solved subsequent calculations.
iteratively. For initialisation of the flow field, a section

Air inlet

Fuel inlet

Figure 2: Surface polyhedral mesh of the combustor showing the fine clustering of cells at the fuel and air inlets, gradually growing to
ensure adequate spatial aspect ratio and angular skewness of the cells.

Steady-state calculations were performed using the RESULTS AND DISCUSSION


ANSYS-Fluent package [15]. A summary of the design
and inlet parameters used in the calculations are The inlet pressure of the air and the fuel streams is set to
tabulated below. The PISO solver was used and 2-nd 3 bars, and the inlet temperatures of the air and the fuel
order accuracy was applied for all variables. are set to 420K, and 298K, respectively. Several
L0 50 mm geometry and flow configurations were investigated.
lo 10 mm The equivalence ratio was kept constant at 0.6. This
LCh 200 mm equivalence ratio was selected to ensure that the average
Rch 30 mm exit temperature does not exceed 1800K. To maintain an
Nholes 30 acceptable pressure-drop across the combustor, the air
0.6 and fuel injector diameters, and mass flow rates were
TCH4 (inlet) 298K varied.
TAir (inlet) 420K Initial simulations (not shown here due to space
PCH4 (inlet), PAir (inlet) 3bar limitation) showed that a counter-flow injection of air
RMod, dAir,, dCH4 , mair Variables and methane is significantly less effective than a co-flow
configuration; hence only results for co-directional
4 Copyright 2012 by ASME
air/fuel streams are presented here. It was also found that chemical reactions, which were predicted similarly by
injecting the air and fuel jets at an angle of 58.6 and all three chemistry models. The main difference between
52.5, respectively (off the radial direction of the the predictions of the chemistry models is the CO
combustor) yields an optimal mixing pattern. A distribution (Fig. 6). The global mechanism predicts
summary of the modelled cases (configurations 1-10) significantly lower peak CO concentrations within the
using a global chemistry model is listed in Table 1. As recirculation zone, than the skeletal mechanism. At the
an independent reference a premixed combustion model exit of the combustor, 37.5ppm CO is predicted by the
was also simulated. The ultra-low NOx value < 1ppm skeletal mechanism, whereas negligible CO
represents the lowest possible limit for the given concentration is predicted by the global mechanism.
equivalence ratio. However, the pressure-drop (~9%) for This difference is seen more clearly in Fig. 7, where
this configuration is unacceptable for practical radial distribution of CO is presented for the centreline
applications. The results for configurations 1-5 indicates cross section along the centre of the recirculation zone.
that it is possible to achieve a low NOx value of < 6ppm, It shows that the global chemistry model under predicts
but the heat density for these configurations is low. The the peak CO value or its location, and also did not
diameters of the inlet holes were therefore increased, and capture the shape of the shape.
the calculations were repeated. Out of all the modelled
cases, configuration 10 achieved a semi-optimal The prediction of CO by the global mechanism is far
performance in terms of low NOx < 5ppm, and a low less reliable than the skeletal and detailed kinetics; with
pressure-drop of <5%, while maintaining an exit the latter being the most accurate considering its
temperature below 1800K, hence meeting the design elaborate reactions pathways. An exit CO emission of <
criteria. For this configuration, the air and fuel 30ppm as predicted by the detailed kinetics model,
diameters are 9.0 and 2.0mm, respectively, and the fuel meets the emission constraint on GT engines, yet our
is injected only from the middle hole (see Fig. 1 - a). expectation is that flameless oxidation has the potential
to achieve further CO reduction.
The preferred design (Configuration 10) was then
modelled using the skeletal (46 reactions) and the Contours of NOx distribution (Fig. 8) shows that its
detailed (309 reactions) kinetics mechanisms. The maximum concentration does not necessarily coincident
results (Table 2) show that the three chemistry models with the spatial location of the peak temperature (see
predict similar peak and exit temperatures, and pressure- Fig. 4). A possible explanation is that a presence of
drop. The similar results were obtained using k excess air causing a rapid dilution of NOx concentration.
turbulent model. Temperature distribution, general view A more plausible explanation is that additional NOx is
and at longitudinal centreline section are shown in Figs. formed by the prompt NOx mechanism, which prevails
3 and 4 respectively. Figure 3 shows a similar prediction in low-temperature or fuel-rich conditions or where
of temperature distributions by the global and skeletal residence times are short. However, investigating this
mechanisms. However, larger high-temperature (1400 observation is outside the scope of this paper.
K-1800K) regions are predicted by the global
mechanism in comparison to the skeletal kinetics. This The skeletal mechanism predicts a higher (by 37%) NOx
outcome is due to the absence of radical species in the concentration than the global chemistry model (Table 2).
global mechanism. Within the main recirculation zone, However, a comparable NOx level is predicted by the
the skeletal mechanism shows lower temperatures (Fig. skeletal and detailed kinetics mechanisms. Worth
4), however similar flow patterns are predicted by both remembering that a post-processing NOx model was
chemistry models (Fig. 5). used with the skeletal model, while a detailed N-O
reactions were employed in the detailed kinetics.
The flow structure is determined mainly by the geometry
of the combustor, turbulence, and heat-release due to

CH4 Inlet Air Inlet


CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(a) (b)

Figure 3: Static temperature (K) as predicted by (a) global 3-step chemistry, and (b) skeletal 46-step kinetics.

5 Copyright 2012 by ASME


CH4 Inlet Air Inlet CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(a) (b)
Figure 4: Temperature (K) contours at a centreline cross-section as predicted by (a) global chemistry, and (b) skeletal mechanism.

CH4 Inlet Air Inlet CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(a) (b)
Figure 5: Velocity (m/s) field in general view: (a) global chemistry, and (b) skeletal kinetics mechanism.

CH4 Inlet Air Inlet


CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(a) (b)
Figure 6: CO mass fraction contours as predicted by: (a) global mechanism, (b) skeletal mechanism.

(a) (b)

Radial position from engine axis [m] Radial position from engine axis [m]
Figure 7: Radial distribution of CO mass fraction along the central cross section of the recirculation zone (see cross section A-A in
figure #1c); (a) global mechanism, and (b) skeletal mechanism

6 Copyright 2012 by ASME


CH4 Inlet Air Inlet
CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(b)
(a)

Figure 8: NOx concentration distribution, central cross-section; (a) global mechanism, and (b) skeletal mechanism.

The flame sheet in conventional diffusion burners is combustor. The skeletal mechanism suggests that the
characterised by a thin (a few millimetres thick) reaction reactions continue also in the outlet duct, but the
zone. In a flameless oxidation regime however, the predictions of the detailed kinetics show weaker
reaction zone is distributed across the combustor, rather reactions in the duct, which is a more plausible scenario.
than being confined to a narrow zone. Radical species The flow pattern (Fig. 10) shows that fuel oxidation
(e.g. OH, HO2, O, H, etc) are commonly used as markers occurs within the primary recirculation region. The
to identify regions with significant chemical reactions temperature is distributed almost uniformly within the
(flame sheet). These radicals exist (and reach their cavity. Overall, a low NOx (< 7ppm) emission, and
peak values), only within the reaction zone. Contours of semi-uniform distributions of temperature and OH,
OH radicals as predicted by skeletal and detailed suggests that a flameless oxidation regime has been
kinetics are shown in Fig. 9. An OH mass fraction achieved.
values in the range 110-3 310-3 indicates significant
chemical reactions. Accordingly, Fig. 9 implies that the
reactions are distributed across the cavity of the

CH4 Inlet Air Inlet CH4 Inlet Air Inlet

(a) (b)

Figure 9: OH mass fraction as predicted by: (a) skeletal mechanism, (b) detailed kinetics

Primary recirculation
zone

Secondary recirculation
zone
(a) (b)

Figure 10: Streamlines coloured by (a) OH mass fraction, and (b) temperature (K).

7 Copyright 2012 by ASME


CONCLUSIONS the detailed kinetics should be used for optimisation
purposes and the predictions of pollutants such as CO
An annular flameless combustor was designed and and NOx. The optimal combustor design achieved exit
investigated using CFD as a design tool. The NOx < 7.5 ppm, CO < 35 ppm, and a pressure-drop <
performance of the combustor (in terms of temperature 5% across the combustor.
distribution, CO and NOx emissions, and pressure-drop), This study has successfully demonstrated the feasibility
is evaluated for different design parameters: radius of of achieving ultra-low NOx and a low CO emission, and
the recirculation zone, location and diameters of fuel and a low pressure-drop in a flameless oxidation GT
inlet holes, combustor diameter, and air and gas combustor. Further investigation of the optimal
injection velocities. Calculations were performed for a configuration is recommended to include thermal
constant global equivalence ratio of 0.6. The radiation effects. Predicting the variances of velocity,
performance of global, skeletal and details chemical temperature and species fields is also important. This
kinetics models were investigated. A global mechanism can be achieved for example by modelling the
is computationally fast and is recommended as a first- combustor using a hybrid CFD-Composition PDF
order model for the parametric analysis. Predictions of approach, which does not rely on RANS formulation.
CO concentrations using the global mechanism are
unrealistically low, compared to the skeletal and detailed ACKNOWLEGEMENT
mechanisms. Overall, the skeletal and detailed kinetics The authors wish to acknowledge the generous support
model achieved similar realistic spatial predictions of all from the Israeli Science Foundation that made this
variables, including minor and radical species. However, research project possible.

Table 1: Summary of predictions for various flow configurations. Exit CO concentration is negligible (less than 10-3ppm for all
simulations with global mechanism configurations 1-10). Air and fuel injection angles (off the radial direction of the combustor
pointing towards the cavity) are 52.5 and 58.6, respectively.

dCH4, dAir P/Pref Tmax Tout NOmax <NOout>av


Configuration (#) [mm] [%] [K] [K] [ppm] [ppm]

(1) Fuel holes Downstream


RM = 200mm , m& air = 182g/s 1.5, 6.0 9.3 2350 1749 12.0 6.0
(2) Fuel holes Upstream
RM = 200mm , m & air = 182g/s 2402
1.5, 6.0 9.3 1747 16.2 1.5
(3)Middle hole
RM = 130mm , m & air = 182g/s 1.5, 6.0 9.3 2402 1746 14.6 1.0
L Right
(4) Left & Right Holes m
& fuel = m& fuel

RM = 130mm , m
& air = 182g/s 1.2, 6.0 9.3 2395 1746 41.9 6.2

(5) Middle Hole


RM = 100mm , m & air = 182g/s 1.5, 6.0 10.4 2402 1746 10.7 0.98
L Right
(6) Left & Right Holes m
& fuel = m& fuel

RM = 100mm , m
& air = 182g/s 1.2, 6.0 9.3 2398 1746 104.0 11.6
(7) Middle Hole
RM = 100mm , m & air = 182g/s 1.2, 9.0 2.0 2416 1760 438 87.7
(8) Middle Hole
RM = 100mm , m & air = 182g/s 2.0, 9.0 2.1 2405 1752 22.3 5.2
(9) Middle Hole
RM = 100mm , m & air = 218g/s 2.0, 9.0 2.8 2405 1752 18.2 4.4
(10) Middle Hole
RM = 100mm , m & air = 273g/s 2.0, 9.0 4.4 2365 1770 14.5 4.6
(R) RM = 200mm m
& air = 182g/s
Premixed combustion 6.0 9.3 1782 1777 0.98 0.95

8 Copyright 2012 by ASME


Table 2: Effect of the chemistry model on the predictions of various flow properties (extension of Table 1)

Configuration (#) P/Pref Tmax Tmax COmax <COout>av NOmax <NOout>av


[%] [K] [K] [ppm] [ppm] [ppm] [ppm]
[corrected to
15%O2 dry basis
ppmv]
(10)
-5 * *
RM = 100mm , m& air = 273g/s 4.4% 2365 1770 10,000 1.7x10 14.5 4.6
3-step chemical reactions [4.2]
k turbulence model
(11)
* *
RM = 100mm , m& air = 273g/s 4.4% 2385 1770 20,000 37.5 28.5 5.9
46-step chemical reactions [6.5]
k turbulence model
(12)
** **
RM = 100mm , m
& air = 273g/s 4.5% 2450 1789 16,000 26.5 28.0 7.1
309-step chemical reactions [6.5]
k turbulence model
(13)
* *
RM = 100mm , m& air = 273g/s 4.4% 2370 1782 56,000 78.9 32.5 7.4
46-step chemical reactions [6.7]
k turbulence model
(*) NOx is calculated by post-processing using the 46-step reactions mechanism (at 8.9% O2 dry volume basis)
(**) NOx is computed using N-O reactions incorporated into the 309-reactions kinetics mechanism (at 8.9% O2 dry volume basis).
[NOx - ppmv] values are corrected to 15% O2 dry volume basis.

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