The implementation of sophisticated combustion control schemes in modern gas turbines is motivated by the desire to maximize thermodynamic efficiency while meeting NOx emission restrictions. To achieve target NOx levels, modern turbine combustors must operate with a finely controlled fuel-air ratio near the fuel-lean flame extinction limit, where the combustor is most susceptible to instabilities. In turbine configurations with multiple combustors arranged around the annulus, differences in flow splits caused by manufacturing variations or engine wear can compromise engine performance. Optimal combustion control is also complicated by changes in environmental conditions, fuel quality, or fuel type. As a consequence, engines must be commissioned in the field with adequate stability margin such that manufacturing tolerances, normally expected component wear, fuel quality, and environmental conditions will not cause unstable combustion. A lack of robust combustion in-situ monitoring has limited the ability of modern turbines to achieve stable ultra-low emission performance over the entire load range. Of particular concern is the avoidance of lean blowout (LBO) and combustion dynamics. To minimize combustion temperature and NOx production, it is necessary to approach the LBO boundary. This paper describes continuing work on incipient lean blowout detection using flame ionization, investigating the impact of three different piloting and equivalence ratio reduction strategies applied in a pressurized, lean premixed combustor. This work builds upon previous research in the development of the Combustion Control and Diagnostic Sensor (CCADS). In previous papers, the detection of flashback, equivalence ratio, combustion dynamics, and lean blowout using CCADS has been investigated and described. Previous investigation of lean blowout, however, has been limited to a side pilot configuration. In this paper, lean blowout behavior for a side pilot and a centerbody tip pilot are compared. In addition, two different methods for decreasing equivalence ratio to approach LBO are investigated. These cases are found to have differing lean blowout behavior, and differing CCADS signatures. This paper also reports on the ion signal behavior due to combustion dynamics observed during the equivalence ratio sweeps, including passing through stability boundaries. Tests were performed at 5 atm using an industrial style, lean premixed combustor nozzle, equipped with CCADS electrodes, in a water-cooled, natural gas fueled, acoustically noisy combustor. Testing included sweeps of equivalence ratio from 0.65 to 0.45, crossing one or more stability boundaries. LBO was approached for configurations with a side pilot (on the inlet wall of the combustor, but set away from the premixer) and a centerbody tip pilot. The centerbody tip pilot and the side pilot both helped stabilize combustion, but combustion dynamics still occurred. Incipient LBO was apparent in all cases; however, the different flame structure encountered with each pilot configuration and fuel control strategy made the flame ionization signature differ for each case.

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