The U.S. Department of Energy Turbines Program has established very stringent NOx emissions goals of less than 3 ppmv for future turbine power generation. These future turbine power plants may operate on hydrogen-rich fuels, such as coal-derived synthesis gas (syngas), or pure hydrogen derived from shifting the syngas. Achieving these goals is expected to require improved combustor concepts which may be dramatically different than current combustor designs. Significant and costly experimental testing is usually required to assess new combustor concepts. Ideally, new concepts could be evaluated with numeric simulations to reduce development time and cost. However, current simulation capabilities are not sufficient to reliably capture the effects of fuel variations on flame extinction, emissions levels, and dynamic stability. Furthermore, very little data with controlled boundary conditions are available to check numeric predictions at actual turbine engine conditions, or simply to assess combustor performance without ambiguous boundary conditions. This paper presents a description of the development and operation of an optically-accessible research combustor, which is designed to provide fundamental combustion data at elevated pressure and inlet air temperature, and with precisely determined thermal, acoustic, and flow boundary conditions. The effects of fuel composition variations are investigated by blending of controlled quantities of hydrogen with natural gas. Recent test results — emissions data, dynamics data, and heat losses for hydrogen addition from 0 to 40% by fuel volume at two combustor pressures — and a description of future testing are also presented. The results show that the addition of hydrogen to natural gas in percentages as low as 5% of total fuel volume can significantly decrease the lean extinction limit, and promote stable operation at lower equivalence ratios while promoting lower NOx emissions. Dynamic pressures were measured, but combustion dynamics were not present due to the combustor configuration. The effect of heat losses on flame temperature and emissions were quantified.

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