The influence of changes in fuel composition and heating value on the performance of an industrial gas turbine combustor was investigated. The combustor tested was a single cannular combustor for Siemens SGT-400 13.4 MW dry low emission (DLE) engine. Ignition, engine starting, emissions, combustion dynamics and flash back through burner metal temperature monitoring were among the parameters investigated to evaluate the impact of fuel flexibility on combustor performance.

Lean ignition and extinction limits were measured for three fuels with different heat values in term of Wobbe Index (WI): 25, 28.9 and 45 MJ/Sm3 (natural gas). The test results show that the air fuel ratio (AFR) at lean ignition/extinction limits decreases and the margin between the two limits tends to be smaller as fuel heat value decreases. Engine start tests were also performed with a lower heating value fuel and results were found to be comparable to those for engine starting with natural gas.

The combustor was further tested in a high pressure air facility at real engine operating conditions with different fuels covering WIs from 17.5 to 70 MJ/Sm3. The variation in fuel composition and heating value was achieved in a gas mixing plant by blending natural gas with CO2, CO, N2 and H2 (for the fuel with WI lower than natural gas) and C3H8 (for the fuel with WI higher than natural gas).

Test results show that a benefit in NOx reduction can be seen for the lower WI fuels without H2 presence in the fuel and there are no adverse impacts on combustor performance except for the requirement of higher fuel supply pressure, however, this can be easily resolved by minor modification through the fuel injection design.

Test results for the H2 enriched and higher WI fuels show that NOx, combustion dynamics and flash back have been adversely affected and major change in burner design is required. For the H2 enriched fuel, the effect of CO and H2 on combustor performance was also investigated for the fuels having a fixed WI of 29 MJ/Sm3. It is found that H2 dominates the adverse impact on combustor performance. The chemical kinetic study shows that H2 has significant effect on flame speed change and CO has significant effect on flame temperature change.

Although the tests were performed on the Siemens SGT-400 combustion system, the results provide general guidance for the challenge of industrial gas turbine burner design for fuel flexibility.

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