The application of ethanol as a biomass-derived fuel in OPRA’s 2 MWe class OP16 radial gas turbine has been studied both numerically and experimentally. The main purpose of this work is to validate the numerical model for future work on biofuel combustion.

For the experimental investigation a modified OP16 gas turbine combustor has been used. This reverse-flow tubular combustor is a diffusion type combustor that has been adjusted to be suitable for numerical validation. Two series of ethanol burning experiments have been conducted at atmospheric pressure with a thermal input ranging from 16 to 72 kW. Exhaust gas temperature and emissions (CO, CO2, O2, NOx) were measured at various fuel flow rates while keeping the air flow rate and air temperature constant. In addition, the temperature profile of the combustor liner has been determined by applying thermochromic paint.

CFD simulations have been performed in Ansys Fluent for four different operating conditions considered in the experiments. The simulations are based on a 3D RANS code. Fuel droplets representing the fuel spray are tracked throughout the domain while they interact with the gas phase. A temperature profile based on measurements has been prescribed on the liner to account for heat transfer through the flame tube wall. Detailed combustion chemistry is included by using the steady laminar flamelet model.

The predicted levels of CO2 and O2 in the exhaust gas are in good agreement with the experimental results. The calculated and measured exhaust gas temperatures show a close match for the low power condition, but more significant deviations are observed in the higher load cases. Also, the comparison pointed out that the CFD model needs to be improved regarding the prediction of the pollutants CO and NOx.

Chemiluminescence of CH radicals in the flame front indicated that the flame extends up to the liner, suggesting the presence of fuel near the surface. However, this result was not confirmed by liner temperature measurements using thermochromic paint.

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