Environmental concerns and the drive to reduce the dependence on petroleum brought the use of renewable energies to the forefront. Biomass appears as a very interesting alternative for direct conversion into heat. In this context, densified forms of biomass such as pellets are of great relevance because of their easy of use, high efficiency and low emissions.

The practical interest in pellet combustion has been driven by the domestic heating sector, which favors the characteristics that are intrinsic of this fuel, despite its relatively higher price. However, the growing costs of fossil fuels have extended the interest of pellet fuels into industrial applications, including co-firing in power stations.

A fast growing market includes the retrofitting of existing fuel boilers and furnaces with alternative burners that can be fitted into existing combustion systems. Such an approach has proved very attractive due to the low installation cost and the growing existence of fuels produced in the vicinity of the end user. This involves in most cases a custom built application which requires a high level of flexibility to variable operating conditions.

This work reports on the development of a 120 kW pellet burner. A prototype of the burner was built that enables the independent control of the air supply into various regions of the combustion chamber and an accurate supply of fuel. The burner was fitted into a testing furnace of cylindrical shape oriented horizontally. Its diameter is 0.5 m and is constructed in a modular fashion with a total length of 2.2 m. All the facility is fully instrumented and includes: temperature data in various locations inside the chamber, flue gases emissions (CO, CO2, NOx) measurements and flow rates.

The objective of the test and development is to optimize the combustion over the thermal load range of the facility. The excess air, fuel supply (primary and secondary) and the shape of the furnace grate enable the optimization of the burner with CO emissions of approximately 50 ppm, well below the acceptable limits.

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