A common solution to reducing NOX emissions to meet new emissions regulations has been lean burn combustion. However, with very lean air/fuel (A/F) ratios, both carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions become unacceptably high due to spark misfiring and combustion instabilities. In order to mitigate this, a prechamber ignition system is often used to stabilize combustion at very lean A/F ratios. In this paper, the heat release in a retrofit prechamber system installed on a large bore natural gas engine is examined. The heat release analysis is based on dynamic pressure measurements both in the main chamber and prechamber. The Woschni correlation is utilized to model heat transfer. Based on heat release modeling and test data analysis the following observations are made. Main chamber heat release rates are much more rapid for prechamber ignition compared to spark ignition. During combustion in the prechamber much of the fuel flows into the main chamber un-reacted. About 52% of the mass in the prechamber, at ignition, flows into the main chamber during prechamber combustion. Prechamber total heat release, pressure rise, and maximum jet velocity all increase with increasing prechamber equivalence ratio. Prechamber combustion duration and coefficient of variation of peak pressure are minimized at a prechamber equivalence ratio of about 1.09, which corresponds roughly to the equivalence ratio of highest laminar flame speed. The above performance optimum does not correspond to the equivalence ratio where the most prechamber energy is released.

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