Coal use for generation of electricity is used extensively world-wide accounting for 40% of total power generation. Even with reductions in use over the last 10 years, coal still accounts for 20% of total electrical generation in the United States. An often-overlooked aspect of Pulverized Coal (PC) combustion is the erosion and abrasion of the coal injection nozzles. Currently there are over 300 active PC boilers in the US and over 1000 worldwide, with each boiler having 20–40 high alloy cast injectors. Due to the high velocity of PC injection and associated elevated rates of metal loss, these nozzles require constant replacement. Replacement and costs associated with loss of revenue, required scaffolding and casting can be a significant part of Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of a PC boiler. In addition to the constant requirement for thousands of replacement injection nozzles every year, combustion performance, NOx reduction, carbon conversion and general boiler efficiency will be impacted by hardware that is out of specification, if not replaced in a “timely” manner.

Significant research in the 1980’s [1] provided some insight into the loss-of-metal process during PC injection, but limitations of existing hardware and software prevented more than an empirical methodology to be developed. In parallel with the literature work and research specifically for PC coal erosion rates, generalized efforts were employed and reported [6–9]. Meng [4] summarized model development for solid particles transported by a liquid or gas as highly empirical with little commonality between the models developed by the various researchers. Meng also made specific recommendations for less empiricism in model development methodology.

Although there are several state-of-the-art empirical models [6, 8 & 9] more recently, semi-mechanistic models have been developed to predict solid particle erosion (e.g. Arabnejad et al., [17]) and have been successfully applied to sand erosion and abrasion in pipelines. In the current study, this method is being applied to PC injection nozzles coupled to detailed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. The intent is to quantify nozzle material loss rates, due to impacting coal particles, as a function of geometry, local velocities, and coal properties. The method used is utilizing CFD to model flow of particles and their impingement velocity with the PC nozzles. Then erosion models that are a function of impingement speed, angle, frequency and materials properties to examine erosion rates. The insight gained from the modeling will allow improved nozzle design, increased duty life, more cost-effective supply, and elevated injection velocity. In particular, low NOx coal combustion can be critically dependent on utilization of elevated injection velocities, which previous empirical models discourage.

This paper reports on the application of the erosion equations and methods developed at the Erosion/Corrosion Research Center of The University of Tulsa for predicting solid particle erosion of a PC injection nozzle that shows details of erosion patterns and parameters that are responsible for elevated erosion tendencies in the field. RJM-International is familiar with the nozzle from various applications that are associated with Low NOx operation. The advantages of utilizing semi-mechanistic erosion equations and models coupled with CFD simulations as compared to previous empirical methods are discussed. Shortcomings of applying the existing coal erosion model is also reported along with “next steps” required to successfully apply the method to PC injection nozzle designs for much higher combustion efficiencies than existing ones.

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