Plichta, Drew (2013-05). Enhancements of a Combustion Vessel to Determine Laminar Flame Speeds of Hydrocarbon Blends with Helium Dilution at Elevated Temperatures and Pressures. Master's Thesis.
Fuel flexibility in gas turbines is of particular importance because of the main fuel source, natural gas. Blends of methane, ethane, and propane are big constituents in natural gas and consequently are of particular interest. With this level of importance comes the need for baseline data such as laminar flame speed of said fuels. While flame speeds at standard temperature and pressure have been extensively studied in the literature, experimental data at turbine-like conditions are still lacking currently. This thesis discusses the theory behind laminar flames; new data acquisition techniques; temperature and pressure capability improvements; measured flame speeds; and a discussion of the results including stability analysis. The measured flame speeds were those of methane, ethane, and propane fuel blends, as well as pure methane, at an elevated pressure of 5 atm and temperatures of 298 and 473 K, using a constant-volume, cylindrical combustion vessel. The current Aramco mechanism developed in conjunction with National University of Ireland Galway compared favorably with the data, while the literature data showed discrepancies at stoichiometric to rich conditions. An in-depth flame speed uncertainty analysis yielded a wide range of values from 0.5 cm/s to 21.5 cm/s. It is well known that high-pressure experiments develop flame instabilities when air is used as the oxidizer. In this study, the hydrodynamic instabilities were restrained by using a high diluent-to-oxygen ratio. The thermal-diffusive instabilities were inhibited by using helium as the diluent. To characterize this flame stability, the Markstein length and Lewis number were calculated for the presented conditions. The resultant positive Markstein lengths showed a low propensity of flame speed to flame stretch, while the larger-than-unity Lewis numbers showed the relatively higher diffusivity of helium to that of nitrogen.