Optimisation of Co-Firing of High Moisture Biomass with Coal in a Bubbling Fluidised Bed Combustor

  • Muhammad Akram

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The work presented in this thesis was carried out with a particular view of enhancing the of coal fired fluidised bed hot gas generator (HGG) at the Cantley factory of British Sugar. It covers combustion of coal and biomass and their blends also called co-firing in a fluidised bed combustor. Particularly it focuses on the effect of introduction of moisture as part of fuel or injection of water into the bed on the reduction of excess air to get a stable bed temperature. Although this thesis is focused on increasing the throughput of the HGG, the study has a broad application and can be beneficial in utilising relatively cheap, poor quality,
    unprepared biomass materials. The results of this study can be helpful in devising systems to deal with wastes from different industries in co-combustion with a fuel of higher calorific value such as coal. Thus the study will have dual impact on the industry; addressing waste management issues on one hand and producing useful energy on the other. This may contribute towards meeting the targets of Kyoto Protocol by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (COi) as biomass is thought to be COa neutral.

    The fluidised bed at Cantley is used to dry animal feed and has a design capacity of 40 MW but due to limitations of flow of fluidising gases caused by high flow resistance through sparge pipes, the combustor is running under capacity. Consequently, some of the animal feed has to be dried by using expensive oil fired drier.

    In any combustion system excess air is used to control combustion temperature. In fluidised bed combustion excess air is used to control bed temperature. If the bed is cooled by other means the requirement of excess air can be reduced. This is the basic idea behind this study which is aimed at enhancing the capacity of the HGG by cooling the bed and thus reducing excess air requirements. The excess air thus spared can be used to combust more coal in the bed and thus will reduce dependence on oil fired dryer and will have financial benefits for British Sugar.

    Different fuels including wood pellets, wood chips and sugar industry by-products such as vinasse, raffinate and pressed pulp were fired/cofired with Thoresby coal in a fluidised bed test rig installed at the University of Glamorgan. The blends of wood chips and pressed pulp with coal are co-fired at different moisture contents. The tests were conducted at different thermal inputs at a wide range of excess air levels.

    Most of the work is focusedon the combustion of blends of coal and pressed pulp in different proportions. It was found that the maximum proportion of the pressed pulp in the blend with coal which could be burned successfully in the fluidised bed is 50%. During combustion of different coal-pulp and coal-wood chips blends it was found that excess air requirement is reduced by around 20% in comparison to coal only firing, over the range of the operating conditions tested.

    Because of the presence of potassium in pressed pulp, which could cause agglomeration during combustion in fluidised beds, longer term tests were carried out with 50/50 blend of coal and pulp. No signs of agglomeration were observed when the rig was fired for 8 days for almost 7 hours a day. However, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) analyses of bed samples taken at the end of every day have shown the accumulation of potassium in the bed up to 1%. For comparison purposes tests were also carried out by co-firing coal with raffiante and vinasse and then it was observed that the bed defluidised relatively quickly, within 40 minutes of co-firing. Post experiment SEM analysis confirmed the accumulation of potassium in the bed which was found to be around 8% for raffinate and around 10% for the vinasse experiment.

    It was found that the pulp is difficult to deal with and particularly its feeding into the fluidised bed could be a potential problem. Therefore, injection of water into the bed, a relatively cheaper and adaptable option, was also investigated. It was found that emissions of carbon monoxide due to incomplete combustion or water gas shift reaction would not be a problem as long as the bed temperature is controlled above 800 °C. It was found that the injection of water at a rate of 4.5 1/h into the bed fired at 17 kW reduced the air flow requirement by around 7.5 m3/h which corresponds to a reduction of almost 20% which agrees with the finding with coal-pulp blends co-firing.This excess air can be used to burn around 5 kW equivalent of more coal and thus result in an increase in the thermal capacity by around 30%. Therefore, it may be possible to enhance the thermal capacity of the HGG at Cantley by 30% by injecting water into the bed or by co-firing coal and pulp.
    Date of AwardSept 2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Ward (Supervisor), David (Roy) Garwood (Supervisor) & CK Tan (Supervisor)


    • Biomass energy
    • cola fired fluidised bed hot gas generator
    • HGG
    • Waste products as fuel

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