Stability Limits and Exhaust Emissions from Ammonia Flames in a Swirl Combustor at Elevated Pressures

  • Abdulrahman A. Khateeb

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Intimate knowledge of ammonia fueling gas turbines is of crucial importance for power generation sectors, owing to its carbon-free nature and high hydrogen capacity. Anticipated challenges include, among others, the difficulty to stabilize ammonia flames and on top of that the propensity of ammonia flames to produce large quantities of nitrogen monoxide emissions. In gas turbine devices, combustion in practice occurs in a turbulent swirl flow and at elevated pressure conditions. The stability of ammonia flames and the production of NO emissions are sensitive to such parameters. This body of work focuses on the development of a swirl combustor, ~30kW thermal power, for investigating behaviors of flame stability limits and NO emissions from the combustion of ammonia fuel with mixtures of hydrogen or methane at pressure conditions up to 5 bar. Data show that increasing the ammonia addition increases the equivalence ratio at the lean blowout limit but also reduces the flames’ propensity to flashback. If the volume fraction of ammonia in the fuel blend exceeds a critical value, increasing the equivalence ratio at a fixed bulk velocity does not yield flashback and rich blow-out occurs instead. This significantly widens the range of equivalence ratios yielding stable ammonia flames. Regardless of the fuel blend, increasing the pressure increases the propensity to flashback if the bulk velocity remains constant. Pure ammonia-air flames are stable under elevated pressures, and the stable range of equivalence ratio becomes wider as the pressure increases. The NO emissions are measured for large ranges of equivalence ratios, ammonia fractions, and pressures. Regardless of the ammonia fraction, data show that competitively low NO emissions can be found for slightly rich equivalence ratios. Good NO performance is also found for very lean ammonia-hydrogen-air mixtures, regardless of the pressure. NO mole fractions for lean ammonia mixtures can be reduced as pressure increases, demonstrating the strong potential of fueling gas turbines with ammonia-hydrogen mixtures.
Date of AwardNov 2020
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorWilliam Roberts (Supervisor)


  • combustion
  • hydrogen
  • carbon-free
  • gas turbine
  • flame

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