Article | April 6, 2016

Optimizing Operations With Correct O2 Probe Placement In Coal-Fired Stoker Boilers

Source: Emerson
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Optimizing Operations With Correct O2 Probe Placement In Coal-Fired Stoker Boilers

Hi and welcome to Analytic Expert. I’m Neil Widmer. Recently on our Emerson Exchange 365 site, I’ve fielded some interesting questions from customers and I thought the answers could be useful to you. So here are some application solutions that may save you money and improve your boiler operations.

An engineer from JANSEN, a combustion and boiler engineering service company in the Western U.S., recently asked a question regarding a Rosemount O2 probe application. Their client operates several stoker coal-fired boilers. On each boiler they use a single 6888 O2 probe located downstream of the ID fan for fuel-air control. The service company encouraged the client to move the probe closer to the furnace due to air infiltration in the back passes. The concern is that air in-leakage can lead to inaccurate furnace excess oxygen measurement and boiler performance issues. The boiler operator said they tried the probes in locations closer to the furnace, but it “fouled” within months and they feel a clean stream downstream of the ID fan is a better option. The engineering service company asked if we are aware of conditions in a stoker coal fired application having a negative impact on the functionality of an oxygen instrument.

I responded that Rosemount agrees with the service company’s recommendation to move the probe to reduce boiler performance issues. In our experience, the probe should work very well upstream of the ID fan. Assuming that the fuel is typical bituminous stoker coal, there is no reason that our probe should not work perfectly when installed closer to the combustion process. Our probe can be located close to the boiler furnace exit and is often installed immediately downstream of the economizer convective pass. We have dozens of our probes in these exact stoker applications and they work very well.

For most of these stoker applications, the snubber diffuser works fine without ash fouling issues. If the flue gas chemistry plugs the snubber diffuser too quickly, then a ceramic or Hastelloy diffuser would be another option. Click HERE to learn more about the different diffuser options. I also mentioned that our latest model 6888A O2 system has a plugged diffuser diagnostic option which could help with predictive maintenance.

Another question came in asking about particulate or erosion due to ash content as a result of moving the probe closer to the point of combustion. There is more coal fly ash upstream and the fly ash will abrade the stainless steel probe over time. Rosemount offers two options to increase probe life: an abrasion resistant probe, or an abrasive shield which covers and protects the probe. Customers can also provide their own abrasion protection. The cost of abrasion protection and replacing probes is typically minor compared to damaging the boiler from operating at improper air-fuel ratios. Therefore we would not recommend installing the probes downstream of the ID fan to reduce abrasion.

An accurate measurement of furnace exhaust excess O2 level is critical to understanding the furnace air-fuel ratio. Some of the potential boiler losses associated with operating the furnace too fuel-rich include delayed heat release, high furnace exit gas temperatures (FEGT), and fuel-rich corrosive gases which can cause generator tubes erosion, corrosion, and excessive fouling and slagging. These impacts can result in lost availability due to tube leaks or slag and clinker build-up, lower efficiency, and increased emissions like opacity, CO, and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). On the other hand operating too fuel-lean (i.e., with excessive combustion air) reduces efficiency and can increase emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and carry-over of particulate fly ash, as well as increase fan auxiliary power consumption and air pollution control device throughput, and last but not least, it can limit boiler output.

One advantage of stoker boilers is that the coal is relatively large; typically 50% between ¼” and 2” mesh size. The coal burns on the grate and results in lower ash carry-over than pulverized coal-fired boilers where coal is predominantly burned in suspension. We have thousands of probes and decades of experience in pulverized coal boiler applications too. For these applications, the Hastelloy or ceramic diffuser is always recommended to increase time between filter maintenance. 6888 O2 probes with these diffuser options have proven to be highly accurate and reliable in these harsh gas environments. Ultimately, the value of an accurate furnace O2 measurement far outweighs the lifetime cost of probe maintenance, repair, and operation.