Advanced Gas Turbine cycles for high efficiency and sustainable future conventional generation

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Mechanical Engineering


Gas Turbines (GTs) will figure prominently in complimenting the intermittent power generated by renewables, while varied fuel sources by 2050 are likely to include biofuels (the former a mixture of methane, carbon mono- and di-oxide and nitrogen - essentially low calorific value fuel) and perhaps shale gas and hydrogen. In meeting CO2 emissions targets, there will be a premium on designs that (i) have the highest fuel conversion efficiency and (ii) integrate with carbon capture and storage. Such designs include either humid air turbines (HAT) or schemes with extensive exhaust, or flue, gas recirculation together with the use of oxygen-enriched air. There is extensive techno-economic evaluation of these designs with no preferred 'winner' and it is likely that each will find extensive application. Thus, there will be a need to design combustion chambers to burn low calorific gases, with "oxidant" streams including up to 30% (w/w) of steam, pure oxygen or oxygen heavily diluted with Carbon dioxide. Such changes present formidable difficulties to flame stability and extinction. The design of low NOx combustion chambers has shown the value of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in developing commercially viable designs and this trend will strengthen. Finally, the value of suitable sensors during development has proved its worth. This research identifies the gaps in existing physical understanding, CFD and optical sensors, to be addressed by "fundamental research", that need to be filled so that step change GT technologies can be developed by industry. This proposal will develop tools and understanding as follows:
(i) On-line, near real time optical sensor to measure the 'Wobbe' index of fuel entering the gas turbine, since fast knowledge of the calorific value of highly variable bio- fuels is important for control of future GTs.
(ii) Flame stability and extinction is associated with the existence of a critical 'rate of stretch' and the largest laminar flame speed that the flame can experience due to the aerodynamic flow field of the combustors. Designers, using CFD for flow prediction in combustion chambers, need to know these critical values for the range of fuels and oxidants, which will be in use up to 2050. Thus, this proposal will obtain measurements of these values in premixed and non-premixed flames as a function of preheat and pressure and analyse the process of flame extinction in laboratory and pilot scale model combustors using, amongst other instruments, detection of CO and formaldehyde by planar laser induced fluorescence.
(iii) Low NOx emissions require the fuel to be well premixed and it is useful for development engineers to have access to an instrument, which can measure local fuel/air ratio on test stands. Building on previous successful development of an instrument based on natural chemiluminescent emissions from a flame, there will be an evaluation of its calibration as a function of pressure and humidity, the latter in the context of a HAT gas turbine design.
(iv) Thermoacoustic instability is a destructive high intensity 'limit cycle', which is either avoided operationally or designs are improved largely by cut and try methods. Until recently, the transition to this limit cycle and the limit cycle itself were characterised by frequency and phase spectral analysis. Our recent work has shown that non-linear time series analysis reveals that transition to high amplitude oscillations retains a structure as determined by chaos theory. We will use this form of analysis to identify the fluid mechanical structures responsible for this behaviour, with the aim of devising methods to at least warn gas turbine operators of impending thermoacoustic instability.
(v) The best available LES CFD methods will be evaluated using the measurements in the counterflow and model combustor geometries. There will also be direct assessment, through the measurements, of the 'sub-grid' contribution of LES methodology to calculations

Planned Impact

Using the RCUK Typology, this project has impact in the five fields shown below:
- Environmental sustainability, protection & impact
- Commercialisation & Exploitation
- Improving social welfare
- Evidence based policy making & influencing public policies
- Increasing public engagement with research & related societal issues
The social, environmental and economic importance of energy efficient and sustainable power generation is significant. This project will take an innovative and coordinated approach, pushing forward towards novel, energy efficient thermodynamic cycles for power generation using gas turbines and integration of biomass-derived low calorific value sustainable fuels. It will do so in a way which is both fundamental, by working on novel ideas which are applicable across a broad range of applications of whatever scale, and specific, by developing optical sensors for control of the operation process. The beneficiaries from this work will therefore be:

Society because of:
- The influence on improved evidence-based policy making
- Energy efficiency and sustainability
- The ideas underlying this project have the potential to deliver step change to current technology for power generation.

Industry and the UK Economy generally:
- The broad power generation industrial sector (e.g. gas turbine manufacturers, power generators) because of our detailed focus on the physical processes of the combustion technologies that will allow step change in the efficiency. During the project we will generate detailed information about a wide range of processes of direct relevance to the power generation industry. These will be of significant and immediate benefit as they fit directly into the Industry's own development plans. This is part of a strong national trend towards reduction of CO2 emissions.
- Transport and chemical processing industries through improved understanding of combustion processes, novel control tools (e.g. optical sensors) and improved computational models.
The above will generate impact across many sectors over the longer term because the UK will lead the way in developing new and validated methodologies for energy efficient power generation in the context of applying leading edge technology.


10 25 50
Description (i) A sensor has been developed that can monitor the variation of supplied fuel blends to gas turbine combustors. This can lead to the development of new control approaches for flexible fuel operation in power stations. (ii) Chemiluminescence sensor for monitoring of air-fuel ratio of gas turbine combustors flames has been developed and applied to flames of different fuel blends successfully. This can lead to the improved sensor for flame monitoring. (iii) Forewarning algorithm developed that can predict forthcoming initiation of combustion oscillations.
Exploitation Route The project is still ongoing. The forwarning algorithm for prediction of transition to combustion induced oscillations has been tested successfully in an industrial environment. This is now considered for control of transition to combustion oscillations. The sensor for the monitoring of fuel blends has been demonstrated to industrial partners, but this has not led yet to industrial implementation. The sensor for flame monitoring has been demonstrated to industrial partners, but this has not led yet to industrial implementation.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Energy,Environment,Transport

Description The research has been planned together with industrial partners to ensure that the findings can influence the efficient operation of conventional power stations. Industrial co-supervision is also in place to guide the direction of the research towards the industrial interests. The developed data analysis of the time-dependent pressure of gas turbine combustors has been applied to commercial high pressure combustors. This analysis demonstrated the ability to predict the transition to combustion oscillations with about 1 second forewarning, which can be used for control of gas turbine combustors to avoid the initiation of combustion oscillations. A joined publication with industry has been completed in this field, following the industrial secondment of the PhD student to Siemens industrial site.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd 
Organisation Siemens AG
Department Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Control of combustion oscillations in gas turbine combustors. Development of method for data analysis of measured pressure fluctuations in combustion chamber of industrial combustor. Ability to predict initiation of combustion oscillations with enough warning to be able to control the operation of combustor and avoid combustion oscillations.
Collaborator Contribution Supporting PhD student at our laboratory. Hosting of PhD student at industrial site. Engineering support during PhD student visit. Participation of personnel at meetings.
Impact Development of method for data analysis of measured pressure fluctuations in combustion chamber of industrial combustor. Ability to predict initiation of combustion oscillations with enough warning to be able to control the operation of combustor and avoid combustion oscillations.
Start Year 2015