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Powder Technology 120 2001.

105112
www.elsevier.comrlocaterpowtec

Mathematical modelling and simulation of bubbling fluidised


bed gasifiers
Stefan Hamel ) , Wolfgang Krumm
Lehrstuhl fur Energie-und Umwelterfahrenstechnik, Institut fur
Energietechnik, Uniersitat
Siegen, Paul-Bonatz-Str. 9-11, D-57068 Siegen, Germany

Abstract
A mathematical model for simulation of gasification processes of solid fuels in atmospheric or pressurised bubbling fluidised beds
incorporating bed and freeboard hydrodynamics, fuel drying and devolatilization, and chemical reaction kinetics is presented. The model
has been used to simulate four bubbling fluidised bed gasifiers, described in literature, of different scales from atmospheric laboratory
scale up to pressurised commercial scale, processing brown coal, peat and sawdust. The gasifiers have been operated within a wide range
of parameters using air, airrsteam or oxygenrsteam as gasification agent, operating with or without recirculation of fines at operating
pressures up to 2.5 MPa. The simulation results for overall carbon conversion, temperature and concentrations of gaseous species agree
sufficiently well with published experimental data. q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Gasification; Pressurised fluidised bed; Biomass; Coal

1. Introduction
The traditional approach necessary to establish commercial plant technology is based on comprehensive experimental investigations, progressing from a laboratory scale
test unit to a pilot scale plant, before building a full-scale
commercial demonstration plant. For process optimisation,
an extensive investigation of the plant behaviour depending on various operating parameters is required for each
scale up step. To support this optimisation procedure,
mathematical models are helpful to reduce the temporal
and financial efforts. Pre-condition is a reliable simulation
tool, which includes the mathematical formulation of all
important chemical and physical processes by describing
their dependency on operating parameters and their interdependencies.
As an extension of former works that have been carried
out in the field of bubbling and circulating fluidised bed
combustion at the Institute of Energy Technology of the
University of Siegen, a comprehensive model for pressurised bubbling fluidised bed gasification reactors is presented. The model includes bed and freeboard hydrodynamics, kinetic models for drying and devolatilization, and
for chemical reactions. The comparison between experi-

)
Corresponding author. Tel.: q49-271-740-2107, q49-271-740-2634;
fax: q49-271-740-2636.
E-mail address: S.Hamel@et.mb.uni-siegen.de S. Hamel..

mental results of an atmospheric laboratory scale gasifier


processing peat w1x, of a small pilot scale pressurised
gasifier using brown coal, peat and sawdust w2x, of a
High-Temperature Winkler HTW. pressurised gasification
plant w3x and an HTW commercial scale demonstration
plant processing brown coal w4,5x with simulation results
are used to discuss the quality of the presented mathematical model.

2. Model description
The presented model is the result of an advanced development based on the works on atmospheric bubbling fluidised beds for coal combustion w6x, sewage sludge combustion w7x, and on works on atmospheric and pressurised
circulating fluidised bed plants w8,9x. The development of
the model, the applied formulas and the mathematical
solution procedure have been reported in detail w10x.
Therefore, the sources of the applied submodels are referenced and only a short description of the main features is
given here.
2.1. Cell model
The gasifiers and other required components, as for
example, the cyclone and connection pipes, are divided
into a number of in-series arranged discrete balance segments, so-called cells. According to the two-phase theory,

0032-5910r01r$ - see front matter q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 0 3 2 - 5 9 1 0 0 1 . 0 0 3 5 6 - 4

106

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

each cell is subdivided into a solid-free bubble phase and


an emulsion phase. The schematic presentation of the
subdivision of the gasifier into cells and the gas, solid and
energy flows in each cell is shown in Fig. 1. The mass
flow balances for the bubble and the emulsion phase are
separately solved. The energy balance is formulated for
each cell. The energy transfer caused by feed and carry out
of solid and gas flow, by energy conversion through
chemical reactions and through wall heat transfer surfaces
is taken into consideration. To design this simulation program highly flexible, each cell is theoretically provided
with gas, solid and energy flows from neighbour cells as
well as with inputs for gas and solid feed from outside,
solid recirculation from distant cells, as for example, from
the cyclone cells, as well as outlets for solid discharge
flow. In practice, solid discharge or gasification agent
supply has not to be considered in every cell, but this
model structure enables one to project any geometric
reactor configurations.
The fluid dynamic model for the bubbling fluidised bed
allows to estimate the average volume of the bubble phase,
which is used for a proportional separation of the cell
volume in a bubble and an emulsion phase. Due to the
assumption that the bubble is simplified, supposed to be
solid-free, only homogeneous chemical reactions have to
be considered inside the bubble phase. Homogeneous and
heterogeneous chemical reactions have to be regarded in
the emulsion phase consisting of gas and solid. Besides the
inert bed material, an open number of solids can be
handled with this simulation program. The balance equations have to be formulated for each solid type like coke or
limestone. Each of the considered active solids is allocated
to heterogeneous conversion reactions. This strategy enables to take into account different kinetic parameters of
various cokes in case of co-gasification. Each regarded
solid type in this simulation is represented by a definite
number of discrete particle diameters.

2.2. Fluid dynamic model


The calculated values from the fluid dynamical model,
e.g. upward and downward gas and solid flows, the porosity, the residence times of gas and solid inside the reactor,
and the gas exchange between bubble and emulsion phase,
are important boundary conditions for other submodels,
e.g. for heat transfer, drying and pyrolysis, and reaction
rates.
The fluid flow inside classic gasrsolid fluidised beds is
decisively determined by the formation and the movement
of the bubbles. Ascending bubbles cause a vertical mixing
of solid particles, the average voidage depends on size and
rise velocity of the bubbles. The calculation of the bed
hydrodynamics depending on the bed height above the
distributor is based on the model for atmospheric bubbling
fluidised beds proposed by Hilligardt w11x improved by
Wein w12x. The influence of increased system pressure on
the bubble size and velocity is taken into account following the approach of Heinbockel w9x to expand the Hilligardt
model w11x by keeping the atmospheric state unchanged
and using the bubble parameters, which have been determined by experiments w13x. These values qualitatively
represent the bubble parameters up to a pressure of 1.6
MPa.
The experimental results of Olowson and Almstedt w13x
and the observations of Hoffmann and Yates w14x and
Rowe et al. w15x indicate that the average bubble size is
growing with increasing pressure passes a maximum before a decrease of the bubble size with increasing pressure
can be observed.
Bursting bubbles at the fluidised bed surface eject inert
solid particles as well as active particles from the fluidised
bed into the freeboard. The elutriation of fine char particles
leads to inefficient carbon conversion of fluidised bed
gasification. A mathematical model based on a probability
approach for bubble behaviour near the bed surface w16,17x

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the applied cell model.

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

is applied to predict the mass flux from the fluidised bed


into the freeboard. The entrained mass consists of active
and inert particles due to the calculated mass fractions
inside the fluidised bed. The gas flow in the freeboard
above the fluidised bed surface is described using the
so-called ghost bubble approach according to Pemberton
and Davidson w18x and Hamdullahpur and Mackay w19x,
which was also applied successfully by others w2022x.
The determination of the solid movement and residence
time as well as the solid concentration profile in the
freeboard is based on the trajectory calculation for different particle classes. The equation for the particle motion
considering the active forces inertial, buoyancy, weight
and drag force for a single particle is solved for the inert
and active particles, which are furthermore superposed
with a particle size distribution different for inert and
active material, an initial particle starting velocity distribution and a particle shape distribution. The particle starting
velocity is assumed by a Gaussian distribution according
to an approach from Levy et al. w23x. The deviation of the
spherical particle shape, which is usually assumed, is
taking into account by using a method proposed by Haider
and Levenspiel w24x for calculating the drag coefficient
depending on the particle sphericity. Based on the trajectory calculation for different particle classes, the solid
concentration profile in the freeboard and the elutriation of
the active and inert particles is determined.
2.3. Drying and deolatilization
Fuel drying and devolatilization and combustion or
gasification of the volatile and solid pyrolysis residuals
usually occur in the mentioned sequence. But certainly, a
temporal superposed proceeding is possible; for example,
the devolatilization of large fuel particles starts at the outer
surface although the drying process of the wet core is still
lasting. Knowledge of the kinetics of drying and devolatilization in combination with the fluid dynamics

is important for a better interpretation of variations in


operation behaviour using moist fuel. Under certain circumstances, reactor behaviour, i.e. temperature profile, is
decisively affected by the vertical location of water evaporation and volatile release. Therefore, it is necessary to
consider the fuel feed location, the fuel particle size distribution, the fuel moisture content and kinetic parameters of
drying and devolatilization in combination with the fluid
dynamics to calculate the water and volatile release as a
function of reactor height.
To calculate simultaneous fuel drying and devolatilization of fuel particles, the model proposed by Agarwal et al.
w25x is applied. Assuming that drying takes place at a
boundary moving from the outer surface to the centre of
the particle, an unsteady-state heat conduction equation in
spherical coordinates with a convective boundary condition is solved analytically. The determined temperature
profile in the dried shell is used in a numerical integration
over the volume of particle to calculate the volatile release
using a non-isothermal fuel decomposition kinetic. The
amount of volatile matter released is calculated using the
distributed activation energy model of Anthony and
Howard w26x. The coupled drying and devolatilization
model of Agarwal et al. w25x was successfully applied by
Dersch w8x, modelling a circulating fluidised bed combustor firing wet brown coal.
The yields of char, gas and tar from the pyrolysis of
brown coal are estimated according to experimental results
from literature obtained in a pressurised fluidised bed
operating at pressures up to 2.5 MPa w27x. The sum of the
tars released during pyrolysis is simplified represented by
two-model components. The model components are two
different higher hydrocarbons, which are composed in that
way to obtain the molar HrC ratio according to the
experimental determined molar HrC ratio of the pyrolysis
tar of brown coal.
The products from the fluidised bed pyrolysis of peat is
estimated due to the results reported in Ref. w28x. In the

Table 1
Considered chemical reactions
D HR

Reference

R2
R3
R4
R5

1
2
2
O 2y
CO q
y 1 CO 2
Fc 2
Fc
Fc
C q H 2 O CO q H 2
C q 2 H 2 CH 4
C q CO 2 2CO
CO q 1r2 O 2 CO 2

y393.5 - DH R - y110.5
in kJrmol C
q131.4 kJrmol C
y74.9 kJrmol C
q172.5 kJrmol C
y283 kJrmol CO

R6
R7
R8
R9
R10
R11

H 2 q 1r2 O 2 H 2 O
CH 4 q 3r2 O 2 CO q 2 H 2 O
CO q H 2 O H 2 q CO 2
CH 4 q H 2 O CO q 3 H 2
Tar q O 2 CO q H 2
Tar q H 2 O CO q H 2 q CH 4

y241.9 kJrmol H 2
y519,4 kJrmol CH 4
y41.1 kJrmol CO
q206.3 kJrmol CH 4
D HR - 0
D HR ) 0

kinetic parameters: Hobbs et al. w29x;


mechanism factor Fc : Field et al. w30x
Hobbs et al. w29x
Hobbs et al. w29x
Weeda w31x
bubble: Hottel et al. w32x; emulsion:
Hayhurst and Tucker w33x
Jensen et al. w34x
Jensen et al. w34x
Chen et al. w35x
Chen et al. w35x
Siminski ref. in Smoot and Smith w36x
bubble: Serio et al. w37x; emulsion:
Corella et al. w38x

No.
R1

Chemical reaction
Cq

107

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

108

case of sawdust, several literature sources and own experimental results are used to estimate the product yields. A
detailed description of the evaluation of the available
literature data is given in Ref. w10x.

Besides the heterogeneous gasification reactions no.


R2R4 Table 1., the char combustion reaction no. R1. is
considered because the simulated HTW gasification reactors are operated in autothermal mode. The required heat
for driving the endothermic carbonsteam R2. and the
carboncarbon dioxide R4. reactions is provided by the
exothermic combustion of char and volatiles with air or
oxygen. Furthermore, homogeneous oxidation of carbon
monoxide R5., hydrogen R6. and methane R7. is included. Watergas shift reaction R8. and methanation

2.4. Chemical reaction kinetics


The products of fuel drying and pyrolysis water, char,
gases and tar are reacting with the gasification agent and
among each other. The chemical reactions assumed to take
place in the fluidised bed gasifier are listed in Table 1.
Table 2
Main operating parameters of the different simulated gasifiers

Reactor height
Freeboard B
Simulation no.
Fuel a
Pressure
Fuel feed
Primary air feed
Secondary air feed
Steam feed
ERc
Recirculation of fines
Fuel properties
W
A dry.
VM daf.
C dry.
H dry.
O dry.
N dry.
S dry.

HTW pressurised
gasification plant w39x

HTW demonstration
plant w39x

Pressurised fluidised bed gasifier according to


Kurkela and Stahlberg w2x

14.5
0.6
LU
RB
2.5
3377
airrH 2 O b

O2
RB
2.5
6859
O 2 rH 2 O b

2.75
BE
RB
1.0
25,769
O 2 rH 2 O b

0.337
yes

0.268
yes

0.238
yes

3.7
0.25
KU1
RB
0.5
46.9
51.8
30.1
6.8
0.33
no

16.9
11.41
53.42
61.5
4.1
21.8
0.68
0.51

15.8
8.31
52.7
62.9
4.03
23.3
0.88
0.58

12.4
12.1
53.38
61.1
4.4
20.7
0.7
1.0

11.8
4.3
53.0
63.8
4.6
26.2
0.8
0.3

KU2
RB
0.5
41.4
51.6
37.5
9.0
0.40
yes

KU3
RB
0.5
41.4
51.4
46.5
6.8
0.44
yes

KU4
RB
0.7
49.0
62.2
42.8
11.3
0.41
yes

KU5
FP
0.5
68.8
43.8
49.5

0.31
no

KU6
FP
0.5
65.5
60.7
21.9
15.5
0.29
no

KU7
FP
0.5
61.6
53.3
31.9
5.4
0.32
no

KU8
FP
0.5
63.7
48.1
46.9

0.37
no

11.7

11.9

11.8

16.1
4.3
68.4
54.5
5.6
33.6
1.8
0.25

14.8

15.9

18.5

Pressurised fluidised bed gasifier according


to Kurkela and Stahlberg w2x

Fluidised bed gasifier according


to Leppalahti
and Kurkela w1x

Reactor height
Freeboard B
Simulation no.
Fuel a
Pressure
Fuel feed
Primary air feed
Secondary air feed
Steam feed
ERc
Recirculation of fines

3.7
0.25
KU9
FP
0.7
76.3
62.7
35.7
18.7
0.30
no

3.65
0.158
LPA
FP
0.1
11.2
12.5

0.26
no

Fuel properties
W
A dry.
VM daf.
C dry.
H dry.
O dry.
N dry.
S dry.

16.2
4.3
68.4
54.5
5.6
33.6
1.8
0.25

K10
FP
1.0
62.5
65.2
34.0
27.0
0.29
no

K11
FP
0.5
45.0
51.4
27.7
6.5
0.40
yes

K12
FP
0.4
26.5
38.9
10.4
7.9
0.43
yes

K13
FP
0.5
50.2
47.0
41.6
7.6
0.41
yes

K14
SD
0.4
42.8
39.1
11.6
2.9
0.28
no

K15
SD
0.4
40.0
37.6
22.3
12.8
0.39
no

15.5

15.7

16.0

16.1

11.3
0.2
83
50.2
6.1
43.4
0.1
0

5.9

RB s rhenish brown coal; FP s finnish peat; SD s sawdust.


The gasification agent is fed at up to 10 different locations into the reactor.
c
ER s equivalent O 2 -ratio.
b

15.2
5.2
68.4
54.3
5.7
33.1
1.5
0.2

LPB
FP
0.1
10.3
10.4
1.1

0.25
no

LPC
FP
0.1
11.7
12.5
3.5

0.32
no

LPD
FP
0.1
10.7
12.9

0.26
yes

LPE
FP
0.1
9.8
13.0

0.29
yes

10.7

15.2

8.4

8.4

m
m

MPa
kgrh
N m3 rh
N m3rh
kgrh

wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%

m
m

MPa
kgrh
N m3 rh
N m3 rh
kgrh

wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%
wt.%

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

109

Fig. 2. Comparison of the different scale up levels of the simulated fluidised bed gasifiers including the preferred cell structure.

R9. are calculated by a kinetic expression proposed by


Chen et al. w35x. They determined experimentally the kinetic rate parameters taking into account the catalytic
influence of coal ash in a fluidised bed reactor. The
conversion of tars are estimated applying kinetic rate
expressions for oxidation R10. and decomposition in the
presence of steam R11..

3. Description of the simulated reactors


The laboratory scale pressurised fluidised bed gasifier
was used by Kurkela and Stahlberg w2x to study the gasifi-

cation of low grade fuels, peat and waste wood at operating pressures from 0.4 up to 1.0 MPa. A detailed description of the reactor, the operating parameters and the
experimental results are reported in Ref. w2x. Experimental
results of the gasification of peat in the atmospheric laboratory scale gasifier are described by Leppalahti
and Kur
kela w1x. The data necessary for simulation of this two
gasifiers are taken from the literature sources mentioned
above.
The original measurement data of the HTW pressurised
gasification plant and of the HTW commercial scale
demonstration plant are provided by the company Rheinbraun and its engineering partner Krupp-Uhde. The HTW

Fig. 3. Calculated results in comparison with experimental data of airrsteam gasification of the HTW pressurised gasification reactor simulation no. ALUB
according to Table 2..

110

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

pressurised gasification plant was designed to operate at a


system pressure of 2.5 MPa and a maximum throughput of
6.5 tons brown coalrh. Plant operation with airrsteam as
gasification agent was possible as well as operation with
oxygenrsteam w3x.
In Rheinbrauns commercial scale, HTW demonstration
plant gas for methanol synthesis was produced from Rhenish brown coal continuously from 1986 to 1997. The plant
worked at an operating pressure of 1.0 MPa with a maximum throughput of 30 tons brown coalrh. With the aim to
produce synthesis, gas oxygen and steam are feed as
gasification agents w4,5x. The main operating parameters
and fuel properties for the different gasifiers are listed in
Table 2. The four gasifiers are displayed schematically in
Fig. 2 including the preferred cell structure required by the
simulation program.

4. Simulation results
The simulation results of temperature and gas concentrations depending on the reactor height are displayed
exemplary for run number ALUB see Table 2. in Fig. 3 for
the HTW pressurised gasification reactor. To represent the
complete calculated results, the cells of the connection
pipe between cyclone and reactor see Fig. 2. and the
cyclone cells itself are appended vertical at the top of the
reactor cells see left sketch in Fig. 3..
Comparisons of the average freeboard temperature, the
overall carbon conversion and the molar fractions of CO,
H 2 , H 2 O and CH 4 in product gas are shown in Fig. 4af.
For the two laboratory scale gasifiers w1,2x, only one data
point for the freeboard temperature is published. Therefore, in Fig. 4a, the average value of the calculated free-

Fig. 4. Comparison of the predicted average freeboard temperature, the overall carbon conversion and the CO, H 2 , H 2 O and CH 4 concentrations with
measured data.

S. Hamel, W. Krummr Powder Technology 120 (2001) 105112

board temperature profile is compared with the published


temperature. After adjusting the overall heat loss of the
reactors according to the published overall energy balance
for the laboratory scale gasifiers w2x, the deviations of
calculated steady-state temperature and measurements are
within an error range of "10%. The individual calculated
temperature profiles suitably correspond with the HTW
gasifier measurements w39x. The calculations of the overall
carbon conversion Fig. 4b. and the concentration of H 2 O
Fig. 4f. are also within a deviation of "10%. The
calculated CO Fig. 4c. and CH 4 Fig. 4d. concentrations
are slightly overestimated especially for the data points of
peat gasification while the prediction of the concentration
of H 2 Fig. 4e. is again within a "10% range. The results
indicate that some correlations used in the model have to
be improved.
In lack of individual kinetic parameters for the combustion and gasification reactions of the different fuel chars at
the moment, a set of kinetic parameters is used for the
different fuel chars as referenced in Table 1. The results of
the carbon conversion especially in the cases of peat
gasification indicates that a better agreement could be
expected by integrating individual kinetics into the program.
The final gas composition is decisively affected by the
watergas shift reaction WGSR. and their kinetics, particularly in case of secondary gasification agent supply. The
catalytic influence of the bed material and the fuel ash
influence on the kinetics of the WGSR are taken into
account by the applied model. However, the parameters
are validated using one special coal ash w35x. Kinetic
parameters valid for different bed materials or fuel ashes
are not available. Thus, an extrapolation of the current
kinetic model is necessary.
Regarding the wide range of operation parameters and
recalling that the introduction of plant specific parameters
had been avoided in order not to limit the validity and
flexibility of the model the calculated results are very
satisfying.

5. Conclusion
A previously developed mathematical model w10x for
bubbling fluidised bed gasifiers is used to simulate four
gasifiers of various scales. A wide range of operation
modes is tested using air, airrsteam or O 2rsteam ER s
0.230.44., processing brown coal, peat and sawdust,
operating either with or without recirculation of fines,
operating with or without secondary gasification agent
supply at pressures up to 2.5 MPa. Simulation results of
the present model agree sufficiently well with the experimental data represented by overall carbon conversion,
freeboard temperature and the concentrations of individual
gas species.

111

Acknowledgements
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support from the Ministry of School, Science and Research of
Nordrhein-Westfalen Project-No. IV A 4- 9021.1. and
from the German Research Foundation DFG-Project No.
KR 892r9-1..
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