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John Zink

Feature Report
Engineering Practice

Fired-Heater Burner
Performance Use burner and heater operating
variables to predict burner response Figure 1. Often referred to as an in-
line duct burner, a raw gas burner can
be used with many fuel compositions
Alan Cross

ndustrial furnaces, or direct-fired In the case of multi-coil heaters, the Number and spacing of burners
heaters, are only as good as the number, size, and placement of burners Burner inside diameter and flame
burners that supply them with provided to satisfy the above require- diameter may be calculated from the
thermal energy for heat transfer ments must be such that each coil oper- following:
and endothermic chemical reactions. ates at the same design outlet temper- Qlib heater
This article presents equations that ature and vaporization, and that the   (1)
permit calculation of such important design tube-metal temperature is not
burner-operating characteristics as exceeded at any point in the coils.
0.785 Db2 VbC fuel 3, 600
flame length, flame diameter, ignitabil- Individual burners must be sized Cair fuel SVfuel
ity, and flameout conditions for both such that burner outlet velocity does
very high and very low velocities. not result in burner malfunction at where
The data and equations presented any point over the entire range of flow Qlib heater = Heater liberation,
are based on burner operations at conditions, from flameout at maxi- Btu/h
atmospheric pressure, when fir- mum flow conditions to flashback at Nb = Number of burners
ing a single type of fuel, specifically minimum flow conditions. Flame di- Db = Burner diameter, ft
natural gas conditions well suited mensions, burner-to-tube clearance or Vb = Burner exit velocity, ft/s
for a premix burner (Figs. 3 and 4). both must also be such as to avoid tube Cfuel = fuel, ft3
Variations of the equations can also overheating from flame impingement. LHV = Lower heating value of fuel,
be used to calculate burner-operat- For burners ignited at points close Btu/lb
ing characteristics when the burners to the burner outlets by pilots or other Cair + fuel = ft3 of air and fuel mixture
operating pressure is higher or lower means, it must be possible to eas- SVfuel = Specific volume of fuel, ft3/lb
than atmospheric, as well as when ily achieve burner ignition. In some
fuel mixtures containing two or more cases, this might not be possible, due The number of burners required,
different types of combustibles are in to inflammability caused by very high in the case of bottom up-flow cabin
use. These latter conditions are bet- burner outlet velocity, excessive air-to- heaters with inline burners, is deter-
ter suited for a raw gas burner (Figs. fuel ratios or both. mined by dividing the firebox length
1 and 2). Burner flame length should be less by the burner spacing. Burner spac-
than firebox height, as in the case of ing is normally 2 to 5 ft or sufficient
Burner requirements vertical cylindrical heaters and up- to provide reasonable burner-to-
For proper performance of a direct- fired cabin heaters, or firebox length, burner clearance, as based on maxi-
fired heater, it is required that the as in the case of end-wall fired heat- mum burner-flame diameter. Burner-
burners be capable of providing suffi- ers. This ensures that complete com- to-tube clearance must also be such
cient heat liberation to satisfy heater bustion occurs before the flame exits that minimum clearance is based
processing requirements based on the firebox. Excessive flame height or on a reasonable distance between
the lower heating value of the fuel diameter is also to be avoided in order burner outside-flame diameter and
fired. When the heater operates at that flame impingement on sidewall outside diameter of the tubular heat-
the design process flowrate, the heat or roof tubes is prevented. This could ing surfaces. (Burner-flame diameter
necessary to maintain process fluid otherwise result in tube-metal tem- should be evaluated at maximum
temperature must be met, as must peratures that exceed design limita- burner-flame length.) In the case of
vaporization requirements at the tions, resulting in tube failure due to a vertical cylindrical heater, burners
heating coil outlet. excessive oxidation or creep. are arranged circularly, the centerline
44 Chemical Engineering April 2008
Table 1.
Prespecified Manufacturers
data data
Burner Heat Lib- 3.0 3.0
eration, MM Btu/h
Burner diameter, ft 1.0 1.0
Number of burner 4.0 Not specified
velocity heads
Excess air, % 20 20
Fuel Natural gas Not specified
Fuel LHV, Btu/lb 20,000 N.S.
Calclated Manufacturers
data data
Burner pressure 0.2 0.3
drop, in. of water
Flame tempera- 3,500 N.S.
ture, F
Maximum flame 7.8 N.S.
length, ft
Figure 2. Raw gas burners are generally used over premix burn-
ers (shown in Figs. 3 and 4) when using fuel gases with highly Maximum flame 2.7 N.S.
variable compositions or when dealing with high, burner turn-down diameter, ft
requirements. They produce comparatively larger flames of varying
widths based on tip-drilling size

of the burner circle corresponding to Burner size and flame diameter  27.8 N vh Vb2 (6)
the centerline of the heater. Sufficient Maximum flame diameter may be cal- $Pburner 
2 gSVair fuel 144
burner-to-burner outside-diameter culated from Equations (2) and (3),
clearance is to be provided to allow and maximum burner length from
for placement of structural members Equation (4).  0.785 Db2 Vb 3, 600 (7)
for support between burners. Mini- Wair +fuel 
SVair fuel
mum burner-to-burner clearance is to 0.785 Df2 Vb
0.785 Db2 Vb (2)
correspond to reasonable clearances 
between maximum burner-flame SVfuel air SVflame  Qlib burner SVfuel Cair fuel (8)
outside diameters. Radial clearance q
between maximum burner-flame out- 3, 600  LHV C fuel
 SV (3)
side diameter and the outside diam- Df max = flame
eter of the tubular heating surfaces is where
to be such as to avoid burner-to-tube q = volumetric flow rate of fuel and air
flame impingement.  mixture, ft3/s
The objective of these provisions is 0.785 D 2 V = 3.14 b f f (4) Pburner = Burner pressure drop, in.
b b
to prevent tube damage due to tube 2 of water
overheating, and to fully utilize the Nvh = Number of burner velocity
heating surfaces, so as to provide where heads
what amounts, ideally, to a continu- Df max = Maximum flame diameter, ft g = 32.2 ft/s2
ous and equal fluid-temperature Lf = Flame length, ft Wair + fuel = air and fuel mixture, lb/h
transition from tube to tube in each SVflame = Specific volume of flame,
tube of a multi-coil heater and fur- ft3/lb Flameout and flashback
ther that there be no locations any- SVfuel + air = Specific volume of fuel Flameout usually occurs at relatively
where in the coil where tube-metal and air mixture, ft3/lb high burner velocities much higher
temperatures exceed design tem- Vf = Flame propagation velocity, ft/s than those used in normal heater op-
peratures. Additionally, adherence eration and usually because at-
to the above provisions will result in Support calculations based on Equa- tempts are made to increase firing
burner-to-burner spacing that will tions (5) through (8) were used to com- rate so as to achieve higher heater
avoid interference between the flame pare calculated performance data for capacity. It is characterized by flame
bodies and unburned fuel cores gen- a typical gas-fired burner with compa- loss while the heater is in operation,
erated by adjacent burners, which re- rable data available from the burner by difficulty in obtaining a stable
sults in the absence of unburned fuel manufacturer. The results are sum- flame during startup, or by a com-
within the burner flames when maxi- marized in Table 1. plete inability to obtain burner igni-
mum burner length is reached. This tion. The cause is a condition wherein
is equivalent to saying that burner q heat gain due to burner ignition is
V =
center-to-center spacing should
be at least equal to one fully com-
 b 0.785 D 2
b ) (5) somewhat less than heat loss from
the burner flame. The following equa-
busted flame diameter. tions can be used to predict under
Chemical Engineering April 2008 45
Engineering Practice

what circumstances this condition Flashback is a condition wherein

might occur: the burner flame, instead of remain-
ing above the outlet nozzle of a single
 As Vf C fuel  LHV 3, 600 (9) outlet burner (or a multi-port burner
Qgain  with relatively small diameter ports)
Cair fuel SVfuel enters the burner nozzle or ports and
John Zink
burns therein. Flashback usually
loss ( )c s flame Tsurr
( ) (10) occurs at relatively low burner ve-
locities that are much lower than the
velocities used in normal operation.
( )c
 HTC = 0.3 T
( ) (11a) Such velocities are usually a result
Tsurr Figure 3. For a premix burner, the
of attempts to decrease firing rate so fuel needed for combustion is mixed
as to achieve reduced heater capacity. with air prior to exiting the nozzles
G 0.8 C p surr It is usually thought to occur when

HTC  0.0144
(11b) burner velocity is less than the flame outside and inside burner ports, re-
f 0.2
b propagation velocity, but observa- spectively
tions indicate that this never occurs, Tfuel + air, pre-comb and
 HTC  (12) at least not in multi-ported burners Tfuel + air, post-comb = gas mixture
firing natural gas with conventionally temperatures, before and after com-

0.01Tflame 0.01Tsurr
used air-to-gas ratios. bustion, respectively, R
0.173 Eg Instead, flameout occurs at very low Cd = pressure-drop discharge coefficient

Tflame 540 R velocity lower than flame propaga-
where tion velocity and before flashback oc- The above equations indicate that
As = Flame front area, ft2 curs. The reason for this is that flam- in the case of a normal, natural gas-
Qgain = Burner heat gain, Btu/hr ing inside the ports is not possible air mixture, the pressure drop for a
Q loss = Burner heat loss, Btu/hr because the pressure drop across the condition wherein burning occurs in-
(HTC)c, (HTC)f, (HTC)r, = Natural ports, while sufficient to support the side the ports is 7.6 times as great as
convective, forced convective, and flame velocity outside of the ports, for a condition wherein burning occurs
radiative heat transfer coefficients is insufficient to support the flame outside the ports. Flashback cannot
respectively, Btu/h-ft2-F velocity inside the ports. Thus, pres- occur under these circumstances.
Tflame = Flame temperature, R sure drop across the ports is directly
Tsurr = Surrounding temperature, R proportional to the square of the port Other factors
Eg = flame emissivity velocity and inversely proportional to Burner ignition occurs in ambient air
Cp = gas specific heat, Btu/lb-F the burner-jet specific volume imme- surroundings when heat generated
diately above the port. The burner jet by combustion equals heat loss by
Calculations using the above equa- at this location is at a temperature convection, in accordance with Equa-
tions indicate that flameout veloc- equal to that of the fuel-air mixture tions (9) through (12). It will be noted,
ity, or more correctly the velocity at before combustion. If burning were to however, that calculation of the heat
which ignition will not occur, is equal take place inside the ports, the jet spe- generated by combustion is dependent
to almost 1,000 ft/s at atmospheric cific volume would be based on a much on the flame propagation velocity, as
pressure for a 1-ft-dia. burner firing higher temperature a temperature shown in Figure 5. The graphical data
natural gas, assuming flame heat loss comparable to the flame temperature. provided consist of flame propagation
is equal to losses due to convection The net result would be as defined by velocities for a variety of fuels as a
only. The assumption of a flame heat the following equations: function of the fuel-to-air ratio. Flame
loss due to both radiation and convec- propagation velocity is easily evalu-

tion results in a flame out velocity of  Cd Vpre-comb (13) ated from the curves provided that
$Po t
800 ft/s. It must be noted, however, Tfuel air , pre-comb show values of the (fuel)-to-(fuel+air)
that heat loss as given by Equation ratio by volume are about 0.1, cor-
(10) is valid only at start-up condi- T responding to 0% excess air in the
tions, wherein surroundings are at  Cd Vpre comb fuel air , post -comb (14) fuel-air mixture. The curves, however,
Tfuel air , pre-comb
an assumed ambient temperature of $Pi t particularly those for the natural gas-
80F. To do otherwise, for an operat- Tfuel air , post -comb air mixtures, drop precipitously at
ing heater, would require calculation fuel concentrations above and below
of heat losses from elevated-tem-  $Pi T (15) that corresponding to 0% excess air,
perature burner flames to somewhat  fuel air , post -comb making evaluation of flame propaga-
$Po Tfuel air , pre-comb
lower-temperature surrounding heat- tion velocity at these concentrations
transfer surfaces. Such calculations almost impossible. Equations (16) and
are more complex and beyond the where (17) can therefore be used to predict
scope of this article. Po and Pi = burner pressure drops flame propagation velocity at higher
46 Chemical Engineering April 2008





$) $0



Figure 5. The flame propagation velocities of various gas-

air mixtures, was compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Mines using
data from the Journal of Research of the National Bureau of Stan-
dards (1936) and the American Gas Association publication
Figure 4. Premix burners create short and compact flames com- Combustion (1932). Reprinted with permission from Perry, R.
pared to raw gas burners. They are designed to function with fuel gas H., others, eds., Chemical Engineers Handbook. 6th ed.,
mixtures that have consistent specific gravity and composition McGraw-Hill, New York, Sec. 9-52 , Fig. 9-59, 1984. The graph
is not in the 8th and most current edition.

and lower (fuel)-to-(fuel+air) ratio by from Equation (19) and is found equal excess air level corresponding to the
volume air concentrations than 0.1. to 3,436F. flameout of a natural gas-air mixture.
 H (16) Thus, for an excess air level equal to
K = Ae RT

Wf  LHV  Wair fuel C p average Tflame 60oF about 130% of theoretical, and for
flame heat loss by convection only,
 = K (Cm ) (17)  (19) flameout of the fuel-air mixture, or an
where inability to ignite the mixture, would
where Wf = fuel, lb/h occur since the calculated flame tem-
A = Frequency factor in the Arrhenius Cp = average combustion gas specific perature of the mixture would be
equation heat, Btu/lb-F somewhat lower than the ignition
H = Heat of activation, Btu/lb-mol Wair + fuel = air and fuel mixture, lb/h temperature. The same would occur
R = Gas constant, 1.987 Btu/lb-mol R Tflame = Flame temperature, F at an excess air level of about 100%,
T = gas temperature, R for a case wherein flame heat loss
dCm/dt = Fuel concentration change, Additionally, the ignition tempera- was considered due to both radiation
mol per ft3/s ture for a natural gas-air mixture and convection. n
K = Reaction velocity constant, s-1 having a (fuel)-to-(fuel+air) ratio of Edited by Matthew Phelan
0.096, as obtained from Table 35 in
Using a logarithmic transforma- Reference [1], is about 1,400F. Be- References
tion of Equation (16) and making cause the mixture is at its ignition 1. Perry, J., and others, eds., Chemical Engineers
allowances for the use of flame prop- point, heat gain and heat loss, as ob- Handbook, 2nd ed., McGraw-Hill, New York,
pp. 23982405, 1941.
agation velocity instead of fuel con- tained from Equations (9) and (10)
2. McAdams, W. H., Heat Transmission, 3rd ed.,
centrations and concentration rates, are equal. This permits calculation of McGraw-Hill, New York, p. 226, 1954.
results in the relationship provided a flame propagation velocity equal to
3. Kern, D. Q., Process Heat Transfer, 1st ed., Mc-
in Equation (18): 0.00905 ft/s, which corresponds to the Graw-Hill, New York, p. 215, 1950.
V H 1 1 ignition point temperature of 1,400F.
ln V = 1.987 T T
(18) These data, in combination with the
f i f
flame propagation velocity of 1 ft/s
where at the flame temperature of 3,436F,
Alan Cross (73-34 244th
Vi and Vf = Initial and final flame permit calculation of a heat of activa- St., Little Neck, NY, 11362;
propagation velocities, respectively tion equal to 33,000 Btu/lb-mol from E-Mail:
is a BChE graduate from
Ti and Tf = Initial and final flame Equation (18). The City College of N.Y. and
an MSChE graduate from
propagation temperatures or igni- Reference conditions consisting the Polytechnic University
tion temperatures, respectively, R of the calculated heat of activation, of N.Y., and has had more
than 30 years fired heater
equal to 33,300 Btu/lb-mol, the ig- design experience with ABB
For a natural gas concentration of nition temperature of 1,400F, for a Lummus Heat Transfer (now
HB&I Lummus Technology).
0.1, the curves in Figure 5 indicate a fuel-air mixture having 0% excess air, Accomplishments include authorship of direct-
flame propagation velocity of 1 ft/s. and a flame propagation velocity cor- fired heater patents and patents pending, relat-
ing to the design of coal fired heaters, and com-
The adiabatic flame temperature, responding to the ignition tempera- pact, low-cost fired heaters capable of processing
low- and high-boiling-point petroleum-based flu-
also the temperature corresponding to ture, can be used in Equations (9), ids, using design strategies that reduce fouling
the propagation velocity, is calculated (10), (18) and (19), to determine the of internal tube surfaces due to coke deposition.

Chemical Engineering April 2008 47