Turbulent Non-Stationary Reactive Flow in a Cement Kiln

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The reduction of emissions from large industrial furnaces critically relies on insights gained from numerical models of turbulent non-premixed combustion. In the article Mitigating Thermal NOx by Changing the Secondary Air Injection Channel: A Case Study in the Cement Industry, the authors present the use of the open-source OpenFoam software environment for the modeling of the combustion of Dutch natural gas in a cement kiln operated by our industrial partner. In this paper, various model enhancements are discussed. The steady-state Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes formulation is replaced by an unsteady variant to capture the time variation of the averaged quantities. The infinitely fast eddy-dissipation combustion model is exchanged with the eddy-dissipation concept for combustion to account for the finite-rate chemistry of the combustion reactions. The injection of the gaseous fuel through the nozzles occurs at such a high velocity that a comprehensive flow formulation is required. Unlike in Mitigating Thermal NOx by Changing the Secondary Air Injection Channel: A Case Study in the Cement Industry, wave transmissive boundary conditions are imposed to avoid spurious reflections from the outlet patch. These model enhancements result in stable convergence of the time-stepping iteration. This in turn increases the resolution of the flow, combustion, and radiative heat transfer in the kiln. This resolution allows for a more accurate assessment of the thermal NO-formation in the kiln. Results of a test case of academic interest are presented. In this test case, the combustion air is injected at a low-mass flow rate. Numerical results show that the flow in the vicinity of the hot end of the kiln is unsteady. A vortex intermittently transports a fraction of methane into the air stream and a spurious reaction front is formed. This front causes a transient peak in the top wall temperature. The simulated combustion process is fuel-rich. All the oxygen is depleted after traveling a few diameters into the kiln. The thermal nitric oxide is formed near the burner and diluted before reaching the outlet. At the outlet, the simulated thermal NO concentration is equal to 1 ppm. The model is shown to be sufficiently mature to capture a more realistic mass inflow rate in the next stage of the work.