An experimental and theoretical investigation of a fuel system tuner for the suppression of combustion driven oscillations
Scarborough, David E.
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Manufacturers of commercial, power-generating, gas turbine engines continue to develop combustors that produce lower emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in order to meet the environmental standards of governments around the world. Lean, premixed combustion technology is one technique used to reduce NOx emissions in many current power and energy generating systems. However, lean, premixed combustors are susceptible to thermo-acoustic oscillations, which are pressure and heat-release fluctuations that occur because of a coupling between the combustion process and the natural acoustic modes of the system. These pressure oscillations lead to premature failure of system components, resulting in very costly maintenance and downtime. Therefore, a great deal of work has gone into developing methods to prevent or eliminate these combustion instabilities. This dissertation presents the results of a theoretical and experimental investigation of a novel Fuel System Tuner (FST) used to damp detrimental combustion oscillations in a gas turbine combustor by changing the fuel supply system impedance, which controls the amplitude and phase of the fuel flowrate. When the FST is properly tuned, the heat release oscillations resulting from the fuel-air ratio oscillations damp, rather than drive, the combustor acoustic pressure oscillations. A feasibility study was conducted to prove the validity of the basic idea and to develop some basic guidelines for designing the FST. Acoustic models for the subcomponents of the FST were developed, and these models were experimentally verified using a two-microphone impedance tube. Models useful for designing, analyzing, and predicting the performance of the FST were developed and used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the FST. Experimental tests showed that the FST reduced the acoustic pressure amplitude of an unstable, model, gas-turbine combustor over a wide range of operating conditions and combustor configurations. Finally, combustor acoustic pressure amplitude measurements made in using the model combustor were used in conjunction with model predicted fuel system impedances to verify the developed design rules. The FST concept and design methodology presented in this dissertation can be used to design fuel system tuners for new and existing gas turbine combustors to reduce, or eliminate altogether, thermo-acoustic oscillations.