Land-based turbine engines are currently used to burn heavy fuel oil (HFO), which is a lower cost fuel. HFO contains inorganic material that forms deposits on turbine blades reducing output and efficiency. Magnesium based additives are used to inhibit vanadium pentoxide deposition and reduce the corrosive nature of the gas and deposits in the hot gas path of the gas turbine. The focus of this study was to determine particle morphology and elemental composition of ash when firing HFO in an atmospheric combustor at various fuel injector atomization pressures. Prior to firing, the HFO was washed with water to remove sodium and potassium. A commercially available magnesium based additive was used to inhibit the vanadium in the HFO. Fuel was injected using an air-blast atomizer at air blast atomization gage pressures of 117, 186, and 255 kPa. Ash was collected from three locations downstream of combustion: immediately following combustion (pre-cyclone), from a cyclone separator (cyclone), and finally from a position located after the cyclone separator (post-cyclone). A Philips XL30 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) provided images, weight percent of elements of the ash, and element maps. Images taken from the SEM clearly show two particle types: 1) hollow spherical particles, or cenospheres, and 2) submicron agglomerated spherical particles. The cenospheres contained high carbon concentrations and were found primarily in the cyclone and probe bag filter. Element maps show that cenospheres, regardless of size, predominately contain carbon, oxygen, and sulfur with lesser amounts of sodium, magnesium, aluminum, and silicon. Particles collected downstream of the cyclone were primarily sub-micron in size and inorganic in composition. It is postulated that the cenospheres are the result of incomplete combustion of fuel oil droplets while the submicron spheres are nucleated inorganic material that initially evaporated from the liquid droplets. Particle size analysis was performed for each sample location. As the injection pressure was increased; the pre-cyclone and cyclone locations had similar number mean diameters that would decrease with increasing pressure. The diameter of the post-cyclone location did not change significantly with increasing air atomization. While increasing atomization pressure decreased the carbon content of the ash at all measurement locations, the atomization had little influence on the inorganic composition of the particles. The fine condensed phase particles and the larger cenosphere particles both produced similar compositions of inorganic material.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





heavy fuel oil, SEM, atomization pressure, cenospheres, sub-micron particles