Pressure-drop predictions in a fixed-bed coal gasifier

08 October 2012

In the Sasol Synfuels plant in Secunda, Sasol-Lurgi fixed-bed dry-bottom gasifiers are used for the conversion of low-grade bituminous coals to synthesis gas (syngas). The gasifiers are fed with lump coal having a particle size in the range from 5 to 100 mm. Operating experience shows that the average particle size and particle-size distribution (PSD) of feed coal, char and ash influence the pressure drop across the bed and the gas-flow distribution within the bed. These hydrodynamic phenomena are responsible for stable gasifier operation and for the quality and production rate of the syngas. The counter-current operation produces four characteristic zones in the gasifier, namely, drying, de-volatilization, reduction and combustion. The physical properties of the solids (i.e. average particle size, PSD, sphericity and density) are different in each of these zones. Similarly, the chemical composition of the syngas, its properties (temperature, density and viscosity) and superficial velocity vary along the height of the bed. The most popular equation used to estimate the pressure drop in packed beds is that proposed by Ergun. The Ergun equation gives good predictions for non-reacting, isothermal packed beds made of uniformly sized, spherical or nearly spherical particles. In the case of fixed-bed gasifiers, predictions by the Ergun equation based on the average or inlet values of bed and gas flow parameters are unsatisfactory because the bed structure and gas flow vary significantly in the different reaction zones. In this study, the Ergun equation is applied to each reaction zone separately. The total pressure drop across the bed is then calculated as the sum of pressure drops in all zones. It is shown that the total pressure drop obtained this way agrees better with the measured result. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.