The flame structure and the limits of operation of a lean premixed swirl flame were experimentally investigated under piloted and non-piloted conditions. Flame stabilization and blow out limits are discussed with respect to pilot fuel injection and combustor liner cooling for lean operating conditions. Two distinctly different flow patterns are found to develop depending on piloting and liner cooling parameters. These flow patterns are characterized with respect to flame stability, blow out limits, combustion noise and emissions. The combustion system explored consists of a single burner similar to the burners used in Siemens annular combustion systems. The burner feeds a distinctively non-adiabatic combustion chamber operated with natural gas under atmospheric pressure. Liner cooling is mimicked by purely convective cooling and an additional flow of ‘leakage air’ injected into the combustion chamber. Both, this additional air flow and the pilot fuel ratio were found to have a strong influence on the flow structure and stability of the flame close to the lean blow off limit (LBO). It is shown by Laser Doppler Velocimetry (LDV) that the angle of the swirl cone is strongly affected by pilot fuel injection. Two distinct types of flow patterns are observed close to LBO in this large scale setup: While non-piloted flames exhibit tight cone angles and small inner recirculation zones (IRZ), sufficient piloting results in a wide cone angle and a large IRZ. Only in the latter case, the main flow becomes attached to the combustor liner. Flame structures deduced from flow fields and CH-Chemiluminescence images depend on both the pilot fuel injection and liner cooling.

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