Inert Gas Dilution Effect on the Flammability Limits of Hydrocarbon Mixtures
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Flammability limit is a most significant property of substances to ensure safety of chemical processes and fuel application. Although there are numerous flammability literature data available for pure substances, for fuel mixtures these are not always available. Especially, for fuel mixture storage, operation, and transportation, inert gas inerting and blanketing have been widely applied in chemical process industries while the related date are even more scarce. Lower and upper flammability limits of hydrocarbon mixtures in air with and without additional nitrogen were measured in this research. Typically, the fuel mixture lower flammability limit almost keeps constant at different contents of added nitrogen. The fuel mixture upper flammability limit approximately linearly varies with the added nitrogen except mixtures containing ethylene. The minimum added nitrogen concentration at which lower flammability limit and upper flammability limit merge together is the minimum inerting concentration for nitrogen, roughly falling into the range of 45 plus/minus 10 vol % for all the tested hydrocarbon mixtures. Numerical analysis of inert gas dilution effect on lower flammability limit and upper flammability limit was conducted by introducing the parameter of inert gas dilution coefficient. Fuel mixture flammability limit can be quantitatively characterized using inert gas dilution coefficient plus the original Le Chatelier's law or modified Le Chatelier's law. An extended application of calculated adiabatic flame temperature modeling was proposed to predict fuel mixture flammability limits at different inert gas loading. The modeling lower flammability limit results can represent experimental data well except the flammability nose zone close to minimum inerting concentration. Le Chatelier's law is a well-recognized mixing rule for fuel mixture flammability limit estimation. Its application, unfortunately, is limited to lower flammability limit for accurate purpose. Here, firstly a detailed derivation was conducted on lower flammability limit to shed a light on the inherent principle residing in this rule, and then its application was evaluated at non-ambient conditions, as well as fuel mixture diluted with inert gases and varied oxygen concentrations. Results showed that this law can be extended to all these conditions.
Zhao, Fuman (2011). Inert Gas Dilution Effect on the Flammability Limits of Hydrocarbon Mixtures. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from