• Combustion-Driven Oscillation in Process Heaters

  • Authors: James G. Seebold
  • Publication date:

    October 2005


At this moment in thousands of process heaters all over the world there are, to borrow a phrase from the late Carl Sagan, “… billions and billions …” of Btu/hr beneficially being released entirely free of pulsation. On those few occasions, perhaps a dozen and a half in my career, when I would get the inevitable “Why me?” call, I have generally responded with something like, “Consider yourself lucky … you have a rare scientific curiosity on your hands!”

Reflecting on the solutions ultimately found, I’m reminded that many years ago my friend Abbott Putnam shared with me an early AGA (American Gas Association) field-service bulletin that included a prescription for eliminating combustion-driven oscillations in home heating units; viz., “Drill a hole; if that doesn’t work, drill another hole …” or words to that effect. Many times have I wished that I still had a copy of that bulletin and in this paper we will have occasion, once again, to reflect upon the value of that advice.

In this paper we will discuss an instance that arose in a pioneering installation of a breakthrough development of “extremely” ? to distinguish it from “ultra” ? low-NOx lean premix burner technology. We will illustrate how, when and under what circumstances combustion-driven oscillation can arise; we will touch on the many alternatives for its elimination that were considered and investigated; and we will discuss three practical alternatives for eliminating combustion-driven oscillations.