Catalytic combustion is an emerging technology in which fuels can be combusted homogeneously supported by a catalyst. The catalyst allows non-flammable mixtures of fuel and air to be oxidized with the resulting heat generated used to initiate thermal or homogeneous combustion. With the proper catalysts the fuel can be combusted with efficiencies so high that unburned CO or HC emissions are less than 10 ppm. Furthermore, because the fuel-air mixtures are relatively lean compared to conventional processes the adiabatic temperatures are below that required for the formation of NOx i.e. > 1500°C. The success of this technology would eliminate the need for expensive after-treatment of emissions from gas fired power plants and boilers.
This is a very demanding application, especially for natural gas fueled combustors, since the catalyst will have to initiate reaction between 400 and 500°C, at linear velocities exceeding 50 ft/sec, and retain its activity after experiencing temperatures up to 1400°C. Furthermore, the monolithic ceramic or metallic support upon which the catalyst is deposited must also retain structural integrity after experiencing high temperatures and severe thermal shock.
This paper will describe the fundamental concepts of this new technology, the major technical problems being addressed and the progress being made.