Combustion Stability of Industrial Burners for Efficient Operation

Importance of Combustion Stability of Industrial Burners

  • The design of industrial burner design is discussed in the previous post. There are many geometrical and flow factors to affect combustion characteristics. Many low NOx burners have been developed. However, the stability of flame is still a challenge whenever there are changes in fuel conversion,  firing rates, and burner pitch.
  • The combustion stability of industrial burners is of paramount importance for several reasons, ranging from operational efficiency and environmental compliance to worker safety.
  • The following key subjects are important for combustion Stability
    • Combustion basics and types of mixing
    • Turbulent or Swirl levels
    • Control Resident time of fuel
    • Burner design of NOx control mechanism as given in the post
    • Air and fuel staging
    • Burner Modifications
  • Here are key aspects highlighting the significance of combustion stability in industrial burners:

Efficiency and Energy Savings:

  • Combustion stability ensures that the fuel is burned efficiently, maximizing the energy extracted from the fuel.
  • Stable combustion prevents incomplete combustion, reducing the formation of harmful byproducts and improving overall energy efficiency.
  • Optimized combustion contributes to cost savings by minimizing fuel waste and increasing heat transfer efficiency.

Emissions Control:

  • Combustion stability is crucial for controlling emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter.
  • Unstable combustion can lead to the formation of undesirable pollutants, contributing to environmental pollution and regulatory non-compliance.

Air Pollution from Industry

Product Quality:

  • In processes where combustion is part of the manufacturing or production, combustion stability is essential for maintaining consistent product quality.
  • Fluctuations in combustion can impact temperature profiles, reaction rates, and other parameters critical to the production process.

Reliability and Downtime Reduction:

  • Combustion instability can lead to equipment failures, downtime, and increased maintenance requirements.
  • Unstable combustion conditions may result in wear and tear on burner components, reducing the overall reliability of the industrial system.


  • Stable combustion is vital for preventing dangerous conditions such as flashbacks, flame lift-offs, or uncontrolled combustion.
  • Instabilities can lead to safety hazards, including the risk of fires, explosions, or damage to equipment and facilities.

Design of Industrial Burner
Design of Industrial Burner

Process Control and Consistency:

  • Combustion stability is critical for maintaining precise control over industrial processes.
  • Fluctuations in combustion can disrupt temperature and pressure profiles, affecting the overall control and stability of the production process.

Compliance with Regulations:

  • Many industrial operations are subject to environmental regulations that limit the emissions of pollutants.
  • Maintaining combustion stability is essential for complying with these regulations and avoiding legal and financial consequences.

Long-Term Equipment Health:

  • Unstable combustion can lead to thermal stresses on burner components, reducing their lifespan.
  • Regular and stable operation contributes to the long-term health and durability of the industrial burner system.

Operational Flexibility:

  • Industrial processes often need to adapt to varying loads, fuel qualities, or ambient conditions.
  • Combustion stability ensures that burners can operate reliably under different conditions, providing the required operational flexibility.
Venturi Burner for Heating Application
Venturi Burner Stable Flame for Heating Application

Method of Combustion Stability for Industrial Burners

  • The combustion stability of industrial burners is a critical factor in ensuring efficient and safe operation of various industrial processes.
  • Combustion stability refers to the ability of a burner to maintain a steady and controlled combustion process over time, without experiencing issues such as flame extinction, flashback, or combustion oscillations.
  • Flame stabilization is crucial for the efficient and safe operation of combustion systems. It involves ensuring that the flame is maintained in a desired location within the burner despite variations in operating conditions.
  • Here are several common flame stabilization methods used in industrial burners:

Flame Holders:

  • Physical structures, known as flame holders or stabilizers, are placed in the combustion chamber to anchor and stabilize the flame.
  • Common types include bluff bodies, rods, or perforated plates strategically positioned to enhance flame stability.

Swirl Stabilization:

    • Introducing a swirling motion to the airflow helps create a stable toroidal vortex that anchors the flame.
    • Swirl stabilization is often achieved by incorporating swirl vanes or tangential inlets in the burner design.
Combustion Stability Curves
Combustion Stability Curves

Vortex Generators:

    • Vortex generators are devices designed to create controlled vortices in the flow, promoting flame stability.
    • These devices can be integrated into the burner geometry to enhance the swirling motion and improve combustion stability.

Combustion Air Preheating:

    • Preheating the combustion air can improve the stability of the flame by promoting better mixing with the fuel.
    • Higher air temperatures can enhance ignition and combustion, particularly in situations with varying fuel compositions.

Fuel and Air Staging:

    • Dividing the fuel and air injection into multiple stages allows for better control of combustion and enhances stability.
    • Staging can help avoid local regions of fuel-rich or lean mixtures, reducing the risk of flame instability.

Pilot Flames:

    • Small pilot flames are used to initiate and stabilize the main combustion process.
    • Pilot flames provide a continuous ignition source, ensuring that the main flame is quickly re-ignited in the event of flame extinction.

Flame Traps and Arrestors:

    • Flame traps and arrestors are safety devices designed to prevent flashback or flame propagation beyond the combustion zone.
    • These devices can be installed in the fuel and air supply lines to stop flames from traveling back into the burner.

Dilution with Inert Gases:

    • Introducing inert gases, such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide, into the combustion process can alter flame characteristics and improve stability.
    • Dilution reduces the flame temperature and can mitigate the risk of combustion instability in certain conditions.

Use of Porous Media:

    • Burners equipped with porous media can enhance flame stability by promoting uniform fuel and air distribution.
    • The media acts as a diffuser, helping to prevent localized regions of rich or lean mixtures.

Pressure-Swirl Atomizers:

  • Pressure-swirl atomizers generate a swirling spray of fuel, promoting better atomization and mixing with air.
  • This method is particularly effective in achieving stable combustion in spray-based burner systems.

Co-flow Burners:

    • Coflow burners concentrically introduce fuel and air streams, creating a stable flame in the region where the two streams mix.
    • This design minimizes the impact of external flow disturbances.
Use of Bulff bodies for recirculation of mixture and stability of flames
Use of Bluff bodies for recirculation of mixture and stability of flames

Acoustic Resonance Control:

    • Acoustic resonances within the combustion chamber can be controlled to stabilize the flame.
    • Devices such as acoustic dampers or modifications to the burner geometry can be employed to minimize unwanted resonances.
Combustion stability curves
Combustion stability curves for Gas Turbine

Controlling  Fuel-air ratio and mixing

  • Maintaining the correct fuel-to-air ratio is crucial for stable combustion. Deviations from the optimal ratio can lead to incomplete combustion, excessive emissions, and flame instability.
  • Burner systems often incorporate controls and sensors to adjust the fuel and air supply to achieve the desired ratio.
  • Proper mixing of fuel and air is essential for efficient combustion. Inadequate mixing can result in localized rich or lean zones, leading to combustion instability.
  • Industrial burners are designed to promote effective mixing through mechanisms such as swirl, turbulence, or staged combustion.
Gas burner air and fuel mixing process
Gas burner air and fuel Mixing Process

Modify the Burner Design:

  • The design of the burner plays a significant role in combustion stability as mentioned in the post.
  • Factors such as flame shape, burner geometry, and the arrangement of fuel and air injection points can impact stability.
  • Well-designed burners are often equipped with features to enhance flame stability, such as flame stabilizers or diffuses.

Principle of Low NO Burner Design

Principle of Low NO Burner Design

Flame Monitoring and Control Systems:

  • Continuous monitoring of the flame is essential for detecting any deviations or instabilities.
  • Flame sensors and monitoring systems provide real-time feedback to control systems, allowing for prompt adjustments to maintain stability.
  • Advanced control algorithms can optimize combustion parameters based on varying operating conditions.
  • Use flame scanner to check flame operation in furnaces

Prevention of Flashback and Flame lift-off:

  • A flashback occurs when the flame travels back into the burner, while flame lift-off refers to the detachment of the flame from the burner surface.
  • These phenomena can lead to unstable combustion and pose safety risks.
  • Flame arrestor and proper design considerations help prevent flashback and lift-off.
Lift-Off Height (h) and Blowout Limit
Lift-Off Height (h) and Blowout Limit

Burner Maintenance and cleaning:

  • Accumulation of debris, soot, or other contaminants can affect combustion stability.
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning of burners ensure that they operate efficiently and reduce the risk of stability issues.

Operational conditions:

  • Changes in operational conditions, such as fluctuations in fuel quality, load variations, or ambient conditions, can impact combustion stability.
  • Burner systems are often designed with a degree of flexibility to accommodate these variations, and control systems are employed to adapt to changing conditions.

Safety interlocks and shutdown systems:

  • In the event of abnormal conditions, safety interlocks, and shutdown systems are essential to prevent unsafe operation.
  • These systems can quickly shut down the burner if instability or other safety-related issues are detected.

Scope of CFD Modeling for Combustion Stability

  • The scope of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling for combustion stability analysis in burners is broad and encompasses various aspects of fluid dynamics, combustion kinetics, and heat transfer.
  • Here are key components of the scope:

Flow Field Analysis:

  • CFD allows for detailed simulations of the flow field within the burner, capturing the complex interactions of fuel and air.
  • Analysis of flow patterns helps identify regions of recirculation, turbulence, and mixing, crucial for understanding and improving combustion stability.

Fuel-Air Mixing:

  • CFD models simulate the mixing of fuel and air, providing insights into the distribution of species and temperature.
  • The effectiveness of fuel-air mixing significantly influences combustion stability, and CFD helps optimize burner designs for improved mixing.

Flame Characteristics:

  • CFD enables the visualization and analysis of flame shape, size, and position within the combustion chamber.
  • Understanding flame characteristics helps in designing burners with features that enhance stability, such as flame stabilizers or vortex generators.

Dynamic Combustion Analysis:

  • CFD simulations can capture transient conditions and dynamic changes in operating parameters.
  • Analysis of dynamic combustion behavior is essential for understanding how burners respond during startup, shutdown, and load variations, contributing to overall stability.

Stability Limits Determination:

  • CFD is used to explore stability limits under various operating conditions.
  • Identifying stable operating ranges aids in establishing safe and optimal conditions for the burner.

Flashback and Flame Lift-Off Prediction:

    • CFD simulations predict and analyze phenomena such as flashback and flame lift-off.
    • Understanding these events helps in designing burners that prevent unsafe conditions and maintain stable combustion
Flame length of Oil Burner (CFD Results)
Flame length of Oil Burner (CFD Results)

Ignition and Extinction Modeling:

    • CFD models can simulate ignition and extinction events.
    • Analyzing ignition and extinction conditions provides insights into the factors influencing combustion stability.
  • Thermal Analysis:
    • CFD includes the capability to analyze thermal effects within the burner.
    • Thermal analysis helps prevent overheating issues and ensures temperature profiles conducive to stable combustion.
  • Optimization of Burner Design:
    • CFD facilitates parametric studies to optimize burner designs for enhanced stability.
    • Engineers can explore various design configurations to identify the most stable and efficient burner geometry.
  • Emission Prediction:
    • CFD simulations predict pollutant emissions, allowing for the optimization of combustion conditions for environmental compliance.
    • This includes studying the impact of combustion stability on emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter.
  • Validation against Experimental Data:
    • CFD results can be validated against experimental data to ensure the accuracy and reliability of simulations.
    • Validation enhances the confidence in using CFD as a predictive tool for combustion stability analysis.
  • Sensitivity Analysis:
    • CFD allows for sensitivity analysis to understand the influence of various parameters on combustion stability.
    • Identifying critical factors helps in making informed decisions for burner design and operation.


  1. G. Giley, Flame stability for Biomass Fuel, Elseveir
  2. Hasan et a., Flashback and combustion stability in burners, IOP Pub. (2020)
  3. Levis Benard and Gaunter, Stability and structure of Flame Journal of Chemisty Physics, Haraved Univeristy (1943)
  4. Thesis, Stability of Burners


  • Regular inspection, monitoring, and adherence to best practices in burner design and operation are crucial for maintaining combustion stability in industrial settings.
  • Additionally, compliance with relevant safety standards and regulations is essential to ensure the safe and reliable operation of industrial burners.
  • The scope of CFD modeling for combustion stability analysis in burners is extensive, covering multiple aspects of fluid dynamics, combustion, and heat transfer.
  • This comprehensive approach enables engineers to gain a deeper understanding of burner behavior, optimize designs, and ensure safe and stable combustion in industrial

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