Gas turbines burn a large variety of gaseous fuels under elevated pressure and temperature conditions. During transient operations like maintenance, start-ups or fuel transfers, variable gas/air mixtures are involved in the gas piping system. Therefore, in order to predict the risk of auto-ignition events and ensure a safe and optimal operation of gas turbines, it is of the essence to know the lowest temperature at which spontaneous ignition of fuels may happen. Experimental auto-ignition data of hydrocarbon-air mixtures at elevated pressures are scarce and often not applicable in specific industrial conditions. AIT data correspond to temperature ranges in which fuels display an incipient reactivity, with time scales amounting in seconds or even in minutes instead of milliseconds in flames. In these conditions, the critical reactions are most often different from the ones governing the reactivity in a flame or in high temperature ignition. Some of the critical paths for AIT, especially those involving peroxy radicals, are similar to those encountered in slow oxidation. Therefore, the main available kinetic models that have been developed for fast combustion, are unfortunately unable to represent properly these low temperature processes.
In this context, a numerical approach addressing the influence of process conditions on the minimum auto-ignition temperature of different fuel/air mixtures has been developed. For that purpose, several chemical models available in the literature have been tested, in order to identify the most robust ones. Based on previous works of our group, a model covering a large temperature range has been developed, which offers a fair reconciliation between experimental and calculated AIT data through a wide range of fuel compositions. This model has been validated against experimental auto-ignition delay times (AID) corresponding to high temperature in order to ensure its relevance not only for AIT aspects but also for the reactivity of gaseous fuels over the wide range of gas turbine operation conditions. In addition, the AITs of methane, of pure light alkanes and of various blends representative of several natural gas and process-derived fuels were extensively covered. In particular, among alternative gas turbine fuels, hydrogen-rich gases are called to play an increasing part in the future so that their ignition characteristics have been addressed with particular care. Natural gas enriched with hydrogen, and different CO/H2 syngas fuels originating from a blast furnace (BFG) have namely been studied. Globally, the individual species covered are: H2, CO, CO2, N2, CH4, C2H6, C3H8, C4H10, and C5H12. AIT values have been evaluated in function of the equivalence ratio and pressure. All the results obtained have been fitted by means of a practical mathematical expression. The overall study leads to a simple correlation of AIT versus equivalence ratio/pressure that may be of fruitful use for the engineering community.