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Classification of fuels

A fuel is a substance which gives heat energy on combustion. A fuel contains carbon and hydrogen as
main combustible elements. Fuel is any material that can be made to react with other substances so
that it releases chemical or nuclear energy as heat or to be used for work. Heat energy released by
reactions of fuels is converted into mechanical energy via a heat engine. Other times the heat itself is
valued for warmth, cooking, or industrial processes, as well as the illumination that comes with
combustion. Fuels are also used in the cells of organisms in a process known as cellular respiration,
where organic molecules are oxidized to release usable energy.

Types of Fuels

The based on physical states, fuel can be classified into three types that is liquids solids and gases

Liquid Fuels

Liquid fuels like furnace oil and are predominantly used in industrial applications. Most liquid fuels in
widespread use are derived from the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals by exposure to heat
and pressure in the Earth's crust. However, there are several types, such as hydrogen fuel (for
automotive uses), ethanol, jet fuel and biodiesel which are all categorized as a liquid fuel.

Types of liquid fuel

o Petroleum
o Oils from distillation of petroleum
o Coal tar
o Shale-oil
o Alcohols, etc.

The properties of liquid fuels

DENSITY Density is defined as the ratio of the mass of the fuel to the volume of the fuel at a
reference temperature of 15°C. The unit of measurement for density is kg/m3 and measured by a
hydrometer. It is important for assessing ignition qualities and other quantitative calculations.

SPECIFIC GRAVITY The specific gravity is a ratio, which is defined as the ratio of the weight of a
given volume of oil to the weight of the same volume of water at a given temperature. The density of
fuel, relative to water is called specific gravity. E.g. Light diesel oil has specific gravity as 0.85 - 0.87,
furnace oil has 0.89 - 0.95.

VISCOSITY The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its internal resistance to flow. Viscosity depends
on the temperature and decreases as the temperature increases. Every oil has its own temperature -
viscosity relationship and measurement by viscometer. It is important characteristic for storage and use
of fuel oil. It influences the degree of pre-heating required for handling, storage and satisfactory
atomization. Highly viscous oils may become difficult to pump, hard to light the burner, and difficult to
handle. The low atomization may result in the formation of carbon deposits on the burner tips/walls.
The pre-heating is necessary for proper atomization.

FLASH POINT The flash point of a fuel is the lowest temperature at which the fuel can be heated so
that the vapour gives off flashes momentarily when an open flame is passed over it. The 66 °C is the
flash point for furnace oil.

POUR POINT It is the fuel's lowest temperature at which it will pour or flow when cooled under
prescribed conditions. It is a rough estimation of the lowest temperature at which fuel oil is ready to be

SPECIFIC HEAT Specific heat is the amount of calories needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg of oil by
10C. The unit of specific heat is kcal/kg0C. It varies from 0.22 to 0.28 depending on the oil specific

CALORIFIC VALUE The calorific value measures the heat or energy produced. Gross calorific value
(GCV) assumes all vapour produced during the combustion process is fully condensed and Net calorific
value (NCV) assumes the water leaves with the combustion products without fully being condensed.
Fuels should be compared based on the net calorific value. The calorific value of fuel oils is much more
consistent compare to coal (solid fule), for example kerosene and diesel oil got the GCV 11,100 and
10,800 kCal/kg respectively.

SULPHUR The amount of sulphur in the fuel oil depends on the source of the crude oil and on the
refining process. The sulphur content for the residual fuel oil is in the order of 2 - 4 %.

ASH CONTENT The ash value is related to the inorganic material or salts(compounds of sodium,
vanadium, calcium, magnesium, silicon, iron, aluminium, nickel etc.) in the fuel oil and ash levels in
distillate fuels are negligible. the residual fuels have higher ash levels. The ash has an erosive effect on
the burner tips, causes damage to the refractories at high temperatures and gives rise to high
temperature corrosion and fouling of equipments.

CARBON RESIDUE Carbon residue indicates the tendency of oil to deposit a carbonaceous solid
residue on a hot surface like burner and injection nozzle when its vaporizable constituents evaporate.
The residual oil contains carbon residue of 1% or higher.

WATER CONTENT The water content are low when it is supplied because the product at refinery
site is handled hot. The water content can be maximum 1% which the upper limit.the water content can
cause damage to the inside surfaces of the furnace during combustion especially if it contains dissolved
salts or it can cause spluttering of the flame at the burner tip, possibly extinguishing the flame, reducing
the flame temperature or lengthening the flame.

Liquid fuels has the following advantages and Disadvantages:


o They pose higher calorific value per unit mass as compare to solid fuels.
o They burn without dust, ash, clinkers.
o Easy to fire and fire can be extinguished easily by stopping liquid fuel supply.
o Easy to transport through pipes.
o Can be stored indefinitely without any loss.
o They are clean in use and economic to handle.
o Heat loss in chimney is very low due to greater cleanliness.
o They require less furnace space and excess air for complete combustion


o The cost of liquid fuel is relatively much higher as compared to solid fuel.
o There is a greater risk of five hazards, in case of highly inflammable and volatile liquid fuels.
o They give bad odour.
o Special storage tanks are required for storing liquid fuels.
o Specially constructed burners and spraying apparatus are required for efficient burning of liquid

Solid Fuels
Solid fuel refers to various types of solid material that are used as fuel to produce energy and provide
heating, usually released through combustion. Coal is classified into three major types; anthracite,
bituminous, and lignite. However, there is no clear demarcation between them. Coal is further classified
as semi-anthracite, semi-bituminous, and sub-bituminous. Anthracite is the oldest coal from a geological
perspective. It is a hard coal composed mainly of carbon with little volatile content and practically no

Types of solid fuel

o Wood
o Coal
o Oil shale
o Tanbark
o Bagasse
o Straw
o Charcoal
o Coke
o Briquettes

Solid fuels has the following advantages and Disadvantages:


o They are easy to transport.

o The production cost is low.
o They are convenient to store without any risk of spontaneous explosion.
o They pose moderate ignition temperature.

o The ash contents are high.

o They burn with clinker formation.
o Large proportion of heat is wasted.
o Their combustion operation cannot be controlled easily.
o Handling cost is high.

Woods Characteristics

The woods are very easily available and most commonly used solid fuel. The woods are used as fuel
from ancient time after the discovery of the fire. The 39 Types of fuels and their Characteristics wood is
used in almost every village, town and cities in India. The wood is used for industrial purposes.
Constituents of Wood is vegetable tissue of trees and bushes. The wood consists of mainly cellular tissue
& lignin. it also consists of lesser parts of fat & tar and sugar.

Calorific Value of wood

Engineer A. Marjhevskee determined the calorific values of different kinds of wood with the help of the
samples taken out from the same tree at different distances from centre as follows.

Kinds of Wood Lowest Calorific Value (cal/kg) Highest Calorific Value (cal/kg)

Oak 4729 4750

Birch 4695 4831

Elm 4674 4833

Alder 4745 4839

Pine 4818 5310

Fir 4887 4900

Lrch 4775 4840

Coal classification

Coal is classified into three types as follows, even there is no clear demarcation between them:

1. Anthracite

2. Bituminous

3. Lignite.

The Coal is further classified as semi-anthracite, semi-bituminous and sub-bituminous. The anthracite is
the oldest coal from a geological perspective. It is a hard coal composed mainly of carbon with little
volatile content and without moisture. The lignite is the youngest coal from a geological perspective and
it is a soft coal composed mainly of volatile matter (combustible constituents of coal that vaporize when
coal is heated). And moisture content with low fixed carbon (carbon in its free state, not combined with
other elements).

The coals used in Indian industry are bituminous and sub-bituminous coal. The chemical composition of
coal has a strong influence on its combustibility.

Chemical and physical properties of coal

The chemical properties of coal refer to the various elemental chemical constituents such as carbon,
hydrogen, oxygen, and sulphur.

The physical properties of coal include the heating value, moisture content, volatile matter and ash.

Gaseous Fuel

Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuels that under ordinary conditions are gaseous. Many fuel gases are
composed of hydrocarbons , hydrogen, carbon monoxide, or mixtures thereof. Such gases are sources of
potential heat energy or light energy that can be readily transmitted and distributed through pipes from
the point of origin directly to the place of consumption. Fuel gas is contrasted with liquid fuels and from
solid fuels, though some fuel gases are liquefied for storage or transport. While their gaseous nature can
be advantageous, avoiding the difficulty of transporting solid fuel and the dangers of spillage inherent in
liquid fuels, it can also be dangerous.

Types of gaseous fuel

o Natural gas
o Liquefied Petroleum gas (LPG)
o Refinery gases
o Methane from coal mines
o Fuel gases made from solid fuel
o Gases derived from coal
o Gases derived from waste and biomass
o Blast furnace gas
o Gases made from petroleum
o Gases from oil gasification
o Gases from some fermentation process

Gaseous fuels has the following advantages and Disadvantages over solid or liquid fuels :


o They are clean in use.

o They do not require any special burner.
o They can be conveyed easily through pipelines to user, no need of manual transportation.
o They can be easily lighted.
o They have high heat contents therefore provides higher temperatures.
o To get economy in heat they can be pre-heated by the heat of hot waste gases.
o They burn without any shoot, smoke and ashes.
o They are free from impurities found in solid and liquid fuels.


o Very large storage tanks are needed.

o They are highly inflammable, the fire hazards are possible.
o Properties of gaseous fuels
o The fuel should be compared based on their net calorific value and especially true for natural
gas because increased hydrogen content results in high water formation during combustion.

1. LPG

LPG may be defined as those hydrocarbons, which are gaseous at normal atmospheric pressure but may
be condensed to the liquid state at normal temperature by the application of moderate pressures. The
LPG is a predominant mixture of propane and butane with a small percentage of unsaturated, some
lighter C2 and heavier C5 fractions. The propane (C3H8), Propylene (C3H6), iso-butane (C4H10) and
Butylene (C4H8) are included in the range of LPG. The liquid LPG evaporates to produce about 250 times
volume of gas.

LPG vapour is denser than air for example butane is about two times heavier then air and propane is
about 1.5 times heavier then air. Consequently the vapours may flow along the ground and into drains
sinking to the lowest level of the surroundings and be ignited at a considerable distance from the source
of leakage. There should be adequate ground level of ventilation where LPG is stored therefore LPG
cylinders should not be stored in cellars or basements which have no ventilation at ground level.

2. Natural gas

Natural gas has high calorific value and requiring no storage facilities. It mixes with air readily and does
not produce smoke or soot. It did not contains sulphur. It is lighter than air and disperses into air easily
in case of leak.

The methane is the main constituent of natural gas and it is about 95% of the total volume. The other
components are Ethane, Propane, Butane, Pentane, Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, and traces of other gases.
In these gases a very small amounts of sulphur compounds are also present. The properties of methane
are used when comparing the properties of natural gas to other fuels because methane is the largest
component in natural gas.