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Rotary Tube Furnace Efficiency

There are many factors that govern the performance of rotary tube furnaces. A direct fired rotary unit has a potential for much higher thermal efficiency due to the direct contact of the hot gases with the material in process. Cement kilns are the most common large scale unit operation with direct fired units. Any articles you find on this will be helpful. Thermal efficiency can be estimated by dividing the inlet temperature minus the outlet temperature by the inlet temperature minus the ambient temperature in absolute scales either Rankine or Kelvin. Then there is the issue of co-current versus counter-current firing and heat recovery from the hot material and the exit gas for which standard designs are available. Indirect fired rotary kilns have heat transfer limitations due to the thickness and alloys needed for high temperature calcination >500 C. There is no simple way to measure the equivalent of the inlet and outlet temperatures on a direct fired unit. There are simply exit gas temperatures from each zone and an approximate shell temperature on the hot side of the shell which is lower than the zone exit gas temp. These are useful for control purposes and consistent operation. The higher the temperature the material requires to achieve conversion the higher the shell side fired temperature has to be to provide the delta T necessary to drive heat through the shell into the material zone.

Some materials further limit heat transfer by adhering to the inside of the shell and acting as an insulator! This requires trial and error application of "knockers" at the ends of the shell or sometimes internally secured chains that bang around and knock the adhering material loose. This is a potential nightmare as the learning curve to install chains so that the securing lugs and the chains themselves will stay attached for acceptably long service before failing and ending up in the take off conveying equipment with usual breakage and downtime is an uncertain one. From Perry's one can find thermal efficiencies for indirect fired rotary's given as less than 35%. The bed fill can be 10-30% depending on the heat demand of the material and the heat transfer limitations. You will want to have real time gas usage metering on the burners so that you know the theoretical energy input. From that you can subtract the theoretical heat needed to complete your reaction and compare that to the input to see how efficiently you have used the energy input.

The few large high temperature direct fired rotary kilns I have seen had view ports for measuring the local wall temperatures by optical pyrometer. It can be a challenge to get a protected thermocouple sheath down into the moving bed for an actual bed temperature and even just to hang it in the gas streams at the outlet or inlet area. See if you can contact cement kiln suppliers for some configurations of temperature sensing elements for your application. Bed fill effects on heat transfer are related to several parameters. Above ~500 C gas and refractory liner temperatures, the main heat transfer mode will be radiative as far as the surface of the bed material. Within the bed it will be conduction and some convection at the surface. A thin bed will reach max. temperature in shorter time, but this reduces through put for a given gas temperature. If you increase bed fill to increase production you will have to increase the firing temperature and the outlet temperature will probably increase lowering your thermal efficiency. This becomes a trade off between production rate and energy efficiency. Countercurrent firing usually maintains the highest driving force for heat transfer along the bed and gives the highest temperature of the bed just before exit of the bed material.

Perry's may have a useful section on direct fired rotary kilns and lime or cement manufacturing references may help you as well. Please make sure lead emissions to air are properly captured and either added back to the feed stock or properly disposed of in a hazardous waste disposal facility. I imagine what you are already doing is greatly reducing the amount of lead from old batteries that may have ended up poisoning the environment. Lead emission standards are very tough in developed countries. The US recently shut down our last primary lead smelter and we will now depend on imports and recycle.

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