The heat balance of gas turbine (GT) combustors is used for determining the average Combustor Exit Temperature (CET). It is important for designing the hot parts in this area. Sensor measurements of the CET are nearly impossible due to its high level up to above 1700°C. Therefore it is typically evaluated based on a 1-D cycle calculation, in which the combustor receives compressed air and fuel and it discharges the hot combustion gas at the temperature CET.

In the classic approach the fuel heat received in the combustor is evaluated based on the lower heating value (LHV) of the fuel and after the complete combustion the mixture of excess air and combustion products leaves the combustor at the temperature CET, which is calculated based on its specific enthalpy function.

So far so simple but this is tricky. The reaction energy is not the LHV but the higher heating value HHV, which includes additionally the discharged energy for condensing the combustion water at ambient temperature. The total heat comes into the flue-gas in the combustor, which is designed for a combustion efficiency of typically 99%+. There is no significant downstream reaction known, which could add the missing difference of HHV-LHV. In GT based power stations condensation is mostly avoided by sufficiently high stack temperature. For methane as a fuel the HHV is around 11% higher than the LHV.

Thus the CET derived with the LHV for a given fuel mass flow rate may be underestimated. The method comparison shown below indicates values around 10K. This is a “grey” issue. The intention of this paper is an attempt to understand this practice both technically and historically.

Gas turbine catalogues indicate performance data based on burning pure methane. This may have its historic roots in the fact that methane (only Methane, not higher hydrocarbons) burns with oxygen without a change of the specific volume. This simplified the cycle calculation in the sense that combustion could be modelled by adding the LHV to air and methane (assuming an equal temperature) and by calculating the expansion of air and methane separately (corresponding to mixed if no chemical reaction due to the high temperature is assumed) but with the same polytropic efficiency. At ambient temperature this fuel-air mixture is still gaseous and therefore the heat balance of the GT matches exactly with the LHV (used before in the combustor heat balance) because there is no condensation issue.

Another feature of the air may compensate the CET mistake partly when using the LHV. It is the effect of dissociation. This increases the specific heat and therefore reduces the calculated CET. In the older time the used specific heat function of air did not include the dissociation effect while nowadays it is mostly included assuming chemical equilibrium.

In this paper the good match of a cycle calculation considering the HHV and dissociation with published OEM data will be demonstrated. Indeed this method contradicts existing standards and practices and a further discussion considering the evidence shown below is welcome. In its current development state it allows considering any fuel defined only by the HHV and by its composition with hydrogen to carbon ratio by mass. Additionally it also allows considering high fogging with water injection rates up to several mass % of the air inlet flow rate.

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