Flammability Characteristics of Hydrogen and Its Mixtures with Light Hydrocarbons at Atmospheric and Sub-atmospheric Pressures



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Knowledge of flammability limits is essential in the prevention of fire and explosion. There are two limits of flammability, upper flammability limit (UFL) and lower flammability limit (LFL), which define the flammable region of a combustible gas/vapor. This research focuses on the flammability limits of hydrogen and its binary mixtures with light hydrocarbons (methane, ethane, n-butane, and ethylene) at sub-atmospheric pressures.

The flammability limits of hydrogen, light hydrocarbons, and binary mixtures of hydrogen and each hydrocarbon were determined experimentally at room temperature (20?C) and initial pressures ranging from 1.0 atm to 0.1 atm. The experiments were conducted in a closed cylindrical stainless steel vessel with upward flame propagation. It was found that the flammable region of hydrogen initially widens when the pressure decreases from 1.0 atm to 0.3 atm, then narrows with the further decrease of pressure. In contrast, the flammable regions of the hydrocarbons narrow when the pressure decreases. For hydrogen and the hydrocarbons, pressure has a much greater impact on the UFLs than on the LFLs.

For binary mixtures of hydrogen and the hydrocarbons, the flammable regions of all mixtures widen when the fraction of hydrogen in the mixture increases. When the pressure decreases, the flammable regions of all mixtures narrow. The applications of Le Chatelier?s rule and the Calculated Adiabatic Flame Temperature (CAFT) model to the flammability limits of the mixtures were verified. It was found that Le Chatelier?s rule could predict the flammability limits much better than the CAFT model.

The adiabatic flame temperatures (AFTs), an important parameter in the risk assessment of fire and explosion, of hydrogen and the hydrocarbons were also calculated. The influence of sub-atmospheric pressures on the AFTs was investigated. A linear relationship between the AFT and the corresponding flammability limit is derived. Furthermore, the consequence of fire relating to hydrogen and the hydrocarbons is discussed based on the AFTs of the chemicals.