Alabama Operations - Power Systems and Environmental Research

Combustion Research Facility

The pilot-scale Combustion Research Facility (CRF) is located on the Birmingham, AL, campus of Southern Research. The design of this innovative facility was carefully selected to offer our clients a testing environment that provides a close simulation of the physical processes that occur in a full-scale utility boiler.

View more information about the Combustion Research Facility (PDF document).

Joint Venture/Usage Agreement

The facility was designed and constructed by Southern Research as part of a contract with Southern Company Services, and both companies currently own the facility. Under a usage agreement, Southern Research offers the capability to utilize the facility to conduct confidential research for outside parties, including other utilities; as part of this arrangement, a facility usage fee is paid to Southern Company Services.

Method of Operation/Facility Features

Closely approximating the physical processes that occur in a full-scale utility boiler, the facility is designed to operate at 3.6 million Btu per hour firing on natural gas or coal (approximately 1.1 MW thermal). The facility consists of: a coal crushing and milling area; a coal feeding system; a vertical refractory-lined furnace; a single up-fired burner; and horizontal convective pass with air-cooled tube banks; a series of heat exchangers; an electrostatic precipitator; a pulse jet baghouse; and a packed column scrubber.

Four PC-type facility configurations are possible to represent the following full-scale power plant types:

  • Wall-fired
  • Tangentially-fired
  • Tangentially-fired with overfire air
  • Wall-fired with low-NOx burners

The facility can also be configured with an oxygen burner to fire with 100% oxygen instead of air and flue-gas recycle.


The CRF has been used extensively for sorbent, reagent, and catalyst testing in addition to testing of similar technologies to improve combustion efficiency, reduce slagging and fouling, or prevent emissions of NOx, SOx, Hg and other trace metals, HCI, and other pollutants.

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