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In the olden days blacksmiths used to heat the iron by placing it on a bed of coal. Bellows provide air to the coal from the bottom of the bed. Fluidized Bed combustion is something similar to this.
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At the bottom of the boiler furnace there is a bed of inert material. Bed is where the coal or fuel spreads. Air supply is from under the bed at high pressure. This lifts the bed material and the coal particles and keeps it in suspension. The coal combustion takes place in this suspended condition. This is the Fluidized bed.
Special design of the air nozzles at the bottom of the bed allows air flow without clogging. Primary air fans provide the preheated Fluidizing air. Secondary air fans provide pre-heated Combustion air. Nozzles in the furnace walls at various levels distribute the Combustion air in the furnace.
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Fine particles of partly burned coal, ash and bed material are carried along with the flue gases to the upper areas of the furnace and then into a cyclone. In the cyclone the heavier particles separate from the gas and falls to the hopper of the cyclone. This returns to the furnace for recirculation. Hence the name Circulating Fluidized Bed combustion. The hot gases from the cyclone pass to the heat transfer surfaces and go out of the boiler.
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To start with the bed material is sand. Some portion is lost in the ash during the operation and this has to be made-up. In coal fired boilers the ash from the coal itself will be the makeup material. When firing bio fuels with very low ash content sand will be the makeup bed material. For high Sulphur coals Limestone addition to the bed material reduces SO2 emissions.
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CFBC uses crushed coal of 3 to 6 mm size. This requires only a crusher not a pulverizer. From storage hoppers Conveyer and feeders transport the coal to feed chutes in the furnace. Start up is by oil burners in the furnace. Ash spouts in the furnace remove the ash from the bottom of the furnace.
The diagram below shows the schematic of a CFB boiler.
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Different boiler manufacturers adopt different methods of cyclone separation , the fluidizing nozzles etc. But the basic principles remain the same.