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  1. Natural gas associated with oil wells and natural gas fields is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and airborne pollutants. Flaring of the associated gas removes greenhouse gases like methane and other hydrocarbons. The present study explores the possibility of enhancing the flaring of associated gas mixtures (C1 – C4 alkane mixture) using nanosecond pulsed non-equilibrium plasma discharges. Starting with a detailed chemistry for C0 – C4 hydrocarbons (Aramco mechanism 3.0 – 589 species), systematic reductions are performed to obtain a smaller reduced mechanism (156 species) yet retaining the relevant kinetics of C1 – C4 alkanes at atmospheric pressure and varying equivalence ratios (φ = 0.5 – 2.0). This conventional combustion chemistry for small alkanes is then coupled with the plasma kinetics of CH4, C2H6, C3H8, and N2, including electron-impact excitations, dissociations, and ionization reactions. The newly developed plasma-based flare gas chemistry is then utilized to investigate repetitively pulsed non-equilibrium plasma-assisted reforming and subsequent combustion of the flare gas mixture diluted with N2 at different conditions. The results indicate an enhanced production of hydrogen, ethylene and other species in the reformed gas mixture, owing to the electron-impact dissociation pathways and subsequent H-abstractions and recombination reactions, thereby resulting in a mixture of CH4, H2, C2H4, C2H2, and other unsaturated C3 species. The reformed mixture shows an enhanced reactivity as exhibited by their shorter ignition delays. The reformed mixture is also observed to undergo increased methane destruction and higher equilibrium temperatures compared to the original mixture as the gas temperature increases, thereby exhibiting a potential for reducing the unburnt emissions of methane and other hydrocarbons. 
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  2. Nanosecond Pulsed High Frequency Discharges (NPHFD) are gaining popularity over conventional spark and arc discharges as they have been shown to increase energy efficiency, enhance ignition probability and sustained kernel growth, and offer more flexibility and control for ignition applications under various conditions. Hence, it is important to determine the impact of different factors such as the optimal pulse energy, background flow conditions, inter-pulse time, mixture equivalence ratio, etc. on the success of ignition of premixed mixtures with NPHFD. This work presents a numerical investigation of the morphology of ignition kernel development with both single-pulse and multiple-pulse discharges. Nanosecond non-equilibrium plasma discharges are modeled between pin-pin electrodes in a subsonic ignition tunnel with quiescent and flowing premixed mixtures of methane and air. Large eddy simulations (LES) are conducted to investigate the reasons for successful and failed ignition in different scenarios. A single pulse discharge in the presence of electrodes, in a quiescent medium, elucidates the gas recirculation pattern caused by the plasma pulse which results in a separated toroidal kernel from the primary ignition kernel between the electrodes. Convection heat loss to the mean flow results in quenching of the high temperature, radical-rich hot-spots creeping on the electrode walls, and leaving only the semi-toroidal kernel to propagate downstream. Finally, simulations with multiple pulses with different inter-pulse times have been conducted to analyze the synergistic effect of overlapping kernels with high temperature and OH concentration, which has been attributed as the primary reason for higher ignition probabilities in the “fully coupled” regime reported in the experiments. Successful ignition kernel formation is reported with 3 pulses at a pulse repetition frequency of 300 kHz in the fully coupled regime. This kernel volume was almost 4 times, and develops in two-thirds the time, compared to the ignition kernel volume formed by the single pulse discharge with the same total energy. Ten pulses with twice as much total energy were deposited at a much lower frequency of 2 kHz, which resulted in disjoint hot-spots that fail to form an ignition kernel in the decoupled regime. 
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  3. This work aims at comparing the accuracy and overall performance of a low-Mach CFD solver and a fully-compressible CFD solver for direct numerical simulation (DNS) of nonequilibrium plasma assisted ignition (PAI) using a phenomenological model described in Castela et al. [1]. The phenomenological model describes the impact of nanosecond pulsed plasma discharges by introducing source terms in the reacting flow equations, instead of solving the detailed plasma kinetics at every time step of the discharge. Ultra-fast gas heating and dissociation ofO2 are attributed to the electronic excitation ofN2 and the subsequent quenching to ground state. This process is highly exothermic, and is responsible for dissociation of O2 to form O radicals; both of which promote faster ignition. Another relatively slower process of gas heating associated with vibrational-to-translational relaxation is also accounted for, by solving an additional vibrational energy transport equation. A fully-compressible CFD solver for high Mach (M>0.2) reacting flows, developed by extending the default rhoCentralFoam solver in OpenFOAM, is used to perform DNS of PAI in a 2D domain representing a cross section of a pin-to-pin plasma discharge configuration. The same case is also simulated using a low-Mach, pressure-based CFD solver, built by extending the default reactingFoam solver. The lack of flow or wave dominated transport after the plasma-induced weak shock wave leaves the domain causes inaccurate computation of all the transport variables, with a rather small time step dictated by the CFL condition, with the fully-compressible solver. These issues are not encountered in the low-Mach solver. Finally, the low-Mach solver is used to perform DNS of PAI in lean, premixed, isotropic turbulent mixtures of CH4-air at two different Reynolds numbers of 44 and 395. Local convection of the radicals and vibrational energy from the discharge domain, and straining of the high temperature reaction zones resulted in slower ignition of the case with the higher Re. A cascade effect of temperature reduction in the more turbulent case also resulted in a five - six times smaller value of the vibrational to translational gas heating source term, which further inhibited ignition. Two pulses were sufficient for ignition of the Re = 44 case, whereas three pulses were required for the Re = 395 case; consistent with the results of Ref. [1]. 
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  4. Global Pathway Selection/Analysis (GPSA) algorithm helps in analyzing the chemical kinetics of complex combustion systems by identifying important global reaction pathways that connects a source and a sink species. The present work aims to extend the application of GPSA to plasma assisted combustion systems in order to identify the dominant global pathways that govern the plasma and combustion kinetics at various conditions. The reaction cycles involving the excitation of nitrogen to its vibrational and electronic states and the subsequent de-excitation to its ground state are found to control the reactivity of plasma assisted systems. Provisions are made in the GPSA algorithm to capture the dominant reaction pathways and cycles of plasma assisted combustion (i.e., p-GPSA). Further, the analysis of plasma assisted ammonia combustion are presented as an example, which includes the results obtained using both the traditional path flux analysis and p-GPSA. The dominant pathways for the plasma assisted combustion of ammonia are identified along with the dominant excitation--de-excitation loops and their importance are ascertained and verified using path flux analysis. 
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  5. This work aims at studying the combustion and pyrolysis characteristics of ammonia (NH3) using non-equilibrium plasma. The well known challenges of ammonia combustion and the advantages of using non-equilibrium plasma are discussed using results of zero-dimensional and one-dimensional coupled simulations. Periodic nanosecond pulsed discharges of plasma are interspersed with microsecond gaps of combustion to assess the assistance provided by plasma on overall combustion characteristics of ammonia fuel, such as ignition delay and flammability limit. Due to the lack of a reliable plasma mechanism for ammonia, a validated plasma kinetic mechanism of methane and oxygen is transformed to that of ammonia and oxygen, and is coupled with an experimentally validated ammonia combustion mechanism in this work. Another NH3 / O2 / He plasma mechanism that was recently assembled and published is also used to study the discharge and inter-pulse kinetics. A 0D model is developed to compute the rates of the electron impact reactions during the discharge, and ion-electron recombination reactions and quenching reactions along with the combustion reactions during the gap. Finally, the species concentrations and temperatures from this model are compared with those obtained using a detailed 1D model which solves for the transient electric field in addition to the species concentrations and temperature. 
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