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Wobbe index

The Wobbe Index (WI) is the main indicator of the interchangeability of fuel gases such as natural gas LPG and Town Gas and is frequently defined in the specifications of gas supply and transport utilities. If VC is the higher heating value, or calorific value, and GS is the specific gravity, the Wobbe Index, IW, is defined as

I_W = \frac {V_C} {\sqrt{G_S}}.

In details, the above equation can be translated into Wobbe Index = higher heating value/(square root of gas specific gravity).

The Wobbe Index is used to compare the combustion energy output of different composition fuel gases in an appliance (fire, cooker etc.). If two fuels have identical Wobbe Indices then for given pressure and valve settings the energy output will also be identical. Typically variations of up to 5% are allowed as these would not be noticeable to the consumer. The Wobbe Index is a critical factor to minimise the impact of the changeover when analyzing the use of SNG fuels such as propane-air mixtures.

Wobbe Index (kcal per standard cubic meter) of common fuel gases

Fuel Gas Upper Index Lower Index
Hydrogen 11,528 9,715
Methane 12,735 11,452
Ethane 16,298 14,931
Ethylene 15,253 14,344
Natural gas 12,837 11,597
Propane 19,376 17,817
Propylene 18,413 17,180
n-butane 22,066 20,336
Iso-butane 21,980 20,247
Butylene-1 21,142 19,728
LPG 20,755 19,106
Acetylene 14,655 14,141
Carbon monoxide 3,060 3,060


The Wobbe index is commonly expressed in Btu per standard cubic foot or megajoules per standard cubic meter (1000 BTU/scf = 37.3 MJ/m3). In the case of natural gas (molar mass 17 g/mol), the typical heating value is around 1,050 Btu per cubic foot and the specific gravity is approximately 0.59, giving a typical Wobbe index of 1,367.

There are three ranges or "families" of fuel gasses that have been internationally agreed based on Wobbe Index. Family 1 covers manufactured gases, family 2 covers natural gases (with high and low ranges) and family 3 covers liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Combustion equipment is typically designed to burn a fuel gas within a particular family: hydrogen-rich Town Gas, Natural Gas or LPG.

Family Wobbe Index range (MJ/Sm3) Type of gas
1 22.5 – 30 Town gas / Syn Gas
2 L 39 – 45 Natural
2 H 45.5 – 55
3 73.5 – 87.5 LPG

Other flame characteristics and composition limits may determine the acceptability of the replacement gas, e.g. flame speed, 'yellow tipping' due to incomplete combustion, sulphur content, oxygen content etc..

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Wobbe_index". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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