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Uncertainty estimation to evaluate mass balances on a combustion system


Mass balances of ash and potassium for a fluidized bed combustor were performed incorporating measurement uncertainties. The total output mass of ash or a chemical element should be equal to the mass in the input fuel; however, this is not often achieved. A realistic estimation of recovery uncertainty can support the reliability of a mass balance. Estimation of uncertainty helps to establish a reliable evaluation of the recovery ratio of ash mass and elemental mass. This may clarify whether any apparent lack in closing the mass balance can be attributed to uncertainties. The evaluation of measurement uncertainty for different matrices, namely coal, biomass, sand and ashes from different streams was based on internal quality control data and external quality control data, namely analysis of samples from proficiency tests or use of a certified reference material. The evaluation of intermediate precision and trueness allowed the estimation of measurement uncertainty. Due to the different physic and chemical characteristics of the studied matrices, the uncertainty of precision was evaluated using R-charts of data obtained from the analysis of duplicates for the majority of samples. This allowed evaluating sample heterogeneity effects. The instrumental acceptance criterion was also considered and included in the combined uncertainty. The trueness was evaluated using data from several proficiency tests and from analysis of a certified reference material or sample spiking. Statistically significant bias was included.

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Financial support through a PhD grant (SFRH/BD/30076/2006) given by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia) is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Paula Teixeira.

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Teixeira, P., Lopes, H., Gulyurtlu, I. et al. Uncertainty estimation to evaluate mass balances on a combustion system. Accred Qual Assur 17, 159–166 (2012).

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  • Uncertainty budget
  • Precision
  • Trueness
  • Mass balance