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The Wobbe Index (WI) or Wobbe number is an indicator of the interchangeability of fuel gases such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and town gas and is frequently defined in the specifications of gas supply and transport utilities.
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 substitute natural gas (SNG) fuels such as propane-air mixtures. The Wobbe Index also requires the addition of propane to some upgraded biomethane products, particularly in regions where natural gas has a high calorific value such as Sweden 
|Fuel gas||Upper index
The Wobbe index is commonly expressed in either British Thermal Units (BTU) per standard cubic foot, or else megajoules per standard cubic meter (1,000 BTU/scf = 37.3 MJ/Sm3). 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 BTU/scf (51 MJ/m3).
There are three ranges or "families" of fuel gases 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||Type of gas||Wobbe Index range (MJ/Nm3)||Wobbe number range from |
|1||Town gas / Syngas||22.5 – 30||24 – 29|
|2 L||Natural||39 – 45|
|2 H||45.5 – 55||48 – 53|
|3||LPG||73.5 – 87.5||72 – 87|
Other flame characteristics and composition limits may determine the acceptability of the replacement gas, e.g. flame speed, "yellow tipping" due to incomplete combustion, sulfur content, oxygen content, etc.
In spite of its usefulness, Wobbe index alone is not a good indicator of the interchangeability of two or more gases, or mixtures of them. It is necessary to bear in mind other criteria while determining the plenty substitution of a fuel by other, different of the one used to adjust the burning system.
- "The Wobbe Index and Natural Gas Interchangeability" (PDF). Emerson Process Management. 2007-07-30.
- Treloar, R.D. (2005). Gas Installation Technology. Blackwell. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-4051-1880-4.
- B .
- Wobbe Index and Fuel Gases
- Flórez-Orrego,Daniel, Escola Politécnica da USP. "Fuel Gas Interchangeability". Retrieved 8 Sep 2012.