Analytical description are presented for non-linear heterogeneous conversion of a porous solid particle reacting with a surrounding gas. Account has been taken of a reaction rate of general order with respect to gas concentration, intrinsic reaction surface area and pore diffusion, which change with solid conversion and external film transport. Results include expressions for the concentration distributions of the solid and gaseous reactant, the propagation velocity of the conversion zone inside the particle, the conversion time and the conversion rate. The complete analytical description of the non-linear conversion process is based on a combination of two asymptotic solutions. The asymptotic solutions are derived in closed form from the governing non-linear coupled partial differential equations pertaining to conservation of mass of solid and gaseous reactant, considering the limiting cases of a small and large Thiele modulus, respectively. For a small Thiele modulus, the solutions correspond to conversion dominated by reaction kinetics. For a large Thiele modulus, conversion is strongly influenced by internal and external transport processes and takes place in a narrow zone near the outer surface of the particle: solutions are derived by employing boundary layer theory. In Part II of this paper the analytical solutions are extended to non-isothermal conversion and are compared with results of numerical simulations.