Preventing Choke and Surge in a Compressor

Turbo Compressors are used to increase the pressure of a gas, which are required in propulsion systems like a gas turbine, as well as many production processes in the energy sectors, and various other important industries such as the oil and gas, chemical industries, and many more.

Such compressors are highly specific to the working fluid used (gas) and the specific operating conditions of the processes for which they are designed. This makes them very expensive. Thus, such turbo compressors should be designed and operate with high level of care and accuracy to avoid any failure and to extract the best performance possible from the machine.

Axial Compressor and Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM
Figure 1 (A) Axial Compressor (B) Centrifugal Compressor in AxSTREAM®

Turbo Compressor Characteristic Curves

The characteristic curves of any turbo compressor define the operating zone for the compressor at different speed lines and is limited by the two phenomenon called choke and surge. These two opposing constraints can be seen in Figure 2.

Choke conditions occurs when a compressor operates at the maximum mass flow rate. Maximum flow happens as the Mach number reaches to unity at some part of the compressor, i.e. as it reaches sonic velocity, the flow is said to be choked. In other words, the maximum volume flow rate in compressor passage is limited by limited size of the throat region.  Generally, this calculation is important for applications where high molecular weight fluids are involved in the compression process.

Surge is the characteristic behavior of a turbo compressor at low flow rate conditions where a complete breakdown of steady flow occurs. Due to a surge, the outlet pressure of the compressor is reduced drastically, and results in flow reversal from discharge to suction. It is an undesirable phenomenon that can create high vibrations, damage the rotor bearings, rotor seals, compressor driver and affect the entire cycle operation.

Compressor Performance Curve
Figure 2 Compressor Performance Curve

Preventing Choke and Surge Conditions

Both choke conditions and surge conditions are undesirable for optimal operation of a turbo compressor.  Each condition must be considered during design to ensure these conditions are prevented. Read More

The Role of Turbomachinery in Modern Hypersonic Cycles

In the coming age of hypersonics, a variety of engine types and cycles are being innovated and worked on. Yet turbomachinery remains unique in its ability to use a single airbreathing engine cycle to carry an aircraft from static conditions to high speeds. One of the largest limitations of turbomachinery at hypersonic speeds (Mach 5+) is the stagnation temperature, or the amount of heat in the air as it is brought to a standstill. While material improvements for turbomachinery are made over time which increases the effective range of temperatures steadily (Figure 1), this steady rate means that the ability of these materials to allow use at stagnation temperatures of more than 1600K remains unlikely any time soon.

Figure 1 Material Improvements Over Time
Figure 1 Material Improvements Over Time

This is the limiting point for traditional turbojet cycles, as Mach 5+ speeds result in temperatures far exceeding these limitations, even for the compressor. However, improvements in cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen has allowed the concept of precooling, using the extremely low liquid temperature of hydrogen to cool the air enough to push this Mach number range, as well as improve compressor efficiency. To drive the turbine, the exhaust gas and combustion chamber can used, heating the hydrogen and reducing the nozzle temperature for given combustion properties. This has the added effect of separating the turbine inlet temperature from the combustion temperature, reducing limitations on combustion temperatures.  This type of cycle can reduce the inlet temperatures underneath material limits. Read More

Digital Engineering Modern Turbomachinery Design Platforms

Automatic Turbocharger Compressor Design 

In the age of green energy and increased efforts to minimize our carbon footprint,  the design of a turbocharger plays an important role in reducing engine fuel consumption and emissions while increasing the performance.  When developing an engine with a turbocharger, the general approach is to select a turbocharger design from a product list. The primary issue with this approach is that it does not cover 100% of the requirements of engine characteristics, i.e. it has non-optimal construction for the engine being developed. The operational characteristics of an engine directly depends on the interactions between the system components. This non-optimal construction will always lead to a decrease in the engine’s performance. In addition, the iteration process of turbocharger selection is time and resource consuming.

That is why the most optimal way to develop an engine with turbocharging is to design a turbocharger from scratch; wherein the operational points of compressor needed to satisfy the engine’s optimal operation are known, i.e. compressor map (Figure 1). But how do we quickly get a compressor map? Even at the preliminary design level, the design of turbocharger flow path requires dozens of hours for high-level engineers. And what about less experienced engineers?

Figure 1 Compressor Map Generated in AxSTREAM
Figure 1 Compressor Map Generated in AxSTREAM®

Incorporating a digital engineering approach with a turbomachinery design platform such as  AxSTREAM® allows designers to find the compressor design with all the required constraints which correspond to the specified compressor map needed. The design process is presented in Figure 2. Read More

Industrial Refrigerator Modeling

Refrigerators are an integral part of everyday life to the point where it is almost impossible to image our day without them. As in our everyday life, refrigeration units are also widely used for industrial purposes, not only as stationary units but also for transporting cold goods over long distances. In this blog, we will focus on the simulation and modeling of such an industrial refrigeration unit.

Picture 1 - Industrial Refrigerator
Industrial Refrigerator

Like any stationary refrigeration unit, a unit used for cooled transportation includes an intermediate heat exchanger, a pump, an evaporator, a compressor, a condenser, and a throttle. The most common refrigeration scheme uses three heat fluids in the industrial refrigeration cycle. There is Water, which is used for heat removal from Refrigerant- R134A and Propylene glycol 55%. These other fluids are used as intermediate fluids between the refrigerator chamber and refrigerant loop. The working principle of all fridge systems are based on the phase transition process that occurs during the refrigerator cycle shown in Figure 1. The propylene glycol is pumped into the evaporator from the heat exchanger, in which it cools and transfers heat to the refrigerant. In the evaporator, the refrigerant boils and gasifies during the heat transfer process and takes heat from the refrigerator. The gaseous refrigerant enters the condenser due to the compressor working, where its phase transition occurs to the liquid state and cycle repeats.
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Considerations when Designing Turbomachinery with sCO2 as a Working Fluid

Supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycles offer higher efficiency for power generation than conventional steam Rankine cycles and gas Brayton cycles over a wide range of applications, including waste heat recovery, concentrated solar power, nuclear, and fossil energy. sCO2 cycles operate at high pressures throughout the cycle, resulting in a working fluid with a higher density, which will lead to smaller equipment sizes, smaller carbon footprint, and therefore lower cost. However, the combinations of pressure, temperature, and density in sCO2 power cycles are outside the experience of many designers. Challenges in designing sCO2 cycles include turbomachinery aerodynamic and structural design, bearings, seals, thermal management and rotordynamics. According to the report from Sandia National Lab, compressors operating near critical point and turbines have received only TRL (technical readiness level) 4 and 5 out of 9. This blog discusses the impact on turbomachinery design.

Radial or Axial

The selection of radial or axial for turbomachinery is typically performed based on the operating conditions (adiabatic head H and inlet volumetric flow Q). Non-dimensional turbomachinery parameters of specific speed Ns and specific diameter Ds can be selected from NsDs charts to estimate size, speed, and type of turbomachinery. Turbomachinery types for a sCO2 recompression cycle with scales ranging from 100 kW to over 300 MW have been studied and concluded that systems below 10 MW will likely feature only radial turbines and compressors with a single-stage or low stage counts. Such recompression cycle can be simulated in AxCYCLE™ tool which is shown in Figure 1. As size increases, the most efficient configuration for the turbine and recompressor transitions from radial to axial at approximately 30 MW and 100 MW, respectively. Suitable types of turbomachinery and its components for different power range can be reviewed in Figure 2. A radial configuration for the main compressor was expected at all scales due to its lower volume flow and wider range to facilitate variation in gas properties due to operation near the critical point.

Recompression Cycle simulated in AxCYCLE
Figure 1 – Recompression Cycle Simulated in AxCYCLE

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Introduction to Heat Recovery Steam Generated (HRSG) Technology

The acronym HRSG (Heat Recovery Steam Generated) is in different sources describing the operation of cogeneration and heating plants, but what does it mean? Heat Recovery Steam Generated (HRSG) technology is a recycling steam generator which uses the heat of exhaust from a gas turbine to generate steam for a steam turbine generating electricity.

The simplest scheme of a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) is presented in Figure 1.

The simplest scheme of CCGT
Figure 1: The simplest scheme of CCGT.

In Figure 1, the exhaust flue gases temperature on the outlet of the turbine is equal to 551.709 ℃. This is a too high a temperature to release the gasses into the environment. The excess heat is able to be disposed of while receiving additional electric power which is approximately equivalent to 30% of the capacity of a gas turbine.

To reach the maximum economical and eco-friendly criteria possible for the installation, many pieces of equipment are used including: a waste heat boiler (HRSG); turbines with a selection for a deaerator (Turbine With Extraction, Deaerator); feed and condensate pumps (PUMP2, PUMP); a condenser (Condenser); and a generator (Generator 2). Exhaust gases entering into the HRSG transfer heat to water which is supplied by the condensate pump from the steam turbine condenser to the deaerator and further by the feed pump to the HRSG. Here boiling of water and overheating of the steam occurs. Moving further, the steam enters the turbine where it performs useful work.

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A Basic Guide to Reverse Engineering

Reverse Engineering, or back engineering, is a term used for the process of examining an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object when you don’t have the original drawings/models or manufacturing information about an object.

There are two major reasons reverse engineering is used:

  1.  create replacement parts to maintain the function of older machines;
  2.  improve the function of existing machines while meeting all existing constraints.

 

Figure 1 Uses of Reverse Engineering
Figure 1: Uses of Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is extremely important in turbomachinery for replacement parts in turbines or compressors which have been operating for many years. Documentation, reports and drawings for a significant amount of these machines is not available due to a variety of reasons, therefore keeping these important machines running is a challenge. One of the options to deal with this issue is to buy the modern analogue of the machine, which is not always feasible due to economic constraints or that there is no replacement available.  Reverse engineering of the worn out parts might be the best option in the majority of cases.

In any case, the process to recovery original geometry of the object is the first and major step for all reverse engineering projects, whether you want just replacing/replicate parts or proceed with an upgrade to the machine.

Basic Steps to Any Reverse Engineering Project

Any reverse engineering process consist of the following phases:

  1. Data collection: The object needs to be taken apart and studied.  Starting in ancient times, items were disassembles and careful hand measurements were taken to replicate items.  Today, we employ advanced laser scanning tool and 3D modeling techniques to record the required information in addition to any existing documentation, drawings or reports which exists.
  2. Data processing: Once you have the data, it needs to be converted to useful information.  Computers are essential for this stage as it can involve the processing of billions of coordinates of data converting this information into 2D drawings or 3D models by utilizing CAD systems.
  3. Data modeling: This step was not available in beginning of reverse engineering. People just tried to replicate and manufacture a similar object based on the available data. Nowadays, engineers can utilize digital modelling, which represents all details of the geometrical and operational conditions of the object through a range of operation regimes. Typically, performance analysis and structural evaluation are done at this stage, by utilizing thermo/aerodynamic analytical tool, including 3D CFD and FEA approaches.
  4. Improvement/redesign of the object: If required, this is the step where innovations can be created to improve the effectiveness of the object based on the collected data about the object’s geometry and operation.
  5. Manufacturing: After the part is been modeled and meets the design requirements, the object can be manufactured to replace a worn out part, or to provide increased functionality.
Reverse Engineering in Today’s World

It very common to find the situations where reverse engineering is necessary for parts replacement, particularly with turbomachinery – steam or gas turbines, compressors and pumps. Many of these machines have been in operation for many years and experienced damaging effects of use over that time – like water droplets and solid particles erosion, corrosion, foreign objects, and unexpected operating conditions. Besides these expected needed repairs, some other reasons for reverse engineering might arise from a components part failure, as well as part alterations needed due to previous overhauls and re-rates.

All the conditions mentioned above require not only recovering the original geometry but also an understanding of the unit’s history, material properties and current operating conditions.

This article focuses on reverse engineering objects which have experienced significant change in their geometry due to the challenges of long term operation and their shape could not be directly recovered by traditional methods – like direct measurement or laser scanning.  Pictures below are examples of such objects – steam turbines blading with significant damage of the airfoils with different causes such as mechanical, water/solid particle erosion, and deposit.

Figure 2 Water droplet erosion on steam turbines long blades
Figure 2: Water droplet erosion on steam turbines long blades
Figure 3 Steam turbine blading with mechanical damage
Figure 3: Steam turbine blading with mechanical damage
Figure 4 Steam turbine control stage nozzles solid particle erosion
Figure 4 Steam turbine control stage nozzles solid particle erosion
Figure 5 Deposits on Rotating Blades
Figure 5: Deposits on Rotating Blades

In the situations shown above, recovering the original geometry may be impossible if an engineer only has the undamaged portion of original part to work with. Which means that relying on undamaged portion of an original part it may be impossible to recover the needed portion due to significant level of damage.

Looking at the eroded turbine blading in Figure 1, recovering these airfoils with sufficient accuracy based on only a scan of the original part, would be very difficult, if not impossible, considering that 1/3 to ½ of the needed profile is wiped out by erosion.

In order to recover the full airfoil shape for turbines / compressors / or pumps blading, the information about flow conditions – angles, velocities, pressure, temperature – is required to recreate the airfoils profiles and a complete 3D blade.

In many cases with significant blading damage, the information obtained from aero/thermodynamic analysis is the only source of the information available for a designer and the only possible way to recover turbomachinery blading. In fact, in such a situation, the new variant of the airfoils is developed based on aero/thermodynamic information and by considering the remaining portion of the part, which would be the most accurate representation of the original variant. A structural evaluation should also be performed for any recovered part to ensure blading structural reliability in addition to the aero/thermodynamic study.

All of these engineering steps require employment of dedicated engineering design and analysis tools, which can perform:

  • – Accurate modelling of the turbo machinery flow path,
  • – 1D/2D aero/thermodynamic analysis and in some cases 3D CFD,
  • – Profiling and 3D staking of the blading,
  • – Structural evaluation, including 3D FEA tools.

SoftInWay’s team offers a comprehensive set of turbomachinery design and analysis tools within the integrated AxSTREAM® platform, which covers many steps, required for reverse engineering activities.

In Figure 6 below, a process diagram shows how AxSTREAM® products are used for reverse engineering.

Process Diagram
Figure 6: Process diagram of AxSTREAM® products use in reverse engineering

After data collection, most of the geometry recovering steps are processed by AxSTREAM® modules:

  • AxSLICE™ to process original geometry data, available from the scanned cloud of points.
  • AxSTREAM® solver to perform 1D/2D aero/thermodynamic
  • AxSTREAM® profiler to recover profile shape and 3D airfoil stacking.
  • AxSTRESS™ for structural evaluation and 3D design.
  • AxCFD™ for detailed aerodynamic analysis and performance evaluation.

Geometry recovered in this way is now ready to be used to develop detailed 3D CAD models and 2D drawings for further technological and/or manufacturing processing.

As an example of such capabilities, Figure 7 demonstrates the reverse engineering process for the 1000 mm last stage of 200 MW steam turbine with significantly damaged blades due to water erosion.

It is possible to recognize and extract the profile angles with a specialized tool – AxSLICE™, obtain slices on the desired number of sections and insert the extracted geometric data to an AxSTREAM® project.

200 MW steam turbine water eroded 1000mm last stage blade reverse engineering process using AxSTREAM and upgraded variant of the blade
Figure 7: 200 MW steam turbine water eroded 1000mm last stage blade reverse engineering process using AxSTREAM® and upgraded variant of the blade.

The AxSTREAM® platform can provide seamless reverse engineering process for all components of complex turbomachinery.

Meet an Expert! 

Boris Frolov Dr. Boris Frolov is the Director of Engineering at SoftInWay, Inc. and manages all of the turbomachinery consulting activities. He has over 35 years of experience in steam/gas turbines design, analysis and testing.

Earning his PhD in turbine stages optimization with controlled reaction, he is an expert in steam turbines aerodynamics and long buckets aeromechanics. Dr. Frolov has over 50 publications and 7 registered patents and he shares this vast knowledge as a lecturer in steam turbines, gas dynamics and thermodynamics for students studying power engineering sciences. Prior to joining SoftInWay, he was the engineering manager at GE Steam Turbines.

An Introduction to Accurate HVAC System Modeling

HVAC (Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) is all about comfort, and comfort is a subjective feeling associated with many parameters like air quality, air temperature, surrounding surface temperature, air flow and relative humidity. For example, while it is easy to understand how the temperature of the air in your living impacts how good you feel, the surfaces with which you are in contact also strongly affect your comfort. For example, last night I got out of bed to clean up after my dog who thought it would be a good idea to swallow (and give back) her chew toy. If I was wearing my slippers, it would have been much easier to go back to sleep between the warm bed sheets without the discomfort of waiting my cold feet warm up to normal temperature.

Speaking of sleep discomfort, many stem from HVAC imbalances.  If you wake up in the middle of the night quite thirsty, then you should probably check how dry your bedroom is. The recommended range is 40-60% relative humidity. A higher humidity puts you at risk for mold while lower humidity can lead to respiratory infections, asthma, etc.

Now that we know how HVAC contributes to our comfort, let’s look at the HVAC unit as a system and see its role, functioning and simulation at a high level. The following examples provided are for a house, but similar concepts apply to residential buildings, offices, and so on.

Controlling Temperature

The easiest parameter to control is the air temperature. It can be set by a thermostat and regulated according to a heating or cooling flow distributed from the HVAC unit to the different rooms through ducting. Without the introduction of thermally-different-than-ambient air, the house will heat or cool itself based on a combination of outside conditions and how well the building is insulated. Therefore, to keep a constant temperature a certain amount of energy must be used to provide heating (or cooling) at the same rate the house is losing (or gaining) heat.  This is a match of the house load and heating/cooling capacity. Figure 1 provides a graph of the energy needed.

Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature
Figure 1 Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature

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Turbojets – Basics and Off-design Simulation

The Brayton cycle is the fundamental constant pressure gas heating cycle used by all air-breathing jet engines. The Brayton cycle can be portrayed by a diagram of temperature vs. specific entropy, or T–S diagram, to visualize changes to temperature and specific entropy during a thermodynamic process or cycle. Figure 1 shows this ideal cycle as a black line.  However, in the real world, the compression and expansion processes are never isentropic, and there is always a certain pressure loss in the combustor.  The real Brayton cycle looks more like the blue line in Figure 1.

Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle
Figure 1 T-S diagram for ideal and real Brayton cycle
(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle_2.png)

The four stages of this cycle are described as:

1-2: isentropic compression

2-3: constant pressure heating

3-4: isentropic expansion

4-0: constant pressure cooling (absent in open cycle gas turbines)

The most basic form of a jet engine is a turbojet engine. Figures 2a and 2b provide the basic design of a turbojet engine. It consists of a gas turbine that produces hot, high-pressure gas, but has zero net shaft power output. A nozzle converts the thermal energy of the hot, high-pressure gas at the outlet of the turbine into a high-kinetic-energy exhaust stream. The high momentum and high exit pressure of the exhaust stream result in a forward thrust on the engine. Read More

Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Compressors

In today’s world where “time is money,” each and every industry involving turbomachinery wants to deliver their high performance products in the quickest time possible. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) replaces the huge number of testing requirements thus not only shortening the design cycle time, but also reducing development costs.

Today with advancements in computational resources, numerical methods, and the availability of commercial tools, CFD has become a major tool for the design phase of a project. With a large number of validations and bench markings available on the applicability of CFD for centrifugal compressors, it has become an indispensable tool for the aerodynamic designer to verify the design and understand the flow physics inside a compressor’s flow path. However, CFD is still computationally expensive and requires a high level of user-knowledge and experience to get meaningful results. CFD analysis can be performed with and without considering viscous effects of the flow. The inclusion of viscosity into the flow introduces additional complexities for choosing the most appropriate turbulence closure model. CFD however, has some limitations due to:

  • – Errors created during modeling where the true physics are not well-known and are very complex to model.
  • – Multiple approximation and model errors created during the calculation process (such as mesh resolution, steady flow assumption, turbulence closure, geometric approximation, unknown boundary profile etc.). These approximations impact the calculations of local values of vital parameters.

In CFD for example, if the 1D design is not accurate, (stage loading and blade diffusion factors etc.), then CFD cannot turn out a good design. It is critical to use a design tool such as AxSTREAM®  which can generate optimized designs with less time and effort starting from the specification.

The preliminary design modules of AxSTREAM® uses inverse design tasks to generate the initial flow path for the centrifugal compressor. By choosing the right combination of geometrical and design parameters from the start, AxSTREAM® reduces the number of design cycle iterations required in generating an accurate design.

This initial design obtained is further analyzed and optimized using throughflow solvers in AxSTREAM® which considers various operating conditions. The throughflow solvers in AxSTREAM®  predict the performance parameters at different sections and stations, and presents the blade loading, flow distribution along the flow path, etc.

The generation of 3D geometry for the impeller and diffuser is another complex activity which is greatly simplified by using the radial profiler and 3D blade design module in AxSTREAM®. The geometry generated in AxSTREAM® is fully parameterized with complete control for the user to modify as and when required. Figure 1 shows a parameterized impeller geometry generated using seven spanwise sections with contours of the curvature.

Parameterized Impeller Geometry
Figure 1. Parameterized Impeller Geometry

In CFD analysis of turbomachines, grid generation becomes a very challenging task due to the geometries of complicated, twisted blades. To achieve reliable CFD results, the grid must resolve the topology accurately to preserve this geometric information. The quality of the grid should be in an acceptable range especially the angle, aspect ratio, and skewness of the grid elements. Automatic mesh generation tools are employed to reduce the turbomachines meshing complications. The AxSTREAM® platform uses AxCFD™ to generate a high quality mesh in considerably short time which captures the accurate flow features.

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