In recent days, many people find themselves spending time and resources on uncovering the best solution to optimize the power generation cycle. Until recently, 80% of power plants worldwide (whether fossil fuel, nuclear, or clean technology) used steam as its main working fluid and while it is still the most common option, today’s power plants are finding another fluid to use.
Although supercritical CO2 study began in the 1940’s, it was disregarded as an alternative fluid option because it was expensive to explore and steam was still perfectly reliable at the time. Nowadays due to increasing quantity and quality demand in power, researchers are looking into the possibility of replacing steam with supercritical carbon dioxide. The discover of this property, increases the incentive of exploring the technology further. This year, the US Department of Energy is awarding up to $80 million towards projects to build and operate a supercritical CO2 plant.
A major concern for pump system engineers over the last fifty years has been caviation. Cavitation is defined as the formation of vapor bubbles in low pressure regions within a flow. Generally, this phenomenon occurs when the pressure value within the flow-path of the pump becomes lower than the vapor pressure; which is defined as the pressure exerted by a vapor in thermodynamic equilibrium conditions with its liquid at a specified temperature. Normally, this happens when the pressure at the suction of the pump is insufficient, in formulas NPSHa ≤ NPSHr, where the net positive suction head is the difference between the fluid pressure and the vapor pressure at the pump suction and the “a” and “r” stand respectively for the values available in the system and required by the system to avoid cavitation in the pump.
The manifestation of cavitation causes the generation of gas bubbles in zones where the pressure gets below the vapor pressure corresponding to that fluid temperature. When the liquid moves towards the outlet of the pump, the pressure rises and the bubbles implode creating major shock waves and causing vibration and mechanical damage by eroding the metal surfaces. This also causes performance degradation, noise and vibration, which can lead to complete failure. Often a first sign of a problem is vibration, which also has an impact on pump components such as the shaft, bearings and seals.
The use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in turbomachinery design is getting more and more popular given the increased computational resources. For the design process, however, there is no need for extensive CFD capabilities as the effort is put on minimizing engineering time while obtaining a design which is about 90% optimized. Here we are presenting two cases where CFD is used to derive significant information for pump design.
First, the influence of the blade shape on the parameters of the single blade hydrodynamic pump was studied by Knížat et al . The investigation of the pump properties was carried out experimentally with a support of CFD methods. The accuracy of applied steady-state calculations was satisfactory for the process of design of a single blade pump, because of the good agreement between measured and calculated power curves.
As with any turbomachinery, pump design requires a lot of effort on finding the right blade profile for the specified application. As there is no right or wrong in the process, engineers have to make some general assumptions as a starting point. Generally, we can say that the focus of this task is to minimize losses. It is obvious that the selected blade shape will affect several important hydrodynamic parameters of the pump and especially the position of optimal flow rate and the shape of the overall pump performance curves. In addition to axial and radial pump design in recent years, we also have seen the development of mixed-flow pumps. A mixed flow pump is a centrifugal pump with a mixed flow impeller (also called diagonal impeller), and their application range covers the transition gap between radial flow pumps and axial flow pumps.
Let’s consider a dimensionless coefficient called “specific speed” in order to be able to compare different pumps with various configurations and features. The “specific speed” is obtained as the theoretical rotational speed at which a geometrically-similar impeller would run if it were of such a size as to produce 1 m of head at a 1l/s flow rate. In formulas:
where ns is the specific speed, n the rotational speed, Q is the volume flow rate, H is total head and g is gravity acceleration.
In an internal combustion engine, combustion of air and fuel takes place inside the engine cylinder and hot gases are generated with temperature of gases around 2300-2500°C which may result in not only burning of oil film between the moving parts, but also in seizing or welding of the stationery and moving components. This temperature must be reduced such that the engine works at top efficienc, promoting high volumetric efficiency and ensuring better combustion without compromising the thermal efficiency due to overcooling. Most importantly, the engine needs to function both in the sense of mechanical operation and reliability. In short, cooling is a matter of equalization of internal temperature to prevent local overheating as well as to remove sufficient heat energy to maintain a practical overall working temperature.
It is also important to note that about 20-25% of the total heat generated is used for producing brake power (useful work). The cooling system should be designed to remove 30-35% of total heat and the remaining heat is lost in friction and carried away by exhaust gases.
Turboexpanders are used in a number of applications, including floating LNG (liquefied natural gas), LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) / NGL (natural gas liquids), dew point control, and ethylene plants. Used as a highly efficient system that takes advantage of high pressure, high-temperature flows, the turboexpander both produces cryogenic temperatures and simultaneously converts thermal energy into shaft power. Essentially, a turboexpander is comprised of a radial inflow expansion turbine and a centrifugal compressor combined as a single unit on a rigid shaft. The process fluid from a plant stream will run through the expansion turbine to both provide low-temperature refrigeration and convert thermal energy to mechanical power as a byproduct. First, the gas will radially enter the variable inlet nozzles (or guide vanes) of the turbine, which will allow for a localized increase in fluid velocity prior to entering the turbine wheel. The turbine wheel will accept this high-temperature, high-pressure, accelerated gas and convert it into mechanical energy via shaft rotation. The primary product of a turboexpander manifests at the outflow of this turbine. After the process gas passes through the turbine wheel, this gas has expanded so dramatically that it produces cryogenic temperatures colder than any other equipment in the plant.
The useful mechanical energy converted from this system is generally used to drive a centrifugal compressor positioned on the opposite end of the shaft. In the case of this expander-compressor setup, the mentioned turboexpander technology avoids the excessive use of fuel consumption seen in other systems, and significantly decreases the CO2 footprint of the overall design. As well, there are various examples of turboexpanders that use an expander-generator setup, which converts the mechanical energy from the turbine into direct electrical power. Turboexpanders have come a long way in the last 40 years. With the advent of magnetic bearings and more advanced sealing systems, turboexpanders have been able to handle shaft speeds in large and small machines of up to 10,000 rpm and 120,000 rpm, respectively. Moreover, innovations in specific CFD modules for turbomachinery have allowed turboexpander systems to achieve efficiencies upwards of 90%.
Steam turbines are not just restricted to conventional or nuclear power plants, they are widely used in combined cycle power plants, concentrated solar thermal plants and also geothermal power plants. The operational requirements of a steam turbine in the combined cycle and CSP’s means that they operate under transient conditions. Even in conventional steam turbines, the market requirements are changing with requirements for faster and more frequent start-up which can result into faster deterioration of the equipment and reduced lifespan. During the startup phase, significant heat exchange takes place between the steam and the structural components that include the valves, rotor and casing. The accuracy of the life prediction is strongly affected and dependent on the accuracy of the transient thermal state prediction .
Though the expansion of steam takes place in the nozzles and blades, the influence of the leakage steam during the startup phase is significant with steam expanding through the labyrinths resulting in expansions, condensation, and increased velocities which may even reach supersonic levels. During cold start, the flow is minimal, the temperature of the metal is at room temperature and heat exchange happens between the steam and metal parts resulting in thermal stress.
Many people speculate about the confusion on what is considered a compressor, a blower, or simply a fan. In essence, each of these turbo-machines achieve a pressure rise by adding velocity to a continuous flow of fluid. The distinctions between fans, blowers, and compressors are quite simply defined by one parameter, the specific pressure ratio. Each machine type, however, utilizes a number of different design techniques specific to lower and higher-pressure applications. As per the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the specific pressure is defined as the ratio of the discharge pressure over the suction pressure (or inlet pressure). The table shown below defines the range at which fans, blowers, and compressors are categorized.
Similarities between the design of fans and blowers occur near the lower end of a blower’s range. As well, many design parallels exist between high-pressure blowers and compressors. For the article, we will be investigating the different design characteristics of centrifugal blowers. Blower selection depends on a number of factors including operating range, efficiency, space limitations, and material handled. Figure 1 shows a number of different impeller blade designs that are available for centrifugal blowers.
Existing research studies for the corresponding flow-induced vibration analysis of centrifugal pumps are mainly carried out without considering the interaction between fluid and structure. The ignorance of fluid structure interaction (FSI) means that the energy transfer between fluid and structure is neglected. To some extent, the accuracy and reliability of unsteady flow and rotor deflection analysis should be affected by this interaction mechanism.
In recent years, more and more applications of FSI are found in the reliability research of turbomachinery. Most of them are about turbines, and a few of them address pumps. Kato  predicted the noise from a multi-stage centrifugal pump using one-way coupling method. This practical approach treats the fluid physics and the solid physics consecutively.
For the majority of pump application, the growing use of variable speed operation has increased the likelihood of resonance conditions that can cause excessive vibration levels, which can negatively impact pump performance and reliability. Mechanical resonance is the tendency of a mechanical system to absorb more energy when the frequency of its oscillations (external excitation source) matches the system’s natural frequency of vibration more than it does at other frequencies. To avoid vibration issues, potential complications must be properly addressed and mitigated during the design phase.
Some of the factors that may cause excitation of a natural frequency include rotational balance, impeller exit pressure pulsations, and gear couplings misalignment. The effect of the resonance can be determined by evaluating the pumping machinery construction. All aspects of the installation such as the discharge head, mounting structure, piping and drive system will affect lateral, torsional and structural frequencies of the pumping system. It is advised that the analysis be conducted during the initial design phase to reduce the probability of reliability problems and the time and expense associated.