Flexible, Fast and High Fidelity Approach to Gas Turbine Unit Part-Load and Off-Design Performance Predictions

Gas turbine (GT) engines are the primary engines of modern aviation. They are also widely used as power propulsion engines for power stations. The specificity of these engines implies they frequently work at off-design/part load modes that occur with:

  1. Different modes of aircrafts:
    1. Ground idle mode
    2. Take off
    3. Maximum continuous mode
    4. Cruising mode
  2. Different ambient conditions
  3. Grid demands (for power generation engines and gas pumping (compressor) stations)

 

Due to the off-design/part load operating conditions, the parameters of the engines might change significantly, which influences not only the engine efficiency, but also the reliable work of the turbine (high temperature at turbine inlet) and compressor (surge zone) at joint operational points. This is why accurate predictions of the gas generator parameters are crucial at every off-design mode.

To define the joint operational point, the compressor and turbine maps which are created for specified ambient conditions can be used. For example, pressure equal 101.3kPa, temperature – 288.15K. Maps method is widely used, relatively simple and allows you to find the needed engine parameters in the shortest time. However, when cooling is present, engine operation at low power modes (ground idle) impede the accurate determination of joint operational conditions based on maps. The significant drawback to the maps based approach is that it does not give the full picture of the physical processes in turbomachine flow paths which is critical for off-design calculations.

Compressor and Turbine Maps
Compressor and Turbine Maps [1]
Utilization of the digital twin concept allows significant increase of the off-design performance calculation accuracy. Use of the digital equivalent of object was introduced in 2003 [2]. Despite this, less 1% of machines that are in use today are modeled with digital twin technology [3]. Utilization of digital twin leads to a significant decrease in time and cost for developing and optimization of an object.

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The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

Who knew passing wind would be so exhilarating?

Last month we discussed a few basic aspects of wind as a source of clean energy. We showed what wind was, how it forms and where it goes.  Then after going on a tangent about the history of turbines, we showed where on the Earth we could recover the highest amount of wind energy and how this potential changes with altitude. Today’s post offer the pros and cons of wind energy while touching upon several topics discussed in the previous post before diving into the optimal where and when.

Getting into the “What”

With an established worldwide potential of more than 400 TW (20 times more than what the entire human population needs) and a clean, renewable source wind is definitely attractive to the current and future generations. In terms of harvesting it, over 99% percent of wind farms in the USA are located in rural areas with 71% of them in low-income counties. Indeed, the more land is available (and the fewer buildings), the higher the possibility and interest to transform this kinetic energy into mechanical work and then most likely electricity.

Where one would see sporadic turbines on the side of the highway, these stand-alone equipment have begun to turn into actual modules (farms) that can work as an overall unit instead of individual ones. This strategy of creating a network of turbines follows the philosophy of “the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”. What this translates into is that by having 20 (arbitrary number) wind turbines working together to determine the best orientation, pitch, etc. of their blades in such a way that it least negatively impacts the downstream units we can produce more energy than if each of them were live-optimized individually (some interesting A.I. work is going into this). This means that the overall system is more efficient at converting energy and therefore it is more cost effective to provide bulk power to the electrical grid. This is similar to the concept in the post on solar energy comparing PV panels and CSP. Read the full post here. 

In terms of power production per wind turbine, the utility-scale ones range from about 100 kW to several MW for the land-based units (Offshore wind turbines are typically larger and produce more power – getting ahead of myself here but check out the figure below for wind potential in Western Europe that clearly showcases coast vs. non-coast data). On the low-power end of the spectrum, we find some below 100 kW for some non-utility applications like powering homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumping, etc. Solar power (PV) is generally regarded as the first choice for homeowners looking to become energy producers themselves, but wind turbines make an excellent alternative in some situations. It would take a wind turbine of about 10 kilowatts and $40,000 to $70,000 to become a net electricity producer. Investments like this typically break even after 10 to 20 years.

Wind potential in Western Europe
Figure 8 Wind potential in Western Europe – https://globalwindatlas.info/

Onto the “Where”

One of the elements of wind formation we covered in the last post here was a different in pressure (and therefore temperature). This simplification works rather well at the macro-scale, but as we zoom in closer to the surface we can see that wind flow speeds and patterns vary quite significantly based on more than just the general location of Earth. On top of the altitude we already discussed, factors like vegetation, presence of high-rise buildings or bodies of water come into play.

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The What, Where and How of Wind Power

Choosing how to start something is often the most challenging part since the rest is usually about moving with the flow (turbomachinery pun intended). So, now that we got that out of the way let’s talk about our next topic after we do a quick flashback on the previous episodes of this Clean Energy series.

In the first post in this series, we discussed clean energy as a whole. After describing what it is and what it is not, we pointed out some of the energy sources we would analyze in subsequent articles.

The second post in this series took us on an extraterrestrial journey for two reasons: we looked at solar energy and we also went on a tangent about the rovers operating on planet Mars. I got so many “Likes” on these little droids that I figured I would keep going with them (that or I found a cool article that I’ll be sharing here) for this current post on one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world: Wind Energy. What’s the link between Mars equipment and wind? See this recent discovery – https://www.space.com/41023-mars-wind-power-landers-experiment.html

Side note: ever wondered what would happen if the sun just blinked out? Check it out here – https://what-if.xkcd.com/49/

The wind we are looking at in today’s post is somewhere in between bovine flatulence and hurricanes in terms of intensity. Wind as we know it is created by air (or any fluid) moving from a zone of high pressure to one of low pressure. This high-to-low concentration migration might sound tricky, but it is easy to understand if you think of cars on a highway. It is more likely that cars stuck in a slow lane on the highway would move on to a lane with less traffic rather than the other way around.

Pressure varies with things like irregularities on the Earth surface, AKA altitude (“in case loss of cabin pressure occurs, oxygen masks will drop […]”), but also with temperature. This means that two people at the same altitude but in areas of different temperatures would experience different pressures. For example, think of standing at the North Pole vs. standing on a Caribbean beach vs. standing on a paddleboard in the Great Lakes. This example of standing at different places demonstrates the uneven heating of the Earth from the sun due to its shape (not flat), its rotation and its tilt, as we introduced in the previous post. But which location is under the most pressure? Colder temperature equals higher pressure.  Let me explain with another analogy, (even though this example has nothing to do with pressure, it will help the information stick).  When people get stressed, we say they are under pressure.  We can imagine somebody above the Arctic Circle is more stressed (cold, where to find food, shelter, etc.) than somebody enjoying a Mai Tai on the beach at an all-inclusive resort in Aruba. So here is your mnemonics; colder equals higher pressure.

Wind creation example
Figure 1 Wind creation example – http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/learners/energy/wind1.html 

Now that we have seen what wind was and the theory behind how it forms, we can start thinking about how to utilize this energy. Today we will talk about the aerodynamic aspect of wind turbines while in a future post we will be focusing on the assessment of such technology as wind power; pros, cons, where, what, etc.
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Anti-Icing Systems for Land Based Gas Turbines

It is very important to have Anti-Icing Systems for ground-based gas turbines located in humid climates (where air relative humidity can be more than 80% and dense fog can cause air temperatures to drop below 5 0C). Such climatic conditions lead to ice formation. This ice can plug the inlet filtration system causing a significant drop in pressure in the inlet system, which in turn leads to performance loss. In extreme cases, there is even a possibility that the ice pieces get ingested into the compressor (first blade stage) which may cause foreign object damage. Ice may also cause the disruption of compressor work because of excessive vibration, or surging by decreasing the inlet flow. The major factors that lead to the ice formation in gas turbines are ambient temperature, humidity and droplet size. So, under the climatic conditions which are prone to ice formation, an anti-icing system is employed which heats the inlet air before entering the compressor. Let us discuss some important aspects of Anti-Icing Systems.

The objective of an Anti-Icing System is to prevent or limit the ice formation in the gas turbine inlet path.

Gas turbine image

Gas Turbine Anti-Icing Systems (GT-AIS) can be categorized in two groups.

  1. Inlet heating systems
  2. Component heating systems


Inlet heating systems operate by transferring heat from a heat source (exhaust gases can be used) to the cold ambient air at the entrance of the gas turbine. If the temperature of inlet air raises sufficiently by this heat transfer, icing cannot form in the gas turbine intake.

AxCYCLE™ is a tool, which provides the flexibility and convenience to study various parameters and understand the performance of thermodynamic cycles.

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Steam Turbine Seal Leakage Calculation in Design

Steam turbine seals are parts inserted between moving and stationary components, to reduce and prevent steam leakage and air leaking into the low pressure areas. The leakage can happen through vane, gland, and shaft, etc. To reduce leakage from those parts while guaranteeing smooth operation of a steam turbine, engineers have to design these seals, taking into account not only efficiency, but also mechanical strength, vibration and cost.

As an example, steam turbine flow path seals improve overall efficiency installing various types of shrouds, diaphragms, and end seals which prevent idle leaks of working steam in the cylinders. In steam turbines, labyrinth seals are widely used. Some labyrinth seals are also used with honeycomb inserts. It is believed that the use of such seals makes it possible to achieve a certain gain due to smaller leaks of working fluid and more reliable operation of the system under the conditions in which the rotor’s rotating parts may rub against the stator elements. However, we can only consider it as a successful design if the structures are compliant with the manufacturing capabilities and have good vibration stability. [1] Furthermore, seal leakage can significantly affect efficiencies. Better seals increase efficiencies but add extra cost to both manufacturing and maintenance, so the design needs to be done with the turbine flow path design. Although modeling the seals in 3D CFD is theoretically possible, the calculation resources and time are extremely demanding.

This important task can be completed very easily with AxSTREAM NETTM. AxSTREAM NETTM provides a flexible method to represent fluid path and solid structure as a set of 1D elements, which can be connected to each other to form a thermal-fluid network. For each fluid path section, the program calculates fluid flow parameters for inlet and outlet cross-sections, like velocity, density, temperature, mass flow rate, etc. Therefore, the leakage from the whole system can be modeled in this network, as shown in Figure 1.

Steam Turbine Seal Leakage Calculation with AxSTREAM NET
Figure 1. Steam Turbine Seal Leakage Calculation with AxSTREAM NET™

AxSTREAM NET™ is capable of doing:

  1. Choice of seal design at the stage of the steam/gas turbine preliminary design.
  2. Calculation of balances of pressures and mass flow rate to correctly account for the efficiency of the steam/gas turbine.
  3. Calculation of seals fluid flow parameters on the startup mode to estimate the thermal expansion of rotor and casing element.
  4. Calculation of thermal boundary conditions for thermo stresses estimation.

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Steam Turbine Aerodynamic Improvements for Significant Efficiency Gains

The steam turbine is one of the most important power generating equipment items in use. Around half of the electricity generated worldwide comes from steam turbines. Steam turbines can be fueled by coal, nuclear energy, petroleum or natural gas, alternatively by biomass, solar energy or geothermal energy. Thus a large amount of fuel can be saved and CO2 emissions significantly reduced by optimizing key components of these widely used machines.

An important goal in steam turbine technology is to improve efficiency. The continuous flow of steam conditions is one of the commonly accepted efficiency contributor for steam power plants. The chart below shows expected improvement in thermal efficiency for USC double-reheat fossil-fuel power units compared to common supercritical-pressure ones, according to Hitachi.

Expected Improvement in Thermal efficiency for USC power units
Figure 1: Expected improvement in thermal efficiency for USC power units.

Besides steam condition elevation, other areas help the development and refinement of innovative aerodynamic flow path design approaches and the improvement of design procedures for nozzle and blades design and analysis. Continuous growth of steam conditions since the mid-1990s and some advanced steam path design for large steam turbines have brought about 5% of efficiency gain. This effect is almost the same as the transition from subcritical-pressure steam conditions to the supercritical-pressure ones with elevated steam temperatures illustrated in the figure above. Here are some practical examples of steam turbines high efficiency, achieved during the last decade by advanced aerodynamic design (source: Leizerovich, A. Sh. Steam turbines for modern fossil-fuel power plants, ©2008 by The Fairmont Press).
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Organic Rankine Cycles: Low Temperature, High Efficiency

Nowadays the scientific community is strongly concerned about problems of efficiency increase and emissions reduction in power generation, ship, and vehicle drives such as internal combustion engines (ICE). A system utilizing waste heat recovery (WHR) is an effective solution for the aforementioned problems.

ORC (meaning organic Rankine cycle, not the scary monsters from Lord of the Rings) is one WHR solution which delivers additional power from the turbine/engine exhaust gas/steam energy.  ORC systems operate on hydrocarbon-based fluids which effectively avoid the typical disadvantages associated with water-based steam turbine systems while bringing the advantage of better performance at part load and in non-continuous operation. ORC systems, capable of utilizing low temperature heat sources of 100-200°C, can be designed in compact and modular packages which require very little maintenance.

The design criteria of an ORC system and its components includes finding the maximum possible heat recovery from the available high and low temperature waste heat flows of a turbine or ICE to produce the maximum amount of additional power while decreasing the load on the turbine’s cooling system, under certain restrictions like geometry and cost.

The first step is to design the thermodynamic cycle configuration. Figure 1 is a flow diagram of a dual loop supercritical organic Rankine cycle (SORC) with separate turbines and given design parameters of the components, generated with AxCYCLE™ software, developed by SoftInWay. The cycle consists of 6 heat exchangers, 2 turbines (HPT and LPT), 2 pumps (HPP and LPP) and the condenser. Both turbines operate with the same backpressure – 1.3 bars. The flows of the working fluid (R245fa in this case) are mixed at the condenser inlet and split at its outlet. The temperature – entropy diagram for the presented cycle is shown on Figure 2. The process 1-2-3-4-5-1 corresponds to the high pressure loop operation and the process 10-20-30-40-10 is for the low pressure loop operation. All these can be easily manipulated and obtained with user-friendly interface of AxCYCLE™.

Flow Diagram - ORC CYCLE
Figure 1. The flow diagram of the SORC with separate turbines
The T-S Diagram for the SORC with separate turbines
Figure 2. The T-S Diagram for the SORC with separate turbines

In terms of component design, ORC turbines can be of axial, radial inflow and radial outflow configurations. The type of turbine you should select depends on the application. To delve further into the topic, check out  SoftInWay’s webinar on “Radial Inflow versus Outflow Turbines – Comparison, Advantages and Applicability” here – http://learn.softinway.com/Webinar/Watch/102
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Birth, Fall and Resurgence of Gas Turbine Technology for Trains

We as human kind have always aimed at achieving something better, something bigger. This led to the research on gas turbines, which was mainly inspired due to the immediate requirement in the aerospace and power generation industry, to also look beyond the scope of aeronautics.

Gast Turbine

Today gas turbine technology is often used when dealing with aerospace and power generation industries, but believe it or not, gas turbine technology has been used in ground transportation too;  notably locomotives.

The Early Applications

After the first world war, several countries had the expertise and the finances to invest in achieving the technological edge in the new post war era. The gas turbine technology was one such technological endeavor, and by the mid-20th century the gas turbine could be found in several applications. Birth of gas turbine locomotives can be credited to two distinct characteristics of these locomotives versus the contemporary diesel locomotives. First, there are fewer moving parts in a gas turbine, decreasing the need for lubrication. This can also potentially reduce the maintenance costs. Second, the power-to-weight ratio is much higher for such locomotives which makes a turbine of a given power output physically smaller than an equally powerful piston engine, allowing a locomotive to be powerful enough without being too bulky.

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Can a sales team select the right turbomachinery for a client without bothering the engineering team?

This might seem like a strange question, but we get ask this a lot. The question takes the form of: Can the sales side do a proper preliminary design and select the optimal machine (turbine/compressor/pump)?  Is it possible for the design and application task to be integrated in a way allowing the application team the autonomy to make decisions without going back to the engineering team every time they get an inquiry? After realizing how large of a pain point this is for our clients, we decided to solve this problem for a major turbine manufacturer in Asia and in the process, provided a time-saving solution to maximize the returns for all the stakeholders.

The challenge came with the different competencies of the sales and design team. The sales/application teams are not necessarily experts in design while designers cannot double as application engineers to meet the sales requirements.

In our efforts to solve this issue, we worked with this turbine manufacturer. We listed all of their current processes, limitation, requirements, constraints, and etc. to explore the many possible ways to resolve this pain point. In the end, there were two solutions; (1) Develop custom selection software, or (2) Leverage the AxSTREAM® platform using AxSTREAM ION™.

    1. Developing Custom Selection Software: Developing a custom selection software specific to the manufacturer where their application team can choose the optimal turbine based on expected customer needs. Developing such a custom system requires bringing together the expertise of different teams from turbomachinery (such as aero-thermal and structural) to software developer, testing, etc. Developing such a one-off system also takes considerable time at considerable cost. This approach could solve the current problem, but with rapidly changing technologies and market requirements, this is not a viable long-term solution.
    2. Leverage the AxSTREAM® Platform using AxSTREAM ION™: We evaluated the limitation and possibilities of utilizing our turbomachinery design platform AxSTREAM® to meet the requirement of sales/application engineering team for today’s needs and in the future. We found the organization had a greater advantage using this existing platform rather than investing in the short-term solution of developing a custom selection software. Many of the building blocks required for customization are already available to use via an interface a non-technical sales person could easily use. This platform was utilized for meeting the requirement of this turbine manufacturer saving time and cost while resolving a large pain-point for the organization.

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Evaluating the Scalability of Different Combined Cycles with Bottoming sCO2 Turbines

Bottoming cycles are generating a real interest in a world where resources are becoming scarcer and the environmental footprint of power plants is becoming more controlled. With this in mind, reduction of flue gas temperature, power generation boost, and even production of heat for cogeneration application is very attractive and it becomes necessary to quantify how much can really be extracted from a simple cycle to be converted to a combined configuration.

Sco2 Power Unit

Supercritical CO2 is becoming an ideal working fluid primarily due to two factors. First, turbomachines are being designed to be significantly more compact. Second, the fluid operates at a high thermal efficiency in the cycles. These two factors create an increased interest in its various applications. Evaluating the option of combined gas and supercritical CO2 cycles for different gas turbine sizes, gas turbine exhaust gas temperatures and configurations of bottoming cycle type becomes an essential step toward creating guidelines for the question, “how much more can I get with what I have?”
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