Steam for Power

Turbine technology being central to energy-producing industry, research and development efforts is directed towards cost-savings (increased efficiency, reliability, and component lifespan), sustainability (alternative fuels, lower emissions), and cost-competitiveness (particularly for the emerging technologies) [1]. This blog post is the first in a series of three that will focus on steam, gas and hydraulic turbines for power generation.

Going back to the Archimides era we will find the idea of using the steam as a way to produce work. However, it was not until the industrial revolution when the first reciprocating engines and turbines developed to take advantage of steam power. Since the first impulse turbine development by Carl Gustaf de Laval in 1883 and the first reaction type turbine by Charles Parsons one year later, the development of turbines have sky-rocketed, leading to a power output increase of more 6 orders of magnitude[2].

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Simultaneous Design for Turbocharger Compressors and Turbine Wheels

AxSTREAM Blade Profiling
Figure 1- AxSTREAM 3D Blade Profiler for Radial Designs

Increasing regulation for reducing emissions has forced the automotive industry to accept different technologies over the years in order to stay ahead of the market. In an industry that is so accustomed to internal combustion engines, new solutions such as electric motors and turbocharger systems have allowed experts in other industries to cultivate an influence in the automotive market. Specifically in the realm of turbomachinery, increased development has gone into designing turbochargers in order to minimize the effect and size of internal combustion engines. Design challenges are inherent in the fact that an engine is a positive displacement device whereas the turbocharger falls under aerodynamic turbomachinery. The two separate machine types have distinctly different flow characteristics, and the proper sizing of a turbocharger for its parent engine requires proper modeling of the engineering system as a whole.

In general, initial turbocharger sizing becomes a matter of obtaining the necessary boundary conditions required for a preliminary design. A thermodynamic cycle analysis of an ICE-Turbocharger system will allow the designer to obtain an initial idea of the bounds

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Steam Heat & Mass Balance Considerations in Refineries

Optimizing the heat and mass flow i.e. steam balance in a plant that has several levels of steam pressures is not a simple task due to the vast array of equipment such as turbines, heat exchanges, steam auxiliaries and accessories used. The steam balance of a refinery plant is further complicated because of use of steam for chemical processes and compression. Depending on processor licensor, technologies and many other traditional factors, it is not uncommon to see steam pressure levels defined in refineries as simply HP & LP or HP,MP & LP or as complex as VHP, HHP, HP, MP and LP.

The traditional approach to designing a steam system is to install steam generators able to generate steam at the maximum pressure and temperature with enough redundancy in capacity as required by the process. Modern steam generators tend to be inclined towards higher pressure steam rather than lower pressure steam – saturated high pressure steam has higher temperature meaning  less exchange surface in heat exchangers and reboilers, high density of high pressure steam requires less bore in the steam mains. Consequently, the usage of high pressure steam represents less capital expenditure. The resultant philosophy is to generate steam at the highest possible temperature and pressure, expand steam from a higher pressure to a lower pressure level through the most efficient means possible and use process at the lowest economically attractive pressure and temperature.

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Aircraft Engines: A Need for Increased Performance and Safety

Turbine engine of airplaneThe necessity for a robust aircraft engine design is strongly associated with not only flight performance, but also to passengers’ safety. The fatigue on the blade of CFM56 engine did not prove to be fatal in last August’s incident. None of the 99 passengers was hurt, but parts of the engine broke apart damaging the fuselage, wing and tail, and forcing the Boeing Co. 737-700 to an emergency landing. However, that was not the case in July 6, 1996, when the left power plant on a Boeing MD-88 broke apart while accelerating for take-off and the shrapnel was propelled into the fuselage killing a mother and a child seated in the Delta Air Lines Inc. aircraft [1]. A few years earlier, in January 8, 1989, a CFM56-3 blade failure proved to be fatal for 47 out of 118 passengers of the British Midlands Airways (BMA) Ltd Flight 92 departed from London Heathrow Airport en route to Belfast International Airport. Based on Federal Aviation Administration’s accident overview [2] post-accident investigation determined that the fan blade failed due to an aero-elastic vibratory instability caused by a coupled torsional-flexural transient non-synchronous oscillation which occurs under particular operating conditions. An animation describing this process is available at the following link: (Fan Blade Failure).

The last example [3] of this not so cheerful post took place on July 29, 2006, when a plane chartered for skydiving experienced jet engine failure and crashed. Tragically, there were no survivors. The failure was attributed to aftermarket replacement parts. The aircraft was originally equipped with Pratt & Whitney jet engines, specifically made with pack-aluminide coated turbine blades to prevent oxidation of the base metal. However, during the plane’s lifetime, the turbine blades were replaced with different blades that had a different coating and base metal. As a result of the replaced turbine blade not meeting specification, it corroded, cracked and caused engine failure.

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An Integrated Design System for Gas Turbines

In my earlier blog titled “Optimizing the Cooling Holes in Gas Turbine Blades, I wrote about how optimizing the cooling flow through turbine blades is important considering both performance and reliability. The design process differs between different designers and depends on a number of factors including expertise, availability of design tools, statistical or empirical data, corporate procedure and so on. That being said, the ultimate goal is to provide a design which is considered optimal. Though the designer is often satisfied on completion of a design and when the machine is put into operation, there is always the feeling  that we could have done better if there were more resources and time. Integrating the entire design process with multidisciplinary optimization provides a great opportunity to arrive at the optimal design rapidly with less manual intervention and effort.

axstream
Figure 1: Integrated AxSTREAM® Platform

Figure 1 shows the integrated approach to design a cooled gas turbine using multidisciplinary tools in an optimization environment. The flow path design starts from the conceptual stage to arrive at the optimal flow path geometry, accounting for a preliminary estimate of the cooling flow. Detailed design requires accurate estimation of the cooling flow considering the actual geometries and the material temperatures. Using ID head and flow simulation tools such as AxSTREAM® NET, the cooling flow can be modelled to produce the optimal geometric dimension in an iterative process to further fine tune the flow path performance. To meet the performance and reliability objectives, multidisciplinary optimization can be achieved via the integrated modules. The process when further integrated with a CAD package can help in generating the optimized geometry that can be taken for prototype development.

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Fatigue in Turbomachinery

This post is based on DeLuca’s publication about fatigue phenomena in gas turbines [1]. One of the most significant characteristics of a gas turbine is its durability. Especially for the aerospace industry where engines must meet not only propulsion but also safety requirements, the failure of gas turbine blades is a major concern. The “cyclic” loading of the components associated with generator excursions is one of the principal sources of degradation in turbomachinery. In addition, fatigue can be caused during the manufacturing of the components. There are three commonly recognized forms of fatigue: high cycle fatigue (HCF), low cycle fatigue (LCF) and thermal mechanical fatigue (TMF).The principal distinction between HCF and LCF is the region of the stress strain curve (Figure 1) where the repetitive application of the load (and resultant deformation or strain) is taking place.

gas-turbine-alloy
Figure 1 – The stress vs. strain curve for a typical gas turbine alloy

HCF is metal fatigue that results from cracking or fracturing generally characterized by the failure of small cracks at stress levels substantially lower than stresses associated with steady loading. HCF occurs as a result from a combination of steady stress, vibratory stress and material imperfections [2].  It is initiated by the formation of a small, often microscopic, crack. HCF is characterized by low amplitude high frequency elastic strains. An example of this would be an aerofoil subjected to repeated bending. One source of this bending occurs as a compressor or turbine blade passes behind a stator vane. When the blade emerges into the gas path it is bent by high velocity gas pressure. Changes in rotor speed change the frequency of blade loading. The excitation will, at some point, match the blade’s resonant frequency which will cause the amplitude of vibration to increase significantly.

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Component Matching of Industrial Gas Turbines

An important first step in understanding the gas turbine design process is the knowledge of how individual components act given their particular boundary conditions. However, in order to effectively leverage these individual design processes, a basic knowledge of how these components interact with each other is essential to the overall performance of a gas turbine unit. The power and efficiency outputs of a gas turbine are the result of a complex interaction between different turbomachines and a combustion system. Therefore, performance metrics for a gas turbine are not only based on the respective performances of each turbine, compressor, and combustion system, but also on their interactions. The concept of component matching becomes crucial in understanding how to deal with these systems simultaneously.

In general, gas turbines for industrial applications consist of a compressor, a power turbine, and a gas generator turbine designed into one of two arrangements. The first arrangement invokes the use of the gas generator turbine to drive the air compressor, and a power turbine to load the generator on a separate shaft. This two-shaft arrangement allows the speed of the gas generator turbine to only depend on the load applied to the engine. On a single-shaft arrangement, the system obviously cannot exist at varied speeds and the power turbine coupled with the gas generator turbine would be responsible for driving both the generator and the compressor. A simplified diagram of each arrangement is displayed in Figures 1 and 2.

gas-turbine-arrangement-in-axcycle
Figure 1- Single-Shaft Gas Turbine Arrangement in AxCYCLE (Power Turbine and Gas Generator Turbine Considered One Turbine)

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What is an Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) and What are the Advantages?

integrated-coal-gasification-combined-cycle-igcc
Source: http://www.slideshare.net/AbhijitPrasad4/integrated-gasification-combined-cycle-plant

Though fossil fueled power plants aren’t as commonly used anymore, coal fired power generation is still a major source of global electricity, making up about 25% of the market in total. Compared to other options in fossil fuel power generation, coal is found to be the most economical choice as well as a reliable option. Making demands that are heavily reliant on other fuels, such as oil-fired for example, slowly levers to coal power generation. The global reserve of coal can be found in abundance when compared to other energy sources (such as oil for example) as there is about 3 times more of it. Also, IGCC comes with an economic benefit as the price of coal has remained relatively constant, which results in a higher degree of confidence when relying on coal as an energy source in the future.

How Does an IGCC Work?

The system uses a high pressure gasifier to turn coal and other carbon based fuels such as high-sulfur coal, heavy petroleum residues and biomass into pressurized clean coal synthesis gas (also known as syngas). The solid coal is gas-fired to produce syngas by gasifying coal in a closed pressurized reactor with a shortage of oxygen to ensure that coal is broken down by the heat and pressure. Before going out of the system, the syngas runs through a pre-combustion separation process to remove impurities,  starting with water-gas-shift reaction to increase concentration of hydrogen and efficiency during combustion process, to a physical separation process (through variable methods). After that, a fairly pure syngas is used as a fuel in a combustion turbine that produces electricity. Waste heat contained in a gas turbine’s exhaust is used to produce steam from feed water that further turns a steam turbine to generate additional electricity.

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Utilization of Supercritical CO2 Bottoming Cycles

In the ever-expanding market for waste-heat recovery methods, different approaches have been established in order to combat the latest environmental restrictions while achieving more attractive power plant efficiencies.  As gas turbine cycles continue to expand within the energy market, one particular technology has seen a significant upsurge due to a number of its beneficial contributions.  Supercritical CO2 (S-CO2) bottoming cycles have allowed low power units to utilize waste heat recovery economically.  For many years, the standard for increasing the efficiency level of a GTU (Gas Turbine Unit) was to set up a steam turbine Rankine cycle to recycle the gas turbine exhaust heat.  However, the scalability constraints of the steam system restrict its application to only units above 120MW.

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Multi-Dimensional Coupling CFD Method for Shrouded Turbines

Tip leakage is generated inevitably by the clearance between the rotating blades and the stationary casing of a turbine, and is responsible for both the aerodynamic losses in a turbine stage and the high heat-loads in the tip region [2]. To decrease tip leakage and improve component performance, shroud seal structures have been widely applied to modern turbine components, especially to low pressure turbines, because of their advantage on both aerodynamic and structural features. However, due to the complexity of the shroud geometry, the flow structures and thermodynamic process in shroud can be extremely complicated, that is interactions of vortices, separations, jet flow, etc. Thus, because of the complex geometry of shrouds, as well as strong interactions between the tip leakage and main flow, it is not easy to draw a numerical simulation with satisfactory accuracy and time-costing in shrouded turbines. This begs the question of what should the compromise be between using simplified loss models and full 3D CFD analysis for leakage modelling?

In the main flow path of a turbine the flow will always be dominated by the blades shape, while for leakage cases the flow will be dominated by the motion and evolution of small eddies. Rosic et al. [1] reviewed the importance of shroud leakage modelling in multistage turbines. The comparison of measurements and 3D calculations shows that the flow in shrouded low aspect ratio turbines is dominated by shroud leakage. This is especially true as regards the loss distribution. The rotor shroud leakage flow greatly increases the secondary flow in the downstream stators and drives low energy fluid towards mid-span. It was pointed out that with very low values of shroud leakage the flow is reasonably well modelled by a simple 1D model of the leakage flow, using sources and sinks on the casing. However, for more representative real clearances, full 3D modelling of the seal and cavity flows is necessary in order to obtain reasonable agreement. Given that developing a simulation method with both high precision and fast solving speed is imperatively demanded for engineers to assess new designs, Zhengping Zou et al. [2] suggested that one of the potential approaches for solving the problem is a method that couples low dimensional models, 1D and 2D models, of the shroud flow with 3D (three-dimensional) simulations of the main flow passage. Specifically, some boundary source and boundary sink is set on the interface between the shroud and the main flow passage, and the source term and sink term are determined by the shroud leakage model. The schematic of this process is given in Fig. 1. The results of his study [2] demonstrate that the proposed models and methods will contribute to pursue deeper understanding and better design methods of shrouded axial turbines.

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