Foil Air Bearings for High-Temperature Turbocharger Applications

Within the realm of turbocharging, there are a number of different design challenges that influence the design process on both large-scale marine applications and smaller-scale commercial automobile applications.  From aerodynamic loads to dynamic control systems to rotor dynamics and bearing challenges, turbochargers represent a special subset of turbomachinery that requires complex and integrated solutions.  Turbocharger rotors specifically, have unique characteristics due to the dynamics of having a heavy turbine and compressor wheel located at the overhang ends of the rotor. The majority of turbocharger rotors are supported within a couple floating-ring oil film bearings.  In general, these bearings provide the damping necessary to support the high gyroscopic moments of the impeller wheels.  However, there are several disadvantages of working with these oil systems that have allowed different technologies to start to surface for these turbomachines.  With the floating-ring oil models, varying ring speed ratios and oil viscosity changes significantly influence the performance of the rotor dynamic model.

Dan blog bearing for turbochargers
Figure 1 – Floating-Ring Bearing Model for a Turbocharger

The application of oil-free bearings have started to emanate due to the overall consistency of their performance and the minimized heat loss associated with air as the damping fluid. Studies on these bearing types for turbomachinery applications are neither trivial nor unique, as they have seen plenty of exposure within the commercial and military aircraft industries within turbo compressors and turboexpanders. However, the success of these specific applications are due to the fact that these turbomachines operate with light loads and relatively low temperatures. The main design challenges with foil air bearings are a result of poor rotor dynamic performance, material capabilities, and inadequate load capacities at high temperature/high load applications.

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Performance Simulation and Optimization of CCPP with Turbine Inlet Air Cooling

It is well established that the performance of combustion air turbines (gas turbines) is sensitive to ambient air temperature. As the ambient air temperature increases beyond standard design point  (ISASLS), the power output and exhaust gas flow rate reduces while the heat rate and exhaust gas temperature increases. While the trends are similar for heavy duty and aeroderivative gas turbines, due to the inherent nature of design the results are steeper for aeroderivatives.  Various types of turbine inlet cooling technologies such as evaporative cooling, refrigerated inlet cooling and thermal energy storage systems have been practiced with varying degree of success, each having its potential advantages and limitations.  Simplicity and cost advantage gained in evaporative cooling is offset by limitation of cooling along web bulb depression line (and is a function of site relative humidity). Refrigerated inlet cooling (direct and indirect) offer advantage of higher cooling and lesser sensitivity to site conditions, and result in greater power output with an impact on relative cost and complexity. Selection of optimum technology of turbine air inlet cooling is hence a tradeoff between competing factors.

Combined Cycle
Combined Cycle Power Plant

The complexity of combined cycles, without any turbine inlet air cooling, poses significant challenge in design of steam system and HRSG due to competing factors such as pinch point, heat and mass flows optimization etc. Knowledge of fluid viz properties of standard air (psychrometrics), standard gas for Joule Brayton cycle, steam for bottoming Rankine cycle and refrigerant for cooling system( for refrigerated inlet air cooling) as applied to complete cycle makes the process complete as well as complex. AxCYCLE™ is one such unique tool to simulate such combined cycle processes with multi fluid-multi phase flows including refrigeration. The standard HVAC features can easily be used for inlet air cooling refrigeration and integrated into the CCPP. Once a digital representation of the complex process is replicated and successfully ‘converged’ at design point, the challenge of optimization emerges. To facilitate optimization various tools namely AxCYCLE™ Map, Quest, Plan and Case are embedded integrally. As a first cut, users based on their experience apply AxCYCLE™ Map and vary one or two parameters to see the effect of operational parameters on cycle performance. AxCYCLE™ Quest opens the gates by allowing users to vary unlimited parameters, according to quasi-random Sobol sequences. mutli-Parameter optimization tasks are possible using AxCYCLE™ Plan – it uses design of experiments concepts. Once optimized the AxCYCLE™ Case tools allows off design simulation tasks. Exhibit below represents complexity of a combined cycle plant represented conveniently:

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Gas for Power

Gas turbines are one of the most widely-used power generating technologies, getting their name by the production of hot gas during fuel combustion, rather than the fuel itself. Today, the industry is clearly driven by the need of fast and demand-oriented power generation, thus additional effort is put in extremely short installation times, low investment costs and an enormously growing volatility in the electrical distribution in order to achieve higher levels of reliability in the power grid [2].

The majority of land based gas turbines can be assigned in two groups [3]: (1) heavy frame engines and (2) aeroderivative engines. The first ones are characterized by lower pressure ratios that do not exceed 20 and tend to be physically large. By pressure ratio, we define the ratio of the compressor discharge pressure and the inlet air pressure. On the other hand, aeroderivative engines are derived from jet engines, as the name implies, and operate at very high compression ratios that usually exceed 30. In comparison to heavy frame engines, aeroderivative engines tend to be very compact and are useful where smaller power outputs are needed.

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Analytical Tools for Determination of Damped Unbalanced Rotor Response

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Representative Rotor Response Plot (API Standards) & Analytical Simulation

Lateral rotor-dynamic behavior is the most critical aspect in determining the reliability and operability of rotating equipment in the oil and gas industry – be it a centrifugal pump , compressor, steam or gas turbine, motor or generator. One way to evaluate operating reliability is identifying lateral rotor response to unbalance, i.e. by analytically determining damped unbalanced rotor response. Torsional response is sought only for train units comprising three or more coupled machines (excluding any gears). Experience suggests that the effect of other equipment in the train is normally not included in the lateral damped unbalanced response. Hence brief summary of various characteristics and a technique for analytical predictions of lateral behavior deserves attention by all.

The purpose of damped unbalanced rotor response is to identify critical speeds, associated amplification factors-AF (as per API standards AF greater than or equal to 2.5 is considered critical) and ability of rotor dynamics system to meet the separation requirements (margin of operating speed away from critical speed/s). The first step is ‘undamped’ unbalance response analysis for identifying mode shapes and critical speed-support stiffness map.  ‘Damped’ unbalanced response analysis then follows for each critical speed within the speed range of 0 % to 125 % of trip speed. Unbalance or side load is placed at the locations that have been determined by the undamped analysis to affect a particular mode most adversely. The magnitude of the unbalances is four times the value of U as calculated by U = 6350 W/N. The aim then is to identify the frequency of each critical speed, frequency-phase and response amplitude data, deflected rotor shape due to unbalance and bode plots to compare absolute shaft motion with shaft motion relative to the bearing housing (support stiffness <  3.5 times the oil-film stiffness).

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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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Rotating Equipment Specialist in the Oil and Gas Industry – A Turbomachinery Professional

Turbomachinery is a core subject in many engineering curriculums. However, many graduates joining the oil and gas industry are designated as rotating equipment engineers. Though turbomachinery and rotating equipment are used synonymously, all turbomachinery are rotating equipment but not vice versa. Turbinis in Latin implies spin or whirl, and a natural question that arises is – what are the factors that differentiate turbomachinery?  In a general sense the term, “rotating” covers  the majority equipment used in the industry be it in the upstream, mid-stream or the downstream segment. Yet top rotating equipment specialist in the industry are seen spending their prime time or often being associated with certain unique and specific types of critical rotating machines – the turbomachines.Oil and Gas

In a classical sense, turbomachines are devices in which energy is added into or taken out from a continuously flowing fluid by the dynamic action of one or more moving blade rows. By this definition propellers, wind turbines and unshrouded fans are also turbomachines but they require a separate treatment. The subject of fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics and material mechanics of turbomachinery when limited to machines enclosed by a closely fitting casing or shroud through which a measurable quantity of fluid passing in unit time makes the practical linkage to rotating equipment – those which absorb power to increase the fluid pressure or head (fans, compressors and pumps) and those that produce power by expanding fluid to a lower pressure or head (hydraulic, steam and gas turbines). Further classification into axial, radial and mixed type (based on flow contour), and impulse & reaction (based on principle of energy transfer) is common. It is the large range of service requirement that leads to different type of pump (or compressor) and turbine in service.

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Liquid Rocket Propulsion with SoftInWay

Preliminary Design of Fuel Turbine

Operation of most liquid-propellant rocket engines, first introduced by Robert Goddard in 1926- is simple. Initially, a fuel and an oxidizer are pumped into a combustion chamber, where they burn to create hot gases of high pressure and high speed. Next, the gases are further accelerated through a nozzle before leaving the engine. Nowadays, liquid propellant propulsion systems still form the back-bone of the majority of space rockets allowing humanity to expand its presence into space. However, one of the big problems in a liquid-propellant rocket engine is cooling the combustion chamber and nozzle, so the cryogenic liquids are first circulated around the super-heated parts to bring the temperature down.

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The Future of Nuclear Power Plants

With the blast of the French nuclear power plant a few weeks ago, safety of nuclear power plant designs has fallen under more scrutiny. Although according to sources the blast took place in the turbine hall and no nuclear leak was found, this event has brought more attention to improved design and operation standards.

Following the incident earlier this month Toshiba, a Japanese multinational company, announced the resignation of its chairman following a $6.3 billion loss in their nuclear sector –also withdrawing from the nuclear business. The two back to back events have highlighted the main two problems of nuclear power: high cost and environmental/safety concerns. Said to be a green technology, nuclear power raises concerns with potential nuclear meltdown and risk of safety from toxic waste, accompanying the fact that building a new plant cost around $5,000.00 per kilowatt of capacity with around 6 years of lead time. Each dollar invested on a nuclear power plant has about 2-10 less carbon savings and is 20-40 times slower compared to other alternatives. Yes, evidently nuclear power is found to be very reliable, enabling consistent baseload energy production at any time of day and night. Though, it has been questioned whether this reliability is worth the high cost of nuclear production, in fact all nuclear plants are still operating with 100% subsidized.

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