Micro Gas Turbines – Addressing the Challenges with AxSTREAM

During the last decade the development and extensive use of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) has accelerated the need for high performing micro gas turbines. In fact, their large energy density (Whr/kg) makes them attractive not only for UAV application, but also for portable power units, as well as for distributed power generation in applications where heat and power generation can be combined.
Micro gas turbines have the same basic operation principle as open cycle gas turbines (Brayton open cycle). In this cycle, the air is compressed by the compressor, going through the combustion chamber, where it receives energy from the fuel and thus raises in temperature. Leaving the combustion chamber, the high temperature working fluid is directed to the turbine, where it is expanded by supplying power to the compressor and for the electric generator or other equipment available [1].

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Upcoming Webinar: Design and Optimization of Axial and Mixed Flow Fans for High Efficiency and Low Noise

Thursday, May 18 | 10:00 – 11:00 AM EST

Axial Fan CAD Image
Registration is now open for our May webinar demonstrating best practices for the development of competitive, high efficiency, and low noise axial and mixed flow fans for different aerodynamic loadings.

Axial and mixed flow fans have been in high demand for a number of years. The application of these machines span many different industries including HVAC, automotive, appliance, military equipment, and much more. Like many other types of turbomachinery, changing industry standards and market trends have resulted in fierce rivalry to compete on lifespan, efficiency, environmental and user friendliness, and overall quality. With this in mind, it goes without saying that companies are looking for tools needed to develop highly efficient equipment while minimizing noise as quiet fans are typically more desirable which results in higher demand and marketability.

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Turbomachinery Software for Education

Turbomachinery design has significantly evolved over the last two decades, as supporting education and training methods and techniques remains a challenge. Diversity of technologies covered in the varying courses and extensive use of software by industry designers makes the task of delivering the course curriculum that meets expectations of industry and students difficult. Many educational institutes and business use generic CAE tools for the purpose of learning turbomachinery through student projects. While generic tools have proven their value in research and design, the comprehensiveness of these tools to tackle real life turbomachinery situations is far from desired. The inexperience of fresh graduates from universities and colleges in their inability to perceive a 4D machinAxSTREAM EDUe (3D plus time), traditionally taught using a 2D blackboard, is evident. A student is not only required to have a very good understanding of underlying fundamentals, but is also required to address multitude of design, analysis and optimization problems within the limited time available for education. Coupling of theoretical and computer aided design knowledge to augment the capability of students to contribute to the industrial endeavor is necessary. Such a solution provides students with implicit understanding of the level of detail required by final designs, such as mean line design to the specification of a blade profile varying from hub to tip of a blade, and further complexities of iteration due to an aerodynamically correct blade profile being unsuitable because of stress levels or excitation frequencies and much more. AxSTREAM® EDU introduces multiple dimensions of design required by turbomachinery very early in the instruction process which, by using,  the students are able to develop insights that traditionally are difficult to attain in the same time frame. The use of AxSTREAM® EDU as a design software has been proven to multiply the skills of the students, enabling broad 3-D design considerations and visualization seldom possible otherwise.

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Expander Configurations and Torsional Analysis

Lateral rotor-dynamic behavior is often discussed as one the critical aspects in determining the reliability and operability of rotating equipment. However, as multiple equipment are coupled together to form trains for centrifugal pumps, fans/blowers, compressors, steam or gas turbines and motors or generators, torsional behavior requires a thorough analysis. As per industry standards, torsional response is sought only for train units comprising of three or more coupled machines (excluding any gears).Blog 6

The configurations of the expanders used in the oil and gas industry makes it not only ideal but mandatory to perform train torsional analysis.  Expander trains are commonly used in CCU and FCU units and in the production of nitric acid. Serving the purpose of energy recovery, various arrangement for power recovery train are illustrated to the left:

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Air Conditioning in Automotive

Car AC
Source

While the term of air conditioning in relation to automotive might instantly correlate to a system which provides passenger with a comfortable air temperature/environment, HVAC systems also are used for heating and cooling of batteries in such application as well as cooling of the vehicle fuel systems. Thermal management for automotive application isn’t easy though. Many factors have to be accounted for in order to build a dependable cooling system.

While talking about HVAC concerns and challenges which arise in automotive application, the biggest inconvenience commonly comes down to the lack of cold air produces. Mobile refrigeration/air conditioning systems come with quite a few concerns from two sides: the refrigeration side, where it removes heat and injects cold air, and from the electrical side which provides control. From the system, the most common challenges are found in moisture –which would fail the cooling system if present in the air, soiled condenser which would block air flow, and various other mechanical complications which might occurs.

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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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