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).
Read More

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
Read More

Pump Characteristic Curves

Introduction

A pump is a hardware, which feeds energy to a fluid (e.g. Water) to flow through channels. Pumps are used, for example, to direct water out of the ground, to transport drinking or sewerage water over large distances in combined pipe networks or to discard water from polders. In any practical application, the pump needs to work with its best performance. It is also important to check that the flow rate and head of the pump are within the required specifications, which are normally presented as the Pump Characteristic curves. These plots play an important role in understanding the region in which the pump needs to be operated thus ensuring the life of the pump.

Pump Characteristic Curves

The performance of any type of pump can be shown graphically, which can be based on either the tests conducted by the manufacturer or the simulations done by the designer. These plots are presented as Pump Characteristic Curves. The hydraulic properties of any pump (e.g. Centrifugal Pump) can be described by the following characteristics.

  1. Q-H Curve
  2. Efficiency Curve
  3. Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) Curve

 

Pump characteristic curves generated from AxSTREAM
Figure 1 Pump characteristic curves generated from AxSTREAM

Q-H Curve

The Q-H curve gives the relation between the volume flow rate and the pressure head, i.e. the lower the pump head, the higher the flow rate. Q-H curves are provided by the manufacturer of the pump and can normally be considered as simple quadratic curves.
Read More

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.

Read More

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?”
Read More

Design of Transonic Axial Compressors

Nowadays, transonic axial flow compressors are very common for aircraft engines in order to obtain maximum pressure ratios per single-stage, which will lead to engine weight and size reduction and therefore less operational costs. Although the performance of these compressors is already high, a further increment in efficiency can result in huge savings in fuel costs and determine a key factor for product success. Therefore, the manufacturers put a lot of effort towards this aspect, while trying to broaden the operating range of the compressors at the same time.

Axial Compressor Designed in AxSTREAM

The creation of shocks, strong secondary flows and other phenomena increases the complexity of the flow field inside a transonic compressor and challenges the designers who need to face many negative flow characteristics such as, high energy losses, efficiency decrease, flow blockage, separation and many more. As the compressor operates from peak to near-stall, the blade loading increases and flow structures become stronger and unsteady. Despite the presence of such flow unsteadiness, the compressor can still operate in a stable mode. Rotating stall arises when the loading is further increased, i.e. at a condition of lower mass flow rate. There are several possible techniques to limit the negative effect of the flow features mentioned above. Here we will present only two. The first one is related to the blade shape generation, while the second one is linked to flow control techniques.

Read More

Direct Off-Design Performance Prediction of an Industrial Gas Turbine Engine

The modern gas turbine engine has been used in the power generation industry for almost half a century. Traditionally, gas turbines are designed to operate with the best efficiency during normal operating conditions and at specific operating points. However, the real world is non-optimal and the engine may have to operate at off-design conditions due to load requirements, different ambient temperatures, fuel types, relative humidity and driven equipment speed. Also more and more base-load gas turbines have to work at partial load, which can affect the hot gas path condition and life expectancy.

At these off-design conditions, the gas turbine efficiency and life deterioration rate can significantly deviate from the design specifications. During a gas turbine’s life, power generation providers may need to perform several overhauls or upgrades for their engines. Thus, the off-design performance after the overhaul can also change. Prediction of gas turbine off-design performance is essential to economic operation of power generation equipment. In the following post, such a system for complex design and off-design performance prediction (AxSTREAM®) is presented. It enables users to predict the gas turbine engine design and off-design performance almost automatically. Each component’s performance such as the turbine, compressor, combustor and secondary flow (cooling) system is directly and simultaneously calculated for every off-design performance request, making it possible to build an off-design performance map including the cooling system. The presented approach provides a wide range of capabilities for optimization of operation modes of industrial gas turbine engines and other complex turbomachinery systems for specific operation conditions (environment, grid demands more).

Read More

Micro-turbines for Extending Electric Car Range

The concept of using gas turbines to power a car is not new. In fact, for many decades now, various car manufacturers have experimented with the idea of using either axial or radial gas turbines as the main propulsion of concept vehicles. In the 50’s and 60’s it was Fiat and Chrysler who introduced such concept cars. In those cases, the gas turbine was directly powering the wheels for propulsion. Toyota followed the same concept in the 80’s (Figure 1) [2]. Their concept car utilized a radial turbine in order to propel the vehicle using an advanced electronically controlled transmission system.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Toyota GTV engine [3].
The main advantage of a gas turbine compared with conventional reciprocating (or even rotary) car engines is the fact that it has a much higher power-to-weight ratio. This means that for the same engine weight, a gas turbine is able to deliver much higher power output. This is why aviation was one of the biggest adopters of this technology.

Read More

Different Criteria Options in Turbomachinery Design Software

When people design turbomachines, whether it be a turbine, compressor, blower or fan, they need to find the optimal design based on their criterion under certain constraints.

With AxSTREAM®, people are given several options for their design criteria, which provides flexibility. With that being said, we often get asked what their differences are and here is a brief explanation addressing just that.

The design criteria menu includes power, internal total-to-static efficiency, internal total-to-total efficiency, polytropic efficiency, diagram total-to-static efficiency, and diagram total-to-total efficiency as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1 - Design Criteria Options in AxSTREAM Preliminary Design
Figure 1 – Design Criteria Options in AxSTREAM® Preliminary Design

Power and efficiency are related, but not always the same thing, especially when the boundary conditions are not fixed as design parameters. In AxSTREAM’s Preliminary Design Module, the user can set boundary conditions such as pressure at inlet and outlet, inlet total temperature, etc., as a range instead of a specific value. Along with other parameters, the solver generates hundreds or even thousands of solutions within the range.

Read More

A Small Review with a Big Context

This being my last post for 2017, I wanted to do a short review of what we have been discussing this year. During the beginning of the year, I decided to focus on the 3D analyses and capabilities that were implemented in our AxCFD and AxSTRESS modules for fluid and structural dynamics. With that in mind, my posts were tailored towards such, highlighting the importance of the right turbulence modelling for correct flow prediction. Among other topics, we studied the key factors that lead to resonance, the importance of not neglecting the energy transfer between fluid and structure, and the great advantage that increasing computing capacity offers to engineers in order to understand turbomachinery in depth. However, no matter how great the benefits are, the approximations and errors from CFD can still lead to high uncertainty. Together, we identified the most important factors, from boundary conditions all the way to mesh generation and simulation of cooling flows, and we put an emphasis on the necessary development of uncertainty quantification models. This 3D module related topic finished with an extensive article on fatigue in turbomachinery which plays a crucial role in the failure of the machine, and was the cause for many accidents in the past.

AxCFD
SoftInWay’s AxCFD Module

The second part of my posts focused on different industries that rely on turbomachinery as we tried to identify the challenges that they face. Being fascinated by the space industry along with the increasing interest of the global market for launching more rockets for different purposes, I started this chapter with the description of a liquid rocket propulsion system and how this can be designed or optimized using the AxSTREAM platform. Moving a step closer to earth, next I focused on the aerospace industry and the necessity for robust aircraft engines that are optimized, highly efficient, and absolutely safe. One of the articles that I enjoyed the most referred to helicopters and the constant threats that could affect the engine performance, the overall operation and the safety of the passengers. Dust, salt and ice are only a few of the elements that could affect the operation of the rotating components of the helicopter engine, which allows us understand how delicate this sophisticated and versatile aircraft is.
Read More