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This is the authors version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:

Sauret, Emilie & Gu, YuanTong (2014) 3D CFD simulations of a candidate


R143a radial-inflow turbine for geothermal power applications. In Proceedings of the ASME 2014 Power Conference, ASME, Baltimore, Maryland,
USA.
This file was downloaded from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/74693/

c Copyright 2014 ASME


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Proceedings of the ASME 2014 Power Conference


Power 2014
July 28-31, 2014, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Power2014-32158

3D CFD SIMULATIONS OF A CANDIDATE R143A RADIAL-INFLOW TURBINE FOR


GEOTHERMAL POWER APPLICATIONS

Emilie Sauret
School of Chemistry, Physics
& Mechanical Engineering
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Queensland, 4000, Australia
Email: emilie.sauret@qut.edu.au

Yuantong Gu
School of Chemistry, Physics
& Mechanical Engineering
Queensland University of Technology
Brisbane, Queensland, 4000, Australia
Email: yuantong.gu@qut.edu.au

NOMENCLATURE

ABSTRACT
Optimisation of Organic Rankine Cycles (ORCs) for binary
cycle applications could play a major role in determining the
competitiveness of low to moderate renewable sources. An important aspect of the optimisation is to maximise the turbine
output power for a given resource. This requires careful attention to the turbine design notably through numerical simulations.
Challenges in the numerical modelling of radial-inflow turbines
using high-density working fluids still need to be addressed in
order to improve the turbine design and better optimise ORCs.
This paper presents preliminary 3D numerical simulations of a
radial-inflow turbine working with high-density fluids in realistic
geothermal ORCs. Following extensive investigation of the operating conditions and thermodynamic cycle analysis, the refrigerant R143a is chosen as the high-density working fluid. The 1D
design of the candidate radial-inflow turbine is presented in details. Furthermore, commercially-available software Ansys-CFX
is used to perform preliminary steady-state 3D CFD simulations
of the candidate R143a radial-inflow turbine at the nominal operating condition. The real-gas properties are obtained using
the Peng-Robinson equations of state. The thermodynamic ORC
cycle is presented. The preliminary design created using dedicated radial-inflow turbine software Concepts-Rital is discussed
and the 3D CFD results are presented and compared against the
meanline analysis.

Address

C0
c p0
DRin
hT
M
Ns
Nr
P
pc
PS
PT
Q m
R
Re
Tc
TS
TT
Vm
y+
w

spouting velocity
zero pressure ideal gas specific heat capacity
inlet rotor diameter
total enthalpy
absolute Mach number
stator number of blades
rotor number of blades
power
absolute pressure at the critical point
static pressure
total pressure
mass flow rate
ideal gas constant (8.314472 J/(mol.K))
Reynolds number
absolute temperature at the critical point
static temperature
total temperature
molar volume
non-dimensional grid spacing at the wall

Greek Symbols
efficiency
acentric factor
rotational speed
pressure ratio
dynamic viscosity

all correspondence to this author.

c 2014 by ASME
Copyright

Robinson-Stryjek-Vera and Span-Wagner) were shown to produce similar results. Pini et al. [22] recently performed a 2D
throughflow simulation on their proposed centrifugal turbine for
an ORC application working with the siloxane MDM. Finally, to
the best of the authors knowledge, Harinck [16] are the first to
perform three-dimensional viscous CFD simulations of a complete radial turbine including the stator, the rotor and the diffuser
using toluene as the working fluid.
Other studies looked at the blade optimisation of expanders using
real gas [14, 15]. However, so far only two-dimensional nozzles
simulations have been considered [2, 14]. It is also important to
note that so far, all the published numerical studies on expanders
working with organic fluids were independent from the preliminary design and the thermodynamic cycle.
This paper will fill that gap by providing a complete ORC analysis including the thermodynamic cycle, the preliminary meanline design and finally pioneering three-dimensional CFD simulations of a R143a radial-inflow turbine in realistic geothermal
conditions.

Subscripts
in turbine inlet
out turbine outlet
ref reference
T S Total-to-Static
T T Total-to-Total

Introduction
Organic Rankine Cycles (ORCs) have been receiving lots
of attention for many years [1]. This interest is continuously
growing [2] because of the suitability of ORCs to renewable
low-to-mid-temperature applications. Two key parameters for
the optimization of the ORC performance are the working fluid
and the turbine. Extensive literature has been published on
the working fluid selection [37] and separately on the preliminary one-dimensional turbine design [812]. As underlined by
Aungier [13], the preliminary design of a radial-inflow turbine
remains a crucial step in the design process. Indeed, the objective of the design phases (preliminary and detailed) is to create an
aerodynamic design that will correctly and completely achieve
a design that delivers the desired outputs. However, Pasquale
et al. [14] also highlighted the need to use more advanced 3D
viscous computational simulations to further investigate the proposed turbine configuration. Computational Fluid Dynamics
(CFD) will provide detailed flow analysis which is required to
improve the aerodynamic performance of the machine [15].
In order to achieve better cycle performances, the organic working fluid at the inlet of the turbine is in thermodynamic conditions
close or above to the critical point. This prevents the numerical
simulations to use ideal gas laws and so require the developement of codes to calculate the thermodynamic properties ofthe
real gas. For accurate viscous simulations these codes need to be
interfaced with the CFD solvers [16].
Since the end of the 90s, CFD solvers capable to handle real
gas have been developed [17, 18]. Then, numerical simulations
on expanders and turbine nozzles using high-density fluids have
been reported in the literature. In 2002, Hoffren et al. [19] are
amongst the first to perform two-dimensional numerical simulations of a real gas flow in a supersonic turbine nozzle using
toluene as working fluid. Their extension of the Navier-Stokes
solver for real gas appears to be robust and accurate. In 2004,
Boncinelli et al. [20] successfully computed a transonic centrifugal impeller working with R134a using a a fitting model from gas
databases to get the thermodynamic properties of the fluid. Later,
Colonna et al. [21] investigated the influence of three different
equations of state (EoS), a simple polytropic ideal gas law, the
Peng-Robinson-Stryjek-Vera cubic equation of state (EoS) and
the state-of-the-art Span-Wagner EoS, on the aerodynamic performance of a two-dimensional ORC stator blade working with
the siloxane MDM. The two more sophisticated models (Peng-

ORC Cycle
A thermodynamic model for a binary power cycle was developed using Engineering Equation Solver (EES, F-Chart Software) based on the basic components of an ORC system: evaporator, turbine, generator, condenser and fluid pump (Figure 1).
Simulations for realistic condensing ORC cycles for geothermal
applications were carried out and analysed leading to the promising cycle for a brine temperature of 423K. The condensing temperature was set at 313K (10K above ambient, assumed to be
303K). In this analysis, turbine and pump efficiencies were assumed to be 85% and 65%, respectively. Promising cycles were
identified by varying the evaporator pressure in order to optimise
the net cycle power.
In this study, the refrigerant R143a is chosen as the working fluid for the turbine. Indeed, studies published by Bao and
Zhao [23] and Sauret and Rowlands [24] with realistic geothermal conditions have shown that it is a suitable fluid capable to
generate a relatively large power turbine compared to the compactness of the turbine.
The selection of the radial-inflow turbine is based on numerous
published studies highlighting the suitability of such turbines for
ORC cycles [22, 2426].
The thermodynamic data required for the turbine design are
summarized table 1.

Preliminary design of the radial-inflow turbine


In this study, the preliminary design of the turbines was performed using the commercial software RITAL following the design procedure established by Moustapha et al. [27]. The general
procedure implemented was to determine overall dimensions of
2

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TABLE 2: PRELIMINARY R143a TURBINE DESIGN DATA.

FIGURE 1: BASIC ORGANIC RANKINE CYCLE (ORC) SYS-

TEM.
TABLE 1: THERMODYNAMIC DATA FOR THE TURBINE

Variables
5000

PSout [kPa]

1835

TTin [k]

413

Power [kW]

400

Geometric

Variables

Parameters

T S [-]

2.72

Ns

19

T T [-]

2.62

Nr

16

Q m [kg/s]

17.24

DRin [mm]

T S [%]

76.8

T T [%]

79.8

[RPM]

24250

Power [kW]

393.6

U/C0

0.675

127.17

Baines [11]. The rotor clearances were set using an assumed


value of 0.3 mm. The wish to use widely available inverter technology in order to simplify future experimental rigs led to the
shaft speed being limited to a maximum of 25,000 rpm. The default RITAL recommended loss models were used: the Rodgers
stator loss model [28] and the CETI rotor passage loss model
from Concepts [29]. These models were found to provide a reasonable first approximation.

FROM THE R143a ORC CYCLE ANALYSIS.

PTin [kPa]

Global

Preliminary design results


The results of the preliminary design are presented Table 2.
The power is slightly lower than the expected value from the
thermodynamic cycle. However, the total-to-total efficiency almost reached 80% while the total-to-static efficiency is close to
77%. This is in close agreement with the previous study proposed by Sauret and Rowlands [24]. The size of the turbine is
also in close agreement with the previous study [24]. One can
also note that because of a relatively high power compared to
a relatively small size, this turbine achieves a high performance
factor (PF = Wc /D2Rin ) of 20.6 compared to PF=17.2 obtained by
Sauret and Rowlands [24].

the machine along with blade and flow angles and isentropic efficiency by fixing the mass flow rate, inlet and outlet pressures
as calculated by the cycle analysis (Table 1) and by assuming
flow and loading coefficients [27]. From the basic design specifications and the performance analysis, a refinement of the results was performed in order to optimise the geometry. The refinements included: rotational speed adjustments in order to get
closer to the optimum 0.7 value of the U/c0 ratio [27]; tip outlet
rotor radius modification in order to reduce the swirl as much as
possible at the outlet of the rotor; and, blade span (i.e. changes
to throat area).

3D Geometry
The commercial software Axcent were used to define the 3D
geometry of the turbine presented in Figure 2. The data from the
preliminary 1D design were transferred into Axcent, including
amongst the most important parameters, radii and blade heights.
The nozzle hub and shroud contours are defined as straight lines.
The nozzle hub and shroud thicknesses, the rotor blade angle and
rotor thickness distributions were adjusted using Bezier curves

Assumptions and constraints


In the Moustapha et al. procedure [27], the flow and loading coefficients are assumed in order to give the best efficiency.
In this current study, these coefficients were set respectively to
0.215 and 0.918 giving around 90% efficiency according to the
Flow and Loading Coefficient Correlation Chart proposed by
3

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FIGURE 2: 3D VIEW OF THE O-H GRID AROUND THE

STATOR BLADE.
FIGURE 3: 3D VIEW OF THE O-H GRID AROUND THE

in order to achieve reasonnable preliminary results with bladeto-blade and throughflow solvers notably in terms of loading and
Mach numbers which were maintained in the transonic region.
The same thickness distribution was used for the stator hub and
shroud while two separate distributions were set for the rotor hub
and shroud.

STATOR BLADE.

erence dynamic viscosity of R143a and re f = 163.2[kg/m3 ] the


reference density at the inlet of the domain, the present machine
Reynolds number at the inlet is 8.8 107 well above 2 106 .
This initial mesh was found good enough to run pioneering simulations of the 3D candidate R143a radial-inflow turbine in realistic geothermal conditions and establish the complete methodology (thermodynamic cycle, meanline analysis and preliminary
viscous CFD simulations).

3D CFD simulations
Viscous turbulent CFD simulation was carried out on the 3D
turbine geometry at the nominal condition using commerciallyavailable software ANSYS-CFX.
Mesh
The O-H three-dimensional computational mesh for the simulation of one blade passage is shown in Figure 3 for the nozzle
and in Figures 4 and 5 for the rotor. An initial grid was created with a total grid number is 1359907 nodes, 678,389 for the
stator, 444,341 for the rotor and 237,177 for the diffuser. The
average non-dimensional grid spacing at the wall y+
w = 703 is
slightly above the recommended range of up to 500. With the
scalable wall function used in the simulations, recommended y+
w
values lay between 15 and 100 for machine Reynolds number
of 105 where the transition is likely to affect significantly the
boundary layer formation and skin friction and up to 500 for
Reynolds number of 2 106 when the boundary layer is mainly
turbulent throughout [30]. However, based on Remachine =
(re f URtip
R )/re f where re f = 1.9 105 [kg/(m.s)] is the refin Rin

Numerical Model
The CFD solver ANSYS-CFX has been used to perform
steady-state 3D viscous flow simulations. For robustness
consideration, the discretization of the Navier-Stokes equations
is realized using a first order Upwind advection scheme. For
these preliminary 3D simulations, the standard k- turbulence
model with scalable wall function was chosen.
In order to describe the properties of the refrigerant R143a
in the radial-inflow turbine, the cubic equation of state (EoS) of
Peng-Robinson [31] (Equation 1) is chosen. This choice was
motivated by the good balance between simplicity and accuracy
of this model to perform preliminary real gas computational
simulations.
4

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Copyright

is the universal gas constant.


To complete the description of the real gas properties, the
CFD solver calculates the enthalpy and the entropy using
relationships which are detailed in [32]. These relationships
depend on the zero pressure ideal gas specific heat capacity c p0
and the derivatives of the Peng-Robinson EoS. c p0 is obtained
by a fourth-order polynomial whose coefficients are defined by
Poling et al. [33].
Boundary Conditions
An extension of the domain was placed in front of the stator
blades at a distance equivalent to approximately 25% of the axial
stator chord. The nominal rotational speed for this case is defined
from the preliminary design and set to 24250 RPM (Table 2). The
mass flow rate, total temperature and inlet velocity obtained from
the meanline design analysis were set at the inlet of the domain
(Table 1). The static pressure was specified at the exit of the
diffuser (Table 1).
A mixing plane condition was set at the interface between the
stationary (stator) and rotational (rotor) frames and a frozen rotor
interface was set between the rotor and the diffuser. Periodic
boundary conditions are applied as only one blade passage for
both the stator and the rotor is modelled.

FIGURE 4:

3D VIEWS OF THE O-H GRID SHROUD


AROUND THE ROTOR BLADE.

Simulations Results and Comparisons against the


Meanline Analysis
Due to the lack of experimental data in radial-inflow turbines
working with high-density fluids, the validation of the present 3D
viscous simulation was firstly made against the meanline analysis
results.
Table 3 compares the results from both the preliminary 1D
design and the numerical 3D turbulent simulations. It is observed
that the CFD results are in relatively good agreement with the 1D
analysis, especially in terms of temperatures, pressures and enthalpy. However, the slight difference (less than 0.5%) on the
total enthalpy at the inlet of the nozzle and outlet of the rotor
between the viscous simulation and 1D analysis leads to aprroximately 8% difference in terms of hT = hTin hTout explaining
the difference of power as P = Q m (hTin hTout ).
The main difference between the CFD results and the meanline
analysis appears to be the efficiencies, reaching around nearly
15%. This result can be mainly attributed to the difference in
enthalpy drop and to the fact that the 3D geometry hasnt been
fully optimised. Because of that, the aerodynamic loading shown
in Figure 6 presents an unexpected peak of Mach number close to
0.8 at the trailing edge of the rotor at the three spanwise positions.
These peaks correspond to a low blade loading region as shown
in Figure 7. Furthermore, compared to the meanline design, the
Mach number at the inlet of the rotor (Table 3) is also higher. The
Mach number at mid-span is presented Figure 8. One can note

FIGURE 5: 3D VIEWS OF THE O-H GRID HUB AROUND


THE ROTOR BLADE.

p=

RT
a
2
Vm b Vm + 2bVm b2

0.457235R2 Tc2
pc
0.077796RTc
b=
pc

a=

(1)

=(1 + (1 Tr0.5 ))2


=0.37464 + 1.54226 0.26992 2
T
Tr =
Tc
where = 0.259 is the acentric factor of refrigerant R143a,
Tc = 346.3 K and Pc = 3492 kPa are respectively the critical
temperature and pressure of R143a, Vm , the molar volume and R
5

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Copyright

TABLE 3: COMPARISON PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS AND

3D CFD SIMULATIONS.

Variables

Preliminary Design

Present CFD

T S [-]

2.72

2.64

T T [-]

2.62

2.54

T S [%]

76.8

65.3

T T [%]

79.8

68

P [kW]

393.6

421.5

hT [kJ/kg]

499.2

501

PT [kPa]

4989.6

4849.85

0.88

0.94

PT [kPa]

4886.5

4717

TT [K]

412.2

411.9

M [-]

0.363

0.364

PT [kPa]

1961.4

1933.1

TT [K]

370.2

367.1

hT [kJ/kg]

476.4

476.3

Global Variables

Stator Inlet
FIGURE 6: MACH NUMBER DISTRIBUTIONS AT THREE

DIFFERENT ROTOR BLADE HEIGHTS.

Rotor Inlet
M [-]

Rotor Outet

that the exit of the stator is slightly chocked with a maximum


Mach number of approximately 1.05. This, in return, leads to the
higher Mach number at the inlet of the rotor. As a consequence,
further 3D shape optimisation is required in order to improve the
blade loading profile and thus reduce the Mach number in order to remain in the transonic region. Then, its very likely that
the CFD simulations on the optimized 3D geometry will provide
much better agreement with the meanline design in terms of efficiencies. Also the relatively high loading at the leading edge of
the rotor may cause structural issues for the blade integrity. This
will require in the future to also run a structural blade analysis
which would need to be linked to the blade optimisation in order
to better distribute the pressure loading along the rotor blades.

FIGURE 7: BLADE LOADING AT THREE DIFFERENT RO-

TOR BLADE HEIGHTS.

mal conditions. The thermodynamic cycle, the preliminary 1D


design, the meanline analysis of the turbine and ultimately the
steady-state 3D viscous simulations of the turbine are produced.
The CFD simulations provide satisfactory results compared to
the meanline analysis except for the efficiencies due to the lack
of a full optimization of the 3D geometry.
These pioneering 3D CFD simulations confirm previouslypublished studies for the need of more detailed optimization in
order to increase the efficiency of the turbine notably by lowering the maximum Mach number and improve the blade loading
profile. Further investigation will focus on off-design conditions

Conclusion
This paper is the first to present the full design process of
a radial-inflow turbine working with R143a in realistic geother6

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[5] Facao, J., and Oliveira, A., 2009. Analysis of Energetic,


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FIGURE 8: MACH NUMBER AT MID-SPAN.

with a variation of rotational speed.The thermodynamic model


will also be investigated in more details and compared against
simulations directly using the RefProp database. The direct use
of the NIST database for the real gas properties in the CFD solver
instead of the Peng-Robinson Eos will also be performed in order to improve the prediction of the thermodynamic properties
and so the power. Finally, a 3D shape optimization tool coupled with a structural analysis will be developed and applied to
this candidate R143a radial-inflow turbine in realistic geothermal
conditions.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Dr. E. Sauret would like to thank the Australian Research
Council for its financial support.

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