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Three-dimensional numerical analysis of wet cooling tower

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2008 J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 96 012058
(http://iopscience.iop.org/1742-6596/96/1/012058)
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2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

Three-dimensional numerical analysis of wet cooling tower


Y B Zhao 1 , F Z Sun, M Gao and K Wang
School of Energy Source and Power Engineering, Shandong University, 73 Jing-shi
Road, Jinan 250061, Shandong, P. R. China.
Email: zhybxikong@163.com
Abstract. A mathematical model for water evaporation and water droplet movement is
established to describe the air-water interaction in natural draft wet cooling tower
(NDWCT).The standard k model is used to close the Reynolds average Navier-Stokes
equations. The three-dimensional heat and mass transfer process in NDWCT is simulated to
analyze the crosswind effect on wet cooling tower performance. It is found that the heat and
mass transfer in fill zone is seriously affected by crosswind, while the wet cooling tower
performance is improved when crosswind velocity is higher than 5 m s -1 . Conditions and
locations for good cooling performance are pointed out.

1. Introduction
As a cold side equipment of power plant thermodynamic system, the natural draft wet cooling tower
(NDWCT) plays a significant role in power plant high efficient and energy-saving operation. Inside
the NDWCT as shown in Figure 1, hot water is sprayed out of spray nozzles, and flows through fill
zone in film type, then flows into rain zone as water droplets for the combined impact of gravity,
viscosity and surface tension, and collects in water pond. Cooling air temperature and humidity
increase after air-water heat and mass transfer inside NDWCT, then generating density difference
between air inside and outside tower. The buoyancy caused by density difference and tower height is
the main force driving air flowing through NDWCT, and is decided by air-water heat and mass
transfer intensity caused by simultaneous convection transfer of heat and mass. The air-water mass
flow rate ratio, the air-water temperature difference, and the contact type are three major factors
influencing the intensity of heat and mass transfer. Crosswind has a significant effect on NDWCT
operation performance, so three-dimensional analysis is required to investigate crosswind effect.
NDWCT involves two-phase flow as [1] and shaped jet as [2]. Moreover, the water phase exists as
droplet and film, so NDWCT numerical simulation is very complex. Comparing with the
investigations of crosswind effect on natural draft dry cooling tower [3-5], investigations about the
crosswind effect on wet cooling tower are very few. Two-dimensional numerical analyses about wet
cooling tower performance were presented in [6-7]. However, they could not investigate crosswind
effect. Rafat et al.[8] have studied the crosswind effect on NDWCT using discrete phase model for
water phase. However, the required heat and mass transfer between air and water film flow in fill zone
was achieved by controlling the water droplet velocity.
1

To whom any correspondence should be addressed.

c 2008 IOP Publishing Ltd




2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

This study computes air-water heat and mass transfer in fill zone according to mass transfer
coefficient experimental formula [9] and the modified Lewis factor [10], and computes air-water
interaction in spray zone and rain zone by the discrete phase model. Through the three-dimensional
(3D) numerical investigation of heat and mass transfer process inside NDWCT under crosswind, the
hot water temperature drop in each zone is plotted versus the crosswind velocity, and some contours
about water temperature and the mass flow rate ratio of air to water are sketched out to analyze the
crosswind effect on NDWCT operation performance.

Figure 1. Schematic of natural draft wet cooling Figure 2. Control volume for cooling water.
tower. 1-air inlet; 2-air outlet; 3-eliminator; 4spray zone; 5-fill zone; 6-rain zone; 7-water pond
2. Governing equations
2.1. Governing equations for cooling air
Under constant ambient and operation conditions, the flow of cooling air inside and outside the
NDWCT can be taken as steady non-equilibrium state and meets the steady Reynolds average N-S
governing equations as follows:
G
( ) = S + S
(1)

G
where is the moist air density, is the velocity vector and stands for scalar quantities such as
velocity components x , y and z , species f v , air temperature T, turbulence kinetic energy k and
turbulence dissipation rate , S is the internal source term of air governing equation, and S is the
source term caused by air-water interaction.
The pressure of air inside and outside tower varies very little, so the density variation caused by
pressure can be ignored and the cooling air can be taken as incompressible ideal gas.

2.2. Governing equations for hot water


Hot water is considered to fall only vertically. The governing equations for hot water in a finite control
volume shown in Figure 2 are presented as follows:
dq
= Sm
d( z )

(2)

d
( cwTw q ) = S we
d( z )

(3)

2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

where q is the local hot water mass flow rate and Tw is the local water temperature.
The falling velocity wz of water droplet in spray zone and rain zone is computed as (4).

d wz ( w ) g
fz
=

d( z )
w wz
mw wz

(4)

where w , mw and f z are water droplet density, mass and movement resistance separately.
2.3. Heat and mass transfer model
According to the water evaporation one-film theory [11], assume the moisture content and vapour
partial pressure of moist air are xma and pva separately, and assume the saturated moisture content and
vapour partial pressure in the saturated air layer at the water temperature Tw are xw and pw separately.
Then the evaporation rate in fill zone can be calculated by (5).
S m = x ( xw xma )

(5)

where xv = Bq m g ma n is the mass transfer coefficient per unit volume, g ma is the moist air mass flow
rate, and B, m and n are parameters given through experiments [9].
The evaporation rate S m of hot water in spray zone and rain zone is calculated by (6).
p
p
S m = N d Ap hm w va
RTw RT

(6)

where N d is the number of water droplets in unit volume, Ap is the surface area per water droplet,
hm =

Dv,m

( 2 + 0.6Re

12
d

Sc1 3 ) is the unit area mass transfer coefficientR is the universal gas constant,

dp
Red is the Reynolds number based on the water droplet diameter dp, and Sc is the air Schmidt number.
Moist air energy source Se and hot water negative energy source S we are given as follows:

Se = K h (Tw T ) + Sm c pv (Tw T )

(7)

S we = K h (Tw T ) + S m rw

(8)

where K h is the convective heat transfer coefficient and c pv is the vapour constant pressure specific
heat. Therefore, the heat and mass transfer coefficients K h and xv are two key factors influencing
heat and mass transfer intensity. In fill zone, K h and xv can be correlated through Lewis factor
Lef = K h

( c ) [10]. In spray zone and rain zone, K


p

xv

K h = N d Ap

is computed according to (9).

k
k
Nu = N d Ap ( 2.0 + 0.6 Red1 2 Pr1 3 )
dp
dp

(9)

where k is moist air heat conductivity and Pr is the Prandtl number for turbulent airflow.

2.4. Resistance model


The pressure drop of air through fill, spray facilities and eliminator is defined as (10).

p = Apn

(10)

2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

where A and n are empirical coefficients [9], and p is the air perpendicular velocity in fill zone.
The air movement resistance caused by all water droplets per unit volume in rain zone and spray
zone can be calculated by (11).

Fi =

6q

w wz d

3
p

fi =

6q

w wz d

3
p

Cd Red

dp
8

(i + wi )

(11)

where i stands for coordinates x, y and z, fi is the interactive force between air and water droplet, and
water movement velocities wx and wy in x- and y-direction are set to 0.

3. Computational grid and Boundary conditions


The investigated cooling tower is a full-scale tower with a height of 123.4 m, a fill cross-section area
of 5500 m2 and an inlet height of 8.33 m. For the symmetry of boundary conditions and physical
model, only a half tower is investigated in the numerical domain with a height of 900m and a radius of
500m as shown in Figure 3. The numerical domain is meshed with 651,328 and 1,114,816 cells
separately for verifying the grid-independence of simulation results.

Figure 3. Numerical domain sketch.

Figure 4. Local grid partition schematic.

Figure 3 presents the general boundary conditions. Velocity inlet boundary condition is applied to
investigate the crosswind effect. y and z are set to zero, and x is specified as (12) [9].
z
x = 10
z10

0.28

(12)

where z10 = 10 m is the reference height and 10 is the reference value of x at z10 = 10 m .
Because the domain top surface is far from the tower and independent of the tower generally, it can
be taken as the velocity inlet boundary condition. Porous-jump model is used to model the air
movement resistance through fill zone. Hot water is sprayed from the spray face, so the hot water
parameters of spray face are set to be the initial parameters of hot water.
Table 1. Relative parameters of cooling tower operation.
Relevant parameters
Reference values
Relevant parameters
Water volume flow rate
Atmospheric pressure /kpa
100.4
/m3s-1
Air dry-bulb temperature /K
304.85
Inlet water temperature /K
Air wet-bulb temperature /K
300.55
Outlet water temperature /K
Droplet equivalent diameter /m
0.005

Reference values
38286.0
314.15
305.05

2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

4. Validation
For validating the grid-independence and creditability of simulation results, the NDWCT is
investigated with field test data listed in Table 1 under no crosswind condition.

Table 2 presents the calculated values of temperature drop T and evaporation rate q for coarse
grid and fine grid. The total sum difference of two grid systems is less than 2%, indicating the coarse
grid simulation results have good grid-independence.

Table 2. Calculated values of water temperature drop and evaporation rate in all zones.
Field total
Coarse grid651,328 grid cells
Fine grid1,114,816 grid cells
temperature
Spray Fill
Rain
Total
Spray Fill
Rain
Total
drop
zone
zone
zone
sum
zone
zone
zone
sum
T / K
0.352 5.904
3.068
9.324
0.332 5.705 3.144
9.181
9.1
q / kg s-1 5.673
95.044 51.836 152.553 5.359 92
52.784 150.143

With coarse grid, the calculated total T is 9.324 K, which has a difference of less than 2.5% with
field test data. The calculated temperature drop T in fill zone accounts for 63.317% of the total
calculated temperature drop T , which is reported about 60%~70% [9].The calculated total
evaporation q is 152.553 kg s -1 and accounts for 1.446% of the total hot water spray rate which is
reported about 1.5% [11] under this conditions.
All the above analyses ensure that the simulation results with coarse grid has good gridindependence and creditability and can be applied to analyze the heat and mass transfer process in the
NDWCT.
5. Numerical results under crosswind conditions
The crosswind effect is investigated with the parameters listed in Table 1. Figure 5 presents the
influence trend of crosswind on water temperature drop T , which is accord with the experimental
impact trend as shown in Figure 6 [12] in general.

Figure 5. Area diagram of T under crosswind.

Figure 6.
crosswind.

Experimental

total

under

Without crosswind, the total temperature drop T is the maximum. Along with the velocity
increasing from 0 to 4 m s -1 , the total temperature drop T decreases from 9.324 to 6.725K for the
loss of additional driving force in the tower top under crosswind effect [9]. However, the water
temperature drop in rain zone increases from 3.068 to 3.852 K. The water temperature drop in fill zone
decreases strongly from 5.904 to 2.638 K as the crosswind velocity increases from 0 to 4 m s -1 , for
the average perpendicular velocity across the fill zone decreasing from 1.048 to 0.683 m s -1 .
Crosswind has a positive effect on the rain zone cooling performance when crosswind velocity less
5

2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

than 15 m s -1 , and also has a positive effect on the fill zone cooling performance when crosswind
velocity higher than 9 m s -1 . Above 5 m s -1 , the crosswind begins to benefit the hot water
temperature drop.
4 m s-1

4 m s-1

Figure 7. Water temperature/K contours and stream


traces in the z=7m cross-section of rain zone

4 m s-1

Figure 9 Water temperature/K contours and stream


traces in the symmetry face of rain zone

Figure 8. Air-water mass flow rate ratio


contours in the z=7 m cross-section of rain zone.
4 m s-1

Figure 10 Air-water mass flow rate ratio


contours in the symmetry face of rain zone

Figure 7 and 8 show air stream traces in the z=7 m cross-section of rain zone under 4 m s -1
crosswind, and suggest that locations with high air-water mass flow rate ratio have good cooling
performance in general.
Under the effect of 4 m s -1 crosswind, Figure 7 and 9 indicate that the minimum water temperature
is located at the bottom of tower leeward side. This is mainly because that there is not eddy zone
existing in the inlet upper edge of tower leeward side unlike the tower windward side with eddy zone
as the stream traces shown in Figure 9 and 10. Figure 9 and 10 also indicate that locations with high
air-water mass flow rate ratio have good cooling performance in general.
6. Conclusion
According to the validations and analyses, the established mathematical and physical models can be
used to simulate the heat and mass transfer process in wet cooling tower.
The crosswind effect on the water temperature drop in each zone indicates that the crosswind has a
significant nonlinear effect on wet cooling tower performance. Under the investigated conditions, the
rain zone cooling performance is affected positively when crosswind less than 15 m s -1 , and the fill
zone heat and mass transfer intensity is affected from negatively to positively with 9 m s -1 as the
turning point for variation in air-water mass flow rate ratio distribution and local air-water temperature
difference and moisture difference. The tower performance varies from the optimum to the worst
when crosswind rising from 0 to 4 m s -1 and is improved again when crosswind higher than 5 m s -1 .
Some contours of water temperature and air-water mass flow rate ratio indicate that locations with
high air-water mass flow rate ratio have good cooling performance in general.
Acknowledgement

2007 International Symposium on Nonlinear Dynamics (2007 ISND)


Journal of Physics: Conference Series 96 (2008) 012058

IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1742-6596/96/1/012058

The authors would like to thank the financial support provided by National Basic Research Program of
PR China (Grant No: 2007CB206900) and Natural Science Foundation of Shandong, PR China (Grant
No: Z2003F03)
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