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J. Loss /rev. Process Ind. Vol. 9. No. 4. pp.

285-293, 1996
Copyright 0 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd
Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved

PII: SO950-4230(96)00021-6

0950-4230/96

$15.00 + 0.00

ELSEVIER

Blowdown of carbon dioxide


supercritical
conditions

from

initially

Bernhard Gebbeken and Rudolf Eggers


Technische UniversiCit Hamburg-Harburg, Arbeitsbereich Verfahrenstechnik
Eissendorfer Strasse 38, 21073 Hamburg, Germany

II,

Received 1 October 1995


The paper presents experimental
investigations of the thermohydraulic
phenomena of top
vented blowdown processes of initially supercritical carbon dioxide. The initial fluid conditions
were chosen such that flashing occurred after saturation conditions were reached. The investigations were focused on pressure and temperature transients. It was observed that the pressure
at which flashing occurred first depends mainly on the initial fluid conditions due to the almost
isentropic change of state during the supercritical/subcooled
blowdown. Furthermore, void fraction profiles along the axis of the vessel were measured by means of a gamma densitometer.
The void fraction profile is influenced strongly by phase separation effects. Various stages of
characteristic void profile were observed. Copyright 0 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd
Keywords: vessel blowdown,

flashing, phase distribution,

The blowdown phenomenon, amongst other transient


release processes, is a subject of particular interest to the
chemical, oil/gas, and power industries. Accurate prediction of the releasing process is important in determining
the consequences of an accident, in particular the spillage of material and the safety of the equipment. If the
maximum operating pressure of the processing equipment is exceeded due to an exothermic chemical runaway reaction, or exterior or interior heat sources, a
pressure release is unavoidable. During a blowdown process production plants are exposed to fast pressure and
temperature transients as well as to phase transitions.
Thus hazardous situations can occur due to blowdowninduced dynamic loads, to the very low temperatures
generated within the fluid during depressurization, and
to the formation of hydrates which block the venting line
if free water is present. In order to provide accurate prediction of the blowdown process the transient pressure,
temperature, and void fraction profile have to be calculated. Intolerable uncertainties are caused if flashing or
desorption occurs during blowdown so that a two-phase
flow develops. Appropriate models must be applied to
consider the non-equilibrium
effects between the
coexisting phases and the dynamic behaviour of multiphase flow. Thus to guarantee a controlled blowdown
without any unexpected operating conditions, blowdown
scenarios have to be investigated to supply data for the
appropriate design of chemical processing equipment.
During the last two decades research on chemical
processes using supercritical fluids has increased considerably. New production processes such as extraction
with supercritical solvents and chemical reactions in

supercritical

carbon dioxide

supercritical fluid environments (polymerization, free


radical halogenations) have been developed. In this field
of application supercritical carbon dioxide is frequently
used due to its solvent power for non-polar substances.
Processes using supercritical fluids are usually carried
out under high pressure conditions and often batchwise.
Hence blowdown predictions must be provided for
safety considerations.
So far no experimental blowdown data are available
for pressure release of typical supercritical solvents.
Therefore, experimental investigations on top vented
blowdown processes of initially supercritical carbon
dioxide have been carried out. Initial conditions were
chosen such that flashing occurred during the pressure
release. The aim of this paper is to present detailed information about the two-phase thermohydraulic phenomena, particularly the transient pressure behaviour and
phase distribution during pressure release from a 50 litre
vertical pressure vessel. Various initial fluid conditions
have been applied. Furthermore, the phase distribution
obtained from the experiments is compared to those
obtained from blowdown processes from initially saturated two-phase conditions.

Blowdown phenomena
Blowdown of pressure vessels and gas pipelines are of
great importance to the chemical and oil/gas industries
as pressure release can occur during a hazard, for maintenance reasons, or even as a part of the process cycle.
Haque et al. investigated experimentally the temperature distribution within large pressure vessels of various
geometry during pressure release using nitrogen and

285

286

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

mixtures of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Initial conditions were varied to be subcritical as well as supercritical (PO= 15 MPa), the fluid conditions during the blowdown were gaseous and two-phase due to condensing.
Full scale depressurization of a section of a riser platform using natural gas was conducted by Evanger et al.*
in order to measure the outer surface temperature of the
pipeline. Experiments of initial fluid pressures up to
pa = 8.8 MPa were carried out. Two-phase phenomena
during the pressure release were not reported. Theoretical work in this area was carried out by Chen et ~1.~.
A hyperbolic finite difference method using separated
momentum equations was proposed to calculate the twophase blowdown of single- and multi-component mixtures from pipelines.
In the nuclear power industries the hypothetical loss
of coolant accident (LOCA) is one of the most significant aspects of the design and test of the emergency
cooling system of a reactor. Hence blowdown of the
cooling circuit of pressurized water reactors has been
extensively investigated4. Extremely rapid depressurization of long horizontal pipes containing initially subcooled water was investigated by Edwards and OBrien,
and later by Alamgir et ~1.~. New theories have been
proposed to explain the pressure disturbances and the
violent phase change effects. Theoretical investigations
on blowdown processes of long pipes have been
accomplished by Krause. A one-dimensional mixture
model was proposed to be solved using the method of
characteristics. Applying the pipe problem of Edwards
and OBrien the model was verified.
Further investigations were carried out for blowdown processes from initially saturated conditions. This
kind of initial condition is indicated by State A in
Figure 1. The vessel contains saturated liquid with saturated vapour on top. After the top vented blowdown is
started only vapour is being blown off so that the pressure inside the vessel decreases. Subsequently, the boiling
process within the saturated liquid starts to develop. The
liquid-vapour interface rises due to the growth of vapour
bubbles. Two-phase flow venting occurs when the
liquid-vapour interface reaches the top of the vessel.

B. Gebbeken

and R. Eggers

Fundamental research in this area has been done by


Mayinger. Most of the published papers concentrated
on the thermohydraulics in the depressurization pipe.
Investigations on the system behaviour inside the pressure vessel were done by Friede19 who focused on the
influence of physical properties on the boiling delay.
Transient wall heat transfer in a pressure vessel during
pressure release of carbon dioxide from initially saturated conditions has been investigated experimentally by
Eggers and Green O. Theoretical and experimental investigations of blowdown processes from vertical vessels
using saturated water were performed by Friz, and by
Prasser*. Both authors focused on the transient void
fraction profile along the axis of the vessel and the level
swell dynamics. Similar experiments were conducted by
Friedel and Purp~~ using the refrigerant R12 as the test
fluid. Thies and Mewesi4 investigated the axial phase
distribution for blowdown of a water/carbon dioxide gasdesorbing system in a vertical vessel. It was discovered
that the axial void fraction profile is strongly influenced
by phase separation processes. Research on the separation of the phases due to different phase velocities during blowdown was carried out by Viecenz15. To consider
phase separation effects in two-phase flow the drift flux
model was proposed by Zuber and Findlay16. The volumetric flux density of the mixture j is defined by
j = &V%
+ (1 - &)Vl.

Introducing a radial distribution parameter Co the


weighted mean gas velocity can be expressed as

is=Coj +V,,,

(2)

where ig and idrift are the mean value weighted by the


volume concentration of the gas velocity and the drift
velocity, respectively. The value of the radial distribution parameter Co is usually close to 1. However, Co
and id,+, can be expressed by empirical correlations such
that they depend only on the physical properties of the
fluid and on the two-phase flow pattern. For vertical bubbly flow which is expected for blowdown of pressure
vessels the following general correlation for the drift
velocity is proposed16
vdrift

-*
=

vdrift

*
[-I*
U&P
P:

T = TCn

-73
I

A ,J p < kit

,
I

S'

EC

vapor

Specific entropy
Figure 1 Temperature-specific
entropy diagram, various initial
fluid conditions for pressure release

(1)

i&i,

1.18 - 1.53.

(3)

From this equation it becomes evident that the drift velocity strongly depends on the difference of the phase densities and on the surface tension. The surface tension in
turn strongly affects the size of the bubbles.
Considering depressurization of initially supercritical fluids various process characteristics can be observed
depending on the initial conditions. Possible initial conditions are indicated by State B and State C in Figure 1.
Considering State B the pressure release is started from
the supercritical condition on the left-hand-side of the
critical point (sB<S,,i~), whereas for State C the process
is started from the right-hand-side of the critical point
(S&S,&. Assuming an isentropic change of state until
saturation conditions are reached, condensation occurs if
the initial state is located on the right-hand-side whereas
flashing will occur if the process is initiated from the
left-hand-side of the critical point. The latter case
denoted by State B in Figure 1 was investigated by the

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

experiments presented in this paper. During the pressure


the
observed:
phases
can
be
release
two
supercriticaYsubcooled blowdown and the saturated
The supercritical/subcooled
blowdown
blowdown.
phase terminates when the system pressure drops below
the saturation pressure and flashing occurs. The saturated
blowdown phase lasts until ambient pressure is reached.

Experimental
The experimental investigations consisted of pressure
release experiments
from initially subcooled and
supercritical conditions using pure carbon dioxide (CO,).
The critical data of carbon dioxide are pcrit = 7.38 MPa
and Tcrit= 304.2 K17.
In Figure 2 a sketch of the experimental plant is
shown. The volume of the cylindrical high pressure test
vessel is V= 0.05 m3. A system pressure up to
= 30 MPa can be achieved. The inner diameter of
P
thmeapressurevessel is d = 0.242 m, the height to diameter
ratio is h/d = 4.5. A venting pipe of cross-sectional area
A = 50 mm* is connected to the top. An exchangeable
orifice for varying the cross-sectional area of the venting
line is installed. A quick-opening ball valve is used to
assure the controlled initiation of the blowdown. Ambient pressure of approximately pa = 0.1 MPa can be
assumed at the end of the venting line. The test fluid
was filled into the vessel from the top by using a diaphragm pump.
Various measuring sensors are used to obtain information about the transient process parameters. A piezoresistive pressure transducer is attached to the bottom of
the vessel. It proved to be important to use a sensor with
low signal deviation due to temperature change since

CCD-Comer0
LrzFF-1

I
T

storage
tonk

1h
3
G
T

large temperature changes occur during the blowdown


process. The results of previous experiments proved that
the differential pressure between the top and bottom of
the vessel after the onset of flashing is negligible relative
to the accuracy of the transducer. Hence for the experiments discussed in this paper the axial pressure gradient
is neglected.
Six thermocouples (NiCr-Ni) of outer diameter
D = 0.5 mm are installed in the centre of the vessel along
the axis. To seal the signal wires of the temperature sensors between the pressure chamber and the ambient the
capsulated signal wires were brazed into a plug.
A gamma densitometer is used to measure the fluid
density averaged across the cross-sectional area of the
pressure vessel. The gamma source (7Cs) and the scintillation counter are installed on a support system which
can be moved along the axis of the vessel. By repeating
the experiments at the identical conditions and measuring the fluid density for various axial levels the axial
density distribution can be obtained. The phase densities
and the respective intensities with the channel full of gas
and liquid change considerably during a pressure release
such that the void fraction cannot be obtained directly
from the counted number of pulses. Therefore, the void
fraction was calculated by
P=e$+(l

-&)P

(4)

using the saturation densities of the liquid phase and the


gaseous phase
P=

(5)

P(P)

p = p(p).

(6)

The liquid to vapor phase density ratio during the experiments performed varied from p,Ipv = 3 to p,/pv = 20.
Approximately 70% of the cross-sectional area of
the pressure vessel was irradiated by a broad beam as
can be seen in Figure 3. Thus an accurate cross-sectional
averaged magnitude for the density can be assured.
However, the dynamic error due to a changing void fraction during a time interval was proved to be negligible
due to the large cross-sectional area irradiated and the
low phase velocities. The error due to void orientation
effects is negligible due to the fact that 7Cs is a hard
source for which the absorption is weak and can be
approximated by a linear relationship. This was proved

r--

pressure
vessel50 I

670

DR

PR

Experimental

mm

c?
00

Figure 2

287

and R. Eggers

I-----M

B. Gebbeken

set up

counter,
photomultiplier

WR
Figure 3

Gamma

densitometer

288

Blowdown

of carbon dioxide: B. Gebbeken and R. Eggers

by calculations of the intensity profile along the axis of


the bar detector for varied radial void profiles. The measuring signal was low-pass filtered using a limiting frequency off= 1 s-i and smoothed with respect to time
afterwards. Experiments were repeated several times for
the identical initial conditions. The measured void fraction profiles and pressure transients proved to be reproducible.
The experimental plant is placed on a scale. Thus
the weight of the fluid in the vessel during the process
can be measured. The outgoing mass flow rate can be
obtained by calculating the derivative of the mass signal
with respect to time.

i&t) =

&l(t)

The weight sensors are operated by strain gauge technique. The measuring signal is low-pass filtered using a
limiting frequency off= 10 s-l.
All measuring signals are processed by an A/D converter and a personal computer. The pneumatic ball
valve which is used to open the venting line is also controlled by the PC. A measuring frequency off= 20 s-l
per sensor proved to be convenient for the experiments
performed such that no information was lost and the
amount of data could still be managed.
Besides measuring the process parameters an
important issue for describing the thermohydraulic
phenomena is a visual observation. In high pressure
technology, observation windows of various designs are
used. The visible diameter of these windows is small
because of thermal and mechanical stress. Strict safety
requirements must be met when designing windows
exposed to dynamic stress.
To observe the transient thermohydraulics in the
vessel during the depressurization of initially supercritical carbon dioxide a pressure capsulated borescope combined with a CCD camera is used. Usually borescopes
are designed for low pressure ranges. Therefore, a pressure capsule for the borescope had to be designed for this
application. The capsulated borescope is put through the
cover of the vessel. Thus a view from the top into the
vessel is achieved. The CCD camera is connected to the
borescope outside of the vessel.
The pressure capsule is mounted on the cover of
the pressure vessel. The borescope is capsulated by a
pressure pipe. The pressure pipe is supported and sealed
in a bore of the cover of the vessel. Using an electrical
drive the borescope can be moved vertically from the
lower end of the cover to a depth of 500 mm inside the
vessel. At the tip of the pressure pipe a sapphire glass
is located. The window is sealed such that mechanical
stress within the window cannot develop even for high
temperature gradient conditions. The thickness of the
window is 8 mm. An anti-reflex coating is provided for
both sides of the window to avoid reflections of the light
which is transported through the borescope into the vessel to illuminate the object.
During the pressure release the pictures obtained by
the CCD camera are taped. The video pictures are provided with a time code. The timing of the video pictures
and the measuring signals are synchronised. Thus the
height of the flashing liquid layer can be obtained.

Results and discussion


Experiments were accomplished for initial conditions
that varied in temperature, pressure, and minimum diameter of the venting line (orifice). The initial pressures
were within the range of p,, = 15-30 MPa, whereas the
initial temperatures varied from T, = 298 to 323 K. This
implied initial densities in the range from p,, = 700970 kg mm3. Thus the initial state of the fluid was
supercritical for most cases. Only for initial temperatures
less than the critical temperature was the state of the
fluid subcooled.
Pressure

transients

To illustrate the phenomena observed during a


depressurization process from initially supercritical conditions (J+,= 20 MPa, To = 3 13 K) the phase distribution
along the pressure transient obtained by borescopic
observation is shown in Figure 4. A steep pressure
decrease as well as a temperature decrease can be
observed during the supercriticaYsubcooled blowdown.
The change of state of the fluid during the
supercritical/subcooled
blowdown was almost isentropic. Thus dissipative effects and wall heat transfer
must be low during this period of time. Comparing the
borescopic observations to the pressure and temperature
signals obtained, the flashing process starts at the vessel
wall before the bulk fluid has reached saturation conditions. The fluid temperature within the boundary layer
is higher than the bulk temperature due to heat flow from
the wall. Thus saturation conditions are reached first at
the vessel wall, Subsequently, flashing also occurs in the
bulk region. For several seconds the pressure does not
change significantly. This is caused by the low void
quantity and the low mixture enthalpy, respectively, of
the vented fluid in this period of time as well as by the
high evaporation rate. Subsequently, the void quantity
20
Initial conditions:
pO =

20 MPa

T,=313K
15

Amin = 17 mm2

I---+
/

;ii
%
; 0
3
8
h
5

0
0

Time
Figure 4 Phase distribution
supercritical conditions

150

100

50

during

(s)
blowdown

from

initially

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

of the vented fluid rises as the vapour concentration in


the top of the vessel increases and the process pressure
decreases with respect to time. After about t = 30 s a
vapour dome develops on top of the boiling liquid. First
the volume of the vapour layer is small but it increases
while the boiling liquid layer drops further down. Similar phenomena have been observed for all depressurization processes which proceed through the liquid region
and subsequently reach the two-phase region across the
boiling curve.
The pressure transient strongly depends on the
initial conditions of the fluid. In Figure 5 pressure transients as a function of time are shown for varied initial
temperature. The initial pressure was chosen to be
p0 = 15 MPa for these experiments.
During the
supercriticalkubcooled blowdown the pressure decreases
faster with respect to time in the case of lower initial
temperatures. The process pressure at the onset of flashing-indicated
by the bend in the pressure curve-was
observed to decrease for lower initial temperatures due
to lower initial specific entropy (Figure I). Considering
an almost isentropic change of state during the
supercriticalkibcooled
blowdown saturated conditions
are reached at lower process pressures. Hence the process pressure at the onset of flashing varied from
P/Pcrit = 0.7 to 0.95. The phenomenon of the sharp bend
in the pressure curve due to the onset of flashing was
observed for all experiments performed. This phenomenon is due to an increase in the compressibility caused
by formation of bubbles. The effect of varied initial
pressure on the pressure transient is shown in Figure 6.
The initial temperature was held constant at T,, = 3 13 K.
It can be observed that the process pressure at the onset
of flashing was higher for lower initial pressure due to
higher initial specific entropy. For these cases the process pressure decreased faster after the flashing was

B. Gebbeken

289

and R. Eggers

Initial conditions:
T,=313K
Amin = 50 mm2

0
0

25

50
Time

Figure 6
pressure

Pressure transients

75

(s)

during

blowdown,

varied initial

initiated due to lower mass inventory at the onset of


flashing.
By enlarging the relief cross-sectional area the outgoing mass flow rate from the vessel is increased. In
Figure 7 pressure transients are shown for different relief
cross-sectional area. The initial fluid conditions were
pO = 15 MPa and T, = 3 13 K. It can be seen that the onset
of flashing occurs earlier for a larger orifice diameter but
at the identical process pressure. For both cases the pro15

Initial conditions:

Initial conditions:

p0 = 15 MPa

PO=15MPa,T,=313K

A,i,

--

A,i,

= 17 mm2

A,i,

= 50 mm2

= 50 mm2

----T,=298K
--

T,=313K
10

I
I
\
..

\
.

0
0

25

50
Time

Figure 5 Pressure transients


fluid temperature

during

75

(s)
blowdown,

25

50
Time

varied initial

75

(s)

Figure 7 Pressure transients during blowdown,


line cross-sectional area

varied venting

290

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

cess pressure remains almost constant for a few seconds.


Subsequently, the process pressure is observed to
decrease faster for larger orifice diameters.

B. Gebbeken

and R. Eggers

vessel increases relative to the fluid temperature in the


lower region. This is caused by the heat flow from the
vessel wall which heats up the gaseous phase after all
entrained droplets are vaporized.

Axial temperature projle

An enormous decrease of the fluid temperature was


observed during the blowdown experiments. The measured temperatures with respect to time are shown in
Figure 8 for various axial levels. The temperature sensors have been installed at various axial positions in the
center of the pressure vessel as indicated by the sketch
in Figure 8. Sensor Tl is located at h = 0.1 m below the
cover of the vessel, whereas sensor T6 is attached at
h = 0.05 m above the bottom of the vessel. The initial
fluid conditions for this experiment were p0 = 15 MPa
and T,, = 313 K. The inner diameter of the orifice was
Amin= 17 mm.
During the supercriticaYsubcooled
blowdown a
steep decrease in fluid temperature can be observed. The
temperature decrease is a result of the change of the thermodynamic equilibrium state according to fluid density
and pressure. At the onset of flashing the change of temperature with respect to time decreases suddenly as it
was found out for the pressure transients. Saturation conditions are reached. No evident superheating of the fluid
was observed at the time when the flashing is initiated.
According to the process pressure the fluid temperature
further decreases. Temperatures of less than T = 200 K
are reached at the bottom of the vessel after phase transition to dry ice occurred. However, in the vessel wall
a large temperature gradient and temperature induced
stress, respectively, occur as reported by Eggers and
Green.
During the blowdown process no axial temperature
gradients were measured until after approximately
t = 100 s the fluid temperature in the upper region of the
313
Initial conditions:
15 MPa

pO =

T,=313K
288

Amin= 17mm2

238

I I

213
0

50

100

T4-T8

150

200

blowdown

from

Time (s)
Figure 8 Temperature
transients
initially supercritical conditions

during

Axial void projle

The axial density profile was measured using a


gamma densitometer. An averaged magnitude with
respect to the cross-section of the vessel is obtained. The
experiments were repeated several time to take measurements at various axial positions. The void fraction was
calculated from the saturation densities which change
significantly during the pressure release.
The measured void fraction profile along the axis
of the vessel is shown in Figure 9. The initial fluid conditions were p. = 15 MPa and To = 3 13 K. The inner
cross-sectional area of the orifice was Amin= 17 mm2.
After the flashing process is initiated a fast increase of
the void fraction can be observed for axial levels near
the top of the vessel. For lower levels the void fraction
decreases after a maximum is reached. The values tend
close to E = 1 as soon as the boiling liquid layer drops
below the measuring level. Furthermore, for the identical
initial conditions the dimensionless height inside the vessel as a function of the void fraction is shown in
Figure 9. The void fractions could not be measured at
the bottom of the vessel and below the cover such that
the profile curves are dashed in these regions. The void
fraction at the bottom is assumed to be E = 0. This
assumption is valid if the thin vapour layer caused by
bubble nucleation at the wall is neglected.
After the onset of flashing no obvious void fraction
gradient is obtained. At approximately t = 20 s a gradient
in void fraction caused by phase separation can be
observed, particularly in the bottom and top regions. The
relative velocity between vapour and liquid phase
increases. This is caused by an increasing difference
between the saturation densities and an increase in the
surface tension as the blowdown process proceeds. The
drift velocity id,, increases according to Equation (3).
Hence a gradient in void fraction along the axis of the
vessel develops. The void fraction gradient in the top
region further increases as the overall void fraction level
rises. A vapour dome has developed in the top of the
vessel after t = 30 s which was found out by borescopic
observations. Subsequently, the void fraction tends
towards E = 1 for the upper region. As the change in
pressure with respect to time decreases, the void fraction
at the bottom goes down due to the lower evaporation
rate.
In Figure 10 a void fraction profile is shown for
raised initial pressure p. = 25 MPa. As before, the initial
temperature was To = 3 13 K and the inner cross-sectional
area of the orifice was Amin= 17 mm*. Compared to the
experiment starting from initial pressure p. = 15 MPa
(Figure 9) axial void gradients can be observed right
from the beginning of the saturated blowdown. This was
expected because the onset of flashing occurs at a lower
process pressure for the case of a higher initial pressure
(Figure 6). Thus the density difference between the two
phases and the surface tension are larger which implies
a higher drift velocity according to equation (3) such that
phase separation takes effect. It can be seen that a void

Blowdown

of carbon

B. Gebbeken

dioxide:

1.0

1.0

0.8

0.8

291

and R. Eggers

Initial Condiiins
T,=313K,p0=15MPa

0.2

0.2

0.0

0.0
50

25

75

Void fraction

Void fraction profile for blowdown


sectional area Ami, = 17 mm2

from initially supercritical

fluid conditions,

t=2os
t=4os
0.8

0.6

0.4

Time (s)
Figure 9

A
+

0.2

0.0

100

?? !=lOs
0 t=30s

1.0

initial pressure p0 = 15 MPa, orifice cross-

time and the resulting lower evaporation rates. Accordingly, the liquid layer was observed to drop down at
later times.
The effect of varied cross-sectional area of the venting pipe on the void fraction profile is shown in
Figure 11. No orifice was installed in this case such that
the minimum cross-sectional area of the venting line was
A,i = 50 mm*. The initial fluid conditions
were
1.0

Initial Conditions:
0.8

To=313K,po=25MPa
*min = 17

mm*

?? t=1os
A

0.0

0.2

0.4

t=20s

0.6

Void fraction

0.8

1.0

Figure 10

Void fraction profile for blowdown from initially


supercritical fluid conditions, initial pressure p0 = 25 MPa, orifice
cross-sectional area A,,, = 17 mm*

Initial Conditions
- T,=313K,p0=15MPa

0.2

&,,, = 50 mm

profile of nearly constant gradient develops along the


axis of the vessel before the void fraction profile turns
into two regions of different void profile. Furthermore,
in the case of experiments starting from higher initial
pressure the increase in void fraction with respect to time
was observed to be slower and the maximum values of
the void fraction at any level are lower. This effect is
due to the lower decrease of pressure with respect to

W
0

0.0

t=1os
t=3os

t=20s

0.0

0.2

0.4

0.6

Void fraction
Figure 11

?? t=4Os
0.8

1.0

Void fraction profile for blowdown from initially


supercritical fluid conditions, initial pressure p,, = 15 MPa, orifice
cross-sectional area &,
= 50 mm2

292

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

p. = 15 MPa and To = 3 13 K (compare to Figure 9). The


onset of flashing was observed to be earlier in the case
of larger cross-sectional area of the venting line due to
the faster change in pressure. The faster change in pressure and the respective higher evaporation rate also
implies a faster overall change of the void fraction with
respect to time. Furthermore, the void fraction level was
observed to be higher at any level.
The transient phase distribution during blowdown
from initially supercritical conditions can be subdivided
into four typical phases. Phase 1 coincides with the
supercriticaYsubcooled blowdown. Until the onset of
flashing the void fraction along the axis is defined to be
E = 0. During Phase 2 which starts at the beginning of
the saturated blowdown a constant void profile develops
as long as phase separation is not taking effect, which
depends mainly on the thermodynamic fluid conditions.
In any case void gradients along the axis of the vessel
become obvious. Two regions of different void gradient
are observed, one at the bottom of the vessel where the
void fraction is increasing considerably and the second
of almost constant void fraction on top. Due to the
accumulation of vapour phase in the top of the vessel
during Phase 3 the void fraction in the upper region
increases almost linearly such that the profile can be subdivided into three regions along the vessel axis. In the
lower region as well as in the upper region of the vessel
a considerable void fraction gradient is obtained. For the
middle region the gradient in void fraction is lower. As
a vapour dome is established on top of the liquid layer,
Phase 4 is initiated. A constant void fraction gradient
throughout the liquid layer and a vapour layer of void
fraction E = 1 in the top of the vessel can be observed.
A transition layer of large void gradient has developed
inbetween. The typical phase distributions during these
four phases are sketched in Figure 12.
Further investigations of the void distribution during pressure release were accomplished by Friedel and
Pulps l3. They measured the axial void fraction profile
within a cylindrical, vertical pressure vessel (0.106 m3,
h/d = 2) by means of local capacitive sensing probes.
Although their blowdown experiments
using the
refrigerant R12 were initiated from saturated two-phase

B. Gebbeken

conditions their void profiles obtained for high initial


liquid level are similar in quality to the distributions of
Phases 3 and 4 of the results presented in this paper.
Thies and Mewes14 investigated blowdown processes
of a gas-desorbing system from saturated (two-phase)
initial conditions instead of a vaporizing system which
was considered in the experiments presented in this
paper and by Friedel and Purp~~. Thies and Mewes used
differential pressure transducers in order to measure the
axial void fraction profile within a cylindrical, vertical
pressure vessel (0.035 m3, h/d = 1.8). They reported void
distributions which were, in the case of high initial liquid
level, similar to those described in Phases 3 and 4 of
the results obtained in these investigations. Considering
Phase 3 they explain the large void fraction gradient in
the upper region by backflow of vapour phase along the
wall of the vessel due to instabilities in the region near
the inlet of the venting pipe. The constant void fraction
in the middle region is traced back to the change of the
two-phase flow pattern from homogeneous to heterogeneous bubbly flow. After a heterogeneous bubbly flow
is established, Phase 4 is initiated such that the middle
region of nearly constant void fraction is eliminated.
Similarities in quality of the void profiles can be
observed for blowdown experiments
from initial
supercritical or subcooled conditions (flashing system)
and those from saturated two-phase conditions (flashing
or gas-desorbing system), although the blowdown proceeds differently. In the case of a blowdown from
initially two-phase conditions, a free surface is present
where the gaseous phase can separate from the liquid
layer until the free surface has reached the top of the
vessel due to level swell. In the case of a blowdown from
supercritical conditions there is no free surface until the
liquid layer collapses.

Conclusions
Experimental investigations of blowdown processes for
initially supercritical carbon dioxide are presented. The
pressure release was started from the left-hand-side of
the critical point (so < s,,it) such that flashing occurred
after saturation conditions were reached. Thermohydraulic phenomena were discussed, particularly the pressure transients, the axial temperature profile, and the axial
void fraction profiles.
After blowdown is initiated the fluid remains single-phased until saturation conditions have been reached.
A two-phase mixture is blown off after the onset of
flashing. A vapour dome develops on top of the liquid
layer. Subsequently,
the vapour phase including
entrained liquid drops is blown off.
For all experiments performed a sharp bend of the
pressure curve was observed at the onset of flashing. The
pressure at which flashing occurred first depends mainly
on the initial conditions due to the almost isentropic
change of state during the supercritical/subcooled blowdown.
The void fraction profile was measured using a
gamma densitometry. Significant gradients in void fraction can be observed during the blowdown process due
to phase separation effects. Phase separation effects
depend on the difference between the saturation densities
of both phases and the surface tension. Therefore, the

LJ7 k
h

Phase 2

Phase 1

&

&

Phase 4

Phase 3

Figure 12

Characteristic

phases of void fraction profile

and R. Eggers

Blowdown

of carbon

dioxide:

influence of phase separation on the axial void fraction


profile is more obvious at lower process pressures. It is
proposed to subdivide the blowdown process into four
phases of characteristic void profile. Similar void distributions were obtained as discovered by other authors
investigating the blowdown of a flashing system from
initially saturated conditions and a gas-desorbing system
from saturated two-phase conditions.

Acknowledgements
The authors thank the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
for financial support of this research under grant No.
Eg 7212.

References
1 Haque A., Richardson,
2

3
4
5
6
7

8
9
10
11
_I
12

S., Saville, G. and Chamberlain,


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B. F. and Bratseth, A. Full
scale depressurization
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1995, 50, 2173-2187
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y. Sot. 1970.
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zur eindimensionalen
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im Hinblick auf transiente Prozesse in
verschiedenen
Zeitbereichen,
Ph.D. thesis, TU Dresden, Dresden,
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B. Gebbeken

and R. Eggers

293

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Nomenclature
A
C0
d
D

f
h

j
M
ni
P
.Y

t
T
I
vdrlft
V

Cross-sectional area (m)


Radial distribution parameter
Inner diameter (m)
Outer diameter (m)
Frequency (s-l)
Vessel height (m)
Volume&
flux density (m s-)
Mass (kg)
Mass Rowrate (kg ss)
Pressure (Pa)
Specific entropy (J kg- Km)
Time (s)
Temperature (K)
Velocity (m ss)
Drift velocity (m ss)
Volume (ml)

Greek symbols
E
Void fraction
P
cT

Density (kg m-)


Surface tension (N m-l)

Subscripts
a
crit
g

max
0
n

Ambient
Critical
Gas
Liquid
Maximum
Initial
Saturated liquid
Saturated vapor