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The Steady Flow Energy Equation and Related Concepts

Over the last few weeks we have seen that the First Law of Thermodynamics, for
non-flow processes, may be written as

Q - W = U2 - U1 = U

and for a reversible process this may be written as

Q - W = 0.

Examples of these might, in the first instance, be a reciprocating piston where heat is
supplied which is used to perform work. And the actual piston and cylinder arrangement
remain at an elevated temperature after the piston has returned to its original position. This
residual energy, U, is then the internal energy. An example of the second situation might
be if the piston has been going up and down for a while and the system has already
warmed up. In this instance the residual energy was left to the system by earlier cycles so
no energy needs to go into warming up the system any more.

The equation, Q - W = U, may be referred to as the "Non-Flow Energy Equation".

It is true for a moving boundary system where there is no net movement of the working
fluid into or out of this system boundary. This is a "Closed System".

On the other hand, one may have a fixed boundary called a "Control Volume".
Unlike the piston cylinder example of the "system" (which gets bigger and smaller as the
piston goes up and down). This is a fixed volume in space and its boundary does not
move. The working fluid may move into and out of this control volume. This is an "Open

In this situation, in addition to the residual heat energy, i.e. the Internal Energy, U,
the working fluid will also have gravitational Potential Energy, if it is held at height above
some datum. Also it will have Kinetic Energy as it travels through the control volume at
speed. Finally, because of pressure differences across the system, there will be energy
associated with the work that this pressure does in pushing the fluid through the control
volume. This energy is called "Flow Work". The next few pages will be devoted to
explaining where these other three energy terms come from and applications of the Steady
Flow Energy Equation.

We can write the Steady Flow Energy Equation in words as

Q - W = Changes In: (Internal Energy & Potential Energy & Kinetic Energy & Flow Work).

or Q - W = U + Ep + Ek + Efw.

The steady Flow Energy Equation is similar to the Non-Flow Energy Equation except that it
has extra energy terms dealing with the motion of the working fluid. We just need to
determine proper expressions for these different energies. Consider, as an example, the
triple expansion reciprocating steam engine shown in the figure over the page. (Actually,
don't consider it too deeply! Different books use different diagrams, you need not be
concerned with which particular open system you are dealing with at this stage.) The
steam engine has an imaginary envelope drawn around it, shown as a dashed line. This is
the control volume. On the diagram one can see that the steam enters the control volume
at the pipe marked (1) and leaves at the pipe marked (2). The running steam engine gives
off heat energy, Q, to the surroundings (what will be the sign of Q if the arrow points
inwards?) and the crankshaft rotates to produce work, W, ("shaft work" is torque (Newton-
meters) times angle of rotation in radians (2 x number of revs)).

Example of the "Control Volume" for an "Open System". Engineering Thermodynamics. Spalding and Cole

As the fluid entering the control volume (1) is at a greater height than the fluid
exiting the control volume (2) then it has the greater potential energy. Potential energy is
mass times height times gravitational field strength

Ep1 = m1 x z1 x g and, similarly, Ep2 = m2 x z2 x g.

So Ep2 - Ep1 = Ep will be positive. What mass are we talking about for a control volume
when, clearly, the flow of fluid entering and exiting it is continuous? Well why not just
choose any arbitrary mass at the inlet, say 1 kg. If the flow is steady then for every
kilogram of fluid entering the control volume one kilogram of fluid will exit the control
volume in the same time. We will say the flow is steady so that m1 = m2 = m. Therefore

Ep1 = m x z1 x g and Ep2 = m x z2 x g Ep = E2 - E1 = mg(z2 - z1).

As the fluid exiting the control volume at (2) is at a lower height than that entering at
(1) it will have converted more of its potential energy to kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is a
half times the mass times the velocity squared.

mc 22 c12 .
1 1 1
E k1 m c12 and E k1 m c 22 E k
2 2 2
Notice that we use c for velocity as we already use u and U for specific internal energy and
internal energy and also v and V for specific volume and volume.

Now we come to the flow work. Consider that the inlet pipe (1) has a cross-sectional
area A1 (m2). If the pressure of the fluid at pipe (1) is p1 then the force of the fluid will be
p1A1. That is a force is given by a pressure times an area. If this force pushes the fluid
towards the control volume through a distance l1 (m) then it will have done an amount of
Efw1 = p1A1l1 = p1V1

as an area times a length is a volume. If we think in terms of specific volume, v (volume

per unit mass) then
Efw1 = p1A1l1 = p1V1 = p1v1m

Similarly, as the fluid exits the control volume at (2) then, in general, it will be exiting to a
region of lower pressure so it will give up an amount of flow work

Efw2 = p2A2l2 = p2V2 = p2v2m.

The net gain in flow work energy to the system is then given by

Efw = Efw2 - Efw1 = m(p2v2 - p1v1).

An important point to be mentioned here is that most of the change in the kinetic energy,
Ek, across the system is actually due to this change in this flow work, Efw, rather to any
change in the gravitational potential energy, Ep.

We can now write the Steady Flow Energy Equation out in full. We previously had

Q - W = U + Ep + Ek + Efw
which becomes

Q W mu 2 u1 mgz 2 z 1 mc 22 c12 mp 2 v 2 p1 v 1
u pv c 2 gz .

Now the specific heat at constant pressure for a system is most easily defined in
terms of a property called ENTHALPY. The specific enthalpy is itself defined as

h = u + pv.

You may easily prove this relationship using entries from the steam tables (the little red
booklet by Rogers and Mayhew). We will discuss specific heats at constant pressure and
at constant volume at some other juncture. The point to be made here is that this property,
enthalpy, permits us to simplify the Steady Flow Energy Equation to

QW c2
h gz .
m 2

The above expression for the steady flow energy equation was derived using a unit
mass of 1 kg (m = 1 kg). In other words we derived the equation on the basis that an
amount of heat energy Q gives rise to an amount of work W in the time that it takes for 1
kg of working fluid to flow through the open system. Another way to write the equation is in
terms of rates of heat energy, rates of work and rates of mass flow. So instead of an
amount Q (kJ) of energy leaving the system, due to it cooling, we think in terms of the
amount of heat energy per second Q . In other words the 'over-dot' signifies that this is the
number of kJ of heat energy leaving the system due to cooling per second (i.e. the rate of
cooling). Now the units of kJ per second are actually kilo Watts. So Q is measured in kW.
The same thing applies to the work, W. We can think of the amount of work done by the
system per second as the rate of work, W . This is also measured in kW. While all this is
going on we also think in terms of the amount of mass of the working fluid flowing through
the system per second, m . We can use these three new terms in the steady flow energy
equation to give
Q c2
h gz .

m 2

These last two equations are the two most usual forms of the Steady Flow Energy
Equation (SFEE).

Applications Of the Steady Flow Energy Equation

Example 1. Suppose that from measurements together with reference to the steam tables
we are able to obtain the following information about the triple-expansion steam engine
shown in the diagram on page 31.

p1 = 1.0 x 106 N/m2 p2 = 0.015 x 106 N/m2

T1 = 200oc T2 = 54.0oc
v1 = 0.206 m3/kg v2 = 8.930 m3/kg
c1 = 20 m/s c2 = 120 m/s
z1 = 3.2 m z2 = 0.5 m
u1 = ? u2 = 2206 kJ/kg
h1 = ? h2 = ?
2.1 kg/s
750 103 W

Note that W is called the "shaft power" whereas W is called the shaft work. We wish to
. To do this we need the S.F.E.E. as
find the heat transfer rate from the engine casing, Q
derived above:

Q c2 c 22 c12
h gz h 2 h1 gz 2 gz1

m 2 2 2
h = u + pv.

Looking at the table of data we see that the only unknowns are u1 and the two enthalpy
values, h1 and h2. We can assume that the steam at the inlet is superheated so that the
steam tables give u1 = 2623 kj/kg. Thus h1 = 2623 + 1.0 x 103 x 0.206 = 2829 kJ/kg.
Similarly we can get h2 directly from the values in the table h2 = 2206 + 0.015 x 103 x 8.930
= 2340 kJ/kg. Putting all of these values into the S.F.E.E. gives

Q 750 103 120 2 20 2

2340 10 2829 10
3 3
9.81 0.5 9.81 3.2 .
2.1 2.1 2 2

the subject and solving gives

Rearranging to make Q

262 kJ/s.

(i) This is negative as the heat transfer is from the engine to the surroundings.
(ii) If we worked out the individual terms then we would see that the gravitational
potential energy terms are small in comparison to the other terms.
(iii) What is the "quality" of the steam as it leaves the triple expansion steam engine?
(N.B. quality means dryness fraction).