Prediction on performance of cryogenic turboexpander using meanline approach
Ghosh P., Nandi B. R., Sarangi S. *
Cryogenic Engg. Centre, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, 721302, India.
* National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, Orissa769008, India
Performance of turboexpanders, used in cryogenic liquefiers and refrigerators,
affects operation of these plants that run under wide range of operating conditions.
This necessitates the study of the performance of the turbine at process conditions
different from the designed one. In this work, attempts have been made to study
the performance of cryogenic turboexpanders through generation of
characteristics curves using onedimensional meanline approach. The formalism
has been used to study the variation of process parameters like mass flow rate,
speed, power and torque with inlet temperature. The observations can be used to
understand the performance of cryogenic turbines in offdesign conditions.
INTRODUCTION
Cryogenic process plants, like natural gas liquefier, air separation, helium liquefiers etc. run under
varying operating conditions. Depending on plant settings, the temperature, pressure and flow rate of a
stream may vary at the inlet to a turbine, albeit over a limited range. To predict the performance of a plant
under varying operating conditions, it is necessary to know the performance of the turbine under
corresponding specifications. This, in turn, necessitates the study of the performance of the turbine at
conditions away from the design point. Offdesign performance calculations are also helpful in choice of
design modifications while building a new turbine with specifications qualitatively similar, but
quantitatively different from an existing one. Cryogenic turboexpanders are radial inflow type in
configurations. This is because of the fact that the kind of pressure ratio, mass flow rate, inlet temperature
and other relevant operating conditions these plants work, radial inflow configuration provides the
maximum efficiency [1]. The configuration of a radial inflow turbine is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Configuration of a radial inflow turbine. The state points in the flow path are shown.
In this work, attempts have been made to study the performance of cryogenic turboexpanders through
generation of characteristics curves of cryogenic expansion turbines for small scale air separation and
helium liquefiers where turbine size becomes small (varying between 3 mm to 40 mm and belonging to
the category of microturbines) and operating speed is very high. As the turbine wheel diameter becomes
smaller, the other geometrical features proportionately become smaller and have to be compromised due
to manufacturing constraints. For the purpose of characterization, a onedimensional meanline approach
suggested by Wallace et al. [2] has been adopted. In this method, a onedimensional flow field is assumed
along the mean stream line, and the pressure losses over the components along the fluid flow path are
computed using appropriate analytical models. The technique is fast, requiring the minimum amount of
geometry information and computational time. By using suitable empirical correlations for the loss
parameters, obtained from the calibrated experimental data, the performance of a machine can be
predicted to a fair degree of accuracy over wide range of operating conditions. While this methodology
has been used for design and analysis of radial turbines for turbocharger and space applications [3, 4],
reports on usage of this methodology for small cryogenic turboexpanders are scarce in open literature.
OBJECTIVE
In the present work, a formalism based on onedimensional meanline method has been used to achieve the
following objectives:
1. to plot characteristics of cryogenic turboexpander for studying the performance under different
process conditions and to find out the effects of input condition on the control parameters of
turbine;
2. to understand the influence of different loss mechanisms under different operating conditions of
the machine; and
3. to study the effects of different thermodynamic and geometrical parameters on the performance of
cryogenic expansion turbine.
The solution of above formalism yields the thermodynamic state variables and velocity information
at each station in the fluid flowpath from inlet to the nozzle to the exit of the diffuser along with the
performance curves presented in the suitable nondimensional forms that can be integrated with a process
simulator for process calculations. The methodology can be used as a design tool for optimization of
turbine geometry under different thermodynamic and manufacturing constraints [5, 6]. In conjunction
with the brake characteristics, the observations of the results generated out of the formalism can be used
to devise suitable control strategy for turboexpanders when operated in offdesign conditions like startup
and shutdown.
METHODOLOGY
The methodology for application of meanline analysis in prediction of cryogenic turboexpander has been
reported in previous works [7,8]. The meanline method is based upon the generalised aerodynamic
equation for one dimensional flow in a moving duct. It is a relation between the mass flow rate, the
relative Mach number (M
yrel
), stagnation temperature and pressure, velocities, physical properties and
some geometrical parameters. The properties and velocity vectors are calculated along the central
meridional streamline (meanline) of the duct. The following generalized aerodynamic equation for a
rotating duct forms the basis of their procedure:
( )
( ) 1 2
1
2 2
0
1
2
1
1
2
1
2
0
0
2
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
1 cos


\

+

\

(
(
+ =
y x
rel x
rel y xy rel y rel y y
rel x y
rel x
U U
RT
M M M
P A
RT m
(1)
A and U refer to the cross sectional area and the surface speed, respectively. The loss coefficient
xy
used in equation (1) is defined by equation (2).
2
2
1
y
ys y
xy
W
h h
= (2)
The subscripts x and y refer to the upstream and downstream state points, respectively along the duct,
and the subscript rel refers to relative terms. Relative stagnation temperature T
0,rel
is defined as:
p
rel
C
W
T T
2
2
, 0
+ =
W being the relative velocity. The relative stagnation pressure p
0,rel
is derived from T
0,rel
by the formula:
1
, 0
, 0
T
T
p p
rel
rel
For stationary ducts, the relative terms become the corresponding absolute terms and the surface speeds
become zero.
Input
The inputs for the methodology are:
A. Thermodynamic: Inlet total temperature, inlet total pressure, nozzle exit Mach no.
B. Fluid Properties: Specific heat at constant pressure (C
p)
, specific heat ratio(), gas constant (R)
dynamic viscosity.
C. Geometric inputs: Nozzle: Throat radius, throat width, blade height, no. of blades, chord length,
discharge radius, exit angle; Rotor: inlet radius, exit tip radius, exit hub radius, exit mean radius, exit
mean blade angle, inlet blade angle, axial length, blade height at inlet, no. of rotor blades, trailing
edge thickness, axial clearance at inlet, radial clearance at exit, backface clearance, blade thickness
at inlet; Diffuser: Inlet diameter, exit diameter, length, half cone angle.
D. Rotational speed, (rad/s).
Loss Correlations
The following losses have been considered in the present formalism.
1. Nozzle: Boundary layer loss, nozzle trailing edge loss; 2. Vaneless space frictional loss 3. Incidence
loss; 4. Rotor: Passage Loss, clearance loss, clearance loss, trailing edge loss; 5. Disk friction loss; 6.
Diffuser: Friction loss.
The loss correlations for above losses have been obtained that reported at latest literature [4, 9].
Solution procedure
The generalised aerodynamic equation (Equation 1) along with the loss correlations constitutes a set of
simultaneous nonlinear equations. To solve the above equations, a modified NewtonRhapson method has
been used. To avoid the problem of choking at nozzle throat condition, nozzle throat Mach No. has been
chosen as independent variable. It has been observed that these equations are highly sensitive to the initial
guess of the Mach no. To handle this problem, the initial guess for Mach no. has been chosen as
R
=0 i.e.
isentropic condition and then finding the Mach no. for this condition. The solution procedure discards any
value for which the rotor exit relative Mach No. at mean radius becomes greater than 0.8. The procedure
is based on appropriate real gas equation of state for a particular fluid.
Output
The output of the above formalism are: 1. Thermodynamic properties (temperature T, pressure p,
Mach number, M) at all stations, 2. Velocity triangles at all state points, 3. Mass flow rate (kg/s) = m ,
4. Pressure ratio, 5. The flow function =
in
in
p r
RT m
, 0
2
2
, 0
, 6. Speed function =
in
RT
r
, 0
2
, 7.Total to total
efficiency =
s ex in
ex in
h h
h h
, , 0 , 0
, 0 , 0
, 8. Total to static efficiency =
s ex in
ex in
h h
h h
, , 0
, 0 , 0
, 9. Loss coefficients = , 10.
Blade to jet speed ratio =
0
2
C
U
=
( ) ) 2
, , 0
2
s ex in p
T T C
r
, 11. Power (W) = P , 12 Torque (Nm) = .
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
Based on the above methodology, a performance analysis has been performed on a turbine designed with
the following specifications [7]:
1) Working Fluid : Nitrogen; 2) Total pressure at inlet (P
0,in
) : 6.0 bar; 3) Total Temperature at inlet (T
0,in
)
: 120.3 K; 4) Static pressure at exit (P
ex
) : 1.5 bar; 5) Throughput ( ) m : 190 sm
3
/hr (0.066 kg/s).
Major geometrical parameters of the turbine components used in the analysis
The geometrical inputs for the nozzle and diffuser for the above formalism generated out of the design of
turbine are shown in Table 1 and that of wheel are shown in Figure 2.
Table 1 Major geometrical parameters for nozzle and diffuser
Component Geometrical
Feature
Dimensional
value
Component Geometrical
Feature
Dimensional
value
Nozzle Throat
diameter
Throat
width
Height
No. of
blades
discharge
diameter
28.34 mm
1.67 mm
1.00 mm
17
26.74 mm
Diffuser Inlet
diameter
Exit
diameter
Diffuser
length
Diffuser
half cone
angle
18.4 mm
30.4 mm
62 mm
6
Figure 2 Major dimensions of turbine wheel
Characteristics curves
Figure 3, 4, and 5 depict the characteristics curves for the designed turbine.
Efficiency vs Velocity Ratio
0.8
0.82
0.84
0.86
0.88
0.9
0.92
0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9
Velocity Ratio
E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y
(
T
o
t
a
l

t
o

t
o
t
a
l
)
75% Design Speed
Design Speed
110% Design Speed
Figure3: Mass function vs. Pressure ratio Figure 4 Efficiency vs. Pressure ratio Figure 5 Efficiency vs. Velocity ratio
Dimensionless mass faunction vs. Pressure Ratio
for Different Speed
0.022
0.024
0.026
0.028
0.03
1.5 2.5 3.5 4.5 5.5
Pressure ratio
M
a
s
s
F
u
n
c
t
i
o
n
75% Design speed
Design Speed
110% Design
Speed
Efficiency Vs. Pressure Ratio for Different Speeds
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
1 2 3 4 5
Pressure Ratio
E
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
c
y
75% Design Speed
Design Speed
110% Design
Speed
It may be noted from the efficiency vs. velocity ratio curve (Figure 5) that maximum efficiency occurs
near the velocity ratio of 0.7. It is observed that there is a choking limit to this curve at each speed and
this is typical of any variable area converging duct. The choking may occur either at the nozzle throat or
at the throat of the wheel. The efficiency at designed condition is 0.76.
Analysis of losses
Table 2 shows the distribution of losses in the designed conditions. It is observed that the major
contribution to the losses is due to rotor passage loss. Another noteworthy observation is that clearance
loss is also one of the major contributing entropy generation mechanisms. This is particularly true for
small cryogenic turboexpander and special attention is needed to ensure that minimum clearance between
rotor wheel and the casing is maintained within the constraint of manufacturing considerations. Sixsmith,
one of the pioneers of the small cryogenic turboexpander for helium liquefiers, has reported similar loss
distribution for an experimental prototype [10].
Table 2: Distribution of losses at design conditions
Pressure Ratio
Rotational Speed
Nozzle Loss
Vane Less Space Loss
Incidence Loss
Passage Loss
Clearance Loss
Trailing Edge Loss
Disk Friction Loss
Total Rotor Loss
Diffuser Loss
Total Loss
4
2333.33 RPS
0.8%
0.75%
1.5%
5.2 %
4.9 %
0.4%
0.6 %
10.7%
1.95%
16.1%
Effect of Inlet Temperature on Performance of Turbine
One of the important aspects of cryogenic plants is cooldown and warmup transients when inlet
temperature of the turbine changes till steady state is reached. Figure 6 9 depict the change in turbine
parameters e.g. rotational speed, torque and power produced with the change in inlet temperature. These
parameters are important for devising control of the turbine.
Torque vs Temperature
0
0.05
0.1
0.15
0.2
0.25
0 100 200 300 400
Inlet Temperature(K)
T
o
r
q
u
e
(
N
m
)
140% of Design
Speed
130% Design Speed
135% Design Speed
Design Speed
Figure 6 Rotating speed with inlet temperature Figure 7 Torque vs. Inlet temperature Curve
From Figure 6, it is seen that as the temperature decreases, as in the case of cool down of the machine, the
rotational speed of the turbine decreases. It is due to the fact that as the temperature decreases, the density
of the gas increases. For a given mass flow rate, thus nozzle exit velocity decreases and the tip speed, that
is proportional to the nozzle exit velocity, decreases. From Figure 7  9, it is found that for a given torque
and power produced, speed of the machine decreases as the inlet temperature decreases. If we can
decrease the power to be dissipated by decreasing the flow rate or inlet density of the brake compressor
fluid, we can increase the speed of the machine. Knowing the characteristics of the turbine, frictional
characteristics of the bearings and the load characteristics of the brake compressor, a control strategy can
Rotating Speed vs Temperature
2000
2200
2400
2600
2800
3000
3200
3400
100 150 200 250
Turbine Inlet Temperature (K)
R
o
t
a
t
i
n
g
S
p
e
e
d
(
R
P
S
)
Pressure Ratio 4
be devised. When mass flow rate of the turbine has to be changed, Figure 3 and Figure 6 can be used by
adjusting the speed of the machine.
0.03
0.035
0.04
0.045
0.05
0.055
0.06
0.065
0 200 400
Turbine Inlet
Temperature (K)
M
a
s
s
F
l
o
w
R
a
t
e
(
K
g
/
s
e
c
)
140% of Design
Speed
130% of Design
Speed
135% of Design
Speed
Design Speed
2200
2700
3200
3700
4200
0 100 200 300 400
Turbine inlet temperature (K)
P
o
w
e
r
p
r
o
d
u
c
e
d
b
y
e
x
p
a
n
d
e
r
(
W
a
t
t
s
)
140% of Design
Speed
130% of Design
Speed
135% of Design
Speed
Design Speed
Figure 8 Variation of flow rate with inlet temperature Figure 9 Power produced with inlet temperature
CONCLUSIONS
A meanline approach has been reported here to study the performance of cryogenic turboexpanders. The
methodology has been applied to a designed turbine and performance curves have been generated. Efforts
have been made to understand the effects of loss generating mechanism and it has been found out that the
tip clearance is one of the important geometrical parameters for these types of small turbines. Relevant
curves have been generated to understand the behaviour of the turbine when operated at offdesign
conditions. The above understanding may be used for devising suitable control strategy.
REFERENCES
1. Sixsmith, H. Miniature cryogenic expansion turbines  a review Advances in Cryogenic Engineering
(1984), 29 511523
2. Wallace, F. J., Baines, N. C., and Whitfield, A., , A unified Approach to one Dimensional Analysis
and design of radial and mixed flow turbines, ASME Paper No. 76GT100, (1976) 116
3. Baines, N. C. and Wallace, F. J., Computer aided design for mixed flow turbines for turbochargers,
Trans ASME J Eng Power (1979), 101 441448
4. Glassman, A. J., , Enhanced analysis and user manual for radial inflow turbine design code RTD,
NASACR195454, NTIS (1995)
5. Moustapha H, Zelesky M F, Baines N C., Japikse D., In: Axial and Radial Turbines, Concepts
ETI, Inc., Wilder, Vt. (2003) 284300
6. Sen, P., Ghosh, P., Sahoo, D. J., Vamsi Krishna K and Sarangi, S. An Improved Computer
Program for Design of Cryogenic Expansion Turbine In: Refrigeration Science and Technology
Proceedings of the Eighth Cryogenic IIR International Conference, Prague (2004).
7. Ghosh, P., Analytical and experimental studies on cryogenic turboexpander Ph. D Thesis, IIT,
Kharagpur (2002), 160177
8. Ghosh, P. and Sarangi, S. Prediction of offDesign performance of a cryogenic turboexpander
using a meanline calculation procedure International Cryogenic Engineering Conference18, Narosa
Publication, India (2000) 479482
9. Baines, N. C., A meanline prediction method for radial turbine efficiency, In: Turbocharging and Air
Management Systems, Inst Mech Engrs, (1998) 4556
10. Sixsmith, H., Miniature expansion turbines, In: Advanced Cryogenics, C A Bailey (Ed) Plenum
Press (1971) 225243
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