Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) of Turbulent Flows: Direct Numerical Simulation and Large Eddy Simulation

Pieter Plehiers
In deze thesis is de stroming onderzocht in twee verschillende industriële toepassingen met als doel de efficiëntie ervan te verbeteren. In stoomkraken wordt het effect van het profiel van de buizen om de vorming van cokes onderzocht. In het gebied van gas ontwatering wordt een nieuw apparaat verder geoptimaliseerd op basis van numerieke simulaties in 2 en 3 dimensies.

Bit-je bij Bit-je: Een Nieuwe Weg naar Efficiëntere Productie

Jaarlijks wordt in België ongeveer 100 miljard kg CO2 in de atmosfeer gebracht. Net geen vijfde hiervan wordt uitgestoten door de (petro)chemische industrie. De emissie van broeikasgassen kan dus drastisch verminderd worden door de energie-efficiëntie van deze processen te verhogen. Twee processen in het bijzonder worden onder de loep genomen: het eerste draagt bij tot de productie van onder andere PET-flessen, autobanden, winkeltassen, etc. Het tweede is nodig voor het leveren van aardgas. In dit geval is de gebruikte “loep” de Vlaamse Supercomputer, goed voor de gecombineerde rekenkracht van enkele duizenden laptops.

Brute Kracht voor Precisiewerk

Als tussenstap in het maken van kunststoffen uit aardolie, moeten de grote moleculen in aardolie opgebroken worden in kleinere, reactieve moleculen die later op een gecontroleerde manier opnieuw met mekaar worden verbonden tot het alom bekende plastiek. Het opbreken van deze aardoliemoleculen gebeurt in een stoomkraker: buizen tot wel 100 m lang worden verwarmd tot rond de 900 °C in een XXL-format oven. Door de warmte worden de chemische bindingen in de aardoliemoleculen gebroken en worden waardevolle, kleinere moleculen gevormd zoals etheen en propeen. Het energieverbruik van zo’n oven is enorm: alle windmolens in de Belgische Noordzee zouden niet genoeg energie kunnen leveren om één installatie draaiende te houden. Net zoals een pizza zwart wordt als hij te lang in de oven staat, wordt er in het proces ook een harde, zwarte laag afgezet op de wand van de buis, genaamd ‘cokes’. Doordat deze laag moeilijk warmte doorlaat, verhoogt het energieverbruik en verlaagt de efficiëntie van de oven. De bedoeling is dus om de vorming van deze cokes te vertragen.

Een manier om de snelheid van cokesvorming te verminderen, is het aanpassen van de vorm van de reactor: de traditionele gladde buis wordt vergeleken met de nieuwere gevinde buis en geribde buis.

Verschillende buisprofielen: v.l.n.r. "glad", "gevind" en "geribd".

Dankzij de gestage opmars van supercomputers in het afgelopen decennium, zijn dure en tijdrovende experimenten niet langer de enige mogelijkheid om informatie te verzamelen. Met de huidige rekencapaciteit is het voor het eerst mogelijk om een enorme hoeveelheid informatie te verzamelen via simulaties met een uitstekende resolutie in de tijd (~ 1 µs) en ruimte (~ 1 µm). De invloed van het aanpassen van de vorm van de reactor op de stroming en de prestaties kan hiermee in detail bestudeerd worden.

Uit de berekeningen blijkt dat het minste cokes wordt gevormd in de geribde buis (33 % minder dan in de gladde buis). De keerzijde van de medaille is echter dat er meer energie nodig is om het gas door de reactor te persen, net omdat er obstakels zijn die stroming tegenhoudt. Dit is te vergelijken met fietsen op een net aangelegd asfalt fietspad of op een oude kasseiweg. Door de obstakels, de kasseien, kost het meer energie om vooruit te bewegen dan op een weg zonder obstakels. In het geval van een buis, wordt dit gekwantificeerd door de drukval, het verschil in druk tussen de inlaat en de uitlaat.

In de geribde buis is deze 115 % hoger dan in de gladde buis. Deze extra hoge drukval doet het positieve effect op de cokesvorming teniet. Een betere alternatief in dit geval is de gevinde buis, die een goed compromis levert tussen een verlaagde snelheid van cokesvorming (-15 %) en een beperkte toename in de drukval (+ 19%).

Verschillende buisvormen, gekleurd volgens snelheid van cokesvorming [kg s-1 m-2]

Oplosmiddelen met de Rug tegen de Geluidsmuur

Ruw aardgas bevat na de winning te veel water om rechtstreeks via pijpleiding getransporteerd te worden. Het water kan immers bevriezen en de leiding blokkeren of de leiding beschadigen door roest. De meest gebruikte methode om het water te verwijderen, is het gas in contact te brengen met een oplosmiddel dat enkel het water opneemt en het gas doorlaat. Achteraf wordt het water gerecupereerd door het oplosmiddel op te warmen tot het water verdampt.

De gebruikte oplosmiddelen zijn niet milieuvriendelijk en bovendien kost het recupereren van het water veel energie. Daarom is er op zoek gegaan naar een alternatieve manier om water uit ruw aardgas te verwijderen. Het antwoord is een verrassende combinatie van twee fenomenen: de roterende beweging van lucht in een tornado en het vormen van een wolk van waterdruppeltjes als een jachtvliegtuig door de ‘geluidsmuur’ vliegt.

Roterende luchtstromen in een tornadoVliegtuig dat door de 'geluidsmuur' vliegt. De witte wolk bestaat uit kleine waterdruppels.

Het aardgas wordt zodanig versneld dat het water condenseert in druppeltjes. Door de roterende beweging, worden deze waterdruppeltjes weggeslingerd en zo gescheiden van het aardgas. Het droge gas kan vervolgens worden getransporteerd via pijplijn.

Drie Russische wetenschappers patenteerden in 2005 en 2014 twee versies van een apparaat gebaseerd op deze fenomenen onder de naam SUSTOR. Om te bewijzen dat dit apparaat wel degelijk werkt, hebben we opnieuw simulaties uitgevoerd op de Vlaamse Supercomputer. Op basis van de resultaten, werd het oorspronkelijke ontwerp gewijzigd om een maximale hoeveelheid water te verwijderen terwijl de drukval over het apparaat zo klein mogelijk blijft. Het resultaat is dus een geoptimaliseerd SUSTOR ontwerp dat klaar is voor experimentele testen.

Stromingsrichting (lijnen), gekleurd volgens Mach getal (verhouding van de snelheid tot de geluidssnelheid). Condensatie kan optreden in de aangeduide gebieden.

Van Idee naar Werkelijkheid

De weg van een idee naar de realisatie in de industrie is lang en kronkelend. Een nieuw, innovatief idee moet eerst uitvoerig getest en gevalideerd worden om te komen tot een realisatie die voldoet aan alle criteria: ecologisch, economisch, grootschalig inzetbaar, enzovoort. Aangezien heel veel ideeën hieraan niet voldoen, moet dit pad zeer vaak bewandeld worden. Simulaties op supercomputers kunnen een fiets zijn om de weg sneller te begaan, zoals voor het SUSTOR apparaat. Ze kunnen ook dienen als GPS om aan te duiden in welke richting er het best wordt verdergegaan of welke onverwachte paden opportuniteiten kunnen bieden, zoals voor de stoomkraker. Uit duizenden paden kan een supercomputer ons helpen om dat te kiezen dat het meeste potentieel heeft om werkelijkheid te worden.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of Science in Chemical Engineering
Publicatiejaar
2016
Promotor(en)
prof. dr. ir. Kevin M. Van Geem
Kernwoorden
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