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Computational Fluid Dynamics

Overview

CFD is now routinely applied as an engineering design tool for the study of all forms of fluid flow situation. Since the arrival of the first digital computers in the mid-1950s, CFD has evolved dramatically, progressing from the application of small special-purpose programs, limited to niche applications, to ever-more sophisticated commercial packages capable of representing most industrial applications across virtually all market sectors.

As a result of continuing advances in the software, rapidly increasing computing speeds, and the availability of massive storage systems, CFD can now provide both a qualitative and a quantitative prediction of the interactions between the fluid flow and the model, for example, the wall of the pressure vessel.

CFD displays even more power and versatility when additional physical factors are included, or varied systematically, in the computational model. Such factors can include:

  • Combining calculation of the fluid flow with a heat transfer analysis.
  • Mass transfer.
  • Phase change.
  • Chemical reaction.
  • Allowing motion of a body or a solid surface.
  • Allowing deformation of a liquid surface (and surface waves).
  • Radiation.
  • Changing the physical properties of the fluids.

Case Studies

Upstream Piping

The upstream piping (or isometrics) will always dictate the condition of the flow entering the vessel. Special care should therefore be taken when designing the piping in a gas production system to minimize the risk of maldistribution and avoid the droplet shatter that could reduce the performance of the downstream separation internals. By modelling the isometrics with CFD, maldistribution can be reduced and the size of any droplets entering the separator can be predicted. This is useful for troubleshooting existing vessels and optimising the design of the process internals.

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