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Rotating Stall in Centrifugal Compressor

Rotating Stall in Centrifugal Compressor

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Published by: Dennis Ygbuhay on Dec 03, 2009
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08/03/2013

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Rotating Stall in Centrifugal Compressors
When dealing with centrifugal compressor applications, terms such as surge and stall are often used.While compressor surging is generally an understood phenomenon, the concept of rotating stall is oftenharder to explain and understand. This paper will provide a technical explanation of rotating stall andshow how rotating stall can be minimized or prevented.Rotating stall is not a design or manufacturing defect, but an aerodynamic fact of life when dealing withcentrifugal compressors.Although rotating stall does not adversely affect the reliability of the rotating parts of the compressor, itdoes change the operating characteristics of the chiller package. Additional noise and vibration aregenerated when operating in rotating stall. Depending on the severity and duration of operation in thiscondition, the vibration generated can fatigue system piping, sometimes leading to line breakage.The chances of the chiller operating in rotating stall during normal operation can be reduced or eliminatedif care is taken during the selection process and if the system is operated properly once installed. Makinga selection based on knowledge of how the system operates and training of operating personnel canmake these two things happen.Selections should be carefully reviewed to allow for adequate turndown, based on the specific applica-tion requirements. Operating personnel should be educated about YORK chiller operation and allowthe entering condenser water temperature to drop and track the outdoor wet bulb temperature. Oper-ating this way provides the greatest energy savings for the chiller system and the best cooling tower andchiller operation. In multiple chiller installations, chillers should be run at higher loads with some chillerscycled off, rather than running multiple chillers at low load.
R
otating stall is an aerodynamic disturbance thatoccurs in centrifugal compressors at re-duced flow (reduced load) and/or increasedhead (increased temperature lift).There are three kinds of rotating stall: impeller stall,vaned diffuser stall, and vaneless diffuser stall. Whichstall occurs, at what flows and at what heads, dependson the compressor geometry, the position of thecompressor’s inlet prerotation vanes (PRV), and theimpeller tip speed.page 1Impeller and vaned diffuser stalls occur at flows andheads that are very near the surge point. Centrifugalcompressors do not operate for any length of timewith impeller stall or vaned diffuser stall because evena small flow or head variation will shift the compressorinto a surge condition and out of stall.Although vaneless diffuser stall occurs at conditionsnear the surge point, it may, depending on applicationand compressor characteristics begin to occur at con-ditions that are farther away from the surge point. Cen-
Introduction
 
trifugal compressors may operate for long periods of time with vaneless diffuser stall.Rotating stall in a vaneless diffuser generates a char-acteristic noise and vibration whose frequency is closeto the impeller rotating frequency. This noise and vi-bration can be minimized when operating at reducedload by allowing reduced condenser water tempera-ture.Stall noise and vibration can also be minimized by se-lecting a compressor whose full-load operating pointis far removed from the surge point.
Impeller Stall
In an impeller, rotating stall begins when the flow streampassing around one of the impeller blades separatesfrom the back of the blade. This happens when theangle-of-attack of the flow approaching the blade be-comes so large that the blade “stalls” in the same waythat an airfoil stalls.The flow angle increases as the flow decreases, so thelarge angle-of-attack that stalls the blade occurs whenthe flow is low. When the inlet PRVs are partly closed,the flow angle entering the impeller is reduced. Thisreduces the tendency of the impeller blades to stallwhen the flow is reduced.The tendency of the blades to stall increases as theimpeller outlet pressure increases. At border-line flowangles, stall only occurs when the impeller outlet pres-sure is high; i.e., when the compressor head is high.The flow separation behind a stalled blade reducesthe volume of flow in the passage behind the blade. Itmay even cause some of the flow to reverse itself andflow back out of the passage. This reduced (possiblyreversed) flow increases the angle of the flow at anadjacent blade, causing the adjacent blade to stall. Thestall of the second blade lowers the flow angle at thefirst blade, thereby restoring normal unstalled flowaround the first blade. Thus the stall moves from bladeto blade around the impeller. The stall is said to “ro-tate” around the impeller, hence the name “rotatingstall”.Several impeller blades usually stall at the same timeso that multiple stalls rotate around the impeller. Whentoo many blades stall, or too much of the flow re-verses in the stalled passages, all impeller flow stops.When this happens, the higher pressure in the con-denser forces refrigerant to flow backwards, from thecondenser, thru the diffuser, thru the impeller, to theevaporator. This complete reversal of flow, from thecondenser to the evaporator, is called a “surge”.Rotating stall in an impeller is sometimes called “in-cipient surge” because impeller stall occurs quite closeto the surge point on a compressor performance map.Once an impeller begins to stall, only a small decreasein flow or increase in head will stall the impeller com-pletely, and cause the compressor to surge.
Vaned Diffuser Stall
Rotating stall in vaned diffusers also occurs near thesurge point and acts the same way as impeller stall.When one diffuser vane stalls, the stalled flow in thepassage behind the vane causes an adjacent vane tostall. This ends the stall of the first vane. Multiple stallsrotate from vane to vane
Vaneless Diffuser Stall
Rotating stall in a vaneless diffuser is quite differentfrom the other two kinds of stall. Vaneless diffuser stallcan begin some distance from the surge point, andtypically occurs when the compressor PRVs are partlyclosed. Vaneless diffusers have no airfoil blades orvanes that can be “stalled”.Instead, recirculating “eddies” form in a vaneless dif-fuser when the flow is reduced and/or the head is in-creased. These eddies are called “stall cells” becausethey affect the diffuser flow in much the same way asstalled diffuser vanes do.When an eddy forms in a vaneless diffuser, the alteredflow on one side of the eddy causes the eddy to movesideways. The eddy moves (rotates) around the dif-fuser similar to the way a vane stall rotates around avaned diffuser. Several eddies usually form and rotatearound a vaneless diffuser at the same time. If the flowpage 2
 
is further reduced, or the head further increased, theeddies become larger. If the eddies become too large,the flow stops, and the compressor surges.
Vaneless Diffuser verses Vaned Diffuser
As discussed previously, the diffusing passages down-stream of the impeller in centrifugal compressors canbe of two types; vaned or vaneless.The compressor diffuser is used to decelerate the highvelocity flow leaving the impeller, causing a static pres-sure rise -the purpose of the compressor.The YORK YT and YK centrifugal compressors usea vaneless diffuser design. A key advantage of avaneless diffuser is the ability to accept a wide rangeof inlet flow conditions.Thus, YORK compressors with vanelessdiffusers maintain high efficiency over a broad flowrange. With no obstacles in the flow, vaneless diffus-ers are not contributors to noise generation over mostof their range, providing relatively quiet chiller opera-tion over a wide operating range. The exception iswhen the machine operates in rotating stall. Althoughcompressor noise may increase when rotating stalloccurs, the compressor continues to be able to main-tain its pressure rise with high efficiency.Vaned diffusers employ wedge-shaped, airfoil-shaped,
Evaporator Cooling Load %1000100
Compressor Performance Map
0%25%50%PRV100%
   T  e  m  p  e  r  a   t  u  r  e   L   i   f   t   %
Figure 1
page 3

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