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Transient Analysis of a Spring-Loaded Pressure Safety Valve Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Xue Guan Song

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dong-A University, Busan 604-714, Korea e-mail:

Lin Wang
Chinese Guangdong Nuclear Power Design Corporation, Shenzhen 518-047, China e-mail:

Young Chul Park

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dong-A University, Busan 604-714, Korea e-mail:

A spring-loaded pressure safety valve (PSV) is a key device used to protect pressure vessels and systems. This paper developed a three-dimensional computational uid dynamics (CFD) model in combination with a dynamics equation to study the uid characteristics and dynamic behavior of a spring-loaded PSV. The CFD model, which includes unsteady analysis and a moving mesh technique, was developed to predict the ow eld through the valve and calculate the ow force acting on the disk versus time. To overcome the limitation that the moving mesh technique in the commercial software program ANSYS CFX (Version 11.0, ANSYS, Inc., USA) cannot handle complex congurations in most applications, some novel techniques of mesh generation and modeling were used to ensure that the valve disk can move upward and downward successfully without negative mesh error. Subsequently, several constant inlet pressure loads were applied to the developed model. Response parameters, including the displacement of the disk, mass ow through the valve, and uid force applied on the disk, were obtained and compared with the study of the behavior of the PSV under different overpressure conditions. In addition, the modeling approach could be useful for valve designers attempting to optimize spring-loaded PSVs. DOI: 10.1115/1.4001428

Since PSVs are crucial safety devices, numerous researchers have studied their characteristics. In recent years, computational uid dynamics CFD has been applied to the analysis of PSV ow characteristics. Vu and Wang 2 investigated the complex three-dimensional 3D ow eld of an oxygen safety pressure relief valve during an incident. Francis and Betts 3 predicted axisymmetric ow patterns inside a model of a pressure safety valve using the commercial software package FIDAP. Mokhtarzadeh-Dehghan et al. 4 performed a nite element study of the laminar ow of oil through a hydraulic pressure relief valve. In 1997, Dresser Industries Inc. 5 used a commercial CFD code to compute the discharge coefcient for a relief valve conguration with various nozzle sizes. Therefore, as reported in the literature, the application of CFD to pressure safety valve analysis has yielded many benets, including reliably predicting ow rate and pressure loss at the design stage. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of commercial CFD software and computational resources, most studies used simplied analysis approaches; these include the use of axisymmetric models instead of full 3D models to save computational time, and the investigation of ow through the valve at several xed positions between the fully closed and fully opened positions. Such simplications usually have some disadvantages. For example, since most of a typical safety valve is not axisymmetric, a 2D axisymmetric simplied model is not accurate enough to predict the internal ow eld and the mass ow through the valve, especially the ow eld around the valve disk. Also, an analysis of the valve at various xed positions cannot predict the dynamic behavior of the valve because of the need to neglect a variety of important transient issues transient ow characteristics through the valve, and the dynamic behavior of the valve, is very useful and critical . The purpose of this study is to investigate transient ow characteristics and dynamic behavior of a spring-loaded pressure safety valve in three dimensions. Due to the complexity of the valves conguration, some modeling strategies and simulation techniques for the commercial software package ANSYS CFX Version 11.0, ANSYS, Inc., USA were used, including domain decomposition, a moving mesh approach, and unsteady ow. The results showed unsteady uid owing through the valve and the dynamic behavior of the valve, thus improving our understanding of the relation between the uid ow and the motion of the valve disk.

2 Mathematical Model and ANSYS CFX Expression Language

The disk of the valve behaves as a one degree-of-freedom DOF system since the stem is restricted by the cylinder of the valve body, and the disk can only move in the direction perpendicular to the seat surface. That is, the motion of the valve disk is completely determined by the coupled forces in the perpendicular direction acting on it. According to Newtons second law, the equation of motion for a 1DOF system can be written as


A spring-loaded pressure relief valve is designed to open at a predetermined pressure and protect a vessel or system from excess pressure by removing or relieving uid from that vessel or system. As shown in Fig. 1, the basic elements of a spring-loaded PSV include a movable disk, an inlet nozzle, and a spring. The nozzle is connected to the vessel or system to be protected, the movable disk controls the ow through the nozzle, and the spring controls the position of the disk. Under normal system conditions, the disk is seated on the nozzle to prevent uid ow. When the system internal pressure exceeds a predetermined value, the disk lifts and vents the uid to protect the vessel 1 .
Contributed by the Pressure Vessel and Piping Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF PRESSURE VESSEL TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received July 3, 2009; nal manuscript received March 7, 2010; published online August 31, 2010. Assoc. Editor: L. Ike Ezekoye.

mx = Fflow Fspring

where m is the mass of the disk, x is the acceleration of the disk in the perpendicular direction, Fspring is the spring force acting on the disk, and Fflow is the ow force acting on the disk. This model assumes that the so-called dissipation force Fc x due to the friction between the stem and the valve body is zero, and also neglects the gravity of the disk because they are very small compared with the spring force and ow force. In differential form, the term on the left hand side of the motion equation can be discretized to include an expression for the displacement of the disk OCTOBER 2010, Vol. 132 / 054501-1

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the CEL expressions specied in ANSYS CFX to predict the motion of the disk.

Numerical Analysis

Fig. 1 Schematic representation of spring-loaded pressure safety valve


xt+ t xt t xt+ t xt t

where velocity x is discretized as xt+ t = 3

The displacement of the disk xt also appears in the expression for spring force Fspring = Kspring xt + F0 4 where Kspring is the spring stiffness and F0 is the predetermined force to overcome the effect of setting pressure. By reassembling the discrete form of the motion equation for the disk, the disk displacement becomes Fflow F0 + xt+tStep = m xt m xt + t t2 m kspring + 2 t

directly, used to transfer them in a form that can be read and executed by ANSYS CFX. CEL is an interpreted language that has been developed to enhance simulations without recourse to writing and linking separate external FORTRAN routines 6 . Table 1 shows the main part of Since

ANSYS CFX cannot read and execute the equations ANSYS CFX expression language CEL expressions are

3.1 Computational Mesh. The moving mesh method was used to take into account the motion of the disk. Hence, the CFD method must take into account a mesh with moving nodes and deforming control volumes. In contrast with the commercial software FLUENT, ANSYS CFX 11.0 cannot regenerate the mesh also called remesh for an appropriate region and interpolate the ow variables, but instead, moves the existing nodes to proper locations and continues the solution. ANSYS CFX dynamically determines where and when the nodes should be moved by solving a displacement diffusion equation. According to the ANSYS CFX reference guide 6 , the displacement diffusion model for mesh motion is designed to preserve the relative mesh distribution of the initial mesh; e.g., if the initial mesh is relatively ne in certain regions of the domain, it will remain relatively ne after solving the displacement diffusion equation. Hence, a full hexahedral mesh with good quality the worst mesh quality measured in ANSYS ICEM CFD is greater than 0.25 is more suitable to a simulation with the moving mesh method. In Sec. 3.2, we describe how we made a good quality hexahedral mesh for a complex conguration. Considering that 3D full hexahedral mesh generation and the corresponding calculations require considerable time, a 2D full hexahedral mesh for a simplied valve was generated rst to determine if the mesh generation strategy could meet our requirements. Figure 2 shows the initial mesh of a partly opened simplied pressure relief valve and its deformed mesh at 5.0 ms, at which point the computation was stopped because a negative volume occurred. Comparing the deformed mesh with the initial mesh, it can be seen that the deformed mesh was distorted too coarsely and caused a large decrease in the mesh quality in the opened gap region. This is because some of the nodes in the region of the gap were closed to both wall boundaries, but the portion at the middle of the gap were only near one wall boundary. Due to the inuence of the so-called mesh stiffness from the nearest wall boundary, these nodes showed different trends in movement. To eliminate the bad inuence of the boundary and make the nodes move identically without negative volumes, a domain decomposition method DDM; not to be confused with DDM for parallel computation was used to ensure that the nodes at the open gap were clamped by two surfaces, although the upper surface was set as a wall boundary and the lower surface was set as an interface. DDM makes full hexahedral mesh generation available and easier for a complex conguration by splitting one complex domain into several small simple subdomains. In addition, the generalized grid interface GGI feature was used to connect the split surfaces at different subdomains, even though the GGI usually increases the required CPU time and memory.

Table 1 CEL script for motion of disk in Expression



tStep= 1 104 s Set t kSpring= 22335.0 N m1 Set kspring F0 = 0 N Set F0 m _ disc= 0.7727 g Set m F _ Flow= force_ y at disc 2 Calculate Fflow dis_ Old= areaAve Total Mesh Displacement Y at disc Calculate xt vel_ Old= areaAve Mesh Velocity v at disc Calculate xt dis_ Numer= F _ Flow F0 + m _ disc vel_ Old/ tStep+ m _ disc dis_ Old/ tStep2 Calculate numerator of xt+tStep dis_ Denom= kSpring+ m _ disc/ tStep2 Calculate denominator of xt+tStep dis_ New= dis_ Numer/ dis_ Denom Calculate xt+tStep

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Fig. 2 2D initial mesh and deformed mesh

Figure 3 illustrates how the three subdomains composed a whole domain through the GGI interfaces. Each subdomain has a simpler geometry than the original. The model has 147,127 nodes and 156,189 elements. The mesh quality metrics in ANSYS ICEM CFD showed that the mesh quality of the model was greater than 0.4, which was good enough for this case. In addition, 99.55% of the total number of elements had a mesh quality higher than 0.5, and 0.45% 702 elements had a mesh quality between 0.4 to 0.5 7. 3.2 Boundary Conditions. Figure 3 shows the computational mesh and some boundary conditions. The displacement of the disk in blue in the Y direction was specied according to the displacement equation dened in CEL. The reference pressure over the whole domain was dened as 101,325 Pa. Several values of inlet pressure were specied in the range from 0.01 MPa to 0.15 MPa. An opening boundary condition was set at the outlet that allowed the uid to cross the boundary surface in either direction. This closely models the real situation in which atmospheric pressure surrounds the valve exit. The uid was set to be incompressible water at 25 C. The standard k- turbulence model was adopted for turbulence closure, even though it may not be the best model for the simulation of such complex ow eld, and the default second-order backward Euler scheme was used for the transient run. The time step was set to be 1.0 104 s, and the time duration for the total analysis was set to be 0.2 s.

Results and Discussion

4.1 Velocity and Pressure Distribution. Figure 4 shows the velocity eld and pressure distribution at the midplane for two values of inlet pressure. The results show that the velocity in the gap was very high, in some regions, exceeding 20 m/s. As the uid owed past the gap and chamber between the disk and adjusting ring, the main ow diverged and was deected upward. The maximum and average velocity with an inlet pressure of 0.07 MPa was clearly higher than the maximum and average velocity with an inlet pressure of 0.03 MPa at the same instants. In addition, due to the larger force produced by the inlet pressure, the open gap/lift for 0.07 MPa was greater than that for 0.03 MPa; i.e., the disk moved up more rapidly when the inlet pressure was higher. The pressure distribution at the midplane and surfaces of the disk is shown in Fig. 5. High hydrostatic pressure acted on the underside of the disk, and pressure loss occurred in the open gap mainly due to the resistance of the seating surface. This is in good agreement with the design requirement of the safety valve. 4.2 Displacement of Disk, Flow Force, and Mass Flow. Figure 6 shows the effect of inlet pressure on the displacement of the disk versus time. When the inlet pressure is smaller than 0.08 MPa, higher inlet pressure leads to a higher value of disk displacement, and the disk equilibrium is more rapidly reached. This is because the disk equilibrium displacement is proportional to the uid force caused by the inlet pressure. On the other hand, higher inlet pressure causes large amplitude oscillations at the beginning of the PSV actuation due to inertial phenomena. When the inlet pressure was greater than 0.09 MPa, no oscillation was observed, and the disk lifted rapidly to its allowable highest displacement since the upward thrust force produced by owing water was much larger than the force of spring compression. The computational result for the inlet pressure of 0.08 MPa was somewhat erratic. In this case, the disk reached the positive peak positions at approximately 0.003 s, and then descended to the negative peak. Generally speaking, over time, the disk should reach the steady state position between the negative peak value and the positive peak value. However, the disk in this case did not move as expected after reaching the negative peak position; rather, it ascended to the allowable highest position rapidly and stayed there during the remaining time. This was probably due to the inuence of backpressure. In some cases, a balanced bellows can be used to eliminate this erratic phenomenon. Figure 7 shows the ow force acting on the disk versus time. Note that the ow force always increased sharply when the inlet pressure was greater than 0.08 MPa. By comparing Figs. 6 and 7, it can be seen that the ow forces suddenly increased when the disk stopped at the allowable highest displacement. This is due to the inertial forces of the owing uid when the disk was suddenly limited to the maximum lift suddenly. Note that the ow force for OCTOBER 2010, Vol. 132 / 054501-3

Fig. 3 Three subdomains comprising one whole domain

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Fig. 4 Velocity distribution at the midplane for various times left: inlet pressure= 0.03 MPa; right: inlet pressure = 0.07 MPa

Fig. 5 Pressure distribution at midplane and disk surfaces

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Fig. 8 Mass ow through the safety valve Fig. 6 Displacement of the disk for different values of inlet pressure

applied to examine the inuence of different overpressure conditions on the dynamic behavior of the valve. The method was very useful in evaluating the performance of a spring-loaded PSV of complex conguration at the design stage, and will be helpful for future research of more complicated pressure safety valves. In addition, this research did not analyze the effects of factors such as cavitation or turbulence model, they would be considered in the future work.

This work was supported by Technical Center for HighPerformance Valves from the Regional Innovation Center RIC Program of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy MKE , Korea.

m x x x
Fig. 7 Flow lift force acting on the disk

an inlet pressure of 0.09 MPa increased sharply twice, which agrees with the change in displacement of the disk shown in Fig. 6. The mass ow through the safety valve is shown in Fig. 8. With an increase in inlet pressure, the peak mass ow and the mass ow at the equilibrium stage increased, as expected. Negative values denote ow out of the valve.

Fspring Fflow t t kspring F0

mass of disk acceleration of disk velocity of disk displacement of disk force due to spring compression force due to owing uid run time time step dened in CFX spring stiffness predeterminated force for the setting pressure

1 1993, API recommended practice 520, Sizing, Selection, and Installation of Pressure-Relieving Devices in Reners. 2 Vu, B., and Wang, T.-S., 1994, Navier-Stokes Flow Field Analysis of Compressible Flow in a High Pressure Safety Relief Valve, Appl. Math. Comput., 65 13 , pp. 345353. 3 Francis, J., and Betts, P. L., 1997, Modelling Incompressible Flow in a Pressure Relief Valve, Proc. IMechE, Part E: J. Process Mechanical Engineering, 211 2 , pp. 8393. 4 Mokhtarzadeh-Dehghan, M. R., Ladommatos, N., and Brennan, T. J., 1997, Finite Element Analysis of Flow in a Hydraulic Pressure Valve, Appl. Math. Model., 21 7 , pp. 437445. 5 Dresser Industries Inc. used a commercial CFD code. 6 ANSYS CFX 11.0, ANSYS CFX Reference Guide, ANSYS, Inc. 7 ANSYS ICEM CFD 11.0, Users Manual, ANSYS, Inc.


A 3D transient ow eld through a spring-loaded pressure safety valve was analyzed numerically using the commercial CFD software ANSYS CFX 11.0. By combining unsteady analysis, the moving mesh technique, and a 1D dynamics equation, the ow characteristics through a safety valve and the dynamic behavior of the valve, which are difcult to observe experimentally or with steady CFD analysis, were obtained. Several inlet pressures were

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