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Aquacultural Engineering 4 (1985) 271-297

Modeling Gas Transfer in a U-Tube Oxygen Absorption System: Effects of Off-Gas Recycling Barnaby J. Watten and L. Todd Beck
Pennsylvania Power and Light Company, Department of Technology and Energy Assessment, Brunner Island Aquaculture Project, York Haven, Pennsylvania 17370, USA

ABSTRA CT A computer model characterizing the performance o f a u-tube oxygen absorption system was developed based on finite difference-mass transfer calculations. Performance was assessed in terms o f oxygen utilization, transfer efficiency and economy. The system evaluated was unique in that oxygen not absorbed initially (off-gas) was captured and recycled. Mass transfer coefficients derived from pilot-scale test data were used to calibrate the computer model. A separate series o f tests served to verify the effects o f off-gas recycling as predicted by the program. Simulation data indicate off-gas recycling can result in substantial savings in variable and total costs o f oxygen transfer with only a minor increase in capital expenditures, both initially and when amortized. The benefits achieved will increase with lower oxygen flow rates, deeper shaft depths, and low influent dissolved oxygen concentrations. Performance algorithms developed should be useful to those establishing design conditions for pure oxygen u-tube systems.

NOMENCLATURE A Area o f gas-liquid interphase (m 2) Oxygen absorption efficiency (%) B Bunsen's coefficient at a given temperature and salinity (litre litre-atm -1) C Existing concentration o f a gas in solution (mg litre -1) C* Saturation concentration o f a gas in solution (mg litre -~) 271 Aquacultural Engineering 0144-8609/85/$03.30- Elsevier Applied Science Publishers Ltd, England, 1985. Printed in Great Britain



B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

D d dC DO DOt DOo ADO DN dt

F g

c/L HL
AHL i K k KL KLa

N n

e 2o
ei eo

Qg Qm
Qox Qw
R %R %S T

Multiplier used to correct for the effects of off-gas recycling, dimensionless U-tube shaft depth (m) Diameter of a gas molecule (A) Change in concentration of a gas in solution (mg litre -1) Dissolved oxygen concentration (mg litre -1) Influent DO concentration (mg litre -1) Effluent DO concentration (mg/litre -~) Change in dissolved oxygen concentration between u-tube inlet and outlet (mg litre -~) Dissolved nitrogen concentration (mg litre -~) Time elapsed (h) Combined efficiency of compressor or pump and motor Pipe friction loss factor (Pa m -1) Acceleration of gravity (m s-2) Oxygen-liquid ratio in u-tube influent (%) Head loss across u-tube (cm) Difference in hydraulic head loss across u-tube due to oxygen injection (cm) Gas species identifier Isentropic index for gas mixture, dimensionless Ratio of molecular weight to molecular volume for a gas (mg ml -~) Coefficient of diffusion for a gas (m h -a) Overall gas transfer coefficient (h -1) Mass of the gas in the gas phase (mg) ( K - 1)/K, dimensionless Finite difference step identifier Vapor pressure of water (mm Hg) Absolute compressor inlet pressure (kPa) Absolute compressor outlet pressure (kPa) Total pressure (mm Hg) Power (kW) Volumetric flow rate of off-gas (m 3 h -1) Mass flow of gas mixture (kg s-1) Volumetric flow rate of oxygen (m 3 h-~) Volumetric flow rate of water (m a h -l) Gas constant Off-gas recycle rate (%) Saturation level of dissolved oxygen in the influent (%) Temperature (C)

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system





Transfer efficiency (Kg 02 k W h -~) Absolute temperature of gas at compressor inlet (K) Volume of gas at a specific temperature (litre) Volume of liquid (m 3) Change in depth within the u-tube shaft (-+ m) KLa of wastewater/KLa of pure water, dimensionless C* of wastewater/C* of pure water, dimensionless Unit weight of water, kN m -3 Mole fraction of the gas in the gas phase, dimensionless Mass density of oxygen, kg m -3

INTRODUCTION A limiting supply of dissolved oxygen (DO) is a condition that often restricts the production capacity of intensive aquatic culture systems (Westers and Pratt, 1977). Although numerous methods for supplementing DO have been described (Chesness et al., 1972; Colt and Tchobanoglous, 1981) pure oxygen absorption systems appear particularly attractive. These systems have the unique capability of providing saturated or supersaturated DO concentrations economically while avoiding temperature change, noise, and nitrogen supersaturation problems associated with diffused air and/or surface aeration equipment. Speece (1981) describes five types of pure oxygen contact systems, each of which provides a high oxygen utilization efficiency with reasonable capital costs and energy consumption ratios. The five systems are: (1) enclosed packed column, (2) u-tube, (3) downflow bubble contact aeration, (4) recycled diffused oxygenation and (5) rotating packed column. Of the above, the u-tube was selected for evaluation at the Brunner Island waste heat aquaculture project, York Haven, Pennsylvania. A preliminary design analysis indicated the pressure drop across the u-tube would be within the range of the hydraulic head that is available at the proposed site. This characteristic not only provides a saving in energy costs but more importantly reduces the risk of system failure through the elimination of electrically operated mechanical equipment. Furthermore, the u-tube requires little space, is simple to construct and control. As originally described by Bruijn and Hendrik (1958), a u-tube system incorporates two basic components, (1) a gas diffuser and (2) a


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

vertical u-shaped conduit which provides a contact loop of above atmospheric pressure. In use, air or oxygen is dispersed at a fixed rate in water entering the system. The gas-liquid mixture is then directed down one side of the u-shaped conduit and up through the other. Water velocity in the clown-leg portion is maintained above the buoyant velocity of the entrained gas bubbles. As the gas-liquid mixture moves through the contact loop a temporary increase in hydrostatic pressure serves to increase the dissolved oxygen deficit which in turn accelerates the rate of oxygen transfer. Previous research (Speece e t al., 1969; Speece and Orasco, 1970; Mitchell, 1973; Speece e t al., 1980) has shown that oxygen transfer in a u-tube system is influenced primarily by shaft depth, inlet gas flow and composition, water velocity, diffuser depth, and inlet DO concentration. In this report, a mass transfer model is developed for purposes of characterizing the performance of a u-tube system in which commercial, or pure, oxygen is dispersed. The system studied is unique in that oxygen not absorbed in the first pass is collected and immediately recycled. Speece e t al. (1983) suggested the use of the recycle step as a means of improving oxygen utilization and thereby reducing transfer costs. The algorithms we develop should be of value to those establishing design conditions for pure oxygen u-tube systems.

Gas transfer rate

The primary resistance to oxygen and nitrogen transfer in a gas-liquid mixture is usually provided by a stagnant liquid film present at the interphase between the gas and the liquid (Lewis and Whitman, 1924). The rate at which transfer occurs is then proportional to the difference between the existing and saturation concentration of the gas in solution. In differential form the relationship is expressed as dC
dt =



Because of the difficulty in measuring the area of the gas-liquid interphase (A), the diffusion coefficient (KL) is often combined with

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


the ratio A / V L to establish an overall transfer coefficient KLa, i.e. dC - - = K L a ( C * -- C) dt (2)

The overall transfer coefficient will reflect the conditions present in a specific gas-liquid contact system. Conditions of importance include turbulence, waste characteristics of the liquid, the extent of the gasliquid interphase and temperature. Values of KLa can be corrected for the effects of temperature using the following expression (APHA, 1975):
(KLa)T = (KLa)2o (1-024) T-2


Although each gas species in a contact system will have a unique value of KLa , it has been established that relative values for a specific gas pair are inversely proportional to their molecular diameters (Tsivoglou et al., 1965), i.e.
( K L a ) J ( K L a ) 2 = (d)2/(d~)


The relationship above, based on Einstein's law of diffusion, provides a convenient means of establishing multicomponent gas transfer models (Speece and Orasco, 1970; Mitchel, 1973).
Gas solubility

The saturation concentration of a gas in solution (C*) will influence the direction as well as the rate of gas transfer (eqn (2)). The C* of a gas is a function of its partial pressure in the gas phase, liquid temperature, and liquid composition as related by Henry's law. In equation form (Colt, 1984),
( x ( P ~ -- Pr~o) ~ C* = B k 1 0 0 0 \ 760--0 /


The C* of oxygen in a u-tube system is increased temporarily by hydrostatic pressure. Those systems in which pure oxygen is dispersed further increase C* by increasing the mole fraction of oxygen in the gas phase. The increase in C* serves to (1) accelerate the rate of gas transfer (eqn (2)), and (2) provide the capability of achieving an effluent dissolved gas level in excess of the air saturation concentration at local barometric pressure.


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

MODEL DEVELOPMENT A computer model of the gas transfer process was developed based on eqns (2)--(5). The program simulates the performance of an experimental u-tube system in which pure oxygen is dispersed and off-gas is recycled. Assuming carbon dioxide concentrations are negligible, two primary gas transfer operations will occur in such systems. These are (1) oxygen transfer from the gas phase to the liquid phase and (2) nitrogen transfer from the liquid phase to the gas phase (Speece, 1981). The program developed here accounts for these changes as it performs finite difference calculations. The logic and major components of the computer program are presented in Fig. 1.




I /







Fig. 1.

Computation sequence used in the computer model of the experimental u-tube system.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


Finite difference calculations Finite difference calculations are similar to those employed by Speece and Orasco (1970). The following variables are recalculated at each distance step in the program: (1)mass of oxygen and nitrogen in the gas phase; (2) total pressure; (3) overall transfer coefficients; (4) dissolved gas deficits; and (5) changes in dissolved gas concentrations. At the start of each calculation series, the Ideal Gas law is used to relate volume, temperature, pressure and molar composition of the gas phase. Pressure at each step, n, neglecting pressure drop due to two-phase flow, is defined as follows:
(PT)n+I = (eT)n - - (AZPg)n -- (I A Z I)n ff


The change in hydrostatic pressure that occurs in a u-tube system affects the number, not the size, of the gas bubbles present (Speece and Orasco, 1970; Mitchell, 1973). Therefore, given the volume of gas at any two program steps n, a relative interfacial area to volume ratio can be determined, i.e.



Since KLa is the product of A/VL and the constant KL (eqn (1)), relative values of KLa may be established in a similar manner (Speece and Orasco, 1970): (KL at)nJ (KL ai),,: = ( Vg),n/( Vg)n: (8)

The expression above is used to calculate relative values of KLa at each step n with respect to u-tube inlet conditions. Based on eqn (4), values of KLa for nitrogen are assumed to be 0.9 times that estimated for oxygen. Gas saturation concentrations required to establish dissolved gas deficits are calculated using Henry's law (eqn (5)). Bunsen coefficients (Bi) and vapor pressures (PH20) used in this determination are obtained from equations presented by Weiss (1970) and ASHRAE (1972), respectively. Given the gas deficits and KLa values, the changes in dissolved gas concentrations are established using rate expression, eqn (2), i.e.
(Ci)n+l = (Ci)n + ( K L a i ( C ~ - - C i ) ) n



The change in gas phase mass is determined in a similar manner by performing a mass balance on the volume segment represented by

278 step n.

B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

(~'li)n+l = (~t)n -- ( K L a i ( C * -- Ci)) VL dt


Upon completing finite difference calculations, exit conditions are identified and performance indicators calculated.
Performance indicators

U-tube performance is evaluated in terms of transfer costs, transfer efficiency and oxygen absorption efficiency. The latter represents the ratio of mass oxygen absorbed to mass oxygen applied, as defined in the following expression: A E = (Qw (D~-~0ox~DO01-3) 1 0 0 _ (11)

Transfer efficiency represents the mass of oxygen absorbed per unit of energy input. In the experimental u-tube, total energy input is the sum of the energy used in pumping water (Pw, pump) and recycling off-gas (Pw, compressor), e.g. TE = Qw (DOo -- DO010-, Pw, pump + Pw, compressor (12)

Energy used in pumping water is calculated as follows: Pw, pump = ((Qw/3600) (HE single phase + AHL) q,)/e (13)

An estimate of the energy required to recycle off-gas is obtained from the adiabatic compression formula (Yunt, 1979): Pw, compressor QmRTI[(Po~N__I] N ~ L\-~-i / (14)

MODEL CALIBRATION Prior to model use, two series of tests were undertaken to establish a predictive equation for head loss due to two-phase flow, and for KLaoxygen at the u-tube entrance (step n = 1). KLaoxygen values at other points are calculated using eqn (8). In all tests water flow was held constant at 197 litre min -~.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system




--~ 6.35cm PIPE ,S 10.16cm CASING




Fig. 2. Test apparatus

Diagram of the pilot scale u-tube oxygen absorption system incorporating off-gas recycling.

The experimental u-tube is illustrated in Fig. 2. As shown, the system consists of four major components. These are (1) a concentric pipe u-tube, (2) an oxygen sparger, (3) an off-gas collector, and (4) a water jet exhauster. The u-tube was fabricated with PVC pipe and standard threaded fittings. U-tube t y p e flow was achieved by positioning a 6.35 cm outside diameter pipe section (down-leg shaft) in the center and slightly off the b o t t o m o f a capped section of 10.16 cm outside diameter pipe. The cross sectional area o f the down-leg and annular space in the up-leg shafts were 30.3 cm 2 and 39-1 cm 2, respectively. Pure oxygen was dispersed through a 6 mm diameter orifice positioned near the discharge of the water jet exhauster (Fig. 2). A pressure regulator, throttle valve and rotameter (Brooks Model 1110) were used to meter the oxygen flow. A capped section of pipe 20.2 cm in diameter and 133 cm in length served as the off-gas collector. The effective volume o f the chamber was 50 liters which, when used, provided sufficient detection time for separation o f undissolved gases. The discharge end of the collector was elevated slightly (8-8% slope) to concentrate gas near the vacuum line inlet (Fig. 2). The water jet exhauster pro-


B. 3". Watten, L. Todd Beck

vided the vacuum necessary to recycle collected off-gas. The exhauster was operated at a water pressure of 241 kPa resulting in a water consumption rate of about 15 liter min -1. Water at this pressure was supplied by a jet pump coupled with a pressure tank and regulator. An elevated head tank was used to maintain gravity flow through the u-tube. The tank received unaltered water from the Susquehanna River pumped from a point near the Brunner Island Aquaculture Project. The head tank also provided water for the jet pump system. Water flow was measured with a stopwatch and barrel of known capacity. U-tube influent and effluent samples were obtained from sample ports located upstream of the exhauster and just below the discharge (Fig. 2). DO concentrations in samples were determined using the azide modification of the Winkler method (APHA, 1975). During head loss tests, manometer tubes connected to the water sample ports described above provided influent and effluent static pressure readings. Barometric pressure, water and gas temperature were measured with a standard mercury barometer and thermometer.
Methods Test

Series I

The effect of influent oxygen-liquid ratio and shaft depth on head loss due to two-phase flow was determined. Oxygen-liquid ratio here is defined as the volumetric flow rate of oxygen under standard conditions (21 .IC and 760 mm Hg pressure) divided by the volumetric flow rate of water. Oxygen was metered into u-tubes 6.10, 12.19 and 18.29 m deep. During tests, oxygen-liquid ratios were varied from 0 to 28%. Water flow was regulated by adjusting a valve positioned upstream of the influent sample port. Following data collection, head loss due to two-phase flow (AHL) was computed using recorded pressure drops across the system (HL) under single-phase (water) and two-phase (oxygen and water) flow conditions, i.e. AHL = HE two phase -- HL singlephase
Methods - T e s t S e r i e s II


In this second test series, the effect of influent oxygen-liquid ratio and shaft depth on oxygen transfer was evaluated. Oxygen was metered into u-tubes 6.10, 12.19 and 18.29m deep. Oxygen-liquid ratios were

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


varied from 2.3 to 11.7%. Water flow was regulated by adjusting the u-tube discharge valve. Because off-gas was not recycled, the water jet exhauster was operated with its vacuum line closed. At each established combination of depth and oxygen-liquid ratio, samples were taken for DO analysis once steady-state conditions had been maintained for a minimum of 10 min. Reagents used in the DO analyses were added immediately after sample collection:
Results - Test Series I

Data illustrating the effect of u-tube depth and influent oxygen-liquid ratio on head loss (AHL, eqn (15)) are presented in Fig. 3. Note that as the depth and/or oxygen-liquid ratios increased so did AHL. As a consequence, and due also to a limiting available hydraulic head, the range of oxygen-liquid ratios evaluated at a shaft depth of 6.10 m

1.78. U-TUBEDEPTH D 6.10m ~, 12.19m :, 18.29rn / J / ~














Fig. 3. Effects of u-tube depth and influent oxygen-liquid ratio on head loss due to two-phase flow (ZM-/L, eqn (15)). Water temperature and influent DO during tests were 23.4-23-9C and 7-4-7-8 mg liter-z, respectively.


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

exceeds the range evaluated at greater depths (12.19 and 18-29 m). Multiple linear regression was used to establish a model of the interaction observed between AHL, oxygen-liquid ratio, and depth: In AHL = 0.888 + 0-0758(D) + 1.021 (In G/L) R 2 = 0-98
R e s u R s - T e s t S e r i e s II


The effect of u-tube depth and influent oxygen-liquid ratio on oxygen transfer is illustrated in Fig. 4. As shown, increasing the oxygen flow rate increased effluent DO concentrations at a diminishing rate while reducing absorption efficiency. It can also be seen that both exit DO and absorption efficiency increased with greater shaft depths. The gas transfer program was used to establish values of KLaoxygen for each set of observations by determining the KLa value at the u-tube entrance that resulted in the observed effluent DO concentration. During this iteration procedure, influent dissolved nitrogen was assumed to be at the saturation concentration estimated using eqn (5). Established KLaoxygen values were adjusted to 20C using eqn (3). Multiple linear regression was then used to define KLaoxygen in terms of influent oxygen-liquid ratio and shaft depth:

(KLaoxygen)2oOc = 62-1161 --4-3331(D) + 67.7577(lnG/L)

R 2 = 0.90


The above expression, and that defining AHL established in Test Series I, were incorporated into the computer model of the u-tube system.

MODEL VERIFICATION Using the apparatus evaluated in Test Series I and II, the effect of off-gas recycling on oxygen transfer was determined for purposes of (1) demonstrating the feasibility of the recycle step and (2) verifying the effects of off-gas recycling as predicted by the calibrated computer model.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system













Fig. 4. Effects of u-tube depth and influent oxygen-liquid ratio on oxygen transfer. Original data had variations in influent DO (8.6-9.4 mg liter-l), temperature (26.7-27-2C) and barometric pressure (757-760 mm Hg). Data presented here have been adjusted to a standard set of conditions (temperature, 27C; influent DO, 7.95 mg liter-l; barometric pressure, 760 mm Hg) using the computer program and KLa values established for each observation.

Methods - Test Series III Off-gas recycle rates of 25, 50 and 60% were established at a shaft depth o f 12.19 m. Initial influent oxygen--liquid ratios were varied from 2.3 to 6.2%. As in Test Series II, water flow was regulated by adjusting discharge valves. When recycling off-gas at a specific rate (e.g. 50%),


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

t h a t same f r a c t i o n o f u-tube flow was diverted t h r o u g h the off-gas collector. Undissolved gas entering this device was collected and i m m e d i a t e l y r e c y c l e d . Water flow in the recycle line (clear tubing) was k e p t to a m i n i m u m b y adjusting a v a c u u m r e g u l a t o r valve (Fig. 2). C o l l e c t o r e f f l u e n t was d i r e c t e d t h r o u g h a clear c a r b o y o f 19-liter capacity to visually test for c o m p l e t e s e p a r a t i o n and use o f available off-gas. Samples were o b t a i n e d for DO analysis a f t e r steady-state c o n d i t i o n s had b e e n m a i n t a i n e d for a m i n i m u m o f 10 min.
R e s u l t s - T e s t S e r i e s III

Due to a limiting h y d r a u l i c h e a d , observations at the 60% off-gas recycle rate were r e s t r i c t e d to an i n f l u e n t o x y g e n - l i q u i d ratio o f 2.3%. Table 1 presents a c o m p a r i s o n b e t w e e n Test Series III data and gas transfer m o d e l predictions. As s h o w n , m o d e l p r e d i c t i o n s are in very close a g r e e m e n t with the pilot s t u d y data. T h e relative e r r o r o f the estimates average just 2-9% with a range o f 0-9 t o 6.3%. Data in Table 1


Comparison Between Observed (Test Series III) and Model Predicted Effluent DO Concentrations at Several Rates of Off-Gas Recycling. U-tube Shaft Depth, 12-19m, Temperature, 25-6-27.8C; Barometric Pressure, 757-762 mm Hg

Oxygenliquid ratio (%)

2.3 2.3 2.3 2.3 4.1 4-1 4.1 6-2 6.2 6.2

Off-gas recycle rate (%)

0 25 50 60 0 25 50 0 25 50

Influent DO (mg liter -1)

Mean AE (%)

Mean Predicted Residual effluent effluent as DO DO percent (mgliter -1) (mgliter -1)
2 3 3 3 21.8 23.3 24.4 27-3 27.9 30.5 31-1 31.4 34.4 35.6 22.3 23-7 25.1 26-7 28.9 30.2 32-2 33.4 34.7 36-9 + + + -2.3 1.7 2.9 2.2

9.4 9.0 8.3 9.4 9.4 8.8 8-3 9-4 8-5 8-3

41-7, 48-0, 54.3, 60.5,


= = = =

34.6, N = 2 40-7, N = 3 43-1,N = 2 26.9, N = 2 31.6, N = 2 33.3, N = 2

+ 3.6 -- 1.0 +3.5 + 6.3 + 0-9 + 3.7

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


also demonstrate the substantial increase in oxygen utilization that can be achieved by off-gas recycling; e.g. with an influent oxygen-liquid ratio of 2.3%, recycling 60% of the available off-gas resulted in a 45% increase in absorption efficiency.

MODEL APPLICATION Effects of off-gas recycling

Absorption efficiency Following Test Series III, the computer program was used to simulate the response of u-tube effluent DO to changes in design and operating conditions. Results of a simulation run used to establish the effects of the off-gas recycle rate are illustrated in Fig. 5. Note that as the recycle rate approached 100%, effluent DO rose steadily from 15.0 to 28.5 mg liter -1. The improvement in oxygen utilization occurs in response to the increase in the effective gas-liquid ratio despite the concurrent reduction in the oxygen purity level of the influent gas mixture (Fig. 5). Additional simulation runs indicate the improvement in oxygen utilization, resulting from a fixed rate of off-gas recycling, will increase with (1) greater shaft depths (Fig. 6), (2) lower pure oxygen flow rates (Fig. 6), and (3) lower levels of DO in the influent (Fig. 7). Temperature has a relatively minor effect at a given saturation level of DO in the influent (Fig. 7). The rise that occurs in the gas-liquid ratio with off-gas recycling will be more dramatic than indicated in Fig. 5 at higher pure oxygen flow rates. This effect may limit the off-gas recycle rate, i.e. the two-phase flow that occurs in a u-tube is, under normal conditions, represented by the bubble flow regime, a continuous liquid phase in which a gas is homogenously dispersed as bubbles (Mitchell, 1973). If the gas-liquid ratio becomes excessive, bubbles coalesce forming large bullet-shaped slugs of gas. The transition to slug flow should be avoided as it results in discharge surging and a rapid increase in A H L. The maximum acceptable gas-liquid ratio is influenced primarily by velocity (Speece et al., 1969), although shaft depth and diameter may also have an effect (Mitchell, 1973). Speece et al. (1969) suggest a 20% air-liquid ratio is about the limit at a velocity of 1.22 m s-1 while at velocities of 1.832.44 m S -1 a 25% air-liquid ratio was satisfactory. In Test Series I,


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck






--~ ~ z




0 958065-

, ' ,--""

I S O 3.0

2.0 ~


t5 ~

, , ,

, 1.0




-11.25~9. ~z5 -0 E







Fig. 5. Effect of off-gas recycling on effluent DO and DN, oxygen absorption efficiency, transfer efficiency, effective gas-liquid ratio and off-gas composition. Temperature, 22.5C; influent DO, 4.32 mg liter-1, influent DN, 14-23 mg liter-Z; shaft depth, 18.29 m; velocity in down-leg 1-08 m s-l; velocity in up-leg, 0.84m s-z.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system COMPUTERSIMULATION


1.40 1

1'321 1.24-






..... 3.0%GIL - - - 5.0% G/L

1.O0 4.0






Fig. 6. Effect of initial oxygen-liquid ratio (G/L) and u-tube shaft depth on the increase in DO resulting from an off-gas recycle rate of 60%. Temperature, 30C; influent DO, 7.54 mg liter-l; velocity in down-leg, 1-08 m s-l; velocity in up-leg, 0-84 m s-1.




o. =E


15.0C 1.3- - - 22.5C ..... 30.0C







Fig. 7. Effect of influent DO (% of saturation) and water temperature on the increase in DO resulting from an off-gas recycle rate of 60%. U-tube shaft depth, 18.29 m;initial oxygen-liquid ratio, 2%.


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

pressure oscillations were observed when the oxygen-liquid ratio exceeded 28% (shaft depth, 6-10 m; system flow rate, 197 liter min-1).
Transfer efficiency Simulation runs indicate transfer efficiency will vary widely with operating conditions. At low influent oxygen-liquid ratios, there is an off-gas recycle rate that will maximize transfer efficiency (Fig. 5). At higher oxygen flow rates, off-gas recycling will result in reduced transfer efficiency. When off-gas is not recycled, there is an oxygen flow rate that will provide maximum transfer efficiency at a given u-tube depth. It is also clear that u-tubes of shallow construction will favor transfer efficiency, e.g. with an influent oxygen-liquid ratio of 5%, transfer efficiency at shaft depths of 18.29 and 6.10 m would be 4.02 and 13.87 kg 02 kW h -1, respectively (temperature, 30C, percent saturation of DO in the influent, 100%). Transfer economy Amortized capital and bulk oxygen are the expenditures of primary importance in the operating budget of a pure oxygen u-tube system. Unlike conventional aeration systems (e.g. surface aerators) energy costs are minimal. Figure 8 provides a comparison of oxygen transfer costs established for a u-tube of 18.29 m depth with and without off-gas recycling. In the analysis, unit oxygen and electricity costs were assumed to be $0-146kg-IO2 and $0-055 kWh -1, respectively. The initial capital costs used are summarized in Table 2. From this comparison the following observations were made:

1. Incorporation of the recycle step results in a minimal (8.4%) increase in the total annualized equipment cost (Table 2). 2. Off-gas recycling reduced variable costs by 49-55%. Total transfer costs were reduced by 25-41%. The savings achieved increase with greater effluent concentrations of DO (Fig. 8). 3. When off-gas is not recycled, there is an effluent DO at which total transfer costs are minimized (Fig. 8). 4. Variable costs for both systems evaluated increase with greater concentrations of effluent DO (Fig. 8).

Performance algorithms
U-tube simulation data were modeled to establish performance algorithms for those who do not have access to computer equipment.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


0.660-~ 0.5940.5280.462~ 0.3960.330 0.550.44--



~ 0.33o 0.22-

~ 0.11








Fig. 8. Effect of off-gas recycling on transfer economy. Temperature, 22-5C; influent DO, 4-32 mg liter-Z; shaft depth, 18-29 m; velocity in down-leg, 1.08 m s-l; velocity in up-leg, 0-84 m s-z.

The algorithmic functions established describe data generated in a series of 432 computer runs in which at each o f three u-tube depths (6-10, 12-19, and 18.29 m) all combinations of the following independent variables were tested: influent oxygen-liquid ratio, 2, 5, 8 and 12%; water temperature, 15, 22-5 and 30C; percent saturation of DO in the influent, 0, 50 and 100%; and off-gas recycle rate, 0, 30, 60 and 90%. The configuration of the system evaluated is the same as that used in Test Series I-III. Barometric pressure and liquid flow were held constant at 760 m m Hg and 197 liter min -~, respectively.


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck TABLE 2

Summary of Costsa for a Concentric Pipe U-tube 18.29 m Deep. Inner Pipe Diameter, 0-203 m ;Outer Casing Diameter, 0.305 m. It is Assumed That Adequate Hydraulic Head is Available for U-tube Operation
Parameter US dollar, 1983

U-tube (PVC) Shaft drilling @ $171 m -1 Casings installed @ $122-6 m-1 Flow control valve Miscellaneous fittings Liquid flowmeter Assembly Recycle equipment Off-gas collector Off-gas blower Assembly Oxygen delivery system Liquid oxygen tank (rental) Oxygen metering system Oxygen sparger Assembly Annualized equipment cost b Without off-gas recycling With off-gas recycling

3 129 2 242 245 463 976 240 2 100 473 120 3 300 year-1 1 600 320 270 4 693 5 088

a Equipment cost estimates are based on bids received for construction at Brunner Island. b Capital recovery factor used is based on a 12% interest rate and a 15-year amortization period.

Following data collection, multiple linear regression was used in conj u n c t i o n w i t h c o m p u t e d correlation o f coefficient values to establish the m o s t appropriate m o d e l form for a given data set. A regression e q u a t i o n predicting e f f l u e n t DO as a f u n c t i o n o f the i n d e p e n d e n t variables tested, excluding %R, is listed below:

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system DOo = -- 3.77 + 12-198(1n G/L) + 0-9069(D) -- 0.1405 (T) + 0-0575 (%S) R 2 = 0.92; SE = 2.97



To correct the above for the effects of off-gas recycling, a dissolved gas multiplier o f the following form was established: D O C F = (DOo)recycling/(DOo)no recycling The regression equation defining the DO o multiplier is In DOCF = 0-16347 -- 0-0922(ln G/L) + 0 . 0 0 2 7 9 ( D ) -- 0-00143 (T) -- 0-00078 (%S) + 0.00393 (%R) R 2 = 0.86; SE = 0.049 A multiplier such as that defined in eqn (19) was established to similarly correct the influent gas-liquid ratio for the effect o f off-gas recycling. The multiplier was postulated to be of the following quadratic form: G / L C F = (1/2X 2) + 1 (21) (20) (19)

The term X is defined below as a function of the independent variables included in eqn (20): l n X = -- 1.0216 + 0.1363(ln G / L ) ~ 0.01(D) + 0 . 0 0 0 9 9 ( T ) + 0.00043(%S) + 0 . 0 2 0 5 6 ( % R ) R 2 = 0-99; SE = 0.055 The algorithms presented here, when used in conjunction with models described in previous sections, provide a relatively simple means of predicting u-tube performance within the range o f operating conditions evaluated. For example, given shaft depth, water temperature, influent DO saturation and gas-liquid ratio, the response o f effluent DO to various rates of off-gas recycling can be characterized (eqns (18)-(20)). Oxygen absorption efficiency can be obtained from eqn (11). To establish transfer efficiency, the power required to recycle off-gas (Pw, compressor) and p u m p water (Pw, pump) must be known (eqn (12)). Pw, pump can be determined by adding the estimated head loss resulting from pipe friction, velocity and elevation changes to the head loss due to two-phase flow (eqn (13)). The latter, AHL, is obtained (22)


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

from eqn (16) using a corrected influent gas-liquid ratio (eqns (21) and (22)). Pw, compressor is calculated using the expression for adiabatic compression (eqn (14)). The absolute pressure differential required, neglecting gas conduit friction losses, is taken as the total pressure drop across the u-tube. The volumetric flow of off-gas being compressed can be derived by subtracting the pure oxygen flow rate from the effective gas--liquid ratio, i.e. ag = (((G/LCF" G/L) -- G/L)/100) Qw (23)

To obtain the mass flow rate from the above, an estimate of the molar composition of the off-gas is required. An expression describing the off-gas mixture (primarily O~ + N2) has not been provided. However, if one assumes the gas is pure oxygen or air, a reasonable approximation of the mass flow and hence Pw, compressor, can be obtained. Disperser depth, system flow rate, and water quality are design variables that have not been incorporated in the computation sequence just described. Their potential effects are addressed briefly in the following paragraphs. Disperser depth Increasing disperser depth will result in reduced oxygen transfer and AHL (Speece et al., 1969). Implicit in the performance algorithms presented above is that commercial oxygen and recycled off-gas is introduced in water at the top of the down-leg shaft. The dispersion of gas at this point will maximize oxygen utilization while also minimizing compressor power requirements. System flow rate The algorithmic functions derived assume a velocity of 1.08 m s-1 in the down-leg and 0.84 m s-1 in the up-leg shafts. Higher velocities may result in a moderate reduction of both effluent DO and AHL (Speece et al., 1969; Mitchell, 1973; Speece et al., 1980). Figure 9 gives a comparison of oxygen transfer data obtained at two flow rates in the experimental u-tube system (Fig. 2). Note that oxygen transfer at 274 liter min -x is nearly the same as that obtained at 197 liter min -~ despite a 39% reduction in residence time. A comparison of corresponding KLa values derived as in Test Series II, and plotted below the transfer data, indicate the reduction in residence time was off-set in this case by increases in the overall transfer coefficient. The increases in KLa are

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system



20.0|& |





0.0 360-



~ 14472"






Fig. 9. Effect of system flow rate on oxygen transfer (ADO) and overall oxygen transfer coefficient (KLa). Shaft depth, 6-10 m. Data have been adjusted to a standard set of conditions (temperature, 27C; influent DO, 7.95 mg liter-l; barometric pressure, 760 mm Hg) using the computer program as in Fig. 4.

attributed to the greater levels o f turbulence associated with the higher flow rate (Mauvinic and Bewtra, 1976).

Water quality
The performance algorithms were established with the assumption that pure water is being treated. Wastewater characteristics such as BOD, COD and suspended solids will, if present, affect both the rate and extent o f gas transfer. The alpha factor (a) is used to represent the ratio o f KLa in wastewater to KLa in pure water under a c o m m o n set o f operating conditions (Gilbert, 1979), i.e. ot

(K La ) w a s t e w a t e r / ( g L a )pua-e water

(24 )


B. J. Watten, L. Todd Beck

Similarly, the beta factor (13) represents the ratio o f C* in wastewater to C* in pure water (Gilbert, 1979):
13 -'~ ( C * )wastewater/ ( C * )pure water


o~ and (3 values were incorporated into eqns (9) and (10) of the computer model. A series o f computer runs were then used to simulate the effects of various combinations of the waste correction factors. The effect o f two combinations on oxygen transfer are given in Table 3. Note that the percent reduction in the change in DO (ADO)remained relatively constant for a given combination o f ot and 13 despite changes in influent oxygen-liquid ratio. Additional runs indicated the percent reduction in ADO was also independent of shaft depth, water temperature and influent DO. Thus the effect o f a given combination of waste correction values can be approximated using a contingency table of ADO multipliers established for a single set o f operating conditions. Multipliers established for a u-tube o f 18.29 m depth are plotted in Fig. 10. It is apparent that the response o f ADO to changes in both ot and 13 is linear. Under the worst case condition represented (i.e.

TABLE 3 Effect of Wastewater Quality on Oxygen Transfer in a U-tube Oxygen Absorption System. Data are Effluent DO in mg liter-1 Followed by the Percent Reduction in ADOa due to a and /3 Values of < 1. Temperature, 22.5C; DO Saturation in Influent, 50%; U-tube Depth, 18.29 m; Velocity in Down-leg Shaft, 1-08 m s-1;Velocity in Up-leg Shaft, 0-84 m s-a
]nfluen t oxygen-liquid ratio (%) Wastewater quality ~ and /3 = 0. 9 a and /3 = 0.8

2 5 8 12

13-4 (15.0%) 27.5 (14.1%) 34-1 (14-4%) 39-2 (14.5%)

11.8 (30.0%) 23-7 (28.2%) 29-1 (28.8%) 33.4 (28.7%)

a ADO = (DO)emuent -- (DO)influent.

Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system





0.82- ~










Fig. 10. Effect of a and 13waste correction values on oxygen transfer. Temperature, 22-5C; influent DO, 4.32 mg liter-l; velocity in down-leg, 1.08 m s-l; velocity in up-leg, 0.84 m s-1. ADO multiplier = (mDO)w~ewater/(,~DO)pure water.

t~ = 0.8; (~ = 0-8), oxygen transfer is reduced to a level o f about 72% o f that expected with pure water. In addition to ~ and ~ factors, u-tube performance will also be affected b y influent dissolved nitrogen (DN) and carbon dioxide (DCO2) concentrations. The algorithms established assume DN and DCO2 are at normal saturation concentrations. Treatment of water with DN and DCOz above C* will reduce further the mole fraction of 02 in the gas phase within the u-tube which, in turn, will decrease oxygen transfer (eqns (2) and (5)). The extent o f the effect will increase with (1) the supersaturation level o f DN and DCO2, and (2) the off-gas recycle rate. In summary, data presented in this report indicate off-gas recycling can result in a substantial savings in both variable and total costs of oxygen transfer with only a minor increase in capital expenditures. The great flexibility in effluent DO concentration provided by u-tube oxygen absorption systems has also been demonstrated. This performance characteristic, combined with simple construction and low energy requirements, makes aquacultural applications of such systems highly attractive.



We thank T. Fridirici, B. Nguyen and M. Srnyser for assistance in data collection and J. Colt, V. Mudrak, R. Soderberg and R. Speece for reviewing this article.

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Modeling gas transfer in a u-tube oxygen absorption system


Speece, R. E. & Orosco, R. (1970). Design of u-tube aeration systems. Am. Soc. Civil Eng., 96 (SA4), 715-25. Speece, R. E., Adams, J. L. & Wooldridge, C. B. (1969). U-tube aeration operating characteristics. Am. Soc. Civil Engr., 95 (SA3), 563-74. Speece, R. E., Gallagher, D., Krick, C. & Thomson, R. (1980). Pilot performance of deep u-tubes.Prog. Water Technol., 12,395-407. Speece, R. E., Eheart, J. W. & Givler, C. A. (1983). U-tube aeration sensitivity to design parameters. J. Wat. Poll. Contr. Fed., 55, 1065-9. Tsivoglou, E. C., O'Connell, R. L., Walter, C. M., Godsil, P. J. & Logsdon, G. S. (1965). Tracer measurements of atmospheric reaeration - 1. Laboratory studies. J. IVat. Poll. Contr. Fed., 37, 1343-62. Weiss, R. F. (1970). The solubility of nitrogen, oxygen, and argon in water and sea water. Deep-Sea Res., 17, 721-35. Westers, H. & Pratt, K. M. (1977). Rational design of hatcheries for intensive salmonid culture, based on metabolic characteristics.Prog. Fish-Cult., 39, 157-65. Yunt, F. W. (1979). Gas flows and power measurement. In: Proceedings: Workshop Toward an Oxygen Transfer Standard, EPA-600/9-78-021, ed. W. C. Boyle. US Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, Ohio, pp. 105-27.