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JANMOWILL ANDLARS-UNOAXELSSON

A
xial gasturbinetechnologyisthedom-
inantandappropriateconfigurationfor
largegasturbines. Major power plants
andindustrial plants deploy axial gas
turbinestoprovidepowerandheatfordistrict
heating, process, facilities and electricity to
thegrid.
Less discussed, though, are the lower
powerrangeswherebothaxial andradial gas
turbines are available. It is
worthwhile to compare axial
and radial turbines where the
technologiesoverlap.
Engines with radial com-
pressorsandradial turbinescan
effectively be used in single
shaft turbines in power ranges
from as low as 1 kW up to
approximately 2 MW. If the
configurationiscombinedwith
an axial power turbine, these
types of turbines would be
applicablefor apower rangeup
toaround4MW.
Consequently, industrial turbine
engines below2MW normally useradial
compressors (centrifugal), but the choice
of turbinetypevaries. Astherangelowers,
radial turbines havemoreadvantagesover
theaxial turbines.
The chief difference between axial and
radial turbines is the way the air flows
through the compressor and turbine. In a
radial turbine, theinletairflowisradial tothe
shaft, whereasanaxial turbineisaturbinein
whichtheairflowisparallel totheshaft.
Generally, theaxial turbinedisc is pro-
tectedfromtheheat that theturbineblades
areexposedto. Notsowiththeradial turbine
wherethehotmass-flowexpandsinboththe
impeller portionandtheexducer portionof
theturbine.
However, a radial turbine can accom-
modateanexpansionratio of about 9to 1
in a single stage. An axial turbine would
commonly require three stages to handle
suchanexpansion.
This difference in expansion between
axial andradial turbinescanbeexplainedby
thefollowingequation:
W
s
=U
2
*C
w2
- U
3
* C
w3
WhereWs is the stage work per unit
massflow, U
2
istheinlet bladespeed, U
3
is the exit blade speed, C
w2
is the inlet
tangential velocityandC
w3
istheexittan-
gential velocity.
Inanaxial turbineU
2
andU
3
areapprox-
imatelyequal, whereasinaradial turbineU
2
is greater than U
3
. Looking at the above
equationonecanseethatthestagework, for
the same change in tangential velocity, is
larger for a radial turbine compared to an
axial turbine.
In a centrifugal compressor, the air
receives greater energy as it accelerates at
increasing diameters. This velocity energy
is converted into pressure energy when
sloweddowninthestaticdiffusor. Anaxial
compressor flowstheair parallel totheaxes
providingincreasinglift (pressure) depend-
ingonthenumber of stagesandintermedi-
atestators.
Inthecombustor, heat isaddedcausing
thevolumeof theairtobeincreased.Thehot
gasseswouldentertheturbineviafixednoz-
zleguidevanesdirectingtheflowagainstthe
turbine. If theturbineisof theradial type, the
peripheral speedof theturbineshouldbeat
or closetothespeedof thegasstreamenter-
ingtheturbine. Inthisway, theaddedstag-
nation temperature, which a lower speed
axial turbinewouldencounter wouldnot be
there.Thisenablestheradial turbinetooper-
ateuncooled at up to around 100

C above
axial turbines.
Radial turbines are able to do this
due to the Eiffel Tower cross section
of theturbinewithasubstantial huband
thinner blades.
Theradial turbinefunctionsintheoppo-
siteway toacentrifugal compressor: Asthe
flowlosesspeedandtemperaturetransferring
energy to the turbine, the flow enters the
exhaust diffusor at lower than atmospheric
pressure providing some suction before
exhaustingatatmosphericpressureattheend.
Anaxial turbinebladeissimilartoasmall
airplanewing. If toomuchpowerisextracted
fromit, it will stall, theequivalent of lost lift
inanaircraft.Thatiswhyittakestwotothree
stagesandintermediatestatorbladestomatch
oneradial turbinestage.
Themost convenient rotor arrangement
foranall-radial configurationutilizingacen-
trifugal compressor andradial turbinewould
be a cantilevered arrangement with both
bearingslocatedinfrontof thecompressorin
thecoldpartof theturbine.
This wouldbedifficult to achieveusing
axial turbines. Thebearingswouldhavetobe
inthehot sectionof axial turbines andthey
wouldhaveashorterlifeasaresult. However,
if thereisarequirementtocombinetheradial
configurationwithanindependentpowertur-
bine, bearingsinthehot part of
theenginewouldbeneeded.
One distinct advantage of
anaxial turbineisthepossibili-
ty of being air cooled. In this
wayaxial turbinescanbeoper-
ated at much higher tempera-
tures than radials and achieve
greater efficiencies in higher
powerranges. Coolingof radial
turbineshavebeenattemptedin
thepast, but has not beensuc-
cessful.
Cooling of small axial tur-
bines, however, also poses
problems as intricatecoolingholes become
smaller andmorecomplex. Thecloggingof
thecoolingholesisasourceof performance
degradation during the turbine life time.
Since the radial turbine normally does not
includecoolingholes, itsperformanceduring
theoperationremainsnearlythesame.
Itwouldappear, therefore, thatforsingle-
shaft turbine engines below 2 MW an all
radial concepthascertainadvantages. Radial
turbines have the capability to operate
uncooledatahigherturbineinlettemperature
thanuncooledaxial turbines.
The radial configuration has fewer
stages, isshorterinlengthandismorerobust
thantheaxial configurationandcanachieve
longer lifeandlessmaintenance. Thesefea-
tures are generally sufficient to give radial
turbinestheedgebelowaround2MW.
But, if aseparatepower turbineisneed-
ed, axial turbines might be preferred. For
higherpowerratings, thecooledaxial turbine
is thelogical choice. Thelimitation in size
prevents the radial concept being used for
larger sizes.
Authors: J anMowill is Founder andChairman
of OPRA Turbines. Lars-UnoAxelssonis Chief
Engineer, Development, OPRA Turbines, aman-
ufacturer of advanced, clean, lowemissiongas
turbinegeneratingsets for 1-10MW power
generationsolutions for oil andgas andindustri-
al customers. For moreinformation, visit
www.opraturbines.com.
TI
GAS TURBINES
AXIAL AND RADIAL TURBINES
HOW DO THEY COMPARE IN THE 1-TO-3 MW POWER RANGE?
32 Turbomachinery International November/December 2012 www.turbomachinerymag.com
An all radial 2 MW range gas turbine: The OP16
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