International Workshop and Conference
February 2005

Sediment Erosion in Hydraulic Turbines and Experiences with
Advanced Coating Technologies
Helmut Keck*, Roger Dekumbis, Mirjam Sick
R&D Department
VA TECH HYDRO, Hardstrasse 319, CH-8023 Zurich, Switzerland
Andreas Lohmberg
Sulzer Innotec Ltd.
P.O.Box, 8600 Winterthur, Switzerland

Key words: CFD, coating, erosion, water turbine
The erosion in different types of turbines is discussed. The reasons why Francis turbines are
less beneficial with respect to erosion than Pelton or Kaplan turbines are explained. New
technologies such as CFD-simulation including numerical prediction of relative erosion
intensities and advanced coating applications are shown. The examples out of the experience
of VA TECH HYDRO cover all types of turbines in various continents (Europe, South
America, Asia). With up-to-date know-how in abrasion research a further exploration of
Hydro power also in highly silt-laden rivers can be promoted.

• Medium phase: the planner. Mistakes in the early phase can never be compensated later. • Late phase: the repair intervals have to be selected carefully: a more frequent repair might be economical due to the extreme losses in efficiency with heavily worn components. and cavitation free in a wide load range. low setting level and low specific speed to provide good safety margin with respect to cavitation and to allow a design with small relative flow velocities. The layout of the power house and the electromechanical equipment must be “erosion friendly”: Selection of the appropriate type and number of units. the designer and the operator must be aware that the units should be run close to best efficiency point all the time. Mirjam Sick. A continuous efficiency monitoring equipment and a planning of stand still in times of 2 . part load operation should be avoided (-> planning of the role of the plant in the grid). The flow behaviour including sand particles must be followed from the catchment areas and the upper reservoir throughout all the turbine components towards the outlet. Andreas Lohmberg 1 Introduction Sediment erosion in hydraulic turbines cannot be avoided completely but can be reduced to an economically acceptable level. • Medium scale: the turbines shall be designed for an uniform velocity distribution without zones of vortices or large gradients. the number of units should fit the variation of discharge and the expected stand stills for repair (-> planning of the power house). The erosion resistance of the coatings depends on the size and hardness of the sand particles. the impact angle of the sand on the surface (strongly influenced by local vortices and turbulence) and eventual implosion of cavitation bubbles (coatings are rather sensitive to high pressure peaks caused by cavitation or stone impacts). not even with the best coatings. Scaling in time: • Early phase: the concept of a power plant in silt-laden waters has to be planned to be erosion-friendly from the very beginning. To achieve this target many aspects from practical experience up to most recent technologies must be taken into account. Roger Dekumbis. • Small scale: the best protection of surfaces is achieved with hard coatings where tungsten carbides are embedded in thin layers (see below). The variation of head should be small (-> planning of the site). see above comments under large and medium scale. Parts that are subject to erosion should be easily replaceable and accessible for coatings. Different scales in space and time have to be respected: Scaling in space: • Large scale: the dimensions and design of the upper reservoir must be such that water with the minimum possible sand content enters the intake to the power house.Helmut Keck.

India maximum sand content in the inflowing water can determine the optimal timing of the repairs. needles and seat rings (high flow velocity) • Bucket inlet edges (high impact angle) • Bucket surface (high flow velocity. 2 Critical components in turbines In general those components are critical with respect to erosion that have: • • • Zones of high flow velocity near the wall Flows where particles are hitting the surface with high angle of attack (inlet edges. eventual also cavitation partly caused by damaged inlet edges) Fig.INDIAHYDRO. 1 Needles of a 2-jet Pelton unit subject to sand erosion. The coated and uncoated needle have been in operation simultaneously (the coating is SXH 48 by VA TECH HYDRO).e. Fig. i. Wavy surface patterns generated by erosion can easily generate local cavitation in zones which were cavitation free in the original smooth condition. 3 . Please note that the undamaged coated needle had the identical impact by sediments. Implosion of cavitation bubbles might produce micro jets where particles are shot against the wall and create high pressure peaks in shock waves that damage the metallurgic surface (and also the hard coatings). high force perpendicular to the wall. Such damaged surfaces are again more vulnerable to sand erosion due to the distortion of flow. 2]: • • • Cavitation inception occurs where the tensile strength of water is exceeded in low pressure zones – fine grain particles reduce the tensile strength like nuclei. curved surfaces with strong centrifugal forces on particles. 1 shows a typical example of erosion on a needle of a 2-jet Pelton. Based on above basics it is quite easy to predict the zones of high erosion in the various types of turbines: Pelton: • Nozzles. New Delhi. vortices attached to or near the walls) Implosion of cavitation bubbles close to the walls The combined effect of cavitation and sand content is a dangerous mutual amplifier [1. February 2005.

For pumps with unregulated diffuser vanes the erosion in the tip clearance gap of guide vanes is eliminated. 3. Fig 4. Mirjam Sick. A major concern for pumps is the interaction between erosion and cavitation at the runner inlet edge. see Fig. Roger Dekumbis. The erosion in labyrinth rings and the increase of leakage losses is a major origin of the efficiency drop of high head Francis units in silt-laden water. Therefore coating of the blade inlet is very beneficial. • • • Labyrinth rings: strong vortices in the chambers of stepped labyrinths. The highest erosion occurs in the gap between guide vanes and facing plates triggered by the vortices of the gap flow.2. The highest erosion occurs usually in the zone of the horse shoe vortex in the junction between inlet edges and crown and band (Fig 4. except that the dynamic loading of the guide vanes and hence the non-uniformity in pump mode is even larger than for Francis units. 4 . in comparison with a numerical simulation. Pumps / Pump Turbines: For pump turbines the situation is analogous to Francis units. 2: Typical erosion pattern on the facing plate of a Francis turbine. the highest erosion takes place on the pressure side due to the forces acting on the particles.Helmut Keck. Andreas Lohmberg Francis: • Guide vanes: at the outlet of the guide vanes the flow velocity is much larger than the relative flow velocity at runner inlet (esp. Fig. high impact angle. for high head units). see chapter 6. The vortices (in the fillets) and downstream of the trailing edge create nice erosion patterns on crown and band. see Fig.2 above) Runner outlet: although the flow velocities are larger on the suction side. At small guide vane openings (part load) the centrifugal forces acting on sand particles can be larger than the drag force of the water entering the runner [3]: the particles are centrifuged on an orbit between guide vanes and runner causing severe erosion on the inner surface of the guide vanes. 2.2 middle and below. Runner inlet edges The high impact angle causes erosion despite the rather low relative velocity.

Ease of repair: For Pelton units exchanging the needles and seat rings and repairing the buckets or exchanging the runner is quick and easy. partly due to it’s’ combination with tip cavitation.INDIAHYDRO. Severe damages on the nozzles and inlet edges of the buckets will create significant drop in efficiency. • The eroded runner bears the risk of dangerous cracks. 3 Impact on efficiency and selection of the right type of turbine For Francis turbines already small erosion intensities in the zone of the guide vane tip clearance and the labyrinth rings can cause a dramatic loss in efficiency. exchange labyrinth rings. However. The disadvantages of a Francis unit for erosive water are manifold: • Many components suffer from erosion and require a complete dismantling for repair. A wavy bucket surface increases the friction losses but these are relatively small. For Kaplan units the impact of erosion on efficiency depends on the sensitivity of the design on an increased tip clearance of the blades. • The design for exchangeable labyrinth rings and facing plates increases the costs. facing plates. 3 Pump impeller where 1 blade has been coated for test purposes with a VA TECH HYDRO coating. Besides that also the axial thrust is strongly increased with worn out labyrinths.2. see chapter 6. New Delhi. repair the runner with narrow spacing at blade outlet). repairing an eroded Francis unit is time consuming and expensive (dismantling runner. For Pelton units the impact of erosion on efficiency is much less. especially on the suction side near the blade tip. • Runners of small and medium size cannot be fully coated due to limited access. Typically the tip vortex is a major origin of erosion. 5 . Kaplan: • Blades: The flow velocities on the blades are larger than in the rest of the machine. India Fig. February 2005. Fig. guide vanes. 10. The uncoated blade shows severe erosion at blade inlet near shroud. Also for Kaplan units the possibilities to repair the blade tips are good.

CFD simulation helps to identify those zones which are affected most by erosion and to decide. wakes and vortices lead to irregular movements of the particles causing strong erosion damage on the surfaces. Conclusion: in the high head range (above 300 m) the Pelton concept is superior to the Francis concept. situated in the Swiss Alps. Still. Enable cavitation free conditions in a wide operating range. Roger Dekumbis. Therefore surfaces have to be protected by coating. Andreas Lohmberg • • • Eroded labyrinth rings strongly increase the axial thrust and reduce the efficiency. 4 Benefits of CFD to reduce erosion CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) has been used as tool for the hydraulic design and optimisation of water turbines for more than 15 years. and for the low head range (below 50 m) Kaplan units should be preferred versus Francis units. At part load: erosion on guide vanes due to centrifugal effect on sand particles and erosion inside the runner due to part load vortices. the frequency of repair and the loss of production due to standstill. It shall not be forgotten that the long term economics of a plant with erosive waters does not primarily depend on the efficiency in the as-new condition but on the integral efficiency between two repairs. Especially the step from 3D-Euler analysis in the runner alone to 3D-Navier Stokes computations in all turbine components enhanced the numerical capabilities tremendously [4]. It is evident that a Francis runner can be designed for improved erosion behaviour at the expense of a somewhat lower efficiency [5]. optimisation of the hydraulic profile with respect to erosion damage aims at uniformity of the flow and the elimination of vortices. In order to reduce repair costs guide vanes and runner were coated which then led to a significantly longer lifetime of the machine.Helmut Keck. But what can CFD contribute to reduce erosion? There are 2 main targets: A. CFD supports the design engineer in evaluating alternative designs by identifying zones of high risk of erosion. 4. Thus. Leakage flow. The drop in efficiency for a certain amount of silt passing through the unit is larger than for Pelton or Kaplan. in cases of highly silt-laden water erosion takes place even in the best–designed turbine. which surfaces have to be coated. was subject to strong erosion damage and had to be repaired regularly. high turbulence. This section presents the CFD simulation of the flow field and the predicted erosion damage in a Francis runner whereby the results of the CFD simulation are compared to the observations made at the plant. Improve the flow uniformity and identify zones where coating should be applied. Mirjam Sick. Here. the costs for each repair. B. At the same time CFD simulations were carried out in order to identify the underlying flow patterns and in order to validate the CFD method by comparing the simulation results with the 6 .1 The Francis runner case The power plant under consideration.

4. A comparison of the two models in the present case shows more realistic results with the Tabakoff model. Calculations have been performed for different particle sizes but also for particle samples according to the field measurement. Fig. Spatial discretisation is of second order accuracy with a blend of first order accuracy. Each particle represents a sample of particles that follow an identical path. In a second step erosion of the labyrinth seal was investigated and described in ref.e. February 2005. All simulations presented here are carried out with the Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) solver CFX5 (ref. It is discretised using a 180’000 nodes hexahedral computational grid. Out of these data the removal of the wall is calculated using either the Finnie model or the Tabakoff model (see ref. The computational domain includes one runner blade only with periodic boundary conditions and with a prolonged inlet and outlet region in order to prevent strong effects due to inlet and outlet boundary conditions. During the Lagrangian tracking the number of particles impinging on a surface is recorded. see Fig. In a first step the erosion damage on the guide vanes was predicted numerically. In the present case both models show the same results which means that one way coupling is sufficient. Fig. One simulation was carried out using the Reynolds stress model but the change of turbulence model showed no significant effect on the results. 4 Particle samples: Field test and RosinRammler approximation 7 . The motion of particles is described by the Basset-Boussinesq-Oseenequation whereby experimentally based correlations are used for the drag and the influence of turbulent fluid motion. In order to check grid dependency of the results one simulation was carried out on a 670’000 nodes grid showing no remarkable discrepancies to the simulation on the coarse grid. [6]. 4. one way coupling is no more sufficient but a two way coupling has to be applied which takes into account the interaction between the fluid and the particles in one combined simulation. 2 shows the typical erosion on the facing plates with good correspondence to the CFD-erosion simulation. In a one way coupling the flow field is simulated without particles and the Lagrangian tracking is done as post processing. India observations at site.2 CFD method for erosion prediction Sand erosion is modelled by applying the Lagrange method i.INDIAHYDRO. turbulence is modelled with the standard k-ε model. If the volume fraction of particles is very high. [7]. [8]). New Delhi. tracking a large number of individual particles in the flow field. [8]). This paper presents the results of the CFD simulation of the runner at full load operation. ref.

Andreas Lohmberg 4. Mirjam Sick. shroud Fig. especially on the suction side at shroud • on the pressure side of the blade • downstream of the trailing edge on the shroud and on the hub. 5 Comparison between CFD prediction and erosion damage observed at site 8 . suction side Trailing edge. CFD prediction Observation at site Leading edge. hub Trailing edge.Helmut Keck. Roger Dekumbis.3 Results Most severe erosion damage is experienced at site • at the leading edge of the runner.

and facing rings each. It is a valuable tool to obtain relative erosion intensities and to evaluate different designs relative to each other. for example thermal treatment under reactive atmosphere. 5 Coating technologies There are different coating technologies actually used for fighting wear due to silt on components in hydro machinery. Best results were obtained by using the HVOF process in combination with tungsten carbide based powder. We have tested different coatings under laboratory conditions using for example Plasma spraying and HVOF-Spraying (HVOF: high velocity oxygen fuel) [9. 4 MW. Since 1983 VA TECH HYDRO coated over 2300 components for hydroelectric machinery: for example for Pelton turbines 90 runners with over 500 pairs of nozzle tips and -rings. chromium oxide and tungsten carbide to soft coatings. At blade outlet (trailing edge) the pattern of erosion damage is well predicted by the CFD simulation both on hub and shroud. The basis for this success is the high resistance of such coatings against silt abrasion combined with the high flexibility of the method to coat different components at reasonable cost. 5. The CFDsimulation indicates this difference in erosion at the inlet edge between central disc and lateral shroud quite nicely.INDIAHYDRO. the loss of 9 . 6. P=85. 600 wicket gates and over 100 labyrinth.1 Pelton runner in Chile The Pelton plant Alfalfal/Chile has 2 vertical 6-jets Pelton units (H=690m. The created or deposited materials range from nitrides. 10]. the pressure side of the blade and downstream of the runner blade as to be seen in Fig. In the central runner disc in the plane of symmetry of the 2-flooded runner such a horse shoe vortex does not exist as the inlet of the disc is hit by the main flow without shear from side wall boundary layers.or Pump turbines 96 runners. where a dense hard-metal like coating is produced. bucket width: 545 mm). tungsten carbide based HVOF coatings are a standard in combating wear. Fig. India Accordingly. Field tests at hydropower stations from pilot customers in Switzerland (Pelton and Francis). Chile (Pelton) as well as from China (Kaplan) confirmed the excellent results obtained under laboratory conditions (see examples below). 6 Examples From the very large experience of VA TECH HYDRO in coating all kinds of turbine components in different regions of the world the following selection shall be presented: 6. the CFD simulation shows most damage at the leading edge. thermal spraying and painting. it shall be mentioned that the CFD simulation is not yet able to provide accurate absolute erosion predictions. New Delhi. for Francis. The powder is injected in a rocket engine-like equipment and then propelled at extremely high speed to the surface. This vortex is caused by the fact that the inlet boundary layer from the distributor walls is hitting the blunt inlet edge of the runner. The erosion for uncoated runners was severe. February 2005. Today. However. At the junction between inlet edge and the 2 lateral shrouds (outside bands) the classical horse shoe vortex causes high local erosion.

Mirjam Sick. The coating by VA TECH HYDRO gave excellent results. the achievable turbine output has been recorded as function of sediment load passed through the turbine. This means a factor of 10 in economy of material lost! In addition. Fig. Fig. Fig.8 kg/m3 and about 70 % of the particles have a hardness above 5. 1 year of operation. The two coated runners had a loss of material of 100 and 150 kg after an operational period with 105’000 and 120’000 t sand. However. 8: Output of Pelton unit Alfalfal with coated and uncoated runners. Andreas Lohmberg material due to erosion was 1’200 kg after 105’000 t sand. respectively.5 Mohs. Fig. the newest generation of VA TECH HYDRO coatings SXH 70 (HVOF) has proven to be an outstanding success. 7: Runner Alfalfal with VA TECH (Alfalfal/Chile) after 105’000 t sand passage HYDRO coating SXH 70 after 120’000 t or approx.2 and 1. The first coating SXH 48 (Plasma) gave already a nice improvement. 7.Helmut Keck. 10 . 8. The sand concentration is between 1. Roger Dekumbis. sand passage. 6: Uncoated Pelton runner Fig.

The comparison between the old and new runner after approx. The quality of coating strongly depends on the applied material (e. New Delhi.5: 56 % (mostly quartz from Swiss glaciers) The original units built in the 1960’s did not have any coating and suffered from severe drop in efficiency due to erosion. With the coating applied by VA TECH HYDRO after a complete overhaul in the 1990’s showed that the efficiency drop over time has been significantly reduced.INDIAHYDRO. 8’000 hours of operation is as follows: 11 . February 2005. 6. mainly in the labyrinths and gaps between guide vanes and facing plates.5. by robotics). 9. hours of operation 6. the application method (e.g.g. India It shall be emphasised that large differences between various coating technologies exist. Fig.g. After 25’000 hours of operation the gain in production due to higher efficiency of the coated turbines corresponds to 6 times the costs of 1 complete coating. 9: Benefit of coating for the high head Francis unit Pradella. HVOF) and the practical know-how in spraying (e. tungsten carbide). Fig.costs of 1 coating The main parameters of the plant Pradella with 4 units are: Head range: 430 – 500 m Output per units: 80 MW Out runner diameter: 1’800 mm Sand content: 0.8 kg / m3 Minerals with Mohs > 5.3 Kaplan turbine in China The plant Qing Tong Xia on the Yellow River (with sand concentrations up to 20 kg/m3) has been upgraded by new VA TECH HYDRO Kaplan runners whereby both an erosion-friendly blade design as well as a coating of the new generation has been applied.1 – 0.2 Francis Turbine in Switzerland years of operation 92 0 2 4 91 ef wi ficie th nc ou y t c dr oa op tin g efficiency [%] 90 89 6 8 efficie n with S cy develo p XH c oatin ment g 9 8 7 efficiency gain 6 5 coated components: • guide vanes • facing rings n • labyrinths i o ne ct r o i t u • runner o od f un 88 87 4 3 2 t pr efi ne n bi be tur 86 10 1 0 85 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 Ratio production benefit vs. The time span between repairs has been increased by a factor of 2.

On the remaining part of the blade the coating was still in very good shape providing a perfect protection of the steel surface of the blades. In this area. 9a. Roger Dekumbis.Helmut Keck.017 mm (5 % of coating thickness) below 0. Fig. 11. 11: after 8250 h: the only part of the coated blade where erosion was noticeable is a small zone at blade tip due to local cavitation. Andreas Lohmberg Eroded blade area Material loss Average erosion depth Uncoated old runner 100 % of surface 700 – 1300 kg 1 -2 mm Estimated loss in efficiency above 2 % Coated new runner 1.2 % Fig. t. 10b: SXH-coated Kaplan runner (after similar erosive conditions as uncoated runner in Fig. Mirjam Sick. 10a and 10b show the uncoated old runner and the coated new runner. 12 .2 % of surface not measurable 0. Fig. respectively after 8’250 hours of operation the amount of sand having passed through the turbine was 11 Mio. Fig. Only a small zone on the suction side near the tip vortex showed some erosion. 10a: uncoated Kaplan runner Fig. the tip vortex contains a small amount of cavitation making the erosion intensity more aggressive and the coating less resistant.

. There is no reason not to utilize the renewable Hydro energy in regions with high sediment content in rivers. E. References [1] Duan.. HYDRO 2004. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank their employers for permission to publish this paper. Shrinivas Rao. V. 2004. P. February 2005. e20. 685-691. Sulzer Technical Review 1/97 [5] Pande. 2004 [4] Keck H. Sick.. München. [9] Grein. K. “Surface protection against Hydroabrasive Wear”.INDIAHYDRO.. P. A. A... (2002) 13 .. WEAR 233-235 (1999)... [8] ANSYS CFX. M. sustainable solutions from the project planning to turbine design up to proper application of coatings must be put together. Krause. C.. Dubrovnik. India 7 Conclusion Today the know-how about flow phenomena with impact on erosion and appropriate coating technologies is such that an economic operation of turbines in silt-laden waters is possible. Harwell.6 Theory Manual. New Delhi. “Abrasive Erosion and Corrosion of Hydraulic Machinery”. “Möglichkeiten zur Abführung von Feststoffen aus Stauseen über die Triebwasserleitung”. 22nd IAHR Symposium. Schachenmann.Y. Proceedings of Hydro 2003. “Is it possible to avoid cavitation pitting and reduce sand erosion?”. Karelin. In case of existing reservoirs with high sediment content it might even be worthwhile to continuously release a controlled amount of sediment through coated turbines [12]. Proceedings of 14th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Cavitation. Porto [3] Thapa. Brekke H. Sulzer Technical Review 1 (1992) [10] Krause. “A breakthrough – CFD Flow Simulation for a Complete Turbine”. M. E. [12] Huwyler. H. Sulzer Technical Review 2 (1993) [11] Grein.07. 2002 [2] Brekke H. P. Drtina. B....G. “Abrasion research and prevention”. R. Lang.... Croatia.. Drtina. V. Stockholm.Uni der Bundeswehr.. However... Conf.. UK. “Effect of sand particle size and surface curvature in erosion of hydraulic turbine”. 3-6 November 2003. Kalberer. Fachtagung „Entlandung von Stauräumen“. Müller. [6] Drtina.. M. H. CFX5. 1994. V. “Abrasion in hydroelectric machinery”. A new design approach for combating silt erosion. H. Imperial College Press. P. Sulzer Hydro Report. [7] Mack. Abrasion on a Francis turbine guide vane – Numerical simulation and field tests. Numerical prediction of erosion on guide vanes in labyrinth seals in hydraulic turbines.34-ZC97-10. Grein.