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3D numerical simulation of transient processes in hydraulic turbines

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2010 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 12 012071
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25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

3D numerical simulation of transient processes in hydraulic

S Cherny1, D Chirkov1, D Bannikov2, V Lapin1, V Skorospelov3, I Eshkunova1
and A Avdushenko2

Institute of Computational Technologies SB RAS

Acad. Lavrentjev avenue 6, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Department of Mechanics and Mathematics, Novosibirsk State University
Pirogov st. 2, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Institute of Mathematics SB RAS
Acad. Koptug avenue 4, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russia
Abstract. An approach for numerical simulation of 3D hydraulic turbine flows in transient
operating regimes is presented. The method is based on a coupled solution of incompressible
RANS equations, runner rotation equation, and water hammer equations. The issue of setting
appropriate boundary conditions is considered in detail. As an illustration, the simulation
results for runaway process are presented. The evolution of vortex structure and its effect on
computed runaway traces are analyzed.

1. Introduction
Transient processes in hydraulic turbines are transitions from one operating point to another, controlled by
valve or wicket gate opening, payload applied to generator, etc. Examples of such processes are power
increase/decrease, runaway, emergency turbine shutdown, and so on. The majority of them pass far from the best
efficiency point, in areas of unstable operation, where strong non-stationarity of the flow is observed. Moreover,
most of transient processes are associated with significant discharge changes, causing water hammer waves,
traveling back and forth through the whole water system. These compressible effects introduce additional
dynamics in transient processes, making the task of simulation rather complex.
Nowadays the most robust approach for investigation of transient behavior in hydroelectric plants is 1D
hydroacoustic theory. It is based on hyperbolic system of mass and momentum continuity equations for compressible
fluid (see Krivchenko et al. [1], [2] and Nicolet [3]). In frames of this approach and with the aid of electrical analogy
one can consider branched pipe systems, and take into account all basic components of hydro power plant, such as
surge tanks, valves, etc. [3]. At that the turbine itself is represented by its equivalent hydraulic resistance and
inductance, taken from turbine efficiency hill-chart. Therefore application of this approach requires turbine hill-chart
to be known a priory. Also 1D approach can not be used to describe and simulate unsteady three-dimensional flow
structures, such as vortices, recirculations, cavitation, etc., arising in flow passage at transients. One way to overcome
this difficulty is to assume that instantaneous flow field behavior in a given moment of transient process is the same
as its behavior in a corresponding stationary operating point of a steady state hill-chart. However it is not quite true in
reality (see Krivchenko et al. [1]).
From the other hand in last two decades CFD models and algorithms well advanced in simulation of steady and
unsteady three-dimensional turbulent flows in hydraulic machines. Both local flow structure and integral
characteristics, such as energy losses can now be numerically analysed. As an example, Vu and Retieb [4] showed
that steady-state stage computations are capable to accurately predict efficiency characteristics of Francis turbines
near the optimum. Authors experience (see Cherny et al. [5]) shows good predicting capabilities of RANS
models in computing local and integral flow parameters of turbines and pumps in a relatively wide range of
regime parameters around best efficiency point. Of coarse, moving far from the optimum, for example to part load
or towards runaway conditions, the flow becomes substantially unsteady, highly turbulent and cavitating, indicating
that steady state single phase RANS assumptions become invalid and can not be used.

c 2010 IOP Publishing Ltd

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

Although accurate and efficient simulation of unsteady flow phenomena remains one of the main challenges
for CFD in hydraulic machinery, some authors gained success in this field. For example, Ruprecht et al. [6], who
used VLES, and Vu et al. [7], who used standard k- model, accurately simulated vortex rope precession in draft
tube at part load.
The objective of the present work is to apply 3D unsteady incompressible fluid flow model to investigate nonstationary effects in transient processes of Francis turbine. As shown before, simulation of such processes
require consideration of an extended water system, at least including the penstock. The idea is to combine
unsteady RANS solver for the turbine domain with 1D water hammer equations for the penstock. An attempt to
combine 1D equations of hydroacoustics with 3D CFD was undertaken previously by Ruprecht et al. [6], in
order to investigate system response on pressure fluctuations induced by draft tube vortex rope precession. But in
their simulations 3D model was used only for the draft tube, while the turbine itself was represented by its hill
chart, as in 1D approach.
In this work the methodology for simultaneous numerical solution of 1D penstock hydroacoustics and 3D
incompressible fluid flow dynamics in wicket gates, runner, and diffuser, is developed. The numerical method is
applied for computation of turbine runaway process.

2. Governing equations
The idea of combined hydroacoustic 3D simulation of transient process is the following. The whole water
system of hydro power plant is divided in two parts, Fig. 1. First is a pipe line where water hammer simulation is
carried out using 1D theory. The second part is the turbine, consisted of distributor, runner and draft tube, where
the flowfield is governed by 3D Navier-Stokes equations. The solution in both parts is found simultaneously. It
should be noted that flow-field in spiral case is not computed. Instead, spiral case is represented by its energy

Fig. 1 Simplified water system of hydroelectric plant divided in two parts.

Non-stationary flowfield inside the turbine passage is described by 3D unsteady Reynolds-averaged NavierStokes equations for incompressible fluid. Absolute reference frame is used for static elements (distributor and
draft tube), while rotating reference frame is used for the runner, rotating with angular velocity around the
Ox3 axis, directed downwards. Thus for the runner domain governing equations are

u j
x j

ui (uiu j ) p

x j
xi x j

= 0,


u u j
+ f i ,
eff i +


i = 1, 2, 3 ,


25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

where p =

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p 2
+ k . Inertia and gravity terms in eq. (2) are f1 = x1 2 + 2u2 , f 2 = x2 2 2u1 ,

f 3 = g . Either standard or Kim-Chen [8] k- turbulence model with log-law wall function near the solid walls
is used to evaluate effective viscosity eff and turbulence kinetic energy k needed for the mean flow equations
(1), (2).
Runner angular velocity , appeared in the right hand side of eq. (2), in general varies with time in
accordance to angular momentum equation


= M R ((t )) M Gen (t ) ,


which is to be solved simultaneously with equations (1), (2). In (3) Iz is a summary moment of inertia of runner
and generator; MR is a runner torque; MGen is a payload torque, applied to the generator shaft.
In present study a simplified pipe line consisting of a single penstock of length L and constant cross section
Sp is considered, see Fig 1. Elastic water hammer propagation in this penstock is well described by the following
one-dimensional hyperbolic system (energy loss is neglected):

m c 2 Q
t + gS x = 0

Q gS m
t + p x = 0


where m = p + z is a piezometric head, Q is a discharge, c is a pipe wave speed. In present computations c

was taken 1200 m/s.

3. Numerical method
Fluid flow equations (1), (2) are solved numerically using artificial compressibility method. Dual time
stepping is used for unsteady problems. In pseudotime equations are marched using implicit finite volume
scheme. Third order accurate MUSCL scheme is used for discretisation of convective terms, while 2nd order
central difference scheme is used for viscous terms. Second order backward scheme is applied for physical time
derivatives. Linearized system of discrete equations is solved using LU-SGS iterations. For more details reader
is referred to Cherny et al. [5].
Periodic stage approach is used for the turbine flow analysis, requiring computations only in one wicket gate
(WG) channel, one runner channel, and the whole draft tube (DT). An example structured mesh in WG, runner
and DT is shown in Fig. 2. Mixing plane boundary condition is applied on wicket gate runner and runner
draft tube interfaces with circumferential averaging of all flow variables (p, u, v, w, k, ). Being efficient in
terms of storage and CPU requirements, this approach has two drawbacks: 1) rotor-stator interaction can not be
taken into account; 2) draft tube instabilities, such as vortex rope precession, are suppressed to a certain extent
by averaging procedure applied at runner draft tube interface. Nevertheless in present pilot study the stage
approach was adopted for its computational efficiency. The use of full flow analysis, involving computations of
all WG and runner channels, which is free from the shortcomings indicated, is a future plan.
Most of transient processes are controlled by opening/closing of the guide vanes, so flow-field computation
in wicket gate region is carried out on moving mesh. The function of guide vane opening of time is an additional
input data.
Water hammer equations (4) are solved using 1st order implicit finite difference scheme. Equations (1), (2)
and (4) are iterated in pseudotime simultaneously until convergence. Interface boundary condition between
penstock and turbine is described in the following section.
Having known the solution at n-th time level, prior to iterations for the next (n+1)-th one, new rotational
n +1
is found from equation


n +1 n
= M R (n ) M Gen (t n ) ,


which is a first order explicit discretisation of eq. (3). Different approximations of (3) as well as different

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

couplings with mean flow equations were examined, but they gave almost identical results. So the above
algorithm was used in the present study as the most simple.

Fig. 2 Mesh in wicket gate, runner and draft tube for periodic stage analysis

4. Implementation of boundary conditions

In CDF applications to hydraulic turbines a common practice for setting inlet and outlet boundary conditions
is specifying velocity profile at the inlet and pressure at the outlet. Velocity profile is usually derived from
discharge Q and inlet flow angle, which is rather conservative. In many problems however discharge is not
known a priory and should be found as a part of the solution. Simulation of transient processes is the case,
because of significant changes in discharge caused by guide vane opening, runner acceleration, etc. Therefore
traditional boundary conditions can not be used for simulation of these phenomena.
In order to resolve discharge variation during the transient process a new statement of inlet/outlet boundary
conditions was developed.
4.1. Separate turbine computations
For the case of isolated computations in wicket gate runner draft tube domain (WG-R-DT domain)
novel conditions are the following. At the inlet section of wicket gate domain total specific hydraulic energy
Ein,WG and flow angle are specified, while at the draft tube outlet section total specific energy Eout,DT is set
together with pressure profile (typically simple hydrostatic distribution). Total specific hydraulic energy E in
cross section S is determined as

1 p
| v |2
( v dS) .

E =
Q S g
2 g


Note that no reference value of pressure is prescribed at the outlet. Instead it is adjusted iteratively in the process
of solution to provide given total energy Eout,DT. In WG-R-DT simulations the inlet and outlet energies are linked
together by the following relation:
Ein ,WG Eout ,DT = H hSP
where H is the net head, hSP is the head loss in spiral casing and stay vane channels. In present simulations head
loss hSP is a priory estimated as 0.01H. To the present time head loss hSP is assumed to be constant throughout the
unsteady process, which is not true in reality. More accurate estimations can be used for hSP, accounting
discharge variations, see for example Topaj [9].
Computations in the reduced domain wicket gate runner (WG-R) are also available. This case is
essentially the same, except for the treatment of outlet section of runner domain. Here radial equilibrium
condition is specified for the pressure profile, and outlet energy Eout,R is adjusted to satisfy the relation
Ein ,WG Eout ,R = H hSP hDT .

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

In eq. (8) hDT is the head loss in draft tube, which is calculated using empirical formula (Topaj [9])

hDT = 0

C z2 Cu2
2g 2g


where C z and Cu are the averaged axial and absolute peripheral flow velocities, 0 is an empirical constant.
As follows from the above, new inlet/outlet boundary conditions prescribe head rather than discharge. The
corresponding discharge is found from the solution. This statement has been tested for a wide range of operating
regimes and proved to be reliable.
4.2. Combined penstock-turbine computations
Equations (7), (8) automatically neglect the effect of water hammer on wicket gate inlet energy. Therefore
they can be used to simulate flow-fields in fixed operating points or transient processes with a weak water
hammer effects (slow regulation, short penstock, etc). However most of real transient processes yield significant
water hammer waves affecting the pressure in spiral case and wicket gate, and thus increasing or decreasing
effective turbine head. In order to adequately set up inlet boundary condition for WG one need to consider
extended water system, including the penstock. In case of computations in the extended domain penstock
wicket gate runner draft tube (penstock-WG-R-DT) total energy

Ein , pipe = m +

= const
2 gS 2


is specified at the inlet of the penstock, meaning that water level in upper reservoir is assumed constant
throughout the process.
After each iteration in pseudotime penstock and turbine exchange pressure and discharge at their interface, as
suggested in Ruprecht [6]. From CFD results pressure p at the WG inlet is averaged and given as an outlet
boundary condition to water hammer model (4). Penstock outlet discharge Q, obtained in frames of water
hammer model, together with flow angle are given as an inlet boundary condition for 3D RANS model of flow
in WG-R-DT domain, see also Fig. 1.

5. Steady state hill chart prediction

Accurate resolution of efficiency and discharge is a necessary condition for numerical method to be used as a
transient simulation tool. In order to demonstrate the capabilities of the present solver, it was applied to
computation of efficiency hill chart of 57MW Francis turbine. Runner speed is 200 rpm, net head is 73.5 m,
runner diameter is 3.15 m. A series of operating points have been computed, with discharge ranging from 30%
to +20% of BEP discharge, and unit speeds n11 raging from 60 to 90. For each regime steady state solution was
sought in WG-R-DT domain.
In order to demonstrate grid sensitivity three sets of computational meshes have been used:
mesh 1 (coarse) 16k cells for WG, 24k cells for runner, and 42k cells for the DT (shown in fig. 2);
mesh 2 (medium) 40k cells for WG, 54k cells for runner, and 68k cells for the DT;
mesh 3 (fine) 110k cells for WG, 146k cells for runner, and 194k cells for the DT.
In wicket gate and runner domains maximum cell skewness is 0.7, while in draft tube it reaches 0.9 near the solid
wall of the cone.
Since the comparison was made with experimental data, measured in a laboratory test rig, the laminar flow
viscosity was adjusted to ensure dynamic similarity to scale model conditions. Standard k- model was used for
the turbulence.
Experimental investigation of turbine scale model was performed according to IEC 60193 standard in the
Laboratory of Water Turbines of JSC Power Machines LMZ, St.-Petersburg, Russia. Runner diameter of the
scale model was 0.46 m, model head was 24 m. Relative error in the efficiency measurements was 0.2%. Fig. 3
shows comparison of the computed and measured efficiency. All three meshes give good qualitative and
quantitative agreement with experimental distributions. As expected, coarse mesh introduces excessive
numerical dissipation, leading to a lesser value of turbine efficiency. s for medium and fine meshes, at n11=
n11,BEP variation of discharge gives maximum error less than 1%, while variation of n11 at constant guide vane
opening (GVO) gives the error less than 1.5%, which is concentrated in area n11 < n11,BEP. Compared to
experimental data, the computed discharges are uniformly underestimated by 2%, which seems to be acceptable.

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

Fig. 3 Comparison of experimental and computed hill-charts:

at constant unit speed n11= n11,BEP =73.5 (left) and at constant guide vane opening a0 = 178 mm (right)

6. Simulation of transient behavior at runaway

As an example, the developed simulation tool is applied to analyze transient behavior during runaway from
BEP point for the same turbine. Emergency runaway process is determined by sudden decrease of generator
payload to zero (MGen=0). According to eq. (3) runner speed starts growing gradually reaching runaway speed nr,
satisfying the condition MR(nr) =0. Guide vane opening a0 remains constant throughout the process. According to
the developed statement, time evolution of all the regime parameters n(t), Q(t), MR(t) and water hammer H(t) as
well as local flow-fields should be obtained as the result of simulation.
Computations in three different statements have been carried out: 1) in WG-R domain without the penstock,
2) in WG-R-DT domain without the penstock, 3) in penstock-WG-R-DT domain. Mesh 1 (coarse) was used in
order to reduce computational time. Less dissipative Kim-Chen k- model was used for turbulence in order to
better resolve vortex structures. Time step was t = 0.005s, corresponding to 1/60 of runner rotation period at
startup. Figure 4 shows the obtained trajectories of operating point in Q n plane, along with experimental
runaway curve and lines of constant GVO. It is expected that the runaway trajectories would go along lines of
constant GVO. However WG-R simulation deviate to the grater discharge, which is explained by the loss of
applicability of formula (9), as we move away from the optimum. Computations including the draft tube are
closer to experiment. Up to speed n = 275 their trajectories go along the GVO line. Then, with greater speeds the
trajectories start to oscillate due to discharge pulsations, which however do not affect runner acceleration curve,
Fig. 5. Such an oscillating behavior is not observed in WG-R computation. It is concluded that discharge
oscillations are caused entirely by diffuser instabilities. As can be seen in Fig. 6, vortex rope forms and then
breaks down in the draft tube cone during the process. Note that no vortex rope was observed in unsteady
simulation of BEP point. The influence of turbulence modeling on the evolution of the vortex is under
Figure 7 (left) illustrate pressure pulsations in a point of draft tube surface, showing that first 7 sec of the
process pressure behavior is the same for both WG-R-DT and penstock-WG-R-DT computations. The
appearance of high-frequency pressure oscillations in the latter are connected to the high-frequency water
hammer waves, shown in Fig. 7 (right).

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

Fig. 4 Computed runaway trajectories

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Fig. 5 Evolution of runner speed

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

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Fig. 6 Instantaneous draft tube pressure iso-surfaces, WG-R-DT computation.
Letters correspond to time moments indicated in Fig. 4 on curve 2

Fig. 7 Computed pressure pulsations in the draft tube (left),

pressure increase at wicket gate inlet due to water hammer (right) obtained in penstock-WG-R-DT simulation

7. Conclusion
An approach is developed for numerical simulation of complex unsteady flow phenomena in transient
regimes. The method is based on 3D unsteady RANS equations for the turbine with variable runner speed, which
is governed by angular momentum equation. Dynamic variation of effective turbine head is accounted by
simultaneous solution of 1D elastic water hammer equations for the penstock. Discharge is found as a part of
solution, that is guaranteed by new type of inlet/outlet boundary conditions, prescribing head rather than
discharge. The developed simulation tool allows to predict time evolution of basic regime parameters and

25th IAHR Symposium on Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 12 (2010) 012071

IOP Publishing

estimate dynamic forces and pressure pulsations in turbine passage during the process. One of the advantages of
the presented approach is that it does not require any a priori knowledge about efficiency hill-chart of the turbine.
The tool is applied for simulation of flow evolution during runaway process. It is shown that far from the
optimum numerical flow analysis should be carried out with the draft tube. The appearance of vortex rope is
observed in computations, including wicket gate, runner and draft tube. For the time being this methodology is
applied to investigation of the other transient processes, such as power regulation and emergency shutdown.

Authors would like to thank their colleagues A. A. Sotnikov, I. M. Pilev, V. N. Stepanov and V. E. Rigin
from JSC Power machines LMZ for valuable laboratory data and helpful discussions. This work has been
partially supported by grant 08-01-00364 of Russian Foundation for Basic Research.


Guide vane opening [mm]

Pipe wave speed [m/s]
Runner diameter [m]
Specific total energy [m]
Gravity [m/s2]



Net head [m]

Energy loss in spiral casing [m]



Energy loss in draft tube [m]

Moment of inertia [kgm2]
Pipe length [m]
Piezometric head ( = z + p / g ) [m]
Runner torque [Nm]



Payload generator torque [Nm]


Rotational speed [rpm]

Unit rotational speed ( = nD1 / H )
Pressure [Pa]
Discharge [m3/s]
Unit discharge ( = Q / D12 H )
Pipe cross section [m2]
Mean velocity components (i =1, 2, 3)
Absolute velocity vector [m/s]
Time [s]
Water density [kg/m3]
Runner angular velocity (= n/30) [rad/s]
Eddy viscosity (= + turb) [m2/s]


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Unsteady Simulation of the FLINDT Draft Tube Rotating Vortex Rope Proc. of the Hydro 2004 Conf.
(Porto, Portugal) FE-05-1175
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model (NASA CR-179204)
Topaj G I 1989 Computation of integral hydraulic characteristics of hydromachines Publishing house of
Leningrad University (Leningrad, in Russian)