The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Chapter 5
Boiling Heat Transfer,
Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

A case of heat transfer and flow of particular interest in steam generation is the process of boiling and
steam-water flow. The boiling or evaporation of water is a familiar phenomenon. In general terms, boiling is the heat transfer process where heat addition
to a liquid no longer raises its temperature under constant pressure conditions; the heat is absorbed as the
liquid becomes a gas. The heat transfer rates are high,
making this an ideal cooling method for surfaces exposed to the high heat input rates found in fossil fuel
boilers, concentrated solar energy collectors and the
nuclear reactor fuel bundles. However, the boiling
phenomenon poses special challenges such as: 1) the
sudden breakdown of the boiling behavior at very high
heat input rates, 2) the potential flow rate fluctuations
which may occur in steam-water flows, and 3) the efficient separation of steam from water. An additional
feature of boiling and two-phase flow is the creation
of significant density differences between heated and
unheated tubes. These density differences result in
water flowing to the heated tubes in a well designed
boiler natural circulation loop.
Most fossil fuel steam generators and all commercial nuclear steam supply systems operate in the pressure range where boiling is a key element of the heat
transfer process. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of boiling and its various related phenomena is essential in the design of these units. Even at
operating conditions above the critical pressure, where
water no longer boils but experiences a continuous
transition from a liquid-like to a gas-like fluid, boiling type behavior and special heat transfer characteristics occur.

ture (Tsat) is a unique function of pressure. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the
International Association for the Properties of Steam
(IAPS) have compiled extensive correlations of thermophysical characteristics of water. These characteristics
include the enthalpy (or heat content) of water, the
enthalpy of evaporation (also referred to as the latent
heat of vaporization), and the enthalpy of steam. As
the pressure is increased to the critical pressure [3200
psi (22.1 MPa)], the latent heat of vaporization declines
to zero and the bubble formation associated with boiling no longer occurs. Instead, a smooth transition from
liquid to gaseous behavior occurs with a continuous increase in temperature as energy is applied.
Two other definitions are also helpful in discussing
boiling heat transfer:
1. Subcooling For water below the local saturation
temperature, this is the difference between the
saturation temperature and the local water temperature (Tsat – T ).
2. Quality This is the flowing mass fraction of steam
(frequently stated as percent steam by weight or
%SBW after multiplying by 100%):
x =

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation



steam = steam flow rate, lb/h (kg/s)
water = water flow rate, lb/h (kg/s)

Thermodynamically, this can also be defined as:

Boiling process and fundamentals
Boiling point and thermophysical properties
The boiling point, or saturation temperature, of a
liquid can be defined as the temperature at which its
vapor pressure is equal to the total local pressure. The
saturation temperature for water at atmospheric pressure is 212F (100C). This is the point at which net
vapor generation occurs and free steam bubbles are
formed from a liquid undergoing continuous heating.
As discussed in Chapter 2, this saturation tempera- 

water + m 

x =

H − Hf
H fg


H − Hf
Hg − Hf




local average fluid enthalpy, Btu/lb (J/kg)
enthalpy of water at saturation, Btu/lb (J/kg)
enthalpy of steam at saturation, Btu/lb (J/kg)
latent heat of vaporization, Btu/lb (J/kg)

When boiling is occurring at saturated, thermal
equilibrium conditions, Equation 2 provides the fractional steam flow rate by mass. For subcooled condi5-1

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
tions where H < Hf, quality (x) can be negative and is
an indication of liquid subcooling. For conditions where
H > Hg, this value can be greater than 100% and represents the amount of average superheat of the steam.

Boiling curve
Fig. 1 illustrates a boiling curve which summarizes
the results of many investigators. This curve provides
the results of a heated wire in a pool, although the
characteristics are similar for most situations. The heat
transfer rate per unit area, or heat flux, is plotted
versus the temperature differential between the metal
surface and the bulk fluid. From points A to B, convection heat transfer cools the wire and boiling on the
surface is suppressed. Moving beyond point B, which
is also referred to as the incipient boiling point, the
temperature of the fluid immediately adjacent to the
heated surface slightly exceeds the local saturation
temperature of the fluid while the bulk fluid remains
subcooled. Bubbles, initially very small, begin to form
adjacent to the wire. The bubbles then periodically
collapse as they come into contact with the cooler bulk
fluid. This phenomenon, referred to as subcooled boiling, occurs between points B and S on the curve. The
heat transfer rate is quite high, but no net steam generation occurs. From points S to C, the temperature
of the bulk fluid has reached the local saturation temperature. Bubbles are no longer confined to the area
immediately adjacent to the surface, but move into the
bulk fluid. This region is usually referred to as the
nucleate boiling region, and as with subcooled boiling, the heat transfer rates are quite high and the
metal surface is only slightly above the saturation
As point C is approached, increasingly large surface evaporation rates occur. Eventually, the vapor
generation rate becomes so large that it restricts the
liquid return flow to the surface. The surface eventually becomes covered (blanketed) with an insulating
layer of steam and the ability of the surface to transfer heat drops. This transition is referred to as the

Fig. 1 Boiling curve – heat flux versus applied temperature difference.


critical heat flux (CHF), departure from nucleate boiling (DNB), burnout, dryout, peak heat flux, or boiling crisis. The temperature response of the surface under this condition depends upon how the surface is
being heated. In fossil fuel boiler furnaces and nuclear
reactor cores, the heat input is effectively independent
of surface temperature. Therefore, a reduction in the
heat transfer rate results in a corresponding increase
in surface temperature from point D to D′ in Fig. 1.
In some cases, the elevated surface temperature is so
high that the metal surface may melt. If, on the other
hand, the heat input or heat transfer rate is dependent upon the surface temperature, typical of a
nuclear steam generator, the average local temperature of the surface increases as the local heat transfer rate declines. This region, illustrated in Fig. 1 from
points D to E, is typically referred to as unstable film
boiling or transition boiling. Because a large surface
temperature increase does not occur, the main consequences are a decline in heat transfer performance per
unit surface area and less overall energy transfer. The
actual local phenomenon in this region is quite complex and unstable as discrete areas of surface fluctuate between a wetted boiling condition and a steam
blanketed, or dry patch, condition. From position E
through D′ to F, the surface is effectively blanketed
by an insulating layer of steam or vapor. Energy is
transferred from the solid surface through this layer
by radiation, conduction and microconvection to the
liquid-vapor interface. From this interface, evaporation occurs and bubbles depart. This heat transfer
region is frequently referred to as stable film boiling.
In designing steam generating systems, care must
be exercised to control which of these phenomena occur. In high heat input locations, such as the furnace
area of fossil fuel boilers or nuclear reactor cores, it is
important to maintain nucleate or subcooled boiling
to adequately cool the surface and prevent material
failures. However, in low heat flux areas or in areas
where the heat transfer rate is controlled by the boiling side heat transfer coefficient, stable or unstable
film boiling may be acceptable. In these areas, the
resultant heat transfer rate must be evaluated, any
temperature limitations maintained and only allowable temperature fluctuations accepted.

Flow boiling
Flow or forced convective boiling, which is found in
virtually all steam generating systems, is a more complex phenomenon involving the intimate interaction
of two-phase fluid flow, gravity, material phenomena
and boiling heat transfer mechanisms. Fig. 2 is a classic picture of boiling water in a long, uniformly heated,
circular tube. The water enters the tube as a subcooled
liquid and convection heat transfer cools the tube. The
point of incipient boiling is reached (point 1 in Fig. 2).
This results in the beginning of subcooled boiling and
bubbly flow. The fluid temperature continues to rise
until the entire bulk fluid reaches the saturation temperature and nucleate boiling occurs, point 2. At this
location, flow boiling departs somewhat from the
simple pool boiling model previously discussed. The
steam-water mixture progresses through a series of
Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
flow structures or patterns: bubbly, intermediate and
annular. This is a result of the complex interaction of
surface tension forces, interfacial phenomena, pressure drop, steam-water densities and momentum effects coupled with the surface boiling behavior. While
boiling heat transfer continues throughout, a point is
reached in the annular flow regime where the liquid
film on the wall becomes so thin that nucleation in the
film is suppressed, point 3. Heat transfer then occurs
through conduction and convection across the thin
annular film with surface evaporation at the steamwater interface. This heat transfer mechanism, called
convective boiling, also results in high heat transfer
rates. It should also be noted that not all of the liquid
is on the tube wall. A portion is entrained in the steam
core as dispersed droplets.
Eventually, an axial location, point 4, is reached
where the tube surface is no longer wetted and CHF
or dryout occurs. This is typically associated with a
temperature rise. The exact tube location and magnitude of this temperature, however, depend upon a
variety of parameters, such as the heat flux, mass
flux, geometry and steam quality. Fig. 3 illustrates the
effect of heat input rate, or heat flux, on CHF location and the associated temperature increase. From
points 4 to 5 in Fig. 2, post-CHF heat transfer, which
is quite complex, occurs. Beyond point 5, all of the liquid is evaporated and simple convection to steam occurs.

Boiling heat transfer evaluation
Engineering design of steam generators requires the
evaluation of water and steam heat transfer rates under boiling and nonboiling conditions. In addition, the

Fig. 2 Simplified flow boiling in a vertical tube (adapted from Collier1).

identification of the location of critical heat flux (CHF)
is important where a dramatic reduction in the heat
transfer rate could lead to: 1) excessive metal temperatures potentially resulting in tube failures, 2) an unacceptable loss of thermal performance, or 3) unacceptable temperature fluctuations leading to thermal fa-

Fig. 3 Tube wall temperatures under different heat input conditions.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation


The Babcock & Wilcox Company
tigue failures. Data must also be available to predict
the rate of heat transfer downstream of the dryout point.
CHF phenomena are less important than the heat
transfer rates for performance evaluation, but are more
important in defining acceptable operating conditions.
As discussed in Chapter 4, the heat transfer rate per
unit area or heat flux is equal to the product of temperature difference and a heat transfer coefficient.

Heat transfer coefficients
Heat transfer correlations are application (surface
and geometry) specific and The Babcock & Wilcox
Company (B&W) has developed extensive data for its
applications through experimental testing and field
experience. These detailed correlations remain proprietary to B&W. However, the following generally available correlations are provided here as representative
of the heat transfer relationships.
Single-phase convection Several correlations for
forced convection heat transfer are presented in Chapter 4. Forced convection is assumed to occur as long as
the calculated forced convection heat flux is greater than
the calculated boiling heat flux (point 1 in Fig. 2):
′′ Convection > qBoiling


While not critical in most steam generator applications, correlations are available which explicitly define this onset of subcooled boiling and more accurately
define the transition region.1
Subcooled boiling In areas where subcooled boiling occurs, several correlations are available to characterize the heat transfer process. Typical of these is
the Jens and Lottes2 correlation for water. For inputs
with English units:
∆Tsat = 60 ( q′′ / 106 )


e − P / 900


and for inputs with SI units:

∆Tsat = 25 ( q′′)


e − P / 6.2


∆T sat
T sat


Tw – Tsat, F (C)
wall temperature, F (C)
saturated water temperature, F (C)
heat flux, Btu/h ft2 (MWt/m2)
pressure, psi (MPa)

Another relationship frequently used is that developed
by Thom.3
Nucleate and convective boiling Heat transfer in the
saturated boiling region occurs by a complex combination of bubble nucleation at the tube surface (nucleate boiling) and direct evaporation at the steam-water interface in annular flow (convective boiling). At
low steam qualities, nucleate boiling dominates while
at higher qualities convective boiling dominates. While
separate correlations are available for each range, the
most useful relationships cover the entire saturated
boiling regime. They typically involve the summation
of appropriately weighted nucleate and convective


boiling components as exemplified by the correlation
developed by J.C. Chen and his colleagues.4 While
such correlations are frequently recommended for use
in saturated boiling systems, their additional precision
is not usually required in many boiler or reactor applications. For general evaluation purposes, the
subcooled boiling relationship provided in Equation
4 is usually sufficient.
Post-CHF heat transfer As shown in Fig. 3, substantial increases in tube wall metal temperatures are
possible if boiling is interrupted by the CHF phenomenon. The maximum temperature rise is of particular
importance in establishing whether tube wall overheating may occur. In addition, the reliable estimation of the heat transfer rate may be important for an
accurate assessment of thermal performance. Once the
metal surface is no longer wetted and water droplets
are carried along in the steam flow, the heat transfer
process becomes more complex and includes: 1) convective heat transfer to the steam which becomes superheated, 2) heat transfer to droplets impinging on
the surface from the core of the flow, 3) radiation directly from the surface to the droplets in the core flow,
and 4) heat transfer from the steam to the droplets.
This process results in a nonequilibrium flow featuring superheated steam mixed with water droplets.
Current correlations do not provide a good estimate of
the heat transfer in this region, but computer models
show promise. Accurate prediction requires the use of
experimental data for similar flow conditions.
Reflooding A key concept in evaluating emergency
core coolant systems for nuclear power applications is
reflooding. In a loss of coolant event, the reactor core
can pass through critical heat flux conditions and can
become completely dry. Reflooding is the term for the
complex thermal-hydraulic phenomena involved in
rewetting the fuel bundle surfaces as flow is returned
to the reactor core. The fuel elements may be at very
elevated temperatures so that the post-CHF, or steam
blanketed, condition may continue even in the presence
of returned water flow. Eventually, the surface temperature drops enough to permit a rewetting front to
wash over the fuel element surface. Analysis includes
transient conduction of the fuel elements and the interaction with the steam-water heat transfer processes.

Critical heat flux phenomena
Critical heat flux is one of the most important parameters in steam generator design. CHF denotes the
set of operating conditions (mass flux, pressure, heat
flux and steam quality) covering the transition from
the relatively high heat transfer rates associated with
nucleate or forced convective boiling to the lower rates
resulting from transition or film boiling (Figs. 1 and
2). These operating conditions have been found to be
geometry specific. CHF encompasses the phenomena
of departure from nucleate boiling (DNB), burnout,
dryout and boiling crisis. One objective in recirculating boiler and nuclear reactor designs is to avoid CHF
conditions. In once-through steam generators, the
objective is to design to accommodate the temperature
increase at the CHF locations. In this process, the heat
flux profile, flow passage geometry, operating pressure
Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
and inlet enthalpy are usually fixed, leaving mass
flux, local quality, diameter and some surface effects
as the more easily adjusted variables.
Factors affecting CHF Critical heat flux phenomena
under flowing conditions found in fossil fuel and
nuclear steam generators are affected by a variety of
parameters.5 The primary parameters are the operating conditions and the design geometries. The operating conditions affecting CHF are pressure, mass flux
and steam quality. Numerous design geometry factors
include flow passage dimensions and shape, flow path
obstructions, heat flux profile, inclination and wall
surface configuration. Several of these effects are illustrated in Figs. 3 through 7.
Fig. 3 illustrates the effect of increasing the heat
input on the location of the temperature excursion in a
uniformly heated vertical tube cooled by upward flowing water. At low heat fluxes, the water flow can be almost completely evaporated to steam before any temperature rise is observed. At moderate and high heat
fluxes, the CHF location moves progressively towards
the tube inlet and the maximum temperature excursion increases. At very high heat fluxes, CHF occurs at
a low steam quality and the metal temperature excursion can be high enough to melt the tube. At extremely
high heat input rates, CHF can occur in subcooled
water. Avoiding this type of CHF is an important design criterion for pressurized water nuclear reactors.
Many large fossil fuel boilers are designed to operate between 2000 and 3000 psi (13.8 and 20.7 MPa).
In this range, pressure has a very important effect,
shown in Fig. 4, with the steam quality limit for CHF

falling rapidly near the critical pressure; i.e., at constant heat flux, CHF occurs at lower steam qualities
as pressure rises.
Many CHF correlations have been proposed and are
satisfactory within certain limits of pressure, mass
velocity and heat flux. Fig. 5 is an example of a correlation which is useful in the design of fossil fuel natural circulation boilers. This correlation defines safe and
unsafe regimes for two heat flux levels at a given pressure in terms of steam quality and mass velocity. Additional factors must be introduced when tubes are
used in membrane or tangent wall construction, are
inclined from the vertical, or have different inside diameter or surface configuration. The inclination of the
flow passage can have a particularly dramatic effect
on the CHF conditions as illustrated in Fig. 6.6
Ribbed tubes Since the 1930s, B&W has investigated a large number of devices, including internal
twisters, springs and grooved, ribbed and corrugated
tubes to delay the onset of CHF. The most satisfactory
overall performance was obtained with tubes having
helical ribs on the inside surface.
Two general types of rib configurations have been

Fig. 4 Steam quality limit for CHF as a function of pressure.

Fig. 5 Steam quality limit for CHF as a function of mass flux.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

1. single-lead ribbed (SLR) tubes (Fig. 8a) for small
internal diameters used in once-through subcritical pressure boilers, and
2. multi-lead ribbed (MLR) tubes (Fig. 8b) for larger internal diameters used in natural circulation boilers.
Both of these ribbed tubes have shown a remarkable ability to delay the breakdown of boiling. Fig. 7


The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Fig. 8a Single-lead ribbed tube.

Fig. 8b Multi-lead ribbed tube.

Fig. 6 Effect of inclination on CHF at 700,000 lb/h ft2 (950 kg/m2 s).6

compares the effectiveness of a ribbed tube to that of
a smooth tube in a membrane wall configuration. This
plot is different from Fig. 5 in that heat flux is given
as an average over the flat projected surface. This is
more meaningful in discussing membrane wall heat
The ribbed bore tubes provide a balance of improved
CHF performance at an acceptable increase in pressure drop without other detrimental effects. The ribs
generate a swirl flow resulting in a centrifugal action
which forces the water to the tube wall and retards
entrainment of the liquid. The steam blanketing and
film dryout are therefore prevented until substantially
higher steam qualities or heat fluxes are reached.

Fig. 7 Steam quality limit for CHF in smooth and ribbed bore tubes.


Because the ribbed bore tube is more expensive than
a smooth bore tube, its use involves an economic balance of several design factors. In most instances, there
is less incentive to use ribbed tubes below 2200 psi
(15.2 MPa).
Evaluation CHF is a complex combination of thermal-hydraulic phenomena for which a comprehensive
theoretical basis is not yet available. As a result, experimental data are likely to continue to be the basis
for CHF evaluations. Many data and correlations define CHF well over limited ranges of conditions and
geometries. However, progress is being made in developing more general evaluation procedures for at
least the most studied case – a uniformly heated
smooth bore tube with upward flowing water.
To address this complex but critical phenomenon in
the design of reliable steam generating equipment,
B&W has developed an extensive proprietary database and associated correlations. A graphical example
is shown in Fig. 5 for a fossil fuel boiler tube. A B&W
correlation 7 for nuclear reactor fuel rod bundle
subchannel analysis is shown in Table 1.
CHF criteria A number of criteria are used to assess
the CHF margins in a particular tube or tube bundle
geometry.8 These include the CHF ratio, flow ratio and
quality margin, defined as follows:
CHF heat flux


CHF ratio = minimum value of


flow ratio = minimum value of


quality margin = CHF quality − max. design quality

upset heat flux

min. design mass flux
mass flux at CHF

The CHF ratios for a sample fossil fuel boiler are
illustrated in Fig. 9 for a smooth bore tube ( qB′′ / q′′A ) and
a ribbed bore tube ( qC′′ / q′′A ). The graph indicates the
relative increase in local heat input which can be tolerated before the onset of CHF conditions. A similar
relationship for a nuclear reactor fuel rod application
is shown in Fig. 10.
Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Supercritical heat transfer
Unlike subcritical pressure conditions, fluids at supercritical pressures experience a continuous transition from water-like to steam-like characteristics. As
a result, CHF conditions and boiling behavior would
not be expected. However, at supercritical pressures,
especially in the range of 1 < P/Pc < 1.15 where Pc is
the critical pressure, two types of boiling-like behavior have been observed: pseudo-boiling and pseudofilm boiling. Pseudo-boiling is an increase in heat
transfer coefficient not accounted for by traditional
convection relationships. In pseudo-film boiling, a
dramatic reduction in the heat transfer coefficient is
observed at high heat fluxes. This is similar to the
critical heat flux condition at subcritical pressures.
These behaviors have been attributed to the sharp
changes in fluid properties as the transition from
water-like to steam-like behavior occurs.
Fluid properties In the supercritical region, the thermophysical properties important to the heat transfer
process, i.e., conductivity, viscosity, density and specific heat, experience radical changes as a certain pressure-dependent temperature is approached and exceeded. This is illustrated in Fig. 11. The transition
temperature, referred to as the pseudo-critical temperature, is defined as the temperature where the
specific heat, cp, reaches its maximum. As the operating pressure is increased, the pseudo-critical temperature increases and the dramatic change in the thermophysical properties declines as this temperature is
approached and exceeded.
Heat transfer rates Because of the significant
changes in thermophysical properties (especially in
specific heat) near the pseudo-critical temperature, a

Fig. 9 Fossil boiler CHF ratio = minimum value of critical heat flux
divided by upset heat flux.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

Table 1
B&W2 Reactor Rod Bundle Critical Heat
Flux (CHF) Correlation7

q"CHF =

(a − bDi ) A1 (A2G) A3+A4(P−2000) − A9GxCHF Hfg
A5 (A6G) A7+A8(P−2000)



0.37020 x 108
0.59137 x 10−6
0.68479 x 10−3
0.30545 x 10−5
0.20729 x 10−3






q"CHF =

area, in.2
equivalent diameter = 4A/Per
mass flux, lb/h ft2
latent heat of vaporization,
pressure, psi
wetted perimeter, in.
steam quality at CHF conditions, fraction steam by weight
heat flux at CHF conditions,
Btu/h ft2

modified approach to evaluating convective heat
transfer is needed. A number of correlations have been
developed and a representative relationship for smooth
bore tubes is:9
D G
= 0.00459  i 
 µw 
 H − Hb   µw  
×  w
 Tw − Tb   kw  



 υb 
 
υ w 



Fig. 10 Nuclear reactor CHF ratio = minimum value of critical heat
flux divided by design heat flux.


The Babcock & Wilcox Company
turbulence to move the higher temperature steam-like
fluid away from the tube wall into the colder, higher
density (water-like) fluid in the bulk stream. A phenomenon similar to steam blanketing occurs and the
wall temperature increases in response to the relatively constant applied heat flux.
Single-lead ribbed (SLR) bore tubes are very effective in suppressing the temperature peaks encountered in smooth bore tubes.10

Two-phase flow
Flow patterns
As illustrated in Fig. 2, two-phase steam-water flow
may occur in many regimes or structures. The transition from one structure to another is continuous rather
than abrupt, especially under heated conditions, and
is strongly influenced by gravity, i.e., flow orientation.
Because of the qualitative nature of flow pattern identification, there are probably as many flow pattern
descriptions as there are observers. However, for vertical, heated, upward, co-current steam-water flow in a
tube, four general flow patterns are generally recognized
(see Fig. 12):

Fig. 11 Thermophysical properties of water (English units).



heat transfer coefficient, Btu/h ft2 F (W/m2 K)
thermal conductivity, Btu/h ft F (W/m K)
inside tube diameter, ft (m)
mass flux, lb/h ft2 (kg/m2 s)
viscosity, lb/ft h (kg/m s)
enthalpy, Btu/lb (J/kg)
temperature, F (C)
specific volume, ft3/lb (m3/kg)

The subscripts b and w refer to properties evaluated
at the bulk fluid and wall temperatures respectively.
This correlation has demonstrated reasonable
agreement with experimental data from tubes of 0.37
to 1.5 in. (9.4 to 38.1 mm) inside diameter and at low
heat fluxes.
Pseudo-boiling For low heat fluxes and bulk fluid
temperatures approaching the pseudo-critical temperature, an improvement in the heat transfer rate
takes place. The enhanced heat transfer rate observed
is sometimes referred to as pseudo-boiling. It has been
attributed to the increased turbulence resulting from
the interaction of the water-like and steam-like fluids
near the tube wall.
Pseudo-film boiling Potentially damaging temperature excursions associated with a sharp reduction
in heat transfer can be observed at high heat fluxes.
This temperature behavior is similar to the CHF phenomenon observed at subcritical conditions and is referred to as pseudo-film boiling. This phenomenon has
been attributed to a limited ability of the available

1. Bubbly flow Relatively discrete steam bubbles are
dispersed in a continuous liquid water phase.
Bubble size, shape and distribution are dependent
upon the flow rate, local enthalpy, heat input rate
and pressure.
2. Intermediate flow This is a range of patterns between bubbly and annular flows; the patterns are
also referred to as slug or churn flow. They range
from: a) large bubbles, approaching the tube size
in diameter, separated from the tube wall by thin
annular films and separated from each other by
slugs of liquid which may also contain smaller
bubbles, to b) chaotic mixtures of large nonsymmetric bubbles and small bubbles.
3. Annular flow A liquid layer is formed on the tube
wall with a continuous steam core; most of the liq-

Fig. 12 Flow pattern – upward, co-current steam-water flow in a
heated vertical tube.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
uid is flowing in the annular film. At lower steam
qualities, the liquid film may have larger amplitude waves adding to the liquid droplet entrainment and transport in the continuous steam core.
At high qualities, the annular film becomes very
thin, bubble generation is suppressed and the
large amplitude waves disappear.
4. Mist flow A continuous steam core transports entrained water droplets which slowly evaporate
until a single-phase steam flow occurs. This is also
referred to as droplet or dispersed flow.
In the case of inclined and horizontal co-current
steam-water flow in heated tubes, the flow patterns
are further complicated by stratification effects. At high
flow rates, the flow patterns approach those of vertical tubes. At lower rates, additional distinct flow patterns (wavy, stratified and modified plug) emerge as
gravity stratifies the flow with steam concentrated in
the upper portion of the tube. This can be a problem
where inclined tubes are heated from the top. CHF or
dryout conditions occur at much lower steam qualities and lower heat input rates in such inclined or
horizontal tubes.
Additional complexity in patterns is observed when
two-phase flow occurs in parallel or crossflow tube
bundles. The tubes, baffles, support plates and mixing devices further disrupt the flow pattern formation.
Flow maps The transitions from one flow regime to
another are quite complex, with each transition representing a combination of factors. However, two dimensional flow maps provide at least a general indication of which flow pattern is likely under given operating conditions. The maps generally are functions
of superficial gas and liquid velocities. An example for
vertical, upward, steam-water co-current flow is provided in Fig. 13.11 The axes in this figure represent
the superficial momentum fluxes of the steam (y-axis)
and water (x-axis). A sample flow line is shown beginning at nearly saturated water conditions and ending with saturated steam conditions. The tube experiences bubbly flow only near its inlet. This is followed
by a brief change to intermediate flow before annular flow dominates the heated length.
Other flow maps are available for arrangements
such as downflow tubes, inclined tubes and bundles.
Flow maps, however, are only approximations providing guidance in determining the relevant flow structure for a given situation.

Pressure loss
The local pressure loss, ∆P [lb/ft2 (Pa)] or gradient
δP/δ l [lb/ft2/ft (Pa/m)] in a two-phase steam-water
system may be represented by:
∆P = ∆Pf + ∆Pa + ∆Pg + ∆Pl

Fig. 13 Flow pattern map for vertical upward flow of water.11

the momentum or acceleration loss incurred as the
volume increases due to evaporation. The hydraulic
or static head loss is accounted for by ∆Pg and –(δ P/
δ l)g. Finally, all of the local losses due to fittings, contractions, expansions, bends, or orifices are included
in ∆Pl. The evaluation of these parameters is usually
made using one of two models: homogeneous flow or
separated flow.
A parameter of particular importance when evaluating the pressure loss in steam-water flows is void
fraction. The void fraction can be defined by time-averaged flow area ratios or local-volume ratios of steam
to the total flow. The area-based void fraction, α, can
be defined as the ratio of the time-averaged steam flow
cross-sectional area (Asteam) to the total flow area (Asteam
+ Awater):

α =

δP 
δP  δP 
= −
 + ∆Pl

 δ l  f  δ l a  δ l  g


Using the simple continuity equation, the relationship between quality, x, and void fraction is:

α =



Asteam + Awater

x + (1 − x )




The ∆Pf and –(δ P/δ l)f terms account for local wall
friction losses. The ∆Pa and –(δ P/δ l)a terms address
Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

S = ratio of the average cross-sectional velocities
of steam and water (referred to as slip)
ρg = saturated steam density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
ρ f = saturated water density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
If the steam and water are moving at the same velocity, S = 1 (no slip). Obviously, the relationship between
void fraction and quality is also a strong function of
system pressure. This relationship is illustrated in Fig.
14. The difference between the homogeneous and
separated flow models is illustrated by the shaded
band. The upper bound is established by the homogeneous model and the lower bound by the separated
flow model.
Homogeneous model The homogeneous model is
the simpler approach and is based upon the premise
that the two-phase flow behavior can be directly modeled after single-phase behavior (see Chapter 3) if
appropriate average properties are determined. The
temperature and velocities of steam and water are
assumed equal. The mixed weight averaged specific
volume (υ ) or the inverse of the homogeneous density
(1/ρhom) is used:

υ = υ f (1 − x ) + υ g x

ρ hom
υf =
υg =
ρf =
ρg =
x =



 g
∆Pg = ± ρ hom   L sin θ
 gc 




acceleration of gravity, ft/s2 (m/s2)
32.17 lbm ft/lbf s2 (1 kg m/N s2)
length, ft (m)
angle from the horizontal

The constant gc is discussed in Chapter 2. A pressure
gain occurs in downflow and a pressure loss occurs in
upflow. The acceleration loss can be evaluated by:
∆Pa =



(1 − x ) +

The friction pressure drop (∆Pf) can be evaluated
by the equations provided in Chapter 3 using the mixture thermophysical properties. The pressure difference due to elevation (∆Pg) can be evaluated as:

G2  1
1 

gc  ρ out ρ in 




saturated water specific volume, ft3/lb (m3/kg)
saturated steam specific volume, ft3/lb (m3/kg)
saturated water density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
saturated steam density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
steam quality

This model provides reasonable results when high
or low steam qualities exist, when high flow rates are
present, or at higher pressures. In these cases, the flow
is reasonably well mixed.

G = mass flux, lb/s ft2 (kg/m2s)
ρout = outlet homogeneous density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
ρin = inlet homogeneous density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
Separated flow model In the steady-state separated flow model, the steam and water are treated as
separate streams under the same pressure gradient
but different velocities and differing properties. When
the actual flow velocities of steam and water are equal,
the simplest separated flow models approach the homogeneous case. Using one of several separated flow
models1 with unequal velocities, the pressure drop
components (in differential form) are:
δP 
δP 
= −
 φLO

 δ l LO
 δ l f
f G υf
δP 

Di 2 gc
 δ l LO


(single-phase friction) (13)

G 2 δ  x υ g (1.0 − x ) υ f
δP 


gc δ l  α
(1.0 − α )
 δ l a

δP 
 = g sin θ



(accelerration) (14)

(1.0 − α ) 
 υg

(static head) (15)

∆Pl = Φ K

G2 υ f
2 gc

(local losses)



Fig. 14 Void fraction – quality relationship (homogeneous model,
upper bound; separated flow model, lower bound).

= appropriate two-phase multipliers
Φ and φ LO
G = mass flux, lb/s ft2 (kg/m2 s)
f = fanning friction factor (see Chapter 3)
Di = tube inside diameter, ft (m)
g = acceleration of gravity, ft/s2 (m/s2)
g c = 32.17 lbm ft/lbf s2 (1 kg m/N s2)


Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company



liquid specific volume, ft3/lb (m3/kg)
vapor specific volume, ft3/lb (m3/kg)
steam quality
void fraction
angle from the horizontal
loss coefficient

While ∆Pl usually represents just the irreversible pressure loss in single-phase flows, the complexity of twophase flows results in the loss of ∆Pl typically representing the reversible and irreversible losses for fittings.
To evaluate the individual pressure losses from
Equations 12 through 16 and Equation 6b, it is nec2
essary to calculate φ LO
, α and Φ. Unfortunately, these
factors are not well defined.
Specific correlations and evaluations can only be
used where experimental data under similar conditions provide confidence in the prediction. Proprietary
correlations used by B&W are based upon experimental data and practical experience.
For straight vertical tubes, generally available representative relationships include:
1. Acceleration loss The void fraction can frequently
be evaluated with the homogeneous model (S = 1
in Equation 8).
2. Friction loss and void fraction Typical two-phase
multiplier, φ LO
, and void fraction, α, relationships
are presented by Thom, 12 Martinelli-Nelson, 13
Zuber-Findlay14 and Chexal-Lellouche.15 For illustration purposes the correlations of Thom are presented in Figs. 15 and 16. These curves can be approximated by:



 υ g 
 0.97303 (1 − x ) + x   

 υ f 
=  

 

× 0.97303 (1 − x ) + x  + 0.027 (1 − x ) 



Fig. 15 Thom two-phase friction multiplier.12

1. unit control problems, including unacceptable
variations in steam drum water level,
2. CHF/DNB/dryout,
3. tube metal temperature oscillation and thermal
fatigue failure, and
4. accelerated corrosion attack.
Two of the most important types of instabilities in
steam generator design are excursive instability, including Ledinegg and flow reversal, and density
wave/pressure drop oscillations. The first is a static instability evaluated using steady-state equations while
the last is dynamic in nature requiring the inclusion
of time dependent factors.


α =

1 + x (γ − 1 )





(υg /υf)n
(0.8294 – 1.1672/P)
pressure, psi
saturated steam specific volume, ft3/lb
saturated liquid specific volume, ft3/lb
steam quality

Instability in two-phase flow refers to the set of
operating conditions under which sudden changes in
flow direction, reduction in flow rate and oscillating
flow rates can occur in a single flow passage. Often in
manifolded multi-channel systems, the overall mass
flow rate can remain constant while oscillating flows
in individual channels still may occur. Such unstable
conditions in steam generating systems can result in:
Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

Fig. 16 Thom void fraction correlation (>3% SBW).12


The Babcock & Wilcox Company
Excursive and flow reversal instability evaluation The
excursive instability is characterized by conditions
where small perturbations in operating parameters
result in a large flow rate change to a separate steadystate level. This can occur in both single channel and
multi-channel manifolded systems. Excursive instabilities can be predicted by using the Ledinegg criteria.16 Instability may occur if the slope of the pressure
drop versus flow characteristic curve (internal) for the
tube becomes less than the slope of the supply (or
applied) curve at any intersection point:

 δ∆P 
 δ∆P 
≤ 

 δG 
 internal  δ G  applied


The stable and unstable situations are illustrated
in Fig. 17. As shown in the figure for unstable conditions, if the mass flow rate drops below point B then
the flow rate continues to fall dramatically because the
applied pumping head is less than that needed to move
the fluid. For slightly higher mass flow rates (higher
than point B), a dramatic positive flow excursion occurs because the pumping head exceeds the flow system requirement.
In most systems, the first term in Equation 19 is
generally positive and the second is negative. Therefore, Equation 19 predicts stability. However, in twophase systems, thermal-hydraulic conditions may combine to produce a local area where (δ∆P/δ G)internal is
negative and the potential for satisfying Equation 19
and observing an instability exists. A heated tube flow
characteristic showing a potential region of instability is illustrated in Fig. 18 where multiple flow rates
can occur for a single applied pressure curve. Operating at point B is unstable with small disturbances resulting in a shift to point A or point C. More intense disturbances could result in flow shifts between A and C.
For the relatively small subcooling found at the entrance to tube panels in recirculating drum boilers and
due to the relatively low exit steam qualities, negative
slope regions in the pressure drop versus flow curves
are typically not observed for positive flow cases. However, for once-through fossil fuel boilers and nuclear
steam generators with high subcooling at the inlet and
evaporation to dryness, negative slope regions in the
upflow portion of the pressure drop characteristic may
occur. Steps can be taken to avoid operation in any region where the circuit internal δ∆P/δG ≤ 0. General
effects of operating and design parameters on the pressure drop versus mass flow curves include:

Effect on ∆P


heat input
inlet ∆P


more stable
more stable
more stable

In situations where static instability may occur, the
inlet pressure drop can be increased by adding an
orifice or flow restriction to modify the overall flow
characteristic as shown in Fig. 18.


Fig. 17 Stable and unstable flow-pressure drop characteristics.

Fig. 18 Pressure drop characteristics showing unstable region.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
Density wave/pressure drop instability Density wave
instabilities involve kinematic wave propagation phenomena. Regenerative feedback between flow rate,
vapor generation rate and pressure drop produce self
sustaining alternating waves of higher and lower density mixture that travel through the tube. This dynamic instability can occur in single tubes that contain two-phase flows. In addition, when multiple tubes
are connected by inlet and outlet headers, a more complex coupled channel instability, which is driven by
density wave oscillations, may occur. Vertical heat flux
distribution is a particularly sensitive parameter in
dynamic instability evaluation.
Density wave oscillations can be predicted by the
application of feedback control theory. A number of
computer codes have been developed to provide these
predictions. In addition, instability criteria, which use
a series of dimensionless parameters to reduce the
complexity of the evaluation, have been developed.
Effects of operating and design parameters on the
density wave instability include:
mass flux
heat flux
inlet ∆P
inlet subcooling

Change in stability
improved (large subcooling)
reduced (small subcooling)

Steam-water separation
Subcritical pressure recirculating boilers and steam
generators are equipped with large cylindrical vessels
called steam drums. Their primary objective is to permit separation of the saturated steam from the steamwater mixture leaving the boiling heat transfer surfaces. The steam-free water is recirculated with the
feedwater to the heat absorbing surfaces for further
steam generation. The saturated steam is discharged
through a number of outlet nozzles for direct use or
further heating. The steam drum also serves to:
1. mix the feedwater with the saturated water remaining after steam separation,
2. mix the corrosion control and water treatment
chemicals (if used),
3. purify the steam to remove contaminants and residual moisture,
4. remove part of the water (blowdown) to control the
boiler water chemistry (solids content), and
5. provide limited water storage to accommodate
rapid changes in boiler load.
However, the primary function of the steam drum
is to permit the effective separation of steam and water. This may be accomplished by providing a large
steam-water surface for natural gravity-driven separation or by having sufficient space for mechanical
separation equipment.
High efficiency separation is critical in most boiler
applications in order to:

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

1. prevent water droplet carryover into the superheater where thermal damage may occur,
2. minimize steam carryunder in the water leaving
the drum where residual steam can reduce the
effective hydraulic pumping head, and
3. prevent the carryover of solids dissolved in the steamentrained water droplets into the superheater and
turbine where damaging deposits may form.
The last item is of particular importance. Boiler water may contain contaminants, principally in solution.
These arise from impurities in the makeup water,
treatment chemicals and condensate system leaks, as
well as from the reaction of the water and contaminants with the boiler and preboiler equipment materials. Even low levels of these solids in the steam (less
than 0.6 ppm) can damage the superheater and turbine. Because the solubility of these solids is typically
several orders of magnitude less in steam than in water (see Chapter 42), small amounts of water droplet carryover (greater than 0.25% by weight) may result in dramatically increased solids carryover and unacceptable
deposition in the superheater and turbine. The deposits
have caused turbine damage as well as superheater tube
temperature increases, distortion and burnout.
A cross-section of a horizontal steam drum found
on a modern high capacity fossil fuel boiler is shown
in Fig. 19. This illustrates the general arrangement
of the baffle plates, primary cyclone separators, secondary separator elements (scrubbers), water discharger (downcomer) and feedwater inlets. The blowdown (water removal) connections are not shown. The
steam-water separation typically takes place in two
stages. The primary separation removes nearly all the
steam from the water so that very little steam is recirculated from the bottom of the drum through the outlet connection (downcomer) towards the heated tubes.
The steam leaving the primary separators in high
pressure boilers still typically contains too much liquid in the form of contaminant-containing droplets for
satisfactory superheater and turbine performance.
Therefore, the steam is passed through a secondary
set of separators, or scrubber elements (usually closely
spaced, corrugated parallel plates) for final water
droplet removal. The steam is then exhausted through
several connections. As this figure indicates, successful steam-water separation involves the integrated
operation of primary separators, secondary scrubbers
and general drum arrangement.

Factors affecting steam separation
Effective steam separation from the steam-water
mixture relies on certain design and operating factors.
The design factors include:
1. pressure,
2. drum length and diameter,
3. rate of steam generation,
4. average inlet steam quality,
5. type and arrangement of mechanical separators,
6. feedwater supply and steam discharge equipment
arrangement, and
7. arrangement of downcomer and riser connections
to the steam drum.


The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Fig. 19 Steam drum with three rows of primary cyclone separators.

The operating factors include:

boiler load (steam flow),
type of steam load,
chemical analysis of boiler water, and
water level.

Primary separation equipment generally takes one of
three forms:
1. natural gravity-driven separation,
2. baffle-assisted separation, and
3. high capacity mechanical separation.

Natural gravity-driven separation
While simple in concept, natural steam-water separation is quite complex. It is strongly dependent upon
inlet velocities and inlet locations, average inlet steam
quality, water and steam outlet locations, and disengagement of liquid and steam above the nominal water surface. Some of these effects are illustrated in Figs.
20 and 21.
For a low rate of steam generation, up to about 3
ft/s (0.9 m/s) velocity of steam leaving the water surface, there is sufficient time for the steam bubbles to
separate from the mixture by gravity without being
drawn into the discharge connections and without

carrying entrained water droplets into the steam outlet (Fig. 20a). However, for the same arrangement at
a higher rate of steam generation (Fig. 20b), there is
insufficient time to attain either of these desirable
results. Moreover, the dense upward traffic of steam
bubbles in the mixture may also cause a false water
level indication, as shown.
The effect of the riser or inlet connection locations
in relation to the water level is illustrated in diagrams
a and b of Fig. 21. Neither arrangement is likely to
yield desirable results in a drum where gravity alone
is used for separation.
From an economic standpoint, the diameter of a
single drum may become prohibitive. To overcome this
limitation, several smaller steam drums may be used,
as shown in Fig. 22a, although this is no longer common. However, in most boiler applications, natural
gravity-driven separation alone is generally uneconomical, leading to the need for separation assistance.

Baffle-assisted primary separation
Simple screens and baffle arrangements may be
used to greatly improve the steam-water separation
process. Three relatively common baffle arrangements
are illustrated in Fig. 22. In each case, the baffles
provide: 1) changes in direction, 2) more even distriSteam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Fig. 20 Effect of rate of steam generation on steam separation in a
boiler drum without separation devices.

Fig. 21 Effect of location of discharge from risers on steam
separation in a boiler drum without separation devices.

bution of the steam-water mixture, 3) added flow resistance, and 4) the maximum steam flow travel length
to enhance the gravity-driven separation process.
Various combinations of perforated plates have also
been used. The performance of these devices must be
determined by experimental evaluations and they are
typically limited to smaller, low capacity boilers.

downcomers virtually free of steam bubbles, the maximum net pumping head is available for producing flow
in the circuits. The steam moving upward from the
cylinder passes through a small primary corrugated
scrubber at the top of the cyclone (see Fig. 24) for additional separation. Under many operating conditions,
no further separation is required.
When wide load fluctuations and water analysis
variations are expected, large corrugated secondary
scrubbers may be installed at the top of the drum (see
Fig. 19) to provide very high steam separation. These
scrubbers are also termed secondary separators. They
provide a large surface which intercepts water droplets as the steam flows sinuously between closely fitted plates. Steam velocity through the corrugated plate
assembly is very low, so that water re-entrainment is
avoided. The collected water is drained from the bottom of the assembly to the water below.
One to four rows of cyclone separators are installed
in boiler drums, with ample room for access. For
smaller boilers at lower pressures [100 psig (0.7 MPa
gauge)], the separation rate of clean steam by single
and double rows of cyclone separators is approximately

Mechanical primary separators
Centrifugal force or radial acceleration is used almost universally for modern steam-water separators.
Three types of separators are shown in Fig. 23: the
conical cyclone, the curved arm and the horizontal
cyclone. The B&W vertical cyclone steam separator is
shown in more detail in Fig. 24. Vertical cyclones are
arranged internally in rows along the length of the
drum and the steam-water mixture is admitted tangentially as shown in Fig. 19. The water forms a layer
against the cylinder walls and the steam moves to the
core of the cylinder then upward. The water flows
downward in the cylinder and is discharged through
an annulus at the bottom, below the drum water level.
With the water returning from drum storage to the

Fig. 22 Simple types of primary steam separators in boiler drums: a) deflector baffle, b) alternate deflector baffle, and c) compartment baffle.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation


The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Steam Out
Long Tangential
Steam-Water Inlet

(a) Conical Cyclone


Baseplate with Swirl Vanes

Steam Out

Curved Arm


(b) Curved Arm



Steam Out

Washing the steam with condensate or feedwater of
acceptable purity may be used for this purpose.
Specialized vertical steam-water separators can be
used in once-through fossil fueled boiler systems
which are designed for part-load recirculation of water during startup and low-load operation. These are
basically vertical cylindrical pressure vessels (see Fig.
25) where the steam-water mixture enters through
multiple tangential inlets in the vertical vessel wall.
The resulting centrifugal acceleration creates a cyclone
action similar to that in the primary cyclone separators (Fig. 24) which separates the water from the
steam. Water is returned to the boiler circuitry for
further heating and steam generation while the steam
is sent to the superheating circuits.

Mechanical separator performance
The overall performance of mechanical separators
is defined by: 1) the maximum steam flow rate at a
specified average inlet quality per cyclone which meets
droplet carryover limits, and 2) the predicted pressure
loss. In addition, the maximum expected steam carryunder (% steam by weight) should also be known.
These parameters are influenced by total flow rate,
pressure, separator length, aperture sizes, drum water level, inlet steam quality, interior separator finish
and overall drum arrangement. Performance characteristics are highly hardware-specific. The general
trends are listed in Table 2.
Steam separator evaluation To date, theoretical
analyses alone do not satisfactorily predict separation
performance. Therefore, extensive experimental investigations are performed to characterize individual
steam-water primary separator designs.

(c) Horizontal
Cyclone Separator

Steam-Water Inlet

Water Out

Fig. 23 Typical primary steam-water separators.

4000 and 6000 lb, respectively, per hour per foot of
drum length (1.7 and 2.5 kg/s m). At pressures near
1050 psig (7.24 MPa gauge), these values increase to
9000 and 15,000 lb/h ft (3.7 and 6.2 kg/s m), respectively. For large utility boilers operating at 2800 psig
(19.3 MPa gauge), separation can be as high as 67,000
lb/h ft (28 kg/s m) of steam with four rows of cyclone
This combination of cyclone separators and scrubbers provides a steam purity of less than 1.0 ppm solids content under a wide variety of operating conditions. This purity is generally adequate in commercial practice. However, further refinement in steam
purification is required where it is necessary to remove
boiler water salts, such as silica, which are entrained
in the steam by a vaporization or solution mechanism.

Fig. 24 Vertical cyclone separator.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Fig. 25 Vertical steam-water separator in a spiral wound universal
pressure (SWUP™) boiler startup system.

Pressure drop of two-phase flow through a separator is extremely complex. An approximation involves
using the homogeneous model two-phase multiplier,
Φ, and a dimensionless loss coefficient, Kss, as follows:
∆Pseparator = K ss Φ

G 2υ f
2 gc


 υ −υf
Φ = 1.0 +  g
 υ

 x

The variable Kss is a unique function of pressure for
each steam separator design. The other variables are
defined after Equation 16.
The maximum steam flow per primary separator
defines the minimum number of standard units required, while the ∆P is used in the circulation calculations. Given the unique design of each separator,
B&W has acquired extensive experimental performance data under full-scale, full-flow and full-pressure conditions for its equipment.

Table 2
Mechanical Separator Performance Trends
Moisture carryover with steam
1. increases gradually with steam flow rate until a
breakaway point is reached where a sudden rise in
carryover occurs,
2. increases with water level until flooding occurs, and
3. increases with steam quality.
Carryunder of steam with water
1. declines with increasing water level, and
2. declines with decreasing inlet steam quality.
Pressure drop (Pin − Pdrum )
1. increases with mass flow and steam quality.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

Steam drum capacity
Given the flow capabilities of standardized steamwater separation equipment, the boiler drum is sized
to accommodate the number of separators necessary
for the largest expected boiler load (maximum steam
flow rate) and to accommodate the changes in water level
that occur during the expected load changes. The drum
diameter, in incremental steps, and length are adjusted
to meet the space requirements at a minimum cost.
An evaluation limit in steam drum design is the
maximum steam carryunder into the downcomer.
Carryunder, or transport of steam into the downcomers, is not desirable because it reduces the available
thermal pumping force by reducing the density at the
top of the downcomer. Carryunder performance is a
function of physical arrangement, operating pressure,
feedwater enthalpy, free-water surface area, drum
water level and separator efficiency. Empirical correction factors for specific designs are developed and used
in the circulation calculations to account for the steam
entering the downcomers. The steam is eventually
completely condensed after it travels a short distance
into the downcomer. However, the average density in
the top portion of the downcomer is still lower than
thermal equilibrium would indicate.
A rapid increase in steam demand is usually accompanied by a temporary drop in pressure until the firing rate can be sufficiently increased. During this interval, the volume of steam throughout the boiler is
increased and the resulting swell raises the water level
in the drum. The rise depends on the rate and magnitude of the load change and the rate at which the
heat and feed inputs can be changed to meet the load
demand. Steam drums are designed to provide the necessary volume, in combination with the controls and
firing equipment, to prevent excessive water rise into
the steam separators. This, in turn, prevents water
carryover with the steam.

The purpose of the steam-water flow circuitry is to
provide the desired steam output at the specified temperature and pressure. The circuitry flow also ensures
effective cooling of the tube walls under expected operating conditions, provided the unit is properly operated and maintained. A number of methods have
been developed. Four of the most common systems are
illustrated in Fig. 26. These systems are typically classified as either recirculating or once-through.
In recirculating systems, water is only partially
evaporated into steam in the boiler tubes. The residual
water plus the makeup water supply are then recirculated to the boiler tube inlet for further heating and
steam generation. A steam drum provides the space
required for effective steam-water separation. Oncethrough systems provide for continuous evaporation
of slightly subcooled water to 100% steam without
steam-water separation. Steam drums are not required. These designs use forced circulation for the
necessary water and steam-water flow. In some cases,
a combination of these approaches is used. At low
loads, recirculation maintains adequate tube wall cool5-17

The Babcock & Wilcox Company








(a) Natural Recirculation

(b) Forced Recirculation





(d) Once-Through with Part-Load

(c) Once-Through

Fig. 26 Common fossil fuel boiler circulation systems.

ing while at high loads, high pressure once-through
operation enhances cycle efficiency.

Natural circulation
In natural circulation, gravity acting on the density difference between the subcooled water in the
downcomer and the steam-water mixture in the tube
circuits produces the driving force or pumping head
to drive the flow. As shown in Fig. 27, a simplified
boiler circuit consists of an unheated leg or downcomer
and heated boiler tubes. The water in the downcomer
is subcooled through the mixing of the low temperature feedwater from the economizer with the saturation-temperature water discharged from the steamwater separators. Steam-water, two-phase flow is created in the boiler tubes as a result of the heat input.
Because the steam-water mixture has a lower average
density than the single-phase downcomer flow, a pressure differential or pumping pressure is created by the
action of gravity and the water flows around the circuit. The flow increases or decreases until the pressure
losses in all boiler circuits are balanced by the available pumping pressure. For steady-state, incompressible flow conditions, this balance takes the form:
 g
− ∫ 0Z ρ ( z ) dz   =
 gc 
( ∆Pfriction + ∆Pacceleration + ∆Plocal )

(Z ρ



Fig. 27 Simple furnace circulation diagram.

g c = 32.17 lbm ft/lbf s2 (l kg m/N s2)
∆P = circuitry pressure loss due to friction, fluid
acceleration and local losses, lb/ft2 (Pa)
As the heat input increases, circulation rate increases until a maximum flow rate is reached (Fig. 28).
If higher heat inputs occur, they will result in larger
pressure losses in the heated tubes without corresponding increases in pressure differential. As a result, the
flow rate declines.
Natural circulation boilers are designed to operate
in the region where increased heat input results in an
increase in flow for all specified operating conditions.
In this mode, a natural circulation system tends to be
self compensating for numerous variations in heat
absorption. These can include sudden changes in load,


= total vertical elevation, ft (m)
= incremental vertical elevations, ft (m)
ρ(z) = heated tube local fluid density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
ρ d = average downcomer fluid density, lb/ft3 (kg/
m3 )
= acceleration of gravity, ft/s2 (m/s2)

Fig. 28 Typical relationship between circulation at a given pressure
and steam production (arbitrary scale).

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
changes in heating surface cleanliness and changes
in burner operation.
Natural circulation is most effective where there is
a considerable difference in density between steam
and water phases. As shown in Fig. 29, the potential
for natural circulation flow remains very high even
at pressures of 3100 psi (21.4 MPa).

Forced circulation
In recirculating or once-through forced circulation
systems, mechanical pumps provide the driving head
to overcome the pressure losses in the flow circuitry.
Unlike natural circulation, forced circulation does not
enjoy an inherent flow-compensating effect when
heat input changes, i.e., flow does not increase significantly with increasing heat input. This is because a
large portion of the total flow resistance in the boiler
tubes arises from the flow distribution devices (usually
orifices) used to balance flow at the circuit inlets. The
large resistance of the flow distributors prevents significant increases in flow when heat absorption is increased.
Forced circulation is, however, used where the boilers are designed to operate near or above the critical
pressure [3200 psi (22.1 MPa)]. There are instances
in the process and waste heat fields and in some specialized boiler designs where the use of circulating
pumps and forced circulation can be economically attractive. At pressures above 3100 psi (21.4 MPa) a natural circulation system becomes increasingly large and
costly and a pump can be more economical. In addition,
the forced circulation principle can work effectively in
both the supercritical and subcritical pressure ranges.
In forced recirculation there is a net thermal loss
because of the separate circulating pump. While practically all the energy required to drive the pumps reappears in the water as added enthalpy, this energy
originally came from the fuel at a conversion to useful energy factor of less than 1.0. If an electric motor
drive is used, the net energy lost is about twice the
energy supplied to the pump motor for typical fossil
fuel systems.

Fig. 29 Effect of pressure on pumping head.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

Circulation design and evaluation
The furnace wall enclosure circuits are very important areas in a boiler. High constant heat flux conditions make uninterrupted cooling of furnace tubes
essential. Inadequate cooling can result in rapid overheating, cycling thermal stress failure, or material
failures from differential tube expansion. Sufficient
conservatism must be engineered into the system to
provide adequate cooling even during transient upset conditions. Simultaneously, the rated steam flow
conditions must be maintained at the drum outlet. Any
of the circulation methods discussed may be used to
cool the furnace waterwall tubes. In evaluating the
circulation method selected for a particular situation,
the following general procedure can be used:
1. The furnace geometry is set by the fuel and combustion system selected. (See Chapters 11, 14, 19 and 21.)
2. Standardized components (furnace walls, headers,
drums, etc.) are selected to enclose the furnace arrangement as needed. (See Chapters 19 and 21.)
3. The local heat absorption is evaluated based upon
the furnace geometry, fuel and firing method. Local upset factors are evaluated based upon past
field experience. (See Chapter 4.)
4. Circulation calculations are performed using the
pressure drop relationships.
5. The calculated circulation results (velocities, steam
qualities, etc.) are compared to the design criteria.
6. The flow circuitry is modified and the circulation
re-evaluated until all of the design criteria are met.
Some of the design criteria include:
1. Critical heat flux limits For recirculating systems,
CHF conditions are generally avoided. For oncethrough systems, the temperature excursions at
CHF are accommodated as part of the design.
2. Stability limits These limits generally indicate
acceptable pressure drop versus mass flow relationships to ensure positive flow in all circuits and to
avoid oscillating flow behavior.
3. Steam separator and steam drum limits These
indicate maximum steam and water flow rates to
individual steam-water separators and maximum
water flow to the drum downcomer locations to
ensure that steam carryunder and water carryover
will not be problems.
4. Minimum velocity limits Minimum circuit saturated velocities assure that solids deposition, potentially detrimental chemistry interactions, and
selected operating problems are minimized.
5. Sensitivity The system flow characteristic is
checked to ensure that flow increases with heat
input for all expected operating conditions.
Circulation is analyzed by dividing the boiler into
individual simple circuits – groups of tubes or circuits
with common end points and similar geometry and
heat absorption characteristics. The balanced flow
condition is the simultaneous solution of the flow characteristics of all boiler circuits.
At the heart of a B&W circulation evaluation is a
circulation computer program that incorporates tech5-19

The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Critical flow
A two-phase flow parameter of particular importance
in nuclear reactor safety analysis and in the operation
of valves in many two-phase flow systems is the critical flow rate. This is the maximum possible flow rate
through an opening when the flow becomes choked
and further changes in upstream pressure no longer
affect the rate. For single-phase flows, the critical flow
rate is set by the sonic velocity. The analysis is based
upon the assumption that the flow is one dimensional,
homogeneous, at equilibrium and isentropic. These assumptions result in the following relationships:
Sonic velocity = C =

 dP 
Critical flow = Gmax = ρ 
 gc
 dρ 

Fig. 30 Moody critical flow model for maximum steam-water flow rate.17

niques for calculating the single- and two-phase heat
transfer and flow parameters discussed above and in
Chapters 3 and 4. With this program, a circulation
model of the entire boiler is developed. Input into the
program is a geometric description of each boiler circuit including descriptions of downcomers, supplies,
risers, orifices, bends and swages, as well as individual
tubes. Each of the circuits within the boiler is subjected
to the local variation in heat transfer through inputs
based upon the furnace heat flux distribution. (See
Chapter 4.) Given the geometry description and heat
absorption profile, the computer program determines
the balanced steam-water flow to each circuit by solving the energy, mass and momentum equations for the
model. The results of the program provide the detailed
information on fluid properties, pressure drop and flow
rates for each circuit so that they can be compared to
the design criteria. Adjustments frequently made to
improve the individual circuit circulation rates can
include: changing the number of riser and supply
connections, changing the number or type of steam
separators in the drum, adding orifices to the inlets to
individual tubes, changing the drum internal baffling,
changing the operating pressure (if possible) and lowering the feedwater temperature entering the drum.
Once the steam-water circuitry is finalized, the detailed
mechanical design proceeds.

 dP 
 d ρ  gc








velocity, ft/s (m/s)
pressure, lb/ft2 (Pa)
fluid density, lb/ft3 (kg/m3)
32.17 lbm ft/lbf s2 (1 kg m/N s2)
mass flux, lb/s ft2 (kg/m2 s)

However, when saturated water or a two-phase
steam-water mixture is present, these simplifying assumptions are no longer valid. The flow is heterogeneous and nonisentropic with strong interfacial transport and highly unstable conditions.
Moody’s analysis17 of steam-water critical flow is perhaps the most frequently used. It is based upon an
annular flow model with uniform axial velocities of
each phase and equilibrium between the two phases.
A key element of the analysis involves maximizing the
flow rate with respect to the slip ratio and the pressure. The results are presented in Fig. 30. The critical
steam-water flow rate is presented as a function of the
stagnation condition. Compared to experimental observations, this correlation slightly overpredicts the
maximum discharge at low qualities (x < 0.1) and predicts reasonably accurately at moderate qualities (0.2
< x < 0.6), but tends to underpredict at higher qualities (x > 0.6).

1. Collier, J.G., and Thome, J.R., Convective Boiling & Condensation, Third Ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford,
United Kingdom, 1994.
2. Jens, W.H., and Lottes, P.A., “Analysis of heat transfer, burnout, pressure drop, and density data for high pressure water,” Argonne National Laboratory Report ANL4627, May, 1951.
3. Thom, J.R.S., et al., “Boiling in subcooled water during flow up heated tubes or annuli,” Proceedings of Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Vol. 180, pp. 226-246, 1966.

4. Chen, J.C., “Correlation for boiling heat transfer to saturated liquids in convective flow,” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Process & Design Development, Vol. 5, pp.
322-329, 1966.
5. Kitto, J.B., and Albrecht, M.J., “Elements of two-phase
flow in fossil boilers,” Two-Phase Flow Heat Exchangers,
Kakaç, S., Bergles, A.E. and Fernandes, E.O., Eds., Kluwer
Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp.
495-552, 1988.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

The Babcock & Wilcox Company
6. Watson, G.B., Lee, R.A., and Wiener, M., “Critical heat
flux in inclined and vertical smooth and ribbed tubes,” Proceedings of The Fifth International Heat Transfer Conference, Vol. 4, Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, Tokyo, Japan, pp. 275-279, 1974.
7. Gellerstedt, J.S., et al., “Correlation of critical heat
flux in a bundle cooled by pressurized water,” Two-Phase
Flow and Heat Transfer in Rod Bundles, Schock, V.E.,
Ed., American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME),
New York, New York, pp. 63-71, 1969.
8. Wiener, M., “The latest developments in natural circulation boiler design,” Proceedings of The American
Power Conference, Vol. 39, pp. 336-348, 1977.
9. Swenson, H.S., Carver, J.R., and Kakarala, C.R.,
“Heat transfer to supercritical water in smooth-bore
tubes,” Journal of Heat Transfer, Vol. 87, pp. 477-484,
10. Ackerman, J.W., “Pseudoboiling heat transfer to supercritical pressure water in smooth and ribbed tubes,”
Journal of Heat Transfer, Vol. 92, pp. 490-498, 1970.
11. Hewitt, G.F., and Roberts, D.W., “Studies of two-phase
flow patterns by simultaneous x-ray and flash photography,” Atomic Energy Research Establishment Report
M2159, HMSO, London, England, United Kingdom, 1969.

12. Thom, J.R.S., “Prediction of pressure drop during
forced circulation boiling of water,” International Journal
of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 7, pp. 709-724, 1964.
13. Martinelli, R.C., and Nelson, D.B., “Prediction of pressure drop during forced-circulation boiling of water,” Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
(ASME), pp. 695-702, 1948.
14. Zuber, N., and Findlay, J.A., “Average volumetric concentration in two-phase flow systems,” Journal of Heat
Transfer, Vol. 87, pp. 453-468, 1965.
15. Chexal, B.J., Horowitz, J., and Lellouche, G.S., “An
assessment of eight void fraction models for vertical flows,”
Electric Power Research Institute Report NSAC-107, December, 1986.
16. Ledinegg, M., “Instability of flow during natural and
forced circulation,” Die Wärme, Vol. 61, No. 48, pp. 891898, 1938 (AEC-tr-1861, 1954).
17. Moody, F.J., “Maximum flow rate of a single component, two-phase mixture,” Journal of Heat Transfer, Vol.
87, pp. 134-142, 1965.

Bergles, A.E., et al., Two-Phase Flow and Heat Transfer
in the Power and Process Industries, Hemisphere, Washington, D.C., August, 1981.
Butterworth, D., and Hewitt, G.F., Eds., Two-Phase Flow
and Heat Transfer, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
England, United Kingdom, 1977.
Chen, J.C., Ed., Flow Boiling, Taylor and Francis Group,
New York, New York, 1996.
Hsu, Y-Y, and Graham, R.W., Transport Processes in
Boiling and Two-Phase Systems, Hemisphere, Washington, D.C., 1976.
Kakaç, S., Boilers, Evaporators and Condensers, John
Wiley & Sons, New York, New York, 1991.

Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation

Kitto, J.B., “Steam Generators,” Standard Handbook of
Powerplant Engineering, Second Ed., Elliot, T.C., Chen,
K., and Swanekamp, R.C., McGraw-Hill, New York, New
York, 1998.
Lahey, R.T., and Moody, F.J., Thermal-Hydraulics of a
Boiling Water Nuclear Reactor, Second Ed., American
Nuclear Society (ANS), Hinsdale, Illinois, 1993.
Lokshin, V.A., Peterson, D.F., and Schwarz, A.L., Standard Methods of Hydraulic Design for Power Boilers,
Hemisphere Publishing, New York, New York, 1988.
Tong, L.S., Boiling Heat Transfer and Two-Phase Flow,
John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York, 1965.
Wallis, G.B., One-Dimension Two-Phase Flow, McGrawHill, New York, New York, 1969.


The Babcock & Wilcox Company

Two-phase flow void fraction measurements.


Steam 41 / Boiling Heat Transfer, Two-Phase Flow and Circulation