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Proceedings of the 2nd Thermal and Fluid Engineering Conference, TFEC2017

4th International Workshop on Heat Transfer, IWHT2017

April 2-5, 2017, Las Vegas, NV, USA




Maxime Binama1, Wen-Tao Su1, Xiao-Bin Li1, Feng-Chen Li1, Xian-Zhu Wei1,2, Shi An3
School of Energy Science and Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150001, China
State key laboratory of hydropower equipment, Harbin Institute of Large Electric Machinery,
Harbin 150040, China
School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150001, China


Energy plays a key role in human daily activities, thus crucially serving in peoples development,
be it social or economic. In line with the current world-wide renewable energy resources promotion,
Pumped Storage Hydropower-based Electricity generation has been a widely adopted practice,
where Reversible Pump Turbines (RPT) present many advantages over other formally used electro-
mechanical devices. However, investigations have shown that reversible pump turbines operations
are associated with different flow instabilities, where induced pressure fluctuations can cause
structural vibrations and possible machine performance degradation. This article reviews the
already accomplished studies and their findings on RPT flow stability, its development mechanism,
and influencing parameters, where some light were shed on remaining gaps for further

KEY WORDS: Pumped storage hydropower, Reversible Pump turbine, Pressure fluctuation, flow stability.


In the last decades, world electrical energy consumption has significantly increased with a rate that
has reached 17.7% in 2010 and is predicted to double by 2025 [1, 2]. Hydropower, as one of bests
green electricity production methods, has recently gained a substantial role due its different
advantages over other mostly used renewable energy (REN) technologies, where pumped storage
hydro power plants (PSHPP) are now mostly adopted for compensating the power consumption
random nature, within the power generation mix, coupled to other power generation technologies. A
PSHPP is generally built on two reservoirs, where during peak hours (daytime usually), the upper
reservoirs water is used for power generation, while at night-time; the lower reservoirs water is
pumped back to upper side. The use of reversible pump turbines (RPT) within these plants is the
most preferred over other formerly used combinational arrangements such as Francis turbine/pump
or Pelton turbine/pump, due to its operational flexibility as well as its cost-effectiveness. The off-
design operation and, fast and frequent operating modes switching abilities are some of the RPT
advantages. However, despite many presented advantages through the use of these machines, their
operation has been noticed to be connected to different unstable phenomena occurrence,
characterized by high amplitudes pressure fluctuations and subsequent structural vibrations within
these systems. Nevertheless, early age studies by researchers had already investigated and pointed
out some pump turbines unsteady off-design operation-related challenges. Recently, Zuo et al. [3]

*Corresponding Author: Dr. Su Wen-Tao, Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), Harbin 150001, China


has mentioned that hydraulic instabilities (pressure fluctuations) and related mechanical vibrations
can also cause premature mechanical failures of the machine. And indeed, Egusquiza et al. [4]
presented a case where flow induced pressure fluctuations within a high head pump turbine,
resulted in the runner clown breakage. The pressure fluctuations in the vaneless space were
confirmed to have considerably contributed to the failure. In line with this, many more studies on
pump-turbine flow stability have been carried out, where pressure fluctuations within the machine
flow zones and induced detrimental phenomena such as vibration, noise and mechanical failures,
constituted the main focus. Yao et al. [5] investigated the flow characteristics in the pump-turbine at
small discharge in pumping mode. The study results showed that complex flows, such as backflow
and vortex, were noticed in draft tube, runner, and diffuser, leading to significant pressure
fluctuations. Sun et al. [6] studied the distribution of pressure fluctuations in a prototype pump-
turbine under pump mode, at different mass flow and guide vane openings. It was found that
pressure fluctuation distribution was found different under different conditions with no regular
slope. Li et al. [7], has however, presented the effect of guide vanes opening to the pressure
fluctuations in the vaneless space, where it was found that the amplitude of pressure fluctuations
with oscillating guide vanes was higher than with the fixed guide opening. Moreover, there was an
increase in pressure fluctuations with the opened guide vanes. Yin et al. [8] considered the water
compressibility in the governing equations of unsteady flow in a pump turbine. Study results
revealed that the high pressure fluctuations were predicted by compressible simulation and lower
frequency component in pressure signal could be easily captured, therefore, water compressibility
consideration was recommended for unsteady flow simulations in hydraulic machines. Liu at al. [9]
used the non-linear RNG k- turbulence model to study the pressure fluctuations in a pump-turbine
at 20% relative guide vanes opening. Only high frequency components were observed for pressure
fluctuations, where the first dominant frequency was the blade passing frequency (BPF) and second
was the double (2BPF). It can then be seen that pressure fluctuations in pump-turbines constitute
the key-cause of the machine instability characteristics, taking source from different causes but
most obviously, occurring under off-design operating conditions. The present article, discusses
research findings about flow stability in pump-turbines as published by many investigators, where
the so far acquired knowledge as well as remaining gaps are highlighted, thus giving possible
orientation to future studies.


The general system stability aspect was defined by Greitzer [10] as the ability of the system to
recover its initial state after a certain perturbation, where the system can either exhibit static or
dynamic stability. The criterion for stability of the pump turbine is called dynamic when the shaft is
disconnected from the generator and the speed of rotation varies with the unbalanced torque; On the
other hand, when the pump turbine is connected to the generator with a frequency proportional to
the electric grid frequency a static stability criterion applies. In their everyday operations, pump
turbines go through frequent switching between pump and turbine modes, thus sometimes working
under off-design conditions.
The fact that these machines can rotate and deliver the flow in two opposite directions, confer them
the so called four quadrants operational characteristics at specific guide vane openings, allowing
them to operate under five defined regimes, viz. turbine, turbine brake, pump, pump brake, and
reverse pump (see Fig. 1). Each regime characteristics and working conditions were presented by
Amblard et al. [11]. A pump turbine is basically a compromise between the pump and turbine but
the geometry is more like the pump. Pump turbines are generally known to have steeper speed-flow
characteristics than Francis turbines of same specific speeds, which under certain operating
conditions, may be the source of stability problems within the machine. The pump turbine stability


aspect can thus be assessed through the slope of its characteristics curves, for both pumping and
turbine modes, such as head-flow and flow-speed curves. Because the pump mode of operation is
known to be very sensible to decelerated flow field, which results in flow separation and related
hydraulic losses as well as possible self-excited vibrations; the design of pump turbines has to be
carried out with a big emphasis on the pump operating mode characteristics. Prez-Diaz et al. [1]
have classified the pump turbines instability features into two types; the first occurring at low load
off-design operating conditions closer to the runaway (zero torque) in turbine mode, otherwise
called the s-shaped characteristic curve (Fig. 2), and the second occurring at part-load in pumping
mode, generally called the saddle-type characteristics or hump characteristics.

(a) (b)
Fig. 1. Four quadrant characteristics of a reversible pump turbine a) Flow-speed curve b)
Torque-speed curve [10].

Fig. 2. S-shape characteristics of a pump tubine [1]

According to Gentner et al. [12], the flow instability occurs in turbine mode when the head-flow
and speed-flow curves have negative and positive slopes respectively ( and
), whereas for pump mode instability, the head-flow curve presents a positive
slope ( ) (see Fig. 3). Another necessary but not sufficient instability criterion for pump-
turbine generating mode states that the slope of Torque-Speed characteristic (TED-nED) must be
positive. However, with this slope being slightly positive, the system can still exhibit stable
characteristics depending on the fluid or the slope of flow-speed characteristics (QED-nED). The
discharge, speed and Torque factors (QED, nED and TED) are expressed as:
2 n ED nD gH T ED T gH 3 (1)
D gH D


Many researchers have carried out different studies on reversible pump turbines stability aspects,
mainly to get deep understanding on the flow dynamics explaining the causes of flow instabilities
occurrence. The following section gives a literature on different investigators findings in the same.

(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 3. Pump turbine instability conditions for reverse (b, c) and conventional (a) modes [12].

2.1. S-shaped characteristics

The S-shape induced instabilities are associated with fluctuations in flow rate, torque, speed, and
head that have negative effects on the pump turbine start up, synchronization with the grid, and load
rejection processes. For pump-turbines operating in the S-shaped operating characteristics region,
some speeds correspond to three different flow conditions with a positive slope along the operating
line which results in both positive and negative torques which can easily damage the pump-turbine
components. At the start up, the machine works at no-load conditions where the acquired hydraulic
energy is totally dissipated in form of energy losses. The developed flow instability at these areas is
characterized by torque fluctuations and can, at a certain point, affect the machine operating mode
as well as inflicting significant fluctuations of head and flow with possible self-excited vibrations
and noise [13]. For runners, it has been generally found that, in terms of operational damage, one
start-up operation is equivalent to years of operation under normal operating conditions[14]. Many
researchers have tried to explain the S-shape instabilities occurrence reasons and related flow
dynamics, and the progress so far is of a substantial value. It was generally found that the S-shape
induced instabilities are due to the head increase at part-load, which is, in turn, associated to the
blockage of some impeller channels by a developed rotating stall.
Seidel et al. [15] and Hasmatuchi et al. [16] have carried out almost similar studies on S-shape
instabilities. The machine being tested from stable conditions through runaway to the turbine brake
conditions, the flow instabilities were noticed at the runaway conditions and got amplified in the S-
shaped region with stall cells development, rotating at 70% of the runner rotational frequency and
totally blocking some runner channels. This rotating stall got so intense at lower discharges, giving
birth to reversed flows and vortices in the wicket gates. The flow channels blocking action by the
rotating stall was believed to be at the origin of the head increase, affecting the flow characteristics
in turbine mode. The induced reversed flow was also considered the trigger of the shift to pumping
mode by the machine within the same operating region. Many studies carried out by different other
researchers have presented similar results. To more deeply understand the S-shape characteristics
and related flow instabilities, many more researches have been carried out through experimental as
well as numerical methods. Nielsen and Svarstad [17] suggested a simulation model for pump
turbine characteristics description, the results of which showed an acceptable agreement with
experimental ones. The paper discussed also discussed the throttle technic for instability reduction.
Instabilities were not totally eliminated in the pump turbine but the system stability as a whole was
improved. Li et al. [18], for better understanding of the S-shape characteristics of the No.1 unit at


Baoquan pumped storage power station, carried out a research through on-site test and numerical
methods. The No.1 Francis type pump turbine was tested at no-load mode at three net heads ranging
from 518.04m to 530.38m, where operational parameters such as vibration, shaft displacement, and
pressure fluctuation; constituted the main research target. The rotation speed fluctuations were
found to go beyond the synchronization requirements, which got resolved through the use of
Misaligned Guide vanes technic. The vibration and shaft displacement at no-load were found to be
dominated by the rotating frequency signal whereas the pressure fluctuations didnt show an
obvious main frequency for a wide spectrum. Nevertheless the amplitudes of vibration, shaft
displacement and pressure fluctuations were found to increase with the decrease in net head values.
The numerical and test results were found in a good agreement with an error of 6%, making the
CFD technic reliable for S-shape characteristics studies. Cavazzini et al. [19] carried out a research
to more deeply understand the cause, onset, and effects of unstable behaviors in pump turbines,
precisely in the S-shaped region of their characteristics curve. The used numerical model was first
validated through comparison with tests results. The unsteady simulations were then carried out to
investigate the pump turbine developing instabilities during load rejection, by decreasing the flow
rate from 45.1% QBEP (slightly above the runway) to 15.9% QBEP (turbine brake) in a 20 second-
time interval. The flow analysis at unstable zones identified the onset and development of stalled
cells, which grew to block some runner and distributor channels, and rotating in the same direction
with the runner. Their intensification resulted in fluctuations in flow, pressure, and torque; followed
by the continuous shifts between turbine and pumping modes by the machine. The unstable
behaviors in pump turbines were found to be associated with the negative slope of the machine head
curve at part-load, resulting in the S-shape formation at the machine flow-speed characteristics
curve. Yin et al. [20] performed a CFD simulation of the pump turbine S-shape characteristics-
induced unstable rotating speed. Because the time-dependent rotational speed was not known a
priori, it was required to get it continuously updated all along the simulation process; therefore, the
use of dynamic sliding mesh method (DSMM) was a necessity. The stable simulation was first run,
the results of which got compared to test ones for model validation. The following unstable
simulation at the runaway were performed by varying the machine operating head and it was found
that the severity of the instability was well quantified by the magnitude of the fluctuating quantities
once a quasi-periodic limit cycle oscillation was obtained. The S-zone instability was found to take
source from developed vortex at the runner inlet, leading to severe flow channels blockage and
associated fluctuations in flow rate, pressure, torque and rotational speed. Hence, the developed
dynamic vortex was confirmed to be the trigger to the dynamic instability occurrence in pump
turbines. Guggenberger et al. [21] conducted a research aiming at the improvement of
understanding about the mechanisms responsible for the unstable behaviors occurrence in pump
turbines. A reduced scale pump model was tested where dynamic wall pressure sensors and the
particle image velocimetry (PIV) technics were used investigate the effect of rotor-stator effects as
well as the onset and spread of flow instabilities within the machine. It was globally found that
pressure fluctuations increased at expected unstable regions. At turbine brake zone, the pressure
fluctuated with a low frequency of about 65% of the impeller rotational frequency, within which the
induced rotating stall was detected. The PIV test results showed an inhomogeneous flow patterns at
the runner channel and vaneless space under part load operating conditions. Zhang et al. [22]
conducted a numerical simulation study on the causes of S-shaped characteristics occurrence in
pump turbines, whereby the partial reverse pump concept got introduced. Test results were first
used to showcase the occurrence of the unsteady instabilities at different guide vane openings
(GVO), leading to S-shape zone apparition. Next, SST k- turbulence model-based numerical
simulation was conducted on a pump turbine. The flow at the runner channels was noticed to shift
from stable to highly disturbed state with induced vortex, as the flow rate decreased. The reversed
flow was noticed even before the machine entered the S-zone, and caused a great deal vortex in


runner as well as guide vanes. This condition (partial reverse pump) was found to be responsible for
the machine S-shaped characteristics occurrence. Casartelli et al. [23] presented an open source
toolbox OpenFOAM-based model to compute the pump turbine flow under no-load conditions. The
study was conducted by gradually increasing the guide vanes opening starting from speed no-load
conditions to the turbine brake quadrant. The flow analysis results showed a complex flow structure
from different flow patterns interaction in the vaneless space, where the guide vanes flow produced
severe vortices at the runner inlet, blocking some runner flow channels. The produced torque was
from the non-blocked flow streams in the vicinity of both the runner hub and shroud, whereas both
the runner blade pressure and suction sides were dominated by a reversed flow. Billdal and
Wedmark [24] pointed out that, in practice, a single-stage reversible pump-turbine is by nature
forced to be operated as a compromise between an optimum pump and an optimum turbine.
Guggenberger et al. [25] claimed that the pump turbines capacity to work with acceptable
efficiency in two operating modes as well as the ability to switch between them in a fast and
frequent way; made them the best choice within Pumped storage power plants over other formerly
used arrangements. However their operations at start up, mode transition, and load rejection phases;
were found to be associated with instabilities which could result in speed, pressure, torque, and flow
fluctuations; leading sometimes to machine structural vibrations and possible mechanical failures.
For instance, the start-up phase creates severe and random flow variations due to the combined
effect of different factors such as the low runner speed and transient pressure changes.
He et al. [26] investigated the resonance phenomenon in a pump turbine at the start-up, where it was
found that the rotor-stator interaction (RSI) induced hydraulic excitation frequency was one of the
main causes of resonance in the machine structure. Guggenberger et al. [27] on the other hand,
carried out an experimental investigation on the pump-turbine instability during synchronization.
PIV and pressure sensor technics were used for velocity and other parameters measuring. The study
results confirmed the existence of a complex flow pattern at the vaneless space between rotor and
guide vanes and high velocities at the center of runner inter-blade flow areas. The secondary flow
causing both the local flow blockage and flow reversal was noticed; where PIV technic proved to be
a reliable technic for characteristics study in the S-Shaped region. Nevertheless, because the
machine must pass through zero and negative torque conditions at high speeds, the load rejection
phase is mostly characterized by stochastic pressure fluctuations, which may even cause the
machine to temporarily work in the reverse pumping conditions. A number of studies were carried
out to understand the flow dynamics at the above mentioned specific phases and related instability
sources. Staubli et al. [28] presented a numerical study focusing on the flow characteristics near
runaway and flow phenomena leading to the instability. The simulated instabilities in the operating
zone of interest was associated with the occurrence of time-dependent in and outflow between the
runner channels and the vaneless space separating the runner and guide vanes. This condition was
believed to take source from the generated local vortices in the runner channels close to the leading
edge, thus being the origin of instabilities in the machine. Edinger et al. [29] examined the flow in
the pump turbine under zero flow conditions at the machine start-up. After experimental and
numerical analysis were done, it was found that, under zero flow operating conditions, the strong
pre-rotation and flow reversal occurred at the runner inlet. Also, three dimensional vortex structures
and stagnation points appeared within the stay vane channels, followed by flow reversal from the
associated strong flow rotation. The test measurements and numerical results presented a complex
flow pattern characterized by positive and negative values of meridional and secondary velocity
components, taking source from the detected fully separated flow in the machine. Stens and Stefan
[30] presented a numerical study on the machine fast transition from pump to generating mode. The
machine flow was simulated from pumping mode through the pump brake zone to the generating
mode. As the flow decreased in pump mode, the induced guide vanes stall with associated flow
blockage in some channels, inflicted severe pressure fluctuations in the runner. Under the pump


brake operating mode, there was an inhomogeneous pressure distribution in the machine until the
machine started the generating mode where the flow at the runner trailing edge got influenced by
the draft tube flow instability. Four vortex ropes had appeared in the draft tube shortly before the
machine rotation direction reversal, which collapsed to two and then to one, as the machine shifted
towards the turbine operating mode. High amplitudes of pressure and torque fluctuations were
noticed at the runner inlet vicinity and near the draft tube during the direction reversal and the
turbine mode beginning phases respectively.
During the pump-turbine transient load rejection process, the pump-turbine flow is unstable when
the pump turbine runs at partial discharge [31]. The main reason, as noticed through different
studies, is the presence of a vortex rope like a swirling rope in the draft tube. Jacob and Prenat [32]
pointed out that in case of load rejection, the unsteadiness is amplified and the pressure fluctuation
may rise greatly due to the appearance of the vortex rope. Liu et al. [31] has computationally
investigated the vortex rope development in the pump turbine draft tube at Load rejection, based on
the turbulence model. At the load rejection transient process, the flow rate decreased
causing the pressure at the runner exit to drop, thus inflicting the swirling flow in the draft tube,
which got stronger and stronger with the continuous flow rate decrease, thus giving the induced
vortex rope more and more strength, until it got separated into two narrow parts at the draft tube
elbow. This vortex rope was considered the source of pressure fluctuations in pump turbines during
the load rejection transient process. A quite similar study was carried out by Kaznacheev and
Kuznetsov [33], who by video observation and laser Doppler anemometry (LDA) studied the
unsteady flow characteristics in the draft tube of the pump turbine model at part, optimum, and
forced load operating conditions. The draft tube vortex rope was found to inter-shift between
broken and full shape at part load, disappear at optimum load, and getting wider at forced load
conditions. Moreover, the induced cavitation was found to considerably affect the flow velocity
profiles in the draft tube.
2.2. Saddle-type or Hump characteristics

The saddle-type pump instability is undoubtedly the most challenging problem to face in order to
significantly increase the operating range of pump-turbines in pumping mode, even in case of
variable speed pump-turbine. The operation stability for a pump turbine operating in pumping mode
is only attained when the difference of head between steady state characteristics of the water
conduit and the pump, increases with increasing flow. Any slight deviation from the system
stability characteristics will result in system flow unsteadiness-induced abnormalities. The pump
mode flow instability is characterized by the head drop with a decreasing flow, known to be
associated with hydraulic losses in both the runner and stator. Flow dynamic mechanisms leading to
the stated instability as described by Glich [34], include rotating stall, different flow pattern
transitions within pump channels, as well as inlet and outlet flow separation and recirculation
sometimes leading to vortex formation and possible vibrations. At different guide vane openings,
the pump turbine measurements as performed by Eisele et al. [35], have confirmed the guide vanes
onset rotating stall as the main issue at the peak of the machine characteristics. In line with this, the
rotating stall occurring at part load in a low specific speed pump turbine, operating under pump
conditions, was investigated by Braun [36]. It was noticed that the investigated stall was quite
different from the machine generating mode, as the found stall pattern consisted of four stall cells,
rotating at lower speed as compared to the runner speed (almost 2%). The increased hydraulic
losses connected to the onset rotating stall were found to be at the origin of the flow unsteadiness
and related head drop. However, it has been found, in the literature, that the machine unstable
behavior does not only implicate the head drop, but may also be accompanied by high cycle fatigue
stress, possibly resulting in crack formations and their probable propagation. The rotor-stator
interaction (RSI)-born strong excitations were the most blamed causes of this phenomenon. The


pump turbine structural complexity is believed to favor the RSIs, which is a fluid-dynamical
interaction between machine rotating and static parts; and known responsible for fluid-dynamical
instabilities onset in the machine. In his study, Majidi [37] confirmed the existence of RSI-induced
pressure distribution circumferential distortion at the runner exit, the same place where stronger
pressure pulsations were found but extending to the inlet and affecting the mass flow rate in the
runner channels. The flow unsteadiness was particularly found to substantially increase the blade
loading fluctuations as well as contributing to the important dynamic effects development at off-
design conditions. Rodriguez et al. [38] presented a theoretical method which could predict and
explain the RSI-induced harmonics in a pump turbine. This method was based on hypothesis that 1)
there is always a radial load whenever a runner blade passes in front of a guide vane 2) these loads
have similar shapes 3) their amplitudes depend on which runner blade interacting with which guide
vane 4) the loads sequence primarily depends on the combination of present number of runner
blades and guide vanes. With this method, the RSI magnitude distribution around the perimeter of
pump-turbine could be determined, allowing the identification of conditions of industrial interest,
such as an eccentricity or an excessive RSI in a particular vane. On the other hand, a study on the
resonance onset from the circumferential pressure fluctuation distribution unevenness was
presented by Guo and Maruta [39]. Hump characteristics are a main feature of unstable behavior in
pump turbines, which happen in pump mode under small discharge operation conditions, where
strong noise can be heard during the starting period and the start time is prolonged. Many more
studies have been carried out aiming at investigating, and by the way understanding the pump
turbine instability under pump mode operating conditions. Some of the conducted studies with
corresponding detailed research methodologies are presented in the following.
Jee et al. [40] predicted the hump characteristics and associated rotating stall in a high head pump
turbine (Nq=27). Numerical simulations using a commercial code FINETM/Turbo were conducted at
four different GVOs (12, 14, 16, and 18) for a wide range of flows, the results of which got
finally compared to tests ones. To accurately capture the hump shaped performance, periodicity and
steady approach were adopted. The lines simulation 14 and Sim-combine14 on Fig. 4 stand
for calculations with periodic and combined mesh respectively.

Fig. 4. Obtained characteristics curves for the three used methods under 14 guide vane
opening [40]

(a) (b)
Fig. 5. Cavitation effect on pump hump characteristics (a) and estimated cavitation associated
losses (b) [40].


The flow showed global stable characteristics at large GVOs. Nevertheless, the noticed increased
flow cells next to decreased flow regions, confirmed the high chance of rotating stall onset.
However, their number has been random, where the 18 GVO presented a worse performance with
8 cells, and 16 performed the best with 0 found cells. With respect to the pump hump performance,
high opening values, especially 16 GVO, performed well compared to lower ones, where 14 GVO
exhibited a worse performance. Cavitation phenomenon was also investigated and it was found to
impede the hump characteristic but inducing more losses at most of operating points in the machine
as shown in Fig. 5. Numerical results were found in good agreements with test ones.
Yao et al. [41] explored the cause of the Hump characteristics and associated internal flow
mechanism. A numerical analysis was conducted at four points, viz. A, B, C, and D; on a pump
turbine model made up with five parts namely draft tube, runner, guide vanes, stay vanes, and spiral
casing; under flow discharge in the range from 55% to 110% optimum discharge. Through a
comparative scheme, the standard k- turbulent model was preferred over the SST model from its
easier and faster convergence ability, and its simulation results presented a good agreement with
experimental ones. The main energy losses were found concentrated in the runner and guide vanes
and they showed a rapid increase with the discharge decrease. It was confirmed that the investigated
disorganized flow patterns in form of backflow, non-uniformly distributed velocity flow, complex
secondary flow, and vortex flow at specific places namely runner inlet, runner outlet, and guide
vanes domain respectively, were related to the Hump region formation. Li et al. [42] numerically
investigated the pump turbine flow characteristics in the drooping zone. To get to know how and
why the runner flow properties change, an SST K- turbulence model-based numerical simulation
was conducted on a pump turbine in pumping mode, at five operating points namely the part load
(45% BEP), drooping zone load (0.65 BEP), near BEP point (90% BEP), BEP (100% BEP),
and overload (124% BEP); with a 32mm GVO (BEP stands for the mass flow coefficient of the
BEP). Numerical results showed a good agreement with experimental ones. For further flow field
analysis, two cross-sections were chosen at the inlet and outlet of one runner channel, and studied at
five points (Fig.6). With the flow decrease, the vortex flow was formed at the runner inlet, and its
influence extended to the crown along the flow direction with further flow decrease. The
investigated backflow near the band in the inlet led to the decrease of the inlet flow area of passages
and increase of the flow drag force, which lowered the through-flow capacity. The discharge near
the crown on the other hand, increased as the flow blockage happened near the band. It was globally
concluded that the drooping phenomenon is due to a combined effect of the flow incidence and
hydraulic losses in the machine. The main hydraulic losses were revealed to happen in runner and
the tandem cascade; among which, the runner losses contributed more to the drooping occurrence.
The blade shape optimization was recommended for further drooping zone stability improvements.
Liu et al. [43] has both numerically and experimentally studied the pump turbine hump
characteristics and associated cavitation effects. In order to investigate the relationship between the
hump characteristics and cavitation phenomenon, numerical simulations were carried out with RNG
k- and Singhal et al. [44] as the used turbulence and cavitation models. The hump characteristic
was found to take source from the vortical flow patterns onset within the guide vanes and associated
flow blockage as the discharge flux decreased. The cavitation analysis results at four different
cavitation coefficients namely 0.09, 0.12, 0.15, and 0.18; showed the hump characteristic
weakening and further disappearance with the increase in cavitation coefficient values, at a
continuously decreasing flow rate. Numerical and experimental results presented a quite acceptable
Li et al. [45] studied the hump characteristics in pump turbines under pump mode. An SST K-
turbulence model-based 3D unsteady incompressible turbulent flow numerical study was conducted
on a reduced scale pump turbine model, the results of which showed a solid agreement with test
ones. Next, the operating points in the hump region were selected for the flow field analysis. The


analysis findings revealed the existence of three vortex groups within the tandem cascade channels
as the machine entered the Hump region; the scope and strength of which, changed as the discharge
decreased. The machine hump characteristics were finally believed to take source from the vortex
motion in the tandem cascade.

(a) (b)
Fig. 6. Schematic diagram of investigated cross sectional areas (a) and information on the
chosen analysis points (b) [42].

Liu et al. [46] used the cavitation model to analyze the pump turbine hump characteristics, where
the flow rates in the range of Q/QD = 0.5 to 1.2, were studied through both mixture and single phase
models. Three dimensional unsteady numerical simulations, based on both SST K- turbulent
model and Rayleigh Plesset cavitation model, were carried out and the results were compared to
experimental ones. The cavitation model presented a solid agreement with experimental results
whereas the single phase model exhibited big errors, making it reliable only at operating points out
of hump zone. The pressure at the runner inlet decreased with the discharge flux, and the cavitation
bubbles appeared in the flow range from = 0.228 to = 0.192 where cavitation phenomenon was
to its highest level, followed by its progressive disappearance in the flow range 0.1920.165, and
completely vanished for all flows <1.6. Considering the investigated similarity perfectness
between the pump hump characteristics and cavitation curve slopes, it was concluded that the head
drop in the hump region was caused by cavitation occurrence.
Under serious cavitation conditions, pressure fluctuations were found to depend on the rotational
speed. The used total head coefficient and flow coefficient , where R stands for radius of outlet
of the runner, for rotational speed of the runner, and g for acceleration of gravity, are defined as:

2gH Q (2)
R 0R
2 2 3


As shown in the above sections, the pump-turbine runner is the central part from which the machine
efficiency and flow stability can be counted. Basically, the runner geometry can considerably
influence the machine flow stability, be it saddle-type or s-shape characteristics related. Therefore,
its optimization would contribute a lot to the machine stability improvement. Different studies have
been carried out aiming at improving the pump-turbine stability aspects, where the most vulnerable
stages, viz. start-up and load rejection, have been deeply analyzed to come up with adequate
solutions to associated instabilities, where different universally applicable and case-specific
technics have been presented.


3.1. Misaligned guide vanes (MGV)

This technic is mainly used for pump-turbine start-up related instability mitigation. It was used for
the first time in COO II pump-turbines as presented by Klemm et al. [47]. The technic consists of
preopening a number of guide vanes during the machine start-up to improve the associated S-shape
instabilities. Fig. 7 shows such an arrangement. Different studies have been conducted on the use of
MGV, related flow dynamics, and its effect on the machine flow characteristics. Liu et al. [48]
confirmed that the use of pre-opened guide vanes could increase the flow and reduce vortices,
leading to a complete elimination of S-characteristics.

Fig. 7. Positions of four MGVs [47]

Liu et al. [49] investigated the effect of different guide vanes openings on the pressure field in
rotor-stator vaneless space. The non-linear Partially-Averaged Navier-Stokes (PAN) model was
used to study the S-shape instabilities of a pump turbine with MGV, where it was finally found that
the use of MGV improved the flow stability in the so called S-shape zone, whereby the water ring
in the vanless got destroyed. However, the MGV was noticed to worsen the pressure field in the
vaneless space, as the amplitudes of pressure fluctuations got larger with the increase in guide vanes
Xiao et al. [50] predicted the pressure pulses in a Francis type pump-turbine at different MGV
openings. Pressure monitoring points were fixed in all machine flow areas, viz. runner, guide and
stay vanes, spiral casing, and draft tube. The numerical solution showed that the MGV technic
substantially reduced the pressure pulses in stationary parts of the machine, where pressure
amplitudes considerably dropped as the MGV opening increased. However, the same technic was
found to aggravate the situation within the rotating domain as pressure amplitudes were found to
increase with the MGV openings. In their previous almost similar study [51], a substantial RSI
influence at small openings had been noticed, especially in the guide vanes and runner domains.
Liu at al. [52] analyzed the MGV method induced pressure fluctuations in a pump-turbine during
the start-up period at no-load conditions. The analysis results of two models, viz. synchronous and
MGV models in terms of pressure, showed that amplitudes of pressure fluctuations in the MGV
model was twice larger than the synchronous one. The use on MGV destroyed the uniform flow in
the casing, causing vortical flow patterns apparition in the rotor-stator vaneless space, the same
place where the dominant frequency (the BPF) was observed. Even though the MGV technic could
improve the S-characteristics, it was found guilty of flow instability creation due to the pressure
fluctuations increase in the machine.
Xiao et al. [53] investigated the S-shaped flow characteristics and their improvement by MGV
method in a pump-turbine. The MGV method ability to eliminated S-characteristics was verified,
and as shown in the above presented review, this method inflicted pressure fluctuations amplitudes


increase within the flow passages as well as the runner radial forces at the starting period. At start-
up, the pressure fluctuation amplitudes in the vaneless space were recorded at its maximum and
rapidly reduced as the rotating speed increased. The fact that MGV destroys the flow distribution
symmetry in the guide vanes and runner was believed to be responsible for increased pressure
fluctuation amplitudes in the machine. Similar results were found by Xiao et al. [54]

3.2. Inlet valve throttling

Cepa [55] presented a practical experience in dealing with reverse pump-turbines instability at the
start-up within Dalesice and Zarnowiec storage power plants. The use of two methods, as presented
by Dorfler et al. [56], digital turbine speed governor modification and artificial head loss addition at
the lower part of the penstock by means of butterfly throttling, was discussed. The upstream biplane
butterfly valve effectively improved the turbine start-up as it was able to push the stability limits to
higher speed factor values. This start-up modified technic has not presented any mechanical
Nielsen and Svarstad [17] discussed the mechanism when using a throttle to achieve system
stability, even if the turbine characteristics imply instability. Mesnage et al. [57] proposed a similar
start-up strategy for hydraulic turbines prone to S-shaped characteristic, based on a gain scheduling
approach from finite horizon predictive control [58].

3.3. Case-sensitive attempts

Olimstad et al. [59] investigated the geometric parameters which can influence the reversible pump-
turbine characteristics. Five different runner blades leading edge profiles were analyzed. The
results revealed that the used profiles modified the radius of curvature and inlet blade angle, where
smaller blade angles gave less steep characteristics in turbine mode. In respect to the pump-turbine
stability improvement, some recommendations were then provided, viz. increasing the blade length,
increasing the inlet blade angle, increasing the radius of curvature at the pressure side of the blade
leading edge, and decreasing the inlet radius.
Sun et al. [60], provided that pump-turbine stability is more associated with pressure pulsations than
anything else, investigated the influence of the distributor pitch diameter on pressure fluctuations in
a pump-turbines rotor-stator vaneless space and external performance. The analysis was carried out
over D0/D1 values ranging from 1.099 to 1.025. The maximum efficiency was found when D0/D1is
1.129 and different guide vane positions gave different pressure fluctuation amplitudes with minor
Kerschberger et al. [61] optimized the runner blade profile through different methods namely the
inverse design, numerical simulation, and mode testing methods; to come up with a significantly
improved design in terms of hydraulic performance compared to the initial design. Yin et al. [62]
presented a method to eliminate the pump-turbine S-shaped characteristics thus improving the
pump-turbine stability. As a big part of hydraulic losses generally happens in the runner, the method
for runner hydraulic performance improvement was proposed. Through the analysis of blade
loading by the direct analysis approach, the S-shaped characteristics were eliminated by the blade
meridional section broadening. For validation, two similar impellers with different meridional
section designs were manufactured and tested, where the runner with broader meridional section
exhibited stable performance.
Nowicki et al. [63] presented the optimization of a pump turbine at Tongbai pumped storage plant.
Liu at al. [64] carried out a pump turbine hydraulic optimization to eliminate the S-characteristics at
Xianju pumped storage plant. Numerical and experimental tests were carried out, and the onset
vortex and water ring at the vaneless space were found to cause flow blockage in some channels


thus contributing to the S-shape characteristics appearance. Thus both of the phenomena were
found to be the optimization targets. After different variations of flow conditions, the S-
characteristics were eliminated and the inner flow was improved. The improved runner provided the
flow steadiness at no-load conditions.


This paper presented a literature review from previously published works on pump-turbine flow
stability, where the following conclusions are drawn:
a. Flow instability in pump-turbines under both pump and generating modes at off-design
conditions, has been noticed to be associated to different unsteady flow phenomena, viz. vortex
flow, rotating stall, flow blockage and flow reversal; especially at critical operating phases, viz.
machine start-up and synchronisation, operating modes transition, and load rejection.
b. Different design and operational parameters, viz. inlet blade angle, guide vanes opening, rotor-
stator vaneless ring thickness, and so other runner geometric design parameters; have been
found to considerably influence the pump-turbine stability, thus requiring more attention both at
the design and operation stages.
Intensive research is still needed in the future to gain a full understanding on the remaining gaps,
leading to more ability to make the pump-turbine technology even more reliable and efficient,
where for instance, more optimization approaches are still needed to improve the flow stability in
pump turbines at off-design operating conditions.


The authors declare no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this article.


The authors are gratefully acknowledging the financial support for this work by National Natural
Science Foundation of China (51606050), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2016M591527),
and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (HIT.NSRIF.2017047).

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