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Advances in Engineering Software 33 (2002) 793–804

Simulation of air flow in the typical boiler windbox segments

C. Bhasker*
BHEL R&D Division, Vikasnagar, Hyderabad 500 093, India
Received 6 June 2002; accepted 31 July 2002

Simulation of turbulent air flow distribution in CFBC furnace, wherein primary air is entrained through inlet duct system called windbox,
is attempted through state of art CAD/CFD softwares. Establishment of flow in windbox channel, distributed plate nozzle and combustor is
complicated, due to sharp turns and presence of several solid boundaries makes the fluid flow highly turbulent. Hence, the simulation process
is aimed in different parts to understand the flow behavior in each of the component associated with windbox. Towards this, the present paper
develops the basic understanding for airflow distribution in windbox channel, wherein air exit is considered only through 6 £ 3 array of
distributed plate nozzle bottom faces. This analysis also highlights that recirculation flow, at several locations of windbox channel/distributed
plate nozzle, which aids to generate high pressures zones and severe turbulent fluctuations. These effects in turn leads to unequal air-flow at
exit, which are unable to carry the incoming crashed coal particles and lime stones to furnace for efficient combustion. q 2002 Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: CFBC boiler; Air flow; Windbox channel; Distributed plate nozzles; Combustor geometry; Multi-block grids; Simulation of flow; Recirculation
flow; Unequal air flow

1. Introduction Equal distribution of air to burners is required for optimum

performance. Simple modification can be made to redis-
Over the last decade, circulating fluidized bed combus- tribute the air and correct existing air unbalances. These
tion (CFBC) technology has demonstrated its ability [1] to modifications require the knowledge of the existing flow
reliably burn a wide range of fuels in the large industrial and pattern in primary air-inlet system.
utility steam generators, while meeting stringent emission Conventional engineering analysis rely heavily on
requirements. Recognizing this, Indian industries have empirical correlations and experience to develop boiler
already opted for CFBC boilers for their new plants [2,3]. and auxiliary equipment designs. Today’s design processes
However, Indian coals are characterized by high ash must be more accurate, while minimizing development
content, i.e. . 30%, high volatile matter . 15% and high costs to compete in a world economy. This forces
abrasive ash as reported in Ref. [4]. Due to these coal engineering companies to take advantage of design tools,
characteristics, the components of CFBC suffers surface which augment existing experience and empirical data,
erosion by particle impacts, resulting to performance while minimizing cost. One tool, which excels under these
degradations. Therefore, there is a need to improve overall conditions are numerical modeling through computational
cycle efficiency and minimize environmental impacts, while fluid dynamics techniques.
controlling the emission rates. The goal of numerical simulations are to improve the
One of the component of CFBC is primary air-inlet design of new or existing boiler components by optimizing
system to boiler furnace, wherein experience of plant the flow distribution. Examples of boiler related numerical
manufacturers concern is mal-distribution of air [5 – 7], due applications include furnaces, air supply ducts, windboxes,
to momentum and pressure losses and hence, inefficient coal piping, precipitators, pulverizers, burners and scrub-
combustion, high burner resistance and high emission rates. bers. The simulation is aimed with the use of computational
fluid dynamic softwares, executing on high speed, large
* Tel.: þ91-40-764-1584; fax: þ 91-40-377-6320. memory workstations. Numerical modeling has significant
E-mail address: (C. Bhasker). cost advantages, when compared to physical modeling and
0965-9978/02/$ - see front matter q 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 9 6 5 - 9 9 7 8 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 8 2 - 0
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794 C. Bhasker / Advances in Engineering Software 33 (2002) 793–804

field testing. Also numerical modeling provides additional Modeling of burners and overfire air ports requires the
insight into the physical phenomena being analyzed and proper air distribution in the windbox channel so that the
flexibility, with which, geometric changes can be studied. losses in primary air-inlet system are minimum. Windbox
The commercially procured software from AEA’s CFX- is used to transport the balanced air flow, which mixes
TASCflow is employed in the present paper to understand with coal and lime stones for efficient combustion in
the air flow firstly in windbox channel and subsequently in boiler. Windbox typically involves inlet duct, channel,
distributed plate nozzle and also through array of nozzles. distributed plate nozzles of the order several hundreds as
TASCflow solver is an advanced general purpose software, shown in Fig. 2, is proposed to use in flow solver, which
which works on PC NT and Unix workstations with advance comprises 975 grid blocks, 495 grid interfaces and runs
features in terms of multi-block grid connections, boundary into 500,000 grid points. Three-dimensional flow analysis
conditions, choice of discretization schemes and solution helps to reduce turning losses and burner resistance (i.e.
methods. The solver has been extensively applied to several windbox to furnace differential pressure). This is one of
complex industrial systems and obtained good success, the source for air-imbalance and means that higher
whose details are outlined in Refs. [8 –11]. burner resistance will offset some of the influence from
turning losses and estimation of these parameters for the
above grid needs heavy computational resources in terms
2. Description of problem of high virtual memory.
Numerical simulation models are tends to large due to
The CFB process utilizes a fluidized bed combustor in complex flow structure in primary air-inlet system even
which crushed coal and lime stones are suspended in a with scale down models due to presence of typical
stream of upward flowing air. Due to high velocities of gas, configured nozzles. Domain discretization process com-
the fine particles from coal fed pipes are carried out to prises several thousands of structured multi-block grids
combustor. Combustion air is introduced into furnace at for coarse grid flow analysis, which runs into millions of
multiple ports. About 40% combustion air is passed through grid points. Problem setup takes considerable time for
windbox as primary air, as shown in Fig. 1 and the balance elimination of several walls in the computational domain.
air is admitted as secondary air, through multiple ports in the To avoid the solver failure for computation of flow in
walls of combustor. such a large size geometrical problem, it is aimed to

Fig. 1. CFBC sketch showing primary inlet housing for CFD modeling.
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Fig. 2. Computational grid primary inlet air housing with several hundred nozzles.

study the flow pattern in different steps. Towards this, embedded in a single nozzle and several such nozzles are
the present paper simulates the turbulent flow firstly in placed in staggered rows on the distributed plate. The flow,
lower portion of windbox channel, whose top surface is which is entering from the side duct to windbox channel and
provided nozzles bottom faces are placed in staggered takes different turns in the annular nozzles and leaves from
array of rows and columns. Using appropriate flow the outer annular region towards outlet. Though the
conditions flow simulation has been carried out in single geometry has been created for lower portion of windbox
nozzle and array of nozzles. using the SDRC-IDEAS software initially, further geo-
metric modeling and grid generation has developed using
ICEM CAD software.
3. Geometry creation

The dimensions of windbox of CFBC power plant is 4. Grid generation

typical primary air housing of windbox is about 12.24 m
height and 7.21 m width. At 6.8 m height of windbox, about A state-of-art CAD/Grid generation software
400 annular nozzles with different radii of cylinders package IDEAS from SDRC/USA is used to generate
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796 C. Bhasker / Advances in Engineering Software 33 (2002) 793–804

three-dimensional structured multi-block grid for wind- connections have been made between corresponding
box channel and side duct. The volume of multi-block grid planes.
grid points are generated with the help of simulation
software module features, as universal file type, has been
imported in the flow solver. The resultant grid contains
about 100,000 grid points, as universal file, after 5. Flow solver
importing in TASCflow solver, is shown in Fig. 3,
which is free from negative volume and are in allowable The TASCflow commercial software package was
limits of required skew angles. used to compute the flow in windbox channel, and
Using ICEM-CFD Powermesh software, computational distributed plate nozzle. This software solves the three-
grid for nozzle portion has been generated separately, is dimensional Navier – Stokes’ equations in strong conser-
shown in Fig. 4. The grid comprises about 19 grid blocks vative form. A collocated variable arrangement is used to
comprises about 10,000 grid points are however, contains solve primitive variables (pressure, Cartesian velocity
walls in flow domain, has been eliminated by physical components) in stationary and rotating coordinate system.
connection of corresponding faces in respective grid Multi-block boundary fitted grids with local grid refine-
blocks. Using the grid transformation features in solver, ments and physical connections of different types
computational grid for array of 6 £ 3 nozzles on the between grids helps to solve the problem with more
distributed plate has been generated and shown in Fig. 5. ease. The transport equations are descretized using a
This grid is shown at the wall boundary, after removal of conservative finite volume method. Turbulence effects are
walls in rows and columns of nozzles and bottom and modeled using standard two equation k – 1 model. A
top portions in the computational domain are indicating second order accurate skew upwind difference scheme
inlet and outlet regions. To avoid flow blockage between with physical advection correction scheme is employed. A
different segments in the nozzles, required physical coupled algebraic multi-grid methods solves the system

Fig. 3. Computational grid for lower portion of air housing.

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Fig. 4. Velocity vectors at different locations of lower portion of air housing.

Fig. 5. Flow lines at different locations of lower portions of air housing.

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of equations. Detailed descriptions for the mathematical lower portion of windbox. The velocity distribution at
formulation and approximation are available in Ref. [12]. different locations of windbox are shown in Fig. 6. From the
graph, it is seen that velocity distribution shows lot of
recirculation flows, which, in fact, increases over height of
6. Boundary conditions and solution windbox channel.
As a result, the uniform velocity which is supposed to
To establish the flow simulation process, it has been enter with equal magnitudes in distributed plate nozzles are
considered that turbulent incompressible air mass flow of unequal. This behavior also clearly observed in the streak-
order 64 kg/s is entered at inlet duct of wind box. Different line plots shown in Fig. 7, wherein flow lines on speed scale,
cases have been obtained by applying the pressure in computational domain, travel towards exit after creating
(below/above atmospheric and atmospheric conditions) at the low velocity regions at bottom, right, left corners on top
the windbox exit. It is also considered that entrained fluid is side of lower portion of windbox. The behavior of velocity
turbulent, whose intensity and length scales are of order 3 components creates low pressure regions at recirculation
and 2%, respectively. With the help of more guidelines [13] flow zones where turbulence effects are prevailing in those
concerned to initial estimates, time step, etc., solution is regions are observed in Figs. 8 and 9.
marched on the grid points in the computational domain, till To visualize the flow from the windbox channel to
the maximum residuals for each scalar, i.e. mass, momen- distributor plate nozzles, turbulent incompressible air
tum, turbulence intensity and length scalars are reached to flow through single nozzle is simulated and several
the target value 1 £ 1023. After obtaining the successful parametric results in different planes of nozzle are
converged solution, analysis has been repeated for the flow obtained. The velocity vectors at different locations of
in distributed plate nozzle. annular nozzle are shown in Fig. 10. As expected, flow
of velocity after reaching top of inner cylinder turns to
annulus region and leaves from the opening of bottom
7. Discussion of results side of outer nozzle towards outlet with unequal
velocities. It can be observed from the figure that
After obtaining the converged results, the result files, i.e. velocity distribution is highly non-uniform and its
.rso, are loaded into post processing and flow parameters in intensity is less in the outlet regions except corner
terms of velocity vectors, streak lines, pressure and locations. The corresponding streaklines plotted in same
turbulence effects are visualized in different planes of plane is shown in Fig. 11, indicates the imbalance of

Fig. 6. Static pressure distributions at different locations of lower portion of air housing.
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Fig. 7. Turbulence intensity pattern at different locations of lower portion of air housing.

Fig. 8. Computational grid for nozzle on the distributed plate of air housing.
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Fig. 9. Velocity vectors in the nozzle on the distributed plate of air housing.

Fig. 10. Flow lines in the nozzle on the distributed plate of air housing.
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Fig. 11. Turbulence intensity pattern in the nozzle on the distributed plate of air housing.

airflow towards combustor region. At low velocity windbox channel/distributed plate nozzle aids to generate
regions, turbulent fluctuations prevailing at different high pressures/turbulent fluctuations. This results to unequal
locations in computational domain are quite high as air flow, which provides indications to carry the incoming
shown in Fig. 12. Simulation has been extended to array crashed coal particles and lime stones to furnace inefficient
of inline nozzles and the results obtained are interpreted combustion.
in terms of velocity vectors and flow lines, shaded The basic understanding developed through CFD
pressure contours and turbulences loss pattern in the techniques in the present paper has successfully identified
computational domain. The velocity vectors are shown in low velocity regions, where high pressures and intensive
Fig. 13 indicates low velocities at some locations in the turbulence effects are concentrated. The variations of these
nozzles and travels towards exit. Due to these low parameters will have considerable impact on air flow
velocities, possible recirculations causes unequal airflow distribution to burner. More pronounced effects can be
at the different locations of nozzles, as observed in brought out after completion of simulation in all com-
Fig. 14. As a result of typical flow distribution in the ponents of primary inlet system together. However,
array of distributed plate nozzles, locations of high computational grid generation is difficult process, analysis
pressure and intensive turbulence effects are visualized in of grid and elimination of walls prior to flow simulation
Figs. 15 and 16. involves considerable time. The non-uniform air-flow
distribution to burner is very important to the production
of combustible products like carbon monoxides and
8. Conclusions nitrogen oxides. The analysis tool can then be utilized to
recommend geometric changes so that the flow can be
Importance for understanding of air distribution pattern redistributed and losses can be minimized. This process
in a typical CFBC boiler primary air-inlet system-windbox continues until optimum solutions are obtained and requires
segments with distributed plate nozzles, through CFD few weeks or a month, as one analysis may require three or
techniques, are addressed. Due to complex nature of flow, four alternates before finding acceptable arrangement, while
the analysis is presented in steps, firstly in windbox channel a similar analysis may require twenty. Nevertheless, due to
and later in single nozzle of distributed plate nozzle to cost effectiveness and success of increased software
understand flow distribution. This analysis also highlights capabilities, numerical modeling will continue to grow in
that recirculation flow in flow domain at several locations of simulation of power plant boiler auxiliaries.
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Fig. 12. Computational grid for the array of nozzles on the distributed plate of air housing.

Fig. 13. Velocity vectors in the array of nozzles on the distributed plate of air housing.
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Fig. 14. Flow lines in the array of nozzles on the distributed plate of air housing.

Fig. 15. Static pressure in the array of nozzles on the distributed plate of air housing.
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Fig. 16. Turbulence pattern in the array of nozzles on the distributed plate of air housing.

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