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Scientific Bulletin of the Politehnica University of Timisoara Transactions on Mechanics Tom 52(66), Fascicola 6, 2007

2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems Timisoara, Romania October 24 - 26, 2007

GE Infrastructure, Energy, Hydro, Qubec, Canada

Thi C. VU
GE Infrastructure, Energy, Hydro, Qubec, Canada

*Corresponding author: 795 George V, Lachine, Qubec, Canada, H8S 4K8 E-mail: ABSTRACT Cavitation protection is an important criterion in Kaplan turbine design. In this type of turbine cavitation can occurs at a number of different locations, notably at the blade leading edge, on the blade suction side, in both tip and hub gaps and on the discharge ring. Cavitation can result in frosting or pitting in the above-mentioned locations. We study blade surface and discharge ring cavitation with an emphasis on the latter using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Localised high flow gradients (cavitation) as well as more global unsteady effects (rotor stator interaction) contribute to the phenomena requiring advanced and resource intensive CFD approaches, notably locally refined meshes coupled with unsteady computations including runner rotation. Our CFD results have enabled us to explain the presence of discharge ring cavitation at distinct circumferential locations corresponding to the number of guide vanes. These originate from locally low base pressures just above vapour pressure as a result of the tip gap flow as well as the tip gap vortex. It is then the rotor-stator-interaction of guide vanes and blades that creates pressure fluctuations causing the pressure to drop to vapour pressure locally. Our CFD results show that pressure amplitudes at guide vane passing frequency are amplified in the tip gap and the tip gap vortex vicinity, i.e. the areas of lowest base pressures. We used unsteady pressure measurements and high-speed camera images to qualitatively support the validity of our CFD model. Ultimately it has been the CFD results that have enabled us to understand the physics underlying the problem of discharge ring cavitation. As such, CFD has proven to be a useful tool of exploring previously vaguely understood phenomena. Now that the CFD method is developed we are using it to improve future designs. KEYWORDS Cavitation damage, Kaplan turbine, unsteady Computational Fluid Dynamics, tip gap vortex, rotor stator interaction 1. INTRODUCTION Cavitation protection is an important criterion in Kaplan turbine blade design. In Kaplan turbines cavitation occurs at a number of different locations, notably at the blade leading edge, on the blade suction side, in both tip and hub gaps and on the discharge ring. Cavitation can result in frosting or pitting in the above-mentioned locations. Its severity depends on design and operating regime of the machine. Cavitation itself is primarily a local effect. A review on cavitation in hydraulic machinery is available by Arndt [1]. Its prediction with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) necessitates a high quality, locally refined computational mesh. We will see in the results section of this paper that the tip gap vortex plays a crucial role in lowering the local pressures near the discharge ring at the runner outlet. Therefore, vortical flow together with cavitation plays a vital role. In another paper, Arndt [2] has reviewed the topic of vortex cavitation. Vu [3] has shown that vortex flow in hydraulic turbine components can be predicted using CFD with good accuracy and acceptable computational effort. The discharge ring cavitation often occurs in a number of discrete circumferential patches corresponding to the number of guide vanes. At first sight this is surprising, because we assume that the lowpressure zones caused by the rotating blades are responsible for the cavitation. Therefore any effect would be expected to occur at the entire circumference of the discharge ring. Since that is not the case, we can


Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

conclude that unsteady flow behaviour driven by the rotor-stator interaction of the guide vanes and blades have to be responsible for the effect. Due to the various physical effects involved, unsteady two-phase flow with highly locally refined meshes is required for the numerical simulation of the Kaplan turbine cavitation phenomena. In the following sections we describe the numerical approach taken as well as some numerical results showing the physical effects leading to cavitation damage in Kaplan turbines with a particular interest in the discharge ring cavitation. Both single and twophase unsteady flow calculations with Ansys-Cfx flow solver were performed for the investigation. In order to support the validity of the CFD results we present a qualitative comparison with experimental observations. 2. NUMERICAL REQUIREMENTS 2.1. Unsteady CFD Due to the fact that rotor-stator interaction of the guide vanes and blades contributes largely to the discharge ring cavitation damage, it is necessary to include this phenomenon in the flow simulation. The guide vane-runner blade interaction has been a topic of intensive research in recent years, e.g. Nennemann [4]. Details on the experience of GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business with unsteady CFD both for rotor-stator interaction and draft tube rope (i.e. unsteady vortex) prediction can be found in Vu [3], Nennemann [4] and Resiga [5]. Generally, rotor-stator interaction calculations require small runner rotation per time step (1 degree or less). During the course of the present investigation we found that for a proper temporal resolution of the tip gap vortex fluctuations, a much smaller runner rotation per time step is required. Some initial calculations were performed with meshes of standard density as used in our rotor-stator interaction calculations. During the course of the study it became evident that these meshes were not fine enough to accurately capture flow features such as the tip gap vortex. We then proceeded to use finer meshes, which will be discussed in greater detail in section 2.3. Most results in section 3 were obtained with refined meshes except where explicitly mentioned. It should be noted that all CFD calculations were performed at prototype scale. 2.2. Single phase vs. two phase calculations In cavitating flow the two phases water and water vapour are present. Therefore a two-phase flow calculation is necessary if vapour volumes are to be predicted directly. This roughly doubles the computational effort because the Navier-Stokes equations

have to be solved for both phases at the same time. We have performed two-phase flow calculations using CFXs homogenous two-phase model together with the Rayleigh-Plesset cavitation model. In order to save on the computation time, one can use single-phase calculations and secondary criteria such as pressure and pressure amplitudes to evaluate rapidly design alternatives most of the time.

Figure 1. Notation for conversion of CFD relative static pressures to absolute static pressures Cavitation occurs where the absolute pressure drops below vapour pressure, which is a function of water temperature. CFD generally works with relative pressures, i.e. pressures are calculated relative to a reference level usually set to zero at some more or less arbitrary location. At GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business we generally set the average static pressure at the domain outlet to zero. For two-phase flow cavitation calculations the reference pressure has to be set to the value corresponding to prototype conditions. When using pressure as a criterion from cavitation risk from single-phase calculations absolute pressure values corresponding to prototype levels are also required. The absolute static pressure pstat.abs within the CFD solution at any given location (x,y,z) can be calculated from
pstat .abs ( x, y , z ) = ( p1.stat .abs + z1 ) + + pstat .rel .CFD ( x, y , z ) gz


where p denotes pressure, density and g gravity. The definition of some of the notation can be found in Fig. 1. The static absolute pressure at 1 is calculated using Bernoulli equation

p1.stat .abs = patm + g ( z2 z1 ) 2 v12 ptot .DT


In this equation, the dynamic pressure at 1 2 v1 can be obtained from the CFD solution. The draft tube loss ptot . DT needs to be estimated, or can be obtained from a separate CFD calculation.

Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems


2.3. Computational flow domain and mesh generation As indicated in the introduction, there are multiple physical effects involved in Kaplan discharge ring and blade cavitation, notably cavitation dynamics itself, rotor-stator interaction and peripheral gap vortex flow. These different physical effects lead to different numerical requirements. Cavitation is primarily a localised effect often based on high gradients in the flow. Peripheral gap vortex flow is also characterised by very high gradients in a geometric location of relatively limited extent. We need a mesh that is fine enough to resolve the vortex and gap flow in order to resolve the velocity gradients that lead to local pressures at vapour pressure. The computational flow domain comprises the guide vane and runner blade geometries. For fast turn around times automatic meshing procedures are required. At GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business we have an automatic mesh generator that is capable of generating Kaplan turbine blade meshes including hub and tip gaps. For now these meshes do not include the anti-cavitation lip or the fillets and radii, we need to use commercial mesh generator such as ICEM-Hexa or the Ansys-CFX mesh generator for those types of geometry. Using these commercial mesh generators can be challenging and time consuming. At full load Kaplan turbine guide vanes often exhibit an overhanging trailing edge. This characteristic increases circumferential non-uniformity of the flow near the bottom ring. It therefore increases the intensity of rotor-stator interaction near the blade periphery and in the peripheral gap. Consequently the overhang if present may not be neglected in the meshes. The automatic meshing tool for guide vanes GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business is capable of meshing guide vane overhangs. An example mesh is shown in Fig. 2.

3. CFD RESULTS 3.1. Two-phase flow calculations

With CFX two-phase flow cavitation calculations can be performed. These reveal shape and extent of locations where vapour is present. Figure 3 is an example of the result of such a calculation. Cavitation calculations can also be performed in unsteady mode. In that case the time variation of the vapour volume can be determined. As can be seen in Fig. 3 the vapour extends in the form of a sheath from the blade tip gap and transitions into a spike, which corresponds to the tip gap vortex core, i.e. it is the vortex that transports the vapour downstream from the tip gap. A second small but significant vapour volume can be seen on the blade surface. This spot corresponds to the location were blade suction side cavitation is generally found on Kaplan runners. This kind of qualitative information can also be extracted from single-phase calculations in the form of pressure iso-surfaces. We prefer to do the majority of our studies with single-phase calculations in order to cut down on computation times.

Figure 3. Water vapour volume fraction iso-surface revealing location at which vapour is present
3.2. Pressures and velocities

Figure 2. High quality hex mesh including gaps generated with the automatic meshing tools of GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business for both the guide vane and the runner channels

Even our initial calculations with relatively coarse meshes and large time steps showed all the physical effects responsible for discharge ring cavitation albeit with lower accuracy. Figure 4 shows an example of a Kaplan turbine CFD model and the instantaneous pressure distribution on the full runner circumference at a number of elevations. We can discern the five low-pressure zones corresponding to the five blades. The more rounded parts of these low-pressure zones A correspond to the loading on the blade suction side while the pointed peak B beside it originates from the tip gap flow and the associated tip gap vortex.


Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

Although too coarse for high accuracy analysis, a number of global flow features could be studied on these results. Figure 5 shows the effect of the guide

vane overhang on the level of flow uniformity at the trailing edges of the guide vanes. Below the overhang the circumferential pressure non-uniformity is almost

Figure 4. Example of a Kaplan runner CFD model at prototype scale, coarse mesh, and instantaneous circumferential pressure distributions at different elevations on the discharge ring

Figure 5. Flow non-uniformity at guide vane trailing edge comparing mid-span and near bottom ring locations

Figure 6. Instantaneous stream lines revealing flow paths from guide vane inlet to runner outlet

Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems


twice that at mid-span. This non-uniformity is responsible for the rotor-stator interaction with the blades. A higher level will result in a stronger rotor-stator interaction and therefore in stronger pressure fluctuations at guide vane passing frequency downstream. Streamlines in Ansys-CFX post-processing can be used to identify flow paths. Figure 6 shows two sets of flow paths from guide vane inlet to runner outlet, one near the bottom ring and one at mid-span. As expected, the streamlines originating near the bottom ring at guide vane inlet remain near the machine periphery. Interestingly they get concentrated near the suction side and the blade tip gap, and further down stream in the area where we find the tip gap vortex. Streamlines from mid-span move outward to fill the pressure side flow deficiency. This implies that the relatively strong flow non-uniformity originating from the guide vane overhang gets transported into areas of lowest pressure at runner outlet. Figure 7 shows the absolute static pressure on the discharge ring of a typical Kaplan turbine. Two lowpressure zones can clearly be identified. At A we can see the low-pressure resulting from the blade loading on the suction side. At B we can see the low pressure due to tip gap flow acceleration and in the extension of this zone the effect of the tip gap vortex. Maximum cavitation frosting on the discharge ring of Kaplan turbines tends to be near the elevation of the blade trailing edge at maximum blade opening. That location would be a little bit downstream of the zone of lowest pressure B visible in Fig. 7. Provided we assume that the CFD solution accurately represents reality, this would imply that cavitation bubbles are transported downstream before imploding on the discharge ring wall and causing damage.

gap vortex exhibits a low-pressure core extending well downstream of its origin. When looking closely, we can see that the vortex core undulates slightly in a helical manner. By measuring helix rotation length and relating it to the flow velocity we can determine the undulation frequency. It corresponds to the guide vane passing frequency. Therefore the undulation can be assumed to be a kind of shedding effect caused by flow fluctuations due to guide vane-blade interaction. In addition, we can see a low-pressure bubble attached to the blade suction side surface at location D. This is the typical location for blade suction side cavitation damage.

Figure 8. 3D view of blade and discharge ring with low-pressure volume indicated by an iso-pressure-surface
3.4. Pressure amplitudes

Figure 7. Absolute static pressure on discharge ring of a Kaplan turbine, single channel shown In Fig. 8 the 3D iso-pressure-surface identifies the volumes with low pressure. Tip gap flow and the tip gap vortex are clearly visualised in this way. The tip

When unsteady phenomena are present in the flow, it is useful to look at the CFD results in the frequency domain, i.e. to look at Fourier transforms of the solution. At GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business we have developed post-processing tools that allow us to obtain 3D Fourier transforms of unsteady solutions. However, these can only be calculated for specific pre-selected frequencies, i.e. the pertinent frequencies have to be known a priori. In the case of Kaplan discharge ring and blade cavitation we suspect that guide vane-blade interaction is the most relevant unsteady effect, and therefore we do know the pertinent frequency to be the guide vane passing frequency. Figure 9 shows the result of such a Fourier transform. It allows us to clearly identify the regions of highest amplitudes at the given frequency. In the example they are near the leading edge of the anti-cavitation lip and in the tip gap vortex core. This indicates that near the trailing edge of the blade, where we find the largest amount of cavitation frosting on the discharge ring surface, we also have some of the largest amplitudes at guide vane passing.


Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

there is general resemblance. The full movie gives a better idea of the shedding of vapour bubbles.

Figure 9. Pressure amplitude distribution on discharge ring


Figure 10: Tip gap and tip gap vortex cavitation on a model Kaplan runner In the comparison of discharge ring pressure time signals from the CFD prototype scale calculation with model scale measurements, Fig. 11, we can see a good agreement of the main blade passing pressures. The experimental results however do not show the pronounced low-pressure peak produced by the tip gap vortex in the CFD results. This could be due to a number of possible reasons, e.g. the pressure sensor may not be located in the position of lowest pressures on the circumference, or the relative intensity of the tip gap vortex is smaller than at prototype scale. This leads to the questions of how both, pressure fluctuations and vortex intensities scale from model to prototype. More detailed investigations are required in this area.

It is quite difficult to obtain accurate and suitable data for the validation of the CFD results. At GE Infrastructures hydroelectric business we have two types of experimental data available for the Kaplan turbine cavitation phenomenon: High speed camera movies showing the cavitation bubbles in a model scale turbine and unsteady pressure measurements from selected locations on the discharge ring also of a model scale turbine. If we compare the cavitation volume as seen by a high-speed camera on a model Kaplan runner in Fig. 10 with the shape of the cavitating volume in Fig. 3 and the low-pressure volume in Fig. 8 we can see that

Figure 11. Comparison normalised unsteady pressures on discharge ring: CFD and model

Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems


5. DISCUSSION OF PHYSICAL EFFECTS UNDERLYING KAPLAN TURBINE CAVITATION 5.1. Discharge ring frosting at distinct locations corresponding to number of guide vanes

The CFD results above show that the lowest pressures on the discharge ring are caused by the acceleration of the flow in the tip gap (Fig. 7), and by the tip gap vortex itself (Fig. 8). Using 3D Fourier transform at guide vane passing frequency shows that the highest pressure amplitudes in the order of a couple of meters water column coincide with the locations of lowest pressure. The two phenomena together plausibly explain the presence of cavitation frosting at discrete spots on the discharge ring corresponding to the number of guide vanes.

Figure 12 schematically illustrates this effect. As the blades rotate, they pass through the non-uniform flow field from the guide vanes causing the flow field associated with a runner blade to fluctuate. The fluctuation is relatively small compared to the circumferential non-uniformity in a runner channel (Fig. 11) due to blade loading but it is the amount that is needed to lower the pressure to vapour pressure during some part of the fluctuation period. The time intervals at which this will happen are determined by the guide vanes and are therefore fixed in space when observed in the stationary frame of reference. Therefore in spite of the rotating pressure field of the runner, the cavitation frosting occurs only at distinct locations corresponding to the number of guide vanes. Interestingly, in the rotating frame of reference the pressure fluctuation is not constant circumferentially (Fig. 9). Somehow it is amplified in the peripheral gap and the tip gap vortex core.

Figure 12. Schematic representation of circumferential pressure distribution leading to cavitation frosting at a number of discrete locations equal to the number of guide vanes

Figure 13. Schematic circumferential pressure distributions (instantaneous) from guide vanes, blades and there modulation in a 24 guide vane/5 blade machine


Proceedings of the 2nd IAHR International Meeting of the Workgroup on Cavitation and Dynamic Problems in Hydraulic Machinery and Systems

5.2. Temporal and spatial pattern of circumferential cavitation apparition

Figure 13 illustrates in a schematic manner the instantaneous circumferential pressure fields for a 24-guide vane/5-blade machine. The combined pressure field is a modulation of the stationary guide vane and the rotating blade fields. In this example the modulation consists of a single diametrical node, i.e. maximum pressure only occurs at a single point on the circumference when it does occur. A simple way of thinking about this point is as the contact point between guide vane and blade. In this example the contact point will rotate at 25 times runner rotation in the same direction as the runner. In other words, by means of acoustic measurements we should be able to identify this frequency if this type of cavitation is present.
5.3. Blade surface frosting

predicted. Most importantly, the CFD results of this study permit us to explain at least one commonly found type of cavitation damage on prototype Kaplan turbines: discharge ring cavitation. The CFD results have significantly contributed to understanding the underlying physics. As such, CFD has proven to be a useful tool of exploring previously vaguely understood phenomena. Now that the CFD method is developed we are using it to improve future designs. We have performed extensive parameter studies to investigate all the significant influence factors. Areas that need to be addressed are: Scaling of cavitation intensity, vortex intensity and pressure fluctuations from model to prototype; Quantification of cavitation damage to be expected on prototype based on CFD calculations.

The main emphasis of this paper is on discharge ring cavitation frosting but as mentioned in the introduction blade surface cavitation frosting occurs as well. This happens in the region where the pressure is the lowest due to blade loading, e.g. Fig. 8 location D. The effect may be aggravated due to rotorstator interaction if the global pressure is just above vapour pressure and the fluctuation forces pressure to drop to vapour pressure. In this case in addition to permitting vapour apparition in the first place the fact that the cavitation bubble is forced to appear and disappear at a high frequency may worsen the effect by forcing frequent bubble collapse. Further studies are needed to confirm this hypothesis.

We would like to thank Gunnar Siden from GE Energys gas turbine division for his valuable input in the discussions during the investigation and resolution of the problems discussed in this paper. Lane Porter from GE Infrastructures Aviation Engineering division deserves our gratitude for the high quality ICEM Hexa meshes he generated for us. Without these the investigation would not have been possible. The automatic meshing tools used extensively in this study have been developed within the GMATH research project of cole Polytechnique de Montral.
[1] Arndt R.E.A., Cavitation in Fluid Machinery and Hydraulic structures, Annu. Rev. Fluid. Mech 1981 [2] Arndt R.E.A., Cavitation in Vortical Flow, Annu. Rev. Fluid. Mech. 2002 [3] Vu, T.C., Nennemann, B., G.D. Ciocan, M.S. Iliescu, O. Braun, F. Avellan, Experimental study and unsteady simulation of the Flindt draft tube rotating vortex rope, Proceedings Hydro 2004, Porto, Portugal, 18-21 October, 2004 [4] Nennemann, B., Vu, T.C., Farhat, M., CFD prediction of unsteady wicket gate-runner interaction in Francis turbines: A new standard hydraulic design procedure, Proceedings Hydro 2005, Villach, Austria, 17-20 October 2005. [5] Susan-Resiga R., Vu T.C., Muntean S., Ciocan G.D., Nennemann B., Jet Control of the Draft Tube Vortex Rope in Francis Turbines at Partial Discharge, Proceedings 23rd IAHR Symposium, Yokohama, Japan, October 2006

Cavitation is a significant aspect in the design and operation of Kaplan turbines. Important types of cavitation in Kaplan turbines are leading edge, blade surface and discharge ring cavitation. In the present investigation we have primarily studied discharge ring cavitation. Blade surface cavitation is also looked at. Our primary method of investigation is Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Experimental data that would allow us to quantitatively validate our method with respect to the specific physics is still unavailable. We have some experimental data that satisfactorily verifies the validity of the CFD calculations on a qualitative basis. High-speed camera movies show similar shapes and volumes of vapour as predicted by CFD. Unsteady pressure measurements on a model scale turbine show similar pressure distributions as