Exploring the Benefits of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in Plant Design

air handling

For decades, the only feasible way to test plant equipment during the design and engineering process, before installation and operation, was scale model testing. This process involved creating a model of the equipment being designed, to scale, and then in a lab setting, test the design in conditions similar to its eventual operating environment.

Now, though, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling on desktop computers with standard software can provide advantages over traditional scale model testing. Here, we’ll explore a few of those advantages and why we use CFD modeling when we’re designing and engineering components for plant equipment across a variety of industries.

Why CFD Makes Sense

One of the best advantages of CFD is that it’s less resource-intensive than scale model testing. Instead of building a model in a lab setting to replicate the plant environment, you can use software to build a digital environment and “construct” the component in fine detail, using nothing more than software and a desktop computer.

Cost savings realized by CFD over scale model testing come in the form of less time involved and less overall expense. Each scale model has to be built custom for that equipment, but you can use the same CFD software and computer to perform an unlimited number of tests and designs.

Additionally, it’s far easier to make changes to components and variables in CFD modeling than scale model testing, which could even require a completely new model.

How We Have Used CFD in Design Testing

We had a cement plant client that used scale model testing to replace its antiquated radial-blade fans with backward curved blade fans in order to cut down on power consumption. Before fabricating the parts and installing them the initial fan vendor built scale models to test the fan. What didn’t become apparent, however, was how material would build up on the fan once it was placed into service and erode all of the power consumption savings achieved from the design via decreased efficiency.

To address this issue, a ProcessBarron redesign team was engaged to examine the component and evaluate how it could be improved in order to reduce buildup and bring efficiency back to its desired level. We used CFD modeling to model the flow and pressure performance of the new fans, which gave us a more accurate view of how kiln feed material was building up on the blades. Using this data, we were able to modify the fan – specifically the impeller – with confidence knowing that the results generated by the software would be accurate and realistic.

The end result: the new fan design actually wound up consuming even less energy than originally intended, thanks to CFD modeling.

ProcessBarron designs and engineers air handling equipment for plants in a wide range of industries, from power plants to cement and lime plants. Contact us for more information on your next project.