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A Study on the Influence of the Suction Arrangement on the Performance of


Twin Screw Compressors

Conference Paper · November 2013


DOI: 10.1115/IMECE2013-62391

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Proceedings of the ASME 2013 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
IMECE2013
November 15-21, 2013, San Diego, California, USA

IMECE2013-62391

A STUDY ON THE INFLUENCE OF THE SUCTION ARRANGEMENT ON THE


PERFORMANCE OF TWIN SCREW COMPRESSORS

Maria Pascu Manoj Heiyanthuduwage


Howden Compressors Ltd Howden Compressors Ltd
Glasgow, UK Glasgow, UK

Sebastien Mounoury Graeme Cook Ahmed Kovacevic


Howden Compressors Ltd Howden Compressors Ltd City University
Glasgow, UK Glasgow, UK London, UK

ABSTRACT
Screw compressors are complex flow systems, but operate INTRODUCTION
upon simple considerations: they are positive displacement
machines consisting of meshing rotors contained in a casing to Although the basic operation of twin screw compressors is
form a working chamber, whose volume depends only on the well known and the analytical methods for their performance
angle of rotation. Their performance is highly affected by prediction are well established, only few attempts of
leakages, which is dependent on various clearances and the investigating the flow in screw compressors by means of CFD
pressure differences across these clearances. Nowadays, the can be identified in the available literature. Nevertheless, there
manufacturing and profiling techniques have matured so much, are many advantages in considering CFD as integrated part of
that rotors of even the most complex shapes can be the design and optimization process of screw compressors (SC).
manufactured to tolerances in the order of few microns, This is mostly because CFD complements the experimental and
resulting in high efficiencies. With manufacturing tolerances analytical efforts by providing an alternative cost-effective
this tight, there is only small amount of improvement expected mean of simulating real fluid flows and substantially reduces
from further exploration of this venue, and a rather different lead times and costs of designs and production compared with
direction for analysis may be more rewarding, i.e. other an experimental based approach, Tiu and Liu [1]. Probably the
components of the screw compressor, like the suction and most noticeable efforts in the field of numerical analysis of SC
discharge areas. While the available literature includes several were made by Kovacevic et. al. [2] and [3], where in addition to
references on improvements of the compressor performance establishing a mesh procedure specific to such flow machines,
based on the analysis of the discharge port and discharge the author also explains adequate boundary calculations to
chamber, the investigation of the suction arrangement and inlet encourage good convergence and minimal numerical errors.
port remains fairly unexplored. This is the area of concern for Similar efforts were made by Sauls and Branch [4], where the
the present paper, where the influence of the port shape and commercial code ANSYS-CFX was used for the detailed
suction arrangement on the overall compressor performance is analysis of a refrigeration SC designed for use with R134a in
investigated. Various suction models were investigated for a air- and water-cooled chillers. Also benefiting from the mesh
standard screw compressor by means of CFD, which allowed technique documented in [2], Steinmann [5] reported results
in-depth analyses and flow visualizations, confirmed by the from the modeling of a helical-lobed pump and a SC using
experimental investigation carried out on the actual compressor. ANSYS-CFX. While the available literature includes several
Keywords: screw compressors, optimum suction, CFD references on improvements of the compressor performance
based on the analysis of the discharge port and discharge

1 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


chamber, Mujic et. al. [6], Huagen et. al. [7] and Pascu et. al. of various clearances and the pressure difference across these
[8], the investigation of the suction arrangement and inlet port gaps.
remains fairly unexplored. By examining the flow results it is clear that the amount of gas
This is the area of concern for the present paper, where the induced into the suction cavities remains the same for both
influence of the port shape and suction arrangement on the designs – this is because the flows are somewhat identical for
overall compressor performance is investigated. the low pressure ratios. This could be due to fact that the
original suction port arrangement had very little pressure drop
EXPERIMENTAL BACKGROUND within the suction chamber and the suction port, and the
improvement to the pressure drop by opening up the radial port
While its theoretical background has never really been the did not give a significant flow benefit in terms of the induced
focus of research in the available literature, the shape of the gas flow.
suction port in a twin screw compressor is often the subject of However, the incorporation of radial port seems to increase the
experimental investigations. The general belief is that by leakages. This is clear from the flow decrease at the high
opening the gas admission through a radial port at the suction pressure ratios.
will have a positive effect on the compressor performance, as When analyzing the power measurements results, the two
more of the rotor area will be exposed to the working gas. designs seem to absorb very similar amount of power, even
In order to determine whether or not the inlet conditions though the modified casing seems to absorb very small amount
bear an effect on the overall compressor performance, two of extra power for the higher pressure ratios - this could
suction scenarios were investigated for the same compressor, possibly be due to the influence of the leakage gas.
characterized by equal rotor diameters 165 mm, L/D=1.45 and 140
“N” rotor profile with 4/6 lobes: one with axial port at the
120
compression chamber entry (referred to as original), the second
including the same axial port, as well as a radial port machined- 100
Power [kW]
off from the inner casing wall (modified), as shown in Figure 1. 80
60 ORI_test
40 MOD_TEST
20
0
0 5 10 15 20 25
PR [-]

0.20
Mass Flow [kg/sec]

Figure 1 Compressor models: left – original compressor; 0.15


right – modified compressor
0.10
When analyzing the experimental results shown in Figure 2, ORI_test
particularly the flow, a reduction of volume flow in the
0.05 MOD_TEST
modified compressor compared to the original design can be
observed, especially at the higher pressure ratios. The maximum
0.00
reduction of the flow is around 2 - 3% at the pressure ratio of 20
and reduces as the pressure ratio goes down. At lower pressure 0 5 10 15 20 25
ratios, below 5, both compressors seem to provide roughly the PR [-]
same flow.
Figure 2 Experimental results
There are two main flow mechanisms which govern the net flow
going through a screw compressor: the flow induced into the
In conclusion, contrary to the initial assumption, this
suction space of the rotors and the gas leaks back from the high
compressor has not benefited in any way from the introduction
pressure regions to the suction space. The amount of gas
of the radial suction port, as test results have revealed no
induced depends on the volume, pressure and temperature of
improvement in the compressor performance at smaller pressure
the rotor cavities opened to the suction gas. Any pressure drop
ratios and a slight deterioration at higher pressure ratios, in
within the suction chamber and the suction ports would result in
terms of both power and flow.
lower flow and increase the power. On the other hand, the
amount of gas leaks back to the suction area depends on the size

2 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


NUMERICAL MODELS

In order to fully understand the flow mechanism in the The overall mesh statistics typically used for these compressor
suction area of the compressors and determine the reasons simulations are:
which influenced adversely the performance when opening a  Main casing approx 82K nodes
radial port into the compression chamber, a numerical  Discharge casing approx 86K
investigation was carried out.  Inlet approx 176K nodes
An adaptive meshing technique is utilized to capture all the
Numerical mesh changes which occur within the working chamber during the
compression process.
The critical sub-domains in this setup are the two rotors as The number of time changes required by the rotors mesh is 120
they contain the working chamber as well as the clearances and for the full rotation of the male rotor, with the number of nodes
leakage paths (radial, axial, interlobe and blow-hole area). kept constant across the timesteps.
Generating the grids for these domains is by far the most
challenging part of the entire meshing procedure, as both micro- Boundary conditions
and macro- scales elements have to be solved (the interlobe
clearances are in the order of several microns, whilst the rest of The numerical model includes the stationary domain with
the rotor body measures over 1000 mm). In this case, a the major casing components (inlet, main and discharge) and
technique dedicated to screw compressor rotors was employed, the rotating domain, depicted by the two rotors, see Figure 5.
as described by Kovacević [3], which is included in SCORGgg Various interfaces were applied to each of these domains to
(Screw COmpressor Rotor Geometry grid generator). This ensure the flow transition between the different domains. All
procedure is fully explained in several publications included in these interfaces were considered to be General Grid Interfaces
the reference list (GGI). The original compressor model includes one interface
and therefore, will between the rotors and casing (called axial port, placed between
not be repeated the inlet casing the two rotors). The modified compressor
here. A simplified includes an additional interface to the rotors – the radial port
representation of machined in the main casing.
the rotors mesh
(cross-sectional
view) is presented

Figure 3 Mesh over rotors cross- in Figure 3.


section before 3D interpolation

This technique resulted in 143,000 nodes for the male and


approximately 140,000 for the female, of structured mesh. The
numerical model includes three more domains: the inlet casing,
the main casing, which in turn includes the suction into the
compressor and the discharge casing, including the discharge
port. ANSYS
ICEM v14.5 was
used for the mesh
generation process
and special mesh
refinement
techniques were Figure 5 Numerical model
employed for
sensitive flow Both the suction and the discharge were simulated by pressure
areas, i.e. the interfaces with the rotors). boundary conditions. The pressure boundary conditions are
similar to the inlet or outlet boundaries, firstly because they
Figure 4 Representative mesh for the working chamber couple pressure and velocity directly and secondly because for
(modified compressor) all equations, apart from the momentum equation, the boundary
properties are calculated from the velocity. This procedure may

3 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


cause instability in the compressor cycle especially when the
flow changes its direction at the boundary. This is compensated
by adding a boundary domain, in which an amount of mass is
added or subtracted to maintain a constant pressure, is natural
and gives a stable and relatively fast solution, [3]. Both
compressor models were simulated for air ideal gas and ran for
twelve full rotations (1440 timesteps), with the first six allowing
a natural pressure build-up in the system and used as initial
conditions for the last six, where wall roughness was added to
the rotors on top of the previous settings. The following
operating conditions were investigated:

P1 P2 n T1 T2 Figure 7 Pressure levels at discharge


[bar] [bar] [rpm] [C] [C]
1 5 3500 18 80
140
1 10 3500 18 80
120
1 15 3500 18 80
100

Power [kW]
Table 1 Boundary conditions
80
In all cases, oil injection was not simulated. 60 ORI-TEST
MOD-TEST
40
ORI-CFD
NUMERICAL RESULTS 20 MOD-CFD
0
The first step in the evaluation of the numerical results was
0 5 10 15 20 25
to compare the pressure levels in the two compressors, in order
to asses, from a compression point of view, the performance of PR [-]
the two models. For this purpose, a probe point was placed on
Figure 8 Power curves: numerical vs experimental
one grid node of the male rotor, on both the suction and
discharge faces and the total pressure was interrogated at each
time step, as shown in Figure 6 and Figure 7. It can be readily 0.20
observed that there is little to no difference in the variation of 0.16
Mass Flow [kg/sec]

the pressure, at both suction and discharge. Moreover, a clear


definition, on both graphs, of each individual compression cycle 0.12
can be identified, where the start/ end of the cycle is marked by
the peaks on each plot. 0.08 ORI-TEST
MOD-TEST
0.04 ORI-CFD
MOD-CFD
0.00
0 5 10 15 20 25
PR [-]

Figure 9 Flow curves: numerical vs experimental

Figure 8 repeats the experimental curves presented in Figure 2


for the compressor power and compares with the numerical
results for the two models. It can be observed that a smaller
PR’s (5 and 10) the numerical results are very well confirmed
by the measured power, while at PR=15 a slight over-prediction
Figure 6 Pressure levels at suction
of about 8% is calculated. This is due to the increased system
instability due to the high internal pressures, where, in the
absence of cooling, high local temperatures occur, especially on
the male side of the compression chamber. Nevertheless, the
trend of the measurements is very well repeated for by the
numerical results.

4 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


Figure 9 assesses the differences in the measured flow and the
numerical results and a similar validation is observed, i.e. very
good prediction for PR=5, 10 and a slight under-prediction for
PR=15.
Overall, the CFD set-up presented in the previous section
delivered results well validated by the experimental curves. The
numerical predictions repeated the trend of the experimental
curves, i.e. no substantial difference between the two
compressors was observed at smaller PR’s and a slight increase
in the power of the modified compressor (4.5%) was calculated
at higher PR’s, whilst the values of the flow rate remained fairly
similar. Therefore, a detailed flow analysis is required next in
order to fully understand the flow mechanism in the suction area
of the compressors and determine the reasons which influenced
adversely the compressor performance when opening a radial
port into the compression chamber.

Flow analysis in the suction casing Figure 10 Velocity vectors in the original compressor model
A detailed flow analysis was carried out for both
compressor models under each set of the investigated
parameters. For simplicity reasons, the visual analysis for
PR=10 will be presented next, though similar behaviour and
conclusions were drawn for the rest of the points in Table 1.
In a first attempt to understand the flow mechanism in the two
compressors models, the velocity vectors are plotted in the
overall numerical model depicted in Figure 5. The scale of the
plots starts at 0 m/s and has a maximum of 100 m/s. Figure 10
depicts the velocity vectors in the original compressor; from
suction (placed on the main casing) all the way to the axial port
(rotors interface between the rotors and the inlet casing), the
flow is steady and characterized by an average velocity of 6
m/s.
Figure 11 shows the same vector plot in the modified
compressor, keeping the scale magnitude. It can be readily
observed that the flow in this compressor is characterized by Figure 11 Velocity vectors in modified compressor model
two streams: one, the incoming flow from the suction to the
axial port; the second one (depicted in red because the vectors
are outwith the chosen scale) is highly disturbed flow coming
back into the main casing through the radial port. In this case,
the average velocity on the rotors interface (from the inlet
casing) is about 18 m/s.
In order to accentuate the differences between the flow paths in
the suction casing of the compressors, several snapshots of the
same velocity vectors, taken from different angles, are
presented next.

5 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


carried out on a single-phase fluid case with air ideal gas, but in
reality, this compressor is an oil-injected machine, and a
multiphase simulation would have revealed a combination of
working gas and oil returning from the working chamber back
into suction through the radial opening.

Figure 12 Velocity vectors in the original suction casing


(front view)

Figure 14 Velocity vectors in the original suction casing


(side view)

Figure 13 Velocity vectors in the modified suction casing


(front view)

The still images are captured at the end of the rotation cycle, Figure 15 Velocity vectors in the modified suction casing
but are representative for any intermediate timestep after the (side view)
internal pressure build-up was achieved.
While Figure 12 and Figure 14 reveal no other interferences to Finally, Figure 16 and Figure 17 show contour plots of the
the main stream, the plots in Figure 13 and Figure 15 show the velocity on the axial port, both plotted on the same scale with a
highly disturbed flow field, where the main flow stream maximum at 20 m/s. While the original compressor is
encounters high-velocity flow returning from the radial characterized by a fairly uniform velocity distribution, which
interface with the rotors. Visually, it appears that the rotors act averages out at 6 m/s (as stated above), the axial port in the
as a resistance to the main stream, as part of the incoming flow modified compressor averages at 18 m/s and peaks with a
is redirected back into the suction area. This is due to the maximum of 33 m/s. This yields to a non-uniform high-velocity
atmospheric flow coming in direct contact with portions of the flow field at the interface with the rotors and is the main source
working chamber exposed to high pressure fields and sets the for increased leakages in the modified compressor and
scene for increasing gas leakages. The CFD simulation was therefore, causing the performance deterioration measured
experimentally and numerically.

6 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


between the two compressors was observed at smaller PR’s and
a slight increase in the power of the modified compressor
(4.5%) was calculated at higher PR’s, whilst the values of the
flow rate remained fairly similar.
The visual analysis at PR=10 for the two compressor models
allowed the calculation of a detailed flow path in the main
casing. It was concluded that the flow field in the original
compressor was steady and uniform from suction all the way to
the axial port. However, the flow in the modified compressor
had two streams: one, the incoming flow from the suction to the
axial port; the second one was highly disturbed flow coming
back into the main casing through the radial port. In this case, it
appeared as if the rotors acted as resistance to the main stream.
This was due to the atmospheric flow coming in direct contact
Figure 16 Velocity contour plot on rotors interface: original with portions of the working chamber exposed to high pressure
suction casing fields and set the scene for increased gas leakages.
The CFD simulation was carried out on a single-phase fluid
case with air ideal gas, but in reality, this compressor is an oil-
injected machine, and a multiphase simulation would have
revealed a combination of working gas and oil returning from
the working chamber back into suction through the radial
opening. It is expected that for the higher pressure ratios, this
instability will increase and cause a further increase in the
leakages back in the suction casing, resulting thus in a decrease
of the mass flow.
The combined experimental and numerical investigation
revealed that there is no improvement to be expected by adding
a radial port to the suction arrangement of the investigated
screw compressor and furthermore, at higher pressure ratios, a
slight deterioration of the compressor can be expected. It is
Figure 17 Velocity contour plot on rotors interface: therefore recommended that, for this twin screw compressor, the
modified suction casing suction arrangement includes only an axial port.

CONCLUSIONS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank the Centre for Positive
The shape of the suction port in a twin screw compressor is Displacement Machines for the continuous fruitful
often the subject of experimental investigations and the general collaboration. We also recognize the contribution of Howden
belief is that by opening the gas admission through a radial port Compressors Ltd in providing the environment in which work
at the suction will have a positive effect on the compressor such as this is supported.
performance, as more of the rotor area will be exposed to the
working gas.
In order to determine whether or not the inlet conditions bear an
effect on the overall compressor performance, two suction
scenarios were investigated for the same compressor, both
experimentally and numerically: one with axial port at the
compression chamber entry (referred to as original), the second
including the same axial port, as well as a radial port machined-
off from the inner casing wall (modified).
Tests on the compressor models did not reveal any
improvement in the modified casing and furthermore, for higher
pressure ratios, a slight deterioration in the performance of this
compressor was observed in terms of power and flow.
The CFD set-up delivered results well validated by the
experimental curves. The numerical predictions repeated the
trend of the experimental curves, i.e. no substantial difference

7 Copyright © 2013 by ASME


REFERENCES

[1] Tu, J., Yeoh, G. H., and Liu, C., 2008, “Computational
fluid dynamics”, Butterworth – Heinemann
[2] Kovacević, A., Stosic, N., and Smith, I., “CFD analysis
of screw compressor performance”, Centre for positive
displacement compressor technology, City University,
London
[3] Kovacević, A., Stosic, N., and Smith, I., “Screw
compressors. Three dimensional computational fluid
dynamics and solid fluid interaction”, Springer Verlag,
2007
[4] Sauls, J., and Branch, S., 2009, “CFD analysis of
refrigeration screw compressors”, Ingersoll Rand
[5] Steinmann, A., 2006, “Numerical simulation of fluid
flow in screw machines with moving mesh techniques
in ANSYS CFX”, Schraubenmaschinen 2006; VDI
Verlag GmbH
[6] Mujic, E., Kovacević, A., Stosic, N., and Smith, I.,
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positive displacement compressor technology, City
University, London
[7] Huagen, W., Xing, Z., Peng, X., and Shu, P.,
“Simulation of discharge pressure pulsation within
twin screw compressors”, Journal of Power and
Energy, IMechE, 2004
[8] Pascu M., Kovacevic A., Udo N., 2012, “Performance
Optimization of Screw Compressors Based on
Numerical Investigation of the Flow Behaviour in the
Discharge Chamber”, Proc Int Compressor Conf at
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[9] Stosic, N., Smith, I., and Kovacević, A., “Screw
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[10] Menter, F.R., “Zonal two-equation turbulence models
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8 Copyright © 2013 by ASME

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