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Department Editor: Scott Jenkins

Pipe Bends in Dilute-phase Pneumatic Conveying


Figure 1. Flow in a standard, long-radius bend is illustrated here, with typical flow patterns, Reacceleration wear points and zone reacceleration zone shown
Arrows indicate location of wear points

neumatic conveying of solid material provides advantages over mechanical conveying systems in many applications, including those that require complex routing, multiple source-destination combinations and product containment. Routing of pneumatic piping offers process operators great layout flexibility, but taking advantage of such design flexibility requires a strong understanding of the complex behavior of pneumatically conveyed solids in bends, such as elbows and sweeps, between straight sections. Bends are likely the least understood components of a dilute-phase pneumatic conveying system, and can present problems for process operators. If not properly selected and designed, bends in a pneumatic D conveying system can experience line-plugging, excessive product attrition (degradation), unacceptably high bend wear and higher-than-expected pressure drop. Bend wear and material attrition commonly occur at the impact zones. Research findings on solids flow through bends are often inconsistent, and do not match field experience in some cases. Even generalizing the findings for basic pipe bends is difficult, since most data still reside with vendors, and understanding the physics of more innovative pipe-bend designs can be more complex.

LEGEND FOR FIGURES 1 AND 2 Ricocheting Pattern Sliding Pattern D = Pipe diameter RB = Bend radius

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RB / D = 8 to 14 RB

Radius bend

Blinded lateral

Blinded tee Reacceleration zone

Blinded bend

Impact / wear zones

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RB RB/D = 3 to 7 D Impact / wear zones Mitered bend Mitered bend

Figure 3. Several variations of common fittings are shown here, with typical wear points highlighted

Figure 2. Flow in a standard, shortradius bend shows typical flow patterns, wear points and reacceleration zone

Bend designs Basic long-radius bends are the most commonly used by designers of pneumatic conveying systems, because they provide the most gradual change in direction for solids, and because the angle of impact on the pipe wall is relatively small, which helps to minimize the risk of attrition or erosion. Common-radius bends. Common-radius bends (Figures 1 and 2) are made by bending standard tubes or pipes. The radius of curvature RB may range from 1 to 24 times the tube diameter. Common-radius bends can be loosely classified as follows: Elbow (RB/D = 1 to 2.5); Short radius RB/D = 3 to 7; Long-radius (RB/D = 8 to 14; Long sweep (RB/D = 15 to 24). Common fittings. The most commonly used fitting for a change in flow direction is a blindtee bend (see Figure 3). In this design, the path is blocked in the straight direction, and open at a 90-deg angle to the original path. The benefit of this design is that an accumulated pocket of material cushions the impact of the incoming material, so the potential for wear and for product attrition is reduced. The disadvantage to blind-tee designs is that the conveyed solids lose most of their momentum upon impact, so they must be reaccelerated downstream of the bend. Pressure drops across a blind tee can be three times as much as that for a long-radius bend. Special bend designs. A variety of specialized bend designs are available to control flow within the bend, in order to minimize attrition and wear. This is often achieved by creating a self-cleaning or replenishing pocket or layer of material upon which the incoming stream lands. Wear inside the piping is minimized by redirecting the gas-solid suspension away from typical wear points. Evaluating bend performance A number of key metrics can be used to evaluate bend performance in a pneumatic conveying system.

Pressure drop related to bend. The pressure drop in a bend depends on the ratio of bend radius to pipe diameter (RB/D), the gas velocity (Ug) and the internal roughness (k) of the pipe. When a two-phase, gas-solid suspension undergoes a directional change, as in a bend, the bend naturally acts as a segregator of the two phases. Centrifugal forces act on the particles, concentrating them near the outer wall of the bend. Depending on material properties, solids loading, gas velocity and pipe-wall interactions, the particles may have multiple impacts within the body of the bend. Pressure drop in a bend is attributable to the combination of frictional loss in the bend itself plus the energy required to reaccelerate the solids back to the steady-state velocity. Friction coefficients within the bend will be different than that in the adjacent straight section. When particles impact pipe walls, energy is transferred to the point of impact. Depending on the comparative strength of particle and pipe-wall materials, either the particle will be damaged or the pipe wears out. Attrition or product degradation. Defined as the formation of unwanted species in the conveyed material, attrition can manifest itself in a number of ways, including a change in the distribution of particle size and shape, surface abrasion of particles, undesirable loss of surface coating, degradation of product due to impact heating, and others. Generation of fines can impact downstream processing, such as by increased caking tendency. Bend wear. The major factors associated with erosion in bends are as follows: bend geometry, orientation, flow pattern inside bend, material of construction, particle hardness, shape and size. Bend geometry and pipe orientation affect the number and location of particle impact zones, while the flow pattern inside the bend determines the penetration rate and uniformity of wear (Figure 4). Pipe erosion rate is directly proportional to particle hardness and inversely proportional to the hardness of the bend material. The specific

Acceleration zone

Coveying-phase transition zone Incoming material

Primary impact zone

Bernoulli step

Figure 4. Some bend geometries allow the formation of a pocket of material at the primary impact zone, helping to minimize attrition and erosion

erosion rate increases with particle size until critical value, after which the rate does not change. Angular particles increase erosion rate, and smaller particle size hastens bend failure from penetration. In addition, erosion rate is a strong function of gas velocity. Key concepts The following concepts should be considered when designing and installing pneumatic conveying systems with bends: ends located toward the end of the conveyB ing system will experience higher gas and particle velocities than those closer to the pickup location he increase in gas velocity from pickup to T destination is greater with a vacuum system than a pressure system inimize the number of bends in a transfer M system, and avoid back-to-back bends, if possible onsider directional changes earlier in the C layout, if possible isaligned bends will increase attrition and M wear nstall critical bends such that they can be I easily serviced References 1. Dhodapkar, S., Solt, P. and Klinzing, G. Understanding bends in pneumatic conveying systems. Chem. Eng., April 2009, pp. 5360.