Pressure drop and other flow variables can be a crucial factor in certain industrial applications. The ability to simulate and analyse pressure distribution along the wetted volume enables the designers to minimize losses and to optimise the design. Comprehensive flow simulation provides an opportunity for detailed process design, better material selection, and can lead to long-term savings.

Analytical methods estimate overall head loss from two groups: frictional losses and minor losses. Estimation of total loss in the pipe is usually limited to separate consideration of both effects and adding the losses in the consecutive elements of the system, based on available experimental data. While this conservative approach is a reliable way of estimating pressure drop in simple pipe systems, confidence is diminished with more complex geometry or where a conservative solution is not the objective of the assessment.

FE Consultants were asked to investigate the influence of an internal metallic lining and discrete slip joints to determine the total pressure drop in reformer transfer line. The line was subject to 815°C hydrogen gas flow at 70ms-1. The goal of the analysis was to confirm the exact change in pressure drop from the original design to the proposed design. This would ensure minimised process issues and calibration of the final production rates.

Results of the analysis showed that the proposed hot face lining (cast-able refractory) with significantly higher surface roughness actually resulted in a lower overall pressure drop when compared to the metallic lining with slip joint. Introducing these design changes led to significant geometry simplification and cost saving in manufacturing process of new pipeline, as well as process design certainty in the application.

We can apply CFD to a wide range of physical problems where conservative results or empirical methods are not appropriate. This extends to complex geometry, mixing, fluid structure interaction and heat transfer problems. The capability for CFD aligns well with our experience in advanced mechanical design.