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Feb 25, 2018

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Multiphase Flow Modelling

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Multiphase Flow Modelling

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10 questions to ask yourself when tackling your first (or a new) Multiphase CFD project

By virtue of the many physical processes we are often attempting to simulate in a virtual

environment, CFD can be a complex beast. To accurately account for all real-world behaviour, the

CFD engineer must consider the applicability of a large number of physical effects, including complex

turbulence, compressibility, various modes of heat transfer and, last but certainly not least, the

interaction of multiple phases comprising liquid, gaseous and solid components.

Even if you have mastered all of your geometry and meshing requirements, and undertaken many

years of single-phase CFD simulations, it can still be a daunting task when you are asked to tackle

your first multiphase CFD problem. Before you begin, we recommend that you ask yourself the

following:

[1] For each phase in your system (gas/liquid/solid), make a decision on whether it should be

considered as a continuous phase (which assumes all regions of this particular material are

connected) or as a discrete phase that is dispersed throughout the domain (e.g. droplets, particles or

bubbles).

[2] For each continuous phase, decide whether the flow is laminar or turbulent by evaluating a

characteristic Reynolds number for your problem.

[3] Determine the Stokes number for each dispersed component and decide if it will follow the

continuous flow closely (smaller Stokes numbers, typically < 0.01) or move largely independently of it

(larger Stokes numbers, typically >1).

[4] For each dispersed phase, based on your understanding of the real physics, decide whether it is

necessary to model a wide range of sizes (of droplets/particles), or whether your modelling goals can

be achieved by modelling the system with a single size or just a few representative size classes.

[5] Decide whether assessing changes to the characteristic size of the dispersed phase (e.g.

increasing/decreasing droplet or bubble diameter) will be important for your CFD modelling goals.

[6] If so, assess the mechanism that is causing this breakup or coalescence. The Weber number

describes the ratio of inertial forces to surface tension forces acting on the droplet, and can be used

to help you decide the dominant breakup mechanism. Typically the droplet will be stable for Weber

Numbers less than 6.

[7] Review whether gravitational effects are important. The Bond number helps you assess this as it

describes the ratio of gravitational forces to surface tension forces.

[8] Review whether surface tension effects are important. Check your Capillary number, which is the

ratio of viscous forces to surface tension forces. The appropriate ranges where surface tension can

be neglected can be heavily problem dependent, so please contact us if you require for more

information on this area.

[9] How do you need to present your CFD results? Will it suffice to report an average value of some

key variables (such as the average velocity or temperature in particular regions) or do you need to

have more detailed reports on the history of a particular dispersed entity? For example, if you want

to model the drying of a milk droplet in a spray dryer, or combustion of a coal particle, the history of

key variables along the particle trajectory are important quantities to capture in your CFD results.

[10] Consider how large the volume fraction of each particular dispersed phase can become within

your domain of interest? If the maximum volume fraction is still less than about 5%, then often the

interactions between particles will be negligible. Conversely, if the volume fraction is likely to

approach the packing limit (typically around 60% but varies according to particle type/shape), then

additional physical models can be activated to prevent over-packing.

Using carefully considered responses to the above questions, you will now have characterised your

multiphase system and it is possible to move to the next step: How to select the most appropriate

multiphase modelling approach for your multiphase CFD simulation (which is covered in our next

post in this series)...

As we discussed in our previous post, the first step when tackling a multiphase CFD problem is to

identify the key characteristics of your physical system. Once you've done this (using our checklist if

you are still new to multiphase CFD), you can begin to make informed decisions on what multiphase

modelling approaches to use.

We've compiled the following guidelines based on the decades of experience that LEAP has

developed while helping customers in Australia and New Zealand to solve multiphase CFD problems,

particularly companies and researchers in the minerals, process and energy industries:

[1] If your problem involves a distinct free surface between two fluids (typically liquids), then the

"Free surface" model in CFX or "Volume of Fluid / VOF" model in Fluent should be selected. Both of

these methods allow an interface to be solved in steady-state (if it achieves an equilibrium state) or

tracked over time in a transient simulation.

[2] If your system involves a dilute system of droplets or particles (maximum volume fractions less

that ~5%) and you need to track typical trajectories to follow physical processes (such as drying,

evaporation, combustion etc.), then you need to use a Lagrangian approach: this is termed the

Discrete Particle Model (DPM) in Fluent & the Particle Transport model in CFX. Both codes have an

extensive range of in-built models related to the particle physics, so we encourage you to review

these options in the manual before you start and contact LEAP if you have specific questions.

[3] If your Stokes number is small, then the particles will quickly reach equilibrium with the fluid flow

and travel at their terminal velocity. In this case, the Mixture model in Fluent or the Algebraic Slip

Model (ASM) in CFX are good choices for a balance of accuracy and speed. The reason that

these models greatly reduce computational time is that they only solve a single momentum equation

and the other velocities are obtained by calculating the particle slip velocity.

[4] If your Stokes number is larger, then an Eulerian model will be needed. An Eulerian multiphase

model will solve a separate velocity field for each phase, which is the most general approach and

allows complete freedom as to the behaviour of each phase within your domain.

[5] If you have solid particles present, then you will need to understand the maximum packing

density for your system (incorporating particle shape and size distribution), and then decide how you

are going to enforce it. If the packing limit of your particles is not likely to be reached (or is

unimportant to your simulation), then the Eulerian Granular models can be used which are based on

solids pressure models and kinetic theory. If you want to track particle trajectories more accurately

including mechanistic physics of the solids build-up (and account for complex interactions/collisions

between particles), we recommend that you use the Dense Discrete Particle (DDPM) model in ANSYS

Fluent and combine it with the Discrete Element Model (DEM). This approach allows you to respect

the maximum packing limit (as it considers the voidage of the Lagrangian model within the Eulerian

phase) and account for the particle-particle interactions/collisions.

[6] In all of these approaches, you will need to choose the constitutive physics models for drag, lift,

turbulent dispersion etc. that are appropriate for your problem. The User Guides for CFX and Fluent

contain a lot of useful information to help in this process. Often it is a good strategy to start with the

simple models, and incrementally activate models that incorporate more physics so that you can

understand the effect they have on the accuracy of your solution.

[7] Transient or steady-state? Even though you may be looking for a steady-state solution,

multiphase flows are often complex and in many cases we find that you can only approach a pseudo-

steady-state result using a transient simulation technique. Keep this in mind and if you find that

convergence to a steady-state solution is proving difficult, approach it via a transient simulation.

[8] If you decided that gravity was important, make sure you include it in your simulation. You will

need to specify a reference density, which should be that of the lightest phase. The inclusion of

gravity will also sets some conditions on how you specify your boundary conditions. If you have a

separated flow leaving a pipe which is orthogonal to the gravity vector, the pressure is not constant

(so ideally you would account for the hydrostatic pressure component). A common workaround is to

place a 90 degree elbow downstream of the outlet which allows you to set a constant average

pressure boundary condition without affecting the results in the key region of interest.

[9] It is important to give physically consistent initial conditions. If you have a fluid mixture present,

then calculate the pressure so that you can set a consistent pressure field that includes the remaining

hydrostatic component after the reference density is subtracted.

[10] If you are using the DPM / Lagrangian model, start solving your model initially with a small mass

flow rate and a few hundred trajectories so that you can check everything is set up correctly. Doing

this sanity check early on is much more efficient than waiting for the full simulation to complete only

to find out there was a simple setup error.

We hope that these guidelines are enough to get started with your first multiphase CFD simulations.

ooking back at our previous blog series on Multiphase Flow (Parts 1 and 2), it is interesting to see

what has changed in the world of multiphase flow modelling. In those blogs, we pointed out the

need to understand the physics of the system that you are modelling and that remains the number

one priority today. Key points of the blog were the identification of the flow regime and interaction

between the different phases, particularly how the velocity of one phase was related to that of the

others. However, once you have done this, there are a number of new developments that will help

you address a wider range of multiphase flows and do this much more effectively. Here are some key

developments that have occurred in recent releases of ANSYS (particularly 16.0 to 16.2) that will

assist you in this task:

1) As we discussed previously, the Volume of Fluid (VOF) approach allows you to solve free surface

problems and maintain a sharp interface. However, what happens if additionally there are some

regions of the flowfield where droplets are present, as would happen in an oil water separator? In

ANSYS 16, you can now choose whether you want a sharp interface, sharp in some regions and some

disperse flow or all disperse flow. The code then sets up all the numerical schemes automatically for

you.

Refactored GUI panel showing the options for the type of interfaces to be captured (in red box). The

Green button enables the anti-diffusion model.

2) When you do have a sharp free surface interface, you want it to be captured sharply even on a

relatively coarse mesh. This can now be achieved by enabling an anti-diffusion scheme that adds just

enough negative diffusion to sharpen up the interface without causing numerical problems. It is

helping produce much better free surface flows and has been demonstrated by us to massively

reduce the artificial ventilation that occurs under ship hulls at high Froude numbers, as shown in the

pictures below.

Water volume fraction on the wetted surface of a hull for a Froude number of 1.55 showing the

elimination of the artificial air entrainment when the anti-diffusion term is activated.

3) In the previous blog series, we talked about knowing the morphology or flow regime before

suitable models can be chosen. This has been a requirement in multiphase modelling until recently,

making it hard to model the transition from say slug flow to annular flow in a two-phase oil-water

mixture. This is because interfacial area and interphase drag need to be calculated differently in the

different flow regimes. Experienced users have been able to work around this by implementing their

own models, but the process has a steep learning curve. Starting at 16 and continuing in 17, this is

being done automatically for the user making the process simpler and much less time consuming to

setup. We encourage you to attend the 11th International Conference on CFD in the Minerals and

Process Industries organised by CSIRO on 7-9 December, 2015 and listen to the keynote presentation

by Dr. Mohan Srinivasa of ANSYS to learn more about these exciting developments.

A mixture of gas and liquid enters at the left hand boundary and as it flows along the pipe the regime

changes from bubbly to slug flow, with this transition being captured automatically.

4) We discussed previously that many multiphase flows are inherently unsteady in nature. Take the

example of a bubble column, in which gas is bubbled through a liquid to cause mixing and high mass

transfer rates from the gas to the liquid. At any instant, the flow appears completely random but

time-averaged experimental data will show a well-defined flow pattern. To understand this system

using CFD, transient runs must be made that are long enough to capture this pattern. The simulation

times are potentially huge but the recent introduction of a Non-Iterative (NITA) multiphase solver at

V16 is reducing these times by more than an order of magnitude. Prof. David Fletcher (University of

Sydney and LEAP Australia) will present a detailed case study at the same conference, so we

encourage you to come along and learn how this can save you significant computational time for

these classes of problems.

Air volume fraction plot showing the complicated pattern of bubbly flow in the column and the sharp

free surface as the bubbles disengage and exit the vessel.

5) ANSYS has always prided itself in its multiphase physics capabilities and seeks to extend these

where needed. Multiphase flow through a porous medium is such an example, where macroscopic

equations govern the flow yet microscopic behaviour determines the details of the drag and phase

holdup. At ANSYS 16, new models have been introduced to provide well-established constitutive laws

for relative permeability and capillary pressure, making the solution of such problems possible. A

typical application is simulating the flow through a drill hole taking into account the local flow in the

surrounding rock.

Plots showing the oil and water volume fractions in the vicinity of a well bore at a given instance in a

transient simulation.

There have been many more developments and enhancement in the multiphase area, some of which

are beta features in ANSYS 16 which are becoming fully released features at ANSYS 17.

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