In recent decades, the rising share of commonly subsidized renewable energy especially affects the operational strategy of conventional power plants. In pursuit of flexibility improvements, extension of life cycle, in addition to a reduction in start-up time, General Electric has developed a product to warm-keep high/intermediate pressure steam turbines using hot air. In order to optimize the warm-keeping operation and to gain knowledge about the dominant heat transfer phenomena and flow structures, detailed numerical investigations are required. Considering specific warm-keeping operating conditions characterized by high turbulent flows, it is required to conduct calculations based on time-consuming unsteady conjugate heat transfer (CHT) simulations.
In order to investigate the warm-keeping process as found in the presented research, single and multistage numerical turbine models were developed. Furthermore, an innovative calculation approach called the Equalized Timescales Method (ET) was applied for the modeling of unsteady conjugate heat transfer (CHT). The unsteady approach improves the accuracy of the stationary simulations and enables the determination of the multistage turbine models. In the course of the research, two particular input variables of the ET approach — speed up factor (SF) and time step (TS) — have been additionally investigated with regard to their high impact on the calculation time and the quality of the results. Using the ET method, the mass flow rate and the rotational speed were varied to generate a database of warm-keeping operating points.
The main goal of this work is to provide a comprehensive knowledge of the flow field and heat transfer in a wide range of turbine warm-keeping operations and to characterize the flow patterns observed at these operating points. For varying values of flow coefficient and angle of incidence, the secondary flow phenomena change from well-known vortex systems occurring in design operation (such as passage, horseshoe and corner vortices) to effects typical for windage, like patterns of alternating vortices and strong backflows. Furthermore, the identified flow patterns have been compared to vortex systems described in cited literature and summarized in the so-called blade vortex diagram. The comparison of heat transfer in the form of charts showing the variation of the Nusselt-numbers with respect to changes in angle of incidence and flow coefficients at specific operating points is additionally provided.