DOI: 10.1115/1.4063309 ISSN:

Computational Fluid Dynamics Analysis and Experimental Results for the Dynamic Performance of Two Long Smooth Surface Annular Seals Operating with a Liquid in Air Mixture

Jing Yang, Dung Tran, Luis San Andres
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


Compressors in subsea oil and gas production must handle wet gases to reliably operate for extended periods of time. Annular clearance seals contribute to compressor performance and do affect system rotordynamic stability. Prior experimental work with two smooth surface, uniform clearance seals supplied with a light oil in air mixture and undergoing similar operating conditions produced direct stiffnesses (K) with distinct trends as the liquid content increased to 8% in volume. Both seals differ in length and diameter albeit having similar radial clearance. Other force coefficients for both seals, namely cross-coupled stiffness (k) and direct damping (C) increase as the inlet liquid volume fraction (LVF) grows. Rationale for the peculiar differences in centering stiffness (K) is missing. Hence, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model and its predictions, the thrust of this paper, unveil flow field details (pressure, velocity fields, and liquid content evolution) for the oil in air mixture. Besides the CFD model, an enhanced bulk-flow model (BFM) also predicts the seals' leakage and dynamic force coefficients. Both models predict through flows agreeing well with the measured ones, the maximum difference is less than 16%. The BFM direct stiffness (K) does reproduce closely the experimental K whereas the direct damping coefficient (C) is up to ~ 41% lower than the test result. The CFD model captures the variation trend of K vs. inlet LVF for the first seal, albeit its magnitude is thrice the experimental stiffness. The CFD C agrees well with the test data for both seals, the largest difference is less than 10%. In spite of the complexity of the CFD model, significant differences with the experimental results persist, in particular for K. When considering the seal inlet corner as round, the CFD model produces a significant reduction in K to better approach the test result for a seal supplied with air. Attention to the seal geometry is paramount to produce accurate predictions.

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