Simulation-based Engineering
bubbling fluidized bed with heat transfer tubes
The simulation of a bubbling fluidized bed with heat transfer tubes used for model validation.

NETL’s Simulation-based Engineering area combines the technical knowledge, software development, computational power, data repository, experimental facilities, and unique partnerships to support research in providing timely and accurate solutions for complex power systems. Understanding the performance of complex flows and components used in advanced power systems and having the means to impact their design early in the developmental process provides significant advantages in product design. Computational models can be used to simulate the device and understand its performance before the design is finalized. Additionally, during new technology development—for example, the development of sorbent adsorber/desorber reactors for CO2 capture—empirical scale-up information is not available because reactors at the required large scales have not been built. Traditional scale-up methods do not work well for many of the components that are present in complex power systems. Therefore, science-based models with quantified uncertainty are important tools for reducing the cost and time required for their development.

CFD model of a pilot-scale CO2 adsorber
CFD model of a pilot-scale CO2 adsorber (shown in the background).

The research through Simulation-based Engineering develops accurate and timely computational models of complex reacting flows and components relevant to advanced power systems. Model development and refinement is achieved through in-house research and partnerships to utilize expertise throughout the country such as NETL’s University Training and Research programs and NETL’s Regional University Alliance (RUA). Partnerships have also been formed with other national laboratories through the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI) and National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) to resolve the complexities associated with carbon capture and storage.

The vast computational resources available to NETL ensure timely solutions to the most complex problems. The deployment of the Simulation-Based Engineering User Center (SBEUC), which hosts one of the world’s largest high-performance computers along with advanced visualization centers, provides the capabilities for running modeling tools at various scales ranging from molecules, to devices, to entire power plants and natural fuel and CO2 storage reservoirs. Additionally, speed up is also achieved through research in the areas of modern Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) computing as well as the implementation of Reduced Order Models (ROMs) when appropriate.

Simulation-based Engineering also exploits on-site, highly instrumented experimental facilities, to validate model enhancements. Models are made available to the public through the laboratory’s computational fluid dynamics (CFD) code—Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFIX)—developed specifically for modeling reacting multi-phase systems.

The development of data integration software packages, such as the R&D 100 award winning VE-Suite, provide a mechanism where commercial modeling and simulation code can be exchanged seamlessly across scales. NETL’s unique capabili¬ties in multiphase flow science coupled with its extensive knowledge of car¬bonaceous fuel reactions resulted in the development of the Carbonaceous Chemistry for Com¬putational Modeling (C3M) platform to perform virtual kinetics experiments that elucidate the effect of operating conditions (e.g., heating rate, temperature, pressure, fuel type) on output variables such as conversion rates and yield.

The Simulation-based Engineering area works closely with stakeholders and partners to outline issues, emerging trends, and areas of need. NETL has sponsored multiphase flow workshops in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 to bring together industry and academia for the identification ofand identify R&D priorities to ensure that key technologies will be available to meet the demands of future advanced power systems. NETL, in collaboration with a scientific advisory committee has also released multiphase flow simulation challenge problems in 2010 and 2013 to improve the reliability of computational modeling of multiphase flows by validating with accurate and well defined experimental data.

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