Gravity and gas density effects on annular flow average film thickness and frictional pressure drop
Annular flow is an important flow regime in many industrial applications. The need for a better understanding of this flow regime is driven by the desire to improve the design of many terrestrial and space-based systems. Annular two-phase flow is frequently present in the drilling, production and transportation of oil and natural gas, boilers and condensers, and in heating and refrigeration systems. The flow regime is also important for the refueling of space vehicles, and heating and refrigeration systems for space use. Past studies on annular flow have dealt with varying the gas or liquid Reynolds numbers and studying the effect of such changes on the flow regimes and pressure drops. The effect of two other relevant dimensionless groups, namely the gas-to-liquid density ratio and the gas-to-liquid viscosity ratio, on the film characteristics are noticeably absent. As well, with the increased interest in the space environment, studies on the effect of the gravitational acceleration on two-phase flow would be beneficial. The effect of the gas density and the gravitational acceleration on the annular flow average film thickness and frictional pressure drop are examined. The film thickness was measured using two-wire conductance probes. Experimental data were collected in microgravity and hypergravity aboard the Novespace Zero-G Airbus microgravity simulator and normal gravity data were collected at the University of Saskatchewan. Data were collected for a range of annular flow set points by changing the liquid and gas mass flow rates. The liquid-to-gas density ratio was examined by collecting annular flow data using helium-water and air-water. The gravitational effect on the film thickness characteristics was examined by collecting the data during the microgravity and pull-up (hypergravity) portions of each parabolic flight. A direct comparison is possible between the normal gravity data and the microgravity data, due to the matching of the liquid and gas mass flow rates and the flow regime. The reduction in gravity causes the average film thickness to increase between two and four times from the normal gravity values. The microgravity average frictional pressure drop is within approximately 20% of the normal gravity pressure drop for the same flow conditions. For all gravity levels, the air-water and the helium-water flows give similar results, for both average film thickness and frictional pressure drop, when based on the specific energy of the gas. The hypergravity average film thickness results are larger than at normal gravity for the same flow conditions. However, no flow regime map exists for the hypergravity condition, so the similarity of the flow regime cannot be confirmed. The hypergravity flow appears more chaotic, and may be in the transition from a churn type flow. The average frictional pressure drop is increased by approximately 20% due to the increase in the gravitational acceleration. New non-dimensional equations, which include the effect of the gas density, are presented for each gravity level to predict the average film thickness and the average frictional pressure drop.
hypergravity, microgravity, film thickness, pressure drop, annular flow
Master of Science (M.Sc.)