Research Papers: Energy Systems Analysis

Mechanical Efficiency of Hydraulic Air Compressors

[+] Author and Article Information
Valeria Pavese

Mining Innovation,
Rehabilitation and Applied Research
Corporation (MIRARCO),
935 Ramsey Lake Road,
Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada
e-mail: vpavese@mirarco.org

Dean Millar

Mining Innovation,
Rehabilitation and Applied Research
Corporation (MIRARCO),
935 Ramsey Lake Road,
Sudbury, ON P3E2C6, Canada
e-mail: dmillar@mirarco.org

Vittorio Verda

Department of Energy (DENERG),
Politecnico di Torino,
24 Corso Duca degli Abruzzi,
Torino 10129, Italy
e-mail: vittorio.verda@polito.it

Contributed by the Advanced Energy Systems Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENERGY RESOURCES TECHNOLOGY. Manuscript received October 28, 2015; final manuscript received May 5, 2016; published online June 27, 2016. Assoc. Editor: Na Zhang.

J. Energy Resour. Technol 138(6), 062005 (Jun 27, 2016) (11 pages) Paper No: JERT-15-1410; doi: 10.1115/1.4033623 History: Received October 28, 2015; Revised May 05, 2016

After air and water mixing, the process of gas compression in the downcomer shaft or pipe of a hydraulic air compressor is considered nearly isothermal due to (i) the mass flow rate of water being typically of three orders higher than that of the gas it compresses, (ii) water having a heat capacity approximately four times that of air, and (iii) the intimate contact and large heat transfer area between the gas phase and the liquid phase of the bubbly flow. A formulation for estimation of the efficiency of a closed- or open-loop hydraulic air compressor, expressed in terms of the principal hydraulic air compressor design variables, is presented. The influence of a hitherto underappreciated factor affecting the performance of these installations, such as the solubility of the gas being compressed in the water, is explored. A procedure for estimating the yield of compressed gas, accounting for these solubility losses, is explained and used to determine the mechanical efficiency of historical hydraulic air compressor installations from reported performance data. The result is a significant downward revision of hydraulic air compressor efficiency by approximately 20% points in comparison to most reported efficiencies. However, through manipulation of cosolute concentrations in the water, and the temperature of the water (through regulation of the ejection of compression heat), the mechanical efficiency can be increased to the formerly reported levels. The thermo-economic implication of these efficiency determinations is that in a modern context, hydraulic air compressors may be able to outperform conventional mechanical gas compression equipment.

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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Schematic of a hydraulic air compressor—station 1: air inlet; station 2: compressed air outlet; station 3: water inlet; and station 4: water outlet

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Fig. 2

Control volume schematic of an HAC: (a) for first law analysis and (b) for analysis where gases dissolve in the water, by-pass the gas–liquid separator, and return to atmosphere via the riser

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Fig. 3

Calculated theoretical and overall mechanical efficiency of the reported performance of 14 historical hydraulic air compressor installations [1,9,10], plotted against the product of the mass ratio of the two-phase (water, air) bubbly flow and delivery pressure

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Fig. 4

Calculated HAC exergetic efficiency of the reported performance of 14 historical hydraulic air compressor installations [1,9,10], plotted against the product of the mass ratio of the two-phase (water, air) bubbly flow and delivery pressure

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Fig. 5

Rate of irreversibility production of 14 hydraulic air compressor installations normalized to the water mass flow rate. Mean results are presented for installations with several test conditions available (see Table 4 in the Appendix).



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