Aerodynamic performance of an industrial centrifugal compressor variable inlet guide vane system
Industrial centrifugal air compressors can require a combination of a large range of mass flow, high efficiency, constant pressure ratio, and constant rotational speed, specifically when used for sewage effluent aeration treatment. In order to achieve this performance it is common to use variable inlet guide vanes (VIGV's). The performance characteristics of an existing VIGV design have been determined using both an experimental test facility and state of art numerical techniques. The results obtained from these techniques are far more comprehensive than earlier fullscale performance testing. Validation of the performance of the existing design using these techniques has led to the development of a new vane design and potential improvements to the inlet ducting geometry. The aerodynamic interaction between the VIGV system and the centrifugal compressor impeller has also been investigated using a 3-D computational model of the complete variable geometry compressor stage. The results of these investigations have been validated by data available from full scale experimental testing. Strong correlation was obtained between numerical and experimental techniques, and a predicted improvement in polytropic efficiency up to 3% at low flow rates using the re-designed variable inlet guide vanes has been achieved. The overall outcome of this research is a usable VIGV design technique for real industrial compressor environments, and confirmation that an acceptable design can be achieved that represents a rewarding improvement in performance.