A team of scientists from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is using Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNLs) Jaguar supercomputer, located at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), to conduct high-reliability simulations of a coal gasifier in an attempt to make the potential energy alternative more efficient and reliable.
Our work has provided an in-depth look at the interactions between the hydrodynamics and chemistry inside a commercial-scale gasifier. This ability to finely resolve relevant structures inside a dense, reactive gas-solid system is not only unique, but also necessary to accelerate the commercial deployment of advanced gasification technology.—Chris Guenther, research scientist in NETL’s Computational Science Division and project leader
|Simulation of a coal jet region. Image credit: Chris Guenther, NETL. Click to enlarge.|
Guenther’s team employs the Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX) code, used for simulating the multiphase flows within gasifiers. Multiphase refers to the process of changing a solid (in this case, coal) to a gas (syngas). MFiX was developed at NETL for describing the hydrodynamics, heat transfer, and chemical reactions in fluid-solids systems such as current gas-fired stations, which use very large boilers to produce steam for turbines.
The project is finishing the third and final year of its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment program award, which granted the team 44.4 million hours on Jaguar and the Intrepid supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory. The program allocates hours to large-scale, computationally-intensive research projects in a range of areas including fusion, climate, and materials. NETL funded the research.
Scientists are able to run detailed simulations on the coal inlet region into the gasifier, allowing them to observe the dynamics. They are also able to do grid independence studies, which means refining the simulations until the results no longer change. This lets them know where they need to be with the simulation resolution and what information might be lost if the simulations are conducted at lower resolutions. A standard run usually takes a month to complete.
The project is also working on creating several high-resolution gasifier simulations to provide feedback on the design of a commercial-scale gasifier system intended for NETL’s Clean Coal Power Initiative. The initiative is a cost-shared venture by the government and industry to develop advanced technologies to supply clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to the United States. Its goal is to sequester 90% of the carbon from coal with minimal impact to the cost of electricity.