In this study, a segment of water conveyance system at a chemical manufacturing facility is under investigation. The pipe segment under investigation conveys a daily average flow of five million gallons of water per day (MGD) from the river to a water treatment plant. The exact age of the pipe system is unknown as limited construction or maintenance information exists. The study area is a pipe segment near the treatment plant where three flow restrictions exist within a 30-foot distance bounded by a T-junction and a water filtration plant. These restrictions include two self-actuated butterfly valves and an orifice plate on a 16-inch diameter steel pipe, buried approximately three feet below ground surface. When standing in the study area, heavy vibrations are felt at the ground surface. The valves and orifice plate are to control flowrate and reduce pressure from 80 PSI to 45PSI as the flow enters the water treatment plant.
Flow restrictions in close proximity can cause cavitation, water hammer and other flow phenomena within a pipe system. This can result in excessive wear of the pipe’s inner walls and valves which may compromise the structural integrity and/or function of the system. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software is a useful tool for determining if the conditions for the various flow phenomena are present in a system.
The flow characteristics were numerically calculated in MATLAB then computationally modeled in AFT Fathom. The purpose of the numerical analysis was to describe the stability of the fluid flow at discrete points in the pipe network and identify the network segments with significantly unstable flow profiles. The purpose of the AFT Fathom CFD model purpose was to provide a continuous simulation of the flow stability in the pipe segment and provide a more robust description of the flow profiles in the network. While Fathom cannot explicitly predict cavitation or water hammer, the kinematic parameters produced by the Fathom model and the physical conditions observed in the study indicate that water hammer is likely occurring.