The most recent development in centrifugal compressor technology is towards wet gas operating conditions. This means the centrifugal compressor has to manage a liquid phase which is varying between 0 to 3% Liquid Volume Fraction (LVF) according to the most widely agreed definition. The centrifugal compressor operation is challenged by the liquid presence with respect to all the main aspects (e.g. thermodynamics, material selection, thrust load) and especially from a rotordynamic viewpoint. The main test results of a centrifugal compressor tested in a special wet gas loop [1] show that wet gas compression (without an upstream separation) is a viable technology. In wet gas conditions the rotordynamic behavior could be impacted by the liquid presence both from a critical speed viewpoint and stability wise. Moreover the major rotordynamic results from the previous mentioned test campaign [2] show that both vibrations when crossing the rotor first critical speed and stability (tested through a magnetic exciter) are not critically affected by the liquid phase. Additionally it was found that the liquid may affect the vibration behavior by partially flooding the internal annular seals and causing a sort of forced excitation phenomenon.

In order to better understand the wet gas test outcomes, the authors performed an extensive CFD analysis simulating all the different types of balance piston annular seals used (namely a Tooth on Stator Labyrinth Seal and a Pocket Damper Seal). They were simulated in both steady state and transient conditions and finally compared in terms of liquid management capability.

CFD simulation after a proper tuning (especially in terms of LVF level) showed interesting results which are mostly consistent with the experimental outcome. The results also provide a physical explanation of the behavior of both seals, which was observed during testing.

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