In process centrifugal compressors used in various types of plants, the compressor is the heart of a plant, and it requires high reliability. Therefore, prediction of the surge is important for centrifugal compressors. There have been numerous researches on the surge: study on improvement of surge margin, and study on the rotating stall, which is recognized as a precursor to surge, in impeller or diffuser of the compressor. However, the researches have not focused on the surge inception flow phenomena, namely detailed flow mechanism leading to the surge, although understanding of such flow phenomena is important for prediction of the surge.

The paper describes in detail unsteady flow fields in a transonic centrifugal compressor at near-surge conditions. The flow fields have been investigated by detached eddy simulations (DES) using 400 million grid points. The simulation results show that the huge reverse flow region occupies the flow field near the shroud in the impeller at off-design condition, triggered by the blade stall at the tip of impeller full-blade, and it drastically develops at near-surge. It is also found that the rotating disturbance with reversed flow appears in the diffuser near the endwall at around peak pressure-rise point, and it eventually evolves into the rotating stall cell with a large reverse flow, blocking the flow inside the diffuser at near-surge.

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