The diversification of power generation methods within existing power networks has increased the requirement for operational flexibility of plants employing steam turbines. This has led to the situation where steam turbines may operate at very low volume flow conditions for extended periods of time. Under operating conditions where the volume flow through the last stage moving blades (LSMBs) of a low-pressure (LP) steam turbine falls below a certain limit, energy is returned to the working fluid rather than being extracted. This so-called “ventilation” phenomenon produces nonsynchronous aerodynamic excitation, which has the potential to lead to high dynamic blade loading. The aerodynamic excitation is often the result of a rotating phenomenon, with similarities to a rotating stall, which is well known in compressors. Detailed unsteady pressure measurements have been performed in a single stage model steam turbine operated with air under ventilation conditions. The analysis revealed that the rotating excitation mechanism observed in operating steam turbines is reproduced in the model turbine. A 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) method has been applied to simulate the unsteady flow in the air model turbine. The numerical model consists of the single stage modeled as a full annulus, along with the axial-radial diffuser. An unsteady CFD analysis has been performed with sufficient rotor revolutions to obtain globally periodic flow. The simulation reproduces the main characteristics of the phenomenon observed in the tests. The detailed insight into the dynamic flow field reveals information on the nature of the excitation mechanism. The calculations further indicate that the LSMB tip clearance flow has little or no effect on the characteristics of the mechanism for the case studied.

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