Operational optimisation of low-temperature energy systems

  • Maria Montanez Morantes

Student thesis: Phd


Operational optimisation of low-temperature energy systemsMaria Montanez-MorantesThe University of Manchester2015Abstract-PhD ThesisLow-temperature energy systems are processes that operate below ambient temperatures and make use of refrigeration cycles, where the main energy consumption is due to the shaft work required to drive the compressors. Very-low-temperature energy systems, also known as cryogenic processes, operate at around -150°C and below. Due to increasing demand of products from cryogenic processes and tighter environmental regulations, existing plants need to be revamped to increase their energy efficiency or adapt to new processing capacities. So, accurate models of the performance of cryogenic processes are needed in order to optimise their operation.The present work proposes a new approach for optimising the operating conditions of existing refrigeration cycles in cryogenic processes, using pure refrigerants, for different plant operating conditions. In this work, the process conditions are considered as given and not considered as variables during the optimisation. The operational optimisation is achieved by integrating models for the part-load performance of centrifugal compressors and models for the simulation of plate-fin heat exchangers (PFHEs), into a single optimisation approach. An optimisation approach similar to the one proposed in this work was not found in the open literature.The optimisation approach varies the refrigerant evaporation temperatures, flow rates and cooling duties, minimum temperature difference in PFHEs, and rotational speed of compressors. The objective function seeks to minimise shaft work demand and the constraints consider the operational limitations of centrifugal compressors (minimum and maximum flow rates) and PFHEs (no temperature crosses and meeting the target temperatures of the process streams). In order to explore the solution space that is generated by the complex interactions between the variables and find an approximation to a global optimum, a multistart optimisation algorithm is implemented.The part-load centrifugal compressor model implemented in this work uses regressed data from their performance curves together with the fan laws. The proposed simulation model of PFHEs represents these units as a 'fictitious' heat exchanger network of two-stream matches. The simulation model accounts for single and two-phase streams and for the temperature-dependent physical properties of pure refrigerants (e.g. viscosity, heat capacity, etc.). In addition to the simulation model, design and rating models for PFHEs with single and two-phase streams are also proposed.The examples presented in this work for the design, simulation and rating of single and two-phase streams in PFHEs show that the models proposed can find feasible designs, and can predict the outlet temperature of the process streams within ±3°C for different inlet conditions. The example presented in this work for the operational optimisation of refrigeration cycles shows that savings of around 3% in shaft work consumption (up to £0.86 million per year), for different process throughput, can be achieved using the proposed methodology.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMegan Jobson (Supervisor) & Nan Zhang (Supervisor)


  • refrigeration cycles
  • centrifugal compressors
  • compact heat exchangers

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