2019 – CFD Modelling in Dam Outlet Pipework

W Kamish, C Cantrell, V-A Dimas

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is the science of predicting momentum, mass and heat transport, and can aid in design and safety issues for dam resilience in modern settings. Applications of CFD have historically been in the aerospace, automotive and chemical process industries with limited application in the hydraulic engineering field; possibly due to the associated computational intensity that is typically required. However, over the past two decades the cost of computing power has decreased substantially while the processing speed has increased exponentially. These developments have now made the application of CFD in the commercial environment feasible. CFD is particularly valuable in complex flow situations where the outputs required cannot be provided by a traditional hydraulic assessment approach and where there are stakeholder drivers such as service life, insurance cover and safety implications of infrastructure. The need for CFD when these drivers and complex flow situations arise, are demonstrated by means of a case study.

In the case study, CFD was used to investigate the flow patterns and the predicted performance of the outlet pipework from Massingir Dam in Mozambique. Three flow scenarios with appropriate pressure and flow boundary conditions were analysed for the outlet pipework, which included bifurcations for power generation from the main discharge conduits. Specific concerns addressed were, firstly, the possible excessive negative pressure in the region of the offtake for power generation and the potential for cavitation effects and, secondly, unacceptable velocity gradients in the power offtake pipework. Results showed that although some negative pressures were possible in one flow scenario, mitigation measures based on the CFD outputs could be considered and designed before construction.

The implementation of CFD in the above case study displays how risk in design can be reduced to ensure safety issues are addressed effectively.

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