At Spraying Systems Co., we must deepen our understanding of many diverse industry processes but in a highly specialized niche – spray technology. Much of our time, for instance, is spent working with petrochemical and refinery clients on spray process optimization projects. One of the most important tools to leverage during such projects is computational fluid dynamics, or CFD. CFD is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical analysis and data structures to analyze and solve problems that involve fluid flows. Using CFD, we are able to create computer simulations that model where droplets will end up throughout a spray process, thus gaining deep insights on how sprays interact in a gas stream.
Why does this matter? Seeing how sprays interact in a gas stream becomes critically important for sensitive applications, like heat exchanger defouling. During one particular project, our client wanted to defoul a tubesheet, but was unable to successfully unclog the tubes while remaining operational. After applying CFD, we saw that the droplets where being forced to the bottom of the tubesheet by the prevailing gas stream. We then suggested a different insertion point to entrain the droplets and ensure the defouling liquid coated the tube. After installing the spray lance at the new insertion point, the client enjoyed increased production and capacity, thus mitigating the need to shut down the plant.
To give a proper solution, our engineering team in collaboration with the client’s team had to “feel the numbers” and visualize what might be occurring inside of the process. Much like we have an idea of how fast we are traveling by periodically referencing a speedometer, CFD allows for the participants to intuitively “feel” what is happening inside of a process between speed checks. Applying heuristics to both the CFD study and deeper knowledge of the client’s process, we realized the client had to quickly adjust their approach to defouling.
“Feeling the numbers” allows the mind and machine chasm to close and provides unique solutions to challenging problems. Tools such as CFD and SprayScan, allow users to create value and competitive advantages with increased vigor and reduced risk. During times of upheaval and constant change, we much ask how we can integrate mental models to increase our value proposition, decrease risk, and enhance reliability.