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CPFD: Computational particle fluid dynamics

Bruce Jenkins | Ora Research

Computational particle fluid dynamics denotes a category of numerical and computational techniques for solving equations of fluid dynamics in which the fluid continuum model is replaced by a finite set of particles. The pioneering developer of these methods, and of commercial software that encapsulates them, is CPFD Software LLC.

“Unequalled accuracy in modeling particle flows”

CPFD describes its mission as “advancing the state-of-the-art in a large but underserved CFD simulation market segment” by building on its proprietary physics-based simulation technologies to “virtualize the chemically reacting particulate flow dynamics of fluidized reactors across all industries, and delivering game-changing economic improvements in output, efficiencies, time-to-market and emissions compliance.”

The company says its clients in senior management “appreciate the cost savings that Barracuda,” its flagship software offering, “can generate for a relatively small investment, and engineers appreciate the competitive edge it provides by revealing scientific insights unavailable with other software.”

The company characterizes Barracuda as “unique among CFD technologies because it was designed exclusively for one purpose: to model particulate-solid flows in fluidized systems. Unlike familiar codes such as ANSYS Fluent, Siemens STAR-CCM+, OpenFoam and others who gradually modified single-phase CFD methods in an attempt to model particle flows, the Barracuda engineering software package was built from the ground up, based on the firm foundation of the multiphase-particle-in cell (MP-PIC) description of the particle phase with strong coupling between fluid and particle phases.”

As a result, the company says, its software “delivers an unequaled level of accuracy that translates to economic value and a competitive advantage” by:

  • Avoiding costly reactor shutdowns and repairs.
  • Lengthening equipment lifecycles.
  • Increasing production of reactor products and yields.
  • Reducing emissions.
  • Ensuring success of scale-up operations.
  • Predicting performance without prototype investment.

“You can spend millions using general-purpose software in an effort to simulate particle flows,” according to CPFD, “and still fall short of what Barracuda can do for a fraction of the cost.”

User perspective

“I have been using CPFD Barracuda for over three years for circulating fluidized bed applications, coal gasification and hydrogasification for reactor design and optimization to scale up,” says Dr. Chris Guenther, Director, Multiphase Flow Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory. “The primary requirements in applying these models is rapid time-to-solution without sacrificing fidelity.”

Engineering benefits

Barracuda Virtual Reactor (VR) is an engineering software package developed exclusively for one single application: gas-particle fluidization reactors and their internal components.

  • VR is based on CPFD’s proprietary numerical method, which the company says is unique in its ability to model gas flows with any loading of discrete particulate solids of any size distribution.
  • VR has been validated extensively against large-scale experimental data from PSRI and other worldwide R&D organizations.
  • VR has been validated with industrial operating reactors across diverse industries: oil refining; chemicals production; coal combustion; gasification and many other FBRs.
  • VR has its solids chemistry coupled to the flow field to accurately compute the user’s products.
  • VR users are provided with in-depth training, then given direct technical support by experienced CPFD engineers.
  • VR is continually being enhanced with new features and state-of-the art computing power.
  • VR can make users “highly successful by offering tremendous gains in engineering insights and optimization of your company’s fluidization reactors.”

Business benefits

Barracuda Virtual Reactor uses advanced physics-based computer simulations to replace the conventional trial-and-error exploratory procedures of “just going ahead” with expensive hardware modifications or changes in reactor operations.

VR “provides you with high confidence and is an ‘insurance policy’ that proposed hardware or process changes will actually perform as expected, and it even reveals the ‘why’ these will fail or work.”

VR, “when employed in concert with your engineering staff, will help to ensure your fluidization unit receives the maximum financial benefits” from:

  • Reliability improvements and component lifetime extension with reduced erosion.
  • Hardware upgrades that work together and as expected.
  • Product yields that are maximized.
  • Changes to feedstocks, catalysts and operating ranges that offer no surprises.
  • Reactor scale-ups or turn-downs that perform as promised.
  • Minimized emissions and reduced need for costly scrubbing hardware.

What is Barracuda VR?

“A physics-based engineering software package capable of predicting all fluid, particulate-solid, thermal and chemically reacting behavior inside a fluidized reactor in order to maximize its productivity and reliability.”

Value to industry

To address complex, multimillion-dollar issues:

  • Oil refinery shutdown—typical cost $1 million per day.
  • Reactor emissions control—cost $20 million-$100 million per unit.
  • Elimination of a pilot plant—cost savings $150 million to $250 million.

How Barracuda VR is used

  • Reactor operations troubleshooting.
  • Reactor reliability and yield improvements.
  • Reactor scale-up.
  • Reactor new design or feedstock change-out.
  • Reactor emissions reduction.

Technology scope

  • Industrial-scale units measuring tens of meters in length scale.
  • 3D physical model, with transient to steady time-averaged solution.
  • Fluid flow phenomena, fully coupled to particulate-solids phenomena for all dilute-to-dense regimes.
  • Chemically reacting gaseous and particulate-solid materials.
  • Post-processing to quickly and clearly develop solutions.
  • Validated against large-scale experiments and industrial units.

Special thanks to Joe Golab, member of the Chemistry Faculty at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, for directing our attention to these technologies.

Barracuda Virtual Reactor


CPFD Software LLC


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