Computational Fluid Dynamics Simulation of Compressible Non-Newtonian Biomass in a Compression-Screw Feeder

Mohammad Rahimi, Hari Sitaraman, James Lischeske, David Sievers, Jonathan Stickel

Research output: NRELPresentation


Compression-screw feeders play a critical role in biorefineries to transport lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks from the feeding hoppers to biomass-conversion reactors in order to pretreat and convert biomass to hydrocarbon liquid biofuels and other power and energy resources. One of the main challenges in the operation of screw feeder is plugging and jamming of compressed biomass with high concentration of insoluble solids. The focus of this paper is to numerically investigate the screw feeder at these challenging operating conditions and help with the optimization of the screw feeder design to avoid operation failure. In this work a customized CFD model based on open-source OpenFOAM package [1] was developed to simulate the concentrated biomass as a highly viscous non-Newtonian fluid in the screw feeder. The biomass is modeled as a single-phase compressible Bingham fluid with a plastic viscosity as well as a density-dependent yield stress. The compressibility formulation (pressure-dependent density) and the density-dependent yield stress formulation in the governing equations follow the suggestions from a recent study by Duncan et al. [2]. A pilot-scale hopper/screw feeding system at NREL [3] is used to compare the experimental observations with our simulation results. The auger is 280 mm long and tapered with outer diameter changing from 80 mm to 35 mm. The auger rotates from 10 to 60 rpm in a conical throat which contains anti-rotational bars. The simulations predicted the required torque for the screw feeder and the pressure increase at the exit for biomass feedstocks with various fluid viscosity properties and auger rotating speeds. The analysis of the stress forces helped to identify the critical conditions were the screw feeder excessive wear or jamming could occur.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePresented at the 2019 AIChE Annual Meeting, 10 November 2019, Orlando, Florida

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2C00-75580


  • biofuels
  • biorefineries
  • compression-screw feeders
  • lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks


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