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CHAPTER 11

Fluid Flow Transients

Chapter Objectives
1. Assess the causes of hydraulic transients in treatment systems.
3. Explain the reasons for system damage caused by transients.
4. Identify options for controlling or minimizing hydraulic transients.
Analyzing, designing, and troubleshooting steady-state hydraulic conditions in
treatment systems are described in previous chapters. The possible error from inaccurate calculations or predictions may be a deviation of the actual flow rate from the
design or expected flow rate. Although not being able to achieve the design flow rate
at steady state in a system is not acceptable from an operational viewpoint, the presence of hydraulic transients in a system can result in catastrophic failure. Avoiding
sudden failure of the system is an important topic for treatment system engineers.
Transients can arise from the following (Tullis 1989):

events when valves are opened or closed,


occurrences of pumps starting or stopping,
cycling of pressure relief valves,
operation of check valves, or
other events that produce sudden changes in velocity in a portion of the system.

It is imperative that engineers have some insight into the transients that can
occur in fluid systems and have an understanding of how transients may be controlled. Engineers need knowledge of the causes for hydraulic transients and of
how to analyze for the presence and magnitude of certain transient events. The
effect of transients on the system must also be understood, as the consequences of
significant transients can be rupture and failure of system components. Viable
control options may be needed.
Transients may be in the form of flow transients with relatively low-pressure
spikes, resulting from unsteady flow, or of potentially damaging pressure waves.

229

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

230

Unsteady Flow
Unsteady flow in a system may arise from starting pumps, opening valves, etc. Consider a system of two storage tanks with different water levels connected by a pipe,
as shown in Fig. 11-1, where the flow is suddenly initiated. The flow rate in the pipe
is a function of time (time after the flow is initiated) and will increase from zero to
its maximum, steady-state value. First an equation describing the non-steady-state
behavior of the water in the pipe will be developed (see also Wylie and Streeter
1982; Tullis 1989).
To resolve the behavior of the system, we must perform a momentum balance.
The forces on the fluid in the pipe are depicted in Fig. 11-2.
The momentum balance derived in Chapter 4 was
v
v
v
v
V (V )
u
(V )
(V )

 Vx
 Vy
 Vz
 f
t
x
y
z

(4-27)

v
u
where  is the fluid density, V is the fluid velocity, and f is the force per unit volv
v
v
ume. Because ( V )/ x  0, ( V )/ y  0, and ( V )/ z  0, the momentum balance
equation becomes


u
dV
 f
dt

(11-1)

dV
F

dt
v

(11-2)

v
u
Since f  F /v, we have

h1
Q

Figure 11-1. A system of two tanks connected by a pipe.

h2

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

231

Q
F2

F1
Ffric
y

x
Figure 11-2. Forces on a fluid in a connecting pipe.

which may be simplified to


v
u
dV
m
 F
dt

(11-3)

where m is mass.
We can resolve the forces in the x-direction. The force on left side of the fluid
in the pipe from the static fluid head h1 in the supply tank is
F1  P1  A    g  h1  A

(11-4)

where A is the cross-sectional area of the pipe. The force on right side of the fluid
in the pipe from static fluid head h2 in the discharge tank is
F2  P2  A    g  h2  A

(11-5)

The force on the fluid from friction, Ffric, is the pressure drop across the pipe
multiplied by the pipe cross-sectional area:
L V2
Ffric  P  A  4 f A
D 2

(11-6)

where L and D are the length and diameter of the pipe respectively. Since V 
Q/A, Eq. 11-6 can be modified to
L Q2
Ffric  4 f

D 2 A

(11-7)

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232

Substituting the equations that quantify each force on the fluid, Eqs. 11-4, 11-5,
and 11-7, into Eq. 11-3 that was obtained from a momentum balance gives
(  L  A)

dV
L Q2
 (  g  h1 A)  (  g  h2 A)  4  f  

dt
D 2  A

(11-8)

which, when simplified, yields a differential equation


dQ gA
4 f Q2

( h1  h2 ) 
dt
L
D 2A

(11-9)

Separating variables:
dQ
4 f Q2
gA
( h1  h2 ) 
L
D 2A

 dt

(11-10)

Integrating:
dQ

dt

2 gDA2 (h  h )  4 fLQ 2  2 ADL


1

(11-11)

Yields (Griffin 2007):

2 fL
tanh1
Q
2
gDA ( h1  h2 )
8 fLgDA ( h1  h2 )
2

t
C
2 ADL

(11-12)

Rearranging:

2 fg( h1  h2 )
2 fL
tanh1
Q
t C

gDA2 ( h1  h2 )
DL

(11-13)

Solving for Q:

Q

tanh 2 fg( h1  h2 )

t  C

DL
2 fL
2
gDA ( h1  h2 )

(11-14)

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

233

At t  0, Q  0, so C must be equal to 0.

Q

tanh 2 fg( h1  h2 )

DL

(11-15)

2 fL
2
gDA ( h1  h2 )
This equation may be solved for specific conditions in the system (h1, h2, f, pipe
diameter, and pipe length) to describe Q as a function of t. The friction factor is
assumed to remain constant.

Example
How long does it take for the system depicted in Fig. 11-1 to reach 99% of steadystate flow rate, when h1  70 m, h2  3 m, f  0.0015, the pipe diameter is 0.3 m,
and the pipe length is 700 m?

Solution
Using Eq. 11-15, we find that the flow rate is constant after approximately 60 s.
The steady state value is 0.685 m3/s (above 60 s).
By trial and error, evaluating Q as a function of time, it is found that it takes
27.2 s to reach 99% of the steady-state Q, which is 0.678 m3/s. Substituting values
into Eq. 11-15:

Q

tanh 2  0.0015  9.81 2  (70 m  3 m)


s

 27.2s

0.3 m  700 m

2  0.0015  700 m

 0.678

m3
s

9.81

m
 0.3 m  (0.3 m)2 (70 m  3 m)
2
4
s

So it takes about 27 s to reach steady state in this system. By the same analysis,
a 2,000-m-long pipe with an order of magnitude lower friction factor takes approximately 133 s to reach steady statea significant increase in time. Any change in
the system that will upset steady state, such as changing control valve settings or
turning a pump on, should be allowed this amount of time as a rough approximation for the flow to reach steady state again.

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

234

Figure 11-3. Transient response with increasing pipe length. The parameters used are f  0.0015, h  200 ft (61 m), and pipe diameter  12 in.
(30 cm).

Trends with increasing pipe length, head difference, pipe diameter, and friction factor are shown in Figs. 11-3 through 11-6.

Pressure Waves
Consider a horizontal pipe with frictionless flow from a tank to a valve as shown in
Fig. 11-7. If the valve is instantaneously adjusted to the partially closed position,

Figure 11-4. Transient response with increasing static height (head) difference. The parameters used are f  0.0015, L  1,000 ft (300 m), and pipe
diameter  12 in. (30 cm).

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

Figure 11-5. Transient response with increasing pipe diameter. The parameters used are f  0.0015, L  1,000 ft (300 m), and h  100 ft (30 m).

the velocity in the system will be decreased by V. This decrease in velocity by V


is manifested as an increase in pressure by P. This increase in pressure resulting
from the velocity decrease should be obvious from Bernoullis equation. As the
valve was instantaneously adjusted, the pressure increase happens instantaneously
as well, and a pressure wave forms in the pipe. This pressure wave, and its consequences, is known as water hammer. The pressure wave compresses the liquid in the
system, expanding the conduit that the liquid is in. The pressure wave travels back
up the pipe opposite to the direction of flow with a wave velocity in the liquid of a.

Figure 11-6. Transient response with increasing friction factor. The parameters used are pipe diameter  12 in. (30 cm), L  1,000 ft (300 m), and
h  100 ft (30 m).

235

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

236

hstat

V0

Figure 11-7. System composed of a horizontal tank, pipe, and control valve.

So, on instantaneous valve closure, the pressure wave is as shown in Fig. 11-8. A
control volume is drawn around the pressure wave in the pipe. See Fig. 11-9.
The word equation for momentum balance (derived in Chapter 4) is

net rate of flow of


accumulation


sum of forces on
(rate of change of  momentum through  fluid boundaries
momentum in system) system boundaries

(4-29)

The first term for the rate of change of momentum in the control volume is
V
[A( a  V0 ) t ] 

(11-16)

where V0 is the initial velocity and V is the change in velocity in the control volume. The term in the first set of brackets is the mass of fluid affected, and the term
in the second set of brackets is the velocity change over the time interval, t. Equation 11-16 can be simplified to
A(a  V0) V

(11-17)

The net momentum flux (into and out of the control volume) is
  A(V0  V) 2    A  V02
pressure wave
a

hstat

V0

Figure 11-8. System composed of a horizontal tank, pipe, and control valve
when the valve is closed. Source: Adapted from Tullis (1989).

(11-18)

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

237

pressure wave

ghA

AV02

V0

V0+V

A(V0+V)2

Figure 11-9. Control volume around a pressure wave showing the forces
on the control volume. Source: Adapted from Wylie and Streeter (1982) and
Tullis (1989).

Expanding the first term gives


  A[V02  2V0 V  V 2 ]    A  V02

(11-19)

  A[2V0 V  V 2]

(11-20)

which simplifies to

Since V0 V W V 2 we can drop the second term to get


2  A  V0  V

(11-21)

The net force on the fluid in the control volume is


g  h  A

(11-22)

Substituting Eq. 11-17 for the rate of change of momentum, Eq. 11-21 for the
net momentum flux, and Eq. 11-22 for the net force into the momentum balance
gives
g hA  2AV0 V  A(a  V0) V

(11-23)

Solving for h yields


h 

aV
g

V0
1  a

(11-24)

Because a is usually much greater than V0, V0/a  0, and so


h 

aV
g

(11-25)

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

238

Because the pressure waves can be superimposed, the increased head (pressure)
from multiple pressure waves can be quantified with

h 

aV

(11-26)

Note that this derivation follows that by Tullis (1989), where more details may
be found.

Example
A pipe is carrying 10 C water at 4.5 m/s. The flow is immediately throttled to 2 m/s.
If the pressure wave speed is 1,000 m/s, what is the pressure increase in pascals?

Solution
The change in pressure head is

h 

aV

g

1, 000

m
m
 2  4.5
s
s
m
9.8 2
s

 255 m

which gives an increase in pressure of


P    g  h  999.7
 2.5 106

kg
m  s2

kg
m3

 9.8

m
 255 m
s2

 2.5 106 Pa

Velocity of the Pressure Wave


The head increase or pressure increase in a pipe resulting from pressure wave
propagation depends on the velocity of the pressure wave. In the previous example, the pressure wave speed was assumed, but an expression for the pressure
wave speed can be derived. When an event creates a pressure wave in a pipe (such
as a valve slamming closed), the pressure wave travels down the pipe. As the wave
travels along, the pipe expands and the fluid compresses slightly. A mass balance
can be performed to arrive at the wave speed. The derivation is adapted from
Tullis (1989).

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

239

The total mass entering the pipe between t  0 and t  L/a (the time for the
pressure wave to travel the length L of the pipe) is
AV0 t

(11-27)

L
a

(11-28)

or, since t  L/a,


AV0

Because the pipe expands, there is an increase in the mass of liquid stored in
the pipe. The increase is quantified with
L A

(11-29)

There is also an increase in the mass of liquid stored in the pipe owing to fluid
compression:
LA 

(11-30)

Combining into a mass balance we have


AV0

L
 LA  LA
a

(11-31)

Rearranging and substituting in g h/a for velocity gives


a2 

g h
A 


A

(11-32)

The liquid bulk modulus is defined as K  P/( /) and P  g h, so


Eq. 11-32 becomes
K

a2 
K A
1
AP

(11-33)

When a pipe expands, the change in area can be defined as


A  circumference  change in radius

(11-34)

From solid mechanics, the change in pipe radius with pressure change is
change in r 2  P

radius
xwall  E

(11-35)

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

240

where r is the pipe radius, xwall is the thickness of the pipe wall, and E is Youngs
modulus of elasticity. So Eq. 11-34 becomes
d 2  P
A (  d) 

4  xwall  E

(11-36)

where d is the pipe diameter. Rearranging gives


d 2 P  d A  P  d
A

 x E
4 xwall  E
wall

(11-37)

Substituting into Eq. 11-33 then yields


K


a

K d
1
xwall  E

(11-38)

It has been found that the pipe anchors affect how, and to what extent, the
pipe responds to pressure waves. So the pressure wave speed is affected as well.
This is accounted for by adding an anchor coefficient C in Eq. 11-38 (Tullis 1989)
as follows:

a

K

K d
1 C
xwall  E

(11-39)

Anchor coefficients are listed in Table 11-1 and piping material properties are
listed in Table 11-2.
Therefore pressure wave speed, as well as the ultimate maximum head and
pressure to which piping components are subjected, is a function of the bulk liquid
Table 11-1. Anchor coefficients for calculating the pressure wave speed in a pipe.
Source: Tullis (1989).
Anchor configuration
Anchors with expansion joints
Anchor on upstream end of pipe
Anchors preventing any movement along the axis of the pipe
a

 is Poissons ratio for the pipe material.

Anchor coefficient, C
1
10.5 a
12

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

241

Table 11-2. Piping material properties.


Material
Cast steel
Cold-rolled steel
Stainless steel
Cast iron
Copper
Monel
Inconel
Titanium
ABS
PVC
CPVC
Concrete

E [GPa] (psi)

Poissons ratio, 

197
(28.5  106)
203
(29.5  106)
190
(27.6  106)
93.0145
[(13.521.0)  106]
108
(15.6  106)
172
(25.0  106)
214
(31.0  106)
103110
[(1516)  106]
0.902.9
[(1.34.2)  105]
2.44.1
[(3.56.0)  105]
2.3-3.2
[(3.44.7)  105]
2134
[(35)  106]

0.265
0.287
0.305
0.2110.299
0.355
0.315
0.2700.380
0.34

0.45

0.30

Source: Data are from Avallone and Baumeister (1996), except Poisson ratios for PVC and
concrete, which are from Tullis (1989).

modulus, the liquid density, Youngs modulus of elasticity of the pipe material, the
diameter and wall thickness of the pipe, and the anchor coefficients.

Example
Calculate the wave speed of 45 F water flowing at 10 ft/s in 6-in.-diameter cast
iron pipe that is anchored along the axis of the pipe. The wall thickness of the
pipe is 0.280 in. Assume the bulk modulus of water is 3.2  105 psi.

Solution
The water density at 45 F is 62.421 lbm/ft3. The average modulus of elasticity of
cast iron pipe in the range listed in Table 11-2 is 17.2  106 psi, which is as good

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

242

an estimate as available. Because the pipe is anchored along the axis, the anchor
coefficient is calculated with
C  1  2
Again, taking Poissons ratio to be the average of the range of values listed in
Table 11-2, or 0.255, we have
C  1  0.2552  0.935
Calculating the pressure wave speed with Eq. 11-39 gives

lbf
in.2
lbm
62.421 3
ft

3.2 105

a

K

K d
1 C
xwall  E

144 in.2
ft  lbm


 32.2
2
lbf  s2
1 ft

3.2 105 psi  (6 in.)


1  0.935

6
(0.280 in.)  17.2 10 psi

 4,160 ft/s (or  1,270 m/s)


Note the inclusion of gc!
The head increase in the pipe owing to the pressure wave can be calculated
with Eq. 11-25:

h 

4,160 ft/s  (0 10 ft/s)


4,160 ft/s  (0 10 ft/s)
aV


2
g
32.17 ft/s2
32.17 ft/s

1, 293 ft (or 394 m)


The pressure increase or spike is therefore

P    g  h  62.42

1 lbf  s2
lbm
1 ft 2
2

32
.
17
ft/s

1
,
293
ft


32.2 ft  lbm 144 in.2
ft 3

 561 psid (or 3.87 kPa)

So slamming a valve shut with a fluid velocity of this magnitude (10 ft/s) produces a 561 psi pressure spike. If the system components cannot take this pressure,
catastrophic rupture may take place.

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

243

Now consider this scenario taking place in a concrete pipe. The pressure wave
speed would be

a

3.2 105 lbf /in2 144 in.2




62.421 lbm/ft 3 1 ft 2

ft  lbm
 32.2

lbf  s2

3.2 105 psi  (6 in.)


1  0.935

6
(0.280 in.)  4 10 psi

3, 050 ft/s (or ~ 930 m/s)

resulting in a pressure head spike of

h 

3,050 ft/s  (0 10 ft/s)


32.17 ft/s2

 947 ft (or 289 m)

which is equivalent to a pressure spike of 410 psid (or 2.8 kPa). If the identical
conditions (valve slamming shut with water flowing at 10 ft/s) occur in a rubber
pipe, assuming E  0.01  106 psi (Wylie and Streeter 1982) and   0.5, we
would get

a

h 

ft  lbm
3.2 105 lbf/in.2 144 in.2

 32.2

3
2
lbf  s2
62.421 lbm/ft
1 ft

3.2 105 psi  (6 in.)


1  0.750

6
(0.280 in.)  0.01 10 psi

215 ft/s  (0 10 ft/s)


32.17 ft/s2

 215 ft/s (or 65.5 m/s

374 ft (or 114 m)

This would give a pressure spike of 29 psid (or 200 kPa), which is significantly
lower than the pressure spikes for more rigid materials.

Minimizing Occurrence or Damage from Transients


The pressure spikes in treatment systems from these pressure waves may be prevented by eliminating the cause, the velocity change that precedes the pressure
wave. By reducing the fluid velocity in the system, the difference in velocity will
be smaller when a valve instantly closes than for a system with high velocity. By
minimizing velocity change, the pressure wave has a lower magnitude, as predicted

244

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

by Eq. 11-25. The time for a given velocity change in a system can be lengthened, thereby softening the pressure wave. This can be done by providing for
longer valve closure times so that an instantaneous change in velocity does not
occur. Pumps can also be controlled so that the difference in system velocity arising from a pump starting up or stopping happens over a period of time, not all
at once.
The pressure arising from pressure wave transients can be controlled through
the use of pressure relief valves; these will prevent rupture of the components
in the system (if the relief valve is properly applied). The presence of air in the
system, which is much more compressible than liquids, will help mitigate the
effects of a pressure wave. Either air can be injected into the liquid or an air
chamber with or without a bladder separating the liquid from the air may be
employed. The pressure in the system is reduced by the air, as energy can be dissipated in compression of the air, reducing the pressure wave speed. Also, as
illustrated in the example with the rubber pipe, a more flexible component in the
system can reduce the pressure wave velocity, and thereby the pressure spike for
a given instantaneous velocity change. So either flexible rubber hoses can be
installed in the system or piping material with lower Youngs modulus of elasticity can be used.
Non-steady-state surges can be mitigated with surge tanks or stand pipes. A
large stand pipe to control surge is shown in Fig. 11-10.

Figure 11-10. A stand pipe used to control surge in a piping system from a
reservoir.

FLUID FLOW TRANSIENTS

Symbol List
a
A
C
D
E
f
F
g
h
K
L
m
P
Q
t
V
v


pressure wave velocity in the liquid


cross-sectional area
anchor coefficient
diameter
Youngs modulus of elasticity
force per unit volume
force
acceleration due to gravity
static head
liquid bulk modulus
length
mass
pressure
volumetric flow rate
time
velocity
volume
fluid density

Problems
1. A valve in a treatment system is opened from partially throttled to full, increasing the water velocity from 1.5 to 5 m/s. The water is at 15 C. What is
the magnitude of the pressure spike in pascals if a  1,200 m/s?
2. Water is standing still in an 8-in.-diameter 400-ft-long pipe until a valve is
opened. The flow rate in the pipe starts from zero and approaches steady state
with a constant h  50 ft across the pipe. If there is no friction, what is the
flow rate in gallons per minute in the pipe after 20 s?
3. What is the pressure spike in pascals resulting from an instantaneous valve
closing with a water flow of 3 m/s in a 15-cm-diameter pipe? The water is at
8 C. The pipe is CPVC and is anchored at the upstream end. The wall thickness of the pipe is 0.711 cm. Assume that   0.45 and that the bulk modulus of water is 2.2  109 Pa. How does the pressure spike compare to those in
the examples in this chapter.
4. A 4-in.-diameter pipe is to be used to transfer 60 F water at 12 ft/s. It is anticipated that the flow will be intermittent with a control valve providing instant
closure at times. The pipe wall will be 0.237 in. thick, but the material must
be chosen to keep the pressure spike below 250 psi to avoid rupture of components in the system. The pipe will be anchored along its axis. Will the use
of steel pipe keep the pressure spike below the allowable pressure? What pipe
materials are acceptable?

245

TREATMENT SYSTEM HYDRAULICS

246

5. You are the engineer at a water treatment plant who is troubleshooting a


water hammer pressure wave problem that occurs in a pipe when a valve is
closed. Specifically, what are your options to eliminate this pressure wave trouble or mitigate the damage from it?

References
Avallone, E. A., and Baumeister, T., III, eds. (1996). Marks Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Griffin, Robert, personal communication, December 9, 2007.
Tullis, J. P. (1989). Hydraulics of Pipelines, Wiley, New York.
Wylie, E. B., and Streeter, V. L. (1982). Fluid Transients, FEB Press, Ann Arbor, MI.