Design Contest Challenges Young Engineers

May 3, 2022
Engineering students use AFT software to work through Fluor’s design challenge.

Fluor Construction, an international engineering, procurement, and construction, (EPC) firm, is partnering with Applied Flow Technology (AFT) for its design challenge for engineering students in Texas. Students gain experience and exposure to real world engineering tools and practices Fluor and other EPC firms leverage during the design process. Fluor says it hopes to introduce the importance of communication, teamwork and considerations necessary for actual system construction. The challenge, historically held among engineering students at the University of Houston, expands in 2022 to include students at Prairie View A&M University.

AFT helped with the hydraulic modeling portion of the challenge, donating AFT Fathom (incompressible flow) and AFT Arrow (compressible flow) software licenses to help students build their flow analysis skills. For each challenge, mechanical engineering students take a project, typically related to fluid transportation and processing, from initial design to final construction over a semester. They work through several stages of engineering, including pipeline routing, hydraulic analysis and material logistics.

AFT software is used for the hydraulic analyses, helping students optimize pipe systems and pump/compressor stations. Modeling provides insight into how certain configurations, locations and sizes affect the system flows, pressures and energy consumption. One project included design of a water distribution pipeline. Students were to identify the ideal pump station location as part of the hydraulics study, ensuring appropriate delivery pressures and flows. However, the landscape presented natural limitations. The best “hydraulic” location to minimize energy use was not necessarily viable because of high construction costs. A balance between energy and capital costs was required.

Another project focused on minimizing CO2 emissions for construction of pipelines to carry various power plant fuels. The project was ultimately about generating specific amounts of electricity for neighboring areas while keeping the carbon footprint as low as possible. The project encompassed everything from design to construction, but a critical piece was hydraulic modeling to optimize the pump/compressor locations and pipe sizes, where energy consumption and emissions from pipe construction were considered.

Computer modeling enabled the students to experiment and confirm suggested configurations could deliver the appropriate fuel amounts. Students used both AFT Fathom (for the liquified ammonia) and Arrow (for the natural gas and hydrogen) to accomplish this. They found lower pressure systems would lead to lower CO2 outputs.

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