The emerging renewable energy market calls for more advanced prediction tools for turbine transient operations in fast startup/shutdown cycles. Reliable numerical analysis of such transient cycles is complicated by the disparity in time scales of the thermal responses in fluid and solid domains. Obtaining fully-coupled time-accurate unsteady Conjugate Heat Transfer (CHT) results under these conditions would require to march in both domains using the time step dictated by the fluid domain: typically, several orders of magnitude smaller than the one required by the solid.

This requirement has strong impact on the computational cost of the simulation as well as being potentially detrimental to the accuracy of the solution due to accumulation of round-off errors in the solid. A novel loosely coupled CHT methodology has been recently proposed, and successfully applied to both natural and forced convection cases that removes these requirements through a source-term based modelling approach of the physical time derivative terms in the relevant equations. The method has been shown to be numerically stable for very large time steps with adequate accuracy.

The present effort is aimed at further exploiting the potential of the methodology through a new adaptive time stepping approach. The proposed method allows for automatic time step adjustment based on estimating the magnitude of the truncation error of the time discretization. The developed automatic time stepping strategy is applied to natural convection cases under long (2000 s) transients: relevant to the prediction of turbine thermal loads during fast startups/shutdowns. The results of the method are compared with fully coupled unsteady simulations showing comparable accuracy with a significant reduction of the computational costs.

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