Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Salerno, Via Ponte Don Melillo, 84084 Fisciano, Italy
Copyright © 2010 Arcangelo Pellegrino and Francesco Villecco. This is an open access article distributed under the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Natural gas is currently the natural substitute of petroleum as an energy source, since the foreseen ending up of this latter in the next decades. As a matter of fact, natural gas is easier to handle, less dangerous to be transported, somehow environmentally more friendly. The gas ducts operate with large flow rates over very long distances at high pressures, which are usually lowered in proximity of the final substations by lamination valves which, in fact, dissipate energy. However, a careful management of the pressure reduction may allow an energy recovery while using the gas expansion to operate a turbine. In this case, gas must be preheated to compensate for the energy required by the expansion. A proper control of all the parameters involved becomes crucial to an intelligent use of these resources. In this paper, the possibility of using a pre-heating system has been examined as a way to intensify the energy cycle in an expansion substation of the city gas network. Fuzzy logic has been used to optimize the natural gas expansion in a turbine to produce electrical energy. A fuzzy system has been designed and realized to control the whole process of gas expansion, from the gas pre-heating to the pressure reduction. The system operates over the whole year, accounting for the pressure, temperature, and gas flow rate variations experienced in the gas line. The exit values of the latter and the inlet value of the gas pressure are selected as input variables, being the output variable the temperature of the pre-heating water at the heat exchanger inlet.