A study on the possibilities of using a coupled or schematized numerical method to determine the flow pattern downstream of a discharge sluice

An Ostend case study

More Info


In the port of Ostend a discharge sluice is going to be constructed as part of an enforced dike ring. The proposed location of this discharge sluice is close to an already existing marina, the Royal Yachtclub Oostende (RYCO), and hindrance is expected regarding the outflow of the sluice in marina direction. When designing the sluice, an optimal balance has to be found between acceptable flow velocities in the downstream area and the capacity of the discharge sluice. It is therefore very important to be able to determine resulting flow patterns.

Formulas and rules of thumb found in literature are not sufficient to determine the resulting flow pattern of this system due to the complex geometry, including a pile row for flow velocity reduction. Other studies have shown that numerical models could simulate flow patterns of discharge sluices with much detail. However, a lot of detail in the results also requires much computational time. An example of a detailed numerical software program that is able to simulate the complete three-dimensional flow field is COMSOL Multiphysics 5.6 (COMSOL). Although it provides the most detail, simulating the flow in the entire area of interest (including the RYCO) for a complete tidal cycle in COMSOL would take too much computational time.

The objective of the present study is therefore to investigate the possibilities of determining the flow pattern downstream of a discharge sluice using a numerical method that requires less computational time but has sufficient accuracy to determine the potential impact of a discharge sluice on nautical activities.

In the present study, two options are considered to determine the flow field downstream of a discharge sluice. Method COMSOL-D3D is a coupled numerical method of a COMSOL and a coarser Delft3D-FLOW 4 (D3D) model. The other option, method D3D, uses only a D3D model and the sluice outflow is schematized by means of the general discharge relation.

As validation of the results is not possible due to a lack of measurement data, the methods are applied to a simplified case. The flow pattern resulting from each method is compared to the results obtained with a so-called baseline method. This method consists of modelling the entire domain with only a detailed numerical model, COMSOL. This is possible since, for validation purpose, the domain of the simplified case is relatively small and only stationary conditions are considered.

In conclusion, there is a lot of potential in the use of both methods in predicting the flow pattern downstream of a discharge sluice. They produce for the simplified case flow patterns similar to those obtained with the detailed method. Moreover, both methods require relatively little computational time compared to a full 3D simulation, method D3D requires the least amount. However, there are a number of conditions for the application of both methods.

The methods cannot be applied in the direct vicinity of the discharge sluice where the flow is highly three-dimensional. If one is interested in the flow in the first meters after the outflow opening or around the pile row, for example for designing the bottom protection, the two considered options are not sufficiently accurate. The flow in this area is too complex to simulate in a D3D model. In this case it is recommended to model the situation completely in COMSOL or a model similar to COMSOL. Furthermore, method D3D can only be applied if the sluice system is simple enough to correctly determine the discharge coefficient analytically/empirically and to simulate the effect of the pile row with a simplification in D3D. It is possible to accurately determine the effect of the pile row on the flow in this study with a schematized porous plate in D3D. Further research must show whether this applies to all types of pile rows.

For method COMSOL-D3D it is important that a correct coupling is made between both models. Here it is important to gradually impose the flow rates in the D3D model. Furthermore, the coupling should be made before the predicted point at which the jets starts deflecting towards the side but downstream of the area at which three-dimensional flows caused by the pile row are present.

It is important to note that due to a lack of validation data there is an uncertainty in the results following from the model approaches. Further research and the use of validation data must show how accurate the results of the considered methods are.

In this research method D3D is applied to the Ostend case. It becomes clear that flow rates exceed predetermined limits for safe operation in the marina. This applies to the entire marina and a large part of the time that the discharge sluice is discharging in marina direction. Measures will therefore have to be taken to prevent this. It is recommended to use method COMSOL-D3D to investigate the optimization between flow velocities in the marina and the discharge capacity. This is due to the fact that the design of the discharge sluice is expected to become much more complex and as a result the discharge coefficient is no longer easy to determine using formulas from literature.