The Basics of Reciprocating vs. Centrifugal Pumps

Image 1. A reciprocating pump’s fixed volume. Flow is determined by stroke, area and speed. (Images courtesy of Hydro)

Understanding the differences between these types of pumps can mean avoiding difficulties and reliability problems.

The demand for the duties that fall within the performance range of reciprocating pumps is rising. Process flows are falling while the pressures required are increasing.

Engineers are generally familiar with operating principles, performance curves and selection criteria for centrifugal pumps, but the training and knowledge around the operating principles of reciprocating pumps is not as common.

Unlike centrifugal pumps, reciprocating pumps have a stronger interaction with the system within which they sit. This is due to the pressure pulsations they generate.

If we think about any linear reciprocating motion of a piston, at some point the velocity of the piston is zero as it changes direction at the top and bottom of its stroke. This means that the pressure pulsations are much larger in a reciprocating machine than in a centrifugal machine.

Authored by Gary Dyson.

Asset Monitoring Improves Reliability & Visibility

Hydro remote condition monitoring A major pipeline transmission company found itself reconsidering the effectiveness of its maintenance strategy. The company faced a challenge: optimizing asset visibility and implementing remote condition monitoring of equipment health while avoiding a high-cost investment and installation disruptions.

This particular pipeline transfers a variety of products, ranging from gasoline to jet fuel, serving customers via pump stations and storage tanks across the United States. For this customer, it is imperative to ensure that pumping assets are efficient, reliable and safely maintained consistently. The pipeline supports the needs of more than 50 cities, thus making the pumping assets critical to the availability and overall operation.

Technology plays a vital role in day-to-day operations in supporting end user activities, ensuring strict safety regulations, optimizing maintenance and providing data on equipment health. In this case, the pipeline company wanted to significantly improve and innovate upon its current maintenance approach in two ways: by monitoring asset visibility in real-time and trending data for their critical pumping equipment.

Authored by Ares Panagoulias and Ken Babusiak.

An Engineered Battle Against Cavitation

The pump after upgrades and repair now has an impeller that operates at run-out flow condition safely and as per design.

A power station’s cooling water pumps were constantly being repaired, costing the plant millions of dollars in costs and service time due to the severe operational disruption and logistics required to remove and transport such large equipment. Previous attempts made by the station to improve the reliability of the impellers through upgraded material selections had little impact on reliability.

It was clear that something had to change as the station’s pump reliability was now a major financial focus. The many vane cracks, cavitation and broken vane sections that were weld-repaired during inspections throughout the pumps’ life cycles prompted the station to investigate a more permanent solution to the issue.

During the last repair, the reliability engineer inspected the impellers and found the cavitation was similar to those reported during prior repairs. An engineering repair company that specializes in fluid dynamics was asked to investigate the root cause of the continuing pump issues. The team conducted an investigation on the system layout and operation parameters.

The results of the forensic analysis showed that the impeller blades were suffering cavitation to the low-pressure side of the vanes. Additionally, the cavitation and cracked vanes toward the eye also indicated that the sizing of the inlet and its associated blade angles may be active factors in the repeated failures.


Analysis & Rerating Solve Pipeline’s Acoustic Resonance Problem

The phenomenon occurs when a system experiences extreme vibration caused by excessive pump pressure and pulsation.

Written by: Greg Matteson & Jeff Johnson
Published by: Pumps & Systems

A North American natural gas liquids pipeline company was experiencing an acoustic resonance issue that cost up to $35,000 a month in maintenance and repair. A six-week project resulted in rerating three American Petroleum Institute (API) designation between-bearing (BB3) horizontal multistage split-case mainline pumps and performing extensive and specific vibration analyses to identify the problem. The project involved designing and manufacturing new impellers using exclusive milled vane technology, conducting API hydraulic performance tests, and returning the pumps into service.

This midcontinent pipeline gathers, processes, stores and transports natural gas—in this case, propane. Because of its geographic location, extreme temperatures and conditions are a factor in the selection of major equipment and components. The pumps operate at 2,917 gallons per minute with 2,926 feet at 1,500 horsepower and 3,560 revolutions per minute (rpm).

The Problem

The pipeline company was experiencing an acoustic resonance vibration problem at the pump crossover, causing major maintenance and repair issues. Acoustic resonance occurs when a system experiences extreme vibration due to excessive pump pressure and pulsation, with frequencies loud enough for humans to hear. This can happen with the use of variable speed drives.

The pulsations are caused by a non-uniform flow from turbulence, sudden change of flow structure, direction or cross-section.

The acoustic resonance had existed since the pumps were installed more than five years ago. Rather than repairing or replacing them, the company performed continuous unscheduled maintenance that cost as much as $35,000 in a single month.

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