Operating at low flow places the machine under a great amount of duress. It is always wise to have a mental picture of what is happening within the passages of the machine to understand why this is the case.
The days have long passed where pump vibrations were viewed as a matter of mechanical balance. Now, we recognize that even if the pump had perfect mechanical balance, it would still exhibit vibrations.
The intensity of this remnant vibration turns out to be flow related with its minimum level being at or around best efficiency point (BEP).
Centrifugal pumps are sometimes used in environments where the pumped product contains suspended solids. While some pumps are specifically designed for solid handling or slurry applications, normal centrifugal pumps do not contain features to prevent performance degradation from the impact of solids.
There are a few key signs that a conventional centrifugal pump is suffering from erosive and abrasive wear. Here are assessment and mitigation strategies to be considered and applied when this occurs.
Particles are a problem in a centrifugal pump due to the way the machine adds velocity to the liquid as it passes up the impeller channels. In general, the higher the speed at the tip of the impeller, the more energy that is imparted to any particle that is suspended within the liquid. This energy can then cause damage to anything it impacts.
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.
During a mechanical seal replacement at a major gas plant, a reliability engineer identified that their API OH2 centrifugal pump was operating below the Minimum Continuous Stable Flow (MCSF).
In this case, Hydro Rocky Mountain partnered with HydroTex Deer Park‘s engineering team to provide the customer with an innovative solution by utilizing the existing casing and providing a redesigned impeller to optimize the overall efficiency and life cycle of the unit.
Watch as Ares Panagoulias and Glen Powell, of Hydro’s test lab, examine the historic operating conditions in regard to the pump’s best efficiency point (BEP) and provide a performance test to validate the upgrades and modifications.
Design flaws cause catastrophic failure in a geothermal power station hotwell in New Zealand.
Written by: Chandra Verma (Hydro, Inc.)
Publisher: Pumps & Systems / August 2016
Despite well-documented pump system standards and basic requirements, omission of certain crucial design steps remains a problem in the industry, often causing disastrous outcomes for the end user. When suppliers, manufacturers and/or contractors take shortcuts, technical and commercial risk can present serious ramifications for a large project.Communication failures between the end user’s staff, suppliers and contractors can intensify problems, especially when pumps that may not be appropriate for a given job are commissioned and put into service. Without the end user’s knowledge, a facility may install pumps that have not been properly tested for the application, were fabricated to inferior standards or subject to other shortcuts that adversely affect performance.Sometimes the end user becomes aware of shortcut-derived flaws during the commissioning stage. Other times, problems in equipment or system design might not be evident immediately—they surface during subsequent plant and equipment maintenance that reveals potentially dangerous, hidden conditions. The ensuing problems can lead to tense project politics and expensive rectification, including hiring independent consultants.
Suppliers, manufacturers and contractors take shortcuts for various reasons. These shortcuts can be attributed to a lack of experience with how a pump might be deployed in the field. There may be miscommunication of technical details from both the user and supplier or between the user and contractor.
Budget constraints and concerns can also result in omissions; commercial reality can cause a manufacturer or supplier to make a project’s bottom line cheaper by reducing the cost of equipment and cutting corners.
Figure 1. The velocity distribution of the original (left) and modified geometries (right)
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