Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide

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Technical Report

Plant Maintenance Support Reduced Cost

Equipment Reliability

Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide
1000987

Final Report, November 2000

EPRI Project Manager M. Pugh

EPRI • 3412 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94304 • PO Box 10412, Palo Alto, California 94303 • USA 800.313.3774 • 650.855.2121 • askepri@epri.com • www.epri.com

(I) WITH RESPECT TO THE USE OF ANY INFORMATION. METHOD. ORDERING INFORMATION Requests for copies of this report should be directed to the EPRI Distribution Center. NOR ANY PERSON ACTING ON BEHALF OF ANY OF THEM: (A) MAKES ANY WARRANTY OR REPRESENTATION WHATSOEVER. ANY COSPONSOR. . METHOD. Electric Power Research Institute and EPRI are registered service marks of the Electric Power Research Institute. 207 Coggins Drive. OR (III) THAT THIS DOCUMENT IS SUITABLE TO ANY PARTICULAR USER'S CIRCUMSTANCE. (800) 313-3774. INC. All rights reserved. OR SIMILAR ITEM DISCLOSED IN THIS DOCUMENT. OR SIMILAR ITEM DISCLOSED IN THIS DOCUMENT. APPARATUS. NEITHER EPRI. EPRI. P. THE ORGANIZATION(S) BELOW. INCLUDING ANY PARTY'S INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Pleasant Hill. EVEN IF EPRI OR ANY EPRI REPRESENTATIVE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES) RESULTING FROM YOUR SELECTION OR USE OF THIS DOCUMENT OR ANY INFORMATION. ORGANIZATION(S) THAT PREPARED THIS DOCUMENT Kalsi Engineering.DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITIES THIS DOCUMENT WAS PREPARED BY THE ORGANIZATION(S) NAMED BELOW AS AN ACCOUNT OF WORK SPONSORED OR COSPONSORED BY THE ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE. Copyright © 2000 Electric Power Research Institute. Inc.O. INCLUDING MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. PROCESS. APPARATUS. Inc. CA 94523. OR (II) THAT SUCH USE DOES NOT INFRINGE ON OR INTERFERE WITH PRIVATELY OWNED RIGHTS. Inc. Box 23205. (EPRI). OR (B) ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING ANY CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES. EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. Inc. PROCESS. ANY MEMBER OF EPRI. ELECTRIFY THE WORLD is a service mark of the Electric Power Research Institute.

EPRI. Harris Boulevard Charlotte. Palo Alto. iii . The report is a corporate document that should be cited in the literature in the following manner: Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide.T.CITATIONS This report was produced by Nuclear Maintenance Application Center EPRI 1300 W. 1000987. CA: 2000. NC 28262 This report describes research sponsored by EPRI.

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Based on all of the information gathered. resulting in costly downtime and outages. unpredictable failures. Results This guide presents a thorough discussion of mechanical seals and provides an in-depth understanding of their design and operation. preventive. Background A mechanical seal prevents leakage of pressurized fluid between a rotating shaft and a stationary housing. particularly on pumps of various sizes and pressure ratings. which can directly affect plant reliability and performance. They are widely used for numerous power plant equipment applications. guidance. product information. Utility and industry personnel were surveyed to determine specific problems and commonly encountered failure mechanisms. The contents of this guide will assist plant personnel in reducing costs and equipment unavailability and in improving equipment reliability and performance. planning.REPORT SUMMARY This guide provides information to personnel involved with the maintenance of mechanical seals. and a short life. Mechanical seal issues rank high in surveys completed by power plant maintenance personnel. Objectives N To help power plant personnel deal with the maintenance and reliability issues of this critical power plant component N N To provide technical information to plant personnel on proper selection and installation of mechanical seals. suitable recommendations were developed for the problems encountered and presented in this report. and standards was conducted to establish the state of technology for mechanical seals. mechanical seals sometimes exhibit unsatisfactory performance. and corrective maintenance practices. including expected life and a discussion of proper application and selection. Even though they are capable of providing longterm service. and troubleshooting To provide maintenance recommendations for optimizing seal performance and operating life Approach A detailed review of industry literature. and instructions to personnel assigned to maintain mechanical seals. v . It also provides proper installation methods and guidance on expected failure mechanisms. predictive and preventive techniques. and troubleshooting guidance. seal failure modes. including good maintenance practices. This guide offers troubleshooting approaches to assist in determining the causes of failure and discusses recommended predictive. It provides insight to experienced personnel as well as basic information.

It also provides guidelines on investigating and troubleshooting problems that arise during inservice operation and normal planned maintenance activities.EPRI Perspective Problems with mechanical seals represent a significant reliability impact on rotating equipment. Keywords Mechanical seals Maintenance Engineers vi . This guide provides power plant maintenance personnel with information to help improve seal performance and component reliability through a better understanding of the operation of mechanical seals and their critical components.

D. Alvarez vii . Kalsi P. TX Principal Investigators: M. S. Inc. Sugar Land.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This guide was developed by the Nuclear Maintenance Application Center (NMAC) and the following Technical Advisory Group (TAG): Steve Lemberger Bob Mundlapudi Vic Varma Hugh Nixon Steve Rosenau Larry Price Rich Hansen John Montgomery AEP Amergen Consultant Consumers Energy Duke Energy PG&E UNICOM UNICOM NMAC and the TAG were supported in this effort by: Kalsi Engineering.

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................................................................................ 1-1 Purpose ..... 3-17 3....... 4-2 Fundamental Failure Mechanisms......................................... 3-25 3.............4 Introduction ................................................... 4-1 Definition of Seal Failure ................................EPRI Licensed Material CONTENTS 1 INTRODUCTION............. 3-22 3........ 3-24 Improved Seal Face Designs ...................................................................... 3-17 3....................................................2 3...............................1 4...... 3-1 Major Design Variations ...... 3-10 Seal Cartridges ................................................................................4 Background........7 3....................................6 Operating Principles and Basic Components of a Mechanical Face Seal ...............................10 Hydrostatic Seal Design ......................................................................... 3-15 Closing Force........................................................................................................................................................................6.................................................................................................................................................................... 3-28 4 FAILURE MODES AND FUNDAMENTAL MECHANISMS..........2 Pressure Distribution Between the Sealing Faces .............................3 3....................................................8 3.......... 3-23 Temperature Considerations and T Limit ............................................................ 3-21 3....................... 4-1 4.........................3 1.....3 4................................5........1 3........... 2-1 3 TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION ..................................................................6.....................1 1.......................................... 1-2 Approach......................4 3........... 1-1 1...........................5 3.................................... 3-18 3.................................................................................6................................................................ 1-2 Highlighting of Key Points ................. 3-12 Seal Chamber Design and Flushing ............................................................................... 4-1 Industry Survey ................................................................9 Pressure Velocity (PV) Parameter and Limit ........................ 4-3 ix ................................................................................................................................3 Stationary Versus Rotating Seal Balance ............. 3-1 3...........................2 4......2 1.............................................................................................................1 Balance Ratio ........................................... 1-3 2 GLOSSARY OF TERMS.......................1 Seal Arrangements for Abrasive Applications ............................................ 3-8 Multiple Seals.................................................................

..........................4................................................................2 5............. 6-6 6................................ 7-1 7........................6 Level Switches ...............3...............................2.8 Flow Indicators .... 7-1 7.1 PV Limits Exceeded ............. 6-5 6..................................................................................4..............2 Checks Before Dismantling .............................4........................ 4-12 4.............1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure......................................4 Introduction ...................3 Inadequate Cooling ..... 5-1 5.1 5........................................................................... 6-8 6..2 Thermowells ................. 6-6 6.........................................................................................................................2 6........ 7-2 7.....................................................................................7 Level Indicators . 5-6 6 CONDITION-BASED MONITORING GUIDELINES ................ 5-1 Selection Data Sheet .................4.............. 5-3 Qualification Testing........................................................................................ 7-9 x ...............................................................2............4. 7-9 7....................... 6-2 Seal Performance Parameters .......................................................................8 Seal Faces Too Perfectly Flat to Generate a Film............................................. 6-5 Instrumentation .1 7......................................................... 4-5 4...........................................................1 Temperature Gauge .............4..............................3 Checks During Dismantling .................................................................... 4-16 5 APPLICATION AND SELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS ......... 6-7 6......................................3 Pressure Gauges.....................4....... 6-1 6..........................................3 6..4.......4 Introduction ....... 4-4 4................4...................4..........1 6.4 Alarm..................4 Transients Causing Excessive Seal Face Coning.......... 4-6 4.... 7-1 Failure Diagnosis ............................4.......................... 6-8 7 TROUBLESHOOTING TO IDENTIFY CAUSE OF SEAL FAILURE .....................................2.............................................................................................................. Causing Film Vaporization/Collapse .........................5 Pressure Switches..................................................................................................................................................................................................EPRI Licensed Material 4...7 Excessive Out-of-Flatness (Warpage) During Operation ................ 6-6 6................ 7-7 7................................................................................................4................................................................................................ 4-9 4............................................ 4-15 4............... 6-1 Typical Performance Data Logging .................................... and Control Switches ..... 6-7 6.............1 General Checks....................2 Introduction ............ 4-6 4....................................................2 T Limits Exceeded........................................................................................... Trip...................................4....................... 6-5 6.......................6 Seal Misalignment/Premature Degradation of Primary and Secondary Seals ............2............................4..............................4.. 5-1 Selection Specification ....5 Operation Away from Best Efficiency Point.3 5.......................................4....................

................2........4 Auxiliary Glands ...........2..... 8-4 8...2............ 7-12 8 MAINTENANCE.......................1.......3............................................................8 Spring..............2......1 Seal Dimensional Checks......6 Seal Faces .............................2...........................................1...............................4 Seal Removal ...2.......2..........................2....................................................1 Packaging ..........3 Seal Re-use and Inspection..2............1.......................2..........................2 Shaft Runout ...................................2................2.3.............................................2...............................3.................................... 8-5 8............................................2. 8-3 8.................................................2......2..2................................................4........................................... 8-3 8.......................2........................................................................................2...2.............................2................2.................... 8-9 8..........................................................3......................2..2 Seal Cavity Dimensions..........1 Safety........................................5 Seal Rotating and Stationary Components ...........2....... 8-1 Installation and Operation ........ 8-8 8................... 8-3 8..................... 8-8 8............................................................... 8-3 8...... 8-4 8.................................2........................2 Premature Failure Checks ........................................................6 Shaft/Sleeve Diameter and Surface Finish ..........3................................ 8-10 8...................................................5 Shaft Bearing Clearances............... 8-7 8.....2................................. 8-9 8...................... 8-4 8...................3 Handling ...2.........................................................................................................................................................................................................................2. 8-8 8............................................ 8-4 8............1...4 Physical Checks of Mechanical Seals ......................................... 8-9 8..............3 Visual Seal Examination..............4 Rotational Balance .......2..2............. 8-2 8...........................8 Sharp Edges .......2..........................................1 Seal Handling and Inspection ... 8-2 8....................3 Compression Length Tolerance.............. 8-2 xi ...................................... 8-5 8...............2.......EPRI Licensed Material 7..........................................2............................... 8-7 8.................1...7 Sleeve Hardfacing .....3..................................................................................1 Shaft Straightness ......................3 Mid-Life Failure Checks............... 8-10 8............................1...............................................2 Introduction .. 8-4 8.....5 Startup..............................1.4...3 Squareness of Stuffing Box ...............................................................................2.......................2...........4................................................ 8-6 8..............1...............................2 Pre-Installation Equipment Checks ........... 8-10 8.................................... 7-10 7..............................7 Gaskets ............2 Storage.................................................................................................................................. 8-1 8.......................2..... 8-10 8............................. 8-10 8.....................2...............1 8.......................................................2.... 8-6 8.................................................2 Failure Evidence.. 7-11 7.....................3 Seal Installation Checks .......................

......................................................................................................................................................................................3 Venting the Stuffing Box ......... B-1 Procedure for Measuring Face Flatness...............................................................1 B......... A-1 B INSPECTION OF SEAL FACES FOR FLATNESS ................................ 8-11 8...............................2 Optical Principle ......5...................................................... 8-11 9 REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY.............................................2..C-1 D LISTING OF KEY INFORMATION ...........................5........ B-2 C TRAINING COURSES..........2................. 8-11 8...................................1 Avoid Dry Running .......B-1 B............................................................................... 9-1 A MECHANICAL SEALS APPLICATION AND MAINTENANCE GUIDE SURVEY.......2 Filtration ...........................................D-1 xii ..................................2.......5............................EPRI Licensed Material 8...............................................................

..................................................................................... 3-27 Figure 3-27 Hydrostatic Face Seal Design ..... Balanced........... 3-21 Figure 3-22 Rotating Seal Balance Designs................................. 3-10 Figure 3-13 Face-to-Face Dual Seal .............................. 3-14 Figure 3-18 Common Variations in Seal Chamber Design ........... 3-25 Figure 3-24 Seal Face with Thermal Hydrodynamic Grooves for Positive Hydrodynamic Lubrication........................................................ 3-13 Figure 3-17 Seal Stage Details of a Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump................Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 3-5 Figure 3-7 Belleville Washers......................... 3-15 Figure 3-19 A Typical Flush Plan for a Cooling Seal Chamber ............................................................................. 3-22 Figure 3-23 Pressure/Temperature Operating Envelope Showing T Margin Required for Seal Operation .................................................................................... 3-27 Figure 3-26 Other Variations in Seal Face Geometry to Enhance Lubrication of the Faces ................................................................... 3-26 Figure 3-25 Design Options with Hydrodynamic Grooves on the Outer Periphery or Inner Periphery of Seal Face .......................................................... 3-11 Figure 3-15 Single Seal Cartridge ......................................................... 3-19 Figure 3-21 Face Pressure Distribution Due to Hydraulic Pressure and Spring Force............ 3-9 Figure 3-9 Rotating Primary Ring .............................................EPRI Licensed Material LIST OF FIGURES Figure 3-1 Essential Components of a Mechanical Face Seal.................................................................. 3-9 Figure 3-10 Stationary Primary Ring ............ 3-29 xiii .................................................................. 3-1 Figure 3-2 Multiple Coil Springs ................Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) ......................................................................................................................... 3-10 Figure 3-12 Back-to-Back Dual Seal .............................................................................................................................................................. 3-16 Figure 3-20 Unbalanced.......................................... 3-4 Figure 3-4 Corrugated Bellows................................... 3-9 Figure 3-11 Stationary Primary Ring .................. 3-4 Figure 3-6 Rubber Bellows............................................ 3-11 Figure 3-14 Pressure Stage Tandem Seal .............................................Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) ....... 3-4 Figure 3-5 Welded Bellows .................................................. 3-4 Figure 3-3 Single Coil Springs............................................................ 3-12 Figure 3-16 Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump ...........................................Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) ..... and Partially Balanced Seal Designs ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 3-5 Figure 3-8 Rotating Primary Ring ................................................

.................................................................................................... 4-9 Figure 4-6 Fluid Pumping Action Across the Seal Faces Due to Static Offset and Misalignment ............................................................................................ 8-5 Figure 8-2 Shaft Runout Measurement ......... 4-5 Figure 4-2 Extremes of Seal Face Distortion (Coning) Due to Thermal and Pressure Effects .............................................................................................................................. 8-6 Figure 8-5 Radial and Axial Bearing Clearance Checks ................................................... B-5 Figure B-6 Bands Show a Saddle Shape Out-of-Flat Condition of 3 Light Bands .................................................................. 8-5 Figure 8-3 Stuffing Box Squareness Measurement ............................................... 6-4 Figure 8-1 Shaft Straightness Check.............................................................. 4-15 Figure 6-1 Seal Data Plot Showing Declining Performance.............................................................................................. 4-7 Figure 4-3 Pressure Distribution Changes Caused by Coning of the Seal Faces (for Outside Pressurized Seal).............................. B-5 Figure B-5 This Indicates an Egg-Shaped Curvature of 2................................................................................................................................ B-6 Figure B-7 Bands Show a Cylindrical-Shaped Part with a 3-Light Band Reading Error ..... 4-12 Figure 4-8 Shaft Tilt Accommodated by Stationary Ring Pivot ......................................... B-4 Figure B-4 Bands Bend on One side and Line AB Intersects 3 Bands ......................................................................... 8-7 Figure 8-7 Sleeve Hardfacing to Prolong Life ......................... B-6 Figure B-8 Band Symmetrical Pattern Indicates a Conical Convex or Concave Part ................................................................................................ 8-8 Figure 8-8 Lead-In Chamfers to Prevent Secondary Seal Damage During Installation............. 4-9 Figure 4-5 Example of a Wear-In Sequence (Stages 1 through 4) for a Mechanical Seal with a Soft Seal Face................................EPRI Licensed Material Figure 4-1 Lubrication Regimes at Seal Interface Showing Asperity Contact as Lubrication Changes from Full Film to Mixed to Boundary .... 4-11 Figure 4-7 Rotating Balance Seal Wobble Caused by Shaft Tilt ................................................... B-2 Figure B-2 The Viewing Angle Typically Should be 80G to 90G While Checking Flatness Using a Monochromatic Light Source ............. 8-6 Figure 8-4 Shaft and Impeller Rotational Balance Check ................ 8-7 Figure 8-6 Measurement of Critical Shaft and Sleeve Diameters ........................................................... B-6 xiv .................................... B-3 Figure B-3 Flat Within One Light Band ............................ 8-8 Figure 8-9 Seal Cavity Dimensional Checks Prior to Installation ...5 Light Bands ................................. 4-14 Figure 4-9 Seal Pumping Caused by Dynamic Offset of Rotating Narrow Face ........................... 4-8 Figure 4-4 Changes in Seal Contact Area Under Constant Operating Conditions During the Wear-In Process for a Seal With a Hard Face and a Soft Face ............................................... 8-9 Figure B-1 Using an Optical Flat to Determine Seal Face Flatness Light Bands ..........................................................................................

............................................................ 3-23 Table 5-1 Seal Application and Selection Guidelines ................................................................................... 3-8 Table 3-4 Approximate PV Limits psi-ft/min (Mpa-m/sec) for General Seals with Various Combinations of Seal Face Materials and Fluids ................................................ 5-2 Table 6-1 Seal System Log Sheet................... 7-3 Table 7-2 Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling ... 7-10 Table 7-5 Mid-Life Failure Checks During Dismantling........... 3-3 Table 3-2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations............................................................. Characteristics............... Thermal...... 2-1 Table 3-1 Secondary Seal Properties................................................................EPRI Licensed Material LIST OF TABLES Table 2-1 Glossary of Terms........................................................................................ 3-6 Table 3-3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Springs ............................................................. 6-3 Table 7-1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure ................ or Chemical Damage.......................................................................................................................................................... 7-14 xv ................ 7-9 Table 7-4 Premature Failure Checks During Dismantling .............................................................................................. 7-13 Table 7-7 Visual Examination: Symptoms.................................... 7-7 Table 7-3 General Checks During Dismantling...... 7-11 Table 7-6 Visual Examination: Failure Symptoms Based on Mechanical.......... Causes and Remedies .................................

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This has enabled improvements in the performance of mechanical seals in a number of critical applications in nuclear and fossil power plants. 1997 (TR-107252). 1994 (NP-6608). 1-1 . short life. has evolved and improved significantly over the last two decades. 1994 (TR-104749). friction and wear. as well as a fundamental understanding of how such seals work. Even though mechanical seals are capable of providing reliable long-term service with proper consideration to design. Mechanical seal technology. and maintenance recommendations designed to optimize equipment operating life. Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide. materials. availability of sophisticated analytical tools (for example. Design and prediction of mechanical seal performance in a given application requires an in-depth knowledge of all mechanical disciplines: stress/deflection analysis. This has been the result of extensive industry-wide research. petrochemical plants. lubrication. application. and other industries. Centrifugal and Positive Displacement Maintenance Guide. These have included information on proper selection. Shelf Life of Elastomeric Components.EPRI Licensed Material 1 INTRODUCTION 1. plant experience. heat transfer. Mechanical seals are widely used in many types of rotating power plant equipment. 1993 (TR-100855). vibration analysis. installation. As such. computational fluid dynamics analysis and finite element analysis). and maintenance. EPRI has conducted and published the following documents relating to equipment seals: N N N N N Guide to Optimized Replacement of Equipment Seals. March 1990 (NP-6731). and manufacturing processes. A mechanical seal is a complex assembly of precision-machined components. the Nuclear Maintenance Application Center (NMAC) of EPRI has published a number of application and maintenance guides to provide technical guidance to engineers and other plant personnel on mechanical seal equipment and component operation. especially pumps of various sizes and pressure ratings. and advances in manufacturing technology. fluid mechanics. installation. they still exhibit unsatisfactory performance. and failure mode analysis. mechanical seals have a significant influence on the reliability of plant equipment. testing. Static Seal Maintenance Guide. and unpredictable (random) failures in some applications.1 Background In the past.

based on this research. 1. reports. The objective was to establish the present state of the art regarding: N N N N N N N N The operation of seals Designs offered by the manufacturers Application problems Solutions to address these problems Installation and maintenance recommendations Statistical/failure data Plant experiences Emerging technologies All relevant technical papers. 1-2 . the guide includes recommendations for achieving plant-wide improvements in nuclear and fossil power plants.EPRI Licensed Material Introduction 1. state-ofthe-art text for nuclear and fossil power utility engineers. preventive. and publications were reviewed from: N * The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Numerals in brackets denote references listed in Section 9 of this Guide. including troubleshooting information Guidance on expected seal life under various operating conditions Recommended predictive (diagnostics).2 Purpose The objective of this NMAC Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide is to provide personnel in nuclear and fossil power plants with: N N N N N N N An in-depth understanding of the design and operation of mechanical seals Correct selection of mechanical seals for an application Proper installation methods Guidance on failure mechanisms and their causes.3 Approach A detailed review of the available literature was conducted to establish the state of technology in mechanical seals [1-65*]. Some of the new seal designs are already in use in industries other than power plants. Their viability in power plant operation was researched and. This NMAC Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide is a comprehensive. and corrective methods of maintenance to optimize seal life Training material to support personnel training This guide presents the latest developments in mechanical seal technology and materials.

and to develop suitable recommendations for this guide. to develop troubleshooting. The pop outs are organized according to three categories: O&M Costs. as shown below. Durametallic. Sealol.4 Highlighting of Key Points Throughout this guide. to draw attention to it when quickly reviewing the guide. AST. Burgmann Seals. and mining industries. Pop outs are bold-lettered boxes that succinctly restate information covered in detail in the surrounding text. The primary intent of a pop out is to emphasize information that will allow individuals to take action for the benefit of the plant. a questionnaire was developed as a survey distributed among the nuclear and fossil power utilities to facilitate determination of specific problems and commonly encountered failure modes. Key O&M Cost Point Emphasizes information that will result in reduced purchase. installation and maintenance guidelines. chemical. and Human Performance. Significant United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Generic Communications relating to shaft seal issues were also reviewed and evaluated to develop suitable recommendations for inclusion in this guide. Key Technical Point Targets information that will lead to improved equipment reliability. Each category has an identifying icon. making the key point easier to locate. The information included in these pop outs was selected by NMAC personnel and the consultants and utility personnel who prepared and reviewed this guide. 1. Additionally. failure diagnosis. drilling. key information is summarized in Pop Outs. Chesterton. Flexibox. Technical. Latty International. The results of the survey were analyzed to determine the root causes of seal failure. operating.EPRI Licensed Material Introduction N N N N The American Society of Lubrication Engineers (ASLE) The British Hydromechanics Research Association (BHRA) The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) Seal manufacturers The review included both domestic and international mechanical seal manufacturers such as John Crane Company. or maintenance costs. Borg-Warner. 1-3 . This guide also utilizes relevant data from technical papers. as well as principal investigators’ experience with mechanical seals in the petrochemical.

1-4 . or ease completion of the task.EPRI Licensed Material Introduction Key Human Performance Point Denotes information that requires personnel action or consideration in order to prevent injury or damage. By reviewing this listing. Appendix D contains a listing of all key points in each category. The listing restates each key point and provides reference to its location in the body of the report. users of this guide can determine if they have taken advantage of key information that the authors believe would benefit their plants.

A specification widely used for heavy duty centrifugal pumps. A seal configuration consisting of a double seal with the seal rings adjacent to each other. designed to prevent the stationary seal member from rotating in its mounting. Arrangements recommended in API 610 for connecting auxiliary pipework to the seal chamber. two mechanical seals facing in opposite directions. A device. a common wear mode associated with running in and mild steady state wear. that is. in preparation). Minute high spot on the seal face resulting from the manufacturing process. installation. or the outer seal in the case of a double seal. technical papers. Wear arising from small-scale local welding at asperities. Alternative name for auxiliary seal. Alternative term for double balancing (see double balancing). Wear occurring by the mechanical action of an abrasive.EPRI Licensed Material 2 GLOSSARY OF TERMS The terminology used to describe the various design features. and performance of mechanical face seals has evolved over the years. API Standard: Shaft Sealing System for Centrifugal and Rotary Pumps (1st Ed. and the industry standards for both the United States of America and European countries [3-9] were reviewed to reconcile the differences in definitions and prepare the following comprehensive glossary (Table 2-1) of terms in common use today and adopted in this guide. 1994). applications. Seal handbooks. Table 2-1 Glossary of Terms Term Abeyance seal Abrasive wear Adhesive wear Anti-rotation pin or device API 610 API 682 API piping plan Asperity Autobalancing Auxiliary seal Back-to-back seal Back-up seal Balance diameter Definition A non-contacting auxiliary seal that is activated by failure of the primary seal in the case of a single seal. Abrasives are substances that are harder than the abraded surface and usually have an angular profile. usually a pin. configurations. See note under balance ratio. manufacturer catalogs. 2-1 .. API Standard: Centrifugal Pumps for General Refinery Services (8th Ed. A seal fitted to the atmospheric side of a quench chamber or secondarycontainment chamber.

Seals are often identified by their balance diameter.Di 2 Note: Balance diameter varies with seal design. A term used to describe a particular form of damage to carbon-graphite seal faces. Condition of lubrication where the seal faces are in solid contact. Mechanical seals are available as both balanced and unbalanced designs. For spring pusher seals under inner diameter pressure. usually caused by hydrocarbons. but for spring pusher seals under outer diameter (OD) pressure. and in some designs elastomeric bellows. it is normally the diameter of the sliding contact surface of the inner diameter (ID) of the dynamic O-ring.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. The balance diameter. Balanced seal A mechanical seal arrangement whereby the effect of the hydraulic pressure in the seal chamber on the seal face closing forces has been reduced through seal geometry.85 is typical range). Do. A fluid injected between dual mechanical seals to completely isolate the pump process liquid from the environment. The secondary seal slides on a sleeve. and outside diameter. The balance ratio is a ratio of the area subjected to the differential pressure of the fluid to the area between the seal ring faces. called the balance sleeve. Balanced seals have a seal balance ratio of less than 1 (0. also provide spring-type loading to the seal faces. Stationary balance seal designs allow the stationary member to move axially. Pressure of the barrier fluid is always higher than the process pressure being sealed. For welded metal bellows type seals. Balanced sleeve/ secondary seal sleeve Barrier fluid Bellows seal Blistering Boundary lubrication 2-2 . As stated in Diametral Tilt and Leakage of End Face Seals with Convergent Sealing Gaps [26].) Glossary of Terms Term Balance ratio Definition Balance ratio determines the proportion of the seal chamber pressure that is applied to the faces of a mechanical seal.5 (OD2 + ID2)]1/2. though separated by adsorbed surface films. is located between the inside diameter.Di 2 Balance Ratio  b D o 2 . or insert. Di. For seals pressurized on the outside diameter: Balance Ratio  Do 2 D b 2 D o 2 Di 2 For seals pressurized on the inside diameter: D 2 . that is.65 to 0. Db. the balance diameter is normally the mean diameter of the bellows but this can vary with pressure.) A type of mechanical seal in which one of the faces is mounted on an elastomeric or a flexible metal bellows to provide secondary sealing. it is normally the diameter of the sliding contact surface of the outer diameter of the dynamic O-ring. the balance diameter for the welded bellows is equal to the root mean square average of the bellows OD and ID. of the seal ring contact area. Metal bellows. Db = [0. (For contrast. see buffer fluid definition.

The term is most frequently used with mixtures of hydrocarbons. (For contrast. These might be very precise dimensions. More specifically. A fluid used as a lubricant or buffer between dual mechanical seals. In this geometry some dimensions are very important to the successful operation of the seal. or length of a spring. It is necessary to have an adequate gap at the inner or the outer periphery of the seal faces that is exposed to the pressurized fluid to allow fluid to enter and provide lubrication and cooling. the compression set of an elastomer is defined as: Buffer fluid Cartridge seal Clamp plate Closing force Coking Compression set change in specimen length applied strain x original specimen length Coning Contact pattern Controlled bleedoff (CBO) or staging flow Axisymmetric distortion of the seal faces. such as seal face flatness. or elastomer. A liquid from an external source circulated through a stationary seal member or other separate cooling element to remove heat.16 cm). If the resistance of each orifice device is equal. Alternative term for hydrostatic seal. Coning of seal faces can cause the gap to decrease (converging seal faces) or increase (diverging seal faces) in the direction of leakage. both as supplied and after being subject to compression in service. or they might have tolerances of 1/16" (. Dimensions that are very important to the proper operation of the seal are termed critical dimensions. although important. The difference between the thickness of a gasket.) A completely self-contained mechanical face seal unit (including seal. causing a rotation of the seal ring crosssection and creating a radial variation in seal film thickness.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. The formation of carbonaceous deposits on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal resulting from the oxidation/polymerization of leakage of organic products. Controlled leakage seal Convergence/ divergence Coolant Critical dimensions 2-3 . such as a spring gap. The bubble point is the temperature at which the first bubble is evolved on raising the temperature at constant pressure.) Glossary of Terms Term Bubble point Definition Mixtures of liquids do not have a clearly defined boiling point. and mating ring) that is pre-assembled and requires no field adjustments. Generally. gland. Other dimensions. Each specific seal design has a unique geometry. This distribution of pressure provides the optimum condition to obtain the maximum seal life. The fluid is always at a pressure lower than the pump process pressure being sealed. Combined hydraulic and spring load acting on the floating seal member in the closing direction. see barrier fluid definition. the differential pressure across each stage will be equal. An alternative term for seal plate. and the seals are not leaking. might not have a significant effect as they vary within reasonable values. Staged seal designs use an orifice to bypass a small flow around each seal to reduce pressure to subsequent stages. critical dimensions are verified and recorded to ensure they are correct. sleeve. An alternative term for wear track.

) Restricted in this publication to the arrangement of two mechanical seals in a seal chamber sealing in opposite directions. Destaging Diameter ratio Double balancing Double seal 2-4 . sometimes referred to as infantile mortality. U-cups. (Sometimes called autobalancing. and bellows. Also known as the product temperature margin. in this publication. Seal arrangement in which there is no product recirculation or injection of flush into the seal chamber. The difference between the bulk temperature of the liquid in the seal chamber and the boiling point (or bubble point in the case of mixtures) of this liquid at the pressure in the seal chamber.) Glossary of Terms Term Crystallization Cyclone separator Dead-ended Degree of balance Delta T. The ratio (>1) between the outer and inner diameters of the narrower of the seal faces. T Definition The formation of crystalline solids on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal resulting from evaporation of product leakage (for example. the latter configuration is referred to as a tandem seal. the differential pressure across the stages that are not leaking increases. and the differential pressure across stages that are leaking decreases. Drain connection Drive collar Drive pin Dry running Dual mechanical seal Dynamic secondary seal Early-life failures Elastomer A connection to the quench (or secondary containment) chamber for the collection of liquid. Running with no liquid between the seal faces. Note: An alternative usage is to include two seals sealing in the same direction in the category of double seal.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. Hydrocyclone fitted in a product recirculation line to remove solids. (It is also referred to as a double or tandem seal. A mechanical seal design feature that changes the balance diameter to improve the seal's resistance to operating under reverse pressure. The proportion of the face area that is exposed to the low-pressure side of the balance diameter ( = 1 – balance ratio). Non-metallic parts such as O-rings.) A secondary seal in a pusher seal that prevents leakage between the shaft or housing and the floating seal member of a mechanical seal. Failures occurring shortly after start-up because of manufacturing or fitting errors. A seal arrangement using more than one seal in the same seal chamber in any orientation that can utilize either a pressurized barrier fluid or a non-pressurized buffer fluid. The part of a cartridge seal that mechanically connects the sleeve to the shaft to transmit rotation and prevent axial movement of the sleeve relative to the shaft. This prevents opening of the inside seal in a double seal upon loss of barrier fluid pressure. A device for transmitting torque from the shaft to the rotating seal member. borated water). quad-rings. When individual seal stages leak more than other stages. The seals can be either the back-to-back or face-to-face seal configuration (qv). This shift in differential pressures is termed destaging.

instrumentation. this can occur when frictional energy is added to the fluid as the latter passes between the primary sealing faces. or when fluid pressure is reduced below the fluid's vapor pressure because of a pressure drop across the sealing faces.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. the definition of flashing is that vapor pressure is greater than 1 bar (14.5 psia) at pumping temperature. the sealed fluid is in contact with the inner diameter of the seal faces. from liquid to gaseous. Face Face load Face plate Definition Abrasive wear of a surface by small particles in a gas. for example. Cartridge seals are assembled outside the pump and can be tested to verify the assembly. A rapid change in fluid state. but is also commonly used for the whole ring. An arrangement in which the mechanical seal is mounted outside the pump or sealed vessel so that fewer seal parts are exposed to contact with a corrosive sealed fluid. The primary sealing surface in a hydrostatic seal is a ceramic piece called the faceplate. The combined spring and hydraulic load carried between the seal faces before allowing for any fluid pressure in the sealing interface. that is.5 psia) at pumping temperature. In this publication.) Glossary of Terms Term Erosion Externally mounted seal (also called outside mounted). nozzles. The spring-loaded seal member of a mechanical seal that is allowed limited axial movement to accommodate shaft end float and seal wear. This term is used in a strict sense to mean the surface of a seal ring at the sealing interface. fitness testers are supplied as skid-mounted assemblies with the required pumps. or droplets of liquid in a gas or vapor (wire-drawing) flowing across it. A seal configuration consisting of a double seal with the seats adjacent to each other. Any service that requires vapor suppression by cooling or pressurization to prevent flashing. The degree of flatness (peak-to-valley amplitude) of the seal faces. Frequently. gauges. Half the difference between the outer and inner diameters of the narrower of the seal faces. and connecting piping.29 2m)). a test vessel (with adequate ports. This category includes all hydrocarbon services where the fluid has a vapor pressure greater than 1 bar (14. and a flow meter) is used to measure staging pressures and controlled bleed-off flow. The thickness of the fluid film between the seal faces. A process by which a film of the material of the soft face is deposited on the hard face. two mechanical seals facing in opposite directions. Some faceplates are stainless steel coated with aluminum oxide and others are silica nitride. normally expressed in helium light bands (1 helium light band = 11. A pure carbon graphite material used for static gaskets in mechanical seal design.6 micro-inches (0. Face width Face-to-face seal Film thickness Film transfer Fitness testing Flashing Flashing hydrocarbon service Flatness Flexible graphite Floating seal member (also called primary ring) 2-5 . In a dynamic seal. Normally. hard face. both for cryogenic and hot service. In this arrangement. reservoirs. vapor or liquid.

) Glossary of Terms Term Fluid film Fluid film lubrication Fluoroelastomer Flush Definition A film of liquid separating the seal faces. generated by hydrostatic and/or hydrodynamic lubrication. or a rotating baffle type. Condition of lubrication in which the seal faces are completely separated by a liquid film. (Alternative term for seal plate. The increased surface roughness of fretted surfaces can adversely affect the ability of the floating seal member to track its mating seal ring. An external vessel providing a pressurized barrier fluid to a double seal. either with a static head or with a thermal siphon system. Defined in a mechanical seal as the ratio of the friction force at the sealing interface to the closing force. Cooling water might be provided from the component cooling water system (CCW). these heat exchangers also cool the water that passes through the pump water bearing. The load on the floating seal member resulting from differential pressure between the seal chamber and the low-pressure side of the seal acting on the area of the sealing ring above the balance diameter plus that caused by pressure on the lowpressure side acting on the area of the seal ring below the balance diameter. silicon carbide. a common example of fretting occurs when the rubbing motion of a secondary seal continually wipes the oxide coating from a shaft or sleeve. or metal. Typically. A combination of corrosion and wear resulting from very small amplitude relative motion. a tube bundle. Flush connection Free length Fretting Friction coefficient Gland plate Hang-up Hard face Header tank Heat checking Heat exchanger Hook sleeve Hydraulic balance Hydraulic load 2-6 . In a mechanical seal. Connection to the seal chamber to allow circulation of the sealed fluid.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. Heat exchangers might be internal to the pump. Failure of the secondary dynamic seal to move under the applied spring and hydraulic forces. Three types of construction are used for these heat exchangers: a tube-intube. Same as balance ratio. or externally mounted and connected with piping spools. such as Viton. A cylindrical sleeve with a step or hook at the product end placed over the shaft to protect it from wear and corrosion. The formation of fine radial cracks on a hard seal face caused by thermal stresses set up by inadequately lubricated or dry running and quenching by the sealed fluid. A small amount of fluid that is introduced into the seal chamber on the process fluid side in close proximity to the sealing faces and usually used for cooling and lubricating the seal faces and to prevent accumulation of solid particulates.) An end plate that connects the stationary assembly of a mechanical seal to the seal chamber. A type of O-ring material commonly used in mechanical seals. This step is usually abutted against the impeller to hold it in place with a gasket between the shaft and the step (hook). The unconstrained axial length of a mechanical seal. A device for cooling a fluid by heat transfer. Seal face manufactured from ceramic.

leakage rate is normally expressed in standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM). For compressible fluids. using an abrasive as a cutting agent between the two. A device located in the seal chamber to circulate seal chamber fluid through an internal cooler area or an external cooler barrier/buffer fluid reservoir. A statistic used to express the life of a population of mechanical seals. Abrasive machining to achieve a very flat surface is called lapping. with respect to each other. aluminum oxide compound. Sealed fluid loss from the system. in terms of cubic centimeters per minute. Abrasives used include diamond compound. it is the time when 10 percent of the seals have failed. and silicon carbide compound. or 0. it includes non-obvious vapor formed by evaporation. In this arrangement the sealed liquid is in contact with the outer diameter of the seal faces.) Glossary of Terms Term Hydrodynamic lubrication Hydrodynamic seal Hydrostatic instability Hydrostatic lubrication Hydrostatic opening force Hydrostatic seal Definition Fluid-film lubrication in which the pressure in the fluid film is generated by the relative velocity between the seal faces. Refers to the wavelength of helium light (= 11. A mechanical seal designed to operate with hydrodynamic lubrication between the seal faces. this can be in either a circumferential or an axial direction. Fluid-film lubrication in which the pressure in the fluid film is generated externally to the seal faces. It can be performed by hand on a plate or by a lapping machine. Build-up of ice on the outside of a mechanical seal caused by solidification of atmospheric water vapor through evaporative cooling of leakage of a liquid sealed above its atmospheric boiling point. as well as the more obvious liquid emission. The separating force on the seal faces resulting from the hydrostatic pressure between the faces.29 2m) used as a measure of the flatness of the seal faces. Some seals in use as main coolant pump seals are of hydrostatic film riding taper face design. The common arrangement with the mechanical seal mounted inside the pump or sealed vessel. and is used to maintain separation of the seal faces. Leakage might occur through secondary as well as primary seals. A mechanical seal designed to operate with hydrostatic lubrication between the seal faces. Usually referred to as a pumping ring. No parts of the seal's flexible element or stationary faces are outside the gland. and for incompressible fluids. These seals use large converging gap geometry designed to separate the seal faceplates by introducing pressurized fluid before the pump is rotated. Face separation occurring when hydraulic opening forces exceed the total closing force. A lapping machine rotates a flat surface and the parts being lapped.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. Icing Inside mounted seal (or internally mounted) Internal circulating device L10 life Lapping Leakage Leakage rate Light band 2-7 .6 micro-inches. The volume of fluid (compressible or incompressible) passing through a seal in a given length of time.

. borated water. In determining this pressure. L2. excluding pressure encountered during hydrostatic testing.) Glossary of Terms Term Mating ring Definition A disc. Net closing force Non-flashing Non-flashing hydrocarbon service Non-hydrocarbon service 2-8 . The greatest discharge pressure at the specified pumping temperature for which the pump casing is designed. A fluid state that does not change to a vapor phase at any operating condition or operating temperature. The difference between the total closing force and the hydrostatic opening force.or ring-shaped member. etc.5 psia) at pumping temperature.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. However. The term used to describe a group or family of reactor coolant pumps used in pressurized water reactors. one rotating. A statistic used to express the life of a population of mechanical seals. For this publication. . other non-hydrocarbon constituents might be entrained in the stream. caustics. and other chemicals commonly used in refinery services. The highest pressure. . to which the seal (or seals) can be subjected while the pump is shut down. are the lives of individual seals. Mean time between failures. and the effect of clearance changes with the pump. the flush pressure. the other stationary.  L n n where L1. some hydrocarbons might be entrained in the fluids. A product in this category does not require vapor suppression to prevent transformation from a liquid phase to a vapor phase. mounted either on a shaft sleeve or in a housing. A device for sealing a rotating shaft whereby the sealing interface is located between a pair of radial faces. This service category includes all services that cannot be defined as containing all hydrogen and carbon molecules. Maximum allowable working pressure (MAWP) Maximum dynamic sealing pressure (MDSP) Maximum static sealing pressure (MSSP) Main coolant pump (MCP) Mechanical seal Mixed lubrication Mean time between failures (MTBF) The highest pressure expected at the seal (or seals) during any specified operating condition and during start-up and shutdown. the definition of non-flashing means that the vapor pressure is less than 1 bar (14. consideration should be given to the maximum suction pressure. acids. This category includes all hydrocarbon services that are predominately all hydrogen and carbon atoms. and reactor recirculation pumps used in boiling water reactors. that provides the primary fluid seal when in proximity to the face of an axially adjustable face seal assembly. Condition of lubrication where the load between the seal faces is partly carried by boundary lubrication and partly by fluid-film lubrication. is main coolant pumps (MCP). however. It is given mathematically by the expression MTBF L1  L 2  . Included in this category are boiler feed water (and other water services). Neck bush Closed clearance bush at the inner end of seal chamber to restrict flow of dirty fluid from pump into the seal chamber or to maintain pressure of recirculation flow in seal chamber. amines.

the larger the number of light bands. These breakdown devices are referred to as pressure breakdown cells or staging coils.) Glossary of Terms Term Non-pusher type seal Operating length Optical flat Definition A mechanical seal (usually metal bellows) in which the secondary seal is fixed to the shaft. machined grooves or a coil of small diameter tubing. A bellows seal is an example of a non-pusher seal in which the dynamic secondary seal is eliminated. T. and barrier/buffer fluid chamber (container) and other attached parts. The orifice is usually either a series of small. but excluding the stationary and rotating members of the mechanical seal. Chemraz®. Circulation of the product through the seal chamber to provide cooling (see recirculation flow. Toroidal sealing ring with an O-shaped (circular) cross-section. Fluid sealing occurs at the interface of the rotating ring and the stationary ring. The composite of all stationary pressure-containing parts of the seal. High temperature. Axial length of installed mechanical seal. When light waves reflect off the lapped surface through the flat. See externally mounted seal. This material requires a wider O-ring groove than standard O-ring materials. This configuration allows pressure to be evenly distributed at each seal stage. 2-9 . Staged seal designs in MCPs use an orifice to bypass a small flow around each seal to reduce pressure to subsequent stages. Mechanical seals have a rotating seal ring and a stationary seal ring. When used with a monochromatic light (emits only one wavelength visible light). Orifice nipple O-ring Outside mounted seal Perfluoroelastomer Popping Pressure breakdown cells/ staging coils Pressure casing Primary seal Primary ring Product Product recirculation Product temperature margin Pumping ring A device fitted inside the seal chamber to circulate the liquid in the seal chamber through an external cooler and/or header tank. the number of light bands can be used to measure the flatness of the lapped parts. A term used to indicate intermittent leakage of vapor resulting from a rapid change in fluid state from liquid to gaseous and characterized by a popping sound. The seal that occurs at this interface is often referred to as the primary seal. seal gland. Alternative name for Delta T. See floating seal member. The nipple should be welded to the discharge casing. reverse circulation).EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. An optical flat is a precision ground quartz or Pyrex plate. chemical resistant O-ring material such as DuPont Dow Elastomer. light bands are visible. A pipe nipple made of solid bar stock with an orifice drilled through it to regulate the flush flow commonly found on Plan 11 systems described in API 682. The process fluid. including seal chamber. Kalrez® or Green Tweed. used as a secondary seal or gasket in both static and dynamic situations. The greater the gap between the flat and the lapped surface.

Rotation (or conical deformation) of the seal ring cross-section due to torsional ring-type axisymmetrically-distributed load applied by the differential pressure or thermal load. Mechanical seal in which the floating seal member is mounted on the shaft. plastic wedge ring) is mechanically pushed (and therefore can move) along the shaft or sleeve to compensate for face wear. Enclosed space on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal to which the quench is introduced. Flow of the product from the back of the pump impeller through the seal chamber to the pump suction to provide cooling of the seal and reduce access of solids to the seal faces. dead-ended. the reverse of normal outside diameter pressurization. usually water or steam. Bellows are not classified as pusher type seals. A parameter used to express the severity of operating conditions for a mechanical face seal. Flow of the product from the pump discharge through the seal chamber to the back of the pump impeller. it is defined as the product of the pressure drop across the seal and the mean relative velocity of the seal faces. that is. The recirculation impeller is normally a shaftmounted. Failures occurring during operation. or from the back of the pump impeller through the seal chamber to the pump suction. The way in which a seal is mounted in the seal chamber and the method of exercising control over the liquid in the seal chamber. an O-ring. product recirculation (see also API piping plan). A neutral fluid. Flow rates are normally in the range of 30 to 50 gpm (113 to 189 lpm) for MCPs. viz. normally fitted with an auxiliary seal to prevent excessive leakage to the atmosphere. other than early-life failures and those caused by normal wear-out of the seal faces.) Glossary of Terms Term Pusher type seal Definition A mechanical seal in which the secondary seal (for example. This is of particular use for the inboard seal of a double seal as it puts any solids on the outside diameter of the inboard seal and minimizes clogging. PV factor Quench Quench chamber RMS or Ra Random failures Recirculation flow Recirculation impeller Reverse balancing Reverse circulation Rotating balance Rotating seal Rotating seal member Rotation (coning) Seal arrangement 2-10 . Selection of the balance diameter so that a mechanical seal can withstand pressure on the inside diameter of its face rather than on the outside diameter. either directly or on a sleeve that rotates with the shaft. introduced on the atmospheric side of the seal to retard formation of solids or crystallization of dissolved solids that might interfere with seal movement. The seal member that is mounted on the shaft. axial flow-type impeller. In this publication.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. Many MCPs have external heat exchangers mounted to the pump motor stand. U-cup. A rotating balance seal has the balance diameter Db on the rotating member. These heat exchangers require the fluid to be pumped from the seal/bearing cavity to the heat exchanger and back. Root mean square or roughness average – terms used to define surface roughness.

that is. (Alternative definitions based on other dimensions. only that certain dimensions be measured to confirm the seal setting dimensions. spring. believing these installations to be more reliable. Seal injection is taken off the charging and volume control system on PWRs and off the control rod drive system for BWRs. but not to cause unacceptably high contact pressure when the seal is operating at low pressures. are also in current use). double seal). Plant designs include MCPs both with and without seal injection. Some designs do not require any adjustments. The floating seal member (sprung seal member) that contacts the mating ring. The physical and chemical conditions prevailing in the seal chamber. Seal plate Seal reference dimension Seal ring Seal setting Seal size Seal springs 2-11 . Seal injection provides a source of cool filtered water entering the pump seal cavity. The external dimensions of a mechanical seal.) Glossary of Terms Term Seal balance ratio Seal cavity Seal chamber Seal configuration Seal envelope Seal environment Seal face width Seal face(s) Seal head Seal injection Definition See balance ratio. Many seal designers prefer units with seal injection. A plate that is bolted to the seal chamber and carries the stationary seal member. It can be either the stationary or rotating seal member. then establishing the same reference dimension once the seal is installed in the pump. The region between the shaft and the pump case (housing) into which the shaft seal is installed. The process of establishing this position is termed setting the seal. The force from the springs must be great enough to overcome the frictional forces from the secondary seal. The surfaces of the seal ring and seat in contact with each other. The design or style of the primary seal (for example. The area that the seal fits into is referred to as the seal cavity. The maximum diameter of the shaft that will pass through the seal. The seal assembly fits inside the pump between the shaft and housing. the diameter of the shaft (or shaft sleeve) to which the mechanical seal is fitted. Other designs rely on taking measurements on the assembled seal prior to installation. A reference mark scribed on the shaft to ensure that a mechanical seal is fitted with the correct operating length. Staged seals use coil springs to create closing force at low pressures. Assembly consisting of primary ring. and secondary seal (see Figure 3-1). retainer. set screw. The proper relative position of the rotating portion of the seal to the stationary portion of the seal is necessary to establish the proper seal spring force. bellows seal. for example. The radial dimension of the sealing face measured from the inside edge to the outside edge. pusher seal. Filter sizes typically range from 2 2m to 20 2m and the supply temperature is usually between 110°F (43°C) and 120°F (49°C).EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. balance diameter.

This chamber is normally fitted with an auxiliary seal. assembly. Alternative term for barrier fluid. The maximum/minimum temperature and pressure under static or dynamic condition. Fluid in the seal chamber. These parts are usually elastomers that have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years when properly stored. The axially fixed (unsprung) sealing element. tungsten carbide). An arrangement with a chamber on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal to contain high leakage consequent on failure. The load on the floating sealing element exerted by the seal spring(s). removal. Contact area between the seal ring and the seat. Additionally. That part of the shaft or seal sleeve in contact with the dynamic secondary seal. It can be either the stationary or rotating seal member. A seal arrangement with only one mechanical seal regardless of whether other seal types (for example. The axial length of a fully compressed mechanical seal. Attempts to perform seal maintenance with inadequate tooling can result in equipment failures. Fluid pressure in the seal chamber. This collection of special tools is generally referred to as seal tooling. Sealant Sealed fluid Sealed pressure Sealing interface Seat Secondary containment Secondary seal Secondary seal land Service condition Shaft sleeve Shelf life Single seal Slotted seal gland plate Soft face Solid length Specific load Spring load Spring pressure 2-12 . throttle bush. carbongraphite or PTFE) as compared to a harder mating seal face material (for example. lapped parts should always be verified prior to installation. Seal used to prevent leakage through paths alternative to that between the seal faces.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. Seal faces manufactured from a relatively softer material (for example.) Glossary of Terms Term Seal tooling Definition Some mechanical face seals require special tools for inspection. A gland plate with slots instead of holes for the mounting studs. installation. See dynamic and static secondary seals. A sleeve fitted between the shaft and a mechanical seal to provide a wear-resistant and replaceable secondary seal land. The sleeve is sealed to the shaft with elastomers. lapped parts will distort over time and need to be relapped prior to installation. lip seal) are included in the seal arrangement. The average seal face pressure due to spring load. Some mechanical face seal components have a specific shelf life. Occasionally. and refurbishment. Face load per unit area of sealing interface. Seal tooling should be carefully controlled to ensure that the tools are not lost or discarded.

In hydrostatic seals. the seal ring is generally a soft material. The indicator reading implies an out-of-squareness or an eccentricity equal to half the reading. The stationary seal ring is mounted in a supporting piece called a gland. A device that forms a restrictive close clearance around the sleeve (or shaft) at the outboard end of a mechanical seal gland. between seal sleeve and shaft. The seal member that is mounted on the seal plate. can be used at the inner end of the seal chamber (neck bush) or as an auxiliary seal. is the runout of a diameter or face determined by measurement with a dial indicator. carrier. A stationary balance seal has the balance diameter Db on the stationary member. A device that forms a restrictive close clearance around the sleeve (or shaft) between the seal and the impeller. Also known as total indicator reading. two mechanical seals sealing in the same direction). carried over from soft-packing technology. Seal configuration consisting of a pair of mechanical seals mounted in series (that is. holder. Seal used to prevent leakage between assembled parts that are not subject to relative motion in service. Alternative name for seal chamber. Each individual seal in this style design is termed a stage. Seals of this type of design are termed staged seals. The sum of the hydraulic load and spring load acting on the floating sealing member to close the seal faces. or ring support. each seal having a predetermined differential pressure created by the controlled bleed-off. between stationary seal member and seal plate. A close-fitting bush around the shaft to restrict flow. normally carbon graphite. Mechanical seal in which the floating seal member is mounted on the seal plate. setting the dial indicator to zero.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont.) Glossary of Terms Term Stage Definition Many MCP seals use multiple mechanical seals in series. Start-up torque Static secondary seal Stationary balance Stationary seal Stationary seal member Stationary seal ring Stator Stuffing box Tandem seal Thermal stress failure Throat bushing Throttle bush Throttle bushing Total closing force Total indicated runout (TIR) 2-13 . for example. the stationary member consists of an aluminum oxide or silica nitride faceplate mounted on a ring support. Alternative term for stationary seal member of a mechanical seal. and then rotating either component. TIR is measured by securing a dial indicator to either the stationary or rotating component. Alternative term for heat checking. The torque transmitted/absorbed by a mechanical seal on start-up. In staged seal designs.

usually manufactured from PTFE. such as the flush connection. A "U" section dynamic secondary seal. In this publication. Deviation of the seal faces from circumferential flatness. Part A. The mating surfaces of both hydrostatic and hydrodynamic seals operate in close proximity.EPRI Licensed Material Glossary of Terms Table 2-1 (cont. A connection to the seal chamber for eliminating gas or vapor from the seal chamber. A V section dynamic secondary seal. A wedge-section dynamic secondary seal. Toxicity Rating: 0 = No harmful effects under normal conditions 1 = Short-term effects that disappear once exposure is removed 2 = May produce both short. but normally not lethal 3 = May cause death or permanent injury even after short exposure to only small quantities U = Insufficient data available on humans Unbalanced seal U-ring Vent connection A mechanical seal in which the balance ratio is greater than or equal to 1. Different terminology might be used for these surfaces. Thermal barrier Total outflow Wear tracking 2-14 . surfaces controlled to limit seal ring deflections will be referred to as support surfaces. resulting in a circular grooving or wear pattern referred to as wear tracking. Most MCP designs are insulated from the high Reactor Coolant System (RCS) temperatures by a thermal barrier. This is normally accomplished through a gland connection. 1984. The combined flow. This flow rate is the amount of fluid that leaves the seal cavity and is made up with injection or RCS that has been cooled through the seal heat exchanger. Section 112 of the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (Clean Air Act Amendment).and long-term effects. and shaft seal cavity temperatures. Emissions are measured as PPM with a calibrated analyzer. such as seat or back seat. pump water bearing. Any compound as defined by Title I. Most seal designs provide some type of support surface for the seal rings to control seal ring deflection. Irving Sax Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials. consisting of seal leakage and controlled bleed-off. Waviness can be present on the faces as manufactured or can develop after running. Volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAP) Volatile organic compound (VOC) V-ring Waviness Wear track Wedge ring Support surface Term used by various environmental agencies to designate regulated compounds. The wear mark of the narrower seal face on the wider one. The thermal barrier reduces pump cover (or main flange).) Glossary of Terms Term Toxicity rating Definition Classification of fluid toxicity defined in N. which leaves the seal cavity is referred to as total outflow. The faces might either contact or have particulates contact the seal ring faces.

Mechanical face seals are available in a variety of configurations. all mechanical face seals operate on the same principle. the primary ring and the mating ring. One of the rings is usually mounted rigidly and the other is mounted so that it can flex and align axially and angularly with the rigidly mounted ring. loading the faces. Depending on the application requirements. The essential elements are described below. The method in which the primary 3-1 . However. and their selection depends on the application. the two rings are made of dissimilar materials. and transmitting rotation to the ring. Figure 3-1 Essential Components of a Mechanical Face Seal Primary Ring: The primary ring is also called a seal ring. either of which rotates relative to the other. The essential elements of a mechanical face seal are illustrated in Figure 3-1. The primary ring is the floating seal element that is usually spring-mounted and permits axial and angular alignment in the assembly. Basically.EPRI Licensed Material 3 TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION 3. the seal is comprised of two rings. Dynamic sealing is achieved at the interface between the two rings. Advantages and disadvantages of various configurations of these elements are discussed in Table 3-2. The rings achieve a seal at the interface due to their very high face flatness. it can be either the rotating member as shown in Figure 3-1 or the stationary member as shown in Figure 3-10.1 Operating Principles and Basic Components of a Mechanical Face Seal A mechanical face seal is a dynamic seal that prevents leakage of pressurized fluid between a rotating shaft and a stationary housing. These elements serve the functions of sealing dynamically and statically. Typically. no matter what the application is.

Static secondary seals prevent leakage between assembled parts that are not subject to relative motion in service. Table 3-1 provides the operating temperature limits and properties of materials typically used for secondary seals. Secondary Seal: Seals used to prevent leakage through paths alternative to that between the seal faces. stationary primary ring. rotating primary ring. The type of secondary seal depends on the fluid type. 3-2 . Mating Ring: The mating ring is also called a seat or seal seat. and designs for primary sealing faces. Where the mating ring is installed is dependent upon the application requirements and the preferred implementation of the primary ring. that is. for example. Seal design for a given application should be selected after a careful evaluation of trade-offs. and whether the fluid pressure is on the outside or the inside surface of the seal. and so on. double seal. between stationary seal member and housing. Options also include unbalanced or balanced designs. The mating ring is the rigidly mounted element and can be installed in the housing as shown in Figure 3-1 or on the shaft as shown in Figure 3-10. The secondary seals can be static or dynamic. and service temperature. The mechanical face seal design or style is defined by the primary ring configuration. whether the primary seal or the mating seal is rotating. Key Technical Point Mechanical face seals come in a variety of configurations. springs. as discussed in this section. materials.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description ring is mounted is dictated by the application requirements because each configuration offers both advantages and disadvantages. between seal sleeve and shaft. service pressure. secondary seals. Dynamic secondary seals prevent leakage between the shaft or housing and the floating seal member. drive mechanisms. Section 3. bellows seal.

The amount of face load generated can vary significantly depending on the type of spring selected.32 • Oil. ozone. 3-3 . and alkali resistant • Good at low temperature • Easily damaged • High permeability Neoprene -31 to 248 -35 to 120 104 • Weather resistant • Fair oil resistant Fluoroelastomer PTFE Polyacrylate Epichlorohydrin 14 to 302 -67 to 446 -22 to 347 -40 to 302 -10 to 150 -55 to 230 30 to 175 -40 to 150 0. such as bellows.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Table 3-1 Secondary Seal Properties Material Temp °F Nitrile -22 to 248 °C -30 to 120 Air Permeability 0. wave or Belleville washer. The choice includes a single coil spring. fuel. metal bellows. the spring can serve both the face-loading function and the secondary sealing function. In some cases.015-0.5 .6 170-260 • Steam.70 • Hot oil and ozone resistant • Oil resistant • Low permeability Metal Bellows -328 to 1202 650 12 to 545 -200 to • Positive seal • Chemical resistant High Temperature Fluoroelastomer -10 to 285 0. chemical resistant • Resistant to virtually all fluids 1. non-metal bellows. multiple coil springs.25-1.00 Properties • General purpose • Low cost • Oil resistant • Attacked by ozone Ethylene Propylene Silicone -58 to 302 -67 to 392 -50 to 150 -55 to 200 9. and magnets (see Figures 3-2 to 3-7).32 • Excellent chemical resistant Spring Springs are used to develop the contact load between the primary ring and the mating ring in the absence of fluid pressure. acid. Advantages and disadvantages of each type of spring are summarized in Table 3-3.

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-2 Multiple Coil Springs Figure 3-3 Single Coil Springs Figure 3-4 Corrugated Bellows Figure 3-5 Welded Bellows 3-4 .

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description

Figure 3-6 Rubber Bellows

Figure 3-7 Belleville Washers

Drive Mechanism: All mechanical face seals require some kind of device to position the primary ring axially and to transmit the rotation of the shaft to the primary ring to ensure that relative motion occurs only at the seal faces. The drive mechanism is designed such that it is not rigidly attached to the primary ring so that it does not prevent self-alignment between the primary ring and the mating ring. The drive mechanism is typically a setscrew, locking collar, key, or wedge ring. In some designs, the secondary seal is used to transmit the torque to the primary ring when sufficient friction can be developed at the secondary seal interface. The drive mechanism is also used to provide torque restraint to the stationary seal if the static secondary seal does not develop sufficient friction to prevent the stationary seal from turning. Seal/Flushing Chamber: An area around the seal is provided to permit heat transfer through the fluid and to allow flushing of contaminants such as abrasive particles or toxic media. In a singleseal configuration, flushing is accomplished by injecting a liquid into the seal chamber at a higher pressure than the sealed product.

3-5

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Table 3-2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations Type of Seal Internallymounted primary seal Advantages Better cooling - seal surrounded by product Pressure acts to close the seal faces (pressure assisted) Can therefore be used at high pressure Components in compression (preferable to tension) Rotating elements centrifuge particles away from seal face Lower leakage due to centrifugal action Most of the seal is inside machine housing, less space required outside housing Seal leakage containment is simpler Easier to install/replace Easier to inspect Minimizes components in contact with pumped fluid (corrosives, etc.) Centrifugal action keeps particles away from flexible member Generally requires less axial envelope, particularly outside seal chambers Smaller radial section for a given shaft size Generally lower cost Capable of higher speeds Better able to cope with misalignment (particularly angular) Less prone to clogging if leaked product is inside seal chamber Will accept media with higher viscosity Less friction loss due to turbulence of liquids Capable of much higher pressures and/or speeds (enhanced Pressure, Velocity (PV) capability) Smaller envelope, particularly radial No step required on shaft or sleeve Lower cost Disadvantages • No access for visual inspection • Any repair/replacement is labor intensive

• • • • • • •

Externallymounted primary seal Rotating primary seal

• • • • • •

• Subject to environmental contamination and external damage from other environmental factors

• • • • • • • Balanced seal •

Stationary primary seal

Unbalanced seal

• • •

3-6

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Table 3-2 (cont.) Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations Type of Seal Non-metal bellows Advantages PTFE bellows used in very severe corrosive duties Rubber bellows seal low in cost Eliminates sliding packing (hang-up hysteresis, sleeve wear) More robust Higher pressure/temperature/speed capability Rubber bellows require specially designed components in a variety of materials to cope with different media Less prone to fatigue failure More tolerant to shock and vibration Eliminates sliding packing (hang-up hysteresis, sleeve wear) Can be used at higher temperatures Can be used at higher speeds Inherently balanced without stepping shaft/sleeve More compact (particularly larger sizes) Can be used for a flexible drive Larger section, more robust Better protection against corrosion Less prone to clogging Smaller radial space Low stiffness gives greater axial tolerance on fitting Shorter axial length Rotating seal can tolerate higher speeds Independent of direction of rotation (some single spring designs are also independent) More consistent loading onto face Disadvantages • Rubber bellows require specially designed components in a variety of materials to cope with different media

• • •

Dynamic pusher seal

• • •

Metal bellows

• • • • • • •

• Not suitable for high pressures

Single spring seal

• • • • • • • • •

Multi-spring seal

• Wave/Belleville Magnetic coupling

• Reduces axial length

• Small axial tolerance • Limited seal face loading • Requires the use of materials that can be magnetized • Reduces the choice of materials suitable for corrosive environments

3-7

with its advantages and disadvantages. blockage resistance • Low stress levels • Low cost • Greater axial tolerance Multiple coils • Less axial space required • Even face loading • Resists high speeds Wave/Belleville washer Elastomer bellows • Saves space Disadvantages • Uneven loading • Requires more axial space • Difficult to compress as size increases • May unwind/tighten at high speeds • Less corrosion/blockage resistance • High stress levels • More costly • High spring rate • Generally high cost • Also provides secondary seal • Relatively inexpensive Corrugated/welded metal bellows • Provides secondary seal • Corrosion resistant • High temperature • High controlled spring rate • Cannot be used in all fluids • Has temperature limitations • Expensive • Requires more space than coil springs • Provides little damping to vibration 3. In this configuration.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Table 3-3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Springs Type of Spring Single coil Advantages • Corrosion. respectively.Outside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-8) is also referred to as a rotating primary ring . Rotating Primary Ring . respectively. The configuration variation description is based on two primary factors: N N Whether the primary ring is rotating or stationary Location of the pressure relative to the annulus A combination of these two parameters results in the four configurations illustrated in Figures 38 through 3-11. A major advantage of this setup is that the product surrounds the face seals to provide good cooling. is given in Table 3-2. Figures 3-8 and 3-9 show rotating primary rings where pressure is applied to the outside diameter of the seal and the inside diameter of the seal. the primary ring is mounted on the shaft inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter of the seal faces. Figures 3-10 and 3-11 show a stationary primary ring with pressure on the outside and inside of the seal. 3-8 .inside mounted. Conversely. A description of each configuration.2 Major Design Variations Design variations of the basic mechanical face seal illustrated in Figure 3-1 permit extending the application range and life of the seal.

Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) Stationary Primary Ring – Outside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-10) is also referred to as stationary primary ring . the primary ring is mounted on the housing inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter of the seal faces. These designs are easier to install and inspect than the other configurations. this configuration is less susceptible to imbalance. Because the rotating ring does not have multiple parts. the primary ring is mounted outside the stuffing box and pressure is applied to the inside diameter of the seal faces. Figure 3-9 Rotating Primary Ring . This design offers higher speed capability with ease of inspection.Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) Rotating Primary Ring – Inside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-9) is also referred to as rotating primary ring .outside mounted. Because the pressure works to push apart the seal faces. In this configuration. this design is not suitable for high pressures.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-8 Rotating Primary Ring .Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) 3-9 . In this configuration. Figure 3-10 Stationary Primary Ring .inside mounted.

Figure 3-12 Back-to-Back Dual Seal 3-10 . In this configuration. a clean barrier fluid is introduced at a higher pressure to minimize toxin release. for example.Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) 3. The outboard seal also provides a back-up in case of failure of the product seal.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Stationary Primary Ring – Inside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-11) is also referred to as stationary primary ring . or pressure staging to deal with higher pressures. to cool the faces. This design also offers high-speed capability and is less susceptible to imbalance due to a single rotating ring. Flushing is used to remove contaminants. a barrier fluid with a higher vapor pressure is used to keep the product from vaporizing at the seal interface and to prevent the inboard seal from running dry.outside mounted. For cooling and solids/abrasives removal. This is achieved by installing the seals in a backto-back or face-to-face configuration. Figure 3-11 Stationary Primary Ring . fluid can be re-circulated from the product side or provided by an external source. as illustrated in Figures 3-12 and 3-13. water or hydrocarbons. If the product is toxic or harmful. or to provide for proper lubrication.3 Multiple Seals Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for flushing or barrier fluids. In applications where the product has a relatively low vapor pressure. the primary ring is mounted on the housing inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter.

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description

Figure 3-13 Face-to-Face Dual Seal

Key Technical Point Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for flushing or barrier fluids, or pressure staging to deal with higher pressures. Flushing is used to remove contaminants, to cool the faces, or to provide for proper lubrication. Selections include back-to-back, face-to-face double arrangements, and a choice of buffer fluid or barrier fluid, depending upon application. Pressure staging is accomplished by using multiple seals installed in series (shown in Figure 3-14) so that the fluid pressure between any two cavities is limited to the maximum service pressure limit of the mechanical face seal for the particular product fluid. Pressure staging permits isolating very high pressures that cannot be handled by a single mechanical face seal. Pressure staging usually requires the use of an intermediate fluid that is circulated to keep the seals cool. This is because stagnant fluid in the seal cavity is ineffective in removing the heat generated at the sealing interface, which can create hot pockets that cause the seal to malfunction.

Figure 3-14 Pressure Stage Tandem Seal

3-11

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description

3.4

Seal Cartridges

Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that contain all of the essential components. Cartridges are used to package mechanical face seals for ease of handling and installation. An example of a single seal cartridge is shown in Figure 3-15. In this arrangement, the primary ring and its associated devices are mounted on a sleeve temporarily attached to the enclosure that holds the mating ring. The assembly provides for proper spring loading and axial positioning of the primary ring and mating ring. After the cartridge is mounted on the housing and the sleeve is secured to the shaft, the temporary attachment device holding the sleeve to the mating ring enclosure is removed.

Figure 3-15 Single Seal Cartridge

Cartridges can be provided with either rotating primary rings or stationary primary rings and with single or multiple mechanical face seals. The schemes for assembling cartridges vary from design to design. Figure 3-16 shows a multi-stage balanced stator design seal cartridge assembly and Figure 3-17 shows details of one of the stages. This seal design is one of the four alternative designs commonly used in a critical application (Main Coolant Pump) in U.S. nuclear power plants [35]. Key O&M Cost Point Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that contain all of the essential components. Cartridges are used to package mechanical face seals for ease of handling and installation. Even though material cost is higher, cartridges save money by simplifying maintenance and eliminating installation related failures.

3-12

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description

Figure 3-16 Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump [35]

3-13

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-17 Seal Stage Details of a Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump [35] 3-14 .

5 Seal Chamber Design and Flushing The seal chamber is sometimes referred to as the seal cavity or seal box. the chamber provides only limited volume for the fluid to circulate naturally. As such. either an alternative seal chamber design can be used or the seal chamber can be equipped with a means to circulate fluid. To overcome these space limitations. or to control the release of contaminants. Lack of circulation leads to hot spots in the face seal.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3. Depending on the application. the circulated fluid can be the process fluid or an external fluid selected to provide better conditions in which the seal can operate. Figure 3-18 Common Variations in Seal Chamber Design 3-15 . Figure 3-18 shows the most common variations in the seal chamber designs in centrifugal pumps. The seal chamber is the cavity where the mechanical face seal resides and is often the same stuffing box chamber that was designed to house conventional soft packing. and the stagnant cavity allows solids to settle.

flushes the faces. lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of solids. etc. Flow enters the seal chamber adjacent to the mechanical face seal. Selection of the type of plan needed will depend on the process fluid and operating temperature. API Standard 682 describes 17 plans to flush the seal chamber [8]. The seal chamber design also plays a critical role in obtaining satisfactory performance from mechanical face seals handling abrasive slurries. The most common API Standard 682 flush plans used with clean process fluids are Plan 11 and Plan 21. borated water) are common mechanical seal application problems that can benefit from flushing. For contaminated process fluids. a throttle bushing is incorporated inboard of the mechanical face seal and a control orifice is installed in the flush line. In addition to the chamber design. Plan 21 is similar to Plan 11 except that a cooler is installed in the flush line in series with the control orifice. leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. Key Technical Point Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to accept conventional packings. or containing dissolved solids (for example. and flows across the seal back into the pump. hot water. and the use of tapered bore chambers.). can dramatically lower fluid temperature and seal face temperatures. To control the amount of fluid re-circulated. slurries.48]. service water. Fluids having high vapor pressures (for example. Wherever the envelope constraints in a given pump application permit.). light hydrocarbons. strainers/filters can be added to clean the flush fluid. containing abrasives (for example. etc. seal flushing is dictated by application requirements in many cases to achieve satisfactory performance. An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid circulation. high temperature.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Based on research in seal chamber designs [7. This limits the fluid circulation around the seal. Figure 3-19 A Typical Flush Plan for a Cooling Seal Chamber 3-16 . Plan 11 is illustrated in Figure 3-19. the seal chamber should be enlarged to improve the seal performance/life due to lower temperatures and increased fluid circulation around the seal. it is now well established that enlarged seal chambers.

which exceed the capabilities of face seals. For this reason. A clean liquid from an outside source can be used. 53. in addition to exposure to harsh abrasive particles. a re-circulated or bypass fluid from the liquid being pumped is frequently used. Face loading is developed by the energizing springs and by the process of pressure acting on the unbalanced area of the seal. This design might be a potential solution to the fossil plant slurry handling equipment and sealing problems where application conditions are unsuitable for mechanical face seals. If necessary. or as a result of seal friction. The seal should be provided with a clean. 3. transients. the resulting contamination of the pumped product by an external source might make this type of flush undesirable. or 3-14. relatively cool. clinker grinder in fossil plants and abrasive slurry handling pumps). Similar sealing problems in downhole drilling applications have been solved by an alternative elastomeric seal design employing hydrodynamic lubrication [52. a combination of internal and/or external seal flush arrangements can be used. multiplied by the unbalanced area. seals are exposed to large shaft deflections (both static and dynamic). However. a certain amount of face load is required. The closing force is the sum of the spring load plus the fluid pressure. This is due to the fact that. will damage the elastomers and distort seal components. P Af B P1 P2 Fclosing Fs Fh = = = = = = = = Pressure drop (P1-P2) Face area Balance ratio Upstream pressure Downstream pressure Closing force Spring force Hydraulic force 3-17 . as shown in Figures 3-12.6 Closing Force In order for the face seal to function properly. 54]. abrasive-free flush to lubricate and remove the heat generated by the seal faces and to prevent flashing at the seal faces. are used.1 Seal Arrangements for Abrasive Applications Abrasives will generally cause rapid wear of the faces while excessive heat from the pumped fluid. and is expressed as: Fclosing = = Spring (Fs) + Hydraulic closing force (Fh) Fs + Af (P x B + P2) Where. In severe abrasive duty applications (for example. shock.5. even when flushing arrangements are used [50. frequent starts/stops. mechanical face seals have a history of unreliable performance and short life. this re-circulated flush fluid can be cooled and any abrasive particles removed before it is injected into the seal. When multiple seals.50. and vibration.55]. causing the seal to leak and fail [49. 3-13. 51].EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3.51.

4. The seal can become hydraulically unstable or the seal faces can separate under pressure fluctuations if the balance ratio becomes less than 0.0.65 to 0. that is. 3. 3-18 . Seals with a balance ratio greater than 1.65.5 for concave pressure distribution The value of k depends upon whether the faces are parallel convergent or divergent (Figure 4-3) as further discussed in Section 4.85.5 for linear pressure distribution > 0. While most seals that operate at high pressure are of the balanced type.6.5 for convex pressure distribution.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description The total closing force. as shown in Figure 3-20.1 Balance Ratio Mechanical face seals can be of an unbalanced design. This range provides reduced face loading while maintaining stability.0 are termed unbalanced. these seals have an average pressure load on the face that is greater than the sealed pressure.0 because of the convenience of design. many low-pressure seals operate at B > 1. The term balanced refers to the case where B < 1. k = 0. a fully balanced design. Fclosing. k is a factor that can vary between zero and 1. Most mechanical face seals have a balance ratio between 0. depending upon the actual pressure distribution across the face. or partially balanced design to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure. or where the average pressure load on the face is less than the sealed pressure.4. < 0. and the residual force is supported by mechanical asperity contact (pm) between the faces: Fclosing = k p Af + pm Af In this equation.0. is supported primarily by the fluid film pressure (p) between the seal faces.

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-20 Unbalanced. and Partially Balanced Seal Designs 3-19 . Balanced.

It is defined as the ratio of hydraulic loading area to the seal interface area. For externally pressurized seals: 5/4 D 2 D 2 . Balance ratios are calculated as follows. or partially balanced to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure. the effective sealing diameter must be calculated.65 to 0. Most mechanical face seals have a balance ratio between 0. If a bellows seal is used. fully balanced. The term balanced refers to the case where the average pressure load on the face is less than the sealed pressure.85. The term balance ratio is used to describe the fraction of the fluid pressure that is acting to close the seal faces. This range provides reduced face loading without potential concern of face parting.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Key Technical Point Mechanical face seals can be unbalanced.

D 2 D 2 .

o o b  b Be  2 D2 .

2 D2 .

D o 5/4 D o i i For internally pressurized seals: Bi  2 5/4 D 2 D i .

D 2 D i2 .

b b  2 D2 .

2 D2 .

the mean diameter can be used or. diameter Dsb is substituted for diameter Db: D sb Where B Be Bi Do Di Db Dsb Dbo Dbi D2  D2 . alternatively. D o 5/4 D o i i For bellows seals.

bo bi 2 = = = = = = = = = Balance ratio (Be or Bi) Balance ratio for externally pressurized seals Balance ratio for internally pressurized seals Outside interface diameter Inside interface diameter Balance diameter Effective sealing diameter for bellows seals Outside diameter of bellows Inside diameter of bellows 3-20 .

Although several theories have been advanced that define the pressure gradient across the faces as being either linear. in most mechanical seal designs. temperature. or convex and it can change with variations in pressure. Based on a linearly varying pressure gradient. opposing the closing forces due to the mechanical spring load and the hydraulic pressures acting on the unbalanced area of the seal. Figure 3-21 Face Pressure Distribution Due to Hydraulic Pressure and Spring Force 3-21 . the pressure gradient varies during operation due to seal wear and deflections caused by pressure and temperature changes. This can affect seal performance (leakage. temperature) during operation.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3.6. no one theory has gained general recognition. However. In either case. concave. Making the hydraulic area less than half the seal face area would then cause the hydraulic pressure to separate the faces in the absence of spring force. the film pressure tends to separate the contact faces of the primary seal rings.2 Pressure Distribution Between the Sealing Faces In any standard seal design configuration. In fact. and seal wear. Whatever the true pressure gradient across the face might be. the resultant force from the film pressure does not completely balance the closing forces and the small residual force is supported by the mechanical contact of the asperities on the faces. the seal would be 100 percent balanced when the hydraulic area is one-half the face area. torque. the hydraulic pressure acts across the seal interface either from the OD to the ID or vice versa. the fluid film pressure between the faces at the point of action is a maximum that is reduced across the interface to the pressure on the downstream side at the opposite side of the contact area. Key Technical Point Pressure distribution across the seal face width can be linear. concave. or convex. Figure 3-21 shows how the closing force due to spring pressure and hydraulic imbalance is in equilibrium with the pressure.

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3.4. This problem can be eliminated by defining the differential pressure area using the face of the rotating member as shown in Figure 3-22(b). If the stationary ring (mating ring) defines the pressure area. The same balance ratio can be achieved by two different primary ring and mating ring geometries. Figure 3-22 Rotating Seal Balance Designs 3-22 .6. the face load due to pressure can vary around the circumference if the mating ring is offset radially with respect to the primary ring. and affect seal performance.3 Stationary Versus Rotating Seal Balance The balance ratio can be affected by the way the pressure area is defined. This circumferential variation in the seal face load exerts moments on the seal faces that can cause vibrations and instability.6. Additional considerations related to primary and secondary seal wear when selecting a rotating balance or stationary balance design are discussed in Section 4. The differential pressure area defined by the diameter Do on the mating ring and the shaft diameter Db would be maximum in the direction of the offset and minimum on the opposite side. as shown in Figure 3-22(a). depending upon which one of the two faces is the narrower face.

03 x 10 (7) 2.60 x 10 (9) 1. which is generally more expensive.60 x 10 (9) 5 5 5 5 5 4 5 1.03 x 10 (7) 2. N Tungsten carbide N Silicon carbide 1. For non-clean fluids.6) 6. both seal faces need to be hard to provide satisfactory wear life.68 x 10 (59) 1. The first method uses differential pressure multiplied by the average sliding velocity.52 x 10 (26) 1.03 x 10 (7) 2. like Journal bearings. is the differential pressure drop method because it can be easily related to seal operating pressure and balance ratio does not need to be known.5) 7.82 x 10 (64) 5 6 6 6 6 5 5 5 5 6 6 1.22 x 10 (43) 6 6 2.60 x 10 (9) 5 5 1.7 Pressure Velocity (PV) Parameter and Limit The measure of a seal to provide useful service is defined by its PV parameter that. If the fluid is clean (free of abrasives/solid particles) and is compatible with the carbon material.35 x 10 (188) 6 Tungsten carbide vs.5) 7.22 x 10 (43) 3.22 x 10 (43) 1.60 x 10 (9) 5 5 3.08 x 10 (21) 1.01 x 10 (3. and is the preferred choice if it satisfies the PV limits for a given application. the unbalanced seal design is simpler and less costly. N Stainless steel N Lead bronze N Stellite N Alumina N Chrome oxide N Tungsten carbide N Silicon carbide Other Liquids Unbalanced 3 Unbalanced 4 4 Balanced Balanced 1.30E+10 (4.01 x 10 (3.04 x 10 (106) 6 3-23 .45x 10 (3) 1. and the second method uses net face pressure multiplied by the average sliding velocity.46 x 10 (8.74E+10 (6) 5 7.23 x10 (2. the carbon versus the appropriate harder material combination should be selected. The balanced seal design permits operation under higher pressure and speed combinations but it requires a stepped shaft or stepped sleeve arrangement.45 x 10 (5) 2.22 x 10 (43) 1. Two ways are used to define the PV parameter.5) 2.5) 1. The more common method used by mechanical face seal manufacturers and users to rate the PV parameter. Table 3-4 Approximate PV Limits psi-ft/min (Mpa-m/sec) for General Seals with Various Combinations of Seal Face Materials and Fluids Water and Aqueous Liquids Face Material Combination Carbon vs.60 x 10 (9) 2.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3.5) 2. Table 3-4 provides the PV values (based on differential pressure approach) for materials commonly used in both unbalanced and balanced mechanical face seals.6) 1. In general.04 x 10 (36) 2.53 x 10 (124) 5.45 x 10 (0. is the product of the pressure and the sliding velocity.23 x 10 (2.

During seal operation. Operation of the seal results in frictional heat generation at the sealing interface. the seal design and material selections should satisfy the PV limit and the T limit under all operating conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure. The load bearing capacity can decrease sufficiently and result in heavy contact between the seal face. a fluid film needs to be maintained between the seal faces. which lowers the fluid viscosity and the load carrying capacity of the liquid film. by using one of the flushing arrangements described in Section 3. Cooling of the seal chamber (for example. and the T margin that needs to be maintained between the bulk fluid temperature and the boiling point curve to accommodate the increase in fluid temperature at the sealing interface without causing vaporization. causing severe wear or face damage. This figure also shows the operating envelope for seal performance defined by the pressure/temperature limits (including the T margin).EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description 3. as does an increase in the chamber pressure above the vapor pressure. considering the anticipated increase in temperature (T) due to the seal friction over the bulk fluid temperature. 3-24 . The most suitable approach to suppress boiling and ensure adequate T margin below the limit depends upon the application.5) protects against boiling of the fluid. as well as the PV limit.8 Temperature Considerations and T Limit For a mechanical seal to function reliably. Key Technical Point For satisfactory performance. it is necessary that a stable liquid film be maintained. Technical performance data regarding the T margin should be obtained from seal manufacturers to evaluate and ensure reliable operation in a given application. This phase change often causes an intermittent banging or popping sound and results in severe face damage and excessive leakage. The frictional heat can also raise the temperature of the liquid film at the sealing interface to such an extent that fluid instantaneously changes its phase from liquid to gaseous under the pressure that is present on the low-pressure side of the seal. Figure 3-23 shows how pressure and temperature affect the boiling point of a liquid.

and speed performance envelope. 3-25 . the film thickness decreases and the asperity contact between the faces increases. reliability of the conventional flat face mechanical seals.9 Improved Seal Face Designs A fundamental requirement for a mechanical face seal to function reliably is that the faces be separated by a thin fluid film during operation. In practice.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-23 Pressure/Temperature Operating Envelope Showing T Margin Required for Seal Operation 3. as well as. nuclear power plants [3]. is the use of seal face designs that have positive hydrodynamic lubrication features. a small amount of asperity contact between the faces occurs in most applications. the cooling notches or thermal hydrodynamic grooves introduce circumferential waviness of the seal face due to variations in the temperature around the seal circumference.4. One approach that has proven to be successful for sealing hot water under high pressure and high speeds. In this design. as well as for sealing other high-volatility. which in turn increases seal friction and heat (see Section 4. Figure 3-24 is the first design that became commercially successful and is widely used in critical hot water sealing applications (including Main Coolant Pumps) in many European nuclear power plants and some U. low-lubricity fluids. causing a small amount of wear that determines seal life but does not affect seal performance. Under high pressure and high temperature combinations. This limits the pressure. The problem becomes especially severe when sealing hot water and other low lubricity fluids [21-34]. temperature.1 for further discussion).S.

depending upon the application requirements. The manufacturer of the specific seal design being considered should be consulted for their recommendations and their experience in similar applications. It should be noted that the higher pressure and speed capabilities are achieved at the cost of increased leakage and vulnerability of the seal to ingest debris and unfiltered solid particulates in the fluid.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-24 Seal Face with Thermal Hydrodynamic Grooves for Positive Hydrodynamic Lubrication [3] The circumferential waviness in conjunction with the relative rotational velocity between the faces introduces a strong hydrodynamic action. Figure 3-26 shows several other variations of this basic approach to enhance the lubrication between the seal faces. the hydrodynamic grooves can be incorporated on the seal face to pick up fluid from either the outer or the inner periphery. 3-26 . As shown in Figure 3-25. Prototype qualification testing is strongly recommended for critical service applications. and a thicker film. This is the fundamental mechanism responsible for extending the performance envelope of the seals with hydrodynamic grooves on the seal face. higher film pressures.

EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Figure 3-25 Design Options with Hydrodynamic Grooves on the Outer Periphery or Inner Periphery of Seal Face Figure 3-26 Other Variations in Seal Face Geometry to Enhance Lubrication of the Faces 3-27 .

the tapered seal faces are designed to permit a minimum leakage of 0.2 gallons per minute (10 milliliters per second) during startup conditions and a nominal leakage of 3. Filtered seal injection is used to keep particulates from entering the seal cavity. To prevent dry running. speed. hydrodynamic grooves. Research in recent years has shown that the newest technology. To prevent dry running. the seal faces can come into contact and cause dry running during startup. optimized grooves face seals. and polymer seal rings sliding against silicone carbide [37-41. These include laser-faced entry and return-flow recesses. Key Technical Point Seal designs with special features to enhance lubrication at the sealing interface (for example. are capable of providing the full film lubrication (and therefore long life) without the penalty of excessive leakage associated with the earlier hydrodynamic film seal designs. Under no-pressure conditions. As illustrated in Figure 3-27. and temperature limits. Because no rubbing contact occurs in this type of seal. movingwave mechanical face seals. One of these laser-textured surface designs that has emerged as a promising and commercially viable design was recently introduced by a seal manufacturer [46].EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description Several alternative designs that also maintain a full hydrodynamic film lubrication under high duty application conditions (including transients) have been reported over the years since the successful commercial introduction of the design shown in Figure 3-24.0 gallons per minute (190 milliliters per second) during normal operation. Rayleigh-step floating-ring seals. 3-28 . In the Westinghouse configurations used in Main Coolant Pumps. laser-textured surface designs. higher leakage rate versus increased reliability under transient conditions) should be carefully evaluated during seal selection. The tradeoff (for example. or laser-textured surfaces) can extend the pressure. recesses. there is virtually no wear. the seal requires that some pressure be applied to the tapered side prior to rotation.10 Hydrostatic Seal Design The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal that permits some controlled flow rate to pass between the faces. the seals are designed with a converging taper on the faces to balance the pressure distribution between the back of the seal ring and the seal face. The initial pressure ensures that minimum leakage develops and that the seal faces will not contact during startup. These include eccentric seals for nuclear pumps. the seal requires that some pressure be applied to the tapered side prior to rotation. 3. 47]. Key Technical Point The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal that permits some controlled flow rate to pass between the faces. laser-textured faces with micro-pores that serve as micro-hydrodynamic bearings [42-46].

and the remaining pressure drop is taken across the conventional mechanical face seal.EPRI Licensed Material Technical Description In some applications. should the hydrostatic seal fail. Under normal operation. It is typically designed as a backup to the hydrostatic seal to permit a safe shutdown of the system under higher pressure drop. used in conjunction with hydrodynamic seals. Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide [35]. A detailed description of these designs. the mechanical face seal is exposed to a significantly lower pressure drop than the hydrostatic seal. Figure 3-27 Hydrostatic Face Seal Design 3-29 . most of the pressure breakdown occurs as leakage crosses the hydrostatic seal. conventional mechanical face seals contain the leakage past the hydrostatic seal. Hydrostatic seals are available in either a rotating balance design or a stationary balance design. In this tandem configuration. is provided in NMAC TR-100855.

.

Seal leakage can occur for a variety of reasons and might result from failure at any of several leak paths. The possible leak paths in a typical mechanical face seal are (see Figures 3-1 and 315 for reference): N N N N N Between the seal faces Between the secondary seal and the primary ring Between the secondary seal and the mating ring At the secondary seal in the sleeve (in seal designs employing sleeves) At the secondary seal at the gland plate While mechanical seal faces require some small level of leakage to function properly. universities. national laboratories.2 Definition of Seal Failure The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is considered unacceptable for the seal design/configuration being used. depending upon seal size. the selection of an appropriate design for each application.EPRI Licensed Material 4 FAILURE MODES AND FUNDAMENTAL MECHANISMS 4. 36]. temperature. and guidance for installation and maintenance [3. reduction of pressure. Analyses were then performed to determine all of the significant seal failure mechanisms that are described in this section. Industry-specific data were gathered under this project by conducting a utility survey to determine the most common failure modes in the nuclear and fossil power applications. the extent of leakage above this minimum requirement can be from a few drops to a continuous drip. fluid viscosity.1 Introduction The purpose of this section is to describe the failure modes of mechanical face seals and the fundamental mechanisms that are responsible for the failures. which in turn has led to improvements in design. and seal users has continued over the last four decades to improve fundamental understanding of the mechanisms that cause seal failure. 4-1 . 4. 9. Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of fluid. pressure. 34. A significant amount of research by seal manufacturers. typical leakage rates from mechanical face seals are in the range of a fraction of ml/hr to a few ml/hr. Under normal performance. independent research organizations. or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in doubleseal installations. 7.

In general. both domestic and international. due to their higher importance. the following appear to be the most problematical mechanical seal applications: N N N N N N N Multi-stage centrifugal charging pumps Start-up feedwater pumps Condensate booster pumps Station heat pumps Pumps with mini-flow operation Pumps with variable flow requirements Boric acid system pumps with heat trace lines This list does not include the main coolant pump seals. an industry survey was conducted to determine the most common failure modes for mechanical seals encountered in the nuclear and fossil power plant applications. 4. and improper installation. environmental and safety considerations. 4-2 . The level of permissible leakage is dependent upon the operating requirements. most premature leakage problems result from improper selection of the seal design and materials. quite high leakage rates are often tolerated as long as other functions of the operation are not affected. Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide [35]. reduction of pressure. Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of fluid. and economic considerations. have already been addressed separately in NMAC TR-100855. Key Technical Point The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is considered unacceptable for the seal design/configuration being used. which.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms and speed. or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in double seal installations. Appendix A includes a complete copy of the questionnaire. In most clean water systems. improper use of the seal. A survey questionnaire was sent to all EPRI NMAC and FMAC utility members. There are no general quantitative criteria for what constitutes seal failure due to excessive leakage. The level of acceptable leakage is dependent upon the application. In addition to the survey results. Based on the above.3 Industry Survey Under this EPRI project. technical information from many other industry sources was used to identify the most common failure modes and mechanisms responsible for the failures. The nuclear utilities included both BWR and PWR plants.

The most commonly cited reasons (not root causes) for mechanical seal problems encountered at the plants surveyed were: N N N N N N N N N Improper installation Improper seal face compression Dirty or abrasive fluids Differences between normal operating conditions and design conditions Excessive axial or radial movement caused by off Best Efficiency Point operation cavitation.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms It should be noted that the only European nuclear power utility that responded reported no problematical applications. thus keeping the seal wear to a minimum and providing long life [1-6].7]. misalignment. which is a lowlubricity/high-volatility liquid that is difficult to seal. and bad bearings Equipment operating conditions not completely defined Improper design and face seal material selected for the application Pressure and/or temperature transients due to variable system operation Lack of training 4. thermal hydrodynamic grooves or notches on the seal faces as described in Section 3. The problem applications also include operation off the Best Efficiency Point (mini-flow operation. and wear of the faces during operation. The amount of waviness required to generate hydrodynamic film pressures and keep the faces apart is small. It is now well accepted that the fundamental mechanism responsible for generating a fluid film during operation of mechanical seals is hydrodynamic lubrication caused by unavoidable geometrical imperfections. bent shaft. they are using mechanical seal designs with special features (for example. variable flow requirements) and dissolved solids that can crystallize (boric acid application). thermal distortions due to non-uniform contact pressure.9) to provide enhanced seal face lubrication. especially when high fluid pressures are encountered [21-25]. 4-3 . like most other European utilities.4 Fundamental Failure Mechanisms Successful operation of mechanical seals depends upon the development of a thin film of fluid [typically less than 40 micro-inches (1 2m)] that separates the seal faces during operation. A common denominator in all of these applications is sealing of hot water. It is conjectured that. less than 40 micro-inches (1 2m). especially waviness of seal faces in the circumferential direction [5. out of balance. local mechanical distortions due to drive pins/anti-rotation mechanisms. and can be caused by manufacturing imperfections.

The fundamental mechanisms most commonly responsible for seal failures are described below. the seal frictional heat leads to immediate failure. the degree of balance. seal life is governed by the wear of the face materials. As the fluid pressure increases. all of the seal face load is carried by the fluid pressure generated by hydrodynamic action. Adverse thermal stress conditions can result from higher pressures as well as from inadequate heat dissipation.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms To function properly. the spring force. to boundary lubrication (Figure 4-1). however. This either leads to excessive friction. When asperity contact becomes extensive.7. the film thickness should be sufficient to completely eliminate asperity contact between the seal faces. and heat. mechanical seals must maintain a fluid film to provide lubrication. Seal life can vary from several months to over 3 to 4 years. and in extreme cases. practically the entire load is carried by direct solid contact and the fluid film carries a negligible amount of the total load. 4-4 . wear. transitioning from full film lubrication to mixed lubrication. the film thickness between the seal faces decreases. Under mixed lubrication. causing damage to the seal faces and other seal hardware. and can cause heat checking of the seal faces. as in boundary lubrication. Seal failures occur when the film thickness and the film pressure between the seal faces change and become unacceptably low or unacceptably high.4. When the asperity contact does occur but is not extensive (as in mixed lubrication). prevent direct rubbing contact. Under full film operation. the solid contact between the asperities of the mating seal faces carries part of the load.1 PV Limits Exceeded As discussed in Section 3. and the fluid pressure being sealed. For optimum life. and provide cooling of the seal faces under all operating conditions. The eventual seal failure mode in both cases is high leakage. the face loading of the seal faces is dependent upon whether the seal is a balanced or unbalanced design. or leads to parting of the seal faces. depending upon the application conditions. 4. Under a boundary lubrication regime. the fluid film pressure still carries a majority of the seal face load.

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Figure 4-1 Lubrication Regimes at Seal Interface Showing Asperity Contact as Lubrication Changes from Full Film to Mixed to Boundary For higher pressures. sealing of low-lubricity/high-volatility fluids (for example. The PV limits for both balanced and unbalanced seals for all commonly used materials are provided in Table 3-4. dry rubbing of the seal faces occurs. water.62 or less should be avoided to prevent face parting. the seal design and material selections should satisfy the PV limit and the T limit under all operating conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. Causing Film Vaporization/Collapse This is one of the most common causes of seal failure in high pressure. seal popping.8. Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure. leading to excessive heat. glycol. 4. hot water pumps. However. the vulnerability of the seal to parting of the seal faces under fluid pressure/ temperature transients increases. Balance ratios of 0.7 and 3.2 T Limits Exceeded. Key Technical Point For satisfactory performance. and failure. balanced seals provide the best performance because they reduce the face loads and the asperity contact. and light hydrocarbons) is difficult. particularly under higher pressure and speed combinations.4. If under given operating conditions the liquid film at the seal interface vaporizes. As discussed in Sections 3. 4-5 . as the balance ratio is decreased to handle higher pressures.

lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of solids. or increasing the flow rate of the flushing fluid can significantly reduce the seal temperature. 4.9 to improve lubrication of the seal faces can be used to extend the PV and T limits of mechanical seals in many applications. Often this imposes severe restrictions on the seal design. Both the PV limits and the T margins are frequently challenged and must be respected for successful operation of face seals in high pressure. In such cases.4.3 Inadequate Cooling Many mechanical seal chamber dimensions in pumps are based on interchangeability with stuffing box packing arrangement. An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid circulation. This limits the fluid circulation around the seal. low-lubricity/high-volatility fluid applications.4.4. increasing the radial clearance at the seal outside diameter. Excessive coning due to high differential temperatures is often responsible for seal failure as described in Section 4. The narrow radial clearances between the seal boundary and the seal chamber limits flow of the hightemperature fluid surrounding the seal.4 Transients Causing Excessive Seal Face Coning Thermal stresses and pressures cause deflections of the seal faces (coning) that change the initially parallel fluid film gap between the seal faces to either a convergent or a divergent gap (Figure 4-2).EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Figure 3-23 in Section 3 shows the T margin that needs to be maintained between the bulk fluid temperature and the boiling point curve of the fluid being sealed to accommodate the increase in fluid temperature at the sealing interface without vaporization. incorporating a seal flushing arrangement. the distortion of the seal faces caused by coning should be limited to less than 40 micro-inches (1 2m). thus limiting the structural strength of and heat transfer from the seal to the process fluid.5. Key Technical Point Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to accept conventional packings. Increasing the chamber pressure and/or cooling to suppress fluid vaporization can improve seal performance. This can provide a dramatic improvement in the performance of the seal in such installations. using enlarged and/or tapered seal chamber designs. Approaches discussed in Section 3. 4-6 . 4. isolated pockets of hot fluid in the vicinity of the seal can reach temperatures that are several hundred degrees higher than the process fluid. leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. which is the typical film thickness between the seal faces. By design. As described in Section 3. resulting in unacceptable thermal distortions and coning of the seal faces.4.

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-2 Extremes of Seal Face Distortion (Coning) Due to Thermal and Pressure Effects

A frequent cause of seal failure is coning of seal faces that results in heavy contact at the inside diameter of seal faces during operation (positive coning). Positive coning is caused by thermal distortions due to seal friction and inadequate cooling. Positive coning, if excessive, changes the lubrication regime from full film to mixed or boundary lubrication. This, in turn, increases friction and interfacial temperature and causes rapid wear of the seal faces. Positive coning changes the interfacial film pressure distribution from linear in a parallel face situation to convex or concave pressure distribution, depending upon whether the seal is pressurized on the inside or the outside diameter. Figure 4-3 shows the changes in pressure distribution for an outside pressurized seal. Key Technical Point Thermal distortions of seal faces due to operational transients can cause positive coning (contact on ID) or negative coning (contact on OD) of the seal faces. Coning in excess of film thickness can cause film rupture seizure or face parting, resulting in a large increase in leakage. In extreme cases of positive coning with inside pressurization, fluid leakage past the sealing faces is completely cut off, thus leading to total collapse of the fluid film and immediate failure. In the case of outside pressurization, the increase in film pressure can cause parting of the seal faces.

4-7

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-3 Pressure Distribution Changes Caused by Coning of the Seal Faces (for Outside Pressurized Seal)

Another cause of seal failure is coning of seal faces that results in contact at the outside diameter of seal faces (negative coning). Negative coning is caused by seal distortion due to pressures, including transients, exceeding acceptable limits. Negative coning causes the pressure distribution between the seal faces to change sufficiently to either overcome the seal closing force, thus causing parting of the seal faces and very high leakage, or to reduce the film thickness, resulting in mixed/boundary lubrication. Key Technical Point Pressure distribution across the seal faces is affected by seal face coning due to changes in pressure and speed as well as the wear-in process. Excessive coning causes seal failure either due to seizure or face parting. Hard face versus soft face material combinations are more tolerant of coning than if both faces are hard.

4-8

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

In fact, the coning and the wear-in process have complex interactions on seal performance, depending upon the sequence of events (Figures 4-4 and 4-5). The performance is also affected by the ability of one of the faces to wear-in rapidly without causing immediate seal failure (for example, in the case of a carbon face) or by whether both the seal faces are too hard to wear-in rapidly (for example, silicone carbide, tungsten carbide).

Figure 4-4 Changes in Seal Contact Area Under Constant Operating Conditions During the Wear-In Process for a Seal With a Hard Face and a Soft Face

Figure 4-5 Example of a Wear-In Sequence (Stages 1 through 4) for a Mechanical Seal with a Soft Seal Face

4.4.5 Operation Away from Best Efficiency Point Large shaft deflections in pumps due to operation far away from the best efficiency point can cause misalignment and eccentricity between the seal faces during operation. Extensive analytical and experimental research sponsored by NASA has led to a good understanding of how rotor/stator eccentricity and angular misalignment of the faces can create a strong pumping action across the seal faces, over and beyond the hydrodynamic action caused by normal circumferential waviness [5].

4-9

Fluid transfer can accelerate abrasive wear of the seal faces. service water applications. These effects can be minimized by controlling the misalignments and eccentricities to an acceptably low level. It is also important to note that the pumping action in a misaligned. The effect can be minimized by selecting a seal design in which the narrow face is the rotating element. Key Technical Point Operation away from Best Efficiency Point (BEP) is a frequent cause of short seal life/seal failures. in a double seal arrangement with buffer fluid). for example.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms In applications where fluid is present on only one side of the seal. When abrasives are present in one of the fluids. Inward pumping can cause significant mixing of the fluids. especially in applications where one fluid has solid particulates. Off BEP conditions cause large shaft deflections and vibrations resulting in premature degradation of mechanical seals. The fluid flow by this mechanism from low-pressure to high-pressure side is called inward pumping. inward pumping causes high abrasive wear of the seal faces. 4-10 . a high rate of fluid transfer can occur either outwardly (from high-pressure to low-pressure side) or inwardly (from low-pressure to highpressure side). eccentric face seal causes the fluid to transfer across the seal interface if the wide seal face is rotating as shown in Figure 4-6(a). as shown in Figure 4-6(b). eccentricity can cause high external leakage. In applications where fluid is present on both sides of the seal (for example.

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Figure 4-6 Fluid Pumping Action Across the Seal Faces Due to Static Offset and Misalignment 4-11 .

a new wear track will need to develop before the mating seal faces again begin to function normally. Figure 4-7 Rotating Balance Seal Wobble Caused by Shaft Tilt 4-12 . Both static and dynamic misalignment can reduce the service life of the mechanical face seal by premature degradation of the primary or secondary seals. It can be classified in two categories: static misalignment or dynamic misalignment. the primary seal faces should function properly and provide normal service life. Static Misalignment: Static misalignment is the condition in which the seal faces run in an eccentric position relative to each other. This condition becomes more severe when the wider face is made of relatively soft material that permits a relatively deep wear track to develop.6 Seal Misalignment/Premature Degradation of Primary and Secondary Seals Mechanical face seal misalignment occurs in all installations.4. The effect of static misalignment is a wear track on the wider face that is offset from its concentric position. In most cases. If the misalignment is the result of load. If the misalignment remains constant (within limits) after installation. but the severity of the misalignment and the manner in which it is accommodated dictates whether the mechanical face seal will perform satisfactorily in service. Once the load is changed. Misalignment can be caused by runout of the shaft or face seal due to manufacturing clearances and tolerances or by deflection of the mounting surfaces due to load or temperature.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms 4. a deep wear track causes face leakage under both static and running conditions. then the mechanical face seal will operate satisfactorily until the load is changed. such as shaft tilt due to side loading as shown in Figure 4-7. They remain in that position unless a change in operating conditions upsets their relative positions.

4-13 . Dynamic Misalignment: Dynamic misalignment exists when the mechanical face seals have to respond to changes with each revolution. especially when the inside diameter of the seal is pressurized. the pumping phenomenon due to static offset can be eliminated by making the rotating face narrower and selecting the softer face material for the narrower face. especially at high speeds. but only increases the leak rate. When the secondary seal slides to accommodate shaft tilt (shown in Figure 4-7). Pumping-out does not usually damage the seal.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Key Technical Point Static and dynamic misalignment between seal faces can cause strong fluid pumping action across the faces causing either inward pumping or outward pumping of the product fluid and/or buffer fluid. Static misalignment can also create a condition called pumping-in or pumping-out of the fluid when the rotating face is wider than the stationary face. Shaft tilt creates a condition where the seal has to respond dynamically to the change in axial position of the mechanical face seal with every revolution of the shaft. it axially sweeps the shaft with each revolution of the shaft and causes the secondary seal and its mating surface to wear. as already described in Section 4. Problems associated with shaft tilt can be reduced or eliminated by allowing the stationary ring to pivot as shown in Figure 4-8. Shaft tilt can create premature failure of the secondary seal and can significantly affect the integrity of the sealing faces. can also develop if the seal faces cannot dynamically respond to relative axial movement to maintain face contact. are also common symptoms of excessive misalignment. as shown in Figure 4-7. Excessive leakage. Pumping is caused by the radial velocity vector that forces fluid in and out of the narrower seal face. Pumping-in is particularly harmful when the lowpressure side has contaminants. causing excessive leakage when stationary and when running. Key Technical Point Premature wear of the primary sealing faces and secondary seals. Premature degradation of the secondary seal area due to fretting/wear can cause seal problems. This radial vector can be large enough to pump fluid from the lowpressure side to the higher-pressure side. Leakages under misaligned conditions can be several times the normal leak rate. Static misalignment due to shaft tilt also creates an axial sliding action at the secondary seal location. As stated earlier.4. Leakage due to shaft tilt can also occur at relatively low speeds if the spring load or pressure do not generate enough face loading.5 and illustrated in Figure 4-6.

the rotating seal face radially sweeps the stationary face once every revolution as shown in Figure 4-9. a radial vector is generated that pumps fluid in and out of the narrow face. This condition exists to some extent in all seals. Under this condition. Leakage due to runout is usually present only during running conditions unless the sealing faces have been damaged. leakage and wear become a problem only when the runout is excessive and the rotating face is narrower than the stationary face.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Figure 4-8 Shaft Tilt Accommodated by Stationary Ring Pivot Problems caused by dynamic misalignment also occur when the rotating seal face axis is offset from the rotation axis of the shaft. If the narrower rotating face turns with an offset around the axis of revolution. The problem becomes severe when the product or environment contains abrasives that can be forced between the sealing faces. 4-14 . however.

EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms Figure 4-9 Seal Pumping Caused by Dynamic Offset of Rotating Narrow Face Problems associated with dynamic offset are more common when the primary face (which has more components and more potential for imbalance) rotates rather than when the mating ring rotates. The problem can usually be eliminated by selecting a seal configuration with a rotating mating ring. misalignment.4. manufacturers control seal flatness to typically within one light-band per lineal inch. 4. the seal faces typically show no sign of wear or abnormal contact and the problem is only 4-15 . the flatness of the seal faces can change considerably during operation due to wear. Offset problems can also be caused by excessive clearances in the assembly or improper installation. In applications where both faces are made of hard materials (for example. For proper operation without excessive leakage. In some cases. Too much out-of-flatness can lead to excessive seal leakage. which can be manufactured to much tighter tolerances to minimize clearances and imbalance. and exposure to high temperatures that continue to age the seal face material. In such cases. requiring the sealing faces to be flat. thus causing a dramatic increase in fluid film thickness and leakage. distortions of the seal faces that result in excessive waviness can generate a much higher hydrodynamic pressure than under normal conditions.6 x 10-6 inches) across one-inch width. tungsten carbide and silicone carbide). typically within one light band (11.7 Excessive Out-of-Flatness (Warpage) During Operation Key Technical Point Mechanical face seals are precision components.

Evidence of high temperatures is also seen in discoloration of the seal hardware. This results in direct rubbing and very high friction. this is a rare occurrence. even though a maximum out-of-flatness criterion has been established by seal manufacturers. the hydrodynamic film pressures are insufficient to separate the faces. which prevents direct asperity contact between the faces. there is no minimum flatness requirement to ensure proper operation. either singly or in combination.EPRI Licensed Material Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms recognized by inspecting the seal flatness. mechanical seals function well due to a small. The insights provided here should be very helpful in following the systematic approach to troubleshooting and diagnosing seal failures in service as outlined in Section 7. This results in seal failure due to seizure. It should be noted that. Too perfectly flat seal faces on structurally robust seal rings prevent the faces from distorting and developing a fluid film. A more thorough heat treatment and stress relief prior to the final grinding and lapping operation can minimize distortions due to continued aging in operation. This type of failure was encountered in controlled laboratory tests performed under identical conditions for which a number of tests had been successfully conducted previously [52]. in which the seal faces are lapped too perfectly flat and the seal construction is robust enough to prevent mechanical distortion of the seal faces. this section has described in detail all of the significant failure mechanisms that can cause seal failure. automatically created by face distortions due to mechanical loads. to function properly. In conclusion. unavoidable circumferential waviness (introduced by manufacturing tolerances or mechanical/thermal loads) that generates hydrodynamic lubricant film pressure at the sealing interface. 4. causing the seal temperatures to increase rapidly and immediate destruction of the seal.8 Seal Faces Too Perfectly Flat to Generate a Film As mentioned earlier. Key Technical Point Conventional mechanical face seals rely on a small amount of waviness. Fortunately. Local warpage of several light-bands over a small circumferential part of the seal was observed in a controlled test in which leakage was found to increase by a factor of more than 100 during operation [52]. Under certain circumstances (fortunately rare).4. 4-16 .

1 Introduction The mechanical face seal represents a complex design that consists of several single-design components. each of the single design components must be selected to cover the operational requirements. 5. In order to achieve optimum performance. the system liquid is either water or some type of hydrocarbon. Factors that affect the performance of the seal (and that should be considered when selecting a seal) include: N N N N N Liquid type Liquid temperature during normal and design conditions Liquid pressure during normal and design conditions Rotational speed Radiation exposure In addition to the above factors. the following recommendations are made depending on the process liquid. The water might be clean or contain abrasives that can significantly affect seal life if proper flushing is not provided to remove the abrasives from the seal faces.EPRI Licensed Material 5 APPLICATION AND SELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS 5.2 Selection Specification In most power plants. the ease of maintenance is an important consideration in selecting a seal. In general. 5-1 .

Installation Considerations Might require the use of double seals with a clean barrier liquid to prevent vaporization at the seal faces and to provide better lubrication for the seal faces. If soft oxides are formed. Bellows made from ethylene propylene are used up to 284GF (140GC) with water and water-glycol mixtures. corrosion might be either beneficial or detrimental. flushing with a clean liquid might be required to enhance seal performance and life. which can crystallize on the seal surfaces.63. To improve life and minimize abrasion. wear might be reduced as long as the oxide layer is not disturbed. In those instances. 5-2 . floating between the faces. Boiler feed Mild corrosives Highly corrosive liquid Depending on the effects. welded springs. The barrier liquid might also be circulated and cooled to remove heat away from the seal. Stainless steel components might be required to prevent corrosion. It is not uncommon to specify asymmetric formed metal bellows for higher temperature applications. Conventional O-ring and elastomeric bellows seals are also sometimes used provided they do not degrade in service. The seal faces are loaded using multiple stainless steel springs or using the metal bellows seals. or multiple springs. Borated water. must be externally flushed. can act as grinders and increase wear. Asymmetric-formed metal bellows are also available for some applications. However. Face loading is achieved using multiple springs or metal bellows. Faces are loaded using wave springs. The seals are usually externally mounted and have visual wear indicators that signal when the seal must be changed. The seals are often sleeve-mounted because the shaft speed might approach 6. The seal is relatively inexpensive and typically uses a rotating carbon head and a stationary metal face. Fluoroelastomers are used for fuels up to a temperature of 302GF (150GC). Seals used in mild corrosives usually incorporate PTFE wedge secondary seals to provide the required compatibility with the process liquid. Tungsten or silicone faces are used in extreme cases. a ceramic face is often used. Faces are typically loaded using a single coil spring Demineralized water is a poor lubricant and the face materials must be selected to withstand sparse lubrication. If the pressure is high. free hard oxide particles.EPRI Licensed Material Application and Selection Recommendations Table 5-1 Seal Application and Selection Guidelines Application Water and fuel Typical Construction The rubber bellows seal is commonly used for water and fuel applications. Flushing of the interface by direct jetting is mandatory for all liquids with a specific gravity of less than 0. double seals with a clean barrier liquid might be required to stage the pressure drop. PTFE bellows are typically used in highly corrosive liquids to prevent from escaping into the environment.000 rpm. Dual seals are also often used with a benign barrier liquid to minimize the toxic liquid escaping to the environment.

Bellows are typically made from corrosionresistant materials and have no sharp corners to trap contaminants. Seals in slurry applications normally used asymmetrically formed bellows to provide the seal on the primary ring and to load the faces. The static seals on the stationary ring are usually elastomeric Orings. 5-3 .EPRI Licensed Material Application and Selection Recommendations Table 5-1 (cont. Installation Considerations Clean flushing liquid with lubricating properties are typically required to prevent volatile liquids from vaporization in the vicinity of the seal interface. The wedge is typically made of a high-temperature graphite if high pressure is encountered. The following selection sheet provides guidance on recognizing the critical area that must be identified.) Seal Application and Selection Guidelines Application Hot hydrocarbons Typical Construction A wedge seal with multiple springs is used to seal hot hydrocarbons. Hard faced materials are used for the faces to prevent wear caused by the abrasives contained within the slurry. Multiple springs are usually used to load the seal faces unless clogging can occur. temperature. Flushing of the interface by direct jetting is mandatory for all liquids with a specific gravity of less than 0. The more detailed data sheet in API 682 can be used in lieu of this abbreviated data sheet. Cooling provided by flushing also improves seal life. Clean flushing liquid is typically required to remove abrasives from the seal surfaces. fluid type. radiation exposure.3 Selection Data Sheet The proper selection of a mechanical face seal requires examination of different areas of the seal installation and operating requirements. then a single coil spring is used. It is expected that the seal manufacturer might need to be contacted to assist in filling out the data sheet.63. The flushing liquid should be neutral to prevent contamination of the process liquid. 5. Slurry/dirty process Key Technical Point Seal selection requires a detailed and systematic evaluation of all the significant application parameters. and maintenance. speed. Welded metal bellows are used for temperatures up to 572GF (300GC) and pressures up to 290 psi (20 bars). normal operating conditions versus design conditions. This data sheet was developed from the data sheets in API Standard 682. pressure. for example. Appropriate data sheets and check lists should be used to ensure a thorough and complete evaluation of suitable alternatives and trade-offs. Prototype qualification tests should be performed for all critical applications. Vaporization will cause liquid film breakdown and loss of lubrication. When clogging is a problem.

Ref pump drwg For proposal/purchase Seal installation drwg required. Process Hazard Hazard (state) Toxicity rating 5. Standards Identify applicable compliance standards API ANSI NACE ISO Company Date Plant item no. Y/N? Shaft/sleeve size Sealed pressure range Rotation CW/CCW Pump discharge pressure Vapor pressure at process temp Vacuum pressure Abrasives constituents Dissolved solids constituents Viscosity. rpm 3. max/min Boiling temp at sealed pressure Abrasives Y/N Abrasives concentration Specific gravity of process Auto-ignition temp Corrosive/pH Dry running. ppm Allowable leakage DIN Other 6. max/min Max/min ambient temp Carbon dioxide. Application Details Liquid Seal Size Temperature range Speed range. Type of Installation (circle application selections) Single Double back-to-back Double face-to-face Cartridge Stationary mounted Clean flush can be used Compatible sealant for double seal installation 7. Y/N Special operation comments 4.EPRI Licensed Material Application and Selection Recommendations SELECTION DATA SHEET 1. Design Type (circle applicable selection) Rubber bellows O-ring PTFE wedge Metal bellows Unbalanced Balanced Multiple springs Seal materials Tandem PTFE O-ring Single spring 5-4 . Purchaser Requirements Purchaser Pump service Enquiry Ref Seal mfg 2. Supplement Process Data Pump suction pressure Static pressure.

EPRI Licensed Material Application and Selection Recommendations SELECTION DATA SHEET (cont. type Flow controller Leakage detector type 11. steam turbine. type Cyclone separator Filter. Y/N Pressure Other. Auxiliary Fluids Available on Site Water. engine. Material Certification and Performance Test Specify Certification Seal Test (std/spl) 5-5 . etc) Wetted parts materials 12. Y/N Pressure Flush. Y/N Pressure Steam. Sealed Equipment Details Pump Make/Model Pump. type Description Horizontal/vertical Axial/Radial split Seal mounted on shaft or sleeve Seals per pump Shaft axial movement Driver (electric motor.) 8. Containment Seal in Addition to Item 6 (circle applicable selection) Non spark bushing Lip seal Labyrinth bushing Mechanical Floating labyrinth Standstill Other Maximum temperature Maximum Pressure 9. Auxiliary Equipment to be Provided by Seal Supplier Sealant system per attachment Cooler. Y/N Pressure Temperature Temperature Temperature Temperature 10.

where seal failure is unacceptable from a safety standpoint. This is especially recommended where the manufacturers cannot provide reference experience for the selected designs from other similar applications.4 Qualification Testing In some critical service applications. the key factors to be simulated. and parameters monitored during testing depends upon the criticality of the application and the cost of performing the qualification tests.57].EPRI Licensed Material Application and Selection Recommendations 5. which can be consulted to tailor the qualification testing for a specific application. or where the economic impact of failure is unacceptable (for example. 5-6 . unscheduled plant shutdowns).56. seal selection should be verified by appropriate qualification testing. The extent of testing. Guidance is provided in API Standard 682 [8] and in other publications related to mechanical seals [7.

operating philosophies. and different rates of forced outages experienced. Hand logging of data and trending is time consuming. evaluation described.1 Introduction Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility. operating philosophies. and from site to site. but it is effective in trending most seal performance characteristics over the long term. when analyzing seal performance changes. the level of condition monitoring required to develop reliable seal performance data is quite basic except for main coolant pump mechanical face seals. sophisticated data-logging systems can also be utilized. and examples provided. Some of this is the result of different equipment designs. if not impossible. For many plants. The simplest way is to use manual recording. condition-based monitoring is limited to visual observations with little actual quantification. This section of the guide provides information on how to evaluate seal performance and suggestions for monitoring and data acquisition. and changes in the frequency of data-logging can be triggered from performance changes. These parameters can then be plotted using standard spreadsheet programs and trends can be maintained and provided to plant personnel as part of the normal system status reports. condition based monitoring is limited to visual observations with little actual quantification. The major advantages of automated systems are that data can be routinely recorded and downloaded to trending programs. it is necessary to have data recorded frequently or to have key parameters on continuous recorders. however. are only appropriate for systems with a relatively high frequency of seal failures. Trouble-shooting problems require good data. Data logging of the various parameters associated with mechanical face seals can be performed in many different ways. determining the root cause of an operating problem is difficult. For many plants. Required parameters that are routinely trended can be added to the daily or shift logs recorded by the operators. in a time where utilities are being challenged to hold the line on costs. Generally. and different rates of forced outages experienced. Based on survey results. 6-1 .EPRI Licensed Material 6 CONDITION-BASED MONITORING GUIDELINES 6. These automated systems are reasonably expensive and. except for main coolant pump mechanical face seals. The parameters to be trended will be identified. The data acquired and tended can be used to assess seal performance and to provide reasonable predictions of the remaining life or operability of a mechanical face seal. Key O&M Cost Point Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility and from site to site due to different equipment designs. Without a trending program.

in some cases. 6-2 . and. A typical log sheet for a multiple seal arrangement and its support system is shown in Table 6-1. speed. Similar trends can be plotted of temperature in a barrier fluid or loss of barrier fluid in the barrier fluid reservoir. Automated data-logging systems can acquire data at any frequency. Manual recording might be required only once a day. For example. temperatures. the lower seal stage differential pressure is plotted against time and a best guess projection is made to predict when the failure limit has been reached. single seals will require less data collection than double or tandem seal arrangements. vibration levels. The frequency of data logging will vary from system to system based on system conditions and seal operating experience and characteristics.2 Typical Performance Data Logging Data that is typically available for logging includes pressures. and the frequency can be dynamically adjusted depending on seal performance. An example of pressure being used to trend seal performance is illustrated in Figure 6-1 for a staged seal arrangement. The amount of each type of data collected for each seal will depend on the type of seal used and its installation. In this example.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines 6. Loss of barrier fluid can be very useful in characterizing seal performance in a corrosive system seal arrangement. flows.

Flow rate Temperature. inlet Temperature. Flow rate Temperature. 3 Flow Temperature Differential Pressure Backpressure Flush API Plan No.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines Table 6-1 Seal System Log Sheet Plant System Date Item Flow Temperature Differential Pressure Backpressure Frame Vibration level Shaft Vibration level Speed Leakage rate Seal No. No. inlet Pressure Filtration Quench/Drain API Plan No. Recorded By: Seal No. 2 Flow Temperature Differential Pressure Backpressure Seal No. 1 Minimum Maximum Startup 6-3 . outlet Pressure Filtration Fluid type Fluid type Time Normal Unit Equip.

EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines Figure 6-1 Seal Data Plot Showing Declining Performance (Courtesy of Southern California Edison) 6-4 .

Parameters such as pressure and flow. Deviations from the following recommendations can be made. and other design requirements might be imposed. Electronic sensors.4. Temperature is the easiest parameter to measure and. become extremely important when predicting when the seal might fail. When used. the sensors should comply with a recognized standard such as API Standard 682. should be subject to similar design requirements. Seal dynamic torque is almost impossible to measure and is. therefore. 6.4. 6. The sensing element is in contact with the liquid being measured. depending on the seal arrangement. not a viable measurement.3 Seal Performance Parameters Other than seal dynamic torque. The more obvious measure of seal performance is leakage. based on specific needs of the plant. such as pressure transducers.1 through 6.1 Temperature Gauge Temperature gauges provide a visual indication of the local temperature. Even within these limitations and short falls. Usually temperature data in the vicinity of the seal are a measure of the process fluid or support system. but this method is only viable for single seals or outboard seals of multiple seal arrangements. In systems where only a small leak is acceptable. or with complex computer data-acquisition systems that can initiate controls based on parameter limits. seal face temperatures and seal face temperature changes are the key measures of the performance of a seal because they characterize what is happening at the seal interface. This section describes the manual sensors and switches that are commonly available and used. leakage measurement fails to provide an indication of impending failure.8) that outline various sensors and switches are based on recommendations contained in the API Standard 682. which do not directly characterize seal performance but do affect seal performance. These measurements become even more meaningful when tracked over an extended period of time and correlated to seal failure.. 6-5 . These temperature measurements tend to mask the actual seal performance and many times fail to provide meaningful data. data taken to monitor seal performance can provide a useful tool. Key O&M Cost Point Monitoring and data logging of key performance parameters can serve as very useful tools for trending wear and performance degradation of mechanical seals and preventing unscheduled outages. The following sections (6.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines 6.4. thermocouples. temperature measurements can directly characterize seal performance.4 Instrumentation Seal monitoring can be accomplished with simple and easy-to-implement manual instruments such as temperature and pressure gauges. especially in seal systems that are flushed or quenched. etc.

should be furnished with separable threaded solid-bar thermowells made of AISI Standard Type 300 stainless steel or another material more compatible with the liquid as defined by the manufacturer. They should be bimetallic or liquid-filled.1 grade 2A. Temperature gauges installed in tubing should be a minimum of 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) in diameter and the stem should be a minimum of 2 inches (50 mm) long.4. Dial temperature gauges should be installed in pipe sections or in tubing runs.3 Pressure Gauges Pressure gauges provide a visual indication of the pressure and the sensing element is in contact with the liquid being measured. Black printing on a white background is standard.4. Gauges installed in tubing should have 2 1/2-inch (64 mm) diameter dials. with a rigid stem suitable for mounting as needed. In no case. The gauges should be furnished with AISI Standard Type 316 stainless steel bourdon tubes or other material compatible with the liquid. Thermowell designs and installation should not restrict liquid flow. 6. Gauge range should be selected so that the normal operating pressure is at the middle of the gauge's range. 6. trip. and 1/2-inch NPT male alloy steel connections with wrench flats.40. and each control switch should be furnished in a separate housing located to facilitate inspection and maintenance. 6. Temperature gauges that are in contact with flammable or toxic fluids. Trip. and control switches provide a visual or audible signal or control an electric circuit when the preset limit of a sensor has been exceeded. and Control Switches Alarm.4. Each alarm switch. Black printing on a white background is standard for gauges.2 Thermowells Thermowells provide protection for the sensing element of temperature gauges. Mercury-filled thermometers are not acceptable. Gauges not installed in tubing should have 4 1/2-inch (114 mm) diameter dials. or that are located in pressurized or flooded lines. All other gauges should be a minimum of 3 1/2 inches (90 mm) in diameter and the stem should be a minimum of 3 inches (75 mm) long. Hermetically-sealed. stainless steel movements. The sensing element of temperature gauges should be in the flowing fluid to the depth specified by the gauge manufacturer. Pressure gauges should conform to ANSI/ASME Standard B. double 6-6 . Thermowells installed in piping should be 1/2 inch-NPT minimum. should the maximum reading on the dial be less than the applicable relief valve setting plus 10 percent.4 Alarm.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines Dial temperature gauges should be heavy-duty and corrosion resistant. each shutdown switch. however.

should be equipped with a valved test connection so that a portable test pump can be used to raise the pressure. Level switches can have low and/or high limit settings. Unless otherwise specified. Mercury switches should not be used. which are activated by rising pressure. pressure switches should be bellows or diaphragm. Pressure switches can have low and/or high limit settings. 6-7 . as determined by the seal manufacturer. 6. Alarm and trip switches should be arranged to permit testing of the control circuit. Low-pressure alarms.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines pole. Switches exposed to vacuum should have under-range protection to full vacuum. Pressure switches should have over-range protection to the maximum pressure to which the switch can be exposed. All switches sensing the same variable should have reset ranges. electrical switches that open (de-energize) to alarm and close (energize) to trip should be furnished. with a minimum rating of 5 amperes at 120 volts AC and 1/2 ampere at 120 volts DC.4. Alarm and trip switch settings should not be adjustable from outside the housing. the actuating element. the need for bypass indication and testing features should be considered. without interfering with normal operation of the equipment. Connections for pressure input should be 1/2-inch NPT. which are activated by falling pressure.4.5 Pressure Switches Pressure switches trip when a pre-set pressure limit has been exceeded. capacitance. should be equipped with a valved bleed or vent connection to allow controlled depressurization so that the operator can note the alarm set pressure on the associated pressure gauge. double throw switches. 6. should be used. level switches should be hydrostatic. or ultrasonic. Unless otherwise specified.6 Level Switches Level switches trip when a pre-set liquid level has been exceeded. High-pressure alarms. Unless otherwise specified. If a shutdown system is being implemented. such that changing the variable to reset one switch does not activate other switches. including when possible. The measuring element and all pressure-containing parts should be AISI Standard Type 316 stainless steel unless the pumped fluid requires the use of alternate materials. Connection for the air transmission signal should be 1/4-inch NPT. Pressure-sensing elements should be of AISI Standard Type 300 stainless steel.

an externally mounted. reflex indicator should be furnished instead of the standard weld pad design.8 Flow Indicators A flow indicator provides a visual indication of flow rate and. This is especially true when dealing with the small volumes of barrier fluids associated with dual-seal reservoirs. The diameter of the bull's eye should be at least one-half of the inside diameter of the line in which it is installed and should clearly show the minimum flow. each flow indicator should be installed with its bull's-eye glass in a vertical plane. When specified. 6.EPRI Licensed Material Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines Be aware that level switches might have a dead band wide enough to activate other switches during re-setting.4.7 Level Indicators Level indicators provide a visual indication of the liquid level and are also used when dealing with small volumes of barrier fluids associated with dual-seal reservoirs. when used. removable. 6. should be a steel body non-restrictive bull's eye. 6-8 . The standard level indicator should be the weld pad reflex design.4. To facilitate viewing of flow through the line.

7.EPRI Licensed Material 7 TROUBLESHOOTING TO IDENTIFY CAUSE OF SEAL FAILURE Key O&M Cost Point Seal performance is often directly linked to equipment performance and reliability. 7. it is suggested that a systematic step-by-step approach be followed during the investigation process. Therefore.17]. including seal manufacturers' published information and seal handbooks. identify causes of seal failure and provide illustrations of failed parts to aid in diagnosis [3.. Once the likely cause of the problem is decided. The troubleshooting approach and tables in this section are based on relevant information for nuclear and fossil power applications from these sources along with the author’s experience in root cause analysis of seal failures. It is very important to keep in mind that evidence of seal failure is an essential element in determining the cause of seal failure and if the evidence is lost there is no way to back track. 7-1 .11-19]. An in-depth inspection and review of seal failures can improve equipment availability and performance. A number of the illustrations and technical notes included in the tables in this section were obtained from John Crane Mechanical Seals and Mechanical Engineering Publications. a thorough analysis of the cause of failure of a mechanical seal often gives the best indication of action required. Several excellent sources.1 Introduction A discussion of the fundamental mechanisms responsible for seal failure was presented in Section 4. 7. This section provides a comprehensive step-by-step troubleshooting approach that can be followed by engineers and operating and maintenance personnel to diagnose seal failures in actual applications. the available solutions are usually clear. To improve seal reliability and extend its life in a particular application. London [7. They have been updated and are used here with permission from these organizations. to reduce the risk of losing evidence. Ltd.2 Failure Diagnosis Seal failure diagnosis is very similar to any other failure investigation and often the best indication of the cause of failure is from visual examination of the seal itself.

1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure A useful indication of the cause of a seal problem can often be obtained by analysis of the symptoms experienced in service. instrumentation might be available to give further assistance. Table 7-1 outlines various external symptoms of seal failure and their possible causes.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure N N N N Properly document external symptoms of seal failure Perform detailed checks before dismantling Clearly document evidence during dismantling and disassembly Perform detailed visual examinations of seal components 7. and offers recommendations for managing the symptoms. These might suggest either the remedy directly or at least the direction of subsequent failure diagnosis. On critical duties.2. or portable devices can be used for condition checks. 7-2 .

the bypass flush line or associated restrictions might need to be enlarged N Increase cooling of seal faces N Check for seal interface cooling with seal manufacturer N If increase in leakage is permissible. the line or associated restrictions. use seal designs with positive hydrodynamic lubrication features. laser-textured seal faces Carbon dust accumulating on outside of seal area Inadequate amount of liquid to lubricate seal faces Liquid film vaporizing/ flashing between seal faces. face notches. and specific gravity of product. 7-3 . See below for actions against vaporization. orifices in the gland plate. In some cases. Seal spits and sputters in operation (often called popping) Product vaporizing/flashing across the seal faces See above Pressure in seal chamber might be excessively high for the type of seal and the fluid being sealed. Remedial action is aimed at providing a positive liquid condition of the product at all times N Increase seal chamber pressure if it is possible to remain in seal operating envelope N Check for proper balance design with seal manufacturer N Change to a seal design not requiring so much product temperature margin N If not in use. laser-textured seal faces. for example. face notches. use seal designs with positive hydrodynamic lubrication features. If already in use. N If increase in leakage is permissible.) Recommendations/Remarks N If not in use.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure Symptom Seal squeals during operation Possible Causes Inadequate amount of liquid to lubricate seal faces (Note that not all dry seals squeal. a bypass flush line might be required. this leaves a residue that grinds away the carbon-graphite seal ring. for example. might need to be enlarged. temperature. Note that a review of balance design requires accurate measurement of seal chamber pressure. for example. a bypass flush line will be required N If already in use.

and so on.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-1 (cont.) External Symptoms of Seal Failure Symptom Seal drips or leaks steadily Possible Causes Recommendations/Remarks If possible. or blistered Distortion of seal faces for thermal or mechanical reasons (usually determined from wear pattern on faces) or loosening of set screws during operation. secondary seals (hard and brittle) N Chemical attack of secondary seals (soft and sticky) 7-4 . N Ensure pipe strain or machine misalignment is not causing distortion of seal faces (especially end suction overhung type pumps). N Check for squareness of stuffing box to shaft and similar equipment condition concerns. N Check for proper lead in chamfers. N Clean out any foreign particles between seal faces. N Check for improper seals or material being used in the application. Heavy leakage is normally from the faces rather than the O-ring. N Check for any installation or similar damage and renew if necessary. permitting axial slippage. N Check for gland plate distortion because of over-torquing of gland bolts (this can cause faces to become distorted). burr scratched during installation N Leakage of liquid under removal. Secondary seal concerns: N Secondary seals nicked or Typical corrective actions N Renew secondary seals. N Check for correct seal materials with pump shaft sleeve N Overaged O-ring N Compression set of manufacturer. chipped. Relap faces or renew. and so on. N Check gland gasket for proper compression. first determine the source of the leakage. Insufficient load on the seal faces Primary seal concerns: N N N Typical corrective actions: N Check for incorrect installation dimensions Faces not flat Faces cracked. N Check for correct seals with manufacturer. N Improve cooling flushing lines.

or because of local product evaporation.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-1 (cont.) External Symptoms of Seal Failure Symptom Seal drips or leaks steadily (cont. from undue pipe strain) Abrasive product (causing excessive seal face wear) See above. bypass flushing over the seal faces will improve the situation by keeping the abrasive particles moving and so reducing their tendency to settle out or accumulate in the seal area. Short seal life Equipment mechanically out of line (for example. this can cause rubbing of the seat on the shaft Typical actions are aimed at determining the source of abrasives and preventing them from accumulating at the seal faces N If abrasives are in suspension. A cyclone separator is often added to this bypass line (filters give longer term problems unless regularly cleared). a bypass flush will help introduce the maximum product to the seal cavity at the correct temperature. N 7-5 . Abrasives form in the area because of the process liquid cooling down and crystallizing or partly solidifying. When abrasives are forming locally in the seal area.) Possible Causes Seal hardware concerns: N N N Recommendations/Remarks Typical corrective actions: N N N Spring failure Erosion damage of hardware Corrosion of drive mechanisms Misalignment Impeller/shaft system imbalance Cavitation Bearing problems Renew parts Check for improved material availability Modify recirculation flow arrangement to reduce high velocity jets on hardware. In the extreme. Install cyclone separator to remove solids from recirculation flow Pump/shaft vibration N N N N This will reduce seal life even though leakage might not be immediately apparent.

Coning changes the film pressure distribution. cooling notches. advice is readily available from seal manufacturers. and the seal plate clearance from the sleeve. Loss of film causes heat damage. If there is a concern. Seal material deficiencies might well result in deterioration from corrosion or excessive heat. N N Seal leaks excessively following a pressure and temperature transient Seal wears into a pattern and transients can cause excessive positive or negative coning of the seal faces. Use seal with higher balance ratio if face parting is encountered Control seal environmental temperature by a suitable flushing arrangement Use seal designs with enhanced fluid film lubrication features at the seal faces.) External Symptoms of Seal Failure Symptom Short seal life (cont. the bore of the seat. Some good points to check are: neck bush clearance. hydropads N 7-6 . from scale formation) Increase the capacity of cooling lines A recirculation or bypass flush line might be necessary Check for possible rubbing of a seal component against the shaft (see also OKUCNKIPOGPV above). which can either cause face parting of balanced seals with low balance ratio or cut off the entrance of the lubricant/fluid between the seal faces.) Possible Causes Seal running too hot N N Recommendations/Remarks Check that all cooling lines are connected and operational Check that flow is not obstructed in cooling lines or jackets (for example. N N N Inadequate seal type or seal material for duty.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-1 (cont. for example. clearance between the rotating seal unit and the seal chamber bore.

all necessary precautions are to be observed prior and during assembly.2 Checks Before Dismantling In addition to noting any seal failure symptoms. misalignment.2. Most of these checks are straightforward and are carried out as routine by most engineers. Table 7-2 Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling Topic Documentation Toxic/hazardous product Service life of seal Process change Checklist Take photographs of all key components and subassemblies before and during disassembly In such cases. and so on. Personnel should be instructed to exercise care during the disassembly steps. either directly or to facilitate later diagnosis. stop/starts.. other checks prior to disassembly can be valuable. not practice Changes in fluid pressure. until machine can be stopped for physical checks 7-7 . Hours of operation.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure 7. Consult material safety data sheets (MSDS). or composition Process variation or fluctuation Background information required Fluid sealed (including contaminants) Fluid pressure on seal and in system Fluid temperature at seal and in system Fluid flow within the seal chamber Sealed fluid vapor pressure/temperature data Operating shaft speed(s) Special operating conditions Machine assembly drawing Seal assembly drawing Seal design data Machine vibration Useful even when not immediately apparent as a symptom Axial and radial bearing housing or shaft vibration Frequency analysis to confirm out-of-balance. temperature. Identify any change . Key Human Performance Point The importance of maintaining As Found conditions is important to failure mode determinations. Duty cycle.often the key to a solution Seal might have been selected on theory of process. Thus. they are presented as a checklist in Table 7-2 to act as an aide. etc.

Typical leakage paths: N N N N N N Face leakage Secondary seal on primary ring Secondary seal on mating ring Seal/gasket on seal plate(s) Seal/gasket under shaft sleeve Cracked or damaged housing component Hydrostatic testing If possible. Amount and nature of abnormal leakage? Leakage constant or variable? Leaks when shaft is stationary? Leaks when shaft is rotating? Related to changes of speed. bench testing of equipment can be a useful method of identifying the leak path.) Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling Topic Seal leakage pattern Checklist Safety note: all necessary precautions must be observed during any leakage checks. If possible. from seal plate gaskets. especially if the fluid is toxic or hazardous. or temperature of operation? Possible leakage path(s) An assembly drawing is of great assistance. a suitable test fixture for subassembly pressure testing might be justifiable if large numbers of seals are being examined. This inspection to continue through subsequent equipment and seal dismantling until the leakage path(s) are all found. along shaft. under sleeve. for example. With other seal layouts. for example with double seals. 7-8 . and so on. Inspect exposed machine surfaces for indications of leakage path(s).EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-2 (cont. pressure. identify source of abnormal leakage while machine is still operating.

that can damage parts in transit 7-9 . and 7-5.2.3. or powerful solvent cleaning agents (which can attack the elastomeric components) Packaging For seal manufacturer examinations/repair: N Many seal makers will personally collect unusual/critical seals for failure diagnosis N N Packaging needs to be of high standard (as for new seals) Avoid wire mounted identification tags. several checks and observations should be made during the dismantling of a mechanical face seal. and are given in the checklist Tables 7-3. 7. sharp tools.2. and mid-life failure checks. etc.1 General Checks Table 7-3 General Checks During Dismantling Topic Seal surfaces Checklist Avoid disturbing the seal surfaces Avoid wiping or cleaning the faces more than is necessary for safe disassembly Visual examination of seal faces is included in Section 7. whip and deflection Possible leakage path(s) Deposits and debris Examination of surfaces as they become exposed for all possible causes of abnormal leakage Examination prior to cleaning for: N Foreign contaminants N N N N Wear debris Small fragments or chips from broken components Corrosion products Miscellaneous debris/deposits Seal hang-up Seal sub-assembly cleaning Check for hang-up by flexing the seal slightly above and below its installed working length Avoid removing or obscuring any vital evidence on the seal failure mechanism (especially on the seal faces) Avoid using wire brushes. 7-4.3 Dimensional checks The necessary marks and measurements to determine are: N Seal working length N Squareness of seal faces to shaft axis N Concentricity of seal faces to shaft axis N N Shaft end play Shaft radial run out. These observations are divided into three categories: general.. premature failure.3 Checks During Dismantling For proper diagnosis of seal problems. abrasive cleaners.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure 7.

blistering. or distorted static seals Score marks from relative rotational movement between secondary seals and mating surface Excessive volume change or compression set Fretting of sealing surfaces at secondary seal positions Drive mechanism Examination for: N N N Mis-assembly Mis-indexing Omission Check for loss of secondary seal interference when used for drive purposes. scratches. and fractures: N Low power magnification can assist Examination of non-uniform contact pattern: N N N N Dirt trapped between the faces Distortion of one or both faces Improperly finished faces See also Appendix B optical flat checking Examination for thermal distortion: N N N From running dry Heat checks/thermal cracking Pitting. for example.3. and so on Secondary seals Examination for : N N N N N N Omitted seals Misassembled seals Nicks. spalling. grooving.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure 7. extruded.2 Premature Failure Checks Table 7-4 Premature Failure Checks During Dismantling Topic Seal faces Checklist Examination for nicks. static seals and bellows Face loading hardware Examination for: N N N N Incorrect type Mis-assembly Mis-indexing Omission 7-10 .2. galling.

then 50X Measurement to determine the amount of wear Secondary seals Examination for: N N N N N Extrusion Chemical attack on both seal and its interface surfaces Excessive volume damage Excessive compression set Hardening and cracking Drive mechanism Examination for: N N N Failure Excessive wear Check for loss of secondary seal interference when used for drive purposes. for example. scratches. heat checks.3. and overall thermal discoloration Wear profile check by: N N N N Naked eye examination Use of low incidence angle light to highlight features 10X magnification. and fractures: N N N N N N Overall corrosion Leaching Abnormal grooving Erosion damage Excessive pitting. galling.2. cracks. deposition of solid material.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure 7. static seals and bellows 7-11 . and spalling Thermal damage such as waviness.3 Mid-Life Failure Checks Table 7-5 Mid-Life Failure Checks During Dismantling Topic Seal faces Checklist Examination for nicks. blisters.

and proven remedies. for each symptom. Once the likely cause of the problem is decided. and/or chemical aspects.3 Visual Seal Examination The symptoms experienced might not be the prime cause of failure. which can be helpful when using the subsequent extensive table of common seal. secondary seals. Therefore. this section notes likely causes. and seal hardware. further checks. the available solutions are usually clear. where further checks are necessary to clarify diagnosis. As there are a relatively large number of ways a mechanical seal can fail (this section lists 45). Key Human Performance Point Visual examination is an important element in determining failure mechanisms. 7-12 . There are cases. failure modes. There are also proven remedies for particular concerns. Table 7-7 is similarly divided into three parts: seal faced. it is helpful to group them alpha-numerically. This split is somewhat arbitrary and several failure modes are caused by a complex mixture of mechanical. Personnel should be attentive during disassembly to be alert for evidence of incipient or chronic failure mechanisms. as appropriate. it does show a pattern. However.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure 7. as shown in Table 7-6 below. It is often necessary to identify the root cause in order to avoid a recurrence. however. thermal.

or Chemical Damage Contact Pattern Seal faces A1: Proper contact pattern A2: No contact pattern A3: Heavy outside diameter contact A4: Heavy inside diameter contact A5: Wide contact pattern A6: Eccentric contact pattern A7: Contact with one high spot A8: Contact at two or more high spots A9: Contact through 270G A10: Contact at gland bolt locations Mechanical A11: Fracture A12: Scratches and chips A13: Adhesive wear A14: Abrasive wear A15: Grooving and severe wear A16: Erosion of carbon ring Thermal A17: Thermal distress. Thermal.180G A19: Thermal distress in patches A20: Coking Chemical A21: Carbon chemical attack A22: Corrosion of metal faces A23: Corrosion of hard faces A24: Flaking and peeling A25: Crystallization A26: Sludging A27: Bonding A28: Blistering Secondary seal Seal hardware B1: Physical damage B2: Extrusion B3: Excessive torque C1: Physical damage C2: Hardware rubbing C3: Erosion or abrasive wear C4: Drive failure C5: Spring distortion and breakage C6: Seal hang-up C7: Sleeve marking and damage B4: Hard or cracked elastomer B5: Compression set of elastomer C8: Overheated metal components B6: Elastomer chemical attack B7: Corrosion at secondary seal interfaces C9: Corrosion of seal hardware C10: Excessive deposits 7-13 . over 360G A18: Thermal distress over 120G .EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-6 Visual Examination: Failure Symptoms Based on Mechanical.

7-14 . Remedial Action N N N Provide lead-in chamfers. thermal or chemical attack. Seal hang up (see C6 below). If leakage is present. N N N N N N N Secondary seals nicked or scratched or installation. Check for correct material with seal manufacturers. renew seals. Characteristics. and so on.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Table 7-7 Visual Examination: Symptoms. in this situation. having checked for proper lead in chamfers. Checks N the secondary seals and. If so. Causes and Remedies Characteristics Common Seal Failure Modes – Seal Faces Typical contact pattern of a non-leaking seal. suspect N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A1: Proper contact pattern Causes Leakage is most commonly from secondary seals but in some cases due to excessive waviness of the seal faces due to high temperature exposure during operation. Check for compression set of o-ring. porosity. Check secondary seals for damage. Pipework distortion. Lubricate secondary seals. Check face flatness. removed burrs. Remove burrs. the seal typically drips steadily with the shaft stationary or rotating. warpage of the seal faces due to thermal aging and incomplete stress relief of the seal face material during operation. Full contact through 360 degrees on the seat surface with little or no measurable wear on either seal ring.

seal body with seal chamber bore. Possibilities include the following: N Symptom Causes Improper installation. Entrapment of foreign particles. A3: Heavy outside diameter contact (negative coning or rotation) Checks Cause Usually caused by the faces not being flat because of over-pressurization of the seal. Possible edge chipping on the outside diameter of the sealing ring. Fades away to no visible contact at the inside diameter of the contact pattern. Slipping of the rotary drive mechanism. Can also occur from: N N N N N Heavy contact on the sealing ring and the seat at the outside diameter of the sealing plane. Excessive swell of confined secondary seals.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics This indicates that the rotary face is not turning against the stationary face. 7-15 . Incorrect lapping. Thermal effects (usually on ID. for example. Causes/Checks/Remedies A2: No contact pattern N N Interference of a rotary with a stationary component. leaving the seal faces not flat. see A17-A19 below). Improper seal face support surface.

Seal does not leak when shaft is stationary. Changes of seal material. Remedial Actions N N Symptom Heavy contact on the sealing ring and the seat at the inside diameter of the sealing plane. Misaligned seat. 7-16 . Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is rotating and usually no leakage when the shaft is stationary. Pump cavitation. Pump operation outside specification. Possible wear at drive notches if present in sealing ring. A5: N N N N N N N N N Wide contact pattern Cause Possibilities include the following: Pump misalignment .EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Typically caused by thermal distortion of seal faces. A3. Bent shaft. Checks Also can occur from causes listed above under heavy outside diameter contact. Pipe strain. but leaks steadily when shaft is rotating. Causes/Checks/Remedies A4: Heavy inside diameter contact (positive coning or rotation) Improved cooling of the seal. Fades away to no visible contact at the outside diameter of the contact pattern. Contact pattern is considerably wider on the seat than the face width of the sealing ring. Pump vibration. Shaft whirl of large amplitude.this might also cause seal to hang-up on the shaft. Bearing failure or excessive clearance. Possible edge chipping on the inside diameter of the sealing ring.

Seat might have contact marks on its internal bore or local cracking (from a shaft rub). Check for correct seat design and clearances. 7-17 . Check for concentricity between the outside diameter of the shaft sleeve and the inside of the seal chamber. No leakage if the shaft has not contacted the inside diameter of the seat. Check for adequate shaft alignment (to avoid it passing through the seal chamber at an angle). A7: Contact with one high spot Cause Mating surfaces are not square. N Check for piping strain on pump casing. High spot or highly polished area might be present on the seat (for example. Seal does not leak when shaft is stationary. Check for correct clearances between the gland plate and the seal chamber. No abnormal wear on sealing ring if seat is undamaged. then leakage will occur when the shaft is rotating or stationary. Check for correct extension of all drive pins from seal plate.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause 7UWCNN[ ECWUGF D[ C OKUCNKIPGF UGCV Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A6: Checks N N N Eccentric contact pattern Eccentric contact pattern on the seat with width of contact equal to sealing ring through 360°. Seat without static seal(s) will rock or move in gland plate or holder. Wear at drive notches if present in sealing ring. Check that anti-rotation pin is correctly located into seat. Checks N Contact pattern on seat through 360° slightly larger than the sealing ring face width. opposite a drive pin hole or at location of anti-rotation pin if not correctly assembled into hole). but leaks steadily when rotating. N N N N Check that the seal plate surface in contact with the seat is free from nicks/burrs and shows a full pattern when blued with seat. If seat is damaged. Check that anti-rotation pin does not bottom into the seat.

Check Check for seal plate distortion because of overtorquing of bolts. 7-18 .EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Seal faces not flat. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or stationary. Cause Seal faces not flat. Checks N N N N N Symptom Seat is distorted mechanically. Check seal chamber face flatness of split case pumps. Check squareness of parts used to clamp seat. Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is rotating or stationary. Possible wire brushing erosion if the sealing ring rotates because out-of-flat mating surface allows dirt to enter the seal area. Check that the seal plate surface in contact with the seat is free from nicks/burrs and shows a full pattern when blued with the seat. Possible wire drawing erosion of the sealing ring if it remains stationary. Check flatness of faces using optical flat.pattern fades away between contact areas. Provide full face gasket contact or contact above centerline of bolts to prevent bending of the seal plate. Sealing ring shows same symptoms as for mechanical distortion above. Remedial Actions N N Change to a softer gasket material between the seal chamber and the seal plate. A9: Contact through 270° Seal is distorted mechanically giving contact through approximately 270° with the pattern fading away at the low spot. Sealing ring shows excellent condition after short static and dynamic tests. Causes/Checks/Remedies A8: Contact at two or more high spots Check for seal plate distortion because of over-torquing of bolts. typically creating two large contact spots .

EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Seal is distorted mechanically giving high spots at each bolt location. Change to a softer gasket material between the seal chamber and the seal plate. Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is stationary or rotating. Cause Seal faces not flat. 7-19 . Remedial Actions N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A10: Contact at gland bolt locations Sealing ring in good condition as initial leakage is high. Check Check for seal plate distortion because of overtorquing of bolts. Provide full face gasket contact or contact above centerline of bolts to prevent bending of the seal plate. preventing any long-term service life.

Jamming from improper assembly. Poor lubrication. Excessive face torque: Mishandling before or during assembly. Corrosion at seal faces.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include the following: N N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A11: Fracture Broken seal rings or cracked seal rings (if retained in some assembly). If no wear debris is present. Pin sleeve of PTFE not fitted as recommended by seal makers. Excessive hydraulic pressure. it can result in a severe gouge emanating from the pin slot rather than ring fracture. Excessive fluid pressure. N N N N Excessive thermal stress from thermal shock or excessive gradients (see Thermal distress. Fractures caused by excessive face torque generally emanate from one or more points of drive engagement and also show wear or damage on mating drive device. Excessive swell of confined secondary seals. When broken parts are well retained the amount of leakage can sometimes be remarkably low. Failure of axial holding devices. 7-20 . A17-A19 below). Improper seal assembly or installation. Damage during seal removal and disassembly. Many seal face materials are brittle and relatively thin sections are fragile. Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is stationary or rotating. Non-uniform discoloration or partial discoloration of the fracture surface of the presence of wear debris indicates fracture prior to or during seal operation. the fracture probably occurred during disassembly. In this case. poor lubrication. excessive fluid pressure. This problem can occur when PTFE O-rings are used to seal a pinned stationary carbon seat without a buffer sleeve over the pin.

Excessive shaft deflection or whip. and is spiral in form relative to the shaft axis and in the direction of rotation. were probably produced after seal operation. scratches less than 12m deep by 252m wide do not typically cause extensive leakage. Edge chipping can also occur from the following: Excessive shaft run out. it probably occurred during operation and can be attributed to a particle entering or coming from the seal faces. Leakage rate depends on the degree of damage and might be reduced when the shaft is stationary. Scratches that interrupt. Edge chipping from slamming together during operation when pump cavitates or fluid vaporizes at seal faces. or installation.) N N N N N Scratches and nicks are often erroneously cited as a cause of seal failure and it helps to decide if the scratch was caused before. then the scratch occurred before or during operation. it is more likely to have occurred prior to operation. the wear pattern. N N N Checks Mishandling during manufacture.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include the following: Causes/Checks/Remedies Symptom A12: Scratches and chips Scratches in the radial direction usually give a leak regardless of depth or width. assembly. 7-21 . during. If the same scratch extends outside the mating area. or after operation. In other directions. If the wear pattern is altered by the scratch. but do not alter. If it does not extend outside the mating area. Chips are usually at seal face edges and severe chipping is similar to that caused by excessive hydraulic distortion. (These conditions also cause excessive wear of the drive mechanism. storage. Dirt trapped between seal faces. Out of square seal faces.

Improved seal lubricating properties can be achieved by a temperature change. Excessive adhesive wear leaves typical nonmetallic seal faces heavily worn with a relatively smooth appearance and a minimum of grooving. Inadequate lubrication. N N Remedial Actions N Changing seal face materials. the seal might hold or might leak severely. and even face seizure. N Degraded seal face conditions.7). When stationary. grooving. Severe adhesive wear of metallic faces can lead to scuffing. A1).EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause N Symptom A combination of mild adhesive/abrasive wear is the normal way seals wear out over a long service life (see proper contact pattern. N N N Causes/Checks/Remedies A13: Adhesive wear Excessive seal contact pressure for the face materials. Seal leaks when shaft is rotating. 7-22 . Changing seal balance. Check & value of seal face materials (this method has its limitations: see Section 3. Checks Check for excessive local temperatures caused by inadequate cooling for the face surface speed.

A23. and A28 below).EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include: N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A14: Abrasive wear Excessive abrasive wear leaves seal faces severely grooved and even scuffed (both metals and non-metals). Install harder wear-resisting face material. for example. Virtually no wear takes place away from the face contact. the seal is causing inward pumping of the abrasive process fluid across the seal faces. In spite of clean fluid flushing or use of barrier fluid in dual seal arrangement. Mild abrasive wear from very fine particles gives a wear pattern similar to adhesive wear. A22. Harder faces show regular grooving. Introduce a clean flow to the seal by using filters or cyclone separator. silicon carbide. A21. A24. N Pumped product or flush fluid contains abrasive matter of a sizeable amount to enter between the faces and cause wear. The solids might also result from chemical effects (see A20. The inward pumping phenomenon is caused by large angular misalignments and eccentricities between the seal faces. tungsten carbide. N N N N N Remedial Actions Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. A27. while carbon faces tend to wear less evenly with heavy scoring both across the face and in the direction of rotation. The key clue to abrasive wear is the deposit of solids on the seal faces or adjacent to them. A26. Use double seals. 7-23 . Introduce a clean flow to the seal from a separate source. A25. Eliminate excessive misalignment and eccentricities.

Increase seal circulation flow. for example. 0QVG that the scoring damage can be confused with abrasive wear (see A14). for example. 4GOGFKCN #EVKQPU If a circulation line does not exist. 7-24 . Checks N N N N N N N Symptom High wear. of the seat with polished circumferential scoring. wear throughout 360°. Causes/Checks/Remedies A15: Grooving and severe wear Check for blockage/restriction of circulation line.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Dry running because of insufficient or no liquid between the seal faces. have rounded edges. Possible wear at any drive mechanism or notches. Metal parts might "blue" with heat of dry running. discoloration. Review operating procedures (see also Section 8. with ITCOQRJQPG UEQTKPI. and over-heating symptoms.2). Check pump suction flows and filters. tungsten carbide. Even short periods of dry running can form a deep wear groove. though even. Harder sealing rings. even cracking. Other overheating symptoms might be apparent. Soft carbon seal rings possibly have edge chipping. hardening and cracking of O-rings. Check for adequate priming and seal chamber venting. review the need to install one. This is often a start-up problem and the seal drips steadily when the shaft is stationary or rotating. The sealing ring displays severe.

the circulation flow containing abrasive materials. Methods to reduce abrasive damage as for abrasive wear. this forms a groove partway across the carbon face adjacent to the circulation inlet on the seal plate. harder face materials such as alumnina can also be eroded in a similar manner. this results in a sculptured appearance with islands of original mating surface still showing. Injecting the circulation at several points. 7-25 . Shrouding the seal faces.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics If the carbon ring is on a rotating component. or a combination of these. In severe cases. Seal leaks when the shaft is stationary or rotating. Remedial Actions N N N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A16: Erosion of carbon ring Adding a flow controller in circulation line. Cause Caused by excessive flow velocity at the seal circulation inlet. If the carbon is the stationary component.

This appears as radial surface cracks. dye penetrant can help to show up the surface cracks. Increase cooling to faces: Causes/Checks/Remedies A17: Thermal distress over 360° vaporization Use a narrow face carbon (of the order of 2. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. If necessary.5 mm). on multiple stage pumps the seal chamber pressure might be taken off another stage to prevent flashing. N Use seal design with enhanced face lubrication features. The seal design will require review to ensure it is then not over-pressurized. In the latter case. at the nose of the wedge) might be apparent. Carbon dust deposits on the atmospheric side of the seal and wear/fretting of the shaft/sleeve at the secondary seal (if dynamic) are also symptoms. hydropads. laser textured faces.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Insufficient film thickness. for example. for example. sometimes accompanied with circular scoring or discoloration from overheating. The latter usually with sound from flashing or face popping. N Review seal design and seal material selection. Checks/Remedial Actions N N Symptom High wear or thermally-distressed surface (heat checking) through 360°. carbon pick-up on the secondary seal and wear of the secondary seal (for example. 7-26 . use a seal design not requiring so much product temperature margin (T). Other seal damage can also result. cooling notches. fatigue of metal bellows or wear of shaft/sleeve at secondary seals (called YGFIG GVEJKPI for PTFE wedge designs). for example. N Check circulation lines for blockage Increased circulation flow assists in marginal situation The carbon sealing ring shows high wear and possibly light pitting leading to EQOGV trailing. Possible edge chipping of the sealing ring because of opening and closing of the seal faces and also possible wear of any drive notches. Review options to alter seal chamber pressure.

Seal drips steadily when shaft is rotating or stationary – possible sound from flashing or face popping. Also possible wear at any drive mechanism notches. Remedial Actions N N N A19: Thermal distress in patches Two. Add a circumferential flush groove in the gland plate.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Sealed liquid vaporizing 180° from the seal flush. Check that seal chamber neck bush clearance is correct. Leakage might be in the form of vapor and with sound from flashing or face popping. These patches are sometimes called VJGTOCN CURGTKVKGU Cause Sealed liquid vaporizing between the seal faces. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or stationary. Review possibility of seal interface cooling with the seal manufacturer. three. four. Remedial Actions Increase cooling of seal faces. Failure from hot spots is more likely to occur on light specific-gravity liquids at high speeds and pressures. See Thermal Distress Over 360° (A17). Add a tangential inlet matched to the shaft rotation to aid distribution. Checks N N N N N High sealing ring wear with possible carbon deposits on the atmospheric side of the seal. Also possible wear at any drive mechanism notches. Check for adequate cooling of seal faces. Check for seat distortion. N Causes/Checks/Remedies A18: Thermal distress over 120 to 180° Check for adequate clearances around the seal face to give sufficient face lubrication and cooling. High sealing ring wear with possible carbon deposits on the atmospheric side of the seal. or six hot spots of thermally-distressed or heat-checked surface. 7-27 . See Thermal Distress Over 360° (A17). Checks N Symptom Thermally-distressed (heat-checked) area approximately one-third of the contact pattern. five. Distressed area 180° from inlet of seal flush with good contact pattern at flush inlet.

Coke particles collect on the inside of the sliding member. This quench must be operational before start-up. The leakage can in odd cases reduce after a short period of running as these waxes soften. heat from the product and seal friction can keep the coke and associated waxes and gums reasonably soft and the seal will operate satisfactorily. no sliding action. a high-temperature lip seal at the back of the seal plate improves quenching efficiency. even to the extent where it can be difficult to remove. N 7-28 . Leakage typically occurs on start-up after a period of shut-down or on standby when solidification of waxes/gums associated with the coke particles takes place. It also reduces the likelihood of steam entering the bearing housing. It is indicated by failure of the seal to follow up. In many cases of continuous operation. that is. An adequately sized drain will both prevent excessive steam pressure and assist particle removal.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Minute quantities of leakage carbonizing on the atmospheric side of the seal causing the sliding member to jam and hence not follow up any face wear. This can be found after removal of the seal plate during the stripdown for inspection. Remedial Actions N Symptom This usually occurs with hydrocarbon products at high temperatures. Causes/Checks/Remedies A20: Coking The usual approach with hydrocarbons is to fit a permanent low-pressure steam quench on the atmospheric side of the seal to prevent the build-up and solidification of coke and wax particles. If not already fitted.

pitting. In severe cases of this type.025 mm (0. 7-29 . Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. Overall corrosion occurs when it is attacked by highly oxidizing acids or highly concentrated caustic fluids. results in a maximum seal life of only a few months. for example.) per year is normally quite unacceptable for seals. or disintegration. A hardness reduction of 20 Shore scleroscope points is typical for carbon-graphite materials that have been chemically attacked. N Symptom Area of carbon ring in contact with the product is corrosively attacked. resulting in two failure mechanisms. there are two carbon-graphite corrosion modes: overall corrosion and selective leaching. even though this is satisfactory for most industrial hardware. a hardness reduction of 5 Shore scleroscope points is typical for carbon-graphite materials. better to use seal manufacturer data than any non-numerical industrial corrosion data when assessing such a problem. Remedial Actions A change of material – both failure mechanisms require checking the material selection for product compatibility and the original product conditions against the seal selection. therefore. Overall corrosion. resulting in overall material removal. present a conflict between corrosion and wear resistance of the face materials. oleum.001 in. softening. N Causes/Checks/Remedies A21: Carbon chemical attack Selective leaching of impregnant. A corrosion rate of 0. Many highly corrosive products. porosity. It is usually. even with the latest materials. With this mechanism. seal faces are reduced to sludge. which.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Incompatibility of the carbon with the product. Selective leaching of the impregnant (added to the otherwise porous carbon to make it impervious) results in either increased wear rate or seal face porosity. Pressure testing for porosity can also be used to confirm such a problem. Essentially.

Acidic fluids might leach nickel or cobalt binders incorporated in cemented tungsten carbide. giving the failure characteristics described. again giving the failure characteristics described. Seal face flatness is degraded to the point of seal failure by the resulting voids in the ceramic surface and/or the abrasive damage. intergranular corrosion. by hydrofluoric acid). This is commonly the result of leaching of binders or fillers in alumina. leach out this binder. silicon-free silicon carbide (sometimes called UKPVGTGF CNRJC). or containing hydrofluoric acid. Causes/Checks/Remedies Symptom A22: Corrosion of metal faces A23: Corrosion of hard faces Cause In typical commercial alumina (75 or 85%). or atmosphere. and silicon carbide. Cause Many corrosion failure mechanisms such as overall corrosion. Sealed fluids with a pH greater than 10. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. occur in mechanical seals. Corrosion is accelerated because the face is subject to sliding contact wear. the alumina particles are bonded together by a predominantly silica glass binder.5% alumina.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Corrosive attack by the product. tungsten carbide. and alloybonded tungsten carbide that withstand such fluids more effectively are now available.. Remedial Actions This can be analyzed and solved in just the same way as with other mechanical devices. As leaching continues. etc. Certain corrosive fluids leach the binders/fillers from these ceramics and. 7-30 . Certain grades of silicon carbide contain free silicon that can be similarly attacked (for example. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. in effect. the ceramic particles eventually become dislodged from the base material and cause abrasive wear of one or both seal faces. convert the seal face into a grinding surface. Remedial Actions 99. stress corrosion cracking. Dissimilar materials can also set up an electrolytic corrosive action. sealant.

then lifting of the coating. hard water deposit). ice crystals) or from a barrier fluid (for example.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Causes Possibilities are: N Symptom Stainless steel seal faces are usually plated with a hard-facing of Stellite. where a nitrogen quench to keep moisture from the seal is one possible approach. ceramic. and solvent. Remedial Actions As with coking. C6). Sometimes the crystals embed in the softer face and rapidly abrade the harder face. except that it occurs on various products and conditions. lip seal improves quench efficiency. Cause A build-up of crystals from the pumped product giving both high Abrasive Wear Rates (A14) or failure to follow up (Coking. Final failure might well be accelerated by abrasive wear of one or both seal faces by hard particles as they become dislodged from the coating. Note that as well as from the product. for example. tungsten carbide. The crystals can come from the atmosphere. A25: Crystallization Similar symptoms as for Coking (A20). and Seal Hangup. or a variety of other materials. crystals can come from the atmosphere (for example. Leakage rates vary widely. Again. N Causes/Checks/Remedies A24: Flaking and peeling (of hard coatings) Chemical attack at the bond between the base metal and the coating. A defective coating The failure often starts with slight blistering. the best remedy is a permanent quench to dissolve or disperse the crystals. Examples of quench fluids are hot water. Remedial Actions Changing to a solid face material is the usual solution adopted. The chemical attack might be aggravated by both heat generation at the seal face and the porosity inherent in some coating techniques. 7-31 . A20. Checks Seal leakage can escalate quickly and continues when the shaft is stopped. steam. ice on LPG pump duties. according to the product.

lowpressure steam quench). Preheat seal area (for example. When shut down. it seldom stops when the pump is stopped again. Once leakage occurs after start-up. Checks N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A26: Sludging Associated with the sealing of high viscosity liquids. • Preheat seal faces (for example. 7-32 . but it also occurs when the interface film partially carbonizes from overheating. Such heating to be used for 15 – 30 minutes prior to start-up. Cause The shear stresses between the seal faces exceed the rupture strength of the carbon and particles are pulled from the carbon face. Remedial Actions To overcome start-up problems: • • Preheat circulation lines (for example.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics A polished wear track or slight scoring on the hard face. This is usually because of a viscosity increase when shut down. by steam tracking). the viscosity of the pumped liquid and the interface film increases as the temperature drops and problems might arise on restarting the pump. Small cavity holes on the carbon face (from which particles have been pulled). Check that pump heat is adequate to give product circulation around the seal area under pumping conditions. Possible distortion of the drive spring or excessive wear/damage on other drive mechanisms. N Ensure viscosity range of products is within seal capabilities. particularly acute on pumps sealing hydrocarbon liquids at temperatures above ambient. N Supply continuous heat through a heated seal plate. low pressure steam to seal chamber jacket/tracing).

motor-driven pumps operating at high pressure. particles are pulled from the carbon face and leakage occurs. Cause The main cause is when a pump is tested on a different liquid to that on which it will operate and a chemical reaction occurs between the test fluid film and the actual product film. On starting. useful approaches include the following: N N Keeping product viscosity low by heating. Cause Initially. This rapid expansion causes high stress which. particularly with high viscosity products in high speed. Careful choice of seal materials.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Similar phenomenon to Sludging (A26). N Review of start-up procedures. it seldom stops when the pump is stopped again. manifests itself as a crater where the bruise has detached itself from the surface and passed through the seal faces. Ones with higher thermal conductivity produce less blistering against carbon counterfaces. Remedial Actions N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies A27: Bonding The appearance of the seal and other symptoms are similar to that from sludging problems. Remedial Actions Difficult problem to solve. This heating can cause rapid expansion of liquid that has been absorbed into the seal face surface. in extreme cases. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or stationary. at a later stage. a bond is formed between the two seal faces after the pump has been stationary for a long period. Once leakage occurs after start-up. In this situation. this failure appears as a shiny bruised effect in the surface and. Selection of suitable test fluid. Normally associated with start-stop applications. exceeds the rupture strength of material. Certain grades of carbon-graphite are more resistant. Operation on an intermediate flushing fluid for a short period between testing and production use. Similar phenomenon to Sludging (A26) and Bonding (A27). A28: Blistering High local heating occurs in a few seconds on start-up. 7-33 .

wedges. Failure to remove burrs. 7-34 . a lip is first formed on the O-ring. whereas a lip is usually formed on Viton or PTFE. it is then cut and. the only usual rectification of the secondary seal damage is renewal. a change of seal design. Cause Possibilities include: N B1: Mishandling. rubber. Thermoplastic materials. Remedial Actions Having found the cause. Typically. The most common form is O-ring extrusion and this occurs when part of the O-ring is forced through close clearance gaps. Remedial Actions As well as checking the above. N N N Inadequate installation practice. and so on. Presence of dirt. possess less elastic self-healing properties than elastomeric secondary seals. etc. peeled off like an outer cover. Seal drips steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Symptom Characteristics Causes/Checks/Remedies Common Seal Failure Modes – Secondary Seals Cuts. Excessive pressure (possibly aggravated by overheating and chemical incompatibility). Seal leakage might reduce when shaft is stopped. keyways. other changes can be made. scratches. such as fitting a back-up ring. in some cases. incorrect curing. and metal. PTFE. nicks. can easily be damaged and the location might not be easy to spot. PTFE. inadequate weld quality. All forms of bellows. for example.. Cause Possibilities include: N N N B2: Extrusion This can occur with O-rings. wedges. or tears in O-rings. N Bellows damage can also be caused by manufacturing defects–inclusions. Incorrect shaft and/or O-ring groove sizing giving excessive clearance between components. PTFE and Viton. Physical damage Plastic seals. and so on. Flaying or shredding is most common on synthetic rubber rings. bellows. holes. and other secondary seals. are more susceptible to extrusion at elevated temperatures. bellows. a change of material. for example. and other secondary seals. Use of excessive force when fitting and assembling components. sharp edges of steps. and previous set screw indentations prior to seal installation.

the bond strength is greater than the design torque capacity of the seal. or (2) exceeding the structural torque capacity of the device.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include: N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies B3: Excessive torque Bonding of a high viscosity film between the seal faces (A27). and Thermal Distress (A17. On start-up. Some secondary seals provide a drive function. An example of (2) is bellows torsional failure. 7-35 . This can be compared with bellows overpressurization. for example. A18. Adhesive Wear (A13). modified seals with an anti-rotation device appropriate to the problem are available. Remedial Actions If the cause cannot be rectified using methods referred to under Sludging (A26). A19). exceeding the torque capacity will cause problems. which can also rupture the bellows. The photograph shows a metal bellows failure (rubber bellows tear in a similar manner). Bonding (A27). An example of (1) is rotation of a seat dependent on friction of its O-ring to avoid rotation (no anti-rotation pin). Typically this will either involve (1) rotational movement resulting in wear or ultimate failure of seal from frictional heat developed during sliding contact. Grooving and Severe Wear (A15). N High seal face friction. from lack of lubrication. This can give very large seal leaks.

It is important to identify the source of thermal damage as it might lead to the root cause of the failure. excessive loading of the seal face material could have caused the frictional heat. B6 below). Seal drips steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. Heat soak from the seal environment including the shaft and housing. Comparative analysis of secondary seals from all locations will reveal whether the thermal condition was local to one secondary seal or an overall excessive temperature. Checks N N N N Check circulation to seal area. Relative rotational movement between the secondary seal and the shaft or housing. sludging. Check for dry running. Most commonly a problem with nitrile rubber.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Two possibilities: overheating or chemical attack (see also Elastomer Chemical Attack. Other possible thermal damage sources are: N N Symptom Rubber O-ring hardened and cracked. thermal degradation is more frequently found on surfaces exposed to the atmosphere. low pump suction flow. The portion of the ring nearest the faces is usually the worst. Check product conditions are as originally specified and that O-ring material is suitable. excessive frictional heat from the face is the likely cause. Hard or cracked elastomer It is important to distinguish between chemical attack and thermal damage to decide on the remedy. and changing the O-ring material would not avoid premature future failure of the seal faces. 7-36 . Chemical attack is more likely on secondary seal surfaces exposed to the fluid. PTFE Oring discolored blue/black. and so on. If most or all damage is on secondary seal surfaces that contact a seal face member. Ensure any cooling is fully operational. For example. Causes/Checks/Remedies B4.

It might also appear to have lost its original composition and to be breaking up. O-ring/chemical incompatibility charts are available from seal manufacturers. Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating. Often product-side is badly attacked while nonproduct side has a relatively good appearance. However. Leakage might occur from the O-ring being eaten away.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Excessive temperature for the O-ring material. either swell or shrinkage. Seal face distortion and misalignment caused by swell. Loss of secondary seal interference caused by shrinkage. 7-37 . which causes a seal failure through one or more of the following: N Extrusion caused by swell. Although this will occur over a period of time. Shrinkage of seals giving loss of secondary seal drive. If there is a doubt about a volume change. An optical comparator is one useful instrument for such Oring examination. Sometimes caused by incompatibility with fluids. This gives excessive volume change. Compression set does not involve a significant volume change. Specially colored O-rings to assist in identification help to ensure that the correct material is used. some coloring additives might have a lower corrosion resistance than the base elastomer. N N N It is necessary to check the original product conditions against the seal selection and ensure that the O-ring fitted is made of the correct material. secondary seal dimensions should be measured in both free and assembled conditions and compared with those specified on assembly drawing. early changes in section as shown will result in premature failure. Leakage rates vary widely. Causes/Checks/Remedies Symptom B5: Compression set of elastomer B6: Checks Elastomer chemical attack Cause Chemical attack of elastomer by the product.

004 in.). Remedial Actions N It is common to hardface the sleeve in the secondary seal area to minimize the damage from fretting corrosion.003 in. a metal bellows seal. Excessive shaft deflection – over 0.08 mm (0. and correct materials selection. for example. Fretting corrosion is most common at the dynamic secondary seal under a pusher type seal (for which the above values refer). for example.). The degree of damage is accelerated in the presence of even a slightly aggressive product (for example. can trap a small amount of fluid adjacent to the shaft. that is. where debris embeds in the secondary seal and wears the shaft or sleeve. If crevice corrosion is suspected. Checks Common contributors to fretting corrosion include N N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies B7: Corrosion at secondary seal interfaces Excessive shaft end play – over 0. Excessive out-of-squareness of seal face to shaft axis – over 0. Crevice (or oxygen concentration cell) corrosion occurs because secondary seals. to avoid the fretting contact. In a pusher type seal. 7-38 . N N Use a non-pusher seal. A good indication of this failure mode is a polished or gas-scrubbed area adjacent to the corroded section that is generated by hydrogen emanating from the crevice.003 in) Total Indicated Runout (TIR). The fretting corrosion debris is abrasive and the later stages of attack are assisted by a 3-body abrasive wear mechanism.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Fretting corrosion is primarily governed by mechanical factors such as equipment condition.1 mm (0. fretting corrosion and crevice corrosion. This gives a subtle leakage path resulting from two different mechanisms. water) and is particularly aggravated by the presence of chlorides. Fretting corrosion is caused by small relative movements between a secondary seal and its mating surface. then any action to avoid the crevice or provide a corrosion-resistant surface treatment will correct this effect. the secondary seal is pushed along the shaft or sleeve to compensate for wear.08 mm (0-. seal assembly procedures. elastomeric bellows. from beneath the bellows.

EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Symptom

Characteristics

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Common Seal Failure Modes – Seal Hardware
Cause Not observing good fitting practice:
N N

C1: Insufficient cleanliness. Excessive force.

Physical damage

A wide variety of symptoms from chips, minor distortion, nicks in metal bellows, to the example in the picture. In that specific case, care was taken not to damage the faces by placing the seal on its edge. Unfortunately, it was not wedged, and it rolled away and was run over by a forklift truck.
N

Use of incorrect tools, and so on.

After being careful with the seal faces and secondary seals, the hardware is sometimes damaged by accident.

7-39

EPRI Licensed Material

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include:
N

Symptom

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C2: Bearing failure. Pump/motor shaft misalignment.

Hardware rubbing

Certain conditions might cause abnormal wear where little should occur, for example, the outer skin of the rotary unit, the shaft (for example, against the stationary seat), the neck bush, and the throttle bush in the back of the seal plate.
N N N N N N N N

In severe cases, the part might be heated to such an extent that it reaches its melting point.

Seal chamber too small for rotary unit. Unspigotted stationary unit slips and touches shaft. Non-piloted seal plate touches shaft. Set screws in the rotary unit come loose and contact the seal chamber wall. Pieces of the face break off and jam between the rotary unit and the seal chamber wall. Flush connection lines extend too far into the seal chamber and touch the seal. Single-spring seals might rub the seal chamber wall if broken or over-compressed, or are subjected to high speed.

N N

Multiple springs break up and jam between the rotary unit and the seal chamber wall. Product or other seal deposits (see C10 below) might scale up on the seal or on the seal chamber wall.
N

Thermal expansion causing the metal body or other part to expand and, hence, contact the seal chamber wall.
N

Equipment vibration.

7-40

EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause This can be caused by Hardware rubbing (C2). It also can result from the incoming flush containing abrasives and eroding the seal body, especially if the flush pressure differential is too high. Also caused by wear debris circulating in the seat chamber. Remedial Action Solutions can involve:
N N N N N N

Symptom Circular marks on the outside diameter of the rotating seal body – often in line with a circulation inlet. On stationary seal hardware, grooving damage occurs again, often in line with a circulation inlet.

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C3:

Erosion or abrasive wear

Changing the circulation inlet position. Making it tangential. Checking this inlet for protrusion into the seal chamber. Flushing with a cleaner fluid. Selecting a smaller outside diameter seal. Boring out the seal chamber.

7-41

Excessive shaft run-out. Wear of drive lugs. is vital as this is often caused by vaporization). Poor seal face lubrication. Excessive shaft deflection. Typical examples include: N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies C4: Drive failure Wear/fracture of drive pins. N N N N N N N N N N N N N 7-42 . set screws cutting into the body. Seal face out of square with shaft axis. Equipment vibration. Stick-slip face friction giving seal face vibration. for example. Fatigue failure of metal bellows (an adequate product temperature margin. T. (4) Failure of drive screws/collars.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Possibilities include: Jammed seal assembly. Failure of axial holding device. Excessive shaft end play. Excessive seal fluid pressure. This can occur with both the torsional drive devices of rotating components and the antirotation devices of stationary components.

a build-up of solids around the springs can make some springs ineffective and. multiple coil springs. making them ineffective. reverse rotation or incorrect spring fitting causes the spring to tend to uncoil. With such seals. Remedial Actions On multi-spring seals. Typical failure characteristics are radial cracking of the spring section. All mechanical seals require movement to keep the faces together during changing pump and seal conditions and to compensate for wear. crack. or a wave spring washer. Spring action is obtained by a single coil spring. straight fracture. cause overload and failure of the others. the drive is unidirectional and the spring should always grip its mating parts. or even break. corrosion. Checks On many single-spring seals. a metal bellows assembly. See also Excessive Torque (B3). wear marks in ends of spring coils and on the sleeve and rotary necks. and build-up of solid contaminants around spring(s). especially on the inside diameter. diversion of part of the product circulation through the spring pockets can reduce future build-up of solids.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause These spring devices fail in a variety of ways. On multi-spring seals. hence. stress-corrosion and fatigue. re: bellows assembly failure. distort. The above and other spring problems are most common on high viscosity duties prone to Sludging (A26) or Bonding (A27). Causes/Checks/Remedies Symptom C5: Spring distortion and breakage 7-43 . slip. for example.

N C6: Seal hang-up The sliding assembly movement is typically prevented by a build-up of deposited dissolved solids. or decomposition products. oxidation. metal bellows type. 7-44 . for example: • Water to prevent deposition of aqueous dissolved solids. mechanical sleeve damage that has occurred will require rectification (including hard facing in the secondary seal area). • Oil or similar to prevent the formation of corrosion products. This possibility is present whenever a pusher type seal (where the secondary seal is pushed along the shaft or sleeve to compensate for wear) is used. corrosion. • Nitrogen to prevent the formation of oxidation products. N In many cases. • A suitable coolant quench to prevent thermal decomposition products from forming. Use of a seal design in which the secondary seals advance onto clean surfaces can also help. See Coking (A20) and Crystallization (A25). for example. thus leaving a gap between the sealing ring and the seat.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Remedial Actions N N Symptom This occurs when the sliding assembly is prevented from following up (by moving axially). Provision of a suitable quench. Causes/Checks/Remedies Use of a non-pusher type seal.

resulting in fretting and marking into which foreign matter can lodge. unless the seal is leaking badly. Coking (A20). N N N Failed bearings can result in either increased vibration or misalignment. This bending might be from an outof-balance shaft/rotor assembly. Incorrect sleeve manufacture or seal assembly. especially if abrasives are present in the product. N N From fretting corrosion or crevice corrosion between the sleeve and the secondary seal. the atmospheric side is often in good condition. The marking on a sleeve (or shaft if no sleeve is fitted) often gives a useful indication of the cause of seal failure. this usually suggests an eccentric or gyrating shaft. N A bent shaft often gives rise to two marks diametrically opposite: one on the front landing and one on the opposite rear landing. See Corrosion of Seal Hardware (C9). From mechanical reasons – causes in this section give details. usually found on the product side of the sleeve. When in operation. N Severe vibration can cause the O-ring landings to contact. thus causing Seal Hang-Up (C6). Overall corrosion. If landing wear is severe. N N If above contact occupies all the sleeve circumference. it is probably caused by a misaligned seal that forces the sealing ring to oscillate relative to the shaft sleeve once per revolution. Mechanical causes typically give leakage only when running and often leakage disappears when the machine is static. It is often an indication that external forces are imposing misalignment between the seal faces and causing leakage. an increase in shaft eccentricity will increase hydrodynamic action. This is often accompanied by wear on the inside diameter of the secondary seal on the sealing ring. O-ring extrusion can result. This marking can be divided into three types: N Causes/Checks/Remedies C7: Sleeve marking and damage Contact between O-ring landings on the inside of a rotary seal ring is often caused by an eccentric or misaligned shaft. Lack of hard facing gives excessive wear in secondary seal area of shaft.EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Typical causes of sleeve marking: N Symptom This might well relate to Seal Hang-Up (C6). 7-45 . If above contact occupies part of the sleeve circumference. See Corrosion at Secondary Seal Interfaces (B7). or Crystallization (A25). resulting in thicker fluid film and increased leakage.

This heating causes tempering and. there are usually other components. that is. Remedial Actions N N Corrosion damage is often not present on the atmospheric side of the seal (unless it is leaking badly).EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause An easily distinguishable sign of seal trouble. Typical colors and temperatures that create these colors on stainless steel: Straw Yellow Checks Brown Blue Black Corrosive attack results in overall and local loss of metal. Checks Check material selection against the product and its conditions. Comparative analysis of parts from all locations will reveal whether the thermal condition was local to one component or an overall excessive temperature. loss of required mechanical properties. these mechanisms are as conventionally experienced in other engineering components. Ground the pump effectively to earth if pitting from electrolysis is suspected. seal faces or secondary seals that are also damaged and assist diagnosis of the likely cause of excessive heat. hence. hydrogen embrittlement. Seals can continue to function adequately until quite advanced stages of corrosion. When steel is heated. This color change might be present generally or related to specific components. vaporization. N N N Symptom Causes/Checks/Remedies C8: Overheated metal components 700-800°F (370-430°C) 900-1000°F (480-540°C) 1100°F (590°C) 1200°F (650°C) Cause Unless caused by Hardware Rubbing (C2). excessive heat soak. stress-corrosion. A change of material. C9: Corrosion of seal hardware This occurs through the various usual mechanisms: overall corrosion. electrolytic attack. Review use of any dissimilar metals (electrolytic action). Damage characteristics are usually indicative of the corrosion mechanism. Typical reasons are dry running. crevice corrosion and fretting corrosion. 7-46 . Check for correct processing in manufacture with seal supplier. a color change takes place. and so on.

Deposits from the product. might well occur first. etc. Remedial Actions In severe cases. a separate clean purge might be required. for example. Seal Hang-Up (C6). build up on the rotary body..EPRI Licensed Material Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure Characteristics Cause Inadequate seal chamber circulation to flush out the deposits and stop them from building up. Other concerns. This can cause the rotating unit to freeze in the seal chamber. corrosion. Causes/Checks/Remedies Symptom C10: Excessive deposits 7-47 .

.

becomes particularly important to provide the proper level of training necessary to identify the problem rather than to just maintain the seal. It. short courses. An effective preventative or periodic maintenance program. To prevent reactive maintenance of seals in critical applications. maintenance. Except for seals in safety-related and critical applications. The least cost effective maintenance program is one based on reactions to failure. operation. seals are maintained periodically. They should be trained in the proper diagnosis of seal failure and how to correctly address the root cause of a seal failure. preventative maintenance. troubleshooting. most maintenance is performed under the reactive category because of a lack of control of the various factors that lead to premature seal failure and the effort required to perform condition monitoring on such a large population of seals. and failure diagnosis of mechanical face seals.EPRI Licensed Material 8 MAINTENANCE 8. Reaction type programs result in unexpected plant shutdowns and reduced plant availability. selection. and predictive maintenance based on condition monitoring. In all cases. most plants implement some level of preventative or periodic maintenance programs based on experience and manufacturer recommendations.1 Introduction Seal maintenance programs at most power plants fall within one or more of the following categories: reactive maintenance. However. Key O&M Cost Point The most cost-effective maintenance program should be based on predicted seal performance and its expected life. Appendix C lists organizations that provide training classes. should be implemented to improve plant reliability and prevent unplanned shutdowns. plant engineers and maintenance personnel should not be limited to removal and installation. based on plant experience and manufacturer recommendations. and seminars on the design. Maintenance in most power plants is performed by maintenance personnel at the plant with assistance from the plant engineer and seal manufacturer on unique problems and specialized processes. to maximize their effectiveness. In safety-related installations. The least cost-effective maintenance program is one based on reactions to failure. The most cost effective maintenance program should be based on predicted seal performance and its expected life. regardless of the condition of the seal to prevent unexpected plant shutdowns. therefore. plant maintenance personnel are responsible for seal removal and installation. 8-1 .

The topics covered address: N N N N Seal handling and inspection Pre-installation equipment checks Seal installation Startup and operation Key Human Performance Point Personnel training is a very important aspect of a mechanical seal maintenance program that is striving to achieve improvements in plant reliability.1.2. 8. mechanical seals require the correct working environment. and well-written and detailed procedures. and failure diagnosis are regularly offered by seal manufacturers. 8-2 . These checks should supplement rather than supercede manufacturer recommendations. Comprehensive training courses covering mechanical seal design options.1 Seal Handling and Inspection This section covers pre-installation checks applicable to the mechanical seal itself and includes seal storage.2. troubleshooting. and operations practices. Checks to be performed on the equipment are discussed in Section 8. For reliable operation.2.2.1 Packaging Key Human Performance Point Proper storage and handling of seal components is important to seal longevity and performance. it is properly accounted for and implemented into working practice. maintenance. maintenance. as new information is acquired. installation. These checks should be tempered by plant personnel experience. mechanical face seals are relatively precise and complex assemblies that are subject to a variety of failure modes. operation. The following discussion outlines methods that can be utilized by plant engineers and maintenance personnel to improve the chances of obtaining longer life from the seals. which demands good engineering.2 Installation and Operation As discussed in Sections 4 and 5. universities. and research associates (see Appendix C).EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance 8. 8. Manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed at all times. Written procedures should be kept current so that.

contact the manufacturer for advice. then the replacement box should have proper labeling. Check metal bellows for damage that might cause leakage or improper alignment of the faces.1. Protect parts from damage wherever possible. Care should be taken that these components are not damaged.2.1.2.5 N N N N N Seal Rotating and Stationary Components Check for physical damage Ensure drive pins and/or spring pins are free to move in the pin holes or slots Check that set screws are free in the threads. seals should be repackaged in the same manner and returned to their original box.4 Physical Checks of Mechanical Seals Obtain specific drawings from the manufacturer.1. 8. make certain that the replacement seals are of the same type to ensure fluid and temperature compatibility. If the package is opened with a knife for inspection. The storage area should be clean.2.3 Handling Many mechanical seal faces are brittle and fragile and can easily break if dropped. 8-3 . Check secondary seals for nicks or cuts. When sufficient information is not available. Set screws should not be reused because damage to the drive end might have occurred in previous use. The metal components of a mechanical seal provide the proper restraints and alignment needed for operation. ethylene propylene rubber is attacked by mineral oil and silicone rubber is attacked by silicone oil. Care should be taken to note any safety/toxicity/industrial hygiene issues. 8. Avoid placing a seal face down on any surface.1. 8. For example. dry. If the box is unusable. to ensure that proper labeling and identification is maintained.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Seal assemblies and spare parts are typically wrapped and boxed. The drawings provide assembly details and key dimensions for fitting and installation.2. If not used. If the seals need to be replaced. unless it is protected by a clean cloth or similar material. 8. if practical. and adequately warm and ventilated. Technical recommendations and technical information provided with the mechanical seal should be transferred to maintenance procedures for future use. care should be taken to ensure that the faces and elastomeric seals are not cut or scored. Some parts are prone to attack by common liquids. storage of the seal assemblies and spare parts should be in accordance with the seal manufacturer's recommendations.2 Storage To protect the seals from damage.

7 Gaskets Check thickness against the manufacturer's specifications. 8. Springs are available in right-hand and left-hand coil rotation. The following checks can be easily accomplished using good engineering practices and simple measuring instruments. Some springs can be used bi-directionally.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance 8. Detailed inspection of the seal faces for flatness is discussed in Section 8.6 Seal Faces Visually check for nicks or scratches.2. It is mounted between centers to check for runout between the bearing and the shaft or shaft sleeve at the location where the mechanical face seal is installed.2.002 inches (0. Key Human Performance Point Pre-installation checks are an important element in reliable seal performance.800 rpm 8-4 .1 Shaft Straightness (Figure 8-1) Shaft straightness is checked with the shaft removed from the equipment.2. 8.2.2 Pre-Installation Equipment Checks Proper equipment function is critical to seal performance and it is recognized that seal life is adversely affected by equipment misalignment and vibration.004 inches (0.1.1. 8.800 rpm 0.1. Incorrect gasket thickness can lead to incorrect seal length settings and improper face loading.2.8 Spring Check rotation of spring coil when a single coil is used. Seal Dimensional Checks. Personnel should perform the steps outlined herein to prevent unsatisfactory seal performance.1 mm) for speeds @ 1.1.3.2. The seal manufacturer should be contacted for limits applicable to their products. Limits of acceptability on runout provided in this section are general in nature. Face imperfections of any kind can lead to leakage and premature failure of the seal. The spring coil rotation should be such that shaft rotation tends to tighten the coil.2. Typical runout limits: 0. 8.05 mm) for speeds > 1.

O-rings. and metal bellows seals: 0.04 mm) for speeds > 1.003 inches (0.2.007 inches (0. Runout is checked at the location where the mechanical face seal is located on the shaft or shaft sleeve.18 mm) for speeds @ 1.800 rpm 8-5 . Figure 8-2 Shaft Runout Measurement 8.2.0015 inches (0.800 rpm Typical runout limits for elastomer and PTFE bellows seals: 0. Typical runout limits for wedges.09 mm) for speeds > 1.800 rpm 0. and is accomplished by slowly rotating the shaft against a stationary dial indicator.0035 inches (0. The measurement is made by mounting a dial indicator on the shaft and then slowly rotating the shaft and dial indicator to measure the runout of the face that controls the angular placement of mating ring.800 rpm 0.2 Shaft Runout (Figure 8-2) Shaft runout is checked with the shaft installed in the equipment.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Figure 8-1 Shaft Straightness Check 8.3 Squareness of Stuffing Box (Figure 8-3) Squareness of the stuffing box is checked to ensure that angular misalignment does not occur upon installation. Angular misalignment is checked with the equipment completely assembled except for the seals.2.2.08 mm) for speeds @ 1.

08 mm) for rolling element bearings.1 and 8.3 when the shaft is turning at normal operating conditions. Axial movement is checked by pulling and pushing the shaft along its axis.2. The acceptable amount of out-of-balance is dependent upon the specific application but.003 inches (0. in general. Axial movement of the shaft should be limited to 0.2. 8-6 . If this limit is exceeded. then the face seal load generated by the springs should be checked to ensure that it remains within the manufacturer's recommendation for normal operating conditions. Radial movement is checked by loading the shaft laterally with a light force so that the shaft does not bend.2. For plain bearings. Excessive out-of-balance can cause premature seal failure. Abnormal operating conditions and stop/start conditions that cause excessive axial movement can lead to reduced seal life. the deflection caused by out-of-balance should not exceed the limits defined in 8.003 inches (0.2.2.2.2.5 Shaft Bearing Clearances (Figure 8-5) Shaft-to-bearing clearance can allow both radial and axial movement of the shaft.08 mm). These tests are performed with the shaft installed in the equipment. the movement should not exceed the maximum bearing clearance specified by the manufacturer.4 Rotational Balance (Figure 8-4) Rotational balance of the shaft should be checked with the impeller installed as well as other components that normally rotate with the shaft.2.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Figure 8-3 Stuffing Box Squareness Measurement 8. Figure 8-4 Shaft and Impeller Rotational Balance Check 8. Radial movement should be limited to 0.

7 Sleeve Hardfacing (Figure 8-7) Sleeves are sometimes hardfaced to prolong their useful life in abrasive service. the screw grip might be impaired and allow relative movement between the seal and sleeve. If the set screw lands on the hardfaced surface.2.2. and should have a roughness of less than 25 micro-inches (600 2m) for static seals and less than 10 micro-inches (250 2m) for dynamic O-rings and wedge rings. For elastomeric/rubber bellows. 8-7 .2. Figure 8-6 Measurement of Critical Shaft and Sleeve Diameters 8. However.6 Shaft/Sleeve Diameter and Surface Finish (Figure 8-6) The shaft and shaft sleeve should be checked to ensure that the diameter at the seal locations (including secondary seals) is within the seal manufacturer's recommendations.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Figure 8-5 Radial and Axial Bearing Clearance Checks 8. hardfacing should be limited to secondary seal areas and should not extend to the location where the set screws lock the seal to the sleeve.2. the shaft/sleeve surface finish can have fine machined marks but the surface roughness should be limited to 50 micro-inches (1200 2m). The surface finish under the seal (especially at the secondary seal position) should be free of machine marks.

8.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Figure 8-7 Sleeve Hardfacing to Prolong Life 8.1 Seal Dimensional Checks The overall dimensions and critical interface dimensions should be checked against drawings to ensure that the mechanical seal is correct to the drawing.3. If the bellows yield. If possible. 8-8 . It is therefore important to obtain assembly drawings from the manufacturer. Figure 8-8 Lead-In Chamfers to Prevent Secondary Seal Damage During Installation 8. Some of these steps require some type of measurement. Sharp edges can cut or nick a soft sealing member and create a leak path. they will not generate the required load at the installed length. Caution should be taken when compressing metal bellows seals because over-compression might result in yielding of the bellows.2. Sharp edges can occur at shaft steps. chamfer the leading edge of the shoulder to allow the seal to slide over it. splines.3 Seal Installation Checks This section provides some basic step to follow during seal installation and the manufacturer should be contacted for detailed information and recommendations.8 Sharp Edges (Figure 8-8) Sharp edges are not acceptable where a seal must pass with an interference fit.2. and so on.2. Some check should be made to verify that the seal is able to compress to the correct length. holes.2. keyways.

It is also important to install the seal so that the set screws do not align with previous indentations that might guide the set screw away from the preferred installation position. 8.3.2.2. 8-9 .EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Seal faces should be inspected by an optical flat to ensure that they meet the flatness requirements specified by the seal manufacturer.3. It is important to correctly account for the gasket thickness when calculating the compression of the seal.3.3 Compression Length Tolerance Interrelated dimensions between the shaft and seal cavity should be checked to ensure proper compression loading of the seal faces. particularly between different manufacturers.4 Auxiliary Glands Auxiliary glands should be checked to ensure that fittings do not protrude into the seal cavity and come into contact or affect the performance of the seal.2. Do not use previous set screw indention in the shaft/sleeve as a reference point because there can be significant difference in the stacked height of seals. Check the seal cavity inside diameters and depths.2 Seal Cavity Dimensions (Figure 8-9) Seal cavity dimensions should be checked to ensure that proper clearance and alignment will be achieved and to prevent seal damage during installation. 8. Figure 8-9 Seal Cavity Dimensional Checks Prior to Installation 8. Visually check for damage of the cavity that might have occurred during previous operation or during disassembly. The glands should also be checked to verify that they are clear of obstructions that could prevent proper circulation of the barrier or flushing fluids. Appendix B describes the typical procedures used to check the seal face flatness and typical examples of out-of-flat conditions.

8-10 . To ensure safety of personnel during the removal and handling of the seal and the fluid in the seal cavity. If they are to provide good service. therefore. 8. 8. the best guide to determining the cause of failure of a seal is often the condition of the seal. inspection of the seals should be limited to visual external inspection only. Whenever possible.1 Safety Because of their tolerance to a variety of fluids.3 Seal Re-use and Inspection It is strongly recommended that mechanical face seals not be re-used unless they have been reconditioned to the manufacturer's specifications. 8. As a result.4 Seal Removal As discussed in the beginning of this section. Even checking for damage by separating the faces can upset their relationship.2.2. mechanical face seals are often used in toxic or hazardous processes.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance 8. The faces should not be separated unless it is absolutely necessary. they must be correctly commissioned and operated. important to properly mark. The primary aim of a proper startup is to ensure that the seal does not initially run dry.2. and carefully store the seal and other related components for later detailed examinations. training and written instructions should be provided to clearly identify the type of equipment needed and other safety devices to be utilized during disassembly.5 Startup Mechanical face seals are precision pieces of equipment. It is also recommended that some of the seal cavity fluid be retained because it might also be used to determine the cause of failure. seal removals are done at an accelerated pace in order to bring the plant or process back into service. handling.2.2.2 Failure Evidence As identified in Section 7.4. 8. Key Human Performance Point Equipment contents and conditions should be fully known before disassembly to preclude injury.4. It is. and storage. seal maintenance programs often occur as a reaction to a seal failure rather than as a planned activity. Under this type of condition. photograph. special emphasis should be made to ensure that safety and failure evidence are maintained.4. The mating faces of mechanical seals develop a wear pattern after an extended period of use and it is almost impossible to reestablish the same relationship after their alignment has been disturbed.

Fluids with low vapor pressures should be properly pressurized to ensure that the fluid at the faces does not vaporize when the faces heat up during normal running.2 Filtration Dirt and particulate can cause a seal to fail in a very short period of time.5. 8. it might be possible to flood the pump suction without purging the air trapped in the top portion of the seal cavity. but. Never start a mechanical face seal before venting the seal cavity of air and foreign fluids. Key Human Performance Point Proper venting of seal chamber prior to placing into service is critical to seal performance and longevity. in some installations.EPRI Licensed Material Maintenance Key O&M Cost Point Adherence to manufacturer’s recommendations during start-up and operation is vital to seal longevity and performance. If the fluids in the seal cavity are circulated externally. it might even be necessary to temporarily replace the mechanical face seal with conventional soft packing until the system has been thoroughly flushed of construction and installation debris. Ideally.2. verify that the equipment is functioning properly and delivering the required flow.2. Special attention should be paid to vertical installations where the mechanical face seal is in the uppermost portion of the pressure boundary.3 Venting the Stuffing Box The stuffing box should be properly vented to ensure that the seal chamber is completely filled. 8-11 . Ensure that the seal cavity is completely clean and that the recirculated fluid has been properly filtered. 8. the installation should allow the seal cavity to be vented automatically during pump priming.2.1 Avoid Dry Running If barrier or flushing fluids are used.5. 8. ensure that the seal cavity is properly filled and that there are no leaks.5. When installing mechanical seals in new piping systems.

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Conner and M. 3rd Edition. Brink. 3. “Why Do Seals Fail Unpredictably. Philadelphia. Washington.” Paper L4.. B. Inc. 11. 10. Wear Control Handbook. Johnson and Karl Schoenherr. Principles and Design of Mechanical Face Seals.” 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. “An Investigation of the Operation and Failure of Mechanical Face Seals. C. New York 1993. 9-1 . “Seals Flow Code Development – 93. H. Buchter. OH (November 3-4. J. A. Thew.” ASLE Transactions. Inc. F. API Standard 682: Shaft Sealing Systems for Centrifugal and Rotary Pumps. 8. “Leaking Seals: Causes and Cures. Innsbruck. Handbook of Fluid Sealing. 13. “Hydrodynamic Lubrication in Face Seals. Mechanical Seals.. “Trends in Mechanical Seal Performance at Three Process Plants in the Oil Industry.. 727-754. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. London (1994). von Bertele. Industrial Sealing Technology. Mechanical Engineering Publications. Robert L.” presented at the 4th International Conference on Fluid Sealing held in conjunction with the 1969 ASLE Annual Meeting. John Wiley & Sons. October 1994. 6. Seal Wear. O. Mechanical Seal Practice for Improved Performance.. D. Vol. John Wiley & Sons. 1993). J. Cranfield. G. 3rd International Conference on Fluid Sealing.” Paper No. Pape. Nau. New York 1991. 2. 1980.. E5. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. American Petroleum Institute. Lebeck. H. D. 5. 7. “Fundamental Research on a Radial Face Seal. 11. Inc. S. No. 9. PA (1969). New York 1979. Publication 9. Orcutt.” ASME Paper 79-DE-E-7. H. Cleveland. edited by Robert V. 4. 4. edited by Summers-Smith. Proceedings of a workshop held at the NASA Lewis Research Center. BHR Group. Alan O. pp. W. for The Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Ltd.EPRI Licensed Material 9 REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Bristol 1969. K. UK (1967). London 1988. F. Mayer. E. Fitch. Arrowsmith Ltd. Austria (April 3-5. 1st Edition. presented at the 10th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Bradford. 12. McGraw-Hill. Ahlberg and E. (October 1968).” NASA Conference Publication 10136. 1984). 1979. 14.C. BHRA. T.

1996). March 30-April 2. 1971. A. presented at the 5th International Conference on Fluid Sealing.EPRI Licensed Material References and Bibliography 15. ASLE Transactions 9. 26. “Mechanical Seal Maintenance. 17.” Paper A4. “Loss of Component Cooling Water Capability of a PWR Reactor Coolant Pump. (1966).” presented at NMAC 6th Annual Conference and Technical Workshop. “Dynamic Seal Maintenance–Stuffingbox Sealing Considerations. 22. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. March 30-April 2. 21. S-2031 (1979). Katz. J. 437-449. R.. 1971.” Paper No. London (1971). UK (September 11-13. 18. R. “Operating Performance of Mechanical Seals for Boiler Feed Pumps. Schopplein. Publication 9. W. University of Durham. Orlando. Eiletz. BHR Group. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. “Mechanical Seals for High Pressures and High Circumferential Speeds. Metcalfe.” pp. J. 1978). Warwick. and B.” 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Metals Handbook. 24. Nosowicz and A. BHRA Group. Florjancic. Steven Lemberger. (1975). Publication 26. Marr. “Long-Term Tests of Mechanical Seals for Hot Water Application. Mosowicz. Portland.” Paper E3. E. and B. FL (December 9-11. Adams and Peter Lytwyn. UK. London (1997). Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. E. 1980). presented at the 5th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Anon.” Paper A5. UK. William V. Orlando. FL (December 9-11. “Failures of Mechanical Face Seals. R. 80-C2/PVP-28. 1996). presented at the 8th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. 9-2 .” Crane Packing Company. OR (October 19-23. H-C. Coventry. “Identifying Causes of Seal Leakage. H. Hudelson. 8th Ed. H. Donald L. 16. 1978). 27. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. W. Abar. presented at the joint ASME/IEEE Power Generation Conference. San Francisco.” Paper A1. 86-JPGC-Pwr-52. 1986). L. 19. Berg. Phelps. N. London (1971). Vol. H-J.” 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. and J. London (1994).” presented at the NMAC 6th Annual Meeting and Workshop. “High Duty Mechanical Seals for Nuclear Power Stations. American Society of Metals. Rod. 20. “Retrofit of an Unspared Main Boiler Feed Pump to End Face Mechanical Seals. Laumer and D. CA (August 12-15. 25. presented at the Century 2 Pressure Vessels & Piping Conference. BHRA Group. Form No. “Diametral Tilt and Leakage of End Face Seals with Convergent Sealing Gaps. John C. Franke. Coventry. UK (September 11-13. “Mechanical Seals for Aqueous Media Subject to High Pressures. BHRA Group. 10. 23.” pp. Warwick. University of Durham. Mayer. 381-390.” Paper No. Pothier. presented at the 8th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Lachmayer. “Dynamic Instability of Undamped Bellows Face Seals in Cryogenic Liquid.

85-TC-1C-1.” presented at Fifth International Workshop on Main Coolant Pumps. 1984. R. BHR Group. “Increased Reliability of Reactor Coolant Pump Seals through Retrofit of Proven Technology. “Full-Scale Station Blackout Test Conducted on Advanced RCP Mechanical Seal. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited.” Nuclear Plant Journal. B. Myrtle Beach. Cranfield. Richter. presented at the STLE/ASME Tribology Conference. Orlando.” Nuclear Engineering Internationa. 1992).” 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. NY. “Canadians Solve Seal Problems. 39. 87-TC-3D-1. E.” Paper No.” Preprint No. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “New Developments in Bellow Seals for Improved Performance and Reliability. CA (July 1987). Inch. “O-Ring Static Seal Performance at Elevated Temperatures Simulating A Loss of Component Cooling Water Accident. Graham. BHR Group. “Seal Performance from the Manufacturers Viewpoint. 35. 38. Gopalakrishnan. Greene and G.” paper presented at the American Nuclear Society Topical Meeting. 30. “The Design and Testing of Moving-Wave Mechanical Face Seals Under Variable Operating Conditions in Water. Shaw.” Preprint No. 1983). S. T. 40. Parmar. C. A. 37. Young and A. Takuya Fujita. London (1994). S. presented at the ASLE/ASME Tribology Conference. Hojati. London (1994). 84PVP-115.” Preprint No. San Antonio. Publication 9.EPRI Licensed Material References and Bibliography 28. 1987). 86 (September-October 1988). “Development of Rotary Shaft Seals for Primary Coolant Pumps for Nuclear Reactors. L. T. Marsi and Dr. BHRA. Wilbur Shapiro. GA (October 8-10. J. CT (October 18-20.” Paper 87-PVP-5. Publication 9. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “Design Analysis of Rayleigh-Step Floating-Ring Seals. FL (April 21-24. TX (October 5-8. 36. Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide. Horst. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. Antonio Artiles. 29. 34. 46 (July 1989). TR-100855. presented at the ASLE/ASME Lubrication Conference. Cummings and Sherman W. p. 31. 1988). David L. Atlanta. Joseph A. T. Jones. 32. Bedford. “Evaluation of Shaft Seal Leakage under Station Blackout Conditions for the Reactor–Circulation pumps at Nine Mile Point. Kalsi. and M.” 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. et al. and W. M. “Eccentric Seals for Nuclear Pumps. Lebeck. and Henry F. Metcalf. Morton. O. UK (1989). Prepared by Quadrex Energy Services for Nuclear Maintenance Application Center: 1993. presented at the Pressure Vessel & Piping Conference. New York.” 12th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. 9-3 . SC (April 17-20. A. 33. A. P. L. G. Ray Metcalfe. Unit One. Evans. Hartford. 83-LC-38-2. San Diego. Wong. Thomas R. “Thermal Distortion Control in Mechanical Seals. H. 1985).

B. 45. N. BHR Group. Conroy. 46. Nau. 53. Publication 26. (April 1990). Evans. I. Wallace and H. England (September 24-26. “The Development of Low Friction. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. H. Publication 9. 42. Muller. W. Bonneau. “Increasing Mechanical Seals Life with LaserTextured Seal Faces. 44. L. “A Novel High-Pressure Rotary Shaft Seal Facilitates Innovations in Drilling and Production Equipment. 48. “Laserface Sealing Technology: Analysis and Application. B.” SPE/ IADC 37627. product catalog. C. BHR Group. Houston.” 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. “Designing Chambers for Mechanical Seals. held at University of Nottingham.” Chemical Engineering. Israel. I. T. D. Publication 26. “Tribology Aspect of the Laser Treatment for Mechanical Seals. Low Leakage Mechanical Seals Using Laser Technology. Antoszewski and J. James S. N.” Proceedings of BHRA 12th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Flitney. London (1997).” 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. David Nolan. Publication 26. Etsion. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. Prene. G. Greenberg. pp. M. S. K. 7th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Tournerie. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. TX (March 7-10. V. Paper H2 (May 1989). Kalsi. Surface Technologies Ltd. K. and J. Gobeli.” 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Barnes. BHR Group. A. Budrow. London (1997). and J. Halperin. 1975). “Polymer Seal Rings in Sliding Contact with Silicon Carbide in a Mechanical Seal. “Seals for Abrasive Slurries.. H. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited. “Development of a New High Pressure Rotary Seal for Abrasive Environments. and B. Kalsi. Huitric. Muller. “Optimization and Performance Prediction of Grooved Face Seals for Gases and Liquids. 52. Improving Tribological Performance of Mechanical Seals by Laser Surface Texturing. 51. K. J. 49.” 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing. Amsterdam. BHR Group. 47. London (1997). S. 86-90 (1988).” Paper B3. Dietle. M. D. R. paper presented at SPE/IADC Drilling Conference. “Sorting Out Slurry Pump Seals.” 11th International Pump Users Symposium & Short Courses.” Coal. L.EPRI Licensed Material References and Bibliography 41. 43. Publication 26. 50. Gordeev. Wallace. Izhak Etsion. D. 1986). 9-4 . “Investigation of Wear in Mechanical Seals in Liquids Containing Abrasive Particles. (September 1. BHR Group. Muller. Golubiev and V. London (1994). 2000. The Netherlands (March 1997). Rokicki. London (1997). W. S. 1994). K. Schefzik. Nesher. and Y. and J. N.” World Pumps. Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited.” 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing.

1996. Slurry Transport Using Centrifugal Pumps. 65. Addie. 1987. USNRC Draft Regulatory Guide DG-1008: Reactor Coolant Pump Seals. 62. R. 1993. 59. USNRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2000-02: Closure of Generic Safety Issue 23. October 13. 56. Kalsi. Clift. K. Wilson. USNRC Information Notice 93-61: Excessive Reactor Coolant Leakage Following a Seal Failure in a Reactor Coolant Pump or Reactor Recirculation Pump. October 20. C. USNRC Information Notice 95-42: Commission Decision on the Resolution of Generic Issue 23. 429-439 (1992). A. Organized by the Tribology Group of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failure. S. London (September 8-12. Kluwer Academic Publishers. April 1991. Denis Buchdahl. Blackie Academic & Professional. S. R. and Jean-Michel Girault. August 9. USNRC Information Notice 96-58: RCP Seal Replacement with Pump on Backseat. Kluwer Academic Publishers. K. Flitney and B. “Mechanical Seals Qualification Procedure of the Main Pumps of Nuclear Power Plants in France. USNRC GI–23: Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failures and its Possible Effect on Station Blackout (Generic Letter 91-07). 60. October 30. 2nd Edition. “Performance Testing of Mechanical Seals. M. “A Novel High Pressure (up to 5000 psi / 340 Bars) Polymeric Rotary Shaft Seal. Roger Martin. 9-5 . 1997). 61. G. Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failure. 57. 441-466. 55. pp. 2000.” Fluid Sealing. Nau. Sellgren.” Fluid Sealing. September 22.” World Tribology Congress. 63. NRC Information Notices and Generic Communications 58. 1995. London 1996. February 15.EPRI Licensed Material References and Bibliography 54. USNRC Information Notice 87-51: Failure of Low Pressure Safety Injection Pump Due to Seal Problems. 1993. pp. USNRC Information Notice 93-84: Determination of Westinghouse Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failure. 64. and R.

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and installation and maintenance recommendations in support of the development of this guide.EPRI Licensed Material A MECHANICAL SEALS APPLICATION AND MAINTENANCE GUIDE SURVEY This appendix contains the form used to conduct the survey of fossil and nuclear power utilities to determine the most common failure modes. A-1 . the root causes.

and the seal inspection reports. In order to evaluate the responses and to make comparisons between utilities to determine successful and unsuccessful practices. The outcome of each repair or corrective action will be a valuable addition to your response. Information obtained from this survey will be used in developing a comprehensive and state-of-the-art Guide for the application. The Guide is intended to be a single source for utility engineers and maintenance personnel to minimize problems with mechanical seals while extending the number of cycles between seal inspections. NMAC has begun the preparation of an Application and Maintenance Guide for Mechanical Seals used in nuclear power plants. and troubleshooting. maintenance. corrective actions taken. use. This survey is intended to obtain the most common problems with mechanical seals in use today. repair.com Phone: 704-547-6004 A-2 . This should include any mechanical seal failures and the root cause determination of those failures. the following information is also requested: 1) A copy of your latest procedures for mechanical seal maintenance. Please include any mechanical seal leakage trending data available. and troubleshooting of problems with mechanical seal. Would someone at your facility be willing to participate as a member of our Technical Advisory Group (TAG) which typically involves review/comment of an initial draft and final version of the planned maintenance guide? No Yes Please mail. Charlotte. fax or e-mail responses to: Mike Pugh 1300 W. An important element of a typical NMAC Guide is to involve industry personnel in the review/ comment stages of guide development. Your participation in this survey is vital to the accuracy and usefulness of this Guide. Harris Blvd. repairs. Please contact us if there is a question about this request. 2) Itemization of each individual pump's mechanical seal history since 1/1/90 (Maintenance Rule data is acceptable). besides the responses to the following questions (which can be done by e-mail on this form). NC 28262 Fax: 704-547-6035 E-mail: mpugh@epri. T. even if the maintenance was solely of a routine nature.EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey EPRI/NMAC Nuclear Maintenance Application Center Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey At the direction of the NMAC Steering Committee. 3) Special problems that the plant may have experienced. and the plant's approach to addressing them.

4c) Estimated number of mechanical seals in other applications. (4) Chesterton (5) Sealol (6) Flexibox (7) Borg-Warner/BWIP (8) AST (9) Latty International A-3 . 5) Where mechanical face seals are not being used. select the two most important factors for not using them (select two) Cost Unpredictable catastrophic failure potential Specialized training & maintenance Leakage Availability Other (explain) Types of Mechanical Seals.EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 1 of 7 EPRI/NMAC MECHANICAL SEALS MAINTENANCE GUIDE SURVEY QUESTIONS Contact Name: Utility: Plant: 1) Date of initial plant startup: 2) Number of loops: 3) Plant design: 1 PWR 2 3 BWR 4 or Fossil Phone: (_____) Fax: (_____) E-Mail: 4a) Estimated number of all rotary shaft seals in your plant. Manufacturers. and Applications in Power Stations 6) Manufacturers (check all that apply): 6a) Main Coolant Pump Seal: (1) Westinghouse (2) Sulzer Bingham (3) BWIP (4) AECL 6b) Other Mechanical Seal Manufacturers (check all that apply): (1) Crane (2) Durametallic (3) Burgmann Seals (10) Other 6c) Most common at your plant (select 3 numbers from list in Question 6b) . 4b) Estimated number of mechanical seals in critical applications.

externally mounted seal head (pressure on inside diameter of face) (3) Outside mounted with stationary.Bronze Bronze Monel Tungsten Carbide Phosphor .EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 2 of 7 7a) Most common mechanical seal configurations in your plant (2 selections): (1) Inside mounted with rotating seal head (pressure on outside diameter of face) (2) Outside mounted with rotating.Babbit (3) Ceramic (4) Nickel . 8a) Sealed Fluid (select all that apply) Incompressible (1) Clean Water (2) Service Water (3) Oil (4) Hydrocarbon (5) Slurry (6) Other (Specify) Compressible (6) Air/Nitrogen (7) Steam (8) Other (Specify) 8b) Most common at this location (select 2 numbers from each category in Question 8a) 9) Most common secondary seals (select 2) Elastomeric O-Ring Elastomeric U-Cup Metal Bellows Other (specify) Elastomeric Chevron Elastomeric Wedge Elastomeric Bellows 10) Select the 3 most common face material combinations from the list below Rotating Face Combination 1 Combination 2 Combination 3 (1) Carbon . externally mounted seal head (pressure on outside diameter of faces) (5) Cartridge (6) Other (Specify) 7b) Which configurations have the most problems (select 2 from Question 7a) .Bronze Carbon-Filled Teflon (nonoxidizing acids) Glass-Filled Teflon (oxidizing acids) Hasteloy A.Graphite (2) Carbon .Resist (5) Silicon Carbide (6) Laminated Plastic (7) Teflon (8) Stainless Steel (9) Stellite Hard-Facing on Stainless Steel (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) Aluminum . or C Other (specify) Stationary Face A-4 . internally mounted seal head (pressure on inside diameter of face) (4) Inside mounted with stationary. B.

EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 3 of 7 Present Failure Rates and Causes 11) Mean time between failure of mechanical seals resulting in leakage less than 6 months 6 to 12 month 12 to 18 months 18 to 36 months 36 to 72 months Other (specify) 12) Symptoms of mechanical seal problems: Visible or detectable leakage Wear of rotating face Wear of counterface Loss of spring force due to contamination and accumulation of solids Loss of contact force due to spring element relaxation Excessive friction heat Excessive friction torque Loss of coolant/lubricant Corrosion Other (explain) Most Least Never Common Common Occurs 13a) Causes of mechanical seal problems (select all that apply): • Maintenance installation problem (1) Improper seal face compression (2) Contamination or damage during installation (3) Excessive eccentricity cause by set screw tightening sequence (4) Slippage due to incorrect set screw tip geometry (dog point versus cup point) (5) Slippage due to set screw material being too soft (6) Elastomers not installed correctly (7) Elastomer/lubricant incompatibility (8) Other • Equipment interface/operation problem (9) Mounting surface for seal not square/parallel to shaft (10) Excessive axial or radial movement (off Best Efficiency Point operation. misalignment. etc. bent shaft. bad bearings.) (11) Other • Manufacturing problem (12) Wrong or improper materials supplied (13) Defects introduced during manufacturing (14) Other A-5 . cavitation. out of balance.

EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 4 of 7 • Application or system problem (15) Incorrect seal selected for the application (e. vacuum applications should use a double seal of some sort) (16) Face materials improperly selected for the application (17) Improper environmental controls causing the seal to overheat or allow contaminants (18) Fluid vaporization across seal faces (19) Pressure and/or temperature transients due to variable system operation (20) Equipment operating conditions not completely defined (21) Material chemical attack and corrosion (22) Dirty or abrasive system (23) Product (e. seals 15) Predictive Maintenance Schedule is based on: Manufacturer Recommendation Plant/Utility Experience Importance of the Equipment to Plant Operation and Plant Output Power Level Importance of the Equipment to Plant Safety Other (specify) 16) Predictive Maintenance Methods Used (select all that apply) Temperature measurement Leakage detection Vibration level None Other (specify) Periodic Preventive Maintenance/Replacement Performed Regardless of the Actual Condition of the Mechanical Seal 17a) Equipment under Periodic Preventive Maintenance (specify or provide list) Safety-Related Critical For Plant Output Balance of the Plant None A-6 .g. crystallized boron) sticks to seal parts and keeps them from moving properly (24) Other 13b) Most common at your plant (select three from list in Question 13a) Inspection and Predictive Maintenance Methods as Related to the Mechanical Seal Condition 14) Frequency of mechanical seal visual inspection (check all that apply and provide number of seals inspected in each category) Monthly seals Quarterly seals Annually seals Every outage seals Over two years (specify period and number of seals) ...g.

EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 5 of 7 17b) Maintenance/replacement frequency (if none in 17a. i.. grind. lap. the level of maintenance being: Install only Change O-rings/static seals Change seal faces and finish machine. skip this question) Every Outage Every Other Outage Other (specify) Plant-Specific Approaches to Address Mechanical Seal Problems and Maintenance 18) Troubleshooting is performed by: Plant Maintenance Manufacturer Representative Outside Contractor 19) Mechanical seal repairs are performed by: Plant Maintenance. inspect Remanufacture complete assembly Manufacturer Representative Outside Contractor 20) Spare parts and inventory (check all applicable options) Spare mechanical seals for high priority equipment are kept at the plant warehouse Spare parts for some key seals for high priority equipment are kept at the plant warehouse Seals and spare parts are stocked by manufacturers and ordered as needed Spare parts are machined from material stock kept at the plant None of the above (explain) 21) Please provide a copy of your data sheet used to specify mechanical seals (if available). 3 4 Shaft deflection at seal L /D ratio Specify value: Other None 23) List 3 applications in which mechanical seal problems continue to be difficult to solve. Data sheet attached 22) Shaft stiffness criterion used to determine the suitability of a mechanical seal for a given application.e. Application 1: Application 2: Application 3: Provide details of the 3 applications in the following table: A-7 .

.. agitator. or tandem Secondary seals (bellows.. .. pressure. multiple.EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 6 of 7 Data Requested 1 Application: safety-related/critical/ balance of the plant Equipment type (pump. & Belleville springs.) Root cause of failure determined (Yes/No) Provide or attach the root cause Frequency of periodic maintenance if any Attach description of alternative solutions (successful or pursued) A-8 .) Equipment manufacturer Mechanical seal manufacturer (Model No or type if available) Estimated leak rate at failure Fluid (clear water.. slurry. service water. Flushing: Process fluid.) Temperature.. temp. .. rpm Approximate shaft diameter Face material Stationary Rotating Application 2 3 Seal design Balanced or unbalanced Single. Mean time between failures Parameters monitored for predictive maintenance (leakage. psi Speed. compressor... double. elastomers. vibration.) Face loading achieved by single coil.. bellows... elastomers. • F Pressure.... external source.

EPRI Licensed Material Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey Page 7 of 7 Training Provided for In-House Maintenance Personnel 24) Mechanical seal training is provided to Equipment engineer All in-house rotating equipment maintenance personnel Only selected group of maintenance personnel No training is provided 25) If training is provided what is the frequency of re-training Every year Every 5 years or more Every 3 years Other 26) Does your plant require contractors to have formal mechanical seal training before commencing repair or replacement work? Yes No A-9 .

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is one-millionth (0. The most common type is a helium-filled tube that emits orange/yellow light with a wavelength of 23. each band (consisting of one light and one dark band) that is visible represents a gap of 11. A monochromatic light source emits light of a known wavelength.000001) of an inch). An optical flat is made from transparent material.2 2 in. preventing some of the light from passing back through the optical flat. then reflected off the lapped surface. the reflections reinforce each other and produce light bands.6 2 in.EPRI Licensed Material B INSPECTION OF SEAL FACES FOR FLATNESS B. A seal part that is required to be flat within 2 light bands has a flatness tolerance of 23. and back through the optical flat. The actual width of the bands cannot be related to the flatness of the part. which is very flat. seal parts are inspected with an optical flat that is flat within 2 to 5 micro-inches (one micro-inch or 1 2 in. the light reflections off the lapped surface and the optical flat interfere with each other. as shown in Figure B-1. Manufacturers will specify flatness in light bands. not the flatness. over the specified surface. The light bands visible through the optical flat are one-half the total wavelength. Between the dark bands. Single-sided flats are normally adequate for seal inspection. Coating on the flat increases its reflectivity and makes the light bands easier to see. normally quartz or Pyrex. B-1 . The total number of bands seen during inspection is a function of the gap that is created between the flat and the lapped surface. Consequently. Optical flats can be flat within the specified tolerance on one or both sides. When a gap exists between the optical flat and lapped surface. The parallel dark bands form where the change in distance between the flat and lapped surface is one-half the wave length of the light as shown in this figure. This phenomenon produces a series of dark and light bands when the optical flat is viewed from above.1 Optical Principle Lapped surfaces of seal parts are inspected for flatness using an optical flat and monochromatic light. normally without regard to the size of the part. Typically. Different size optical flats with different flatness tolerances are available.2 2 in. Light is passed through the optical flat.

The tolerances for lapped surfaces are extraordinarily small and exerting unnecessary force on the parts can distort the flatness. N The optical flat and lapped surface should be free of dirt or other particles. Avoid putting any unnecessary force on the parts being inspected. N N B-2 . Do not use an optical flat that is much larger and heavier than what is required.EPRI Licensed Material Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness Figure B-1 Using an Optical Flat to Determine Seal Face Flatness Light Bands B.2 Procedure for Measuring Face Flatness When measuring the flatness of seal parts. the following basic good practices should be used to obtain accurate results. Parts can be wiped with a lint-free cloth or brushed off with a fine bristle brush prior to setting the flat on the lapped surface. The size of the flat needs to be matched to the part.

if the flat is at room temperature and the part has just been brought in from an uncontrolled cold environment. This method places an air wedge under one side of the flat to help determine if the part is convex or concave. as shown in Figure B-2. such as another flat or a lapped surface. Light bands should be determined when looking straight down on the part. Place the flat on the lapped surface. 3. at a viewing angle of close to 90G. The flatness reading can be seriously distorted by determining the flatness when viewing the part with too great of incidence angle. View the optical flat from the correct angle. Clean the lapped surface and the optical flat of dust with a lint-free cloth or fine bristle brush. N Figure B-2 The Viewing Angle Typically Should be 80G to 90G While Checking Flatness Using a Monochromatic Light Source A procedure for measuring flatness on seal rings and other toroidally shaped lapped seal surfaces is provided below.6 2 in. 1. or if it has other out-of-flatness conditions. For example. the warm flat might distort a cold surface. make sure it is adequately supported. Place the lapped part under the monochromatic light.EPRI Licensed Material Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness N N N When inspecting carbon seal parts. Perform the inspections in a controlled environment. instead of 11. B-3 . Flatness measurements should only be taken when the part being inspected and the flat are both at a uniform room temperature. place the carbon seal ring on a flat surface. If the flatness reading is taken with a viewing angle of 60G. 2.4 2 in. each light band represents 13. If the part is a carbon ring. Changes in temperature and humidity can affect flatness readings. like a carbide seal ring.

EPRI Licensed Material Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness 4. When interference bands are straight. If the tissue wedge is too thick or foreign particles are between the flat and the lapped surface. as in the examples shown in Figures B-3 through B-7. the light band pattern will be too narrow to read. The tissue can be manipulated until a light band pattern width that is easy to view is visible. it is necessary to draw two imaginary centerlines 90G apart and perpendicular to the axis of the part. Out-of-flatness is measured by multiplying this number by 11. 6. use light thumb pressure at the air wedge to vary the appearance of the light bands. The light bands are used to determine the degree of flatness. The relationship to successful performance and flatness measurements should be kept in perspective. Figure B-3 Flat Within One Light Band (The distance x is dependent on the amount of air between the optical flat and the face and does not indicate lack of flatness. To check to see if the air wedge is too thick. 5.6 2 in. Use a piece of lint-free tissue to create an air wedge. connecting the two previous lines (see examples in Figures B-6 and B-7). parallel. and then draw line AB at 45G. It is important to note that. Slowly pull the tissue out until the edge of the tissue is at the edge of the lapped surface. The procedure used by different seal manufacturers to determine flatness might vary from the procedure above. Interpretation is carried out noting the number of bands intersected by a straight tangent line. if the bands are inconsistent or missing. the procedures should not be changed. and equally spaced. Place the tissue between the left side of the lapped surface and the optical flat. If the lapping and measurement techniques provide consistent successful operation.6 2 in.) B-4 . the surface is assumed to be flat to within 11.

EPRI Licensed Material Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness Figure B-4 Bands Bend on One side and Line AB Intersects 3 Bands (The face is therefore out-of-flat by 3 light bands or 35 2 in.) Figure B-5 This Indicates an Egg-Shaped Curvature of 2. Line A'B' intersects 2 bands that curve in the opposite direction. 29 2 in. Line AB intersects 2 bands and falls between another 2 at the center of the ring.5 Light Bands (That is.) B-5 .

(The out-offlatness is measured by the number of bands on the part. 35 2 in. Figure B-7 Bands Show a Cylindrical-Shaped Part with a 3-Light Band Reading Error Figure B-8 Band Symmetrical Pattern Indicates a Conical Convex or Concave Part. that is.) B-6 .EPRI Licensed Material Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness Figure B-6 Bands Show a Saddle Shape Out-of-Flat Condition of 3 Light Bands. 3 bands or 35 2 in.

tamu.5/ecd/np/mpe/index. The second category.html or contact Loran Maier at 704-547-6152.epriweb. Annual International Pump Users Symposium and Short Courses Program Texas A&M Turbomachinery Laboratory College Station. made available exclusively to utility participants in this project. Bailey.EPRI Licensed Material C TRAINING COURSES The following is a listing and description of training materials or courses that are presently known to NMAC that are available for enhancing skills involved with mechanical seals. They are broken down into two major categories. supports a basic understanding of mechanical seal installation and maintenance practices as well as personnel qualification materials. Category A. If you would like to find out more about the Mechanical Seals MPEs you can visit the EPRI webpage at http://www. CATEGORY A EPRI Maintenance Performance Evaluation Test Bank The Maintenance Proficiency Evaluation Test Bank (MPETB) is a database of validated and reliable task-specific written and performance tests developed by participating utilities following the proven MPE methodology referenced in EPRI technical reports.edu Contact: Dr. Marketing Director Background: The Turbomachinery Laboratory receives inquiries from fluid handling and rotating equipment users who are looking for intensive training opportunities in addition to those currently offered at their symposia. These technical training sessions are listed below. and also gives a greater insight into performance. with a brief description of each course. provides a higher level of training that will improve craftsmanship and understanding of seal operation and technology. and plant implications. problem analysis. The first category of training.com/epriweb2. Currently there are several tests for mechanical seals that are available to participating members. Texas 77843-3254 Phone: 979/845-7417 Website: http://turbolab. by company. Category B. Reference herein is not intended to be an endorsement of the materials but simply a reference. they have initiated a cooperative effort with some exhibiting companies to provide information on their professional development opportunities. already contains a large population of task-specific written and performance tests that can be administered to plant or contractor personnel. NMAC has reviewed these course offerings in limited detail. should additional training information be desired by the membership. In response to these inquiries. C-1 . The database.

flowserve. Course Title: Fluid Sealing Technology This four-day.com Course Title: Take the Mystery Out of Pumps and Mechanical Seals Audience: Engineers. its materials of construction. Seals specialists show how an understanding of basic engineering factors can be used to practical advantage. its component parts. A sound understanding of the complex factors involved in successful fluid sealing is essential for engineers who specify. will provide participants with a strong understanding of centrifugal pumps and mechanical seals. fluid mechanics. and technical sales engineers. wear. their classifications. and craftsmen specializing in Pump and Mechanical Seal Reliability Improvement. mechanical design. An index of terms is provided under the Performance Support section. environmental controls. friction. supervisors. All of these factors are considered in the discussion of different types of seals. Fluid sealing technology is based on disciplines as diverse as lubrication. Students can search this section for terms pertinent to their topic area. seal materials. and sealing applications. operate and maintain machinery and mechanical equipment.EPRI Licensed Material Training Courses FLOWSERVE Educational Services Group Pump Training Programs taught at the Learning Resource Center in Dallas Website: www. Marketing Dept. proper operation. It utilizes the fluid sealing and tribology expertise of both Georgia Tech and the BHR Group (British Hydromechanics Research Group). properties of materials. Students are provided with immediate feedback on their progress through each course. including the purpose of a mechanical seal. and troubleshooting for some basic mechanical packing failures. This course has been presented at Georgia Tech for the last 11 years. plant and maintenance engineers. Annual International Pump Users Symposium and Short Courses Program See above discussion for background on the below listed courses. split equally between classroom and hands-on learning activities. design. Chesterton Chesterton offers learning via the Internet to allow students to learn at their own pace on a more flexible schedule.asp Course Title: Mechanical Seal Principles I Students will learn each aspect of mechanical seals. C-2 . CATEGORY B Georgia Institute of Technology Paul Weber Space Science and Technology Building on the Georgia Tech Campus Registration: 404/385-3501 Contact: Greg Stenzoski.com/distancelearning/index. Synopsis: This five-day course. and heat transfer. Course outlines are available at their website: www. annual course provides an extensive introduction to fluid sealing and is designed to meet the needs of equipment designers.activedistancelearning.

This course will identify common mechanical seal failure symptoms and their possible causes.activedistancelearning. Many of these incidents have symptoms that can tell us what caused it.com/ Course Title: Improving Pump.EPRI Licensed Material Training Courses FLOWSERVE Educational Services Group Pump Training Programs taught at the Learning Resource Center in Dallas. as will their companies.flowserve. and Systems Reliability Audience: Maintenance engineers. Course Title: Improving Pump. Synopsis: Designed to assist craftsmen in becoming more effective and efficient. and Systems Reliability Through Maintenance Audience: Pump and mechanical seal craftsmen and technicians. Different applications require diverse mechanical seal designs and operational characteristics. International Conference on Fluid Sealing This conference is held every two to three years and the first conference dates back to April 1961. we must be able to analyze premature failures. we can try to eliminate their reoccurrence. supervisors. More than three full days of the five-day course are spent conducting hands-on learning activities. Students can search this section for terms pertinent to their topic area. This course will describe the different ways that mechanical seals can be designed to operate in order to perform their tasks. Synopsis: This weeklong program equips the attendees to identify the root cause of pump failures and apply appropriate corrections. Course outlines are available at: www. Mechanical Seal. Chesterton Chesterton Distance Learning Course Curriculum: Chesterton offers learning via the Internet to allow students to learn at their own pace on a more flexible schedule. TX. Mechanical Seal. C-3 . and to add value to equipment operation and reliability through thorough maintenance. By examining these failures closely. Website: www.asp Course Title: Mechanical Seal Operation Mechanical seals are designed and engineered differently for specific reasons. Students are provided with immediate feedback on their progress through each course. Course Title: Common Mechanical Seal Failures To further increase mechanical seal life. Over 50 failures and 90 corrections are studied utilizing real pumps and mechanical seals. both static and in operation in our six learning labs. An index of terms is provided under the Performance Support section. and others responsible for reliability improvement will benefit from this course.com/distancelearning/index.

C-4 . The aim is to further improve sealing reliability and effectiveness.co. The Fluid Engineering Centre Cranfield Bedfordshire MK43 0AJ.EPRI Licensed Material Training Courses BHR Group Ltd. The Conference Organizer Tel: 44 (0) 1234 750422 Email: ccox@bhrgoup.uk Description: This sealing technology forum is the premier event in its field and never fails to provide important and interesting information and new insights into old problems. UK Contact: Mrs. Catherine Cox.

The least cost-effective maintenance program is one based on reactions to failure. and from site to site due to different equipment designs. Key O&M Cost Point Emphasizes information that will reduce purchase. Section 3. Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility. An effective preventative or periodic maintenance program. based on plant experience and manufacturer recommendations.3 6-5 7 7-1 8. Cartridges are used to package mechanical face seals for ease of handling and installation. An in-depth inspection and review of seal failures can improve equipment availability and performance. For many plants. 6. and different rates of forced outages experienced. Adherence to manufacturer’s recommendations during start-up and operation is vital to seal longevity and performance. condition-based monitoring is limited to visual observations with little actual quantification except for main coolant pump mechanical face seals. Monitoring and data logging of key performance parameters can serve as very useful tools for trending wear and performance degradation of mechanical seals and preventing unscheduled outages. or maintenance costs. The most cost-effective maintenance program should be based on predicted seal performance and its expected life. Seal performance is often directly linked to equipment performance and reliability. operating philosophies. Even though material cost is higher.2.4 Page 3-12 Key Point Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that contain all of the essential components. should be implemented to improve plant reliability and prevent unplanned shutdowns.1 6-1 6.1 8-1 8.EPRI Licensed Material D LISTING OF KEY INFORMATION The following list provides the location of key Pop Out information in this report.5 8-11 D-1 . cartridges save money by simplifying maintenance and eliminating installation related failures. operating.

recesses. Flushing is used to remove contaminants. The trade-off (for example. This limits the fluid circulation around the seal.1 Page 3-2 Key Point Mechanical face seals come in a variety of configurations. 3. lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of solids. the seal design and material selections should satisfy the PV limit and the T limit under all operating conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. and designs for primary sealing faces. For satisfactory performance. Selections include back-to-back. or to provide for proper lubrication.2 3-21 3. and seal wear. or pressure staging to deal with higher pressures.9 3-28 D-2 . speed.EPRI Licensed Material Listing of Key Information Key Technical Point Targets information that will lead to improved equipment reliability.6. Section 3.65 to 0. Section 3. higher leakage rate versus increased reliability under transient conditions) should be carefully evaluated during seal selection. Pressure distribution across the seal face width can be linear. secondary seals.3 3-11 3. materials. An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid circulation.8 3-24 3. depending upon application. fully balanced. and a choice of buffer fluid or barrier fluid. Seal designs with special features to enhance lubrication at the sealing interface (for example. The term balanced refers to the case where the average pressure load on the face is less than the sealed pressure. Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for flushing or barrier fluids. Seal design for a given application should be selected after a careful evaluation of trade-offs discussed in this section. Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to accept conventional packings. and drive mechanisms. Mechanical face seals can be unbalanced. This range provides reduced face loading without potential concern of face parting. temperature.1 3-20 3. concave. or partially balanced to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure. leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. whether the primary seal or the mating seal is rotating. face-to-face double arrangements. Most mechanical face seals have a balance ratio of between 0. torque. This can affect seal performance (leakage.6.5 3-16 3. temperature) during operation. or convex and it can change with variations in pressure. Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure. or lasertextured surfaces) can extend the pressure. and whether the fluid pressure is on the outside or the inside surface of the seal. springs. hydrodynamic grooves.85. to cool the faces. and temperature limits. Options also include unbalanced or balanced designs.

Coning in excess of film thickness can cause film rupture seizure or face parting.10 3-28 The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal that permits some controlled flow rate to pass between the faces. resulting in a large increase in leakage. Excessive coning causes seal failure either due to seizure or face parting.7 4-15 D-3 .1 4-5 4.4.4 4-8 4.3 4-6 4. causing excessive leakage when stationary and when running.6 4-13 4.4.2 4-2 4. This limits the fluid circulation around the seal. Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure.6 x 10-6 inches) across one-inch width. Leakages under misaligned conditions can be several times the normal leak rate.4. Mechanical face seals are precision components.4. or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in double-seal installations. For satisfactory performance.5 4-10 4. Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of fluid.4. Operation away from Best Efficiency Point (BEP) is a frequent cause of short seal life/seal failures.6 4-13 4. leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. Premature wear of the primary sealing faces and secondary seals. 4. Too much out-of-flatness can lead to excessive seal leakage. Thermal distortions of seal faces due to operational transients can cause positive coning (contact on ID) or negative coning (contact on OD) of the seal faces. typically within one light band (11. the seal design and material selections should satisfy the PV limit and the T limit under all operating conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. Pressure distribution across the seal faces is affected by seal face coning due to changes in pressure and speed as well as the wear-in process. Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to accept conventional packings.EPRI Licensed Material Listing of Key Information 3. The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is considered unacceptable for the seal design/configuration being used. reduction of pressure. Level of acceptable leakage is dependent upon the application. are also common symptoms of excessive misalignment. lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of solids. Static and dynamic misalignment between seal faces can cause strong fluid pumping action across the faces causing either inward pumping or outward pumping of the product fluid and/or buffer fluid. Off BEP conditions cause large shaft deflections and vibrations resulting in premature degradation of mechanical seals.4.4 4-7 4. the seal requires that some pressure be applied to the tapered side prior to rotation. To prevent dry running.4. requiring the sealing faces to be flat. An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid circulation. Hard face versus soft face material combinations are more tolerant of coning than if both faces are hard.4.

pressure. Prototype qualification tests should be performed for all critical applications. speed. Fortunately. Too perfectly flat seal faces on structurally robust seal rings prevent the faces from distorting and developing a fluid film. radiation exposure and maintenance. temperature. Appropriate data sheets and check lists should be used to ensure a thorough and complete evaluation of suitable alternatives and trade-offs. fluid type. This results in seal failure due to seizure. 4.2 5-3 D-4 . this is a rare occurrence.EPRI Licensed Material Listing of Key Information Conventional mechanical face seals rely on a small amount of waviness automatically created by face distortions due to mechanical loads to function properly. normal operating conditions versus design conditions.4.8 4-16 5. Seal selection requires a detailed and systematic evaluation of all of the significant application parameters. for example.

Equipment contents and conditions should be fully known before disassembly to preclude injury.1. Personnel training is a very important aspect of a mechanical seal maintenance program that is striving to achieve improvements in plant reliability.4. Manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed at all times.1 8-10 8.2.2.3 8-11 D-5 . troubleshooting. Proper venting of seal chamber prior to placing into service is critical to seal performance and longevity.2 Page 7-7 Key Point The importance of maintaining As Found conditions is important to failure mode determinations. Comprehensive training courses covering mechanical seal design options. and failure diagnosis are regularly offered by seal manufacturers. Visual examination is an important element in determining failure mechanisms. universities.2.5. Personnel should be instructed to exercise care during the disassembly steps. or ease completion of the task. Personnel should perform the steps outlined herein to prevent unsatisfactory seal performance. Personnel should be attentive during disassembly to be alert for evidence of incipient or chronic failure mechanisms. installation.2.2 8-4 8. Section 7.1 8-2 8. maintenance.EPRI Licensed Material Listing of Key Information Key Human Performance Point Denotes information that requires personnel action or consideration in order to prevent injury or damage.3 7-12 8. and research associates (see Appendix C). 7.2. operation.2 8-2 8. Pre-installation checks are an important element in reliable seal performance. Proper storage and handling of seal components is important to seal longevity and performance.

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