Copyright 2012, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute - IBP
This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012, held between September, 1720, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event according to the information contained in the final paper submitted by the author(s). The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute‟ opinion, or that of its Members or Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Oil & Gas Expo and Conference 2012 Proceedings.

Mechanical shaft seals are used in many industries to eliminate or minimize leakage from pumps, agitators, turbines and compressors. Reliability, longevity, emission control and safety are now more important than ever. This purpose sounds simple, but designing seal components and selecting the most appropriate materials is a real challenge, especially when sealing fluids under harsh operating conditions. One such field of application involves the sealing of supercritical carbon dioxide in a pump used in Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) services. In a recent carbon dioxide injection project offshore Brazil, in the Tupi oilfield in the Santos Basin the client required mechanical seals for a CO2 reinjection pump with a pressure up to 540 bars installed on a floating production vessel, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The Tupi Oilfield and the FPSO MV 22 No mechanical seals are readily available for such liquid or gas conditions and consequently a special seal had to be developed for these operating parameters. The biggest challenge was to design extremely stiff seal faces with the ability to maintain an acceptable liquid lubrication film to avoiding contact and wear of the mechanical seal faces. Another challenge was the design and material selection of the secondary sealing elements, which are prone to extrusion, excessive wear and explosive decompression associated with sealing gases under high pressures. As a result, a wet lubricated mechanical seal in a triple arrangement was designed, FE-calculated, manufactured and fully tested under all operating conditions. The pump and it´s mechanical seals are fully commissioned and ready for the start-up of the CO2 reinjection process.

______________________________ 1 Senior Expert Oil&Gas– EagleBurgmann Germany GmbH & Co. KG

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Supercritical carbon dioxide has been used for more than 30 years to enhance oil recovery in mature oil fields. CO2 is the most commonly used solvent fluid because its critical temperature point and operating pressures makes it easy to work with as a processing media for a wide variety of extraction applications. When carbon dioxide is compressed and heated, its physical properties change to something between gas and liquid, defined as a supercritical fluid. It can be pumped in this condition when the pressure exceeds the critical pressure of 73,8 bara (1072 psi) and 31 °C (87,8 °F). Pumping supercritical CO 2 requires specific attention to the pump selection. Injection pumps require high pressure differentials, thus multistage pumps, typically 2 to 11 stages are used to produce high discharge pressure. These are between bearing axial split designs, well known as API 610 type BB2 or BB3. When extremely high injection pressures are needed, like in this particular project, multistage centrifugal pumps with double casing and barrel-type, back-to-back rotor configuration, known as API610 type BB5, see Figure 2, are used. This specific CO2 pump has a suction pressure of 300 bar (4350 psi) and a discharge pressure of 540 bar (7830 psi). The design pressure of the barrel casing is 670 bar (9800 psi). Due to these very high pressures their mechanical seals are considered as the most critical components.

Figure 2: Cross section of the CO2 injection pump (courtesy of GE) As engineering professionals, it is the mechanical seal manufacturer‟s task to design seal components and select materials that complement the evolution of CO2 injection technology and allows for increased production in the oil and gas industry. Dependent on injected fluid composition the sealing concept is selected. Contaminants such as nitrogen and hydrocarbons, mostly methane, affect the selection of the appropriate mechanical seal arrangement. In this specific project pumped fluid contains up to 23% molar percentage of hydrocarbons. Due to this fluid composition and the given pressure requirements, a triple seal was selected.


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Wet lubricated mechanical seals rely on a liquid film between the stationary and rotating seal face. For this specific application, extremely high pressure and an unknown process fluid composition at different temperatures forced the development of an oil-lubricated mechanical seal. The triple-seal concept consists of a dual-pressurized mechanical seal at the process side, maintains a specific differential pressure to the process medium. The over-pressure is dropped down to atmospheric pressure in 2 steps, thus a second mechanical seal at atmospheric side is required. The oil-lubricated triple seal arrangement shown in Figure 3 is a special design for extreme operating conditions and has the following design features:

 Max. allowable working pressure: 670 bar (9800 psi  Max. differential pressure/sealing surface: 300 bar (4350 psi) dynamic / 600 bar (8700 psi) static  Pump speed: 3600 rpm

Figure 3: Triple mechanical seal cartridge design

Figure 4: Cross section of triple seal arrangement (atmosphere side – single seal – process side – dual seal)

The process medium CO2 with a maximum pressure of 481 bar (6900 psi) is initially sealed by a pressurized dual seal, barrier pressure 545 bar (7900 psi), typically 10% above suction as per seal manufacturers recommendation. The high barrier pressure is then subsequently dropped down in two steps to atmospheric pressure (each step approx. 275 bar/3990 psi), as shown in Figure 4. 3

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Thus two pressure loops are required. The first barrier circuit, the High-Pressure Loop (HPL), has a pressure of 545 bars. The pressure differential results in a specific leakage into the process, preventing any process fluid CO2 from emerging into the atmosphere. The pressure of the HPL loop cannot be dissipated via a single sealing surface under dynamic conditions, and is therefore initially reduced to approx. 275 bars by means of a second barrier circuit, the Low Pressure Loop (LPL) before it can ultimately be reduced to atmospheric pressure by means of the third sealing gap. The particular requirement when designing this extremely high pressure mechanical seal is to configure the gap shape so that an adapted film of lubricant is formed between the rotating seal face and stationary seal face at each operating point of the pump. The seal faces are slightly deformed during operating due to the presence of high pressure as well as heat caused by friction, which may result in face tilting. In case of extreme seal face deflections, which may result in contact of the faces at the OD (Outside Diameter), also called an A-gap, see Figure 5, the liquid lubrication film will tear away, resulting in failure of the seal within a short time. If the gap geometry is configured with contact of the faces at ID (Inside Diameter), which is called a V-gap, see Figure 6, this may result in high leakage rates.

Figure 5: A-gap shape of seal faces

Figure 6: V-gap shape of seal faces Therefore, it has previously been impossible to seal pressures of 600 bar (8700 psi) using existing liquidlubricated mechanical seal faces. For this reason these seal faces are designed similar to high pressure gas seals, successfully working in high pressure centrifugal compressors. Due to the sensitive sealing gaps, which are typical in gas-sealing technology, these faces have a very precise configuration of its gap shape, and are absolutely stable under high pressure. Usually, the gap of a wet-lubricated seal is approx. 1-3 µm. The surfaces of the seal faces have peak roughness values of approximately the same magnitude as the sealing gap, therefore the sealing surfaces are partially into contact, resulting in what is referred to as mixed friction. This will increase the frictional heat at fast sliding speeds. Almost the entire frictional heat is absorbed by the sealing faces, and must be dissipated by the corresponding barrier fluid. For this task a mechanical seal supply system is required. Another challenge due to such enormous pressures is the risk of extrusion of the secondary sealing O-ring materials, see Figure 7, especially the dynamic O-Ring, which seals the floating seal face. Therefore special PTFE Ucups are used for secondary sealing elements, see Figure 8. This is proven technology predominantly used in gaslubricated seals. The special U-cup seals the barrier fluid on a balance sleeve of the mechanical seal. The narrow gap between the balance sleeve and the U-cup supporting ring is controlled by using similar high tensile strength materials for both metal parts. 4

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Figure 7: Gap extrusion of the O-ring

Figure 8: PTFE dynamic sealing element (U-cup)

The duty of the Supply System
Correct operation of the oil-lubricated seal is ensured by a pressurized barrier system complying to API plan 53B with a separate automated barrier fluid top up unit including a large atmospheric storage tank. In general, the barrier fluid oil circulates at the necessary pressure within the closed circuit identified by the red line in Figure 9. In the closed loop circuit incorporating a bladder type pressure accumulator along with the piping and heat exchanger provides the required barrier fluid capacity. Gas entrainment is not a problem with this API-plan as it incorporates bladder accumulator maintains the barrier pressure within the loop. Flow in the circulating system is usually induced by pumping device incorporated in the seal rotor. The make-up system can be configured by customer‟s preference, ranging from a simple hand pump to an automatic refilling unit. Note, all components in the API682-Flush Plan 53 B circuit are pressure rated to the respective pump MAWP (Maximum Allowable Working Pressure).

Figure 9: Typical API682 flush plan 53B layout 5

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Pressurized mechanical seals operating at high pressures and/or speeds, there is a quantifiable loss of barrier fluid both into the process medium and into the environment. This is both in terms of barrier volume and pressure. To minimize this loss it is essential to optimize the seal face design and ensure stable operating conditions in terms of temperature and pressure are controlled. The objectives therefore are: - provide constant replenishment of barrier fluid lost due to leakage - keep the seal loop barrier fluid at a stable temperature - keep the seal loop at stable pressure. These three objectives are an essential requirement to ensure long and reliable operation of the mechanical seals. Each circuit is provided with a seal cooling loop, in which the barrier fluid is pumped around by the seal pumping device, used to dissipate the heat generated by the seal faces, and is placed very closed to the seals to minimize pressure drops and thus increase barrier flow velocity and optimization of cooling capacity. Following the seal manufacturers advice, replenishment and pressurization of the circuit is undertaken by the automatic refilling unit, which supplies barrier fluid from an un-pressurized storage tank. The volume of the tank is dependent on the Leakage rate of the seals and the available level of maintenance. The stored barrier fluid is pressurized using dosing pumps. These pumps charge the storage accumulator located in the plan 53B skid. Dosing pumps work in parallel or are installed as redundant pump operations. The pressure accumulator in the plan 53B seal circuits serves three functions. Firstly, as a pressure storage device to provide residual stored volume in the seal loop giving some safety in case the refilling unit fails. Secondly, the loop accumulator prevents over-pressurization which would occur due to thermal expansion of the barrier fluid in the closed seal loop when fully vented or from heat is input from the seal during a pump start up. Thirdly, the accumulator acts as pulsation dampener for the dosing pumps located on the refilling unit.


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Specific Supply System for the Triple Seal Arrangement
For this specific CO2 injection pump, Figure 10 shows a schematic of the supply system and the coolers in connection with one seal cartridge. Inside the cartridge a triple seal arrangement, is realized, comprising of one dual seal and one atmospheric seal. The supply system provides accumulator buffered pressure levels for the HP- and LP-loop. The high-pressure loop (HP) for the dual seal is marked in deep-blue and the low-pressure loop (LP) for the single seal is marked in lightblue. Per seal cartridge, each loop has its own accumulator and cooler with the oil flow driven by the pumping scroll. Only the process leakage of the seal is truly „lost‟. The interstage leakage, if larger than the atmospheric leakage is „recycled‟ into the tank via a Pressure Relief Valve (PRV) in the LP-loop. The atmospheric leakage is recovered by a leakage recovery system.

LP Accumulator


HP Accumulator

LP-Cooler LP-Loop Tank HP-Loop


Atmospheric Side Process Side

Atmospheric Seal
atmospheric leakage interstage leakage

Dual Seal
process leakage

Figure 10: Triple Seal cartridge schematic arrangement including HP (High Pressure) and LP (Low Pressure) barrier fluid loops

To ensure that this system is working correctly, the following pressure relationship has to be maintained continuously: The HPL pressure is always above process pressure (P1), typically 10%. The LPL pressure is always lower than the HPL pressure, typically 50%.


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The CO2 reinjection pump is a between bearing centrifugal pump, thus needs two mechanical seals, one on Drive End (DE) and one on the Non Drive End (NDE) side. Figure 11 shows the schematic seal and the closed loop arrangements, High Pressure Loops (HPL) and Low Pressure Loops (LPL).

Figure 11: Injection pump with the 4 barrier fluid circuits of the mechanical seals

Dynamic test setup
This triple-seal solution has shown excellent performance during the rigorous test program and works independent of the process fluid. Therefore, it can handle varying gas mixtures, as well as all phases of CO 2 (gas, liquid and supercritical). The test equipment comprised a single cartridge test rig for static testing and a double action test rig for dynamic testing of two seal cartridges. The dynamic test was carried out using the original seals. The heat exchangers and supply system with a piping layout similar in length and position to that of the pump skid was utilized for the test. Each cartridge was first tested under static conditions, then dynamically under various pressure conditions according the extreme operating points of the pump. After this the seals were disassembled, inspected, cleaned as required, reassembled and finally tested again under static conditions. In addition, seal cartridges were tested in the same way in a long term dynamic endurance test. The test results were comprised of leakage, power consumption, seal temperature under various pressure conditions, static seal torque and cooler performance. Additional tests addressed possible reverse pressure conditions and evacuation of dead spaces when filling the system and cartridge. The results of an over and under speed test were included as well in the test program. To summarize the results: All seals performed better than expectations and met the calculated values in terms of leakage and power consumption. Seal faces as well as secondary sealing elements were in original condition after testing. The same sealing elements were used for all tests.


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Cooler Cooler

Cooling loop

Leakage Collection & Measurement

Leakage Collection & Measurement

Figure 12: Test rig arrangement Figure 12 shows the dynamic test rig. The shaft of the pressure vessel (front) is connected by a coupling to the motor-gearbox in the back. The pipes connect the vessel with the 4 oil coolers. The placement of the coolers and the piping was made to be as close as possible to the arrangement on the pump skid, including the exit and inlet flange positions on the pressure vessel. Each oil cooling loop has temperature sensors as well as the water cooling circuit of the oil coolers. The simulated product pressure is set by a remote controlled pressure relief valve. The pressure vessel houses two cartridges, arranged in a „back to back‟ configuration to minimize axial thrust load, see Figure 13. In the test rig, the pump stuffing box is replaced by a common volume at process pressure P1.

Non Drive End side


Drive End side

Leakage from Low Pressure Loop

Leakage from both High Pressure Loops


Leakage from Low Pressure Loop

Figure 13: Seal arrangement in test rig installation, showing barrier fluid leakage direction/pressure drop 9

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Each cartridge seal was disassembled after the dynamic test run and inspected. Photos were taken of the sliding faces: seal faces (stationary ring) and seats (rotating ring). The only visible traces results from polishing of the contact area at the inner diameter of the seal face when the seal was not pressurized. All faces and secondary sealing elements were checked and found in excellent condition. Mechanical Seal Cartridge Interstage seal

Atmospheric side

Product side


Seal face

Figure 14: Seal faces topography after dynamic test run

The CO2 injection pumps with the triple seal concept and respective supply systems were fully commissioned in September 2011. The start- up of the pumps is expected in summer 2012.

This paper describes an oil-lubricated mechanical seal, demonstrating a unique solution for ultra high pressure CO2 injection pump applications. As CO2 injection technology evolves over time, we are confident new solutions will continue to be developed for the EOR industry and beyond. The concept of dry gas mechanical seals (DGS) for instance, represents already a proven sealing technology for compressors and is another option for sealing CO2-pumps. This option is currently under further development.

MEYER, PH.D., J.P., “Summary of Carbon Dioxide Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO 2EOR) Injection Well Technology,” http://www.gwpc.org/elibrary/documents/co2/API%20CO2%20Report.pdf (January 20, 2011) "Frequently Asked Questions about Supercritical Fluid Technologies." Supercritical Fluid Extraction and Reaction, http://www.supercriticalfluids.com/faqs.htm (January 20, 2011) "Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Pumps." JASCO, Inc.: Spectroscopy Instrumentation, Chromatography Equipment, Spectrometers and HPLC Detectors, http://www.jascoinc.com/Products/Chromatography/SFC-SFE/Supercritical-FluidComponents/Supercritical-Carbon-Dioxide-Pumps.aspx (January 20, 2011) Figure 2: GE- Oil & Gas – brochure DDHF_Pump_FS_101810 10