Troubleshooting Centrifugal Pumps
ffective troubleshooting should be an integral part of any plant’s equipment reliability and maintenance program. Before you examine the system, however, take time to review maintenance records. The performance history of your pumps will point you in the right direction. Also, pump operators can provide clues to what is happening. Troubleshooting should focus on these areas of investigation: pling hubs, can also be transmitted to other parts of the pump and/or system. Users should note any incorrect positioning of the driver and pump such that the distance between shaft ends (DBSE) exceeds the axial flexing limits of the coupling. tion) can create trouble.

1. THE FOUNDATION Poor foundations, grouting and baseplate design often cause problems. 2. DRIVER Vibrations of the driver (motor, steam turbine, gearing) can be transmitted to other components. 3. MECHANICAL POWER TRANSMISSION Excitations from the coupling area, especially because of driver misalignment or eccentrically bored cou-

4. THE DRIVEN PUMP Pump design has a major influence on the hydraulic interaction between the rotor and the casing and consequently the problems encountered. Misconceptions about pump thermal-growth can create problems. 5. SUCTION PIPING AND VALVES Improper design and layout of suction piping and valves can create flow disturbances such as cavitation, intake vortexing or suction recirculation. 6. DISCHARGE PIPING AND VALVES Unfavorable dynamic behavior of piping resulting from loads traceable to dynamic, static or thermal causes (including resonance excita-

7. INSTRUMENTATION FOR CONTROL OF PUMP FLOW Pressure pulsations can result from control system-pump interaction during start-ups, periods of low flow and valve changes. 8. MAINTAINING ALIGNMENT Once the alignment is established, dowels into the baseplate must hold the pump in alignment. Troubleshooting centrifugal pumps begins with observing operating conditions at the site. While a myriad of problems can exist with any pumping system, here are some of the more typical scenarios, possible causes and corrective actions. ■
Ed Nelson has more than 40 years of experience with industrial pumping systems as a former end-user at a major petrochemical company, and today as a turbomachinery consultant. He is a member of the Pumps and Systems Editorial Advisory Board.

Cavitating-type Problems
A cavitating sound is heard in a pump that does not normally cavitate, and it is not clear whether it is pumping into the system.

The suction piping layout is poor. There may be too many ells in too many planes or not enough straight run before the suction flange of the pump. Suction piping configuration causes fluid to rotate adversely when approaching impeller. Flow rate is high enough above design that NPSHr has increased above NPSHa. Pump is operating at a low-flow, producing suction recirculation in the impeller eye, resulting in a cavitation-like sound The suction screen is clogged. Piping gaskets with undersized IDs have been installed—a common problem in installations of small pumps. Pipelines are constricted because of buildup of corrosion materials.

Redesign piping layout, using fewer ells and laterals for tees, and have five or more diameters of straight pipe before suction flange. Install enough straight run of suction piping, or install vanes in piping to break up prerotation. Reduce flow rate to the level for which the pump was designed. Install bypass piping back tosuction vessel to increase flow through pump. Note: Bypass flow may have to be as high as 50% of design flow. If screen is present, remove and clean it. Install properly sized gaskets.

Replace deteriorated pipe.

The Pump Handbook Series


78 The Pump Handbook Series . There is polymer or scale buildup in discharge nozzle areas. There is collapse of lined pipe. 4.Capacity-type Problems Pump does not have enough capacity. so NPSH required is different. The discharge block valve is partially closed. Replace casing or repair by welding. 2. No significant noise is coming from it. Does the vessel have a vortex breaker? Does incoming flow cause surface to swirl or agitate? A variable speed motor is operating too slowly. Suction and/or discharge vessel levels are not correct. Mechanical seal in suction system under vacuum is leaking air into system. When the suction system is under-vacuumed. 5. Any of the following conditions may have increased friction in the piping to the discharge vessel: 1. Offset of several impellers will cause vibration and lower head output. Motor is running backward or impeller of double suction pump is mounted backward. CORRECTIVE ACTION Eliminate air leaks with appropriate actions. 4. However. Restore orifice to correct size. Reduce flow to design rates. Check for proper rotation and mounting of impeller. Calibrate level controllers as needed. The system head curve increase corrects the flow back up the curve. reposition individual impellers as needed. Restore proper clearance to pin and flapper bore. resulting in too much pressure drop. Axial positions of impeller(s) are not centered with diffuser vanes.relieve after welding as needed. Raise liquid level in suction vessel. Bypassing is occurring between volute channels in a double volute pump casing due to a casting defect or extreme erosion. Reduce entrained gas in liquid by process changes as needed. Install a positive-pressure steam (from running pump) to fill the suction line from the block valve through the check valve. Reverse motor leads if necessary. causing air leaks into system. Check valve spring is broken. Replace impeller with correct pattern. Repair or replace gate valve. Change percentage balance of seal faces or increase spring tension. Check valve flapper pin is worn. Repair damaged areas. Shut down pump and remove scale or deposits. Overhaul pump. Overhaul pump. A replacement impeller does not have a correct casting pattern. The volute and cutwater area of casing is severely eroded. 3. Replace wear rings if clearance is about twice design value for energy and performance reasons. Overhaul check valve. the spare pump has difficulty getting into system. Do the following: 1. Some pump designs incorporate an internal bypass orifice port to change head-flow curve. Overhaul pump. Overhaul pump. Adjust motor speed as needed. Impeller-to-case or head clearances are excessive (open impeller design). Adjust control valve stroke as needed. Entrained gas from the process is lowering NPSH available. 3. Install vortex breaker in suction vessel. and the flapper will not swing open. causing pump curve to drop. Reposition rotor by changing thrust collar locator spacer. Discharge pressure developed in both cases is about one-half design value. The control valve stroke is improperly set. Reposition impeller for correct clearance. causing the pump to go farther out on the pump curve. Overhaul pump. Gate has fallen off the discharge valve stem. POSSIBLE CAUSES Pump suction is below atmospheric pressure. Wear ring clearances are excessive (closed impeller design). Stress. 2. Vortex formed at high flow rates or low liquid level. Overhaul pump. high liquid velocities often erode the orifice. 5. Open valve completely. Repair valve by replacing spring. Replace damaged pipe.

Increase clearance of impeller to casing. Turn to correct diameter.Motor Overload Problems POSSIBLE CAUSES Pump is circulating excessive liquid through a breakdown There is polymer buildup between wear surfaces (rings or vanes). Replace as needed. Replace wear rings or adjust axial clearance of open impeller. Remove buildup to restore clearances. The Pump Handbook Series 79 . Check out switch gear and repair as necessary. One phase has low amperage due to electrical switch gear problems. This usually occurs in operations from 250–400°F due to piping strain and differential growth in the pump. Inspect piping for leakage. In severe situations cover or case must be replaced. Change process to adjust specific gravity to design value. or throttle pump to reduce horsepower requirements. Pump motor not sized for end-of-curve operation. replacing parts back to suction needed. Remove impeller from pump. (Note: This will not correct the problem with some vertical turbine pumps which have a flat horsepower required curve. or reduce flow rate. The minimum flow loop has been inadvertently left open Close minimum flow loop or control valve bypass valve. There is excessive wear ring (closed impeller) or cover-case clearance (open impeller). at normal rates. or bypass around control valve is open. bushing or a diffuser gasket area.) Replace motor with a larger size. CORRECTIVE ACTION Overhaul pump. Open impeller has slight rub on casing. Discharge piping is leaking beneath liquid level in sump-type design. Specific gravity is higher than design specification. A replacement impeller was not trimmed to the correct diameter.

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