NPSH and NPSH Margi n

The deaerator is installed at an elevation to provide the NPSH to the BFW pump.
By definition, the NPSH is the total suction head over and above the vapor
pressure of the liquid pumped.

The deaerator elevation minus the dynamic losses in the BFW suction piping
provides the net positive suction head available (NPSHa) to the pump. The
difference between the value of the NPSHa and the net positive suction head
required (NPSHr) by the pump gives the NPSH margin.

The NPSH margin or the NPSH margin ratio (NPSHa/NPSHr) is an important
factor in ensuring adequate service life of the pump and minimizing noise,
vibration, cavitation and seal damage. The NPSH margin requirements increase as
the suction energy level (for example, high suction specific speed, high peripheral
velocity of impeller and so on) of the pump increases. In case of the BFW pump,
this ratio could be in the range of 1.8 to 2.5.
Additionally, the NPSH margin enhances the capability of the BFW pump in
handling a deaerator pressure transient. This aspect of the system design is the
main topic of this article and the methodology presented facilitates efforts to
determine if the NPSH margin is adequate to handle the transient.

Deaerator Pressure Decay and Effect

Immediately after a steam turbine generator trip, turbine extraction steam is no
longer available to the deaerator resulting in pressure decay in the deaerator. Also
during a sudden steam turbine generator load reduction, the extraction steam
pressure decreases and a point is reached when the extraction stage supplying the
deaerator has insufficient pressure to feed the deaerator. This also results in
deaerator pressure decay as the condensate continues to enter the deaerator and
provide a cooling effect. The decrease in deaerator pressure causes some of the
water in the storage tank to flash to steam until saturation is attained at the new
The water in the BFW pump suction line has a static head exerted on it by the level
in the storage tank, preventing it from flashing immediately. Therefore, the water
in the suction line can be considered as a slug of hot fluid which is trapped and has
to be moved through the pump. In other words, the pump will not perceive a
decrease in vapor pressure (or a decrease in water temperature) until the entire slug
of hot water has passed through the pump.
During the passage of the hot-water slug, the combination of high vapor pressure at
the pump suction along with a decrease in pump suction pressure (due to deaerator
pressure decay) leads to a critical point at which the suction pressure may drop
below the minimum required pressure (that is, the vapor pressure of the hot-water
slug plus the pressure equivalent of the NPSHr). This low suction pressure could
result in cavitation damage to the pump internals due to insufficient NPSHr.

Resi dence Time

The time required for passage of the hot-water slug through the pump suction line
is known as the residence time. It can be expressed as the suction line volume
divided by the volumetric flow rate (or alternatively as the mass of liquid in the
suction line divided by the mass flow rate). Note that since the vapor pressure at
pump suction is considered to decay only after the residence time has elapsed, the
critical point occurs at the end of the residence time interval.
A simplified expression for the deaerator pressure decay can be expressed by the
exponential decay equation for corresponding enthalpy as follows:

hd =enthalpy of deaerator water storage tank at any time t, Btu/lb
hhc =enthalpy of condensate in condenser hotwell
h1 =initial enthalpy of deaerator water storage tank, Btu/lb
Wc =condensate flow after steam cut-off, lbs/min
M =mass of water in deaerator storage tank, lbs
Eqn (1) is given in terms of enthalpy. The corresponding deaerator pressure is the
saturation pressure at the enthalpy established by Eqn (1).
This equation is a simplification as it does not consider the warm condensate
contained in the low pressure heaters and the condensate piping. However, it is
adequate for our use as it is conservative. If the use of Eqn (1) indicates a problem
with the BFW pumps’ capability in handling the deaerator transient, the system
designer can redesign the system or re-check the calculations using the more exact
equations available in published literature (Ref. 1). Note that the condensate flow
to the deaerator (Wc) after steam cut-off needs to be established correctly, based
on subsequent boiler load and spray water consumption in the steam attemperaters.
The boiler load at this stage is expected to be limited to the capacity of the turbine
bypass system.