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When selecting a vertical turbine pump design, what factors should be

considered when determining the use of open or enclosed lineshaft?
A. An open lineshaft and an enclosed lineshaft-type deepwell pump are
shown in ANSI/HI 2.1 2.2, Rotodynamic (Vertical) Pumps for Nomenclature
and Definitions.
The open lineshaft pump is often referred to as a productlubricated or water-lubricated pump. The lubrication for an enclosed lineshaft
pump may be oil, grease, filtered pump discharge water or clean water from
an external source. Representative cutaway sections of open and enclosed
lineshaft construction for vertical turbine pumps are shown in Figures and

The open lineshaft bearing bushings are subject to abrasive wear when the
pumped liquid contains sand or other suspended solids. The open lineshaft
type does not have a possible contamination problem, which can exist with
the enclosed lineshaft type when drip oil or packed grease is used. Other
examples of product-lubricated pump constructions can be found in ANSI/HI
The enclosed lineshaft bearing bushings are protected from pumped
abrasives and are lubricated by drip feed oil, packed grease or pressurized
water in the standard pump configurations. The shaft-enclosing tube is
provided to protect the shaft and bearing bushings from the liquid being
pumped and to provide a means for abrasive-free water, grease or oil to
lubricate the bearing bushings. A bypass port in the top of the bowl
assembly, not necessarily used on lower head or single-stage applications,
prevents the buildup of pressure in the shaft-enclosing tubes.
Mineral oil contamination of wells is a possible problem with enclosed
lineshaft; therefore, biodegradable oils are frequently used. Selecting proper

biodegradable oil is important because many of these oils promote molds

and bacteria growth.
Numerous variations of the open and enclosed lineshaft constructions exist,
especially in the short-setting pumps and custom engineered-to-order
verticals. A variety of bearing constructions and lubrication systems are
applied to suit different applications.

Back to Basics: How to Improve Vertical

Turbine Pump Reliability through Optimum
Bearing Selection
By Allan Budris

Vertical turbine pumps (VTPs) offer many unique advantages for many
applications. For instance, the vertical construction takes up little floor space;
priming problems can be avoided due to submersion of the impellers in
liquid; the first stage impeller can be lowered (by increasing the pit depth, if
necessary) to provide the desired NPSH margin; multistage construction and
midrange specific speeds offer high efficiencies; and modular construction
allows the pumps to be customized for many applications.
VTPs are available in deep well, wet pit (short setting or close-coupled),
canned, and submersible motor configurations. Accordingly, my September
2008 column on the advantages and cautions of using VTPs on water and
wastewater applications concentrated primarily on cavitation, vibration and
axial thrust, as well as how to avoid the associated field problems.

An additional key issue that should be considered when applying a VTP on

liquids that contain solids, abrasives and/or air is the selection of the bearing
material and/or construction, given the fact that the bearings are immersed
in and lubricated by the fluid pumped during most typical applications. As
such, they are also generally the first component to deteriorate in a VTP.
Conventional Vertical Turbine Pump Bearings

VTP bearings are found in the bowl assembly (in each bowl, suction case/bell
and possibly the discharge case) and in the column assembly (unless the
pump has a short setting or is driven by a submersible motor located below
the bowl assembly). Bowl bearings are normally made of a low-lead bronze
material, set against a 416 stainless steel bowl shaft without any replaceable
sleeves (see Fig. 1).

Further, the column assembly connects the bowl assembly to the

aboveground discharge head. Typical column bearings are either constructed
of a cutless rubber (see Fig. 2), operating against a stainless steel shaft
sleeve (lubricated by the fluid pumped) or bronze enclosed in a tube
(lubricated by either an oil drip or water flush, introduced at the discharge
head, and exiting into the well or sump at the top of the bowl assembly; see
Fig. 3).

Open Lineshaft
Open column line shaft bearing construction is recommended for ease of
maintenance and/or whenever a special bearing material is required; it is not
recommended for longer settings greater than about 100 feet. Renewable
shaft sleeves or hard facing on the shaft are available for longer life, and

typical bearing spacing is 10 feet for well applications. However, for shorter
settings, the shaft size and spacing should be selected so that the shafting
will operate below its first critical speed (see Fig. 4). For example, at 1,800
RPM, the maximum bearing spacing for a 1 11/16 inch (1.69 inch) shaft
would be five feet.

Enclosed Column
In this configuration, an enclosing tube provides the lineshaft with protection
from the pumped liquid and ensures clean lubrication to the bearings prior to
startup, which is especially important for deeper settings (over about 100
feet). The lineshaft bearings are typically spaced at five-foot intervals to
support the lineshaft. An internal spiral groove allows the lubricant to flow
between the shaft and the inner face of the bearing, while the outside of the
bearing is threaded to connect the enclosing tube sections.
This construction minimizes maintenance of the column bearings in abrasive
services. The oil (or water) lubrication for the enclosed construction is
introduced at the surface. A tank attached to the discharge head provides oil
through a solenoid valve to the tension bearing in the stuffing box. It then
flows by gravity into the enclosing tube and through the bypass port in the
bowl assembly discharge case. Alternate lubricants such as clean water or
grease can also be used with enclosed lineshaft construction. Lubricating oils
are available that are acceptable for discharge into the pumped liquid, even
when it is intended for drinking water.
Bowl Assembly Bearings

Line shaft bearings can be protected from abrasive wear by either

constructing them of cutless rubber (which can tolerate fairly high levels of
suspended solids) or by the use of an enclosed tube around the lineshaft;
bowl bearings, however, must operate in the pumped liquid. This means
that, in most cases, the choice of bearing material (see Table 1) is normally
the only option that will allow the pump to handle higher levels of solids or
air/vapor. Air can enter a VTP when the well or sump levels are low
(vortexing), can be entrained in the pumpage due to mixing, or can be
released from entrainment due cavitation in the first and/or second stage of
the pump (as discussed in the September 2008 column). Once in the bowl
assembly, the air and vapors (being lighter then water) can be centrifuged
into the bearings. Some VTP manufacturers do, however, offer rifle-drilled
bowl assembly shafts with an external water flush that can greatly improve
the bowl bearing life when handling solids/abrasives and/or air/vapor, as
shown in Figure 1.

Bearing Material Options

Table 1 lists the classes of column and bowl assembly bearing materials
generally available for VTPs, with each manufacturer typically offering their
own specific alloys. The bronze alloys typically offered have very low (if any)
lead due to environmental concerns, which reduces their dry-running ability.
Carbon graphite bearings probably offer one of the most efficient dry-running
capabilities but have very low solids/abrasive tolerance; they are also
available with a variety of fillers. Teflon bearings also have excellent dryrunning capability and poor abrasive tolerance, plus they are available with a
variety of fillers. However, Teflon bearings cannot be retained with a press fit
due to the potential of cold flow.

Vespel bearings are also much like Teflon bearings but with improved
dimensional stability, and they are also available with a variety of fillers,
including Teflon and carbon. Rubber bearings are primarily used for open
lineshaft column applications and are very proficient at handling solids, as
long as they are not too sharp. However, they have poor lubricity and should
be wetted prior to startup, which could pose a problem with deep settings
(over about 100 feet), especially if the pump does not have a foot (check)
valve and it takes too long for the pumped liquid to reach the upper
bearings. Rubber bearings are seldom used for bowl bearings due to the
larger required running clearance. Finally, hardened surface metal bearings
are also available, such as chromium oxide and tungsten carbide, for
abrasive/solid applications, but they are expensive and also have poor
lubricity for handling air and/or vapors.

More Pump Tips

Do you enjoy Allan Budris's monthly Pump Tips column? Here are a few of his
recent articles:
Back to Basics: Pump Factory Performance Tests
Selecting the Optimum Pump Control Valve to Save Substantial Wasted Energy
Back to Basics: How to Improve Vertical Turbine Pump Reliability through
Optimum Bearing Selection
Pump Protection: The Pros and Cons of Various Centrifugal Pump Casing Types
Considerations for Designing Piping Adjacent to a Centrifugal Pump
Bearing Burdens: Reducing Lubrication Contaminants to Improve Bearing Life,

Lifecycle Costs
Power Precautions: Analyzing Pump Startup and Shutdown Best Practices