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ASAC REFRIGERATION DIVISION
LIQUID OVERFEED OR RECIRCULATION SYSTEMS
Colin Hewetson
23/6/05
Reference Cornell Pumps/Hanson/Witt/Hermetique

This type of system was developed to overcome the shortcomings of the DX system whereby the refrigerant
quality is only approximately 60% or in simple terms only approximately 60% of the evaporator surface is fully
wetted. In such cases the heat transfer or heat flux will be low as only latent heat transfer will arise in the wetted
portion and sensible heat in the vapour section or useful superheat.
A liquid overfeed evaporator is essentially the same as in the DX system except that the means of distributing
the liquid among the circuits of the coil may be somewhat different. Overfeed implies that more liquid is fed to
the coils than will be evaporated (or boiled off), and in fact, the overfeed rate is typically about 2 to3:1.which is
the ratio of units of liquid that exit the evaporator to units of vapor that exit the evaporator. This is compared
with the recirculation rate which is the ratio of units of liquid that enter the evaporator to units of vapor that exit.
The recirculation rate is most commonly used to specify the amount of liquid to be fed. The various references
and tables are generally set up in terms of recirculation rate. By overfeeding the coils it is assured that the inner
surfaces will be thoroughly wetted and will thus have the optimum heat transfer. Overfeeding also assures that
the vapor that does exit the coil will be close to saturation, not superheated, and this will ensure lower
compressor temperatures and more efficient operation of the condenser. There is little point in overfeeding by
say 4:1 as this just increases the pressure drops & pump power.
By feeding considerably more than will be evaporated, it becomes unimportant that the feed be precisely
controlled - there is great latitude without any significant effect on the temperature control of the refrigerated
space. So, since there is liquid exiting the coil, how does the compressor operate without damage? Protecting the
compressor is the primary function of the LP surge drum or more commonly referred to as the LP receiver.
The low pressure receiver is simply a horizontal or vertical cylindrical vessel placed in the compressor suction
line between the outlet of the evaporator and inlet of the compressor. Its function is to separate the excess liquid
from the vapor, thus it is sometimes also known as a separator. The diameter and volume of the receiver must be
carefully designed to provide a) adequate reduction in gas velocity to ensure disengagement of the liquid
droplets from the vapor so that it is a true vapor that enters the compressor rather than an aerosol b) sufficient
surge volume for liquid storage is provided to store refrigerant during low loadings or coil defrost c) sufficient
static head to avoid cavitation at the vessel outlet/pump inlet.
A secondary function of the receiver is that it helps to ensure that the vapor is saturated and not superheated any superheat in the vapor tends to transfer into the adjacent liquid and boil it off , thus maintaining saturation.
There is an outlet at the top of the receiver that takes the vapor to the compressor and an outlet at the bottom of
the receiver that takes the liquid to the pump. There is an inlet, known as a wet return or wet suction which
brings the liquid and vapor from the evaporator into the receiver. There is also a line from the high pressure side,
the condenser, through which the high pressure, high temperature liquid is flashed back to low pressure, low
temperature liquid and vapor in the low pressure receiver. Ideally however the high pressure liquid should be
subcooled to near as possible to the evaporator temperature via the intercooler on a two stage system or shell &
coil flooded economizers or subcoolers on either the high and or low stage compressors. Open flash economizers
should not be used (unless the pressure head available is in excess of liquid feed device or LP receiver pressure
requirements) as the pressure (screw compressor systems) will correlate to the side load port pressure which
will be at some mid point between compressor suction & discharge pressure. Subcooling reduces the volume of
flash gas & hence compressor displacement in comparison to systems where the liquid is expanded directly from
the HP receiver at condensing pressure to the LP receiver via an expansion device. The liquid feed or make up

There is no significant heat flux increase in overfeeding by more than 3:1 in fact 2:1 is more than enough for most applications and even then this provides only a slight improvement over flooded operation.) all evaporating refrigerant at the same refrigerant temperature and pressure. For example the change in enthalpy for R717 assuming the evaporators are fed from LP liquid @ -20°C & the enthalpy change between vapour & liquid @ -20°C is 613btu/lb – 48.35lb/m/TR.7] = 35. As 1psi = 4' for R717 if we assume an average static height of 10mtr or 33' this equates to 8. If such tables are unavailable then the flow rate can be determined by calculating the refrigeration effect or more simply taking the change in enthalpy of the liquid & vapour at the liquid supply temperature & dividing the cooling load in Btu/m by the change in enthalpy to give you a lb/m/ton flow rate. So to select the pump flow multiply the theoretical 35. Obviously there is some expansion and flash gas generated in cooling the HP liquid to the final evaporating temperature.4lb/m or 0. plate freezers.3btu/lb = 564. Then the flow rate will be determined from: lbs or kgs Per Minute = Total tons (or kw) x lbs/m/ton (or g/m/kw) x recirculation rate The lbs/m/ton can be looked up in a refrigeration reference such as the ASHRAE Refrigeration Handbook. The LP receiver liquid level float controller or float switch signals or energises or deenergises the liquid line solenoid valve according to the liquid level in the LP drum. etc.25psi so total head would be say 20 + 8. The other loop takes the liquid from the evaporator to the receiver. In pumped systems the hand expansion valve is used mainly as a flow control or regulating device it is not an expansion device as such. placed at the outlet of an evaporator." The refrigerant pump is sized according to the total refrigeration load that will be served by that pump and the pressure required to get the resultant liquid flow to all the coils being served.25psi. Holding . The most significant exception to the process outlined above for determining pressure requirement is brought about by the presence in the system of one or more back pressure regulators. If the load is 100TR or 1200000btu/hr the flow rate is 1200000/60[/564.7Btu/lb. In the DX system (and others) the motive force for distributing refrigerant through the system is high side pressure or pressure differential. One loop takes the vapor from the evaporator to the receiver to the compressor. on average this would work out at 15-20 psi. If pipe runs are longer than about 300 feet then the pipe friction should be calculated.25= 28. The receiver introduces a second "loop" into the refrigeration system. There is no need for complicated metering valve or expensive metering valves to be used.2 line to the LP receiver simply needs to be 2 service stop valves + solenoid valve + hand expansion valve. Additionally you have to add the static lift which is the difference between the pump and the highest evaporator in the circuit.the high side and low side are now "decoupled. such as a number of evaporators in a large cold storage space. whose purpose is to hold the evaporator at a higher pressure than the saturation pressure corresponding to the temperature of the liquid refrigerant supply. to the high pressure receiver and then back to the receiver.4lb/m x 2 or 3 to give you the total flow. These are control valves. The liquid pump removes that dependence on maintaining an artificially high compressor discharge . assuming the HP liquid has been subcooled to within 10°C of the evaporating temperature. this calculation is based on the total equivalent length of piping from the pump discharge back to the LP receiver which normally would be based on 1psi/100' pressure drop + evaporator pressure drop. Additionally you will need to determine the pump head. Ideally. The pipe friction can be determined from tables issued to you. but not as much as there would be if HP liquid at condensing temperature were used. the pump will be supplying liquid to devices (evaporators. and it is a function of temperature. Every heat exchange device connected to the liquid supply will be designed to absorb a specified quantity of heat and evaporate refrigerant at a particular temperature. through the pump and then back to the evaporator. To determine the required refrigerant flow rate it is necessary to know the total tons of refrigeration to be served by the pump. Sizing & selecting a refrigerant pump is no different from selecting a water pump the same principles apply. Liquid overfeed systems require a circulating pump to transfer a continuous flow of refrigerant to the evaporators. to the condenser.

5CBH 10 USGPM 116 USGPM 2CBS 12 USGPM 54 USGPM . Remember that the bypass flow should be added to the system flow and the total used to specify the total pump flow. but one coil is being back pressure regulated so that the liquid will boil off at 30F instead. so now head pressure can be allowed to "float" down with the ambient temperature to take advantage of cooler weather. the pressure difference between sufficient and insufficient flow may not be enough to assure that a relief valve will open or close properly. The bypass line is connected between the pump discharge flange and the stop valve to a wet return back to the vessel. (3) Slowly close the bypass line valve until the pump discharge pressure starts to become unstable as indicated by "bouncing" of the pressure gauge needle. so the pump must be sized to provide an additional 21 psi (45 . (2) Close the discharge stop valve. Due to the relative flatness of a centrifugal pump curve. This results in turbulence and small vortices. The bypass line is a means to safeguard against insufficient flow. At one half to one third of the best efficiency point. As an example. The saturation pressure at 30F is 45 psi. The bypass line should be at least 3/4 in. Pump Leg Line Velocities and Characteristics The pump leg should be sized for an optimum line velocity of 3 Ft. Refrigerant Pump Capacity Characteristics The following matrix highlights the minimum and maximum flow characteristics for refrigerant pumps Model Mini Flow Max Flow 1. Pump leg over sizing should be limited to one pipe size.5CLB 12 USGPM 55 USGPM 1. and should include a needle or globe valve.24) above what the system calculations indicate. In such a system you still apply the same process to determine the required pressure except that now you must add an additional pressure equal to the difference between the liquids saturation pressure and the pressure to which the coil is being held. A 3 Ft. often below the vapor pressure of the fluid. the line should be left alone. (1) Fully open the bypass line valve. A relief valve should not be utilized within a bypass line. The high velocity at the core of the vortices results in low pressure. With the introduction into the system of the LPR (low pressure receiver) the coils can now be operated flooded for maximum efficiency. however the pump leg should never be smaller in diameter than the pump suction size.3 the pressure at this higher value causes the refrigerant to evaporate at a higher temperature. Bypass Line Characteristics Recirculation is a phenomenon common to all centrifugal pumps when operated at low capacity. the pump legs should be kept as short as possible while allowing 2 to 3 pipe diameters between the suction stop valve and the pump suction flange. Once the bypass line has been adjusted for minimum flow requirements. a system is employing 10F liquid which has a saturation pressure of 24 psi.The minimum flow requirement for a given refrigeration pump can be established by the following procedure. In addition. a secondary flow begins within the impeller whereby the fluid actually reverses direction and exits the eye and/or enters the discharge. The addition of the pump removes the dependence on high side pressure as the means of circulating the refrigerant. and (4) Open the bypass line valve until the gauge stabilizes. and cavitation may ensue. Per Second line velocity represents the most effective compromise between the heat capacity of the line and excess friction loss. For example a pump and receiver package may supply -40F liquid to a freezer room to maintain that room at -30F and also supply -40F liquid to a loading dock whose evaporators are back pressure controlled to cause that liquid to boil off at +25F. Per Second.5CB 13 USGPM 88 USGPM 1. and this enables one pump recirculation package to handle more than one temperature zone.

a secondary flow begins within the impeller whereby the fluid actually . Where the drop leg is omitted in favor of a pump leg with a long radius elbow connected directly to the vessel. otherwise cavitation will occur. the drop leg should extend below the pump leg entrance. At one half to one third of the best efficiency point. Bypass Line Characteristics Recirculation is a phenomenon common to all centrifugal pumps when operated at low capacity. a secondary flow begins within the impeller whereby the fluid actually reverses direction and exits the eye and/or enters the discharge. NPSHR Operation below the minimum flow threshold may create insufficient flow through the pump which may result in heating and boiling of the liquid or in cavitation due to "recirculation". The high velocity at the core of the vortices results in low pressure. preventing the bubbles from entering the pump suction. Operation above the maximum flow threshold may initiate cavitation. In addition. The NPSHR is the positive head in feet absolute required at the pump suction to overcome these pressure drops in the pump and maintain the liquid above it's vapor pressure. Finally. It is recommended that NPSHA is equal to or greater than NSPHR + 2 feet. This results in turbulence and small vortices. above the vapor pressure head. Drop Leg Sizing and Characteristics As an ideal target the drop leg diameter should be sized for a velocity of approximately 1/4 Ft. This assumes the conventional horizontal pump leg connected to a vertical drop leg. it is compared to the NPSHR as published on the liquid overfeed pump performance curve. When the NPSHA in the system has been determined. Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR) is a function of pump design. and operating speed. the absolute minimum submergence of the drop leg opening below the vessel minimum liquid level should be 12 inches. bypass capacity should be include within the capacity requirement to enable the end user to achieve the minimum flow requirement for a given refrigeration pump. often below the vapor pressure of the fluid. Consequently. per second at the system design flow rate. capacity. At one half to one third of the best efficiency point. the pump leg should be connected off the vessel vertical centerline so oil can be collected from a tap off the bottom vertical centerline of the vessel. to suppress boiling. and cavitation may ensue. The NPSHR varies with the pump design. The drop leg mouth should contain a crossed vortex eliminator and/or horizontal baffle plate. Whereas. These NPSHR values are stated in terms of feet of head on the manufacturer's performance curves.4 2CB 3CB 50 USGPM 156 USGPM 50 USGPM 400 USGPM *Maximum flow limits are established at 3 Ft. The Net Positive Head Available (NPSHA) must be greater than the NPSHR. Recirculation is a phenomenon common to all centrifugal pumps when operated at low capacity. Net Positive Suction Head Available (NPSHA). The bypass line is an effective means to safeguard against insufficient flow. The liquid velocity increases and the pressure decreases as the liquid passes over the leading edges of the impeller vanes. is a measure of the total energy available at the suction of the pump. Using Stoke's settling laws it can be calculated that about 1/4 foot per second is about the optimum velocity for the drop leg flow in order to allow entrained bubbles to rise at a higher rate than the downward liquid velocity.

and cavitation may ensue. The high velocity at the core of the vortices results in low pressure. How do you tell the difference? Diagnosis begins with an evaluation of how likely vapor is to be the problem. The "instabilities" will result in more boiling within the vessel and simply increase the likelihood that the pump will ingest vapor." The phrase "vapor entrainment" implies that the vapor is carried into the pump from an external source. Once the bypass line has been adjusted for minimum flow requirements. where the vapor content is not sufficient to stop the flow through the pump. they do a very poor job of pumping gasses or multi-phase fluids. and this increases the likelihood that vapor will be drawn into the suction line. When you accelerate away from a stop. there are going to be more load variations and resulting pressure transients in the vessel. problems from the pump's perspective are also simple. A relief valve should not be utilized within a bypass line. Conversely. However. This is because the air surrounding the balloons is heavier than the helium. (1) Fully open the bypass line valve.the pump is "vapor bound. the pump suction is closer to any surface boiling that occurs. Where process loads predominate vs. Remember that the bypass flow should be added to the system flow and the total used to specify the total pump flow. insufficient flow through the pump may result in heating and boiling of the pumpage or in cavitation due to "recirculation". Vapor entrained in the liquid stream to the pump suction in large enough volume does not simply pass through the pump. they employ essentially one moving part. A popular analogy is that of transporting helium filled balloons in your car. At the onset of a vapor . The bypass line is a means to safeguard against insufficient flow. This results in turbulence and small vortices. Due to the relative flatness of a centrifugal pump curve.5 reverses direction and exits the eye and/or enters the discharge. The minimum flow requirement for a given refrigeration pump can be established by the following procedure. the line should be left alone. This lack of submergence means that the pump suction line is closer to the vapor phase in the vessel so that vortexing is more likely. A third simple characteristic of centrifugal pumps is that while they are very efficient liquid movers. This is as distinct from cavitation where the vapor is actually generated within the pump. the balloons actually move forward toward the windshield. When too much flow is demanded of the pump by the system. the heavier liquid component of the pumpage is thrown outward by the centripetal action of the rotating impeller. A horizontal vessel is far more likely to contribute to vapor problems than a vertical. when you accelerate. cavitation will result. More important. and (4) Open the bypass line valve until the gauge stabilizes. the heavier air is forced toward the back of the car and displaces the lighter helium forward. (2) Close the discharge stop valve. The bypass line is connected between the pump discharge flange and the stop valve to a wet return back to the vessel. This creates a vapor blockage at the eye of the impeller which reduces or prevents the passage of the liquid . In a similar fashion. Nevertheless. Consequently. The bypass line should be at least 3/4 in. often below the vapour pressure of the fluid. The distance between the operating level and outlet of the vessel (the mouth of the drop leg) is always smaller with a horizontal. it is not directly related to or affected by the pump's Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR) or the system's Net Positive Suction Head Available (NPSHA). the pressure difference between sufficient and insufficient flow may not be enough to assure that a relief valve will open or close properly. Vapor Entrainment Centrifugal pumps for refrigerant recirculation in liquid overfeed systems are very simple devices. The preceding two system design/application characteristics individually or in unison make vapor entrainment a very likely cause of problems. and there are simple methods available to verify this. cold storage loads. (3) Slowly close the bypass line valve until the pump discharge pressure starts to become unstable as indicated by "bouncing" of the pressure gauge needle. and should include a needle or globe valve. it may actually result in noise which sounds exactly like cavitation. and the lighter vapor is "centrifuged" toward the center of rotation. These are indicative of an improperly sized pump or an improperly adjusted system.

so it will continue to operate for a time. In order to maintain the pressure in the LPR at saturation pressure the compressor(s) will load up to a higher percentage of capacity in order to remove the excess gas from the receiver. The key to avoiding vapor entrainment in a vessel is to keep the rate of pressure drop as low as possible during any pressure reduction. In a vertical vessel it would be unusual if there were not more than 3 feet of submergence. However. This simple test using the discharge stop valve will most likely reveal whether or not there is a vapor problem but not what its cause is.. it is not the result of any refrigeration load. and more of the vapor becomes "stuck" in the impeller eye. and the flash gas supply will be instantly removed. Along with the vessel design. such as an increased refrigeration demand caused by a new batch of warm product being brought to a freezer or increased shipping and receiving activity which allows more warm air into the refrigerated space. horizontal vessels always have less submergence available to separate the surface boiling from the mouth of the drop leg. high pressure. Vessel and piping design is always involved no matter what is deemed to be the greatest contributing factor. As a result the LPR pressure will drop until the compressor can unload. However. the likelihood of vapor entrainment is greatly increased by the higher velocity in the smaller diameter line.the temperature and pressure must be brought down to their design values before they stabilize.. and then obviously 18 inches of submergence will not prevent vapor from entering the drop leg. For example. it will be necessary to quickly start closing the pump discharge stop valve and observe the behavior of the pump. Simple vortexing is not often a problem anymore as most vessel manufacturers have learned to include crossed plate vortex eliminators or similar devices in the mouth of the drop leg. when the liquid level in the LPR drops and the float switch causes the makeup solenoid to open. the bubbles will rise at a rate faster than the downward liquid velocity. However. the pump will stumble even more quickly and will likely lose prime. and the horizontal to vertical transition is made with a long radius elbow. However. then recirculation is so unlikely as to be relegated to the end of the check list. In many cases a drop leg of larger diameter than the pump suction size is not used. the pump suction pipe is simply connected directly to the vessel. As previously mentioned. If the drop leg is sized for a liquid velocity of about 25 ft. This is because the liquid velocities inside the pump impeller become inadequate to sweep vapor through. the compressor cannot unload instantly. if the problem is due to vapor entrainment. In such designs. However. Pressure reductions occur when a system is started up from ambient . When the LPR liquid level is restored the float switch will close the solenoid. the closing down of the stop valve will bring about almost immediate recovery. boiling will occur about 3 feet below the liquid surface. then the full liquid height from the operating level to the pump level can be used to protect against vapor entrainment rather than just the submergence above the mouth of the drop leg. the pump discharge pressure will begin to fall off very noticeably.6 entrainment event. However. If the pump is suffering from cavitation due to too high a flow rate. vapor entrainment due simply to the proximity of the boiling layer to the mouth will still occur if the submergence is less than about 18 inches. If this pressure drop is greater than about 1 psi/minute the liquid in the LPR will boil about 3 feet below the liquid surface. if the pump is connected to an adequately sized and adjusted bypass line and/or there are system loads on line (not all liquid solenoids closed). A false load is not directly related to an actual increase in refrigeration required but is due to the way the system functions. if the projection is made too long. This is done to prevent oil entrance to the pump. if the drop leg is properly sized. When this begins to occur. This leads to the discussion of false loads./min. the causes are numerous and often interrelated. some of the submergence is lost. all but a few vapor entrainment problems are also directly related to the rate of pressure drop during any transient in the vessel. This make-up refrigerant is as much as 30% vapor by weight. high temperature refrigerant flashes into the LPR. rather. Often the drop or pump leg is made reentrant to the vessel projecting through the vessel wall rather than flush with it. fully loaded but drawing on a reduced gas supply. and this vapor is simply flash gas. Unfortunately. Pump performance that is faltering due to low flow recirculation will also worsen as the stop valve is closed down. Pressure reductions also occur when something upsets the system. the pump will draw in the vapor and will lose prime until the vapor blockage "burps" through. If any pressure drop in the vessel is quicker than about 1 psi/min. .

though. This. and the compressors respond just as with the make-up cycle. Hot gas from the high side enters the evaporator and warms the coils. because our pump will run vapor locked without a problem. then the plant begins to have trouble maintaining temperature. but false loading is a common source of pump grief. If the vapor lock lasts too long. . After a while the pressure inside the evaporator builds high enough that the defrost regulator opens. is a false load. During hot gas defrost of an evaporator the liquid supply solenoid to that evaporator closes. again. and now hot gas starts blowing down the wet return line to the LPR. This grief is more from the standpoint of the operator than from the pump. and a hot gas supply solenoid opens. and sometimes compressors can be loaded more slowly. Sometimes there are ways to control false loads more closely. the defrost regulator on the evaporator outlet closes.7 Another source of false load occurs as a result of hot gas defrosting practices.