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PREVENTING CAVITATION DAMAGE IN

LIQUID RING PUMPS


Cavitation. Whether you are a submarine captain or a
maintenance manager, it is not something you want to hear.

Cavitation
damage in a liquid ring pump
What is cavitation?
If you are having a crab boil on the beach, water boils at 212F - give or take; if you
decide to move your party to Denver, you will find that the water starts to bubble at
around 200F. The boiling point is different because the atmospheric pressure pushing
down on the water in Denver is less than at sea level, which allows the liquid to convert
to vapor at a lower temperature. When liquid is boiling in a cooking pot we call it
"dinner". When the liquid ring in a pump starts to boil, we call it "cavitation".

How does cavitation cause damage?

Much like the pot of water example, cavitation in a liquid ring pump is caused when the
operating pressure of the liquid ring reaches the vapor pressure of that liquid. This
causes some of the liquid to become vapor, forming bubbles that travel around with the
liquid ring. As these bubbles travel inside the pump they collapse, or implode, and can
break off pieces of the pump. These pieces travel with the liquid ring and cause further
damage through erosion.
What can we do to avoid cavitation in a liquid ring vacuum pump?

The answer is more complicated than you might think. Cavitation is a function of both
temperature and pressure. The lower the operating temperature of the liquid ring, the
lower the potential for cavitation. However, if the operating pressure of the pump is close
to the vapor pressure of the ring liquid at the operating temperature, cavitation can still
occur.

In cavitation prone operations, like condenser vacuum pump duty, it is a good idea to
periodically record the temperature of the seal liquid supply and discharge. Increases in
temperature can indicate the need for a checkup, and trending them over time will allow
you to schedule preventative maintenance before reliability is affected.
With the changes in the power industry, some plants with no history of
cavitation with their condenser vacuum pumps may suddenly start to have
problems. Why would this happen?

With more renewable power available, power plants that previously ran at full load now
find themselves having to turn down their generation capability to provide only enough
power to "fill in the cracks" on the power grid.

At reduced load, the turbine main condenser will operate at a lower pressure than it did
at full load. Since turbine condensers operate at the saturation temperature, the lower
operating pressure means the vapor pressure of the liquid ring will be closer to the
saturation temperature at the operating pressure. This is a recipe for cavitation in
'unhealthy' vacuum systems.
NASH
Condenser Exhauster System with an Upgraded NASH TC9 Liquid Ring Vacuum Pump
As operating conditions continue to change, what is the long term solution?

At Nash, we have always taken special care to minimize the potential for cavitation when
designing our systems. We have seen the industry trend toward operating the vacuum
equipment at conditions more prone to cavitation, and we have challenged our
engineers to develop methods to further reduce the potential for cavitation in our liquid
ring pumps. Our answer is the upgraded NASH TC Series of two-stage liquid ring
pumps.

Through a patent-pending design change, the NASH TC pump effectively reduces


cavitation and the damage it can cause. The new design doubles the useful life of a
pump operating under conditions prone to cavitation without impacting power or
performance, and is available on new models and as an aftermarket upgrade.

If your power plant is being asked to run at low loads or if you have had a history of
cavitation in your liquid ring pumps, you may be at risk for cavitation damage. Contact
Nash before performance and reliability become an issue. We can discuss your options
for preventative maintenance, and upgrades that will help you avoid downtime and
costly repairs.

Learn more about the TC Anti-Cavitation Upgrade