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Flow Properties of Sludges and Slurries, and their Effects on

Pipeline Hydraulics and Centrifugal Pump Performance

N. I. Heywood and N. J. Alderman

BHR Group Ltd, UK


This paper summarises appropriate approaches for the prediction of frictional pressure loss
across pipework and pipe fittings for “non-settling” sludges and slurries to assist in the
development of a system curve. This curve, combined with centrifugal pump characteristics
define alternative possible duty points, depending on pump impeller speed. Because pump
characteristics are usually supplied based on water flow, deration of pump performance needs
to be carried out to allow for the effect of sludge or slurry flow properties. This can be done
using the ANSI/HI (2004) standard for Newtonian materials and the ANSI/HI (2005) standard
for settling slurries, but there is currently no generally recognised method for derating
centrifugal pumps for non-Newtonian “non-settling” sludges or slurries. Software has been
developed in BHR’s System Losses Tool (SLOT) which assists in determining pump duty


1.1 “Non-settling”, pseudohomogeneous sludges and slurries

The flow properties of “non-settling” sludges and slurries can be measured over relevant shear
rate ranges using a rotational or tube viscometer, or using a recirculating flow loop.
Alternatively, the rheological properties of a wide range of sewage sludge types can be
estimated using BHR’s Sludge Rheology Database. The flow curves (or “rheograms”) obtained
are represented using a suitable model and the parameters in the model estimated. Combined
with the pipe internal diameter and volume flowrate required, these estimated parameters are
then used to determine whether the flow is in the laminar or turbulent flow regimes. Depending
on the flow regime, appropriate equations for predicting frictional pressure loss across
pipework and pipe fittings on both the pump suction and discharge allow the development of a
system curve, once any pipe net elevation changes are also taken into account.

These flow properties are represented by the material’s flow curve which must be measured
over the appropriate shear rate range. Sludges often exhibit non-Newtonian behaviour where
the relationship between shear rate and shear stress does not vary proportionally as for a
Newtonian fluid such as water. Owing to the different composition of sludges, their rheological
behaviour varies according to the sludge type. The most common non-Newtonian behaviour
found with sludges is known to be ‘shear-thinning’, where viscosity reduces with increasing
shear rate and hence position within the pipeline or pump. In addition, some sludges exhibit a
yield stress. This is known as viscoplastic behaviour. Sludge/slurry viscosity is given by

μ  τ/γ
 Eqn. 1

 = viscosity [Pas]

γ = shear rate [s-1]
 = shear stress [Pa]

There are two flow curve models that are commonly used to characterise the rheological
properties of various types of sewage sludge, and other slurry types. These are the Herschel-
Bulkley (or generalised Bingham Plastic) model:

τ  τ yHB  Kγ n Eqn. 2

and the power law model:
τ  Kγ
n Eqn. 3

yHB = yield stress parameter (Pa)

K = consistency coefficient (Pa sn)
n = flow behaviour index (-)

Fig 1 shows some typical flow curves for flocculated china clay (kaolin) slurries (Ref. 1).
Because straight lines can be drawn for laminar flow conditions when logarithmic plots of
shear stress versus shear rate are obtained at six different solids volume fractions (0.086 to
0.234), these flow curves are best described by the power law model.

Fig 1 Flow curves for flocculated china clay slurries

(at six solids volume fractions, 0.086 to 0.234)

In addition, the Bingham plastic model is also used to describe viscoplastic behaviour of many
slurry types,
τ  τ yB  η p γ Eqn. 4
Many types of sewage sludge are best described using the Herschel-Bulkley flow model. Fig 2
provides examples for activated sludge.

Fig 2 Original upper bound and subsequently smoothed flow curves for
activated sewage sludge

In BHR Group’s Water & Wastewater Mixing (WWM) research programme, an MS ACCESS
Sludge Rheology Database (‘SRDB’) has been established. This enables improved sludge flow
property prediction for a much wider range of sludge types (currently 500+ rheograms) than
those from the obsolete WRc Report TR 185 (Ref. 2). The new SRDB has been established
from a combination of existing data and sludge samples obtained from WWM members and
measured using the BHR rheology laboratory. The SRDB includes entries for sludge type and
origins, temperature, dry solids content, viscometer type, shear stress vs shear rate data, and
fitted flow curve model parameters. The SRDB has enabled predictive sludge rheology
correlations to be built up for many different sludge types.

1.2 Settling Slurries

The viscosity of slurries whose particles settle quite rapidly under gravitational forces in
horizontal or inclined pipe has no meaning owing to the wide variation in particle
concentration, and therefore cannot be measured and used to predict frictional pressure losses
across pipework and fittings. The flow of settling slurries in horizontal pipes can be classified
into various flow patterns as shown in Fig 3. These flow patterns refer to the in situ vertical
solids concentration profile (VSCP) and whether all solids are suspended or a proportion are
conveyed as a bed sliding along the pipe bottom. At high mean flow velocities it may be
possible to convey some coarse slurries so that there exists no discernible VSCP
(homogeneous flow: top diagram in Fig 3), but it is usually uneconomic to operate pipelines
carrying settling slurries at such high velocities in order to approach homogeneous flow.

Fig 3 Flow patterns for settling slurry in horizontal pipeflow

The heterogeneous flow pattern occurs when there exists a pronounced VSCP but where all
particles are suspended in the continuous phase (second figure down in Fig 3), and generally
turbulent flow conditions are required for this to occur. This flow pattern occurs at mean slurry
velocities which exceed the deposition velocity, i.e., the “velocity at which no particle settles
out onto the pipe bottom for more than 1 or 2 seconds”. At lower velocities still, a bed of solid
particles may form (third and fourth figures down in Fig 3). This bed may be stationary or may
slide. It is dangerous to operate long pipelines with the sliding bed flow pattern as solids build-
up may occur and block the pipeline. The consequence of a pronounced VSCP in
heterogeneous flow or, in addition, the presence of particle beds is that the in situ solids
concentration is higher than the discharge solids concentration. It also follows from this that
the mean velocity of the solids in the pipeline is usually lower than that of the mixture.


System pressure losses are functions of the pipe internal diameter, inner pipe wall roughness
(for turbulent flow), length, pipe fittings, and net elevation changes, as well as the sludge
rheological properties and desired flowrates (Ref. 3 and 4). Design engineers need to estimate
total pressure losses on the suction and discharge sides of a pump for alternative pipe
diameters and pipe velocities as well as determining whether flow is laminar or turbulent.

This leads to pump selection and sizing, derating the pump performance for sludge properties
and calculating pump power (volume flowrate multiplied by total pressure loss). The system
can then be optimised using sets of pump characteristics (different impeller speeds for the same
centrifugal pump) and system curves (for different pipe diameters and/or sludge/slurry flow

2.1 Frictional Head Loss Estimation for “Non-settling”, Pseudohomogeneous Sludges

and Slurries

2.1.1 Head Losses for Laminar Flow

Head losses arising from laminar slurry/sludge flow can be calculated using the Hagen-
Poiseuille equation for Newtonian slurries, or other equations for power law, Bingham plastic
(Buckingham equation), and Herschel-Bulkley type non-Newtonian behaviour. There is only
one equation in each case based on the flow model chosen to describe the material properties,
the volume flowrate and the internal pipe diameter. There is no effect of inner pipe wall
roughness on frictional head loss.

2.1.2 Head Losses for Turbulent Flow

There is quite a wide choice of equations for the prediction frictional head loss for turbulent
flow of Newtonian materials (Ref. 3), including, Blasius (1913), von Karman, Nikuradse
(1930’s), Colebrook & White (1939), Moody (1944), and Churchill (1977). Many of these
equations also include the effect of relative inner pipe wall roughness, e/D (Ref. 3). The
parameter “e” is the average pipe wall roughness and D is the internal pipe diameter. When
comparing these alternative equations, it has been shown that, for a given set of conditions, the
variation in predictions is often no greater than ±5% (Ref. 5), so it is of little consequence
which equation is chosen, except that the Blasius equation should not be used for pipe
Reynolds numbers greater than 100,000. However, for the turbulent flow of non-Newtonian
sludges and slurries, there are many equations whose predictions of frictional head loss can
vary widely. It is recommended that several are used (Ref. 3) and a judgement made regarding
whether a mean or upper bound value should be adopted. Alternatively, if only one method is
used, it is recommended that the methodology based on modelling by Wilson & Thomas be
applied (Refs. 6 to 8), as there is a growing amount of experimental evidence suggesting that
that the prediction from this modelling are the most reliable.

2.1.3 Head Losses across Pipe Fittings Newtonian sludges and slurries

Methods for estimating single loss coefficients for the turbulent flow of Newtonian materials
include various datasets (Refs. 9 to 11). Methods for estimating loss coefficient data with a
size dependence include the Crane method (Ref. 12), the Hydraulic Institute method (Ref. 13),
Miller’s graphical data (Ref. 14), and Idelchik’s graphical data (Ref. 15). Predictive methods
for estimating laminar flow loss coefficient data include Perry’s Chemical Engineers’ Handbook
dataset (Ref. 10), Rao’s nomograph (Ref. 16), Hooper ‘s 2-K method for laminar and turbulent
flow through fittings (Refs. 17 and 18), and Darby’s 3-K method for laminar and turbulent
flow through fittings (Refs. 19 and 20). Thus, there is a considerable amount of information
available for Newtonian material, but much less for non-Newtonian materials. Non-Newtonian sludges and slurries

Methods for estimating loss coefficients for laminar and turbulent flow of non-Newtonian
fluids through various fittings and valves in pipework can be categorised into either predictive
methods or experimental studies. Non-Newtonian fluids used in the experimental studies
include apple sauce/water mixtures, molasses, coal/water mixtures, aqueous CMC solutions,
aqueous sodium salt of CMC solutions, aqueous xanthan gum solutions, aqueous xanthan
gum/sucrose solutions, china clay/water suspensions, laterite/water suspensions, gypsum/water
suspensions iron ore slurries, zinc tailings, and surfactant-stabilised oil-in water emulsions.
Flow curve behaviour exhibited by these non-Newtonian fluids include the power law,
Bingham plastic and Herschel- Bulkley models.

Apart from the TR 185 design guide (Ref. 1), no experimental studies on flow of sewage and
wastewater sludges through various fittings have been published. As a result, the WWM
research consortium at BHR has embarked upon a test programme to measure the frictional
head loss across several types of pipe fitting, including bends, elbows, tees and gate valves.

The rheological properties of sewage and wastewater sludges are being simulated using several
aqueous polymer solutions at various concentrations, including CMC and Rhodopol®.

2.1.4 System Curves for Sludges and Slurries

The system curve is a plot of the head that must be met by the slurry pump at any given
capacity. This is a function of the piping details on pump discharge and the slurry flow
properties and is not determined by the pump itself.
Fig. 4 shows three typical system curves. The head comprises the sum of two factors:
• static head: the physical difference in slurry level (between suction free surface and
delivery free surface or any syphon height that must be filled with slurry at start-up)
• friction head: head required to be generated at the pump outlet to overcome friction
losses in the complete system (excluding the pump itself) and any other losses (e.g.,
entry/exit losses).

Head, H

Volume flowrate, Q

Fig. 4 Various shapes of system curves depending on Newtonian or non-Newtonian slurry

flow properties and whether the flow is laminar or turbulent

2.1.5 System Losses Approach for Various Types of Sewage Sludge

Currently, as with rheological property prediction, system loss design approaches are often
based by water companies and also their contractors on WRc’s TR 175 (Ref. 21) and TR 185
(Ref. 1) technical reports. The frictional pressure losses calculation approach used in TR 185 is
a simplified one and a critique by Dawson et al (Ref. 22) has shown that it is flawed. There was
therefore a need to update the TR 185 design methods with the latest published know-how on
non-Newtonian slurry pumping, integrate the calculations with the BHR Sludge Rheology

Database (SRDB), and incorporate the calculation approach into a software tool. This has
been addressed in BHR’s WWM 6 research programme with the production of the BHR
System Losses Tool (SLOT). SLOT is continuing to be developed in the current 2-year
WWM7 programme. Potential benefits of applying SLOT are capital cost saving through
improved pump selection and system design, operating cost savings through lower energy
costs, lower labour costs, and higher throughput.

2.2 Frictional Head Loss Estimation for Settling Slurries in Horizontal/Inclined Pipe

Estimation of the frictional head loss for both sliding bed and heterogeneous flow patterns is
typically based nowadays on the two-layer model. This is a mechanistic model, based as much
as possible on known physical laws. It consists of a set of algebraic equations which describe
the flow in terms of idealised or simplified versions of concentration and velocity distributions.
The derivation was extended and made rigorous by Professor K C Wilson, formerly at Kinston
University, Canada (Refs. 23 and 24). The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) in Canada
has also extended the model to fine particles and high concentrations and has incorporated a
broad range of experimental data obtained with pipes ranging up to 495 mm internal diameter.
The model consists of a set of algebraic equations which describe the flow in terms of idealised
or simplified versions of the solids concentration and velocity profiles across the pipe cross-
section of horizontal and inclined pipe. The model assumes a constant velocity and solids
concentration across the cross-section in two hypothetical upper and lower layers, and
concentration and velocity variations within these layers are neglected.

The SRC contribution to the model development has included its extension to fine particles. A
broad particle size distribution is dealt with by assuming that <74 micron solids are distributed
uniformly across the pipe cross-section and relevant fluid parameters, such as density and
viscosity, are based on the “fines”, rather than on the liquid phase. The >74 micron solids
represent the “coarse” slurry. This parameter is used for the estimation of both the deposition
velocity and the frictional pressure loss in the model (Refs. 25 and 26). A further parameter in
the modelling of the slurry pipe flow is the maximum packing fraction of the solids, by volume.
This is a measure of the maximum packing that the solids can achieve, and is often estimated
through gravity settling tests using slurry samples placed in a graduated cylinder.

Coulombic frictional forces acting between the slurry particle sand pipe wall are represented in
term of a coefficient of sliding friction in the lower layer. This is also an important parameter
and is typically assumed to be 0.5 or 0.6, depending on the pipe wall material, e.g., steel or
plastic-lined. However, this coefficient can also be measured using a sample of the slurry
sliding against a section of the pipe to be used.


At constant impeller speed, a roto-dynamic pump will produce a certain slurry delivery
flowrate dependent upon the total discharge head. The relationships between the delivery head,
H, input power, P, efficiency, η, with varying delivery volume flowrate, Q, are termed pump
characteristic performance curves or more simply pump characteristics.

3.1 Pump Deration for Newtonian Sludges and Slurries

In accordance with the known Hydraulic Institute (HI) procedure, the change in pump
performance when pumping Newtonian liquids and slurries for given water curves and pump

impeller speed is expressed by correction factors for head, C H’ flowrate, CQ, and efficiency, Cη.
These correction factors are defined in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5 Definition of correction factors for head, H, throughput, Q, and efficiency, η

In an extension of the previous HI procedure for viscosity corrections, ANSI/HI 9.6.7, 2004
(Ref. 27) provides a generalised derating method linked to a large body of experimental data
and based on a pump performance Reynolds number adjusted for specific speed. A parameter,
B, is coupled to various empirical relationships for the correction factors which also are
represented graphically in Figures 6 and 7. Parameter B is defined by

16.5ν 0.5 H 0.0625

B Eqn. 5
N 0.25Q 0.375

ν = kinematic sludge or slurry viscosity in mm/s
H = head in m
N = impeller speed in rev/min
Q = volume flowrate in m3/h

Fig 6 Flow and head correction factors as functions of B in ANSI/HI 2004 standard

Fig 7 Efficiency correction factor as a function of parameter B in ANSI/HI 2004 standard

3.2 Pump Deration for Settling Slurries

A generalised design diagram for estimation of the performance derating is given in Fig. 8, and
is taken from Refs. 28 and 29. The diagram gives the head ratio HR (H r), or head reduction
factor (RH), in terms of pump impeller (D) and average solids particle size (d 50) for a baseline
reference slurry with 15% by volume solids of 2.65 relative density and a negligible amount of
fine particles (particle size < 75 microns, or 200 mesh).

Fig 8 Prediction of head ratio as functions of pump impeller diameter and average particle size
for 15% v/v slurry, particle SG 2.65 and particles > 75 microns (ANSI/HI 2005 standard).

3.2.1 Effect of impeller diameter

Sellgren & Addie (Ref. 30) found that the head reduction factor (fractional reduction in head),
HR, is a function of pump impeller diameter. As the impeller diameter increases, the head
reduction ratio decreases, i.e., smaller pumps are more affected than larger pumps, and this is
reflected in Fig. 8. Based on their correlation, the head reduction factor for an arbitrary
impeller diameter, di, is given by
d 
HR  1  (1  HR O )  i  Eqn. 6
 d iO 
This equation requires knowledge of the head reduction ratio of a reference pump which
cannot be obtained except by direct measurement. It is, however, useful when measured data
are available. The equation can, however, be used in conjunction with the correlation of
McElvain (Ref. 31) shown in Fig 9, with a reference impeller diameter of 0.35m (Ref. 32).

Fig. 9 McElvain K-factor plot for pump head deration

McElvain used two particle sizes of silica and one size of heavy mineral (SG = 4.6) over a
range of solids concentrations from 14 to 61% by weight with Warman centrifugal pumps and
found the flowing equation to apply

HR  ER  1  5KC v Eqn. 7
K is a function of particle size and solids density. Values of K were presented graphically by
McElvain as shown in Fig. 9. To develop a required head of slurry, it is necessary to run a
pump at higher speed than that required to develop the same head for water. When Ho has been
determined from a knowledge of the system, Hw can then be calculated. The pump speed for
Hw may then be used for selecting the duty point on the pump performance curve.

3.2.2 Effect of proportion of “fines” (< 75 microns) in slurry

The fines in the slurry may combine with the carrier fluid to form a vehicle, or carrier medium
with non-Newtonian, or viscous, properties. There is a corresponding reduction in the settling
velocity of the larger particles owing to the presence of fines. Empirical data suggest that the
head ratio, HR0, should be modified by the following equation, in which Xh is the fraction of
solids of size less than 75 microns,

HR  1  (1  HR 0 )(1  X h ) 2 Eqn. 8

As an example, if the head ratio, HR 0, is calculated at 0.80 assuming no fines, a 25%
proportion of fines in the solids size distribution will increase the predicted head ratio, HR, to

3.2.3 Use of ANSI/HI standard for different coarse particle settling slurries

Fig. 8 gives the head ratio HR (Hr), or head reduction factor (R H), in terms of pump impeller
(D) and average solids particle size (d50) for a baseline reference slurry with 15% by volume
solids of 2.65 relative density and a negligible amount of fine particles (X h = 0). For other
slurries, RH values obtained from Fig. 7 are concurrently multiplied by correction factors, C CV,
CS and Cfp for slurries with different concentration (C V), different relative density of solids (s),
and different content of fine (< 75 microns) particles (Xh). These correction factors are defined
as follows,
C CV  V Eqn. 9

 s  1
CS    Eqn. 10
1.65 

C fp  (1  X h ) 2 Eqn. 11

As an example, consider a pump with a 1.1m diameter impeller pumping a slurry with a CV of
15% having a solids specific gravity solids (s) of 2.65 containing a d 50 particle size of 1 mm
with no fine particles. According to the ANSI/HI nomogram, the R H value is about 7%
(HR=0.93). If solids specific gravity is 4.8, the solids concentration 25%, and the percent of
fine particles less than 75 microns (Xh) is increased from zero to 20%, then CCV = 1.67, CS =
1.72, and Cfp = 0.64. The revised value of RH is then 7% x1.67 x 1.72 x 0.64 = 13%. The head
ratio, HR, is therefore reduced from 0.93 to 0.87.


The flow properties of both settling and “non-settling” sludges and slurries need to be assessed
in order to estimate frictional head losses on both the suction and discharge sides
of a pump. This is done either through measurement, or, in the case, of various
sewage sludges, using the BHR Sludge Rheology Database. Estimation of
frictional pressure losses in pipeflow and across a variety of fittings is well-
established for Newtonian sludges and slurries in either laminar or turbulent flow.
However, there is still significant uncertainty in the prediction of the pipe frictional
losses for the turbulent flow of non-Newtonian materials, and there are significant
gaps for frictional losses across various pipe fittings, particularly for laminar flow.
The head developed by a centrifugal pump is also affected by the presence of
solids, and so deration of the pump for head (and also throughput and efficiency) is
required and can be undertaken using two ANSI/HI standards which deal with
Newtonian, “non-settling” slurries and settling slurries. However, there is currently
no accepted method for pump deration for non-Newtonian, “non-settling” slurries,
and this topic is currently being researched.


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