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Proceedings of FEDSM2012

2012 ASME Fluids Engineering Division Summer Meeting

July 8-12, 2012, Puerto Rico, USA




H. Ding F.C. Visser

Simerics Inc. Flowserve, Pump Division
Bellevue, Washington, USA Etten-Leur, The Netherlands

Y. Jiang
Simerics Inc.
Bellevue, Washington, USA

ABSTRACT C  Turbulence model constant

This paper presents an innovative NPSHr prediction Df Diffusivity of vapor mass fraction
procedure. Derived through analyzing the definition of NPSHr DH Dynamic head (Pa)
and the characteristics of pump head vs. NPSH curve (i.e. head f Body force (N)
drop curve), this procedure can significantly reduce the number fv Vapor mass fraction
of simulations needed in NPSHr prediction. For the majority of fg Non-condensable gas mass fraction
cases, NPSHr can be predicted with reasonable accuracy for Gt Turbulent generation term
one flow rate in as little as three simulation runs. This H Pressure head (m or Pa)
procedure is also very robust since it can avoid running k Turbulence kinetic energy
simulations under severe cavitation conditions. Therefore L Length
simulation convergence is improved and simulation time is M Mass flow rate (Kg/s)
reduced for each simulation step. m Coefficient of the parabolic equation
In the paper, the methodology of the proposed approach is N Rotation speed (RPM)
derived and explained. The complete procedure with suggested n Surface normal
strategies is laid out in detail. Then the procedure is NCG Non-condensable gas
demonstrated against an industrial pump case. NPSHr NPSH Net Positive Suction Head (m)
prediction results are compared with experimental data. NPSHr Net Positive Suction Head required
Important factors which can affect NPSHr prediction are also NPSH3 NPSH with 3% head drop
indentified and discussed. PT Total pressure (Pa)
PS Static pressure (Pa)
Key words: NPSH, Cavitation, Numerical Simulation, CFD. p Pressure (Pa)
Q Flow rate (m3/h)
NOMENCLATURE Rc Vapor condensation rate
Re Vapor generation rate
1, 2, ..n, .. The nth step RPM Revolution per minute
a, b, c Coefficients of the quadratic equation t Time
C1 Turbulence model constant S'ij Strain tensor
C2 Turbulence model constant U Initial velocity
Cc Cavitation model constant u Velocity component (m/s)
Ce Cavitation model constant u' Component of v'

1 Copyright © 2012 by ASME

v Velocity vector However there are many cases for which transient simulations
v' Turbulent fluctuation velocity are necessary to get satisfactory accuracy even for performance
prediction. It is often observed that MRF tends to over-predict
Subscript the asymmetry of cavitation bubbles because it assumes a fixed
in Inlet relative position between the impeller and the volute/diffuser.
out Outlet This discrepancy typically introduces errors in NPSHr
prediction since NPSHr is very sensitive to cavitation bubble
Greek Symbols distribution.
  Turbulence dissipation When there are big cavitation regions in the flow field, the
  Fluid viscosity (Pa-s) simulation usually takes much longer to reach a balanced
t  Turbulent viscosity (Pa-s) solution. This is mainly due to the time needed in cavitation
  Fluid density (kg/m3) bubble development. For example, in a real pump operation, a
g  Gas density (kg/m3) big cavitation bubble may need ten’s of impeller revolutions to
l  Liquid density (kg/m3) reach a balanced size/position. It should, accordingly, take a
similar amount of time for the CFD simulation to reach a
v  Vapor density (kg/m3)
balanced solution if all the physics are modeled accurately.
 Surface of control volume
As with physical testing, in a traditional CFD NPSHr
k Turbulence model constant prediction process multiple steps are needed to gradually
l Surface tension approach the 3% head drop point for each flow rate. For each of
 Turbulence model constant these steps in the process, one needs to run a CFD simulation.
f Turbulent Schmidt number Another common drawback is that, during this process,
  Stress tensor simulations can easily be dragged into severe cavitation
  Control volume condition. Under such severe cavitation condition, simulations
can take a long time to converge – even for the most efficient
INTRODUCTION cavitation model. As a result, the whole process can be
Net Positive Suction Head, NPSH, is defined as the total extremely time- consuming, especially when transient
fluid head at the inlet of a pump. The formula to calculate simulations are necessary in order to obtain sufficient accuracy.
NPSH is: Because of the excessive simulation cost, CFD prediction of
𝑁𝑃𝑆𝐻 = , (1) NPSHr is not routinely used in industry to analyze and improve
pump design.
in which PT is inlet total pressure, Pv is vapor pressure of the
This paper presents an original approach using CFD to
fluid,  is density, and g is acceleration of gravity. Net Positive predict pump NPSHr. The new approach is faster and more
Suction Head required, NPSHr, is a very important parameter robust compared to traditional approaches, and therefore could
for centrifugal pumps (Schiavello and Visser, 2009). It is also potentially improve the usability of CFD as a prediction tool for
referred to as NPSH3 per API 610, 11th ed. It determines when a pump NPSHr studies. The proposed method will be introduced
pump will operate at three percent loss of head due to
and discussed in detail in the next section. Later it will be
cavitation. This NPSH3 is the commonly used criterion for
applied to predict NPSHr of an industrial centrifugal pump. The
NPSHr to pinpoint the limit for acceptable operation. At 3%
prediction procedure will be demonstrated and the results will
head drop, a centrifugal pump will experience significant be compared with experimental data. The CFD simulation
cavitation. results presented in this paper were generated from a
Apart from cavitation visualization model testing, commercial CFD package, PumpLinx. However the proposed
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation with
procedure itself can be used with any CFD software package
cavitation models is the only alternative tool available to the
assuming it can accurately model cavitation.
engineer to predict and analyze pump NPSH behavior in detail.
Today’s CFD software with cavitation models has been
(NOTE: The sections on the procedure itself have been
commonly used in pump design and analysis. Satisfactory
edited out. For detailed information on the procedure,
results have been obtained regarding hydraulic performance
contact ASME for a copy of the complete paper.)
and cavitation patterns for many pump applications (Ding et al.
2011, Bakir et al. 2004, Dupont and Okamura 2003, Visser
2001). For centrifugal pump simulation, there are two
approaches: the transient method and the Multi-Reference An industrial centrifugal pump was used to demonstrate
Frame (MRF) method. MRF, which uses a steady state the NPSHr prediction procedure. It is a single stage, end
approach with a rotating frame to account for pump rotation, is suction centrifugal pump. This pump has a five blade shrouded
widely used to predict pump hydraulic head and efficiency. The
impeller and a diffuser with four guide vanes operating at 1470
MRF method can save a significant amount of simulation time,
rpm. The working fluid is water. Figure 7 shows impeller and
and can obtain reasonable results for some pump applications. diffuser hardware.

2 Copyright © 2012 by ASME

Figure 9: Pump fluid domain

All the important flow passengers including balance holes

Figure 7: Pump hardware and seal leakages are modeled in CFD as fluid domains (Figure
9 and figure 10).
About 0.75 million cells were used in the CFD model.
Figure 11 shows the mesh distribution on a vertical cutting
The fluid properties used in simulation are listed in table 1.
A series of simulations for pump head vs. flow rate under
normal operating condition was carried out using both steady
state MRF and transient approaches. In those simulations, fluids
were treated as incompressible. Figure 12 shows the
comparison of simulation results and test results.

Figure 8: The test rig

The pump was tested in a closed loop test rig. The test was
done as part of an upgrade to improve NPSH3. The water used
in the test was not deaerated. Figure 8 shows the test rig with
the pump mounted.
Figure 10: Fluid domain with seal leakage gaps and
balance holes

Table 1: Fluid properties

Temperature 20 ºC
Liquid density 998 kg/m3
Liquid viscosity 0.001 PaS
Vapor pressure 3610 Pa
Vapor density 0.0245 kg/m3
Air contents 2.3 – 9.2 x10-5 mass fraction
Bulk modulus 2.15x109 Pa

3 Copyright © 2012 by ASME

From the plot it can be seen that apparently this pump has results plotted in Figure 10 due to the different approaches used
strong transient effects. The MRF simulations could not in the two simulations, mainly incompressible vs. cavitation
provide satisfactory results. Therefore the following NPSHr model.
simulations were all done using the transient approach. To compare with the traditional approach, a transient
simulation with a cavitation model using 3.4 meter as the inlet
total pressure, and 682.5m3/h as the outlet flow rate was
performed. The result shows a 3.6% head drop. This confirms
that the proposed approach generates final NPSHr results
similar to the traditional approach.
Figures 13 – 15 show the cavitation bubbles at the z=0
cutting plane for simulation step 1, 2, and 3. All three plots
show color maps of the total gas (vapor and air) volume
fraction ranging from 0 to 100%, where blue corresponds to 0%
gas and magenta indicates 100% gas. No cavitation is observed
in that plane at step 1. As expected, moderate cavitation regions
show up at step 2 and step 3. Cavitation bubble shrinks when
the NPSH increases from step 2 to step 3.

Figure 11: Mesh in a cutting plane

The first NPSHr prediction is for the cases with 682.5 m3/h
flow rate. Table 2 records detailed information of a sequence of
simulations. Since the normal head of this flow rate is already
known from the previous performance simulation, the Step 0
simulation is not needed. A 2.3E-5 mass fraction of air
(corresponding to about 2% volume fraction under room
condition) was used for these simulations.

Figure 13: Cavitation pattern at step 1

The cavitation pattern from a steady state MRF simulation

using 3.4 meter as the inlet total pressure and 682.5m3/h as the
outlet flow rate is plotted in Figure 16. Compared with Figure
13, the MRF result shows a very asymmetrical cavitation

Figure 12: Pump performance prediction

Table 2: NPSHr prediction steps for 682.2 m /h flow with
2% air
Step Outlet Flow Mass Head NPSH Head
PS rate Flow drop
From the results, it shows that with only 3 simulation steps, bar m3/h Kg/s m m %
the NPSHr prediction has already reached the 3.3% head drop
1 8.32 682.5 187.0 69.2 17.4 0.0
point which is close enough for most engineering purposes.
2 6.43 682.5 176.4 64.1 3.1 7.5
Please note there is a small difference (~2%) between the 100%
3 6.73 723.7 188.2 66.9 3.4 3.3
head from step 1 and the incompressible transient simulation

4 Copyright © 2012 by ASME

behavior of this pump under the influence of different air
contents. However this is beyond the scope of this paper.

Figure 14: Cavitation pattern at step 2

NPSHr predictions for four additional flow rates, 79.6,

249.7, 398.8, and 899.4m3/h, have been performed with the Figure 16: Cavitation pattern from MRF simulation
same approach and a 2% air content. Figure 17 plots the head
drop curves at a 682.5 m3/h flow rate. Figure 18 plots the
NPSHr vs. flow rate curve. Both simulation results and
experimental data are plot together for comparison.

Figure 17: The head drop curve at 682.5 m3/h flow rate

An innovative NPSHr prediction approach is presented in
this paper. The principal of the method is fully explained. The
Figure 15: Cavitation pattern at step 3
complete procedure is laid out in detail. Important issues
pertaining to the new method are identified with suggested
The two plots shows that the simulation results with 2% air
solution strategies. Compared with the traditional approach, the
contents consistently underpredict the NPSH compared to the
proposed approach introduces a very predictable and
experimental results for the same flow rate and pump head.
controllable simulation procedure with significant savings in
Since this pump was tested on a closed loop without deaeration,
the number of simulation runs and simulation time. The new
there could be more than 2% air in the water. It is well known
method is applied to the NPSHr study of an industrial
that extra air can degrade pump NPSHr characteristics (Budris
centrifugal pump. The NPSHr is predicted with reasonable
and Mayleben, 1998). Additional simulations with more air
accuracy in as little as three simulations for one flow rate. With
contents were carried out to investigate effects of the air
demonstrated efficiency and robustness against real engineer
contents on pump NPSHr performance for the flow rate of
application, the new method could be used effectively for pump
682.5m3/h. The results from those additional simulations are
NPSH performance study.
also plotted in Figure 17 and Figure 18. Results show that with
8% of air (9.2E-5 mass fraction), the CFD predicted NPSHr is
much closer to the experiment measurement. More
investigations are needed to better understand the NPSHr

5 Copyright © 2012 by ASME

Wood, D.W., Hart, R.J, and Marra, E. 1998 “Application
guidelines for pumping liquids that have a large dissolved
gas content,” Proceedings of the Fifteenth International
Pump Users Symposium, Turbomachinery Laboratory,
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA, pp.

Figure 18: NPSHr at different flow rate

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May 29 – June 1, New Orleans, LA, Paper No.

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