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october 2008

the chemical engineer
issue 808, october 2008

food breaking with tradition

assets managing money and maintenance
graduates chasing the world's most wanted
Issue 808
tce is published
monthly by the
Institution of
Chemical Engineers
Editorial: claudia@

The G4T pump is used to inject CO2

The right tools for the job into the North Sea. Photo courtesy
of Lewa

Process engineers should keep in close contact with equipment engineering

colleagues, especially when selecting pumps, Peter Stevens explains
MAKING sure you have the right not run on constant conditions. Nothing at its optimum load, so in the case of
pump in the right place and that it’s is that simple. Flowrate changes, as the above-mentioned centrifugal pump
working correctly appears to be a does pressure. Temperature is likely to struggling with variable flowrates, it
simple exercise. However, often the job vary at different times throughout the could well be viable to fit it with a
turns out to be more complicated than process and this in turn affects viscosity, variable speed drive. This would allow
you expected. This article points out a density, vapour pressure and so on. This for automatically adjusting the pump to
few key aspects of pump selection and is likely to result in pressure variations match the requirements of the system.
evaluation to help you pick the right in the system. Obviously this doesn’t come free but the
equipment and get the most out of it. All of these variables very much affect energy saving made by always running
the type of pump that can be used and the pump at optimum often makes up
pump selection for the capital cost.
indeed, how it is used, so selecting the
Selecting the correct pump for a correct pump is not always that simple. Particular attention must be paid
particular service can at first seem to If the mechanical equipment engineer to pumps operating in parallel. If
be a straightforward task. Mechanical does not know the whole story, the one parallel pump fails or shuts Below: Very large vertical
engineers tend to start with a process stage is set for problems. An equipment down, the others could ’run out’ on seawater intake pump.
data sheet where process engineering their performance curve to a point of
engineer who suspects he does not have Photo courtesy of Ebara
has advised how much of a particular cavitation or where
the whole story of how his equipment
liquid has to be moved and where they demand more
will be used and what might be
it needs to go. This gives fluid power than the driver
expected from it would be well advised
characteristics, a flowrate and pressure can supply.
to carefully check and question the
– the basic parameters for selecting a Similarly, over-
given details, and perhaps ask leading
pump. specifying differential
Nowadays, computers tend to be used pressure at the design
for pump system calculations using the varying flowrates stage can lead to
suction and discharge vessel pressures Most pumps are required to pump at similar problems
along with the process parameters and varying flowrates; therefore both the when the pump is run
piping detail to calculate the system maximum and minimum requirements in the true installed
losses for the given liquid flow. Some need to be specified. All pumps have conditions (ie the real
software even suggests a suitable pump limitations. For example, a centrifugal system curve).
type but I would rather leave that to an pump operating with a flowrate that’s
experienced equipment engineer! either too low or too high could well temperature
The material to be pumped is of face problems with axial or radial variations
course determined by the process thrust, net positive suction head (NPSH) Pumping temperature
and the reactions in the process. The requirements exceeding that available, is obviously
physical properties of the fluids are vibration and so on. Over-estimating important. The
known. That is, viscosity, density and the flowrate can also result in problems mechanical
vapour pressure, which are all dependent during operation. An equipment properties of pump
on temperature. engineer will tell you that over- material change
While the above description may estimating the flowrate by 10% will only with temperature,
seem simple – find a pump to transport land you with a piece of equipment that especially extremes
a set quantity of a liquid to some other is too big and not working at its most of temperature.
place – this is deceptive. Chemical, efficient or ’healthy’ operating point. Liquefied gases that
petrochemical and refining processes do It often pays to keep a pump operating ’auto refrigerate’ on october 2008 tce 41


release of pressure speed one and thus more expensive. project called for an additional
may require If possible, NPSH available should be centrifugal pump. A simple review of the
pumps made out increased by elevating a suction vessel existing equipment revealed that the
of specialist or or measures such as increasing the existing pump had more than enough
unusual materials. suction pressure slightly, reviewing spare capacity for the new requirements
Such possibilities suction pipe layout/sizing, or reducing – without any modification whatsoever.
need to be temperature and thus vapour pressure. All that was needed was a slight change
highlighted. If any of these options is practical, the to the control valve. No new pump, no
Pumps are resulting saving could be significant. foundations, no excavation, no added
sometimes power cables or motor controls, no
required to
varying viscosity pipework, valves and so on. And the
withstand Varying viscosity will result in varying pump would be operating at a more
’steam pump performance in most pump types, efficient duty point. One less pump to
out’ most significantly with centrifugal service too!
conditions, machines. A high-viscosity liquid needs
perhaps to clean a much larger motor for a cold start-up it’s good to talk
out or decontaminate than for normal operating conditions. It What is absolutely essential is that
the pump for inspection may be possible to warm up the system the process engineer and equipment
or repair. This is often a higher at a low flowrate to reduce the viscosity engineer appreciate each another’s
Above: High-speed
temperature than normal operation and and thereby reduce power consumption. roles and constantly communicate
pump. Photo
not only affects the pump itself but When the viscosity is reduced the pump with each other. This is especially
courtesy of Sundyne
also such items as gaskets and ’O’ rings can be operated at full design flow. important if there are changes in process
in the mechanical seals. ’Steam out’ is However, if high viscosity can occur at requirements in the physical properties
not always noted on initial data sheets any time then the pump needs to be of the pumpage.
but can have significant impact. selected for this and motors must be Another source of potentially very
Some process reactions or ‘upset’ sized accordingly. useful information is of course the
conditions can result in high operators on the plant itself. It is quite
density dilemma
temperatures or higher than normal surprising what one can find out from
The absorbed power of a centrifugal such sources. It is unusual, but does
suction pressures. The pump engineer pump is directly proportional to the
needs to be aware of this when happen that pumps are completely
density of the fluid. Pump drivers wrecked once in operation. In one such
specifying a pump. Such conditions must be sized for the worst operating
may only occur when the pump is case, we eventually discovered that the
case, which may be highest density.
static; in other applications the pump operators had a habit of ‘throttling’ the
But again it may well be possible that
may have to operate under these flow by means of the suction valve! Not
this higher density is only a temporary
abnormal conditions. This may well something that the pump supplier or
case, often for start-up, and the pump
require a different design, sealing design engineer would have thought
can temporarily operate at reduced
system, material selection or other about without investigating.
flow, cutting the power consumption.
considerations. A smaller motor could be installed whose fault is it?
Temperature has of course an effect together with smaller cable, starter and When a pump fails it is usually the
on vapour pressure and thus the NPSH so on. Careful consideration of density pump’s fault. More to the point, it’s
available. Suction and NPSH conditions at various operating conditions could the pump that gets the blame. In fact,
need to be calculated and considered mean the difference between installing most of the time it is the selection,
for all operating cases. Make an error a low-voltage and a medium- or high- installation or operation that determines
here and you’ll create a significant voltage motor. how well a pump will work, or indeed
problem or even catastrophic pump
fail. After the duty requirements are
damage. Perhaps the one parameter don’t supersize
known, the equipment engineer uses the
that affects the pump selection more A marginally-oversized process estimate
process data to produce the mechanical
than others is NPSH. If at all possible, could make all the difference between
data sheet, which in turn is sent with
the system should be designed to give an ordinary driver and a larger one
some form of requisition to a number
the best possible suction conditions requiring force feed oil lubrication. I
of suppliers. The suppliers select and
for the pump and not simply to prevent have had cases where a quick check of
propose a suitable pump. Then, the
cavitation. A higher NPSH available the process parameters has made all
evaluation begins.
could well mean the difference between the difference between an oversized
being able to select a simple single- energy-hungry driver and standard commercial evaluation
stage horizontal end suction pump and one with normal lubrication. This is Commercial evaluation does not
having to use a vertical multistage a very considerable cost and space generally impact mechanical engineers.
canister pump installed in a concrete saving particularly if there is more However, there are of course some
pit in the ground – two very different than one pump set involved. This also occasions when it does become
pump types with two very different brings to mind an old saying: “If you interesting. The capital cost of a piece
price tags (not to mention installation do not require a piece of equipment, of machinery is one consideration, but
and maintenance) to achieve the same you have saved all that money in then there is also the running cost.
basic duty. Another alternative may capital cost, installation, operation A few percentage points difference
be a slower running double suction and maintenance. But best of all if you in efficiency of a high energy pump
(impeller) pump for a lower NPSH do not own something, it cannot go can mean a great deal of difference
requirement. However, slower pumps wrong!” in operating cost. As a very simple
are bigger than a comparative higher In another instance, a site expansion example, 4% difference in efficiency of a

42 tce october 2008


5 MW driver at a cost of €40/MWh could record. For example, this is particularly the watchword here: it is far better to
be worth €320,000 over five years. relevant with respect to thick section spend the time to check and double
An old generalisation was that a one castings in exotic materials. check all parameters at this stage,
percentage point saved in efficiency Another area that has over the before the machine arrives on site
would pay for the cost of a (bare-shaft) years become more and more important with, for example, an undersized motor
pump during its operating lifetime. is pump noise. In many cases there or connection flanges pointing in the
are maximum permissible noise wrong directions for the piping.
technical evaluation levels; sometimes this is enshrined in
Technical evaluation on the other summary
legislation, and plants may be asked
hand is of much greater interest to Process conditions and the increasing
to reduce noise levels as part of their
the equipment engineer. It very much complexity and scale of plants
environmental consideration. Another
seems to be their mindset to take continue to challenge suppliers and
aspect is the reduction or complete
things to pieces and see how they the capability of the equipment they
exclusion of emissions of hazardous
look and work in detail. Essentially have to offer. Pressures are rising,
or toxic materials from equipment.
temperature ranges getting more
that is what is done in a technical Mechanical seals and sealing systems
extreme, and machines are getting
evaluation but on paper, or rather can only do so much though this
larger requiring more powerful drivers,
a computer spread-sheet nowadays. technology continues to develop,
bigger castings and forgings in exotic
The actual requirements are compared particularly in the area of dry gas seals materials. All of these requirements
with the pumps proposed by the pump (now extensively used for process have to be satisfied, along with higher
suppliers in their bids; basic design, gas compressors). However, glandless plant production rates, more stringent
orientation, construction, impeller type, technology is making inroads, in the environmental requirements, higher
efficiency, absorbed power, suction pump market in particular. The size availability (mean time between
capability, metallurgy, compliance and capabilities of such machines failure), lower running and maintenance
with specifications, scope of supply, continues to develop in leaps and costs, and if possible lower capital cost. Peter Stevens
quantities, testing and so on. Typically, bounds, particularly in canned motor I am sure that for the imaginable future (peter_stevens@
we also review reference installations and magnetic drive pumps. there will be a great deal of work for is
of similar machines on similar service. A thorough evaluation of vendor the pump, the people that apply them, principal rotating
With larger pumps, higher pressures bids should include a review by other and the people that engineer them, equipment
and more exotic requirements, it would engineering disciplines including manufacture them and use them. engineer (Foster
be naïve to purchase a machine from a electrical, process, piping, metallurgy After all it’s only a pump! tce Wheeler Energy)
manufacturer without a successful track and insulation. Thorough evaluation is october 2008 tce 43