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8 Instrumentation for monitoring centrifugal pump installations

Instrumentation is installed in pump installations to monitor and control the various

operating parameters such as flowrate, pressure, power absorbed, speed and
temperature. In most cases the data is read directly at the point of measurement, but
with appropriate equipment can be transmitted to a remote central control room,
where it can be displayed, recorded and if necessary acted upon.
The following instrumentation is generally used to monitor centrifugal pump

8.1 Pressure measurement

The instruments for pressure measurement are designated according to their operating
principle as:
x liquid filled manometers (columns) and dead weight gauges
x mechanical instruments (dial gauges)
x electronic instruments (transducers)

8.1.1 Manometers
Liquid filled manometers are available as U-tube or single column (with reservoir) or
concentric tube.
Liquid filled manometers are simple, accurate and reliable and advantageously can
also measure negative pressures. The liquid column is normally provided by mercury
(pmax = 2.5 bar) or tetrabromomethane (pmax = 0.2 bar). They cannot be used for
remote monitoring.
Liquid filled manometers are generally not used for monitoring processes, rather as a
scientific instrument for research and testing.
The dead weight piston and cylinder manometer is the most accurate method for
measuring higher pressures. They are therefore principally used for standardisation
and calibration of mechanical gauges.

8.1.2 Mechanical instruments

Dial gauges are used to measure static pressure in the form of absolute pressure,
positive or negative pressure, or differential pressure.
Due to their robustness and ease of use, these are widely installed.
These use a flexible tube or plate spring such as the “Bourdon” type. These are used
for example to measure the total head on larger oil or cooling water pumps and utilise
a bent tube, sealed at one end which is under internal pressure.


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The tendency of this tube to straighten against the measured pressure provides the
means of moving the indicating needle.
For higher accuracy, precision gauges of class 0.6 are used. These must be accurate to
r 0.6% of their full scale range. For general monitoring purposes, gauges of class 2
(accuracy to r 2% of their full scale range) are used. The device should be selected
such that it operates within its most accurate range, i.e. > 40% of its full scale range.

Diaphragm pressure gauges utilise the deflection of a diaphragm which is clamped

around its circumference and is subject to the measured pressure on one side only.
The disadvantage of this type is the sensitivity to overload and the high gearing of the
pointer, due to the small movement of the diaphragm. Their advantage is in ease of
use especially for measurement of pressure differences. Furthermore the use of a
diaphragm makes it ideal for measurement of sticky or aggressive fluids.

8.1.3 Electronic pressure transducers and displays

Electronic pressure measurement based on piezo-resistance or inductance or strain
gauges are used to measure static and dynamic pressure changes. As well as absolute
pressures above and below atmospheric, they can measure pressure differences. Their
range covers 0.1 to 4000 bar with a measurement class of 0.1. They are also ideal for
measurement of pressure peaks which may occur with surges.

8.2 Flow measurement

Flow measurement instruments can be:
x flowrate measurement, or
x volumetric meters

8.2.1 Flowrate measurement

Flowrate measurement instruments include:
x flowrate / pressure differential devices
x magnetic inductive instruments
x ultrasonic devices
x flotation devices


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Flow measurement using pressure differentials is a universally applicable method. It
utilises the principal that throttling a stream flow will cause a differential in pressure.
Throttling devices may be an orifice plate, nozzle, venturi tube or venturi nozzle.

The standard orifice plate is a flat disc with a concentric hole with a sharp edge on the
upstream side. With a nozzle, the inlet is rounded and is extended in the direction of
flow. The standard venturi is similar to the nozzle on the inlet side, but has a diffuser
form outlet to reduce the permanent pressure drop. The dimensions, geometry and
installations are all laid down in various standards and hence these devices are often
referred to as standard orifices etc.

The measurement devices for the differential pressure can be liquid filled manometers
or electronic differential pressure instruments.

Magnetic induction flow measurement, depends on the Faraday law of induction and
is the standard method for conductive liquids. The conductivity must be at least 20
µS/cm. This value can be reduced to 0,05 µS/cm with special designs. This allows
this method to be used for distilled water (conductivity < 5 µS/cm) and for boiler feed
water (conductivity 0,2 µS/cm). A homogenous magnetic field, vertical to the
direction of flow, induces a voltage in the conductive liquid, which is proportional to
the flow velocity. This system has the advantage that no additional pressure drop is
caused by the instrument. Furthermore it is suitable for pulpy and muddy liquids and
with the selection of suitable materials or coatings, can be used for foodstuffs, acids
and alkalis.

Ultrasonic flow measurement is mostly used when the conductivity of the liquid is so
poor as to make the magnetic induction method impossible, e.g. mineral oil. A piezo
electric head is located at an angle to the flow and alternately transmits and receives
ultrasound signals through the flow. The passage through the liquid takes a different
time on the in and out direction and from this the flow velocity and hence the flowrate
can be calculated.

For monitoring low flowrates up to ca. 120 m3/h, flotation type instruments are
widely used. In these instruments floats are lifted by the force of the flow, up vertical
measuring columns to a point where the weight of the float is balanced. This point is a
measure of the flow velocity and from this the flowrate can be read off a calibrated
scale on the column.


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8.2.2 Volumetric flow meters
Volumetric meters include the following:

x turbine type
x gear wheel type
x rotary piston type

For centrifugal pumps, the turbine type flow meter is most widely used. With this
instrument the speed of rotation of the turbine is proportional to the flow velocity. It
is suitable for hot and cold liquids and in materials suitable for corrosive liquids. A
condition of all volumetric flow meters is that the liquid is clean.

The gear wheel type meter is especially suitable for mineral oil products, up to a
viscosity of 1·105 mPa·s and also for milk, fruit juices, acids and alkalis. Using the
positive displacement principle the wheels are turned by the pressure differential and
shown on the indicator. For very high viscosity the wheels can be heated.

The rotary piston type is used for similar applications and an eccentrically mounted
piston is rotated by the flow.

8.2.3 Flow indicators

For the monitoring of service liquids, such as cooling water, barrier liquids and
lubricating oil, it is not necessary to have a quantitative flow measurement. It is
however often advisable for the safe operation of the plant to use a flow indicator to
monitor the supply. Such devices use a rotating ball or a flag to give a visual flow
check. They can also use electrical contacts to give a loss of flow signal.

8.3 Power measurement

The power requirement of a centrifugal pump can generally be measured in two
x torque measurement
x electrical power measurement

8.3.1 Torque measurement Torque measurement with strain gauges
This measurement is made on torque transmitting shafts between the pump and
For this reason it is generally only used on test beds.


© Sterling Fluid Systems B.V Torque measurement with eddy current sensors
This method relies on the principle that the permeability of the magnetic field lines is
altered by mechanical strain. The sensor head, fixed adjacent to the pump shaft,
generates a magnetic field which penetrates the shaft and induces an electrical voltage
in the secondary coils of the sensor head, which is proportional to the torque. The
measurement is contact free with no negative influence.
This method can only be used if there is an accessible section of shaft for positioning
the sensor on the drive side of the pump.

8.3.2 Measurement of electrical power

The power absorbed by the electrical motor is measured and from the efficiency of
the motor, the power absorbed by the pump can be derived. The motor efficiency is
taken from IEC guidelines and figures given by the manufacturer.
With DC drives it is sufficient to measure the current and voltage to calculate the
electrical power.
For three phase motors the power in any two phases is measured with two wattmeters
and the total power obtained by their sum. More sophisticated meters will read both
phases and calculate the total power giving a single reading.
If there is a gearbox between the pump and motor, a means of determining the loss of
efficiency must be established.

8.4 Speed measurement

The speed of a centrifugal pump can be measured in several ways:
x mechanical tachometer
x impulse transmitter
x eddy current generators
x slip meters

Mechanical tachometers, generally hand held, measure the rotations of a counter over
a period of time, and give the running speed of a machine. The measurement is
usually made in the countersunk free end of the shaft.


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Impulse transmitters can be inductive or optical and usually give the reading of
impulses per unit of time with an electronic counter. The impulses can be generated
for example by a shaft mounted gearwheel with a suitable number of teeth.
The eddy current meter operates electronically using the linear proportionality of a
DC or AC generated current to the speed. The generator is directly coupled to the
pump shaft.
For centrifugal pumps which are driven by AC and 3-phase motors, the speed can be
calculated from the supply frequency and the slip speed of the motor. A coil mounted
at a suitable point on the motor casing is the transmitter and a moving coil meter acts
as indicator. The particular advantage of this method is that no free shaft end is
needed, e.g. with canned rotor motors.

8.5 Temperature measurement

Temperature measurement with centrifugal pumps is usually made with direct contact
instruments. This means there must be good heat exchange between the object whose
temperature is to be measured and the sensing device, but conversely that heat is not
transferred to the outside.
Contact thermometers can be divided into:
x mechanical contact thermometers
x electrical contact thermometers

Mechanical contact thermometers are mostly liquid filled glass tubes or springs with a
range of -200°C to 800°C depending on the liquid (usually alcohol, toluene or


Metal expansion thermometers, either as expanding bar or bimetal thermometer with

a range between -50°C and 1000°C.

Electrical direct contact thermometers are familiar in the form of resistance devices.
They rely on the linear proportionality of the electrical resistance of platinum with
change of temperature. They are almost exclusively known as Pt100 (100: at 0°C).
and have a range of -200°C to 750°C.
Thermocouples depend for operation on the fact that two dissimilar metals when
welded or soldered together generate a small voltage when subject to change of
temperature. This voltage is extremely small, but proportional to the change in
temperature and is dependent on the pairing of metals. The range is -270°C to 1770°C
according to the metal pair.


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Resistance thermometers and thermocouples have the advantage that the measured
value is given directly as an electrical signal and can therefore be recorded,
transmitted or used for control.

8.6 Vibration measurement

The measurement is made of the vibration velocity, (see section 5.1). It is made
radially in the area of the bearing or on the shaft.
Vibration monitoring is primarily for indicating the overall reliable operation of the
centrifugal pump. If the limit values given in table 5.01 are exceeded for a period of
time, then the cause should be investigated and the problem rectified.
Continuous monitoring would normally only be carried out on pumps of high capital
value or with high consequential costs of breakdown. For most centrifugal pumps,
periodic checks with portable equipment are adequate.

8.7 Level measurement

Liquid level measurement in tanks, receivers and sumps is necessary for the switching
on and off the pumps and to prevent dry running. For this purpose mostly pressure,
contact or reed switches are used or similar transmitters to give an electrical signal to
operate monitoring and control gear.


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