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Centrifugal Pump Hydraulics by the Numbers

By Terry Henshaw

Centrifugal Pump Axial Thrust

Centrifugal Pump Hydraulics by the Numbers By Terry Henshaw Centrifugal Pump Axial Thrust T he late

T he late Charlie Jackson, vibra-

tion expert at Monsanto, once

told me that he was unaware

of any centrifugal pump manufac- turer that knew how to calculate the hydraulic axial thrust produced within the liquid ends of their pumps. I suspect that he was referring to ven- dors of single-stage, single-suction pumps because, for decades, vendors of vertical turbine pumps have seemed to have had a good handle on the thrusts created by their product line. However, I think he was right about the single-stage pump producers. It seems that progress has been limited in that area. I am aware of a number of horizontal and vertical in-line, sin- gle-stage, single-suction pumps with thrust bearings that have short lives.

Figure 1. Horizontal Pump
Figure 1. Horizontal Pump
Figure 2. In-Line Pump
Figure 2. In-Line Pump

Horizontal, Single-Stage Pumps in a Refi nery

Charlie Miannay was an engineer working for a refi n- ery on the island of Aruba in the Caribbean. He was given the task of determining the cause of, and solution for, the short lives of thrust bearings in a number of the horizontal, single-stage, process pumps in the refi n- ery. Each pump was equipped with a single-suction, enclosed impeller fi tted with wear rings on the front and back and with balance holes drilled through the impeller hub (back shroud), which allowed back-ring leakage to fl ow back into the eye. h e pumps were similar to the one in Figure 1. Examination of the failed bearings indicated excessive thrusts toward the impeller eyes. Miannay knew that increasing the diameter of the back wear ring would reduce the thrust toward the eye and methodically set about increasing the back ring diameters in the prob- lematic pumps. He successfully increased the lives of all the previously short-lived bearings.

Vertical Refi nery Pumps

I was asked to analyze the short thrust-bearing lives of a line of vertical, in-line, refi nery pumps, similar to

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MAY 2012

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the one in Figure 2. Each pump had a single-suction, enclosed impeller, with wear rings on the front and back, and balance holes drilled through the impeller hub. h e pump shaft was coupled to the motor shaft through a rigid coupling. h e axial thrust from the pump was absorbed by the thrust bear-

ing in the motor. h e most problematic pump was a 3,600- rpm, 2,000-gallon-per-minute, 600-foot head unit driven by a 300-horsepower motor. h e pump was equipped with 7.5-inch diameter wear

shape or propeller eff ect. All axial impellers, including induc- ers, produce axial thrust. h e Francis style impeller cannot be excluded from this group. By increasing the diameter of the back wear ring from 7.5 to 8 inches, the total axial thrust from the pump was reduced to near zero. Figure 3 shows the equation that I produced for cal- culating the axial thrust of a centrifugal pump. Unfortunately,

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rings on both the front and back of the impeller. Even though the 300-horsepower motor was rated to accept a signifi cant thrust from the pump, the investigation revealed that it was equipped with the same size thrust bearing as the 40-horse- power motor provided by that vendor. h e axial thrust rating given to the 300-horsepower motor was higher than the 40-horsepower motor, even though it should have been much less, allowing for the extra weight of the motor rotor. h at was clearly part of the problem—a wimpy thrust bearing. A second part of the problem was excessive thrust from the pump. We measured the pressures in the casing all around the impeller and plugged these numbers into the traditional axial thrust equation from References 1 and 2. When we measured the axial thrust produced by the pump, it was 700 pounds higher than calculated with the equation. (It is no wonder that the over-rated, over- loaded bearing had a short life.) What was the source of the extra thrust? Could it be from a front shroud running close to the casing? A series of tests was performed with successively smaller impeller outside diameters, and the 700-pound excess thrust did not change. h e conclusion was that the extra thrust was being produced within the diameter of the wear rings. h e impeller in this pump was of the Francis design: the vanes twisted as they turned into the eye. h is is an excellent design. While it costs more to produce, this design results in higher effi ciency and lower NPSHR. Such vanes, though, push the pumpage not only radially but axially. I concluded that it was this axial “push” on the pumpage that created the extra axial thrust. I call this the vane

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Figure 3. Equation
Figure 3. Equation
Figure 4. Back-to-Back Imps.
Figure 4. Back-to-Back Imps.

I have been unable to calculate the value of the propeller eff ect, so it is necessary to measure the axial thrust produced by each impeller to establish that value.

fl ow through the bushing causes the pressure lines to shift to the left for both impellers, reducing the pressure on the back of the higher pressure impeller and increasing the pressure on the

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The Effect of Wear Ring Clearance

back of the lower pressure impeller. Both eff ects increase the axial thrust to the left. A larger clearance at the center bushing

One valuable lesson learned in the testing program was the signifi cant eff ect that wear ring clearance has on axial thrust. When we increased the clearance between the eye (front) rings, the thrust toward the eye increased signifi cantly, apparently because of the increased strength of the vortex between the impeller shroud and the casing. h e conservation of angular momentum caused the increase in the radially-inward fl ow of

allows more leakage, resulting in higher thrust. Allowing the clearance to increase on the center bushings has been known to cause short lives of thrust bearings. h e extended hubs on both impellers also contribute to an axial thrust to the left. Charlie, I think that we have made some progress, but we still have a way to go.

pumpage to strengthen the vortex. h e higher rotative speed

References

of the disc of pumpage, adjacent to the impeller front shroud, caused a drop in pressure against the shroud, resulting in an

  • 1. Stepanoff , A. J., Ingersoll-Rand, Centrifugal and Axial Flow Pumps, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1948.

 

increase in the hydraulic down thrust. h e same phenomenon creates an axial thrust in two-stage and multistage pumps with back-to-back impellers. Figure 4

  • 2. Karassik, Igor J., Worthington, “Centrifugal Pump Construction”, Section 2.2 of the fi rst edition of the Pump Handbook, edited by Karassik, Krutzsch, and Fraser, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1976.

illustrates the principle. h e higher pressure impeller is on the right. h e higher pressure on its back side pushes pumpage through the center bushing, resulting in an inward fl ow along the back shroud of the higher-pressure impeller, and an out-

  • 3. Trout, Robert G., FMC, “Axial h rust in Centrifugal Pumps”, ASME Paper 62-HYD-13, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, NY, 1963.

ward fl ow along the back shroud of the lower pressure impeller. h e lines marked “THEORETICAL” in Figure 4 indicate the pressure profi les for no leakage through the bushing. h e

Terry Henshaw is a retired engineer living in Magnolia, Texas. He worked more than 50 years in the pump industry. He can be reached at pumprof@att.net.

 
 
 
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Readers Respond

Centrifugal Pumps Hydraulics by the Numbers: Centrifugal Pump Axial Thrust

Editor’s Note: In “Centrifugal Pumps Hydraulics by the Numbers: Centrifugal Pump Axial h rust” (May 2012), Figures 1, 2 and 4 did not include their com- plete captions and credits. h e fi gures are provided below with their complete captions and credits. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Readers Respond Centrifugal Pumps Hydraulics by the Numbers: Centrifugal Pump Axial Thrust Editor’s Note: In “Centrifugal

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Figure 1. A typical horizontal, single-stage, single-suction process pump with enclosed impeller and wear rings, front
Figure 1. A typical horizontal, single-stage, single-suction process pump with enclosed impeller and
wear rings, front and back
Figure 2. A typical vertical, inline, single-stage, single-suction process pump with enclosed impeller and wear rings,
Figure 2. A typical vertical, inline, single-stage, single-suction process
pump with enclosed impeller and wear rings, front and back
Courtesy of Afton Pumps
Figure 4. Illustration of axial thrust created by back-to-back impellers. Image provided courtesy of Flowserve Corporation.
Figure 4. Illustration of axial thrust created by back-to-back
impellers. Image provided courtesy of Flowserve Corporation.

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