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Equipment failures cost money. Repeat failures are an So, what exactly is it that best-of-class users do to set
indication that the underlying failure causes either havent themselves apart from the rest?
been discovered or have been ignored.
But if your facility has 600 pumps and they survive an PUMPS HAVE A DEFINED OPERATING RANGE
average of three years, there will be 200 repair events per We start with the obvious. All machines have a defined
year. Even at a mere $6,000 per repair, thats $1.2 million operating range. A Boeing 787 cannot land on a 300
each year. Suppose your competitor knows how to avoid ft (100 m) landing strip. It cannot f ly at 50 knots. A
repeat failures and sends his pumps to the shop only every sailplane can do all of that; its designed for different
six years. His yearly outlay will be $600,000, and his repair performance and seats two people. Its no different with
and maintenance crews can be deployed for failure preven- process pumps; they, too, have operating ranges and
tion tasks instead of fi x-up tasks. performance limitations.



Pump & motor

Lower Impeller Life
Low Flow Best practice
= -10% to +5% of BEP 0.98*
High Temperature Rise
Low Bearing &
Pump & motor
Low Seal Life ~MTBF
Lower Impeller Life
Discharge Better practice
Recircualtion Pump & motor
= -20% to +10%1.00

% Head
Best efficiency point *
of BEP
Low Flow Best practice ~MTBF
High Temperature Rise
Lower Impeller Life
Discharge = -10% to +5% of BEP 0.98
Low Bearing & Low Seal Life*
Life based onLow best practices
Bearing & forRecircualtion Cavitation
Low Seal
installation and use Life
for all 1.00*
Low Flow
features except how close the Best practice
Cavitation Better
Good practice
pump operates to BEP = -10% to +5% of BEP 0.90*0.980.75
* *

% Head
High Temperature Rise Best efficiency point = -20% to +10% of BEP
Low Bearing & = -30% to +15% of BEP
Low Seal Life Low Bearing & Low Seal Life
Life based on best practices for Cavitation
installation Reliability
and use for Curve
all Better practice
Pump Curve 0.90*
% Head
features except efficiency
close thepoint
pump operates to BEP Good practice = -20% to +10% of BEP
= -30% to +15% of BEP
Low Bearing & Low Seal Life
Life based on best practices for % Flow Cavitation
installation and use
Reliability for all
features except how close the Pump Curve
pump operates to BEP Good practice
Figure 1. The Barringer-Nelson curve shows=reliability impact 0.75*
-30% to +15% of BEP of operation away from BEP.
(Source: Paul Barringer,
% Flow
Reliability Curve
Various pumps (high head) = > 650 ft. (~200m), first stage Pump Curve
% Flow
Various pumps (high head) = > 650 ft. (~200m), first stage High head
100 400
High suct. specific speed
High head High head
100 75 400 300 High suct. Low S.S.S.
specific speed

Various pumps (high head) = > 650 ft. (~200m), first stage High head Low-moderate head

Low S.S.S.High S.S.S.
Low-moderate head

Low-moderate head
50 200 HighLow
High S.S.S. head
100 400
25 100 High suct. specific speed
Low-moderate head
25 100
Low S.S.S. head R for 3% head drop
0 Low S.S.S.
NPSHR for 3% head drop

0 20 40 60 80 100 120
Low-moderate head

0 0
0 20 40 60 %80Q 100 120 High S.S.S.
50 200
Low-moderate head
Low S.S.S.
25 100
BY HEINZ P. BLOCH, P.E., Figure 2. Pump manufacturers usually plot only the NPSHR trend associated with the
Specific speed, ns
Process Machinery Consulting lowermost curve. At that time a head dropspeed,
Specific or pressure
ns fluctuation ofNPSH for 3%
3% exists
head drop
at BEP
flow.0 (Source:
10 The Most 20Persistent Pump-Application
40 0 80 Problems120for Petroleum200and Power
010 20by Irving
Engineers, 40 20 Taylor)
60 80 40100 120 80 120 200 300
500 1,000 2,000 3,000 6,000 10,000 15,000
500 1,000 2,000 3,000 6,000 10,000 15,000

Specific speed, ns
10 20 40 80 120 200 300
500 1,000 2,000 3,000 6,000 10,000 15,000
Most pump problems develop
Radial-vane Frances-vane Mixed flow Axial flow
gradually. Others manifest them- Radial-vane Frances-vane Mixed flow Axial flow
selves sporadically. They could be
operations-related vibration ex-
cursions due to fluid vaporization,
but hydraulics influence pump
life. Perhaps we can draw parallels
with human illnesses. Most seri- Radial-vane Frances-vane Mixed flow Axial flow
ous health issues develop gradu-
ally. A few can be easily cured Figure 3. Impeller cross-sections align with specific speed ranges. (Source: Pump
and go away after a while if we Wisdom, by Heinz P. Bloch)


Reliability / Pump Systems

Stable Conditions

Air pocket

Suction Suction

Incorrect Correct

Figure 4. Using the wrong reducer type or installing it incorrectly can cause unstable fluid conditions.

make wise decisions. Some illnesses The implications of the Barringer- Taylor suggested a demarcation line
manifest themselves with extreme Nelson curve are easy to visualize. between low and high suction specific
suddenness and can have devastating Just because pumps are able to run at speeds (Nss numbers) at somewhere
consequences. All of these problems lower-than-BEP flows doesnt mean between 8,000 and 12,000. His data are
could have been diagnosed earlier if its good to operate there. Compare it supported by surveys taken after 1977 at
we had used more time, money, and to a vehicle able to go 12 mph in sixth Amoco in Texas City, Texas, by Nelson
well-targeted efforts. gear, or 57 mph in first gear. It can be and Jerry Hallam; there also were
The onset of pump problems is not done, but will likely prove costly if other plant locations which pointed to
the same for different pumps or dif- done for very long. Pioneering efforts suction-specific speeds of 9,000 or 9,500
ferent services. Attempts to identify to define minimum allowable flows as Nss numbers that deserve attention.
best practices led Paul Barringer and can be traced back many decades Many pumps with Nss numbers higher
Ed Nelson to explain the effects of and attention is drawn to the sketch than approximately 9,500 will degrade
deviations (Figure 1). While focusing by Irving Taylor (Figure 2). His work when being operated at flow rates much
on the best efficiency point (BEP), is worth mentioning because Taylor lower or higher than BEP. By how much
Barringer and Nelson plotted eight approximated in a single illustration the life expectancy or repair-free operat-
traditional non-BEP problem areas on what others have tried to convey in ing time of these pumps will be reduced
a representative H/Q curve. The plot complex words and elaborate mathe- is speculative, at best. Whether these
supports the notion that pump reli- matical expressions. Although Taylors life reductions will amount to 10% off
ability can approach zero as one oper- relationships are typical at best, he normal or 60% off normal is the subject
ates farther away from the BEP. At deserves much credit because he kept of much debate and requires reviews on
some combination of age, load, speed, the average user in mind. More scien- a pump-specific basis.
temperature, or whatever, reliability tific approaches were documented by It reminds us of other rules of
goes to zero with every conceivable Taylors very famous contemporary, thumb. We consider automobile tires
creation of man. Igor Karassik in Pump Handbook. unserviceable whenever less than 1/32
in. of tread is left. While it may be pos-
sible to operate tires with absolutely
Pump & Turbo
no tread left on the carcass, it would
be risky to use bald tires on a vacation
Heinz P. Bloch, owner of Process Machinery Consulting,
trip with a wife, four kids, and a dog.
will be leading a tutorial, Breaking the Cycle of Pump
Traveling at 75 mph on roads full of
Repairs, on Oct. 1 at 2:00 PM and again on Oct. 2 at
potholes would increase the risk expo-
10:30 AM at the 29th Pump and 42nd Turbomachinery
nentially. No researcher has quantified
Symposia in Houston. For more information, visit
it, but common sense tells the story.
So, while no rigorous Nss value
exists, cautious reliability profes-

24 August 2013

Reliability / Pump Systems

sionals observe safe margins. Many But these are special cases, pumps Edge-Loaded
users choose Nss = 9,500 as the with relatively low pump specific
limit for flows away from BEP. There speeds (Figure 3). Even so, a close
are, however, some pumps, includ- pump-user-to-pump-manufacturer
ing certain high-speed Sundyne relationship is needed to shed light
designs, that will operate quite well on applicable long-term experience
with Nss values higher than 9,500. with these pumps.

Figure 5. An edge-loaded bearing will fail.

Mechanical issues
The vulnerability of operating process
pumps in parallel is not always appre-
Air pocket

ciated by pump purchasers, although

API-610 advises against parallel op-
eration for pumps with relatively flat
performance curves. Reasonable, yet
general, specifications require an 8%
to 10% rise from BEP to shut-off. There
are other parts of API-610 that raise
eyebrows, among them the users er-
roneous perception that back-to-back
40 angular contact thrust bearings
must always be used.
There are problems with short
elbows near the suction nozzle of
certain pumps, and flow stratifica-
tion and friction losses are sometimes
overlooked. Some sources advocate
a minimum of five; others advocate
a 10-diameters equivalent of straight
pipe run at the pump suction. Pump
parallel operation and piping issues
deserve attention, and reasonable rules
of thumb are quite adequate for the
reliability-focused. Because the tie-in
between the lack of conservatism
in piping and issues of less-than-
adequate pump reliability is tenuous,
the multipoint trouble illustration
in Figure 1 is again of interest here.
Tight-radius elbows and incorrect pipe
reducer orientation can quickly wreck
certain pump configurations (Figure
Reliability / Pump Systems

4). Neglecting piping issues can be a costly mistake, if casing why a few well-versed reliability engineers are reluctant
distortion causes point-loading in a rolling element bearing. to accept pumps that incorporate the drive end shown in
The resulting force per unit area causes extreme pressure, Figure 6. The short overview of reasons is that reliability-
and lubricants can no longer prevent metal-to-metal contact. focused pros take seriously their obligation to consider
Pulling piping into place at a pump nozzle can cause edge- the actual, lifetime-related and not just short-term, cost
loading of the pumps bearings, which will surely lead to of ownership. Specialists realize that the bearing housing
premature bearing failures (Figure 5). But what if soil settle- in Figure 6 will work initially and then fail prematurely.
ment under pipe supports played a role in misalignment? The housing is shown exactly as originally provided,
Concrete driveway sections often misalign within just a few including its several risk-increasing features. Allowing
years of construction, so why would we expect pipe sup- these features to exist will sooner or later hurt the profit-
ports to still be straight and plumb decades after they were ability of users and vendors alike.
first installed? As to short-radius elbows, the flow velocity We can visualize that the angular contact thrust bear-
at the small-radius wall of an elbow will differ from that at ings in Figure 6 will probably incorporate cages (ball sepa-
the large-radius wall. That could certainly cause premature rators) that are angularly inclined, which means theyre
failures in double-flow pumps. Because these facts are gener- arranged at a slant. These cages often act as small fans,
ally well known and many symposia have been devoted to and fans promote air flow from fan center toward the fan
them, our discussion focuses on pump mechanical end, or tip. This air motion can upset the direction of oil flow.
drive end (power end) issues. However, pressures inside the bearing housing must be
equal in front and behind bearings, and equalization may
Deviations from best available technology require internal passageways. Also, pressure balancing is
User plants will usually get away with one or two small sometimes thwarted by installing bearing housing protec-
deviations from best available technology. But when three tor seals. While there are compelling reasons to use bearing
or more deviations occur, failure risks usually increase housing protector seals, attention must be given to the ef-
exponentially. That said, there are a number of reasons fects they can have on housing-internal pressure profiles.

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VULNERABLE HOUSING Examining Figure 6, a viewer can be

certain of a number of facts.
Oil rings are used to lift oil from
Breathers the sump into the bearings. These
oil rings tend to skip and jump at
progressively higher shaft surface
speeds, or if not perfectly concentric,
or if not operating in perfectly hori-
zontal shaft systems. Worse yet, they
will abrade and seriously contami-
nate the lube oil.
As the pump is transported from
shop to field, an oil ring can become
dislodged and get caught between
the shaft periphery and the tip of the
long limiter screw.
The back-to-back oriented thrust
Oil Rings bearings arent located in a cartridge.
This limits flinger disc dimensions, if
they were to be retrofitted, to no more
than the housing bore diameter.
Bearing housing protector seals are
missing from the picture. Advanced
Figure 6. This bearing housing has several potentially costly vulnerabilities. bearing housing protector seals are

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recommended. However, bearing pro- thermal expansion of the bearing outer
tector seals in this housing will change ring (water cooling jacket). In 1967,
the flow of venting air, and internal Failures may these concerns were seen to influence
pressure balancing is needed.
A lthough the bottom of the housing originate pump reliability. The jacketed cooling
water passages should be left open to the
bore (at the radial bearing) shows the
needed oil return passage, the same
from age-old ambient air environment. The decision
to delete cooling water from pumps
type of oil return or pressure equal- practices that with rolling element bearings was first
izing passage seems to have been left
out near the 6 oclock position of the have become implemented in 1967 at an oil refinery
in Sicily. The owners engineers had re-
thrust bearing. A small pool of oil can
accumulate behind the thrust bearing,
tradition. corded bearing lube oil in four identical
pumps reaching an average of 176 F (80
and this oil will probably overheat. C) with cooling water in the jacketed
Carbon debris will then form. passages. Without cooling water, the
No particular constant level lubricator is shown, and there lube oil averaged 158 F (70 C), which is 18 F (10 C) cooler.
is uncertainty as to the type or style of constant level lubri- The bearings now lasted much longer.
cator that will be provided. Unless specified, OEMs rarely As of 2012, some process pumps continue to experience
supply the best available constant level lubricator. costly repeat failures. Motivated reliability professionals
Failures may originate from age-old practices that have and informed users can avoid these and will appreciate
become tradition, and using cooling water on pump bearing recommendations on failure risk reduction. For the truly
housings is one of these traditions. Actually, bearing housing reliability-focused pump users, a number of conclusions and
cooling is not needed on process pumps which incorporate upgrade recommendations may be of interest.
rolling element bearings. Cooling is harmful if it promotes 1. Discontinue using maintenance-intensive oil rings and, if
moisture condensation (water cooling coils) or restricts possible, constant level lubricators.


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2. As a matter of routine, the housing or cartridge bore

should have a passage at the 6 oclock position to allow

Rotating Unions for pressure and temperature equalization and oil movement
from one side of the bearing to the other. Note that such a

Every Application
passage was shown in Figure 6 for the radial bearing, but
not for the thrust bearing set.
3. With proper bearing housing protector seals and the
right constant level lubricators, breathers (or vents) are no
When you need a rotating union solution for your longer needed on bearing housings.
application, count on the experts DEUBLIN. OEM 4. If constant level lubricators are used, a pressure-balanced
or maintenance. Custom design or replacement. version should be supplied and its balance line should be
DEUBLIN offers both stock items, or unions
connected to the closest breather port.
engineered to your unique requirements. And you
5. Bearings should preferably be mounted in suitably de-
can count on the cost savings generated by precision
signed cartridges, and loose slinger rings (oil rings) should
engineering, and the highest quality components.
either be avoided or, in some higher shaft peripheral speed
cases, disallowed.
6. Suitably designed flinger discs can be secured to the shaft
Request the new 56-page catalog featuring whenever the oil level is lowered to accommodate the need
hundreds of rotating unions, along with complete
specification and application information. to maintain acceptable lube oil temperatures (for pumps
operating above a particular shaft circumferential velocity).
7. Modern and technically advantageous versions of bearing
Phone: 1-847-689-8600
housing protector seals should be used for both the inboard
Email: and outboard bearings. Lip seals are not good enough, and
neither are outdated rotating labyrinth seal designs.
8. Understand that the implementation of true reliability
thinking strongly supports moves away from traditional
bearing housings and conventional modes of lubricant
13_DBL_197_PlantServices_EveryAd.indd 1 7/10/13 1:04 PM
application. Reasonable upgrade alternatives are among
the tutorial subjects.
Knowledgeable engineers can show that some widely
Custom REPRINts accepted pump components tend to malfunction in the real
world. Moreover, as industry often moves away from solid
training and from taking the time needed to do things right,
RepRints aRe ideal foR: designing out risk and designing out maintenance become
n New Product Announcements attractive propositions.
n Sales Aid For Your Field Force
n PR Materials & Media Kits Heinz P. Bloch, P.E., is owner of Process Machinery Consulting (www.
n Direct Mail Enclosures in Westminster, Colorado, and the author of numer-
ous articles and books, including Improving Machinery Reliability
n Customer & Prospect
Communications/Presentations and Pump Wisdom. Contact him at
n Trade Shows/Promotional Events
n Conferences & Speaking Engagements
Bloch, Heinz P. and Allen Budris; Pump Users Handbook
n Recruitment & Training Packages
Life Extension, 3rd Edition (2010), Fairmont Press, Inc.,
Lilburn, GA 30047; ISBN 0-88173-627-9
For additional information, please contact Foster Printing Service, Taylor, Irving; The Most Persistent Pump-Application Prob-
the official reprint provider for Plant Services. lems for Petroleum and Power Engineers, ASME Publication
77-Pet-5 (Energy Technology Conference and Exhibit, Hous-
Call 866.879.9144 or
ton, Texas, September 18-22, 1977)
Igor Karassik et alia; Pump Handbook, 2nd Edition (1985),
McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, ISBN0-07-033302-5
Bloch, Heinz P.; Pump Wisdom, (2011), John Wiley & Sons,
New York, NY (ISBN 9-781118-041239)