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SUBJECT : Calculating net positive suction head (NPSH) in non-metric units 11-12.

The definition of NPSHA is simple: Static head + surface pressure head - the vapor
pressure of your product - the friction losses in the piping, valves and fittings.

But to really understand it, you first have to understand a couple of other concepts:

Cavitation is what net positive suction head (NPSH) is all about, so you need to
know a little about cavitation.
Vapor Pressure is another term we will be using. The product's vapor pressure
varies with the fluid's temperature.
Specific gravity play an important part in all calculations involving liquid. You
have to be familiar with the term.
You have to be able to read a pump curve to learn the N.P.S.H. required for your
pump.
You need to understand how the liquid's velocity affects its pressure or head.
It is important to understand why we use the term Head instead of Pressure when
we make our calculations.
Head loss is an awkward term, but you will need to understand it.
o You will have to be able to calculate the head loss through piping, valves
and fittings.
You must know the difference between gage pressure and absolute pressure.
Vacuum is often a part of the calculations, so you are going to have to be familiar
with the terms we use to describe vacuum.

Lets look at each of these concepts in a little more detail :

Cavitation means cavities or holes in liquid. Another name for a hole in a liquid is
a bubble, so cavitation is all about bubbles forming and collapsing.
o Bubbles take up space so the capacity of our pump drops.
o Collapsing bubbles can damage the impeller and volute. This makes
cavitation a problem for both the pump and the mechanical seal.
Vapor pressure is about liquids boiling. If I asked you, "at what temperature does
water boil ?" You could say 212 F. or 100 C., but that is only true at
atmospheric pressure. Every product will boil (make bubbles) at some
combination of pressure and temperature. If you know the temperature of your
product you need to know its vapor pressure to prevent boiling and the formation
of bubbles. In the charts section of this web site you will find a vapor pressure
chart for several common liquids.
Specific gravity is about the weight of the fluid. Using 4C (39 F) as our
temperature standard we assign fresh water a value of one. If the fluid floats on
this fresh water it has a specific gravity is less than one. If the fluid sinks in this
water the specific gravity of the fluid is greater than one.
Look at any pump curve and make sure you can locate the values for head,
capacity, best efficiency point (B.E.P.), efficiency, net positive suction head
(NPSH), and horse power required. If you cannot do this, have someone show you
where they are located.
Liquid velocity is another important concept. As a liquid's velocity increases, its
pressure (90 to the flow) decreases. If the velocity decreases the pressure
increases. The rule is : velocity times pressure must remain a constant.
"Head" is the term we use instead of pressure. The pump will pump any liquid to
a given height or head depending upon the diameter and speed of the impeller.
The amount of pressure you get depends upon the weight (specific gravity) of the
liquid. The pump manufacturer does not know what liquid the pump will be
pumping so he gives you only the head that the pump will generate. You have to
figure out the pressure using a formula described later on in this paper.
Head (feet) is a convenient term because when combined with capacity (gallons
or pounds per minute) you come up with the conversion for horsepower (foot
pounds per minute).
"Head loss through the piping, valves and fittings" is another term we will be
using. Pressure drop is a more comfortable term for most people, but the term
"pressure" is not used in most pump calculations so you could substitute the term
"head drop" or "loss of head" in the system. To calculate this loss you will need to
be able to read charts like those you will find in the "charts you can use" section
in the home page of this web site. They are labeled Friction loss for water and
Resistance coefficients for valves and fittings.
Gage and absolute pressure. Add atmospheric pressure to the gage pressure and
you get absolute pressure.
Vacuum is a pressure less than atmospheric. At sea level atmospheric pressure is
14.7 psi. (760 mm of Mercury). Vacuum gages are normally calibrated in inches
or millimeters of mercury.

To calculate the net positive suction head (NPSH) of your pump and determine if you are
going to have a cavitation problem, you will need access to several additional pieces of
information:

The curve for your pump. This pump curve is supplied by the pump manufacturer.
Someone in your plant should have a copy. The curve is going to show you the
Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) required for your pump at a given capacity.
Each pump is different so make sure you have the correct pump curve and use the
numbers for the impeller diameter on your pump. Keep in mind that this NPSH
required was for cold, fresh water.
A chart or some type of publication that will give you the vapor pressure of the
fluid you are pumping. You can find a typical vapor pressure chart in the "charts
you can use" section in the home page of this web site
If you would like to be a little more exact, you can use a chart to show the
possible reduction in NPSH required if you are pumping hot water or light
hydrocarbons. I will cover this subject in great detail in another paper.
You need to know the specific gravity of your fluid. Keep in mind that the
number is temperature sensitive. You can get this number from a published chart,
ask some knowledgeable person at your plant, or or take a reading on the fluid
using a hydrometer.
Charts showing the head loss through the size of piping you are using between the
source and the suction eye of your pump. You will also need charts to calculate
the loss in any fittings, valves, or other hardware that might have been installed in
the suction piping. You can find these charts in the "charts you can use" section in
the home page of this web site
Is the tank you are pumping from at atmospheric pressure or is it pressurized in
some manner? Maybe it is under a vacuum ?
You need to know the atmospheric pressure at the time you are making your
calculation. We all know atmospheric pressure changes through out the day, but
you have to start somewhere.
The formulas for converting pressure to head and head back to pressure in the
imperial system are as follows:

o sg. = specific gravity


o pressure = pounds per square inch
o head = feet

You also need to know the formulas that show you how to convert vacuum
readings to feet of head. Here are a few of them:

To convert surface pressure to feet of liquid; use one of the following formulas:

Inches of mercury x 1.133 / specific gravity = feet of liquid


Pounds per square inch x 2.31 / specific gravity = feet of liquid
Millimeters of mercury / (22.4 x specific gravity) = feet of liquid

There are different ways to think about net positive suction head (NPSH) but they
all have two terms in common.

NPSHA (net positive suction head available)


NPSHR (net positive suction head required)

NPSHR (net positive suction head required) is defined as the NPSH at which the pump
total head (first stage head in multi stage pumps) has decreased by three percent (3%) due
to low suction head and resultant cavitation within the pump. This number is shown on
your pump curve, but it is going to be too low if you are pumping hydrocarbon liquids or
hot water.

Cavitation begins as small harmless bubbles before you get any indication of loss of head
or capacity. This is called the point of incipient cavitation. Testing has shown that it takes
from two to twenty times the NPSHR (net positive suction head required) to fully
suppress incipient cavitation, depending on the impeller shape (specific speed number)
and operating conditions.

To stop a product from vaporizing or boiling at the low pressure side of the pump the
NPSHA (net positive suction head available) must be equal to or greater than the NPSHR
(net positive suction head required).

As I mentioned at the beginning, NPSHA is defined as static head + surface pressure


head - the vapor pressure of your product - loss in the piping, valves and fittings .

In the following paragraphs you will be using the above formulas to determine if
you have a problem with NPSHA. Here is where you locate the numbers to put into
the formula:

Static head. Measure it from the centerline of the pump suction to the top of the
liquid level. If the level is below the centerline of the pump it will be a negative or
minus number.
Surface pressure head. Convert the gage absolute pressure to feet of liquid using
the formula:
o Pressure = head x specific gravity / 2.31
Vapor pressure of your product . Look at the vapor pressure chart in the "charts
you can use" section in the home page of this web site. You will have to convert
the pressure to head. If you use the absolute pressure shown on the left side of the
chart, you can use the above formula
Specific gravity of your product. You can measure it with a hydrometer if no one
in your facility has the correct chart or knows the number.
Loss of pressure in the piping, fittings and valves. Use the three charts in the
"charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site
o Find the chart for the proper pipe size, go down to the gpm and read across
to the loss through one hundred feet of pipe directly from the last column
in the chart. As an example: two inch pipe, 65 gpm = 7.69 feet of loss for
each 100 feet of pipe.
o For valves and fittings look up the resistance coefficient numbers (K
numbers) for all the valves and fittings, add them together and multiply
the total by the V2/2g number shown in the fourth column of the friction
loss piping chart. Example: A 2 inch long radius screwed elbow has a K
number of 0.4 and a 2 inch globe valve has a K number of 8. Adding them
together (8 + 0.4) = 8.4 x 0.6 (for 65 gpm) = 5 feet of loss.
In the following examples we will be looking only at the suction side of the pump. If we
were calculating the pump's total head we would look at both the suction and discharge
sides.

Let's go through the first example and see if our pump is going to cavitate:

Given:

Atmospheric pressure = 14.7 psi


Gage pressure =The tank is at sea level and open to atmospheric pressure.
Liquid level above pump centerline = 5 feet
Piping = a total of 10 feet of 2 inch pipe plus one 90 long radius screwed elbow.
Pumping =100 gpm. 68F. fresh water with a specific gravity of one (1).
Vapor pressure of 68F. Water = 0.27 psia from the vapor chart.
Specific gravity = 1
NPSHR (net positive suction head required, from the pump curve) = 9 feet

Now for the calculations:

NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head


- vapor pressure of your product - loss in the piping, valves and fittings

Static head = 5 feet


Atmospheric pressure = pressure x 2.31/sg. = 14.7 x 2.31/1 = 34 feet absolute
Gage pressure = 0
Vapor pressure of 68F. water converted to head = pressure x 2.31/sg = 0.27 x
2.31/1 = 0.62 feet
Looking at the friction charts:
o 100 gpm flowing through 2 inch pipe shows a loss of 17.4 feet for each
100 feet of pipe or 17.4/10 = 1.74 feet of head loss in the piping
o The K factor for one 2 inch elbow is 0.4 x 1.42 = 0.6 feet
Adding these numbers together, 1.74 + 0.6 = a total of 2.34 feet friction loss in the
pipe and fitting.

NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 + 0 - 0.62 - 2.34 = 36.04 feet
The pump required 9 feet of head at 100 gpm. And we have 36.04 feet so we have plenty
to spare.

Example number 2 . This time we are going to be pumping from a tank under
vacuum.

Given:

Gage pressure = - 20 inches of vacuum


Atmospheic pressure = 14.7 psi
Liquid level above pump centerline = 5 feet
Piping = a total of 10 feet of 2 inch pipe plus one 90 long radius screwed elbow.
Pumping = 100 gpm. 68F fresh water with a specific gravity of one (1).
Vapor pressure of 68F water = 0.27 psia from the vapor chart.
NPSHR (net positive suction head required) = 9 feet

Now for the calculations:

NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head


- vapor pressure of your product - loss in the piping, valves and fittings

Atmospheric pressure = 14.7 psi x 2.31/sg. =34 feet


Static head = 5 feet
Gage pessure pressure = 20 inches of vacuum converted to head
o inches of mercury x 1.133 / specific gravity = feet of liquid
o -20 x 1.133 /1 = -22.7 feet of pressure head absolute
Vapor pressure of 68F water = pressure x 2.31/sg. = 0.27 x 2.31/1 = 0.62 feet
Looking at the friction charts:
o 100 gpm flowing through 2.5 inch pipe shows a loss of 17.4 feet or each
100 feet of pipe or 17.4/10 = 1.74 feet loss in the piping
o The K factor for one 2 inch elbow is 0.4 x 1.42 = 0.6 feet
Adding these two numbers together: (1.74 + 0.6) = a total of 2.34 feet friction loss
in the pipe and fitting.

NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 - 22.7 - 0.62 - 2.34 = 13.34 feet.
This is enough to stop cavitation also.

For the third example we will keep everything the same except that we will be
pumping 180 F. hot condensate from the vacuum tank.

The vapor pressure of 180F condensate is 7 psi according to the chart. We get the
specific gravity from another chart and find that it is 0.97 sg. for 180 F. Fresh water.

Putting this into the pressure conversion formula we get:

pressure x 2.31/sg. = 7 x 2.31 / 0.97 = 16.7 feet absolute

NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head


- vapor pressure of your product - loss in the piping, valves and fittings

NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 - 22.7 - 16.7 - 2.34 = -2.74 feet.

We need 9 feet, so the pump is going to cavitate for sure.

A few notes about this last example:

A negative NPSHA is physically impossible because it implies that the friction


losses exceed the available head and that cannot happen. The rule when pumping
a boiling fluid is: The NPSHA equals the Static Suction Head minus the Suction
friction head because the suction surface pressure and the vapor pressure equalize
one another. The absolute pressure in the tank is 34 -22.7 = 11.3 ft. The vapor
pressure of the condensate in the tank converts to 16.7 ft of head (see above) so
the condensate is boiling /flashing and reaching a state of equilibrium.
When pumping a boiling liquid, the Static Head must exceed the Suction Friction
Head (2.34 feet) by the amount of NPSH Required (9 feet) or: (9 ft. + 2.34 feet =
11.34 feet.) We can do this by raising the level in the suction tank an additional
6.34 feet to get the 11.34 feet required (6.34 feet + 5 feet existing = 11.34 feet)
In some instances you could reduce the Suction Friction Head to get the same
result, but in this example there is not enough friction head available to reduce.
This example also allows you to shortcut NPSHA calculations any time you are
pumping from a tank where the liquid is at its vapor pressure. Oil refineries are
full of these applications.

If you are given the absolute and vapor pressures in psia, and you forgot how to convet to
feet of head; you can use the following formula, providing you know the specific weight
of the liquid you are pumping :
Pp = Absolute pressure expressed in psia. In an open system, Pp equals
atmospheric pressure, Pa, expressed in psia.
Pvpa = Vapor pressure expressed in psia.
W = Specific weight of liquid at the pumping temperature in pounds per cubic
foot.

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NPSH - Net Positive Suction Head


A definition and an introduction to Net
Positive Suction Head - NPSH

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Low pressure at the suction side of a pump can


encounter the fluid to start boiling with

reduced efficiency
cavitation
damage

of the pump as a result. Boiling starts when the


pressure in the liquid is reduced to the vapor pressure
of the fluid at the actual temperature.
To characterize the potential for boiling and
cavitation, the difference between the total head on
the suction side of the pump - close to the impeller,
and the liquid vapor pressure at the actual
temperature, can be used.

Suction Head

Based on the Energy Equation - the suction head in


the fluid close to the impeller can be expressed as the
sum of the static and the velocity head:

hs = ps / + vs2 / 2 g (1)

where

hs = suction head close to the impeller

ps = static pressure in the fluid close


to the impeller

= specific weight of the fluid

vs = velocity of fluid

g = acceleration of gravity

Liquids Vapor Head

The liquids vapor head at the actual temperature


can be expressed as:

hv = pv / (2)

where

hv = vapor head

pv = vapor pressure

Note! The vapor pressure in a fluid depends on


temperature. Water, our most common fluid, starts
boiling at 20 oC if the absolute pressure in the fluid is
2,3 kN/m2. For an absolute pressure of 47,5 N/m2,
the water starts boiling at 80 oC. At an absolute
pressure of 101.3 kN/m2 (normal atmosphere), the
boiling starts at 100 oC.

Net Positive Suction Head - NPSH

The Net Positive Suction Head - NPSH - can be


expressed as the difference between the Suction
Head and the Liquids Vapor Head and expressed like

NPSH = hs - hv (3)

or, by combining (1) and (2)

NPSH = ps / + vs2 / 2 g - pv / (3b)

Required NPSH - NPSHr

The required NPSH for a particular pump, often


named NPSHr, is in general determined
experimentally by the pump manufacturer and a
part of the documentation of the pump.

The pumps required NPSHr should always exceeded


the systems available NPSHa to avoid the
vaporization and cavitation of the impellers eye. The
required NPSHr should in general be significant
higher than the available NPSHa to avoid that head
loss in the suction pipe and in the pump casing, local
velocity accelerations and pressure decreases, start
boiling the fluid on the impeller surface.

Note that the required NPSHr increases with the


square capacity.

Available NPSH - NPSHa

The available NPSH for an actual system is often


named NPSHa. The NPSHa can be determined during
design and construction, or determined
experimentally from the actual physical system.
The available NPSHa can be calculated with the
Energy Equation. For a common application - where
the pump lifts a fluid from an open tank at one level
to an other, the energy or head at the surface of the
tank is the same as the energy or head before the
pump impeller and can be expressed as:

h0 = hs + hl (4)

where

h0 = head at surface

hs = head before the impeller

hl = head loss from the surface to


impeller - major and minor loss in the
suction pipe

In an open tank the head at surface can be expressed


as:

h0 = p0 / = patm / (4b)

For a closed pressurized tank the absolute static


pressure inside the tank must be used.

The head before the impeller can be expressed as:

hs = ps / + vs2 / 2 g + he (4c)

where
he = elevation from surface to pump -
positive if pump is above the tank,
negative if the pump is below the tank

Transforming (4) with (4b) and (4c):

patm / = ps / + vs2 / 2 g + he + hl
(4d)

The head available before the impeller can be


expressed as:

ps / + vs2 / 2 g = patm / - he - hl (4e)

or as the available NPSHa:

NPSHa = patm / - he - hl - pv / (4f)

Available NPSHa - the Pump is above the Tank

If the pump is positioned above the tank, the


elevation - he - is positive and the NPSHa decreases
when the elevation of the pump increases.

At some level the NPSHa will be reduced to zero and


the fluid starts to evaporate.

Available NPSHa - the Pump is below the Tank

If the pump is positioned below the tank, the


elevation - he - is negative and the NPSHa increases
when the elevation of the pump decreases (lowering
the pump).

It's always possible to increase the NPSHa by


lowering the pump (as long as the major and minor
head loss due to a longer pipe don't increase it more).
This is important and it is common to lower the
pump when pumping fluids close to evaporation
temperature.

Example - Pumping Water from an Open


Tank
When increasing the the elevation for a pump located
above a tank, the fluid will start to evaporate at a
maximum level for the actual temperature.

At the maximum elevation NPSHa is zero. The


maximum elevation can therefore be expressed by
(4f):

NPSHa = patm / - he - hl - pv / = 0

For optimal theoretical conditions we neglect the


major and minor head loss. The elevation head can
then be expressed as:

he = patm / - pv / (5)

The maximum elevation or suction head for an open


tank depends on the atmospheric pressure - which in
general can be regarded as constant, and the vapor
pressure of the fluid - which in general vary with
temperature, especially for water.

The absolute vapor pressure of water at temperature


20 oC is 2.3 kN/m2. The maximum theoretical
elevation height is therefore:

he = (101.33 kN/m2) / (9.80 kN/m3) -


(2.3 kN/m2) / (9.80 kN/m3)

= 10.1 m

Due to the head loss in the suction pipe and the local
conditions inside the pump - the theoretical
maximum elevation is significantly decreased.

The maximum theoretical elevation of a pump above


an open water tank at different temperatures can be
found from the table below:

Temperature Vapor Pressure Max. elevation


(oC) (kN/m2) (m)
0 0.6 10.3

5 0.9 10.2
10 1.2 10.2
15 1.7 10.2
20 2.3 10.1
25 3.2 10.0
30 4.3 9.9
35 5.6 9.8
40 7.7 9.5
45 9.6 9.4
50 12.5 9.1
55 15.7 8.7
60 20 8.3
65 25 7.8
70 32.1 7.1
75 38.6 6.4
80 47.5 5.5
85 57.8 4.4
90 70 3.2
95 84.5 1.7
100 101.33 0.0

Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR)

The net positive suction head required is a function of the pump design at the operating point on the pump
performance curve. In our example on the Centrifugal Pump Performance Curve -->page, the NPSHR by the
pump at the operating point is 5 ft.

NPSHA
Net Positive Suction Head Available (NPSHA)

The net positive suction head available is a function of the pump suction system.

The Net Positive Suction Head is the absolute total suction head in feet.

The NPSH available in a flooded suction system is:

Atmospheric Pressure (- ) Vapor Pressure (+) Liquid Height (-) Friction in the Suction Line.
The NPSH available in a suction lift system is:

Atmospheric Pressure (-) Vapor Pressure (-) Liquid Ht. (-) Friction in the Suction Line.

Calculating TDH-->page we would calculate the NPSHA as follows:

NPSHA = Atmospheric Pressure (-) Elevation Correction (-) Vapor Pressure (+) Suction
Head

Atmospheric Pressure = 33.96 ft.

Elevation Correction for 2000 ft. = 33.96 ft. (-) 31.58 ft. = 2.38 ft.

Go to Atmospheric Elevation Chart-->

Vapor Pressure of HCl at 150 F (Assume VP of HCl = VP of Water) = 8.56 ft.

Go to Vapor Pressure Chart-->


Suction Head = 8.7 ft.

NPSHA = 33.96 ft.(-) 2.38 ft. (-) 8.56 ft. (+) 8.7 ft. = 31.72 ft.

Cavitation may occur in two different forms:

Suction Cavitation
Discharge Cavitation

Both are extremely damaging to pump components!