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Fluids and Solids Handling

Analyzing the Performance

of Pump Networks
Part 1: Basic Theory
Jimmy D. Kumana This article demonstrates how to construct
Manuel R. Suarez
Kumana & Associates a pump’s system curve and explains the
four most common mistakes encountered when
operating centrifugal pump networks.

entrifugal pumps are among the most ubiquitous This is the first of a three-part series that reviews the
items of process equipment in the chemical process basic theory of pump hydraulics and gives practical tips
industries (CPI) (Figure 1). from the authors’ collective experience from a wide range of
The fraction of electrical power consumed by pumps at industries on how to design, operate, control, and trouble-
typical plant sites in the U.S. and Canada has been reported shoot pumping systems in complex applications.
in the literature to be between 70% and 90%. However,
pumps and compressors that are driven by steam turbines
or other non-electric prime movers consume much less
electrical energy. Although there are many different types of
pumps, the vast majority (around 90%) of installed pumps in
the CPI are centrifugal pumps.
The dominant 20-yr lifecycle costs associated with the
average pumping application in the U.S. are electric power
and maintenance, with power accounting for 55% of the
total and maintenance making up 25%. Initial capital costs
typically account for about 20% of the total; the purchase
cost of the pump/motor assembly accounts for around one-
fourth of that, or only 5% of the total.
The lifecycle costs for larger installations in the CPI that
run continuously are even more heavily weighted toward
energy. Therefore, it makes sense to choose a pumping sys-
tem for high efficiency, reliability, and ease of maintenance.
Nonetheless, the prevailing industry practice is to make the
purchasing decision on the basis of lowest first cost. Hope-
fully that will change if companies modernize their procure-
ment procedures.
u Figure 1. Centrifugal pump installations are very common in the chemi-
cal process industries (CPI).

34  January 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
The series addresses four main topics: be discontinued or for vendors to go out of business, pump
• construction of the system curve from plant data curves are very difficult to retrieve if they are lost.
• construction of composite curves for pump networks Power tends to increase monotonically (quasi-linearly)
• proper operation and control of pumps in parallel to with flowrate. As illustrated in Figure 3, part-load operation
avoid surging and cavitation at fixed speed is very expensive.
• use of variable-frequency drives (VFDs) and load man- The relationship between required flow and required
agement techniques to save energy. head is called the system curve (Figure 4). The total pres-
This article, Part 1, focuses on the first three bul- sure drop includes static head (i.e., the sum of the change
let points. Parts 2 and 3 will address the issue of energy in pressure plus elevation) and dynamic head (i.e., primar-
efficiency improvement through the use of better control ily frictional losses in piping, equipment, and the control
methods and VFDs. The lessons highlighted in the articles valve [CV]). The control valve loss is incurred during
apply equally to all pumping applications regardless of throttling control, and is the difference between the head
the industry. delivered by the pump and the head required to overcome
friction in the piping and equipment. So, to calculate the
Basic theory minimum head (and power) that must be supplied to the
The relationship between head and flowrate for a single fluid, first calculate static and dynamic head.
pump is called its characteristic curve or performance curve Static head (Hs) in ft of liquid is:
(Figure 2). The manufacturer or vendor will provide the
pump’s performance, efficiency, and power curves at the Hs = (P2 – P1)/ρ + (h2 – h1) (1)
time of purchase, and the original copy should be main-
tained securely in the company library or archives (not in the where P2 is the pressure in the final destination vessel, P1 is
control room). Because it is common for pump models to the pressure in the fluid supply tank, ρ is the density of the
liquid, h2 is the highest elevation to which the liquid must
120 be pumped, and h1 is the height of the liquid in the suction
100 Dynamic head (Hd) in ft of liquid is:
Relative Head, Power, %



where α2 is the flow area of the discharge pipe, α1 is the
Performance flow area of the suction pipe, V2 is the velocity in the
20 Power discharge pipe, V1 is the velocity in the suction pipe, g is
0 20 40 60 80 100 120 2,000
Relative Flow, % Performance Curve
p Figure 2. The principal curves that define a pump’s operating charac- System w/o CV
teristics are the performance curve (blue), the power curve (green), and the System w/ CV
Operating Point at
Head, ft of Liquid

efficiency curve (red).

1,200 Target Flowrate

10 Control
Power Index, kwh/1,000 gal

9 800 Valve ΔP System Dynamic

8 Head (Frictional ΔP)
at Target Flowrate
5 Static Head
y= 27.024 x–0.8356
4 0
R2 = 0.9962
3 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000
1 Flow, gpm
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 p Figure 4. The relationship between required flow and required head
Flowrate, 100 gpm
is called the system curve. During throttling control, the control valve (CV)
incurs a pressure loss. The system curve can be plotted without the CV
p Figure 3. Part-load operation (i.e., operation below design capacity) pressure drop (red line). The system curve with the CV pressure drop can
reduces the efficiency and increases the energy cost of a fixed-speed be plotted separately (green dashed line). The maximum flow that can be
centrifugal pump. It also has a hidden long-term cost — the extra cost attained is at the intersection of the system curve and the performance
incurred from buying oversized equipment. curve when the CV pressure drop is zero.

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  January 2018  35
Fluids and Solids Handling

the gravitational constant, and ΔPf is the frictional pressure significantly during normal plant operation. All of the other
drop in the piping system, including fittings, equipment, relatively constant variables can be combined into a single
and instruments (1). In normal industrial piping systems, “constant” for the pipe as a whole:
the kinetic energy component (V2/2g) is generally small and
can be safely neglected.
Equations 1 and 2 are both special cases of the Bernoulli where Kf is an empirical parameter that can be extracted
equation, which is a fundamental generalized energy balance from plant data and Q is flowrate.
for any fluid transport system. The frictional term in the Ber- Rewriting the system curve in simplified form gives:
noulli equation includes pressure losses in the piping, equip-
ment, instruments, and the pump itself (bearings, seals, etc.).
It is common practice, however, to separate internal pump
losses from piping/equipment losses. Internal losses within where H is the head in ft and the subscript d refers to an
the pump are accounted for as pump efficiency, and only the actual operating datapoint at the desired normal condition
piping, equipment, and instrument losses are included in the (or design specification if plant data are not available).
dynamic head component of the system (ΔPf). Equation 6 is simplified by using the variable k to represent
The generic equation for estimating frictional pressure (ΔPf )d /(ρQd1.8).
drop (in consistent units) in every section of pipe with an This formulation is important because it provides an easy
inside diameter D and equivalent length L is: and sufficiently accurate way to estimate the entire system
curve from just four pieces of plant data — Hs, (ΔPf)d, Qd,
and ρ, which are usually known.
An important point to keep in mind is that the static head
where V is the velocity in the relevant section of relevant (Hs) seldom remains constant; in reality it fluctuates due to
pipe and f is the Fanning friction factor, which can be rea- variations in vessel pressure at the suction and discharge
sonably approximated for turbulent flow in standard indus- ends, as well as fluctuations in liquid level in the supply or
trial steel pipes (roughness factor ε = 0.00017 ft) as: destination tanks. If frictional losses dominate the system,
then for simplicity the static head may be considered approx-
imately constant; otherwise, variations in static head must
also be taken into account in the analysis.
where μ is the viscosity. If the pipe consists of multiple sec- Pump power consumption (brake horsepower, or BHP)
tions with different diameters and lengths, you must add the is obtained from:
individual values for ΔPf for all of the sections.
Notice that the right-hand sides of Eq. 3 and Eq. 4 both
have only one flow parameter — velocity — that varies

Table 1. Of the power supplied to the pump, only a portion is useful for raising pressure and overcoming piping system friction.
Much of the energy supplied to the pump will be lost as heat.
Power to Heat (with CV)
Pump Head, Pump Absorbed Useful PV
Flow, gpm ft of oil Efficiency, % Power, HP Power, HP HP MMBtu/hr
0 1,725 0.0 286 0 286 0.73
200 1,721 22.6 331 75 256 0.66
400 1,719 41.6 359 149 210 0.54
600 1,695 57.0 387 221 167 0.43
800 1,649 68.8 416 287 130 0.33
1,000 1,582 77.0 446 344 103 0.26
1,200 1,493 81.6 477 389 88 0.22
1,400 1,383 82.6 509 420 89 0.23
1,600 1,251 80.0 543 – – –
1,783 1,111 74.5 578 – – –

36  January 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
where Q is the flowrate in gpm, ΔPT is the total pressure HW = KH × HL (8)
drop including the static and dynamic head in psi, SG is
specific gravity, H is head in ft liquid, and η is efficiency. PL = KP2 × PW × (ρL/ρW) (9)
Keep in mind that the Q-H-η performance curves pro-
vided by the vendor at the time of purchase are invariably where HW is the head if the liquid were water, HL is the head
based on tests with water. If the actual fluid being pumped of the liquid being pumped, PL is the power consumed by
has a different specific gravity, the head must be adjusted by the liquid being pumped, PW is the power that would be
dividing Hw (the head of water, found on the performance consumed if the fluid were water (Eq. 7), ρL is the density of
curve) by the specific gravity of the actual fluid. the liquid, and ρW is the density of water.
The difference between the energy supplied to the pump
(the performance curve) and the pressure-volume (PV) Constructing the system curve
energy absorbed by the fluid to overcome system head goes The system curve derived in Eq. 6 is applicable to a
primarily into heating the fluid, with minor amounts going to single pipe in which all of the resistances (frictional losses
valve noise and to heating the lubricating oil. For the system for equipment, instruments, friction, pipe fittings) are in
shown in Figure 4, the fate of energy supplied to the pump KH
can be calculated, as in Table 1, and displayed graphically as 1.35

in Figure 5.

If the viscosity of the fluid is greater than 5 centistokes
(cSt), you may need to take further steps to determine the 1.25

head. For very viscous fluids, you can use a nomograph 1.20

cS St
(Figure 6) to correct for the head and power (2). The range 1.15

of applicability of Figure 6 is limited to flowrates of less 20

1.10 cS
than 650 gpm (140 m3/h), heads of 20–200 ft (5–60 m), spe- 10 t
cific gravities of less than 1.3, and viscosities of 5–100 cSt. 1.05 5 cS t
Despite its limitations, this method should be useful in 1.00
most applications. To use the nomograph, first read off the
values for KH and KP2 at the desired flow Q, liquid head HL,
and known viscosity. In Figure 6, for a viscosity of 20 cSt,
a flowrate of 60 m3/h, and a liquid head of 10 m, KH is 1.03 10
and KP2 is 1.15. 1.5 60
In the nomograph, KH and KP2 are empirical dimensional 1.4 40
correction factors derived from test data that do not have any 1.3 20 c
theoretical definition. After you determine KH and KP2 from 1.2
10 c
the nomograph, you can calculate the head and power: 1.1 5 cS
Pump Power Consumption, Throttling Flow Control 0.9
Q, m3/h
600 140

500 Total 120



PV Power 110


100 = 0m

400 HL
90 HL
Power, BHP

300 70
Energy Wasted in 60
CV, Heats Up 50
200 Useful Energy m
Fluid 40 =6
Absorbed into Fluid HL
0 0
0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 1,400
Flowrate, gpm p Figure 6. The vendor data provided at the time of purchase are almost
always based on tests with water. A nomograph can help make approxi-
p Figure 5. A plot of the data in Table 1 is useful for understanding mate corrections for viscosity and specific gravity when the liquid is not
efficiency loss and other operational risks of operating at flowrates water-like. The dimensional constants in the chart, KH and KP2, are
substantially below the design value. empirical factors.

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  January 2018  37
Fluids and Solids Handling

series and the head losses contributed by each component that equalizes the total pressure drop through each branch
are additive (Figure 7). (Figure 8).
When the piping network consists of a single or multiple In such cases, Eq. 6 applies to each branch and the total
pumps feeding a common header from which multiple flow through the pumps is:
parallel branches feed different users (e.g., cooling water or
hot oil circulating systems), the flowrates distribute in a way

where ki is the flow constant for branch i, and the exponent

2,000 0.56 is the inverse of the 1.8 exponent in Eq. 6.
1,600 Composite pump performance curves
1,400 Performance Curve
Total System for multiple-pump networks
Head, ft

HX Loss
Pipe Friction
It is not uncommon for CPI pumping applications to
800 Meter Loss have multiple pumps connected in series-parallel networks
600 (Figure 9). This is especially true of cooling water pumps.
400 In such instances, you need to consider the composite
performance curve for the network as a whole in relation to
0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 1,400 1,600 1,800 the system curve when determining the control strategy. To
Flow, gpm create composite curves for pumps connected in series, add
p Figure 7. Pressure drop in a piping system is composed of multiple
the individual heads at a given flowrate; for pumps con-
resistances in series, each of which contributes to the total pressure drop. nected in parallel, add the flows at a given head.
A graph of the relative contributions of heat exchanger (HX) loss, pipe Consider the simple series-parallel network shown
friction, and meter loss can be useful for visualizing the main opportunities in Figure 9. The individual pump characteristic curves
to reduce pressure drop and energy costs.
(Figure 10) are adequately represented by quadratic equa-
tions with the coefficients shown in Table 2. Pump perfor-
1,800 2,000
1,600 Pump 1
1,600 Pump 2
Pump 3
Head, ft

Head, ft

800 Performance Curve

600 Branch 1
400 Branch 2
Branch 3 400
200 Total System
0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 1,400 1,600 1,800 0
Flow, gpm 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,500
Flow, gpm
p Figure 8. In a piping network that consists of multiple parallel branches,
the flowrates distribute to equalize total pressure drop through each p Figure 10. Performance, or characteristic, curves for the individual
branch. Note that although this example shows equal static head for each pumps in Figure 9.
branch, that may not necessarily be so in all cases.
Table 2. Pump performance curves can often be correlated
more accurately in two segments — linear for the low-flow
To Process regime, and quadratic for the higher flow regime.
H = min of a + bQ – cQ2, where Q = gpm/100
Storage Pump 3
or a – dQ
Tank Pumps
Pump 2 Constant Pump 1 Pump 2 Pump 3 2+3
a 1,500 1,050 500 1,550
b 7 9 4 13
Pump 1
c 1 0.8 0.6 1.4
p Figure 9. Example of a simple pump network with both series and
d 1.8 1.5 1.4 2.9
parallel features.

38  January 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
mance curves are often difficult to accuately correlate as a Pumps 2+3. At about 2,400 gpm, turn on the second train.
single quadratic polynomial, or even as a cubic polynomial. The maximum flow achievable in this example is about
One solution is to correlate the performance curve in two 3,800 gpm, which occurs at the point where the system
segments — linear for the low-flow regime, and quadratic curve intersects the composite characteristic curve and the
for the higher flow regimes. control valve is in the fully open position. Do not turn on
The construction of the composite curves for this net- both trains when the flow is less than 1,200 gpm (for reasons
work proceeds in stages. To determine the composite curve explained in the next section).
for Pumps 2 and 3 in series, add the individual pump heads
at the same flowrate (Figure 11, Table 3a). Create the com- Common operating mistakes to avoid
posite curve for the parallel trains by adding their flowrates Four types of problems are particularly common in pump
at the same head (Table 3b). Finally, plot the system curve networks connected in parallel. Three stem from a failure to
on the same graph to get Figure 12. understand and analyze the relationship between the com-
The pump train with the higher head at a given flowrate posite pump curve and the system curve. The fourth stems
will totally suppress flow in the train with the lower head from procedural issues.
at the same flowrate. This will heat up the trapped fluid in
the pump with no flow and cause it to boil and cavitate if Table 3b. To determine the composite curve for Pump 1 and
the situation is allowed to persist for more than a couple of Pumps 2+3 in parallel, add the flowrates at the same head.
hours. Appropriate control strategies must be used to prevent Flowrate, gpm
this from happening.
Pumps 2+3 Pump 1 +
Figure 12 helps to determine the correct operating Head, ft Pump 1 in Series Pumps 2+3
policy and control strategy. For flowrates up to approxi-
1,550 0 0 0
mately 2,400 gpm, use only one train — either Pump 1 or
1,545 0 172 172
1,540 0 345 345

1,600 1,520 0 1,034 1,034

1,500 0 1,221 1,221
1,495 278 1,244 1,522
Head, ft

800 1,485 833 1,289 2,122

1,450 1,139 1,429 2,568
400 Pump 1
Pumps 2+3
1,400 1,409 1,599 3,008
0 1,300 1,807 1,879 3,686
0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,500
Flow, gpm 1,100 2,380 2,316 4,697

p Figure 11. Composite performance curves for the pump trains in 800 3,019 2,825 5,844
Figure 9. In series-parallel pump networks, the characteristic curves or
efficiency curves for the parallel trains are rarely exactly congruent. 1,800
1,600 Pump 1
Table 3a. To determine the composite curve for Pump 2 and Pumps 2+3
1,400 Composite
Pump 3 in series, add the heads at the same flowrate. Desired
1,200 System Curve
Head, ft

Head, ft 1,000
Pumps 2+3 800 Control
Valve ΔP Dynamic Head
Flow, gpm Pump 2 Pump 3 in Series 600 (Frictional ΔP)
0 1,050 500 1,550 400
200 Static Head
100 1,049 499 1,547
500 1,043 493 1,536 0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000
1,000 1,035 480 1,515 Flow, gpm

1,500 1,005 425 1,430 p Figure 12. Composite performance curve and system curve with the
control valve fully open for the example system in Figure 9. At flowrates up
2,000 910 340 1,250
to approximately 2,400 gpm, you should use only one train — preferably
2,500 775 225 1,000 the one that consumes less power. At about 2,400 gpm, you should turn
on the second train. The maximum flow achievable in this example will be
3,000 600 80 680
about 3,800 gpm.
Article continues on next page

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  January 2018  39
Fluids and Solids Handling

Total network flow. Some engineers incorrectly believe ent operating policy, such as how many pumps should be
that the combined flowrate from N operating pumps is the operated in each flow regime.
sum of the flows from each pump operating on its own. This Cavitation due to non-congruent pump curves at low
is untrue, because ΣQnetwork is always less than N×Qi. flowrates. No two pumps have truly identical performance,
Figure 13 shows the composite curves for three identical even if they have identical specifications and model num-
pumps operating in parallel, a scenario that is very common bers. Their performance curves are slightly different even
in cooling water circuits and product loading. Also shown when the pumps are new, with different shutoff heads and
are two alternative system curves for illustrative purposes — different slopes at higher flows. Even when pumps have
one with a relatively high frictional resistance and another identical specifications when new, their performance curves
with a relatively low frictional resistance. will change over time due to erosion and wear, and they
The high-ΔP system can achieve 99% of the maximum change at different rates.
single pump flow (defined here as the run-out point) for the In a parallel network, the pump with the highest shutoff
first pump, but only 41% for the second, and a measly 16% head dominates at low flowrates and suppresses the flow in
for the third. Adding a fourth pump will not increase the the other pump. The weaker pump(s) continue to spin, and
flow at all; it would simply be a waste of capital. all of the energy being supplied to them goes into heating
The low-ΔP system can achieve 100% of the single the fluid, and may even cause it to boil. Cavitation can occur
pump flow for both the first and second pumps, and a in these instances, which can damage the pumps and the
respectable 74% for the third. Although the frictional pipe associated piping and instrumentation. For this reason, you
loss for the low-ΔP system curve is lower than the loss for should never operate multiple pumps in parallel if a single
the high-ΔP curve, the control valve loss is significantly pump is adequate to deliver the required flow, especially in
higher. Gaining such insights can help you develop a coher- lower-flow regimes where one pump can dominate the other.
For a more detailed analysis and discussion of this phenom-
enon, see Ref. 3.
1 Pump Consider a simple cooling water system using parallel
160 * 2 Pumps
3 Pumps
pumps (Figure 14). Let’s consider two operating points that
cover the full range of flowrates experienced in practice,
* System, High ΔP
1,430 gpm and 5,470 gpm. Figure 15 shows the system
120 * System, Low ΔP
Head, ft

100 curves at these two flowrates for throttling control, as well

* *
80 * as their intersections with the pump performance curves.
* *
60 * * * In the low-flow regime, up to about 2,700 gpm, either
** *
* * ** * * *
* pump can deliver the required head by itself, but their
performance curves intersect the system curve at different
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000 8,000 9,000 points. It makes sense, then, to use the lower-head pump
Flow, gpm

p Figure 13. The maximum flowrate in a parallel pump network depends Pump 1
on the system curve. In this example, if frictional pressure drop is high Pump 2
180 Pump 1+2
(brown line), turning on the second and third pumps does not add much
incrementally to total flow, whereas for the low-dynamic-head case, it does. 160 System, CV open 100%
140 System, CV choked down
Head, ft

80 1 Pump
Cooling 60
Tower HX Network
2 Pumps
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000
Flowrate, gpm

p Figure 15. Performance curves and composite curve (orange) for the
two pumps operating in parallel in Figure 14. The brown system curve is
for the control valve in the fully open position (pressure drop = zero). The
steeper system curve to the left (purple) represents the effective system
p Figure 14. A typical cooling water pump network, with two pumps in curve, including CV pressure drop, at a target flowrate of about 1,400 gpm
parallel feeding a heat exchanger (HX) network. (just before the second pump is needed).

40  January 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
preferentially because it uses less power (assuming efficien- safe operating scenarios for the cooling water system in
cies are comparable). If, however, both pumps happen Figure 14.
to be running simultaneously and the operator hears cavita- Static vs. dynamic head. The third common problem
tion, the weaker pump should be shut off immediately to relates to the flat shape of the typical pump curve in the
prevent damage. lower-flow regimes. In many common pumping applications,
Once the required flow reaches 2,700 gpm, the operat- the static head is much smaller than the dynamic head and
ing pump will near its run-out point, beyond which it is not there is a substantial difference in pressure drop (and stroke)
possible to maintain stable control. The second pump must across the control valve between high and low flowrates
be turned on, upon which the flows immediately redistribute (let’s call this Case 1). In Figure 16, Case 1 corresponds to
between the two pumps to maintain the same heads. the green line. However, in many applications, the dynamic
If the pumps are fitted individually with VFDs (covered head is low and the static head dominates — let’s call this
in Parts 2 and 3 of this article series), and if the VFDs run Case 2, which corresponds to the brown line in Figure 16.
in flowrate setpoint control mode, each VFD will attempt to In the latter case, a relatively small change in the valve
adjust the speed of its pump such that the discharge heads stroke and pressure drop can cause huge changes in flow,
from both pumps are the same. However, if the VFD control making stable flow control in the flat region of the pump
loops do not converge, the pumps could begin to oscillate.
To avoid this problem, the pumps must be carefully selected
to allow the necessary range for speed adjustment in the Nomenclature
BHP = pump power consumption or brake horsepower
right direction.
D = internal pipe diameter
The best policy, therefore, is to manage the number of f = Fanning friction factor
pumps being run in each flow regime. Table 4 shows the g = gravitational constant
H = head of liquid
Table 4. For the cooling water system in Figure 14, h1 = height of liquid in the suction tank
the pump operating policy at various flowrates (assuming h2 = highest elevation to which the liquid must be
fixed-speed motors) is easily derived from Figure 15. pumped
HL = head of liquid being pumped
Max Flowrate, gpm Head Loss, ft
Hs = static head
Case Pump 1 Pump 2 Total Piping CV Total HW = head if the liquid is water
1a 2,700 0 2,700 50 39 89 k = a variable to simplify (ΔPf )d /(ρQd1.8)
Kf = empirical parameter for calculating frictional
1b 0 2,800 2,800 51 38 89 pressure drop
2 2,688 2,782 5,470 89 0 89 KH = empirical dimensional correction factor derived
from test data
KP2 = power consumption factor derived from test data
L = equivalent length (of pipe)
P1 = pressure in the fluid supply tank
140 P2 = pressure in the final destination vessel
120 PL = power consumed by the liquid being pumped
PW = power consumed if the fluid is water
Head, ft

Relative valve strokes at
80 1,500 and 3,000 gpm
Q = flowrate
60 SG = specific gravity
40 Pump Curve V = velocity
Surge Line System, Low Hs V1 = velocity in the suction pipe
20 System, High Hs V2 = velocity in the discharge pipe
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000 6,000 7,000 8,000
Greek Letters
Flow, gpm
α1 = flow area of the suction pipe
p Figure 16. Flow control is more difficult when static head (Hs) is much α2 = flow area of the discharge pipe
greater than frictional pressure loss. The control valve pressure drop is indi- ΔPf = frictional pressure drop in the piping system
cated by the vertical distance between the pump characteristic curve (dark ΔPT = total pressure drop including the static and
blue line) and the system curve (either brown or green line). The stroke dynamic head
(from open to closed position) of the CV stem is roughly proportional to ρ = density of the liquid
pressure drop, although not quite linearly. For the low-Hs case (green line),
ρW = density of water
doubling the flow from 1,500 gpm to 3,000 gpm changes the CV pressure
drop from 118 ft to 78 ft (valve opening from 13% to 42%). For the high-Hs η = efficiency
case (brown line), the same flowrate changes the valve opening from 10% μ = viscosity
to 28%, which implies less robust control.

Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) CEP  January 2018  41
Fluids and Solids Handling

curve extremely difficult, which in turn could wreak havoc series). The important point is to be cognizant of these
on efficient operation of downstream unit operations, such as issues, and deal with them in an appropriate manner.
reactors and distillation columns. Pump purchasing practices. The fourth, and probably
One way to achieve stable control in Case 2 is to buy a the most pervasive, problem is low operating efficiency that
pump with quasi-linear characteristics and adequate slope stems from the pump sizing and purchasing procedures of
at low flowrates. However, the initial capital cost of such most companies. Following misguided purchasing practices
a pump is typically higher than pumps with conventional is the principal cause of oversizing of pumps and motors.
curves. An alternative solution is to use bypass flow con- Oversizing first occurs at the design stage, and further size
trol, which is inefficient (discussed in Part 2 of this article increases are often added at the procurement stage. In the
field, the pump invariably operates significantly below its
140 design capacity and far from its best efficiency point (BEP).
Furthermore, normal operation will be much closer to the
surge point, limiting the pump’s range of operation.
Minimum Capacity In one facility, the expected liquid flow from the source
Days per year

80 to the pump could not be predicted with certainty, so the
60 pump was deliberately oversized by 20% for a peak design
flow of 1,200 gpm (Figure 17). However, the procure-
ment group purchased an even larger pump with a BEP at
20 1,400 gpm (Figure 18). The actual peak flow after operations
0 began turned out to be 900 gpm. Consequently, the pump
550 600 650 700 750 800 850 900 950 1,0001,1001,2001,300 operated for almost 20 years at about 12% lower efficiency
Flow, gpm
than it should have.
p Figure 17. In this example, the actual pump flow profile has much lower
flowrates than the pump design capacity. The historical flow profile must be Closing thoughts
extracted from plant operating data. Such data are critically important for
evaluating potential savings (which will be covered in Part 3 of this series). The most common problems encountered when operating
parallel pump networks often have simple solutions. Parts 2
2,000 100 and 3 of this series (scheduled for the February and March
1,800 90 issues) will cover efficiency improvement measures using
1,600 80 VFDs and load management techniques, including detailed
Head, ft of Liquid

1,400 70
procedures for estimating energy savings. Examples based on
Efficiency, %

1,200 60
real case studies will be presented for illustration. CEP
1,000 50
800 Point 40
600 30
Operating Head, ft JIMMY D. KUMANA (Houston, TX; Email: has more than
400 20
Range Surge Line 35 years of experience working for both manufacturing and engineer-
200 Efficiency, % 10 ing-construction companies. He is the founder of Kumana & Associates,
0 0 a consulting firm specializing in process integration (pinch analysis)
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 techniques for energy/water optimization, as well as general process
20 40 60 80 1,00 1,20 1,40 1,60 1,80 2,00
performance troubleshooting/improvement in the full range of chemi-
Flow, gpm cal industries. He and his company have been consultants to major
corporations worldwide, as well as to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Natural
p Figure 18. Pump efficiency is invariably lower at off-design conditions. Resources Canada, the World Bank, and the United Nations. He has
Assuming that the pump was selected to operate at near its best efficiency authored or co-authored over 70 technical papers and book chapters,
point under normal design conditions, it will operate at lower efficiency at and regularly teaches courses on pinch analysis, energy efficiency in
part-load conditions. the process industries, and related subjects. He holds an MS in chemi-
cal engineering from the Univ. of Cincinnati.

MANUEL R. SUAREZ (Email: has more than 30

years of experience in process engineering, process documentation,
Literature Cited process control and automation, plant operations, logistics of oil stor-
age and transportation, project management, and technical training.
1. Moran, S., “Pump Sizing: Bridging the Gap between Theory and His wide experience covers polymers, oil and gas, petrochemicals,
Practice,” Chemical Engineering Progress, 112 (12), pp. 38–44 food and beverage, and process equipment fabrication for companies
in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. He has authored or
(Dec. 2016).
co-authored numerous papers, articles, presentations, and training
2. Olesen, M. R., and C. Bech, “Pump Handbook,” Grundfos courses on variable-frequency drives as final elements for process con-
Management A/S, Denmark (2004). trol and variable-speed pumping applications, especially for artificial
lift of oil, and on technical skills training of engineering, operations, and
3. Perez, R. X., “Pump Safety: Flirting with Disaster,” Chemical maintenance personnel. He earned his BS in chemical engineering from
Engineering, pp. 67–70 (Dec. 2016). the Univ. of Texas at Austin.

42  January 2018  CEP Copyright © 2018 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)