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Centrifugal Pump


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Boiler feed pump

Boiler feed pumps are also referred to as feed pumps

(see Reactor pump) and designed as multistage
radial flow pumps. (Also see Multistage pump.)

They serve to feed a steam generator such as a

boiler or a nuclear reactor with a quantity of feed
water corresponding to the quantity of steam emitted.
Today, all boiler feed pumps are centrifugal pumps.

The design of boiler feed pumps regarding power

input, material, type of pump and drive is largely
governed by the developments which have taken
place in power station technology. The trend in fossil-
fuelled power stations is towards larger and larger
power station units (> 1000 MW in 2011). This has led
to boiler feed pumps with a drive rating of 30 - 50

Until 1950, the average pressure in the outlet cross-

section of the pump (discharge pressure of the feed
pump) was in the 200 bar region. By 1955 the
average discharge pressure had risen to 400 bar. The
mass flow rates were in the region of 350 tonnes/h
in 1950, compared to 3200 tonnes/h (in some
exceptions up to 4000 tonnes/h) today. Boiler feed
pumps operate at fluid temperatures of 160 to 210
ºC. In exceptional cases the temperature of the fluid
handled may be higher still.

Feed pumps for 1600 MW nuclear power stations are

constructed for mass flow rates of up to 4000
tonnes/h and feed pump discharge pressures of 70 to
100 bar.

Until 1950 approximately, boiler feed pumps were

made of unalloyed steels; since then they have been
made of steels with a chrome content of 13 - 14 %.
This change of materials was made necessary by the
introduction of new chemical feed water
compositions. The development of highstrength,
corrosion and erosion resistant martensitic chrome
steels with good anti-seizure properties as well as the
continuous development of all pump components
(bearings, shaft seal, pump hydraulic system, etc.)
paved the way for present-day boiler feed pumps with
rotational speeds of 4500 to 6000 rpm.

The mass flow rates of centrifugal pumps rose rapidly

in conjunction with the rise of unit outputs in power
stations. Today's full load feed pumps for conventional
800 to 1100 MW power station units are constructed
with four to six stages with stage pressures of up to
80 bar. Feed pumps for 1600 MW nuclear power
stations are of the single-stage type.


In the case of conventional power stations above 500

MW full load feed pumps are increasingly driven by
steam turbines. In most cases condensing turbines
running at 5000 to 6000 rpm are used.

Electric motors usually drive part load feed pumps,

both in fossil-fuelled and in nuclear power stations.
Speed control of electrically driven feed pumps is
effected by either fluid coupling (e. g. variable speed
turbo couplings) or by electrical closed-loop control
systems by means of thyristors (up to a drive rating
of approximately 18 MW in 2011).

Four options of installing boiler feed pump drives are

commonly used at present. See Fig. 1 Boiler feed

Fig. 1 Boiler feed pump: Model with VP-EM-RG-HP


The low-speed booster pump is usually driven by the

free shaft end of the turbine via a step-down gear or
directly by the free end of the electric motor. See Fig.
2 Boiler feed pump

Fig. 2 Boiler feed pump: Arrangement layouts of feed

pump sets

The single or double suction booster pump serves to

generate the necessary NPSHR of the system for the
high-speed boiler feed pump connected downstream.
Fig. 3 Boiler feed pump

Fig. 3 Boiler feed pump: Double-suction boiler feed

booster pump


For conventional power stations boiler feed pumps

are designed as:

Multistage barrel pull-out pumps, see Fig. 4 Boiler

feed pump
Ring-section pumps, see Fig. 5 Boiler feed pump

Fig. 4 Boiler feed pump: Barrel pull-out model with

tapping stage

Fig. 5 Boiler feed pump: Ring-section model with

tapping stage

These two types only differ in the construction of their

pressure-retaining enclosure, which influences the
manufacturing costs and ease of installation. There
are no differences with regard to operating reliability
and robustness also in abnormal operating
conditions. The dimensions of the rotating parts and
flow passages can be designed identically.

Two aspects of deciding between a ring-section

and a barrel pull-out pump are described below:

The smaller the mass flow rate and the higher the
pressure, the higher the material and
manufacturing costs of barrel pull-out pumps. This
does not apply to the same extent to ring-section
Barrel pull-out pumps have some advantages over
ring-section pumps when it comes to repairing a
pump installed in the system. If a rotor has to be
replaced, the barrel (see Pump casing) can remain
installed in the piping. This is significant with
regard to the availability of a power station unit, if
no full pump back-up is available or if pump
replacement is very time-consuming.

In the case of nuclear power stations, single-stage

feed pumps with double-entry impeller (see Double-
suction pump) and double volute casing are usually
adopted. See Fig. 6 Boiler feed pump

Fig. 6 Boiler feed pump: Double-suction reactor feed

pump made of cast iron

Cast pressure-retaining casing parts are increasingly

replaced by forged parts. As an example, such a feed
pump could be designed with a flow rate of about
4200 m3/h and a head of about 700 m at a rotational
speed of 5300 rpm. See Fig. 5 Boiler feed pump

Heads of reactor feed pumps are in the region of 800

m for boiling water reactors and 600 m for
pressurised water reactors. The flow rates are about
twice as high as those of a comparable boiler feed
pump in a fossil-fuelled power station.


For boiler feed pumps two factors have to be

considered regarding the wall thickness of the casing:
the pressure loads and the different temperature
conditions it needs to withstand. These two criteria
are satisfied by adopting a high-strength ferritic
casing material which enables the wall thickness to
be kept thin enough to avoid any overloads as a
result of temperature fluctuations, yet of adequate
thickness to guarantee the requisite safety against
internal pressure.

Barrel casing

The casings of barrel pull-out pumps and barrel

casing pumps are usually made of unalloyed or
low-alloyed ductile forged steel. Deposit welding is
used on all surfaces in contact with the feed water
to coat them with corrosion and erosion resistant
In order to weld the pump into the piping, an
adapter must be provided if the materials of the
nozzles to be connected are from different material
The discharge-side (discharge pressure
containing) barrel cover is fastened by means of
large non-torqued studs. Sealing is provided by a
profile joint which is pressurised purely by the
prevailing pressure (of up to several 100 bar)
without any external forces acting on it. See Fig. 7
Boiler feed pump

Fig. 7 Boiler feed pump: Profile rings

Ring-section pumps

The casings of ring-section pumps are preferably

made of forged chrome or carbon steel plated with
austenitic (iron solid solution) material.
The sealing element between the individual stage
casings (see Stage) seals off by metal-to-metal
contact, the individual casings being clamped
together axially by tie bolts between the suction
and discharge casings (see Pump casing).
Thermal shocks causing various thermal
expansions mainly lead to additional loads on the
tie bolts and sealing surfaces of the stage casings.

A common feature of barrel pull-out pumps and ring-

section pumps is that the greater the wall thickness,
the greater the thermal stress caused by thermal
shocks, which in turn reduces the service life of the
pump. The provision of injection water at a pressure
situated between the suction and discharge pressure
of the pump is a frequent requirement. This is taken
care of by tapping water from one of the pump stages
of both barrel pull-out pumps and ring-section pumps.

Tapping a stage of a boiler feed pump

In the case of ring-section pumps, a partial flow at

an intermediate pressure can easily be tapped
through a tapping nozzle in one of the stage
casings. See Fig. 5 Ring-section pump
In the case of barrel pull-out pumps, the inside of
the barrel is divided into three pressure zones so
that a partial flow at the required intermediate
pressure can be led off directly to the outside. See
Fig. 4 Barrel pull-out pump
The sealing function is taken care of by a profile
joint between the discharge and the tapping
pressure, and by a metal-to-metal joint between
the tapping and the inlet pressure. See Fig. 7
Boiler feed pump
Especially the profile joint allows a great degree of
relative motion of the sealing surface, as required
for any temperature shocks.
Rotor design

The pump shaft of boiler feed pumps has a very

small static deflection as the bearings are spaced as
closely as possible, the shaft diameter is relatively
large and the impellers are usually shrunk onto the
shaft (for high performance). The pump shaft is
generally insensitive to vibrations and runs smoothly
(see Smooth running) without any radial contact
during normal operation. The hub diameter at the
back of the impeller is increased and the impeller inlet
geometry is designed with a minimum diameter, so as
to reduce the remaining axial forces (see Axial
thrust) which have to be absorbed by the balancing

The rotors of single-stage reactor feed pumps are

even stiffer than those of boiler feed pumps, and their
static deflection is smaller than that of multistage
boiler feed pumps.

Axial thrust balancing

Some impeller arrangements of boiler feed pumps

for conventional power stations cause axial thrust at
the impellers. See Figs. 10 to 12 Axial thrust

The magnitude of this axial thrust depends on the

position of the operating point on the characteristic
curve, the rotational speed and the amount of wear
on the internal clearances (see Controlled gap seal).
Additional disturbing forces can arise in the event of
abnormal operating conditions, e.g. cavitation.

On larger boiler feed pumps the axial forces at the

pump rotor are balanced by means of a hydraulic
balancing device through which the fluid handled
flows. The balancing device is often combined with an
oil-lubricated thrust bearing (see Plain bearing). As
this balancing device absorbs more than 90 % of the
axial thrust, a relatively small thrust bearing can be
used. The balancing device may comprise a balance
disc with balance disc seat, or a balance drum or
double drum with the corresponding throttle bushes.

Axial thrusts arising in reactor feed pumps with

double-entry impeller (see Double-suction pump)
are balanced hydraulically; residual thrusts are
absorbed by an oil-lubricated thrust bearing. See Fig.
6 Boiler feed pump

Balancing of radial forces on the pump rotor

Radial forces arise from the weight of the rotor,

mechanical unbalance or hydraulic radial thrust. The
radial forces are balanced by two oil-lubricated radial
bearings as well as by throttling clearances through
which the fluid handled flows in axial direction. Such
throttling clearances are located at the impeller neck
on the impeller inlet side, or in the case of multistage
boiler feed pumps for conventional power stations on
the discharge side of the impeller (interstage bush)
and at the balance drum. If the rotor is in an off-centre
position, a re-centring reaction force will be generated
in these clearances, which largely depends on the
pressure difference and the clearance geometry
(LOMAKIN effect).

The LOMAKIN effect is severely reduced when, due

to abnormal operating conditions, the feed water in
the clearance is not in a purely liquid phase (see

The hydrostatic action of the clearances contributes

more to reducing shaft deflection than the mechanical
stiffness does. The system is designed in such a way
that operating speed always remains well away from
the critical speed of the rotor, allowing hydraulic
exciting forces (particularly in low flow operation) to
be absorbed in addition.

An additional diffuser or a double volute can reduce

radial thrust. See Fig. 6 Volute casing pump

Shaft seal

Common shaft seals for boiler feed pumps are

mechanical seals, floating ring seals and labyrinth
seals. Gland packings are less common these days.
(Also see Shaft seal).

Warming up and keeping warm

Transient or low flow operating conditions cause

additional loads on boiler feed pumps. This leads to
additional stresses and strains as well as to
deformation of components with various
consequences on their functionality.

Nowadays, almost all boiler feed pumps must be able

to handle both cold starts (high-temperature shock
loads) and semi-warm starts without any damage. In
these start-up procedures hot feed water abruptly
flows into the cold pump, which results in the inner
components heating up much faster than the
pressure boundary. Depending on the frequency of
starts and the gradient curves of pressure and
temperature (load cycles) this can shorten the
service life of the pump.

On machines with particularly thick walls the heat will

propagate more slowly in the thick-walled
components, thus increasing internal stresses.

Contact between parts of the rotor and the stator

cannot, generally, be ruled out as narrow clearances
are used as controlled gap seals. This applies to the
impeller neck on the impeller inlet side, the discharge-
side clearance between impeller, diffuser and
interstage bush as well as the balancing device with
several throttling clearances (depending on the

Critical operating conditions such as the formation of

vapour bubbles, for example, cannot be completely
avoided in the inlet line. Brief contact between the
stator and the rotor leads to high unbalance forces in
the narrow clearances. For this reason the material
pairs have to be resistant not only to corrosion and
erosion but also especially to wear (incorporating
good anti-seizure properties). Profiled chrome steels
and a special clearance geometry have proven

In operating conditions with a very low or zero flow,

e.g. in the turning gear mode of a turbine-driven boiler
feed pump, temperature layers establish in the fluid
handled, which may cause deformation of the rotors
and, after a slight delay, also of the non-rotating
components. Once the clearance gaps are closed the
rotor will be subjected to a significantly higher friction
moment, leading to overload of the turning gear and
to standstill of the pump. In this case, the temperature
will no longer be equalised at the rotor, which will
further aggravate the rotor deformation.

This can result in several hours of downtime for the

pump. Usually the only remedy is to let the machine
cool down to reduce or eliminate the critical
temperature layers and the deformation.

Several actions can be taken to optimise the thermal

behaviour of the pump:

Avoid large differences in temperature in and on the


Thermally separate the cold areas (shaft seal

area) from the area through which the hot fluid
passes (hydraulic system and balancing device)
by means of an insulation chamber system;
provide a thermal seal to prevent convection flows
and special thermosleeves.
Insulate the outside of the pump.
Warm up or keep warm the pump by means of
forced flow through the machine, usually via
throttled pressure supply.
Temporarily or permanently interrupt the cooling
water supply in the area of the mechanical seal
(secondary circuit).
Limit the operating parameters for critical
operating conditions (ΔT) (top/bottom of the barrel
casing) and/or ΔT between casing and feed water.
Reduce the effects of large temperature differences

Rotate the pump in stand-by mode using turning

Employ synchronised turning gear (minimise or
prevent actual standstill time).
Drain water from critical thermal areas.
Select good thermal characteristics when choosing
shaft seals

Fit a non-contacting seal (floating ring seal).

The above measures are frequently used for barrel

casing pumps (barrel pull-out pumps) as their
outer dimensions, wall thickness, drive (turbine with
turning gear) and operating modes are considered
more critical than those of ring-section pumps. If
possible, these measures are always automated to
safeguard the availability of the pump set.

Minimum flow valve

A minimum flow valve (automatic recirculation

valve) ensures a minimum flow rate and thus
prevents damage which could occur in low flow
operation as a result of either an impermissible
increase in temperature leading to vaporisation of the
pump content or low flow cavitation.



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