Part 3: Reduce Clearance – Improve Pump Efficiency
Welcome to Part 3 in our series on upgrading pumps with composite wear parts.
In the first part of this series, we discussed how upgrading your pumps with composite wear parts can help avoid galling and seizing. Because composite parts do not gall or seize like metal parts, this allows you to reduce the clearance at these components in your pump.
In Part 2, we discussed how reducing the clearance at the wear rings, throttle bushings, and center-stage bushings creates a stabilizing force in your pump called The Lomakin Effect. This force helps to reduce vibration and shaft deflection, leading to longer seal and bearing life in your pumps.
Today, we will discuss how reducing the clearance in your pump also improves pump efficiency.
Centrifugal Pump Background
According to a major centrifugal pump OEM, energy consumption accounts for 44% of the life cycle cost of a centrifugal pump. You can reduce this cost by upgrading the wear components to a composite material like Vespel® CR-6100 and reducing the clearance in your pump.
The specific components where you want to reduce the clearance are the pump wear rings, inter-stage rings, center-stage bushing, and throttle bushing. These components form the barriers between high-pressure and low-pressure areas within the pump. The differential pressure across these components creates internal recirculation within the pump, resulting in a loss of pump efficiency (Figure 1).
When you upgrade these components to Vespel® CR-6100, you can typically reduce the clearance by 50% compared to the API minimum for metal parts. If you reduce the clearance by 50%, you reduce the internal recirculation by approximately 50%, leading to a significant efficiency gain.
Which Pumps Produce the Biggest Gains?
If we consider only efficiency gains, horizontal multi-stage pumps usually offer the best return on investment from an upgrade to Vespel® CR-6100 with reduced clearance. These pumps have multiple leak paths across wear rings, inter-stage rings, center bushings, and throttle bushings. Because they have many stages, these pumps also tend to consume a lot of power. Consider the following cases where process plants have reduced the operating costs of their multi-stage horizontal pumps:
- A power station upgraded a 3MW boiler feed water pump with Vespel® CR-6100 along with the Boulden PERF-Seal™ design and reduced clearance and recorded a 7% efficiency gain compared to a newly rebuilt pump with original clearances.
- A refinery upgraded their hydrocracker charge pumps with Vespel® CR-6100 along with the Boulden PERF-Seal™ design and reduced clearance and recorded 4% more throughput to their hydrocracker-a hugely profitable upgrade.
- A product pipeline company upgraded their LPG shipping pumps with Vespel® CR-6100 and reduced clearance, resulting in a 4% efficiency gain.
Another area to consider is process pumps which are marginally undersized, requiring parallel pump operation to achieve 100% of the target process rate. Sometimes, a modification as simple as reducing the wear ring clearance can get you back to one-pump operation with a full-capacity spare pump.
To further increase the efficiency gain associated with reduced clearance, the components can be modified with the Boulden PERF-Seal™ design. Internal testing has shown that the PERF-Seal™ creates an additional reduction in flow across throttle bushings, center-stage bushings, and wear rings beyond what can be achieved with reduced clearance alone.
When you eliminate the metal-to-metal contact surfaces in your pumps and use Vespel® CR-6100 stationary wear components, you can then reduce the clearance. This reduction in clearance improves pump efficiency and lowers the operating cost of the pump. Numerous field examples exist where customers have saved tens of thousands of dollars on their annual pump operating costs with this simple upgrade.
If you have a pump where improved efficiency will save you money, contact Boulden today. We have a huge inventory of Vespel® CR-6100 standard sizes in stock ready for immediate shipment almost anywhere in the world.
For application and installation details, download the Boulden Installation Guide for Vespel® CR-6100.