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INTRODUCTION

The pumps under study are 3Nos of Booster pumps which provide suction to 4 Nos of
main injection pumps which inject treated sea water at 160 bar manifold pressure into the
oil wells located on remote well head platforms for artificial lift as a part of the enhanced
oil recovery project.

Pump description:-

Pompes Guinard Model No: LH1050, Normal flow 540m3/hr @ 16 bar, 1475 rpm,
single stage double entry centrifugal pump, horizontally split casing, antifriction bearings,
electric motor driven. No online monitoring system.

THE PROBLEM

Since commissioning these pumps showed high levels of vibration on the bearing
housings which were attributed to the significant background deck vibration for which a
long term solution was being worked out. In the meantime after six months of operation
the vibration levels were rising abnormally which was noticed due to a crackling sound
originating from the pump and subsequently the pump tripped on a locked rotor alarm.

On inspection rotor was found jammed and on dismantling it was observed that a large
piece of impeller shroud had fallen out and had got entrapped between the casing and
impeller and it was very evident that a crack had developed and propagated till the
impeller failed and other parts of the impeller was also developing cracks. Within a
weeks time the second pump also met with the same consequence. The third pump which
was under normal operation was stopped and inspected and as anticipated it had also
developed cracks. This pump was saved because the earlier two pump failures had
twisted the shafts very badly.

Since these pumps were under the OEM’s warranty period their representatives were
called to make a study and rectify the problem. They came up with a solution stating
improper metallurgy of the impeller had caused the problems and the impellers were
replaced with new material impellers. But after around nine months operations the same
symptoms were showing up and due to our earlier experiences it was found that the same
problem was recurring. It was now decided to conduct an in-house study
THE DIAGNOSTIC PROCESS

The pumps were put back into operation and baseline signatures and levels were taken on
the bearing housings and pump casings and overall reading trending was done on a day to
day basis and further investigations were being carried out. The equipment used was a
B&K 2526 data collector/analyzer with a piezoelectric accelerometer and v7107
monitoring software.

The vibration signature in the radial directions revealed a prominent peak at 1X RPM and
another peak around 7500 CPM i.e. 5X RPM which was around 1/3 that of 1X amplitude
and overall unfiltered readings showed about 7.5mm/sec rms in both the horizontal
directions and around 5 mm/sec in the vertical directions which was attributed to more
stiffness in the vertical direction and the casing measured 2.5 mm/sec. Also one of the
pump which still had an impeller with hairline cracks on the shroud and vanes was started
up another set of readings were taken on the pump. These readings revealed that the 1X
was marginally more but the 5X had shot up substantially and the overall readings were
about 17mm/sec in the horizontal and casing vibration had gone up to 8 mm/sec.

It was now inferred that the 5X component which was the vane passing frequency of the
impeller (impeller had 5 vanes) was attributing to the high levels of the vibration due to
some flow instability and also by chance one of the two booster pumps which were
operating tripped due to some local fault and as a consequence one of the three operating
main injection pump tripped due to low suction pressure. Immediately it was noticed that
the operation of the lone operating booster pump had become very smooth and all the
vibration levels came down and the 5X component was nearly non existent.

Now it was decided to study the pump performance. As no facility was available for
testing the pump on site, a temporary bypass line with a valve and a orifice plate leading
overboard was installed and the pump was operated with different flow rates by throttling
the valve on the discharge line and different sets of vibration readings were taken. It came
as no surprise to us on what we found, our thoughts were right, the pump was operating
too far away from its BEP and it had a very less margin of stability on either side of the
BEP. The flow instability and vibrations due to the unstable operation region of the pump
led to development of cracks on the impeller which finally led to its failure.

THE SOLUTION

Now the task was to increase the flow rate of the pump to get it closer to its BEP and
bring the pumps into their stable region of operation and finally two options were worked
out and one of them had to be implemented.
OPTION-I

Make a permanent overboard bypass line for each pump on its discharge with a flow
control valve so as to always maintain the required flow. If the downstream requirement
is low the control valve on the bypass line opens more and a part of the flow is bypassed
overboard.

OPTION-II

Trim the impeller of the pump and bring down its curve so that its BEP shifts to the left
in the low flow region.

THE PROS AND CONS

Both the options were studied in-depth and a conclusion was arrived at.

Option-I seemed the best solution as it had an operational flexibility for future expansions
and part load operation but the problem was that of huge modifications to the piping
systems and installation of big control valves (20” discharge piping) and hooking up to
the DCS control system and overboard piping all the way down. This involved a lot of
initial expenditure and a lot of time would be required.

Further when the flow requirement is low the pump is still producing its full flow a lot of
energy is wasted due to bypass flow, though on offshore installations energy is never
really the criteria.

Option-II, the easier of the two to carry out and in a week’s time all the pumps can be put
back into operation and the cost, only machining the impellers and balance them. But no
more flexibility in operation exists. In future if your flow demand increases you have to
look for other solutions.

THE RESULT

Finally option-II was decided upon as a decision could be taken immediately and all the
work could be carried out in-house. Worst come worst situation, could always revert back
to original new impellers.

Another problem arising was a substantial reduction in the impeller diameter was
necessary, this would create a large clearance between impeller and casing tongue which
would lead to recirculation which in turn would again create instabilities. Again
machining only the vanes leaving the shroud intact would reduce its strength and
eventually fail. So a compromise was worked about by machining a bit and the vanes to
the required diameter.
WHAT WENT WRONG

The booster pumps were rated at 540m3/hr and the main injection pumps were rated at
310m3/hr and the operation philosophy was 2 operating +1 standby for the booster
pumps and 3 operating + 1standby for the main injection pumps. The plant was designed
for the above flow rates keeping in view of future requirements’ arising from drilling of
new wells, at present it was operating at a reduced flow as per the current requirement.

Booster
Booster pumps (540m3/hr) Suction
Pump #1 Pump #2 Pump #3 Manifold
From Sea Lift Pumps

Booster
Discharge
Manifold
Main Injection Pumps (310m3/hr)

Pump Pump Pump Pump


#1 #2 #3 #4

Injection
Manifold
To Oil wells

CONCLUSION

It is very important that when design philosophies, equipment selection and


configurations are decided upon especially in cases like this where future requirements
are kept in mind a thorough study should be made to think on these lines such as
operational flexibility and part load operation.