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Babbitt Bearing Health Assessment

A lecture submitted for consideration for the 41 st Turbomachinery Symposium.

John K. Whalen TCE/Turbo Components & Engineering, Inc. 8730 Meldrum Houston, TX 77075

Jim Allen Rotating Equipment Specialist Nova Chemicals Corporation Red Deer, AB Canada

John B. Stokes


Deer Park, TX

As process plants become more sophisticated the desire to extend the time between outages is continuously being re-evaluated. Of course several factors determine how long a unit can continuously run without taking an outage; but one factor to consider is the babbitted bearings ability to run for an extended time without the need for replacement or repair. As the time between outages increases those responsible for rotating equipment reliability are questioning how long can their babbitt bearings run, what can be analyzed to determine the health of the bearings, and what can be done to increase bearing life?

Theoretically babbited bearing life can be infinite, however there are several factors that can, and do, limit that. This paper will address common bearing failure mechanisms, tools available to diagnose these problems while running and ways to use that information in an attempt to make a determination of how long the bearing can run in a distressed condition.

Evaluation consists of analysis of bearing temperature, rotor vibration, rotor position and oil analysis. (Should space be available, or if the TAC would like to expand this to a tutorial, then further discussion on other condition monitoring tools such as acoustic emissions, infrared thermography, motor current analysis and turbomachine performance monitoring can be incorporated). This information can be analyzed coupled with rotor dynamic analysis and computerized bearing modeling to help assess the condition of the bearing and what may be contributing to the distressed condition.

A case study will be presented that details the evaluation of a distressed bearing and steps undertaken

to evaluate the health of the bearing and whether it can run without failing until the next scheduled outage. This included analysis of the machine Rotordynamics, computerized analysis of the bearing in question and analysis of condition monitoring information (temperature, shaft centerline position, orbit analysis, oil analysis, etc). Information provided to the user allowed him to determine he could slightly

reduce running speed (to limit vibration to a certain level) and continue to run to the scheduled outage date.

The paper will then proceed to discuss bearing robustness and ways to design bearings for long life. A case study will be presented where an Ethylene plant wanted to extend the time between outages but the longevity of the existing bearings prohibited that. The determination was made that upgrading the bearings to a more robust design would allow the extended time between outages. This case study will detail how this plant ran 3 years between outages with the original bearings and was able to extend that to 4, then 5 and they now plan to run 6 years before the next outage. The bearing design will be discussed as well as findings at each outage.