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Supercritical CO2 Power Cycle Symposium

May 24-25, 2011

Boulder, Colorado

Successful Operational Experience Sealing Supercritical CO2

Marquardt, Jason, T
J ohn Crane Incorporated
6400 W. Oakton
Morton Grove, IL 60043


Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) using Supercritical CO
has been around for decades and these pipeline applications
have traditionally been handled using centrifugal pumps with non-contacting dry gas seals (John Crane has well
over 1 million running hours in these applications). As the interest in CO
capture and storage has greatly increased,
new challenges have appeared as a result of the higher operating pressures, higher rotational speeds, increased
temperatures, and resulting higher seal leakages for these new applications. Due to the unique properties of CO
supercritical conditions, there are several issues to consider regarding the sealing of the turbo-machinery selected for
these applications. J ohn Crane will present on its over twenty (20) years of field application experience applying
dry gas seals and their respective seal support system requirements for SCO

1. Field Experience

Since the late eighties, CO2 applications have been successfully handled with non-contacting dry gas seals
optimized for fluids operating at or near their point of vaporization. API 682 recognizes these types of seals as dual
unpressurized seals (or Tandem arrangements). Tandem seals have a pair of seal faces each able to take the full
pressure requirements of the application with a full backup seal for safety reasons. Depending on a variety of
factors including regional climate, whether the equipment is indoors or outdoors, availability of nitrogen, etc. the
seal support system may include a nitrogen buffer in the primary vent, a nitrogen buffer on the secondary vent, or
both. The most common arrangement simply has a heated, filtered flush (Plan 12) with a low flush rate and a
system to monitor vapor leakage in the primary vent (Plan 76). These applications can be broken down into three
(3) categories: Low speed applications (<4000 rpm), moderate speed applications (4000 rpm <speed <8000 rpm),
and high speed applications (speeds >8000 rpm). Table 1 below is an experience list for non-contacting gas seals
applied in CO2 service.

Shaft Dia
Location Seal Size
Temp Max
Floway Pumps 1.187 Houston, TX. 2.187 225 3600 350
Man Turbo 2.755 Beula, ND 4.187 1600 26400 350
Ingersoll Rand 2.756 Denver City, TX 4.187 1950 2100 72
Ingersoll Rand 2.756 Denver City, TX 4.187 1950 2100 72
Bingham 2.635 Denver City, TX 3.937 1950 2100 72
Bingham 2.635 Denver City, TX 3.937 1950 2100 72
Production Pump 2.635 Texas 3.687 2000 3960 220
Production Pump 2.635 Texas 3.687 2000 3960 220
United 4.750 Texas 6.187 2200 2100 100
United 4.750 Texas 6.187 2200 2100 100
United Centrifugal 4.750 NA 6.187 2200 1780 350
United Centrifugal 4.750 NA 6.187 2200 1780 350
FlowServe 4.750 NA 6.187 2200 2160 125
FlowServe 4.750 NA 6.187 2200 2160 125
Ingersoll Rand 2.375 Denver City, TX. 3.687 2200 3000 110
Ingersoll Rand 2.375 Denver City, TX. 3.687 2200 3000 110
Man Turbo 2.755 Beula, ND 4.187 2500 26400 350
American Pump 3.265 Dallas, TX. 4.437 2500 4000 100
American Pump 3.265 Dallas, TX. 4.437 2500 4000 100
Bingham 2.635 Corsicana, TX. 3.687 2400 4000 350
Bingham 2.635 Corsicana, TX. 3.687 2400 4000 350
BWIP 2.505 Texas 3.687 2400 3560 350
BWIP 2.505 Texas 3.687 2400 3560 350
MHI 4.724 J apan 6.375 3118 7700 400
MHI 4.724 J apan 6.375 3118 7700 400

High Peripheral Speed

Table 1 Supercritical CO2 Experience List

The partial SCO2 experience list demonstrates the vast majority of the existing field experience is with low speed
(pipeline applications) with sealing pressures between 1900 2500 psig, and rotational speeds of 3600 rpm or less.
Large quantities of these seals have been supplied throughout west Texas and New Mexico and this technology is
considered mature with very little field application uncertainty. The applications highlighted in yellow represent
the moderate and high speed applications representative of where the market demands are going. It should be noted
that although all test results for these more challenging applications has been extremely positive, there are still a
relatively small quantity of these seals in circulation as compared to the low speed applications.

Filtration of the seal flush is critical to seal reliability. A duplex filtration system with a 3 micron nominal filter
element is recommended. The duplex filtration system allows uninterrupted operation in the event the filter element
needs to be replaced. A detailed fluid analysis is also required for proper filter element selection.

It is helpful to view these applications on a Pressure-Enthalpy diagram to see the state of the fluid (liquid, vapor, or
supercritical). Traditionally the applications with low vapor pressure margins or low to moderate speed supercritical
applications are handled with pumps. Not until recently have turbo machinery OEMs begun applying compressors
for these services. Regardless of the type of equipment, J ohn Crane believes that the non-contacting dry gas seal is
the preferred solution for this service. Figure 1 below displays field operating points on a CO2 Pressure-Enthalpy

Figure 1 Pressure-Enthalpy Diagram (Field Operating Points)

1.1 Low Speed Applications

A typical low speed application would be a pipeline application utilizing centrifugal pumps with operating speeds
below 4000 rpm. The seal configuration is classified by the API 682 community as a dual unpressurized (Tandem)
arrangement. The double ended pumps require a relatively unsophisticated seal support system consisting of a
heated, filtered flush (Plan 12) at a low flush rate (1-2 gpm) and a vapor monitoring system for the primary vent gas
leakage (Plan 76). The gas seal solution/support system has proven to be much more reliable and easier to manage
and has very low seal leakage as compared to conventional contacting (wet) seal solutions. The contacting seal
solution requires a very high flush rate to prevent the seals from burning up, has a more complex (and costly) seal
support system and results in very high seal leakage which is an emissions problem. Depending on the regional
climate, pump insulating and or flush line heat tracing may be required to maintain process temperature. A typical
P&ID diagram for a double ended pump applied with a gas seal solution in SCO2 service is shown below in Figure
2. These applications have been applied successfully since the late eighties and have accumulated over 1 million
hours of operation.

Figure 2 Typical P&ID Diagram for SCO2 Pump Application

1.2 Moderate Speed Applications

As the pressure requirements have continuously increased to reach deeper reinjection reservoirs and handle
increased pipeline pressures, centrifugal pump OEMs have been developing high speed pumps to handle these
demands. Regardless of the ambient temperature of the application, the losses and heat generated by the seal due to
viscous drag of the rotating seal components (churning heat) can result in significant temperature rise in the seal
chamber. John Crane has developed empirical formulas to estimate this churning heat for dry gas seals in high
density fluids based on the Bilgen-Boulos equations for high Reynolds numbers [1,2]. The churning heat estimated
for one moderate speed application with a sealing pressure of 3118 psig and rotation speed of 7700 rpm resulted in
estimated losses of 15 16 kW. Although not insignificant, field testing demonstrated that a low, filtered flush (1-2
gpm) without the heating requirement similar to the low speed applications as shown above in Figure 2 is

1.3 High Speed Applications

In the last few years, several inquiries have been received for development work for high speed centrifugal pumps,
centrifugal compressors, and Turbo expander OEMs to establish products for the expanding SCO2 market.
Specifically transportation (higher pipeline pressure requirements), storage (high pressure reinjection for enhanced
oil recovery and sequestration) and carbon capture (power plants) are the areas of interest. The high rotational
speeds for these new applications along with the high density of the SCO2 fluid are expected to create considerable
churning losses due to windage. These applications will require some form of additional cooling which can be
remedied by proper design of the seal support system. One such application for an integrally geared compressor
with a suction pressure of 2300 psig, available seal gas at a temperature of 350 F, and rotational speed of 26000 rpm
led to estimated churning losses of 50 60 kW. Analysis of the temperature rise in the seal chamber shows an
increase in the mass flow rate feeding the seals is required to keep the temperature rise at the seal to within the limits
of the seal design. Cooling of the seal supply gas (typically fed discharge gas) is also required. There are several
commercially available programs for estimating the fluid state properties at these conditions to be used in the
analysis. The result is that a high flush rate of approximately 1.5 acfm (10 gpm) is required in addition to cooling
the seal supply fluid temperature to approximately 125 F to manage the temperature inside the seal chamber. The
seal fluid flush rate required for this application is considerably higher than typical low/moderate speed applications
previously discussed and must be accounted for in the design of the seal support system.

2. Development Activities

J ohn Crane has performed a significant amount of testing on both liquid and SCO2 at sealing pressures up to 3000
psig and rotational speeds up to 3600 rpm. The purpose of this testing was to correlate leakage data gathered from
the testing with J ohn Crane developed proprietary CFD software (CSTEDY) used to calculate seal leakage. The
results demonstrated very close correlation between the software predicted seal leakages and actual test leakages.
Further testing is planned for high pressure/high speed applications to correlate the estimated churning heat based on
the empirical formulas developed by J ohn Crane for gas seals against actual test data. This testing is planned for late

3. Conclusion

Traditional CO2 applications have been handled successfully for decades with proven non-contacting gas seal
technology (dual unpressurized seal arrangements) and relatively uncomplicated seal support systems (Plan 12 and
Plan 76). Application pressures are on the rise for several reasons including higher pipeline pressure requirements,
SCO2 storage applications (enhanced oil recovery and sequestration) and the expanding carbon capture demands
from power plant exhaust. As rotational speeds increase, it is necessary to consider the churning heat generated
from viscous drag of the rotating seal components. The design of the seal gas support system is a critical component
regardless of the application. For applications with high expected churning losses, a provision for cooling to
manage the temperature rise in the seal chamber is required. A properly designed seal support system is required to
accomplish this. Regardless of application speed, a detailed fluid analysis and properly selected filter element is
required for improving seal reliability.

4. Acknowledgements

While the author of this paper has applied the aforementioned seals and support systems into the field, it could not
have been done without the hard work of engineers working in John Cranes research and development group (K.
Meck, G. Zhu) in establishing guidelines for estimating churning losses in high speed gas seal applications.

5. References

[1] E. Bilgen, R. Boulos, Functional Dependence of Torque Coefficient of Coaxial Cylinders on Gap Width and
Reynolds Numbers, Transaction ASME J .Fluids, 1973.

[2] F. Kreith, Heat Transfer of a Disc Rotating in an Enclosure, International J ournal of Heat and Mass Transfer,

[3] K. Meck, G. Zhu, Internal Proprietary J ohn Crane R&D Document 10002300: CO2 Sealing Design
Methodology, 2011.