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An overview of Pumps & their Applications

N. Weston 9th August 2002

For the attention of: - J Dobney, EURRP Refurbishment Project Manager

Pump Selection
General Calculations

The requirement to transport liquids from one place to another via a pump is one that has been with
mankind since the dawn of civilisation. As pump usage becomes more and more widespread in
various industries (non-more so than the chemical industry) the technologies implemented are
becoming more advanced and innovative. Modern pumps transport a vast range of fluid types by
means of gravity, displacement, centrifugal force, electromagnetic force, transfer of momentum or
mechanical impulse.
This report looks at the various pumps in use today and how their individual mechanisms make
them more or less suitable for transporting the assortment of fluids associated within the chemical
industry. There is also a look at how pumps are compared and selected using general mathematical
analysis and identifying the requirements of the system.


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Pump Selection
Before deciding on the different types of pumps suitable for a given system, certain factors must
first be considered. In particular the resistance to flow of the fluid through the various pipes, valves,
fittings, open channels, vessels, nozzles, weirs, meters, process equipment and other flow-handling
conduits present in the pumping system should be calculated. These resistances are affected by
flowrate and fluid properties such as viscosity and density and must be overcome at all times by the
pump in order to achieve fluid transport. The energy required by a pump will also depend upon the
height through which a fluid is being raised, the pressure required on delivery and the length and
diameter of the piping.
The correlation of this data shown on a graph over a range of flowrates is called a System Head
Curve and is the total of fixed (static) heads which are independent of flowrate and variable heads
which increase with flow rate. This information is particularly useful when considering a pump
(such as centrifugal) that has a head which varies with flowrate. By superimposing the pumps
graphical data onto the System Head curve an intersecting point can be found at matching pressure
heads giving the flowrate of the pump. This is the point of optimum efficiency so when purchasing
a pump it should be specified that the pump head-capacity curve intersects the system curve at the
desired flowrate.

Further to this when solids are suspended in the fluid then the following unique considerations arise:
- Dimensions of internal passages may need to be increased
- Pockets & dead spots where solid can accumulate need to be avoided
- Close internal clearances are undesirable due to abrasion
- Flushing connections for continuos or intermittent use should be provided
If it is found that only minimum solids breakage or degradation can occur (e.g. for filter presses)
then either a low-shear positive displacement pump or a recessed-impeller centrifugal pump is
Liquid corrosion characteristics also affect pump selection - in particular the materials used for
constructing pumps.
Usual selection process involves eliminating unsuitable pumps by comparing their operating range
with the factors described above. Cost, maintenance and further suitability analysis can then be
done for the remaining few. Correct selection of pump equipment is essential as improper selection
can result in annual maintenance costs of 2-3 times the original investment.


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Pump Categories
This diagram shows the categories by which pumps are identified. The following pages give
descriptions, benefits and disadvantages of some of the more common types.






Single Stage

Steam - double acting




Closed Impeller
Open Impeller

Single acting
Double acting

Fixed Pitch



Variable Pitch


Single Suction
Double Suction



Open Impeller
Semi-open impeller

Single Stage

Fluid operated


Mechanically operated

Closed Impeller


Single stage




Jet (Ejector)
Gas Lift
Hydraulic Ram



Flexible Member

Circumferential Piston


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The distinction between the two main categories is this;
A dynamic pump is one in which energy is continuously added to increase the fluid velocities within
the machine to values in excess of those occurring at the discharge such that subsequent velocity
reduction within or beyond the pump produces a pressure increase. A displacement pump is one in
which energy is periodically added by application of force to one or more boundaries of any desired
number of enclosed, fluid-containing volumes. Resulting in direct increase in pressure up to the
value required to move the fluid through valves or ports into the discharge line.
Centrifugal pumps are the most widely used in the chemical industry due to the fact they have a
large range in capacities and a can be used to pump fluids of varying nature. All centrifugal pumps
contain 2 main elements:
A rotating element, including an impeller & shaft
A stationary element, made up of casing, stuffing box (providing a seal to prevent air getting
in or liquid escaping from the pump) & bearings
There are a number of set-ups for centrifugal pumps that make them so versatile. Each set up is
categorised according to the following features:
The type of impeller the pump utilises
The method used to convert liquid velocity into pressure energy (volute or diffuser pumps)
The number of stages contained within the pump
The mechanical design of the pump casing (axially split or radially split)
The axis of impeller rotation
The location of suction nozzle (horizontal shaft only)
Whether the pump is Self - or Non- Priming
Impeller types
Impeller types are sub-categorised further and may be identified according to the following features:
The major direction of flow created in reference to the axis of rotation:- Radial-flow impellers (flow is in same direction as rotation for radial flow)
- Axial-flow impellers (flow is parallel to axis of rotation)
- Mixed-flow impellers (flow is a combination of the two above)

The amount of suction utilised by the impeller.

- Single Suction.
Draws liquid through the suction eye on one side only. Single suction impellers are more
practical in small units as they do not divide flow into two very narrow passages. They are
also sometimes preferred for structural reasons and often have cost and maintenance
advantages over double-suction impellers.
- Double suction.
In effect double suction impellers are two single suction impellers arranged back to back in a
single casting drawing liquid simultaneously from both sides into a common suction
passage. They are generally used for higher duties. Their benefits include the axial balance
in suction and a greater suction area allowing less net absolute suction head (see


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The mechanical construction of the impeller

- Open Impeller
These are essentially vanes only meaning that as size increases structural
weaknesses occur so partial shrouding or ribs can be applied to improve
strength. Open impellers are generally used in small, inexpensive pumps
or pumps handling abrasive liquids. One particular advantage they
possess is the capability to handle suspended matter with minimum
- Semi-open Impellers
These incorporate an impeller back wall giving structural strength therefore a greater range
of use and higher durability. They also reduce pressure at the back hub of the impeller and
reduce foreign matter from lodging behind the impeller and interfering with operation of the
pump and the stuffing box
- Closed impellers
These are most widely used when handling clear liquids. The impeller
is completely shrouded from the suction eye to the periphery. This
designs prevents liquid spillage (liquid escaping between impeller vanes
and the sidewalls) that occurs in open or semi open impellers.

Conversion of liquid velocity into pressure energy

There are two methods of converting the liquid velocity created by the centrifuge into useful,
directed pressure energy:
- Volute
A volute is a type of impeller casing. Its main feature is a
channel located on the periphery of the impeller which
increases in area from it origin to its outlet when it has gone
360o around the impeller. It directs flow out of the casing and
into the discharge pipework.
- Diffuser
A diffuser type pump uses static vanes located around the periphery
of the impeller vanes which direct flow towards an outlet in the
casing, again sending fluid towards discharge pipes.

Number of Impeller Stages

It may be that to achieve the required pressure head more than one impeller needs to be used. The
options are discussed below:


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- Single Stage
Contain only a single impeller to achieve the required head. Fluid entering the pump will
pass through the impeller and become discharged directly to the discharge pipes.
- Multi-stage
Utilise more than one impeller in a series in order to achieve a greater pressure head which
may be required depending on the nature of the fluid and the capacity specified. In Multistage pumping the fluid will be forced via the first impeller to the second and so on until it
finally reaches the discharge point depending on how many stages there are. All multistage
pumps used single suction impellers
Mechanical Design of casing
Pump casing is made up of two or more parts that are fastened together. The point at which the
parts fasten together is called the split which gives rise to the following identifications:
- Axially Split
A horizontal plane through the shaft centreline divides the casing
- Radially Split
Casing is split in a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation
Axis of Impeller Rotation
Depending on location of suction and discharge points the impeller can rotate on a Vertical or
Horizontal axis.
Location of Suction Nozzle
The suction nozzle on horizontal axis impellers can be located four different places giving:
- End suction
- Side Suction
- Bottom Suction
- Top Suction
Nature of Priming
When first used or before every start-up the pipes and channels within a pump may be full of air.
This will interfere with pump operations and must be removed for successful pumping of the
required fluid to begin. The process of removing this air and filling the pipes and channels with
pumping fluid is called Priming. Pumps may be Self- or Non- priming, the details of each
shown below:
- Self-Priming
A self-priming centrifugal pump is one that will clear its passages of air if it becomes airbound & will resume delivery of liquid without outside attention. Such pumps require the
contained liquid to entrain air so that the air will be removed from the suction of the
impeller. This air is then separated after the discharge point. Advantages of using a selfpriming pump include its lightweight for large capacities, high discharge heads and large
capacity for investment. Self-priming pumps are generally less efficient than non-priming
- Non-Priming
Non-priming pumps requiring additional equipment may have foot valves, priming
chambers or vacuum-producing devices that will prevent liquid leaking from the pump


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during shut down to keep the pump primed. Should the pump become filled with air, outside
assistance will be required to re-prime the pump.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Centrifugal Pumps
- They are simple in construction and can therefore be made form a wide range of
- There are no valves therefore increasing their reliability
- They can be directly linked to a motor as they operate at high speeds
- They give uniform, non-pulsating flow
- Maintenance costs are lower than for any other type of pump
- They are much smaller than other pumps of equal capacity
- They can handle liquids with high solid suspension
- Single-stage pumps will not develop high pressure. Multistage pumps are therefore
more often required but are complex and therefore difficult and expensive to build out of
corrosion resistant materials
- High efficiency is only maintained within a limited range of conditions
- Non-priming pumps require outside attention when the liquid drains from the pump and
the pipes/channels become air-bound.
- Liquid will drain back to the suction tank as soon as the pump stops if a non-return valve
is not fitted
- Highly viscous materials cannot be handled efficiently

There are three types of reciprocating pumps:
The pumping action used by the three types is fundamentally the same whereby a cylindrical piston,
plunger or round diaphragm is caused to pass or flex back and forth in a chamber to add force to and
therefore increase the velocity of the liquid being transferred. These pumps contain valves that open
and close in synchronisation with the pumping device to allow fluid in and out at the correct times.
Piston & Plunger
Piston and Plunger type pumps are identical in their operation in that they both displace liquid to the
discharge point. The difference between them comes from the mechanical construction of the forcetransmitting device:
- Plunger
This is a solid cylinder up to certain diameters above which it may be made hollow to reduce
its weight. Packing leakage is external. The plunger rises upon suction and falls upon
discharge through a chamber of liquid. Valves are forced open and shut by pressure changes


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allowing fluid in and out of the pumping chamber. Plunger devices are used for systems
requiring pressure heads greater than 1000 lb/in2.
- Piston
These consist of a connecting rod with a cylindrical head. Packing leakage is located
internally. The chamber this time is a cylinder with an internal diameter closely matching
that of the piston to avoid slippage. Valves are located on the perimeter of the cylinder again
forced open and closed by pressure differences on suction and discharge strokes. Pistons are
generally used for pressures up to 1000 lb/in2.
Piston and plunger type pumps may be initially segregated by identifying the method with which the
piston or plunger is driven. This gives the following two categories:
Power Pumps
Direct-acting Steam Pumps
The feature of each of these are described below:
Power Pumps
A crank and throw device drives pistons or plungers in a Power pump. They must be connected to
an external rotating driving force such as an electric motor, steam turbine, or internal combustion
engine. The capacity of the pump increases with the number of pistons or plungers on the
crankshaft. It can be:
Simplex - 1 piston/plunger
- 2 pistons/plungers
- 3 pistons/plungers
Multiplex - more than 3 pistons/plungers
Further to this a piston/plunger can be single or double acting.
- Single-acting
A single acting pump makes one suction and one discharge
stroke in a reciprocating cycle. As the piston/plunger pulls
out of the chamber pressure the vacuum left sucks in water
through the suction valve. As the piston/plunger inserts the
chamber liquid is forced through the discharge valves
- Double-acting
In a double acting pump two suction and two discharge strokes
occur on every reciprocating cycle. Valves are located at either
end of the chamber that is effectively divided in two by the
head of the piston. As one side is sucking in liquid, the other is
pumping it out and vice versa.

Direct-acting Steam pumps


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A direct acting steam pump uses a steam engine to drive the piston/plunger. The steam engine is
located at the steam end although compressed gases such as air or natural gas may also be used if
oil mist is added to them to prevent wear of steam end parts.
The mechanism by which liquid is pumped by the piston/plunger is identical to power pumps but all
steam pumps are double acting and generally only go up to duplex systems.
The mechanism of the steam end is of some interest as it is also uses a piston that has its rod directly
connected to the rod at the liquid end. The piston mechanism at the steam end can be simplex or
duplex depending on force required at the liquid end.
Diaphragm Pumps
Diaphragm pumps also use a reciprocating mechanism using a flat, circular and flexible diaphragm
fabricated of metal, rubber or plastic. Upon suction the diaphragm flexes to increase the volume of
the pumping chamber allowing liquid in. The diaphragm is then forced to flex the opposite way
either mechanically, hydraulically or pneumatically to reduce the chamber volume and force the
contained liquid out through the discharge valves. As with all reciprocating pumps, diaphragm
pumps can be simplex or duplex.

Metering Pumps
Conventional reciprocating pumps can be adapted to become metering devices that can be used as
control elements in continuous flow processes. This is achieved by modifying either the
displacement per stroke or the stroking speed. Three types of reciprocating pumps are used for this
- Packed Plunger
Relatively low cost
High pressure capability
Mechanical simplicity
Large capacity range
Good accuracy in flow metering
Unsuitable for corrosive or dangerous chemicals
Packing and plunger wear
Cannot pump abrasive slurries or chemicals which crystallise


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- Mechanically Actuated diaphragm
Relatively low cost
Minimum maintenance
Zero chemical leakage
Can pump slurries and corrosive chemicals
Discharge pressure is limited
Only around 5% accurate
Limited capacity
- Hydraulically Actuated diaphragm
High pressure capability
High capacities
Minimum maintenance
Zero chemical leakage
Can pump slurries and corrosive chemicals
Good flowrate accuracy
High costs

The relative movement between rotating and stationary elements of the pump causes pumping
action in rotary pumps. They are positive-displacement pumps and therefore the amount of liquid
displaced per revolution is independent of speed. Due to the time-continuous liquid seal created in
Rotary pumps and the close running clearances of the pump they generally do not require inlet and
outlet valves. Rotary pumps are especially useful in handling viscous fluids, only occasionally
useful for solids suspension due to the small clearances within them.
All rotary pumps consists of the following:
- Pumping chamber
This contains the pumping fluid whilst the pump is operating
- Housing
Surrounds the boundaries of the pumping chamber
- Endplates
Close the ends of the housing to form the pumping chamber
- Inlet and outlet ports
Feed fluid in and out of the pumping chamber
- Rotating assembly
Includes all parts of the pump that rotate when the pump is operating
- Rotor
Specific part of rotating assembly which rotates within the pumping chamber


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- Drive Shafts
Accept driving torque from a power source and turn rotor.
It is the nature of the rotating assembly that allows each type of Rotary Pump to be defined. Some
rotary pumps contain multiple and some contain single rotors.
Gear Pumps
The most common rotary pump, two or more gears mesh to provide the
pumping action, one gear is capable of driving the others. A moving fluid
seal is created by the contact between the gears. Gear type rotary pumps
can be either internal whereby an external gear rotates around the inside
diameter of an internal gear, or external whereby both gears are external.
Multiple Rotor Screw Pumps
Two or more screws mesh to push the fluid parallel to their axis of
rotation. Usually the screw-shaped rotors cannot drive each other
and timing gears are required.

Circumferential Piston Pumps

These can also be Internal or External. The rotating parts do not mesh and a seal
is made by the rotors contact with the rotating cylinder.

Lobe Pumps
There can be single or multiple lobes operating similar to a gear pump. They get their name from
their shape, which allows them to be in continuous contact therefore producing a seal.
Rigid Rotor Vane Pumps
Movable sealing elements in are moved radially inward and outward by cam
surfaces to maintain fluid seals. When the vanes are mounted in or on the
rotor the pump is called Internal Vane pump, when the vanes are mounted in
the body of the pump it is called an External Vane pump.
Flexible Member Pumps
These pumps rely on elasticity of flexible parts of the pump. Some of these
are similar in their actions to other rotary pumps:


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General Calculations
Although each pump is different in design, utilising different forces and flow patterns to achieve the
common goal of fluid transportation there are principle calculations, which may be applied
Measurement of Performance
Measurement of Performance = Capacity (Q) x Total dynamic head (h)
This quantity is the amount of useful work done. The components of this equation can be broken
down into their own formulas giving a foundation of data required to find the measurement of
Total dynamic head (h) = Total discharge head (hd) Total suction head (hs)
The total suction head (hs) can be calculated during or estimated before operation:

To calculate during operation the following equation is used:

Total suction head (hs) = Suction gauge reading (hgs) + 1 atm. + Suction velocity head (hvs)
- If the hgs is less than atmospheric then a negative sign is used in the above equation.
- hvs is the vertical velocity a body must fall to achieve velocity v and is calculated using
v2/2g where g is acceleration due to gravity

To estimate before operation two new components are used to calculate hs:
Total suction head (hs) = Static suction head (hss) Suction friction head (hfs)
- hss is the vertical distance measured from the free surface of the liquid source to the
pump centreline plus the absolute pressure at the liquid surface. It does not vary with
liquid flow.
- hfs is the pressure required to overcome the resistance to flow in pipe and fittings and is a
function of fluid viscosity.

The total discharge head (hd) can also be calculated or estimated as above using the following
To calculate during operation:
Total discharge head (hd)=Discharge gauge reading (hgd)+ 1 atm+ Discharge velocity head(hvd)
- The calculations for each of the above components are done in the same way as for the
suction end

To estimate before operation

Total discharge head (hd) = Static discharge head (hsd) Discharge friction head (hfd)
- Again, calculations for these values at the discharge end are done in the same way as at
the suction end

From the static head measurements shown above a further quantity Total Static Head can be
calculated as the difference between the discharge and suction static heads. This quantity does not


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vary with fluid flow and can be negative if discharge is lower than suction. Static heads are used
further when calculating Net Positive Suction Head available as shown below.
Net Positive Suction Head
If a fluid entering the suction end of a pump is below its vapour pressure it will vaporise and form
bubbles that will rise to the boundary of the fluid and collapse. This phenomenon called cavitation
can remove metal, create vibration, reduce flow and decrease efficiency and therefore must be
avoided. In order to avoid cavitation a pump must maintain a Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) R,
this is found as follows:
(NSPH)R = Head at Pump Centreline Liquid vapour pressure
Manufacturers produce curves relating (NPSH)R to capacity and speed for each pump to be used in
the selection process.
For a pump to be suitable for a process its Net Positive Suction Head Available (NPSH)A must be
equal or greater than the (NPSH)R. (NPSH)A is calculated as follows:
(NPSH)A = Total Suction Head (hs) - Liquid vapour pressure
The total suction head can be calculated before or during pump operation as shown in the
measurement of performance section.
Friction Factors
Friction in a system is created in all pipes, valves, fittings, open channels, vessels, nozzles, weirs,
meters, process equipment and other flow-handling conduits. Resistance is caused by viscous shear
stresses in the liquid (main factor in laminar flow) and turbulence at the pipe walls (main factor in
turbulent flow).
Calculating head loss due to friction in a length of pipe is done using:
hf f

l v2
d 2g

Where f is a Moody* friction factor given in reference charts

l/d = Equivalent length of straight pipe in pipe diameter
v2/2g = Number of velocity heads
Friction factors are found using sheer stresses where fluid contacts the pipe. Sheer stresses are
functions of pipe roughness and fluid Reynolds number. They need not usually be calculated as
they are published in graphical form for various types of piping over a range of Reynolds numbers.
Fittings also have published data giving the number of equivalent pipe diameters or velocity heads
they contribute to the overall resistance to flow. This means the friction created in them can be
converted in to a form used in the formula above.


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When fitting loss data is given in terms of equivalent pipe diameters this figure must first be
multiplied by the pipe diameter and then contributes to length of pipe in the previous equation.
When fitting loss data is given in number of velocity heads it is simply multiplied by the above
The total quantity of is then a combination of the equivalent pipe lengths in the fittings and the
vertical and horizontal lengths of pipe in the system.
The total head lost due to friction contributes to the system head curve shown in Pump Selection
and must be overcome at all times by the pump if fluid transport is to be achieved.