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Feature

WORLD PUMPS

November 2012

Operating

Clarifying nozzle
load and piping
Piping designers always want higher allowable nozzle loads to
simplify pump piping designs, while pump manufacturers want
smaller such loads to assure good alignment, higher reliability and
fewer problems in operation. With long-term reliability a key factor,
Amin Almasi recommends that users side with the manufacturer.

he use of some common practices


for general plant piping could lead
to real problems in pump piping
arrangements. In a pump system under
ambient conditions, the dead weight of
the piping should be entirely absorbed
by suitable supports. Only nozzle loads
induced by temperature, pressure and
the transported medium (or similar operational loads) at the operating conditions
can be compensated for by pre-stressing
(or springing) the pipes. In this article,
pump nozzle load limits, proper load
optimization and correct pump piping
are discussed.

Pump nozzle load


Nozzle loads are dened as the net forces
and moments exerted on equipment
nozzles from the weight and thermal
expansion of connected piping and other
equipment. For pumps, nozzle loads are
specied in API 610 (or other pump codes
and standards such as ANSI, etc.). The API
610 standard covers horizontal pumps,
vertical in-line pumps and vertically
suspended pumps for nozzle sizes up to
16 inch (400 mm). For pump nozzles
larger than 16 in, nozzle loads should be
agreed with the vendor before the pump
order is nalized. Generally, small pumps
that are not anchored to the foundation
are able to tolerate higher nozzle loads.
Allowable loads for vertical in-line pumps
with supports that are not anchored to
the foundation may be twice the values
for in-line pumps that are anchored.
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Figure 1. An example of a oating production, storage and ooading (FPSO) vessel. An FPSO vessel requires many
pumps. The nozzle loads and piping of these pumps present unique challenges.

0262 1762/12 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

WORLD PUMPS

Feature
November 2012

and shafts at various locations, such as at


the drive-end of the shaft and at the
register t of the coupling hub. Thermal
growth, piping fabrication errors and
dierent alignment errors all contribute to
the actual deection values and nal
nozzle load experienced in the eld. The
pump should operate without any leakage,
without internal contact between the
rotating and stationary components, and
without losing alignment, while subjected
simultaneously to the maximum operating
conditions (temperature, pressure, speed
and power) and the worst-case combination of allowable nozzle loads.

Figure 2. An example of pump piping arrangements.

Some purchasers ask for higher allowable


loads (sometimes as much as 1.5 times
or two times the API loads) to make the
piping design easier. API nozzle load
values may be considered optimal by
pump engineers and pump manufacturers, but in some situations these
values cannot be achieved by the piping
engineers and stress analysis specialists.
Some pump vendors typically design
their pump details based on the API
code limits. For higher nozzle load
values, all necessary checking, verication, modication and adjustment (such
as bearing design check, casing design
verication and clearances) should be
carried out to ensure long-term component life expectations. For special applications, with a very large dierence
between the operating and ambient
temperatures and very large nozzle sizes,
a nozzle load as high as 2.5 times the
API values may be specied.
Steam turbine drivers (for pumps) should
be designed to withstand nozzle loads in
accordance with NEMA SM23.
For special pumps primarily designed for
low pressures (such as axial pumps, lowpressure overhung pumps and pumps
designed with open impellers), which rely
on close radial and axial clearances
between the rotating components
(impeller or rotor assembly) and the
casing, special care should be taken
concerning the allowable forces and
moments on the nozzles.

To achieve maximum pump reliability, the


pump engineers goal is always to keep

Excessive piping strains on the pump can


cause both internal and external alignment
problems. If the internal components
become misaligned, accelerated wear,
rubbing and early failure can occur. The
eects of external misalignment may not
be as obvious as those from internal problems, but these eects will in time reduce
the pump life. The vibration levels increase
as the couplings become misaligned
and a high-vibration trip may cause an

"To achieve maximum pump reliability, the


pump engineers goal is always to keep
nozzle loads as low as practically possible."
nozzle loads (imposed by piping) as low
as practically possible. However, piping
designers and stress analysis engineers
usually design piping systems based on
the allowable nozzle loads of the pumps
(or even sometimes slightly higher) in
order to reduce the complexity and
expense. Optimum exibility should be
designed into the piping to prevent
distortion of the pump alignment or
damage to a component.

Alignment issues
For pumps, two eects of nozzle loads
should be carefully considered:
1. Distortion of the pump casing.
2. Misalignment of the pump shaft and
the driver shaft.
To minimize misalignment because of
piping load eects, the pump casing and
pump package base-plate should be
constructed with sucient structural stiness to limit the displacement of casings

unscheduled outage. Extended operation


at high levels of misalignment may cause
coupling failure, possibly bearing damage
or even catastrophic failure.

Piping support design


There are numerous rules for piping and
supports that may be valid for general
plant piping, but are invalid for pump
systems. For example, consider the
following:
Selecting the support types based on
the thermal expansion displacement.
Setting the spring supports using the
so-called dead weight balance at
operating conditions approach.
With respect to the support practices for
general plant piping, the types of
supports are usually selected based on
the vertical thermal displacement that is
expected at the support location. Rigid
supports are usually used when the
displacement is very small. Variable
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Feature

WORLD PUMPS

November 2012

springs are employed for medium


displacement. Constant-eort supports are
used when displacements are great.
This practice seems logical at rst.
However, a problem can arise for pump
piping systems. The use of spring and
constant-eort supports (non-rigid
supports) can create more problems than
rigid supports. The key point is that the
misapplication of a rigid support will be
detected as soon as the stress analysis is
performed. On the other hand, stress
analysis on non-rigid supports (such as
spring or constant-eort supports) may
not readily indicate any misapplication.
The end result can be a piping-support
system with unnecessary exible supports
(such as spring supports) that is overly
expensive, totally unreliable, inherently
unstable and very vulnerable to various
dynamic and vibrational excitations.
Figure 3. Typical expansion joints with anchors.

Providing the right support


There are some pump piping systems
designed with several spring supports for
various piping spools near the equipment
nozzles (because of large thermal movements), mainly because free thermal
displacement was used as a criterion for
support selection. For example, some
engineers perform free thermal movement analysis and use exible supports
(spring supports or similar) for all support
points with a displacement above a
certain level (say 75 mm). Aside from a
very high cost, at rst glance this design
may appear to have no problems. The
computer stress analysis shows perfect
results. However, it is unstable and vulnerable to various dynamic issues and operational problems. This design will present
problems on site at commissioning and
start-up (when the travel stops are
removed). The actual piping system
weight is dierent (usually heavier) than
the theoretical assumed weight. This
dierence can result in the failure of the
system. Whether the actual weight is
heavier or lighter compared to the theoretical values, eld adjustment cannot be
eective (or is not possible) for numerous
exible supports. This exible support
system design is unable to absorb the
uncertainties resulting from the manufacturing tolerances, any inaccuracies in
analytical calculations and other possible
errors. This unnecessarily over-exible
support system is also unstable. It always
vibrates and will certainly fail sooner or
later. Flexible supports should only be
used where really necessary. Proper rigid
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supports should always be provided to


absorb any load uncertainties (fabrication
tolerances, analysis inaccuracies or similar)
and to control the various instabilities.

Extreme temperatures
In a pump that works at a very high (or
very low) operating temperature, the
spring support(s) is sometimes set in such
a way that the spring force and piping

supports have to be locked in place


during piping installation. This makes the
piping installation, spool t-up, piping
adjustment and assembly inspection very
dicult. Practically it is almost impossible
to properly adjust the piping-support
system. In addition, locks (or stops) must
be removed when the system is ready for
operation. In many cases a severe
twisting and jerking occurs when the
stops are removed. This approach is very

"Excessive piping strains on the pump


can cause both internal and external
alignment problems."
system dead weight will balance each
other out under the operating conditions.
Engineers who use this method argue
that it is important to minimize operating
stresses (stresses at operating temperature
and pressure). Another reason that leads
a designer to use this method to
decrease the nozzle load at the operating
conditions could be insucient exibility
of the pump piping system. In addition, a
low stress at a high operating temperature can be important to control the
creep. For low-temperature applications,
low stresses still oer some advantages.
The dead weight balance at operating
conditions approach may be a wellknown practice for general piping design,
but it should not be used for pump
piping systems. By adopting this dead
weight balance approach, the spring

risky and can impose high loads on the


pump nozzles. This can damage the
pumps sensitive components.
Because of the practical adjustment issues,
the deviation of theoretical loads from
actual loads and transient eects, the dead
weight balancing at operating conditions
approach nearly always results in applying
unpredictable and very high loads on
pumps. Pump alignment problems have
often been reported as a result of this
approach. Damage has also occurred in
some cases. The theoretical minimum
operating load is in reality only promising
on paper. This kind of uncertainty is simply
too much of a risk to be taken with
pumps. A more reliable approach is therefore needed. Certainly, the dead weight of
the piping system should be entirely

WORLD PUMPS

Feature
November 2012

absorbed by suitable supports at the


ambient condition. This is known as the
ambient condition dead weight balance
approach. In this approach, the tting up
of the piping to the pump is normally
carried out with the spring supports
unlocked. The spring load should then be
adjusted to bring the nozzle loads (loads
on the rotating machine nozzles) to a
minimum. In this way, it is certain that
the piping load at ambient conditions is
almost zero, although some load is
expected under the operating conditions.
This load at operating conditions is highly
predictable. The ambient condition dead
weight balance approach will make eld
adjustment much easier.

Sometimes it is tempting to put an


anchor system on an expansion joint next
to a pump to resist the end force. The
problem with this anchor arrangement
can be explained from the start-up
sequence. When the pipe is heated up,
both ends of the expansion joint expand
inwards, leaving slack at the tie-rods. As
soon as the tie-rods become loose, the
pressure and force acting on the pump
are not balanced. In other words, the
expansion joint anchor system can
present an unpredictable transient load to
the pump. By using tie-rods, instead of
the natural and smooth exible behaviour

of the expansion joint, the shift of the


loosened anchor can present a transient
force to the pump. This force can be
sucient to push the pump o alignment, causing operational problems.

Contact
Amin Almasi
Lead rotating equipment engineer
WorleyParsons Services Pty Ltd
Level 10, 151 Roma Street (East Tower)
Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia
Tel: +61 7 3319 3902
Email: amin.almasi@ymail.com

Thermal movement
To accommodate thermal growth, expansion loops or bends are usually added to
the pump piping. An expansion joint is
sometimes required to limit the nozzle
loads, particularly for large piping sizes.
However, the use of an expansion joint
(which is expensive and maintenanceprone) should be avoided to the
maximum possible extent; it should be
considered only as the last resort. One
modern approach is for the pump manufacturer to model the entire system
(including the piping and the pump) at
the same time. This concurrent modelling
can reduce the inherent conservatism and
may allow the thermal movements to be
accommodated correctly by both systems.
This may result in a more-exible
combined system and thus allow a better
optimization. The engineering time
needed to re-model, re-evaluate and
re-design the entire system is often paid
for by the elimination of the expansion
joint. This modern optimization simulation
should be included in the pump specication before the pump is ordered. All
possible operational scenarios (as well as
ambient temperature, installation situations, start-up, all shutdown situations and
others) should be considered.
One of the most important requirements
in designing an expansion joint system in
general plant piping is to install a sucient anchor system (Figure 3) to resist
the pressure end forces (the sum of the
forces). However, in those pumping
systems where the use of an expansion
joint cannot be avoided, anchors should
not be used on an expansion joint near a
pump. There is potential for unexpected
movement and high stress in a system
using an expansion joint with an anchor.
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