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Abu Dhabi Gas Liquefaction Company Ltd

Job Training
Technician Course

Module 10

Dynamic Seals

ADGAS Personnel & Training Division

Personnel & Training Division Job Training—Mechanical Technician

Page No.

Abbreviations and Terminology................................................. 5

1 Introduction ………………………………………………………….. 6

2 Labyrinth Seals............................................................................ 8

3 Liquid Film Seals......................................................................... 13

4 Carbon Ring Seals....................................................................... 14

5 Lip Seals....................................................................................... 16

5.1 Types of Lip Seal.............................................................. 17

5.2 Seal Identification............................................................. 20

5.3 Removing and Fitting Lip Seals...................................... 22

6 Mechanical Seals......................................................................... 28

6.1 Main Parts of a Mechanical Seal...................................... 29

6.2 Types of Mechanical Seal................................................ 31

6.2.1 Rotating and Stationary Seals.............................. 31

6.2.2 Balanced and Unbalanced Seals.......................... 32

6.2.3 Pusher and Non-pusher (Bellows) Seals............. 33

6.2.4 Internal and External Seals................................... 34

6.2.5 Conventional and Cartridge Seals........................ 36

6.3 Dual Seals.......................................................................... 37

6.4 Seal Fluids......................................................................... 39

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Page No.

7 Summary...................................................................................... 45

8 Glossary....................................................................................... 46

Appendix A................................................................................... 47

Appendix B................................................................................... 48

Exercises 1-5................................................................................ 49

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Personnel & Training Division Job Training—Mechanical Technician

Completion of A.T.I. Maintenance Programme, ADGAS Induction

Course and Basic Maintenance Technician Course.

The Job Training Mechanical Technician Course is the second

phase of the development programme. It is intended specifically
Objectives for Mechanical Maintenance Developees.
On completion of the Course the developee will have acquired an
awareness of some of the equipment, terminology, and procedures
related to mechanical maintenance of ADGAS LNG plant.
Appropriate safety procedures will continue to be stressed at all

On completion of this module, the developee will be able to

correctly :
• identify types of dynamic seals and describe their
• identify parts of a lip seal and describe their functions
• identify parts of a mechanical seal and describe their
• describe the function of seal fluids
• remove and replace carbon ring seals
• remove and replace a lip seal
• remove, dismantle, re-assemble and replace a dynamic seal

The above will be achieved through the following:

• pre-test
• classroom instruction
• audio visual support
• tasks & exercises
• post-test

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Abbreviations and Terminology

API American Petroleum Institute

PTFE Polytetrafluoroethylene—a low-friction polymer also known by its
trade name: Teflon

Barrier Something that blocks a path.

Bed in A small amount of initial wear between two surfaces that allows them
to match.
Buffer Something that exists between two extremes and reduces the effect of
one on the other.
Ceramic A very hard, heat-resistant material made of clay that has been
permanently hardened by heating.
Contaminants Materials that make a substance impure; unwanted additions to a
Elastomer A natural or synthetic rubber.
Emery cloth A flexible material with an abrasive coating for finishing.
Flush To clean by passing a large quantity of water, etc., through or over.

Garter spring A helical spring with its ends joined to form a circle. Goes around
something and applies a radially inward force.
Honing A very fine finishing process using an oilstone or whetstone to
remove small amounts of material from a surface.
Inert Something that does not chemically react.
Quench To rapidly cool something.
Tandem Describing two things that work together, usually in series.

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1 Introduction

Seals prevent, or reduce to a minimum acceptable level, leaks of gas or liquid from
between component surfaces. They also prevent dirt from entering through those

There are two main types of seals:

• static seals

• dynamic seals

Static seals stop leaks between components that do not move relative to each other. A
typical use is to seal flange joints. The most common static seals are gaskets and o-
rings. These are described in the Gaskets module of this course.

Dynamic seals control leaks of gas or liquid where there is movement between
components. They are used on the rotating and reciprocating parts of valves, pumps,
compressors, gearboxes and prime movers. They are often used to keep dirt from
entering bearings and to keep lubricant from leaking out.

Dynamic seals either make contact with the moving part or leave a very small gap. In
both cases there will be some leakage. If there is clearance, fluid can leak through the

Non-contact seals include:

• labyrinth seals

• liquid (oil) film seals

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If there is contact, there must be lubrication to stop excessive wear of the seal. Any
fluid used to lubricate the seal will leak out from between the sealed surfaces.

Contact seals include:

• packing glands

• carbon ring seals

• lip seals

• mechanical seals

Modern seals are designed to reduce leakage to a very small amount.

The failure of a seal can result in anything from a small water or oil leak to the escape
of flammable or toxic fluids. The planned replacement of seals to A flammable material
catches fire easily. It
prevent failure is part of the routine maintenance of rotating is a fire hazard.


The most common type of dynamic seal uses packing in a stuffing box. This type has
been described in the module on Gland Packing. Packing of this kind is used mainly
on valve stems and smaller pumps.

In many applications, gland packing has been replaced by other types of dynamic
seals that are more reliable and easier to replace.

You have met dynamic seals in this course in the modules on Pumps and
Compressors. They are described here in more detail.

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2 Labyrinth Seals

A labyrinth is a long and complicated path or network of paths; the kind of place that
you can easily get lost in. The word is used to describe seals that provide a long
leakage path that makes any leaking fluid squeeze through a series of very small gaps.

Labyrinth seals do not reduce leaks by rubbing on the shaft. They do not make
contact with the shaft but leave very small clearances between shaft and seal or
between stationary and rotating parts of the seal.

They have grooves machined on the surface, leaving many sharp, knife-edged rings,
as shown in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1: Simple Labyrinth Seals

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As fluid passes through the labyrinth it does not follow a straight path. It is constantly
changing direction to squeeze through the gaps. This creates a lot of fluid friction that
results in pressure loss in the fluid. By the time the fluid reaches the end of the seal
its pressure has dropped so much that it is no higher than the outside pressure and it
can not flow out.

The advantage of a non-contacting seal is that there is no contact wear between

surfaces as long as clearance is maintained. Wear only results when worn bearings
allow the shaft to move so that clearances are lost.

Labyrinth seals can operate directly on the shaft, as shown in Figure 2.1 but it is more
usual for them to operate on a shaft sleeve or rotating seal-half that is fixed to the
shaft as shown in Figure 2.2.
Seal fluid
Stationary Stationary
seal seal-half
Rotating Rotating
sleeve seal-half


(a) Seal Running on Plain Sleeve (b) Interlocking Seal

Figure 2.2: Two-piece Labyrinth Seals

The rotating seal-half may also have grooves and knife-edges that fit between those
on the stationary half as shown in Figure 2.2(b). This gives an even longer leakage
path with a greater pressure drop. This drawing shows two other features you may
find on labyrinth seals. The stepped section helps to stop leakage from right to left in
the figure. Much of the leaking fluid rotates with the shaft and centrifugal action
stops it from flowing inwards towards the shaft centre. Seal fluid connections allow
fluids to be injected and removed from the seal at points along its To inject something is
to feed it under
length. This is described later in this section. pressure into a space or
into another substance.

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The outer half of an interlocking seal is split to allow assembly. Figure 2.3(a) and (b)
shows full inner and split outer sections of interlocking labyrinth seals.

(a) Full Inner Half (b) Split Outer Halves

Figure 2.3: Interlocking Labyrinth Seal Halves

Sometimes the grooved seal rotates with the shaft and seals against a plane section of
casing. This is the case for the small turbine seal shown in Figure 2.4.

Figure 2.4: Rotating Labyrinth in Plain Casing

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Labyrinth seals are used where pressure differences are not very great. They are often
used between stages of centrifugal compressors and turbines. Figure 2.5 shows
typical labyrinth seal locations in a centrifugal compressor.


Impeller eye
labyrinth seal

Balance drum
labyrinth seal

Balance drum

Shaft sleeve Shaft
labyrinth seal

Figure 2.5: Labyrinth Seal Locations in a Centrifugal Compressor

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If the pressure of the contained fluid is below atmospheric, injecting a fluid into the
seal at a higher pressure stops air entering the system. The principle is the same as
that for lantern-ring gland packing systems described in the Gland Packing module in
this course. Fluids flow from high to low pressure. No air can enter a seal that
contains fluid at a higher pressure.

If the contained fluid is hazardous and no leakage is acceptable a harmless fluid is

injected at a higher pressure. This fluid forms a barrier past which
A barrier stops
forward movement.
the contained fluid can not escape. Small quantities of this seal fluid
may escape without danger of pollution or hazard to health and safety. Figure 2.6
shows an example of a labyrinth seal on the discharge end of a centrifugal compressor
shaft. A second labyrinth seal contains oil in the bearing housing.

Seal gas
Escaping discharge
High pressure seal
gas returned to
gas entering
suction (recovery)



Oil seal

Figure 2.6: Labyrinths Seal with Discharge Recovery and Seal Gas Connections

Labyrinth seals are often used in series with other types of seal to give improved and
back-up sealing.

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3 Liquid Film Seals

Liquid film seals are another type of non-contact seal. The seal housing contains a
floating ring that is free to rotate in the housing and has clearance on the shaft.

Sealing liquid, usually oil, enters the seal, filling the spaces between the floating ring,
shaft and housing. This liquid is at a higher pressure than the contained fluid. As
fluids can only flow from high to low pressure, no contained fluid can flow into the
seal. Figure 3.1 shows an example of a liquid film seal.

Sealing liquid



Sealing liquid

Figure 3.1: Liquid (Oil) Film Seal

The example shown in the figure uses labyrinth seals to reduce leakage of the sealing

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4 Carbon Ring Seals

Carbon ring seals make contact with the shaft and their casing and so they will wear.
Although they leave no gap for leakage there must be lubrication between the rubbing
surfaces. This may be provided by the contained fluid, in which case some will leak
out. If some other lubricant is fed to the seal, some of that will leak out. If there is no
leakage at all from a seal it must be running dry and will soon wear and fail.

A number of rings fit inside a casing as shown in Figure 4.1.

Garter spring
Radially Tangentially
cut ring cut ring
Ring sets
Lube oil

Fluid Fluid
pressure pressure


Casing sections

Figure 4.1: Carbon Ring Seal

The casing is made up of a series of sections. It may be an integral part of the

equipment casing or a separate unit that can fit into a standard stuffing box, as shown
in the figure. Each section contains a set of rings, normally made up of one
tangentially cut ring and one radially cut ring. A garter spring around the outside of
each ring holds the parts of the ring together and keeps them in light contact with the
shaft. In operation, fluid pressure acts on the rings in each set to push them axially:
together and against one side of the housing. It also pushes the rings radially onto the
shaft surface. These forces from the fluid help the rings to seal.

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The rings are traditionally made of carbon but may now be made of other low-friction
materials such as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). Seven packing sets are most
common although up to twenty sets are used for special applications.

Cases used for high-pressure, or in some high temperature applications, may have
lubricant and/or cooling fluid supplied.

Figure 4.2 shows carbon ring and labyrinth seals on a small steam turbine.


ring seals

Oil rings for splash


Figure 4.2: Shaft Sealing on a Small Steam Turbine

The carbon rings seal the steam in the main turbine casing. These rings fit directly
into the turbine casing. Labyrinth seals are fitted each side of the bearing to prevent
lubrication oil leakage. Bearing lubrication is by a simple splash lubrication system
using oil rings that are turned by the shaft and dip into oil in the oil reservoir.

Now try Exercise 1

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5 Lip Seals

Lip seals, also called radial shaft seals, are another type of contact seal. They are
used mainly to reduce leakage of lubricant from bearings and gearboxes, etc., to a
minimum and to keep dirt or other contaminants out. They are only used for small
pressure differences, up to 1 or 2bar. Figure 5.1 shows a typical lip seal.

Figure 5.1: Lip Seal

The main parts of a lip seal are:

• casing

• lip

• garter spring

The lip is usually made of a rubber material (elastomer) that is bonded onto a metal
casing. The garter spring holds the lip against the shaft. In operation, any pressure
difference between the contained fluid and the outside should help to hold the lip
against the shaft.

The main parts of a lip seal are shown in Figure 5.2(a).

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Metal case Garter case
Primary spring
sealing lip
Primary spring
sealing lip

Oil Oil film

Lip contact

(a) Main Parts (b) Lip Lubrication

Figure 5.2: Parts and Lubrication of a Lip Seal

As this is a contact seal, lubrication is necessary to avoid excessive wear of the lip.
Some of the oil being contained forms a film between the lip and the shaft as shown in
Figure 5.2(b).

5.1 Types of Lip Seal

The type of lip seal depends on:

• case design

• lip design

• whether or not a garter spring is fitted

There are three main types of case:

• single metal pressing

• a single metal pressing covered with the rubber lip material

• a double metal pressing

Most lip seal cases are made of steel.

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The simplest and cheapest type has a single metal pressing as shown in Figure 5.3.

Figure 5.3: Basic Case

This basic type is designed to fit into a housing that is machined accurately and which
has a smooth surface finish.

To give more flexibility in the fit between seal and housing the case can be covered
with the rubber lip material as shown in Figure 5.4.

Figure 5.4: Rubber-covered Case

A rubber-covered case gives a better seal between case and housing and allows for a
rougher finish. It also allows for thermal expansion of the housing.

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The third main type of case has no rubber covering but a second metal pressing to
give the seal case more strength. This is shown in Figure 5.5.

Figure 5.5: Double Metal Case

Lip designs can also vary but there are two main types:

• single lip

• single lip and dust lip

The seals shown above are of the single-lip type. Where the outside of the seal is
open to the surroundings and there is danger of dirt entering, an extra (secondary)
rubber lip is added to keep it away from the main (primary) lip. Both types are shown
in Figure 5.6.

Dust lip

Primary lip

Figure 5.6: Lip Types

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Lip seals without garter rings are used for more viscous fluids like grease. They are
also used on hydraulic cylinders for wiping hydraulic fluid or dirt from reciprocating
components. Examples of these are shown in Figure 5.7.

(a) For Viscous Fluid Applications (b) For Wiping in Hydraulic Cylinder Applications

Figure 5.7: Garterless Lip Seals

The material of the lip depends on the fluid being sealed. Almost all are of some kind
of rubber but, as natural rubber is attacked by hydrocarbons, e.g. oil and grease, most
are made of one of the many synthetic rubbers. If the fluid being sealed attacks the
steel casing a rubber coated case is used. This may be fully coated, as shown in
Figure 5.4 or just coated on the fluid side, as shown in Figure 5.7(b).

5.2 Seal Identification

Lip seals are identified by their:

• casing type—as described in the last section, plus some additional designs

• lip type—as described in the last section, plus many more

• lip material—mostly synthetic rubbers which must be Things that are compatible
can exist together without
harming each other
compatible with the fluid they contact

• seal dimensions

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Lip and casing types are identified by code letters and numbers. These may be
different for different seal manufacturers. Look at the manufacturer’s catalogue to
find the coding for the seal you need. An example of a typical seal type coding
system is shown in Appendix A of this module.

Lip materials depend on the fluid they contact and the operating temperature. A table
of applications for different rubbers is shown in Appendix B of this module. Lip
materials are identified by a code letter.

The basic dimensions for a lip seal are:

• shaft diameter

• housing diameter

• seal width

and sometimes

• seal OD

The main dimensions are shown in red in Figure 5.8. Other dimensions sometimes
needed are shown in black in the figure.

Housing Bore Depth

Seal Width
Seal OD

Housing ID
Shaft Diameter

Seal ID

Figure 5.8: Lip Seal Dimensions

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Seal type, material and size information is usually marked on the metal case of the
seal as shown in Figure 5.9.

Figure 5.9: Seal Identification Information

Look at the manufacturer’s information to identify a seal from the case markings.

Now try Exercise 2

5.3 Removing and Fitting Lip Seals

The main thing to remember when removing an old seal is not to damage the housing
bore. The seal can normally be levered out using a sharp tool behind the seal case.

After removing the old seal, clean the shaft and housing and inspect them for
scratches or burs, especially on shoulders, splines and keyways. Check the shaft for
excessive wear. Remove scratches and burs by honing and finishing with fine emery
cloth. Clean and dry all surfaces.

Before fitting a new seal, inspect it carefully for any damage. Make sure that the
garter spring is located correctly and the seal is clean and free of dust. Check that the
seal is the correct replacement for the one you have removed. Make very sure that the
lip material code is correct for the application.

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You must be aware of two important facts before you fit a lip seal:

• the higher pressure should always push on the garter spring side to help the lip
to stay in contact with the shaft

• most lip seals are designed for a particular direction of shaft rotation:
clockwise or anti-clockwise

In Figure 5.10 you can see the right and the wrong way to fit a lip seal.

Build-up of dirt
Fluid pressure
behind seal and
around spring

(a) NOT Correct (b) CORRECT

Figure 5.10: Effects of Correct and Incorrect Seal Orientation

In Figure 5.10(a) the seal is fitted so that you can see the garter spring from outside.
This is not correct as the pressure of the contained fluid tries to lift the seal lip off the
shaft causing excessive leakage. Dirt also can collect in the seal and can effect the
operation of the garter spring.

In Figure 5.10(b) the seal is fitted with the garter spring on the inside. This is
correct and pressure of the contained fluid helps to keep the seal lip against the shaft.
Dirt can not build up so easily and can not affect the garter spring..

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Always fit lip seals with the garter spring on the higher pressure side

Higher pressure Lower pressure

(oil side) (air side)

Another reason for fitting seals in the way shown in Figure 5.10(b) is the difference
in lip angles. One side of the lip is at a greater angle than the other as shown in
Figure 5.11.

Liquids pushed this

way by rotating shaft

Bigger Smaller
angle angle

Figure 5.11: Pumping Direction of Rotating Shaft

Tests have shown that in operation the shaft rotation pushes liquid from the side with
the small angle to the side with the big angle. If fitted correctly, this helps to keep the
liquid behind the seal. If fitted the wrong way around it pushes liquid out from the

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Many lip seals are designed for a particular direction of shaft rotation. They have ribs
moulded into the outside face of the seal as shown in Figure 5.12.

Seal case marking

Shaft rotation
Fluid flow


(a) Clockwise Shaft Rotation (b) Anti-clockwise Shaft Rotation

Figure 5.12: Single-direction Lip Seals

These ribs help the pumping action of the rotating shaft. As the shaft rotates it drags
fluid around with it. The ribs are in a direction that carries any leaking fluid back
towards the sealing edge of the lip. The direction of rotation is clockwise or anti-
clockwise as you look at the end of the shaft from outside the seal. The rotation
direction may be marked on the seal with an arrow, as shown in the figure, or may be
part of the manufacturer’s seal code.

Lip seals designed for shaft rotation in both directions often have ribs in both
directions as shown in Figure 5.13.

Figure 5.13: Two-direction Lip Seals

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When you are sure that you have the correct replacement seal and that the housing and
shaft are in good condition you can install the seal.

Lubricate the lip before sliding it onto the shaft. Use the same fluid that will be
contacting the seal during operation. Another lubricant may not be compatible with
the seal material.

If you are sliding the back (outside) face over the end of the shaft, the shaft should be
radiused as shown in Figure 5.14(a).

If you are sliding the front (inside) face over the end of the shaft, the shaft should be
chamfered as shown in Figure 5.14(b).

Front of seal
Back of seal


Direction of seal Direction of seal

installation installation

(a) Back-first Installation (b) Front-first Installation

Figure 5.14: Shaft Preparation for Seal Installation

If the shaft is not machined as shown in the figure or if the seal must slide over a
shoulder, splines or a keyway, use a cap over the end of the shaft. Two examples are
shown in Figure 5.15: one to slide the seal over a shoulder and one to slide it over a
keyway or splines.

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Mounting tool

Protective cap

Seal housing

(a) Cap to Slide over Shoulder; (b) Cap to Slide over Keyway and Splines;
Tool for Flush Mounting Tool for Recessed Mounting

Figure 5.15: Shaft Cap and Seal Mounting Tool

The seal is an interference fit in the housing. It is very important to fit the seal with a
force that is spread evenly around the seal, very much like the way in which you
press-fit a bearing. Two examples of suitable mounting tools are shown in Figure
5.15 above. If one is not available you can use a correctly sized tube, with an OD
slightly smaller than the housing ID.

Apply the mounting force steadily, using a press wherever possible, and as close to
the outside as possible to avoid bending the casing as shown in Figure 5.16(a).
Take great care to fit the seal square in its housing, not as shown in Figure 5.16(b).

Housing ID
Tool diameter

(a) Mounting Tool too Small (b) Out of Square

Figure 5.16: Seal Installation ERRORS

Now try Exercise 3

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6 Mechanical Seals

Mechanical seals can protect against leakage across much higher pressure differences
than the other seals described. They reduce leakage to such a small amount that it can
not be seen. Any liquid leakage usually evaporates before it can be detected. This
does not mean that there is no leakage and, as with other contact seals, some fluid
must pass between the sealing surfaces to lubricate and help cool them. By using
more than one seal and by injecting harmless fluids between them we can stop any
hazardous fluids from leaking into the environment.

The seal is made between the very smooth, very flat faces of two rings. One is
attached to and rotates with the shaft. The other is attached to the housing and is

The sealing faces are held together by a spring force. During operation this force is
usually increased by the pressure of the contained fluid.

Figure 6.1 shows the two sealing faces of a mechanical seal.

Sealing faces
Sealing loading

Spring loading

Figure 6.1: Mechanical Seal

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6.1 Main Parts of a Mechanical Seal

There are many different designs of mechanical seals but they all contain the basic
parts shown in Figure 6.2.

Primary seal
(between faces)
Shaft collar
Spring (or sleeve) Stationary
(or springs) ring Primary Stationary
seal ring
Secondary Spring ring
seal (or springs)
Shaft collar
(or sleeve) Housing
ring Housing

(a) Basic Mechanical Seal (b) Drawing of Basic Mechanical Seal

Figure 6.2: Basic Parts of a Mechanical Seal

The spring-loaded ring is often just called the face. The other ring is often called the
seat. There may be a single spring as shown in Figure 6.2(a) or a number of springs
as shown in Figures 6.1 and 6.2(b).

In most mechanical seals it is the face that rotates against the stationary seat as shown
in Figure 6.2. The dynamic seal between these surfaces is called the primary seal.

The primary seal surfaces are lapped to very high precision of flatness and surface
finish. Even the small amount of acid in your sweat can damage them so you should
never touch them with bare fingers. The face is usually made of a softer material than
the seat. This allows the face to bed in and prevents the harder seat from wearing.
The face is often made of carbon, a natural solid lubricant, which reduces wear during
start-up and shut-down, before a fluid film can form between the faces.

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The seat is made from a metal or ceramic material. Both surfaces must be compatible
with the fluid they contact.

Static secondary seals stop the contained fluid from leaking along the shaft, under the
collar and rotating ring. A secondary seal also stops leakage between the stationary
ring and its housing. There may be other static secondary seals at points where
leakage between stationary or axially sliding surfaces is possible.

Rubber o-rings are the most common type of secondary seal but other polymers
(PTFE for example) and sections (wedge, chevron and u-cups), as well as gaskets, are
also used.

A collar or sleeve is fixed to the shaft by a key or by set screws. This collar drives the
spring (or springs) and the rotating ring. The drive is usually through a positive drive
mechanism that allows the rotating ring to move axially on the shaft. This must
happen to form the seal and take up any wear on the faces. An outer shell and pins or
lugs often provide this drive as shown in Figure 6.3.

Rotating face

lug Shell



Figure 6.3: Drive for Rotating Face

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6.2 Types of Mechanical Seal

Mechanical seals can be grouped in a number of ways, depending on:

• primary seal design

o rotating and stationary
o balanced and unbalanced

• secondary seal design

o pusher and non-pusher (bellows)

• location and method of fitting

o internal and external
o conventional and cartridge

6.2.1 Rotating and Stationary Seals

In most mechanical seal designs it is the spring-loaded face that rotates with the shaft
and the seat that is fixed in a stationary housing. This is a rotating mechanical seal.
If the spring-loaded face is fixed in the housing and the seat rotates with the shaft, the
seal is of the stationary type. All the seals shown in figures so far have been of the
rotating type. Figure 6.4 shows a stationary-type seal.


Spring-loaded face held

in fixed housing

Seat located
on shaft sleeve

Figure 6.4: Stationary-type Mechanical Seal

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6.2.2 Balanced and Unbalanced Seals

In most designs, the pressure of the fluid being contained helps to keep the primary
seal surfaces pressed together. The force pushing them together depends on the fluid
pressure and the area the pressure pushes on.

In an unbalanced seal, all the axial part of the force pushes the face onto the seat as
shown in Figure 6.5(a). This is good up to a certain pressure but for higher pressures
it can break down the lubricating film between surfaces.

By changing the shape of the spring-loaded face, some of the contained pressure can
be used to push back as shown in Figure 6.5(b).

Axial part of
contained fluid

(a) Unbalanced

Axial parts of
contained fluid

(b) Balanced

Figure 6.5: Balanced and Unbalanced Seals

In the balanced seal, only a part of the fluid pressure pushes the seal surfaces together
as some is balanced by a force in the opposite direction. Balanced seals can continue
to operate under higher pressures than unbalanced seals.

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6.2.3 Pusher and Non-pusher (Bellows) Seals

As the seal face wears, it is pushed closer to the seat by the spring or springs.

In a pusher seal, the secondary seal is located so that it slides along the shaft with the
seal face as shown in Figure 6.6.
Sliding secondary

Figure 6.6: Pusher Seal

This is the most common type. The disadvantage with this arrangement is that the
secondary seal can stick, or hang up, so that the primary face can not take up wear.

In a non–pusher seal, the secondary seal is located under the collar and does not slide
with the primary face. This type uses a metal or rubber (elastomer) bellows to keep
fluid away from the shaft downstream from the secondary seal. This arrangement is
shown in Figure 6.7.

Non-sliding Bellows
secondary seal

Figure 6.7: Non-pusher or Bellows Seal

Seals with elastomer bellows need a spring to push the primary face against the seat.
If the bellows is made of metal it can also act as a spring.

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Figure 6.8 shows elastomer and metal bellows seals.



(a) Elastomer Bellows (b) Metal Bellows

Figure 6.8: Bellows Seals

6.2.4 Internal and External Seals

Most seals are mounted internally. The rotating seal face, collar, spring, etc., are
mounted inside the seal gland. This has the advantage that fluid pressure helps to
keep the face pushed against the seat.

The disadvantage is that inside the seal gland the seal is exposed to the contained
fluid. If the contained fluid is very corrosive, the seal parts must be made of
expensive, corrosion-resistant materials. Figure 6.9 shows a typical internal seal.

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Fluid pressure Atmospheric


Figure 6.9: Internal Seal

For very corrosive fluids an external seal may be cheaper. The seal is reversed and
the moving parts are mounted outside the gland. Only the seat and face are exposed
to the contained fluid, as shown in Figure 6.10.



Fluid pressure pressure

Figure 6.10: External Seal

These seals are easier to access for maintenance but, being outside, they are more
exposed to damage. Fluid pressure acts to open the seal so they are not suitable for
high pressures.
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6.2.5 Conventional and Cartridge Seals

The seals described so far are conventional seals. The face and seat have to be
assembled on site and must be set and aligned carefully.

Cartridge seals are pre-assembled on a shaft sleeve and include a gland. They fit
directly onto a shaft of the correct size or a second shaft sleeve. This design does not
need setting and alignment on site and reduces maintenance time and cost. Figure
6.11 shows a typical cartridge seal.



Fluid pressure
Sleeve pressure

Figure 6.11: Cartridge Seal

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6.3 Dual* Seals

Two mechanical seals may be mounted together to:

• provide a back-up to protect against failure of one seal

• allow higher pressures to be sealed or to reduce the pressure drop across the
inside (inboard) seal

• prevent leakage of hazardous or toxic fluids

• seal corrosive or abrasive fluids

There are three possible arrangements of dual* seals:

• tandem*— both seals facing the same direction

• double* seals mounted back-to-back

• double* seals mounted face-to-face

These seal arrangements are shown in Figures 6.12, 6.13 and 6.14.

Inboard primary Outboard

seal primary seal


Figure 6.12: Dual Seals Mounted in Tandem

*Note: The words dual, tandem and double all have the same meaning. They
describe two things that work together. The API preferred term for all of these
seals is dual.

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Figure 6.13: Dual Seals Mounted Back-to-back


Inboard seal

Figure 6.14: Dual Seals Mounted Face-to-face

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6.4 Seal Fluids

Fluid can be injected into the seal gland area for several reasons:

• flushing—to wash out any unwanted fluids or solids that might build up in the
seal or to keep abrasives away from primary seal surfaces

• quenching—to control temperature and remove solids, etc., that might build up
outboard of the seal

• jacketing—to cool the stuffing box area, including the seal

• buffer—to reduce the total pressure difference across the seals in two steps

• barrier—to stop any leakage of toxic or hazardous fluids

Seal fluids must be compatible with the seal materials. In some cases, some will leak
into the contained fluid and this must be acceptable to the final product.

All these fluids may help to control the temperature at the seals. Temperature control
at the primary seal surfaces is important to maintain the lubricating film between
them. Temperature affects the viscosity of a fluid. The higher the temperature the
lower the viscosity and the easier it is for the fluid film to break down. Also, if the
fluid pressure in the film is close to its vapour pressure the fluid may vapourise
causing cavitation between the surfaces. Cavitation is described in the Pumps module
in this course.

Flushing, quenching and jacketing fluids can be used with single and dual seals.
Figure 6.15 shows a single seal with connections for these.

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liquid out

Jacket Quench
liquid out liquid out

Outboard seal
or throttle

Jacket Quench
liquid in liquid in
liquid in

Figure 6.15: Seal Fluids used for Single and Dual Seals

If the fluids used are liquids they should enter at the bottom and leave at the top. This
makes sure that no air is trapped inside during filling. If gas or vapour, e.g. steam, is
used the flow direction is reversed—in at the top and out at the bottom.

Flushing fluid is directed towards the primary seal surfaces at a pressure higher than
that of the contained fluid. It is a clean fluid that keeps the surfaces clear of solid
build-up and harmful liquids or vapours and helps to cool the seal surfaces. If an exit
connection is not provided the flushing fluid enters the contained fluid through the
throat bushing.

Quenching fluid, also called vent and drain fluid, is injected into the area outboard of
the seal. This does a similar job to the flush but cleans and cools the seal from the
outside. Quench liquid does not enter the contained fluid.

Jacketing fluid is used for some seal glands where temperature control of the whole
gland area is necessary. These glands have spaces around the seal to allow fluid to

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In addition to the seal fluids that can be used for single or dual seals, there are two that
are used only with dual seals.

Buffer fluids are injected between dual seals at a pressure between that of the
contained fluid and the outside atmosphere. This reduces the pressure drop across
each seal, allowing higher contained pressures to be sealed. Figure 6.16 shows
tandem seals with a buffer fluid.

Buffer fluid

pressure P3


Buffer pressure P2
Buffer fluid in P1>P2>P3
at pressure

Figure 6.16: Buffer Fluid

Barrier fluids are injected between dual seals at a pressure higher than that of the
contained fluid. This makes sure that no contained fluid escapes into the space
between the seals and so none can escape to atmosphere. Barrier fluids are used to
stop any trace of leak of a hazardous or toxic fluid. Figure 6.17 shows back-to-back
seals with a barrier fluid.

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Barrier fluid Barrier fluid

in at pressure out

pressure P3


Barrier pressure P2

Figure 6.17: Barrier Fluid

The choice of seal fluid used depends on the application. Fluid can be taken directly
from pump or compressor suction or discharge if the pressure and cleanliness of the
fluid is suitable. Water is often used for pumps and air or an inert gas like nitrogen
for compressors.

Seal liquids taken from an outside source may be circulated by gravity and convection
or pumped under pressure. Figure 6.18 shows a natural convection supply system,
often called a thermosyphon system.

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Hot return


Cold feed

Figure 6.18: Seal Fluid Supply by Thermosyphon

As the seal liquid temperature increases inside the seal it expands, becoming less
dense. The more dense cooler liquid falls to the lowest point in the system, displacing
the hotter less dense liquid and pushing it up into the reservoir. In this way the
convection currents set up circulate the liquid around the system.

For many applications a forced feed system is used in which seal fluid is pumped
from the reservoir, through coolers and filters and then to the seals. This system is
very similar to a forced lubrication supply to bearings. Figure 6.19 shows a P&ID of
a typical compressor seal oil system.

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Figure 6.19: Compressor Seal Oil Forced Circulation System P&ID

Now try Exercises 4 and 5

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7 Summary

In this module the types of dynamic seals not covered in the module on Gland
Packing are described. These seals are mentioned in the modules on Pumps and on
Compressors but they are described in much greater detail here.

You should now be able to identify most of the seals used on the plant, know their
applications and have had practice in fitting some of them. You should be able to
identify the different types and arrangements of mechanical seals and know the types
of seal fluids used and what they are for.

The procedure for removing, dismantling, re-assembling and fitting a mechanical seal
depends on the type and design of the seal. Exercise 5 gives you practice at following
a procedure for one type of mechanical seal.

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8 Glossary

Here are some words used in this module that might be new to you. You will find
these words in coloured italics in the notes. There is a short definition in a box near
the word in the notes.

First Part of
Word Meaning Example of Use
Used on Speech
Barrier 12 noun Something that A barrier across the
blocks the path entrance is lifted when you
show your security pass.

Compatible 20 adjective Able to exist or be It is difficult to work with

used together someone with whom you
without problems are not compatible.

Flammable 7 adjective Easily set on fire Never leave flammable

liquids standing in direct

Inject 9 verb To feed something Sometimes a doctor injects

into another a drug directly into your
substance, usually blood.
under pressure

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Appendix A Typical Lip Seal Codes

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Appendix B Typical Synthetic Lip Seal Material

Codes and Applications

Temperature -40 F ~ 250 F -20 F ~ 300 F -80 F ~ 400 F -30 F ~ 400 F
Range * (-35 C ~ 120 C) (-30 C ~ 150 C) (-60 C ~ 200 C) (-35 C ~ 200 C)
2BG715B14B34 2GE8O7A19B3
E014 7 2HK710A110B38
D2000 Spec. B36EO16EO36
EO34EF11EF21 EO16EO36G11
* maximum temperature limits depend on other operating conditions.


E Excellent
G Good for most applications.
F Fair, can be used if no other materials available.
X Not recommended.

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