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Shell Exploration & Production

P180 Development & Operation of Production Systems Rotating Equipment Engineering Pumps
Copyright: Shell Exploration & Production Ltd.

David Moore


File Title


Pumps are fluid machines that handle liquids which are virtually incompressible which can have significant viscosity Pumps do not like gases or vapours Gas or vapour in a pump causes loss of performance (both head and capacity) noise and vibration - which may damage the pump
or the connected equipment

erosion in the extreme - seizure

Please click on notes

Pumps are used to move liquids from one place to another, or from a lower pressure to a higher. Types of pumps vary according to the liquid being pumped, pressure differential and flow. Typical E & P applications are: Downhole boosting Process circulation Main oil line transmission Water lift Circulating water Effluents. As with all types of fluid machine, pumps are available as: 1. Dynamic, of which centrifugal types are the most common in E&P. 2. Displacement, both reciprocating and rotary.

Centrifugal Pumps: Types

Single stage, single entry horizontal end-suction vertical in-line single stage, double entry horizontal, between bearings multi-stage split casing (horizontally split) barrel casing (vertically, or radially split) vertical, deep well line shaft submersible high speed, integrally geared

Centrifugal pumps are made in a large number of different designs ranging from simple single stage machines to large multistage pumps containing as many as over a hundred impellers in series. They may be used in both horizontal and vertical arrangements. A common, cost-effective combination is a single stage centrifugal pump, directly driven by a fixed-speed electric motor (maximum speed 3000 or 3600 rpm depending on supply frequency). For higher pressures, mutliple stages may be used or a higher pump speed, or usually both.

Centrifugal Pumps: Single Stage, End-suction

Casing Impeller


Shaft Volute (Diffuser) Seal

The most common type of centrifugal pump is the single overhung impeller type pump. This features a suction connection directly in line with the impeller eye and is hence frequently known as an end-suction type pump. The components of a centrifugal pump are: 1. Casing: Comprising suction and discharge flanges, diffuser, seal chamber, and pedestal. The casing also has connections for priming, seal flushing and cooling. 2. Impeller 3. Diffuser: in this case, a simple volute. 4. Shaft: Supports the impeller and transmits the torque from the driver to the impeller. 5. Shaft seal: Prevents leakage from the casing along the shaft. 6. Bearings: Support the shaft, keep it running concentrically and oppose any end thrust generated by the impeller. Usually rolling bearings, but can be sleeve or tilting pad types on large pumps.

Centrifugal Pumps: Single Stage, Vertical In-Line

Another common arrangement s the vertical in-line pump (to BS4082). Unlike the end-suction pump which turns the flow through 90O, this pump can be installed in a straight run of pipe. The pump itself has no bearings: the motor bearings support the impeller on an extended motor shaft.

Centrifugal Pumps: Horizontal, double suction

Discharge Volute Impeller

Non drive end bearing Inlet Volute

Drive end bearing

When a higher flow is required than the simple end suction or vertical in-line pumps can give, the double suction pump may be used. In effect, two impellers are joined back-to-back with a common discharge annulus. As can be seen on the picture the impeller has two inlets, or eyes, facing in opposite directions. The inlet volute is a Y shape with flow being led to both ends of the impeller. There is a single discharge volute casing between the inlet branches and the discharge flange can just be seen at the back of the pump. Because of the additional length and weight of the double suction impeller, bearings are required at both ends of the pump. This leads to the disadvantage that two seals are also required.

Centrifugal Pumps: Multi Stage Types

These are effectively two or more pumps in series running on the same shaft and inside the same casing. Each impeller contributes to the total pressure rise and downstream of each impeller there is a stator which converts liquid velocity to pressure and conveys the liquid to the next impeller or to the outlet. On downhole pumps there may be one hundred or more stages, on process pumps there are seldom more than about 11 impellers. Shown above left is a two stage centrifugal pump. Here, the liquid is passed from the first impeller to the second by an external cross-over pipe. Above right is a seven stage pump. In this, the liquid is transferred from one impeller to the next through passages cast in the casing. These are not easily visible here, but a similar arrangement can be seen in the centrifugal compressor section (Compressors: Impellers and Return Channels). At the higher discharge pressures of multi-stage pumps, which are capable of >200 barg, casing design for pressure retention is important. At lower pressures the casing is horizontally split, that is the casing is in two halves, one of which can be removed to install and access the rotating parts of the pump. As pressures and pump dimensions increase, this horizontal surface becomes harder to make leak-tight and an alternative casing design is used. This is the barrel casing in which the pressure retaining part is made in one piece with no horizontal split line. The pump rotor and stator are assembled as a separate cartridge and assembled into the casing from one end. The casing then requires to be sealed at either end which is easier to do than sealing a horizontal surface. While horizontally split casings may be offered at up to 150 barg, Shell practice is to use barrel type casings above about 40 barg. With multi-stage pumps, internal sealing around the rotating parts to prevent back-flow of liquid is essential.


Centrifugal Pumps: Vertical Diffuser


Motor Discharge Head Riser Lineshaft Pump





Vertical pumps are used where suction has to be taken from a significant depth below the installation level for example to provide sea-water for process and fire fighting use on an offshore platform. There are two basic types: 1. line shaft. 2. electric submersible. Line shaft pumps are driven from the surface by a long shaft which requires intermediate bearings along the pump riser, usually lubricated by the pumped fluid. The driver may be an electric motor or an engine driving the shaft through a right angled gearbox. The latter arrangement is common for diesel driven fire pumps. Electric submersible pumps are driven by a motor directly coupled to the pump impellers. The motor is normally below the pump so that the riser is not obstructed by the motor and also to benefit from the cooling effect of the pumped fluid flowing around it. Electric submersible pumps have been adopted for down-hole use. Both types of pump give maintenance problems: the riser and, in the case of the line shaft driven pump, the shaft have to be removed so that the pump can be accessed. This may be a difficult operation where there is restricted headroom or limited crane capacity and resembles a drilling round trip. In addition, the cable to the electric submersible type is vulnerable to damage during deployment. Vertical pumps usually start with an empty riser and an air release valve must be provided at or near the discharge head. In addition, relief facilities are required as the column of water arrives at the pump head with considerable force.


Centrifugal Pumps: High Speed, Integrally Geared

Gearbox Pump

This type of pump is similar to the in-line vertical pump discussed earlier, except that the impeller is driven through a gearbox at speeds ranging from about 8000 rev/min to 20000 rev/min. These pumps are used for small flow, high pressure applications and they can tolerate low suction pressures.

Pump Performance: Head

Pressure rise varies with speed, diameter, fluid density to reduce variables, define HEAD = p / g which has dimensions of length physically can be thought of as the height to which fluid can be pumped


In pump industry practice, the performance of pumps is measured in terms of head rather than pressure. Head is defined above, where p is pressure in N/m2, is density in kg/m3 and g is the gravitational acceleration (9.81 m/s2). Head is measured in units of length (metres in this case). Physically, Head may be thought of as the height through which a pump raises a certain amount of liquid. Head is also way of expressing the energy per unit mass that is added to the liquid by the pump. The increase in head produced by a pump is known as Generated Head, Differential Head or Head Rise. In a turbomachine, Head is dependent only on the speed and geometry of the pump impeller. It is not dependent on liquid density. Thus a given pump impeller, operating at a given speed, will produce the same head no matter what liquid it is pumping. The use of Head as a measurement of performance reduces the variables involved in measuring pump performance: a manufacturer can test a pump with water and the results will be applicable to a pump handling condensate, oil or salt water.


Cavitation Damage

Cavitation bubbles forming

There is a limit imposed on the minimum suction pressure a pump can accept by the mechanism of Cavitation. When fluid flows into the suction of a pump its velocity increases and the pressure drops. The minimum pressure is at the point where the fluid flows into the impeller vanes. Vapour bubbles will form if the pressure drops to the vapour pressure of the liquid. As the fluid flows through the impeller and the pressure rises again, the vapour returns to the vapour phase. However, this happens suddenly rather than gradually, causing noise and severe shock waves which damage the impeller surfaces. This damage, known as cavitation erosion, has the characteristic appearance shown above. Cavitation usually causes a characteristic crackling noise.


The amount by which the pressure at the entry to the pump exceeds the vapour pressure of the fluid at that point, measured in units of head of the fluid being pumped. NPSH may be expressed as: Suction Pressure - Vapour Pressure g

Net Positive Suction Head

Cavitation, and its resulting damage must be avoided by ensuring that the static pressure at the suction of the pump is above the vapour pressure of the liquid being pumped. Net Positive Suction Head is the term used to express the margin of suction head over the vapour pressure (expressed as head). NET: meaning the suction head net of vapour head. POSITIVE: because we require the suction head minus the vapour head to be greater than zero.



Head developed by pump 3% head loss Inception of cavitation

At constant flow

NPSHR established by 3% Head drop Note: It is NOT the NPSH required to prevent cavitation.

NPSHR declared by Vendor

NPSH Required depends on the pump design and this information is provided by the pump manufacturer. The most common method of establishing NPSHR is to test the pump at a constant flow (using water) and reducing suction pressure until there is a noticeable decrease in generated head. It is practically difficult to decide the exact point where the head generated by the pump starts to change - the inception of cavitation. The common practice is to declare the point where the head drops by 3% as the NPSH required. The test is carried out for a series of flows over the whole pump range. An NPSHR value may be based on a type test for a family of pumps, or it may be specified for a particular order, especially if the duty is critical. In this case, if several identical pumps are ordered, the NPSH test is normally made on just one of them. At the 3% head loss point, cavitation is already happening. This means that this value of NPSHR is not the value required to prevent cavitation, it has simply been found that it generally ensures that cavitation damage will be low enough to give a reasonable impeller life. The onset of cavitation can be measured by other methods such as noise level, or direct observation of the formation of cavitation bubbles.


NPSH Available

DEPENDS ON SYSTEM DESIGN NPSHA must exceed the NPSHR by a healthy

by at least 1 metre throughout the whole operating range (minimum flow to 125% of rated capacity)

NPSH Available (NPSHA) depends on system design. It is something that we as system operators and designers have some control over. To ensure that pumps operate without cavitation, we need to ensure that NPSHA exceeds NPSHR. Because the manufacturers values for NPSHR do not guarantee freedom from cavitation (see previous section), and because there may be tolerance differences between nominally identical pumps, we need to add a margin of safety to the NPSHA. This margin should be as big as possible, and as a general rule should not be less than 1 m over the range of operation of the pump. The pump DEP gives more detailed guidance on NPSH margins. Note that in the calculation of NPSH, and in hydraulic calculations generally, we need to take account of elevation differences relative to a datum, system pressures and friction losses. System pressures should be in absolute units.


Displacement Pumps

Reciprocating Ram or plunger pumps Rotary Screw pumps Progressive cavity pumps

There are many different designs of displacement pump, particularly the rotary types. However few of these are used in E&P, indeed some of them are highly specialised, and for that reason just a few types are covered here. Because liquids are essentially incompressible, displacement pumps can be considered as constant volume machines: the volume of liquid displaced is independent of the head or pressure rise at constant speed. If the flow is restricted, for instance by accidentally closing a valve downstream of the pump, the discharge pressure will rise until there is a failure of the drive motor, the pump casing or the discharge pipework. Discharge pressure protection by pressure safety valves and/or instrumented trips is therefore essential on displacement pumps. The relief valve is also important for thermal relief when the pump is shut down. Hydrocarbons expand from 1 to 2% of their volume for each 10oC rise in temperature which can lead to destruction of equipment if the pressure is not relieved. Because of the constant flow characteristic of the displacement pump, capacity control using a control valve is ineffective.


Plunger Pump
Cylinder Discharge valve


Plunger Suction valve Packing

These pumps are used where the flow is too small and the head too high for a centrifugal pump. Such duties include: Chemical dosing Well fluid Drilling mud Condensate recovery Jet pumping. The type of pump and materials selected will depend on the service. An advantage of reciprocating pumps over centrifugal pumps is their ability to raise liquids to a higher pressure with less power. The efficiency of a reciprocating pump can exceed 80% when it is well designed and selected for the duty. Their principal disadvantage is that they have more moving parts and require more maintenance. The other disadvantage is a pulsating flow which can cause severe pipework vibration. Components of the plunger pump: CRANKCASE: containing crankshaft, connecting rods and crossheads. These are independently lubricated by a closed circuit oil system. Secondary seals on the pump rod prevent process fluid leaking into the crankcase causing dilution and contamination of the lube oil. CYLINDER: contains the plunger, valves and packing which seals the process fluid into the cylinder. PLUNGER: Because fluids are often abrasive, the plunger is coated with hard material such as stellite or ceramic to reduce wear in the packing area.


Triplex Pump

Pumps usually have three or more cylinders with crankthrows arranged such that the intermittent flow into each cylinder is averaged into a more uniform flow. Triplex and Quintuplex pumps are the most common types. Even with the smoothing effect of multiple cylinders, suction and discharge pulsation dampening devices will be required. As with centrifugal pumps, reciprocating pumps also have an NPSH requirement. However in the case of reciprocating pumps, an additional acceleration head is required to ensure that liquid fills the pump when the piston or plunger is accelerating at its highest rate.


Rotary Pumps: Screw pump

In the Screw pump, two or three coarse screw threads mesh together and rotate within a casing. The spaces between the screws and the casing, enclose volumes of the liquid being pumped and as the screws rotate, these volumes are moved from suction to discharge. A movie clip of the screw pump action is shown on the next slide. The type of pump shown above is a twin screw pump, designed for relatively high pressures of up to 200 bar. The screw threads in this case are driven through external gears called timing gears, which allow the screws to remain slightly out of contact. In a high pressure pump an end thrust is developed between suction and discharge because of the pressure differential across the rotors. By making the screws double ended, this end thrust can be balanced out. The disadvantate of this pump type is mechanical complexity: four sets of bearings and seals as well as the timing gears. In triple screw pumps, which are used for lower pressure duties, the central screw drives the two other screws. The screws are not double ended, and the thrust force is taken by an product lubricated thrust plate inside the pump. These pumps are simpler and cheaper than the twin screw type described above. Screw pumps do not deliver a completely smooth flow: there is some ripple in the pressure as volumes of liquid enclosed by the screws pass into the discharge port. However, pressure fluctuations are not large enough to require pulsation dampeners. These pumps are usually used for heavy crude and fuel oils where liquid viscosity is too high for a centrifugal pump. They also have an advantage over centrifugal pumps in that the shear forces on the liquid are small. They are thus less likely to form tight water-oil emulsions when pumping wet crude oil. They are sensitive to abrasives in the liquid which will cause rapid wear of the closely toleranced parts, although manufacturers claim that the correct choice of materials can avoid this. Twin screw pumps are also used for multiphase pumping.


Movie clip: Twin Screw Pump

This video clip shows how the twin screw pump works. Liquid is trapped between the screw threads and the casing (which is not shown here). The rotation of the screw then transports the liquid from suction to discharge. The second screw ensures that the liquid does not simply leak back along the screw thread. Note that the jerky motion is a characteristic of the software used rather than of the machine!


Progressive Cavity Pumps

Progressive cavity pumps are also known as Moineau or Mono pumps. They have one helical rotor rotating inside an elastomeric stator which has a helical profile on its inner diameter. The rotor oscillates relative to the stator hence a flexible coupling is required between the pump rotor and the drive shaft. A movie clip of the progressive cavity pump operation is shown on the next slide. This type of pump is tolerant of particles and is frequently used for drains, sewage and similar duties. However the elastomeric material used in the stator can be sensitive to the type and temperature of the liquid pumped. Benzene is a particular problem with certain types of rubber, and the composition of the pumped liquid should be checked for compatibility with the elastomer used.


Movie clip: Seepex Progressive Cavity pump

This clip shows how the helical rotor and the stator act together to transport liquid along the pump. Notice that the whole rotor also oscillates (in this case in the vertical plane).


Control and Regulation of Pumps

Variable speed Discharge throttling ie vary the system resistance curve (Centrifugal pumps only) Recycle or spillback Variable stroke (certain reciprocating pumps only)

Methods of regulating flow in fluid machines were described in the Machinery Basics sectionl. These methods apply to pumps as described above. There is one additional method of regulation which is particular to reciprocating plunger pumps. In this case the pump is fitted with a mechanism which varies the plunger stroke and hence output. This method is generally used for metering pumps where precise amounts of liquid are to be delivered to a system.


Pump Selection
1 Centrifugal, single stage 2 Centrifugal, double entry 3 Centrifugal, multi stage 4 Centrifugal, high speed 5 Centrifugal, double entry, half speed 6 Reciprocating pump 7 Progressive cavity pump 8 Rotary screw pump
Note: Except 4, based on fixed speed, 3000 or 3600 rev/min

A general guide to the flow and head ranges for pump selection is given above: this figure is also given in the Production Handbook. Note that the figure is valid for pumps with 3000 rev/min motors and should be taken as general guidance only. Wherever you find yourself on the borderline between an expensive type of pump and a cheaper one, it is worth refining the selection and checking availabilities with a number of manufacturers. In general there is a preference for centrifugal pumps because they are the simplest type and usually cheap. However the selection of pump type depends on a wide variety of variables of which a few are listed Pressure differential Flow Liquid properties viscosity temperature lubricity abrasive particles Availability of standby plant Safety Maturity of pump technology. ANY CRITICAL PUMP SELECTION SHOULD ALWAYS BE REGARDED AS A SPECIALISED TASK.


End of presentation