A pump is a device used to move fluids (liquids or gases) or sometimes slurries by mechanical action. Pumps can be classified into three major groups according to the method they use to move the fluid: direct lift, displacement, and gravity pumps.
Pumps must have a mechanism which operates them, and consume energy to perform mechanical work by moving the fluid. The activating mechanism is often reciprocating or rotary. Pumps may be operated in many ways, including manual operation, electricity, a combustion engine of some type, and wind action.
Positive displacement pump
A positive displacement pump causes a fluid to move by trapping a fixed amount of it and then forcing (displacing) that trapped volume into the discharge pipe.
Some positive displacement pumps work using an expanding cavity on the suction side and a decreasing cavity on the discharge side. Liquid flows into the pump as the cavity on the suction side expands and the liquid flows out of the discharge as the cavity collapses. The volume is constant given each cycle of operation.
Positive displacement pump behavior and safety
Positive displacement pumps, unlike centrifugal or roto-dynamic pumps, will in theory produce the same flow at a given speed (RPM) no matter what the discharge pressure. Thus, positive displacement pumps are "constant flow machines". However due to a slight increase in internal leakage as the pressure increases, a truly constant flow rate cannot be achieved.
A positive displacement pump must not be operated against a closed valve on the discharge side of the pump, because it has no shut-off head like centrifugal pumps. A positive displacement pump operating against a closed discharge valve will continue to produce flow and the pressure in the discharge line will increase, until the line bursts or the pump is severely damaged, or both.
A relief or safety valve on the discharge side of the positive displacement pump is therefore necessary. The relief valve can be internal or external. The pump manufacturer normally has the option to supply internal relief or safety valves. The internal valve should in general only be used as a safety precaution, an external relief valve installed in the discharge line with a return line back to the suction line or supply tank is recommended.
Positive displacement types
A positive displacement pump can be further classified according to the mechanism used to move the fluid:
Rotary-type positive displacement: internal gear, screw, shuttle block, flexible vane or sliding vane, circumferential piston, helical twisted roots (e.g. the Wendelkolben pump) or liquid ring vacuum pumps.
Reciprocating-type positive displacement: piston or diaphragm pumps.
Linear-type positive displacement: rope pumps and chain pumps.
Rotary positive displacement pumps
Positive displacement rotary pumps move fluid have a rotating mechanism that creates a vacuum that captures and draws in the liquid.
Advantages: Rotary pumps are very efficient because they naturally remove air from the lines, eliminating the need to bleed the air from the lines manually.
Drawbacks: Because of the nature of the pump, the clearance between the rotating pump and the outer edge must be very close, requiring that it rotate at a slow, steady speed. If rotary pumps are operated at high speeds, the fluids will cause erosion, eventually developing enlarged clearances through which liquid can pass, reducing the efficiency of the pump.
Rotary positive displacement pumps can be grouped into three main types:
Gear pumps - a simple type of rotary pump where the liquid is pushed between two gears.
Screw pumps - the shape of the internals of this pump usually two screws turning against each other pump the liquid.
Rotary vane pumps - similar to scroll compressors, consisting of a cylindrical rotor encased in a similarly shaped housing. As the rotor turns, the vanes trap fluid between the rotor and the casing, drawing the fluid through the pump.
Reciprocating positive displacement pumps
Reciprocating pumps are those which cause the fluid to move using one or more oscillating pistons, plungers or membranes (diaphragms), and restrict motion of the fluid to the one desired direction by valves.
Pumps in this category range from "simplex", with one cylinder, to in some cases "quad" (four) cylinders or more. Many reciprocating-type pumps are "duplex" (two) or "triplex" (three) cylinder. They can be either "single-acting" with suction during one direction of piston motion and discharge on the other, or "double-acting" with suction and discharge in both directions. The pumps can be powered manually, by air or steam, or by a belt driven by an engine. This type of pump was used extensively in the early days of steam propulsion (19th century) as boiler feed water pumps. Reciprocating pumps are now typically used for pumping highly viscous fluids including concrete and heavy oils, and special applications demanding low flow rates against high resistance. Reciprocating hand pumps were widely used for pumping water from wells; the common bicycle pump and foot pumps for inflation use reciprocating action.
These positive displacement pumps have an expanding cavity on the suction side and a decreasing cavity on the discharge side. Liquid flows into the pumps as the cavity on the suction side expands and the liquid flows out of the discharge as the cavity collapses. The volume is constant given each cycle of operation.
Typical reciprocating pumps are:
Plunger pumps - a reciprocating plunger pushes the fluid through one or two open valves, closed by suction on the way back.
Diaphragm pumps - similar to plunger pumps, where the plunger pressurizes hydraulic oil which is used to flex a diaphragm in the pumping cylinder. Diaphragm valves are used to pump hazardous and toxic fluids.
Piston displacement pumps - usually simple devices for pumping small amounts of liquid or gel manually. An example is the common hand soap pump.
Radial piston pump
Examining pump repair records and MTBF (mean time between failures) is of great importance to responsible and conscientious pump users. In view of that fact, the preface to the 2006 Pump User’s Handbook alludes to "pump failure" statistics. For the sake of convenience, these failure statistics often are translated into MTBF (in this case, installed life before failure).
In early 2005, Gordon Buck, John Crane Inc.’s chief engineer for Field Operations in Baton Rouge, LA, examined the repair records for a number of refinery and chemical plants to obtain meaningful reliability data for centrifugal pumps. A total of 15 operating plants having nearly 15,000 pumps were included in the survey. The smallest of these plants had about 100 pumps; several plants had over 2000. All facilities were located in the United States. In addition, considered as "new," others as "renewed" and still others as "established." Many of these plants—but not all—had an alliance arrangement with John Crane. In some cases, the alliance contract included having a John Crane Inc. technician or engineer on-site to coordinate various aspects of the program.
Not all plants are refineries, however, and different results can be expected elsewhere. In chemical plants, pumps have traditionally been "throw-away" items as chemical attack can result in limited life. Things have improved in recent years, but the somewhat restricted space available in "old" DIN and ASME-standardized stuffing boxes places limits on the type of seal that can be fitted. Unless the pump user upgrades the seal chamber, only the more compact and simple versions can be accommodated. Without this upgrading, lifetimes in chemical installations are generally believed to be around 50 to 60 percent of the refinery values.
Unscheduled maintenance is often one of the most significant costs of ownership, and failures of mechanical seals and bearings are among the major causes. Keep in mind the potential value of selecting pumps that cost more initially, but last much longer between repairs. The MTBF of a better pump may be one to four years longer than that of its non-upgraded counterpart. Consider that published average values of avoided pump failures range from $2600 to $12,000. This does not include lost opportunity costs. One pump fire occurs per 1000 failures. Having fewer pump failures means having fewer destructive pump fires.
As has been noted, a typical pump failure based on actual year 2002 reports, costs $5,000 on average. This includes costs for material, parts, labor and overhead. Let us now assume that the MTBF for a particular pump is 12 months and that it could be extended to 18 months. This would result in a cost avoidance of $2,500/yr—which is greater than the premium one would pay for the reliability-upgraded centrifugal pump.
To minimise energy use, and to ensure that pumps are correctly matched to the duty expected pumps, and pumping stations should be regularly tested.
In water supply application, which are usually fitted with centrifugal pumps, individual large pumps should be 70 - 80% efficient. They should be individually tested to ensure they are in the appropriate range, and replaced or prepared as appropriate.
Pumping stations should also be tested collectively, because where pumps can run in combination to meet a given demand, it is often possible for very inefficient combination of pumps to occur. For example. it is perfectly possible to have a large and a small pump operating in parallel, with the smaller pump not delivering any water, but merely consuming energy. See Pump station manager
Pumps are readily tested by fitting a flow meter, measuring the pressure difference between inlet and outlet, and measuring the power consumed.
Another method is thermodynamic pump testing where only the temperature rise and power consumed need be measured.