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TIP 0404-55

ISSUED - 2001
2001 TAPPI
The information and data contained in this document were
prepared by a technical committee of the Association. The
committee and the Association assume no liability or responsibility
in connection with the use of such information or data, including
but not limited to any liability under patent, copyright, or trade
secret laws. The user is responsible for determining that this
document is the most recent edition published.

Performance evaluation techniques for paper machine


vacuum systems
Scope
This document describes general techniques for the evaluation of performance of vacuum systems on paper
machines. Its intent is to give paper makers a procedure for seeking and eliminating bottlenecks in vacuum systems
and implementing optimum vacuum performance by reducing operating costs and increasing productivity.
Definitions
1.
2.
3.

ACFM: Actual Cubic Feet per Minute. The measurement of vacuum pump volumetric flow.
Orifice Test: Vacuum pump testing method.
Dwell Time: The amount of time it takes for the felt to travel from the leading edge to the trailing edge of a
suction box slot.

Materials
The following materials are recommended for following the guidelines:
 Flat plate orifice testing equipment, described in TIP 0420-12
 Tape measure
Safety precautions
Caution should be taken when performing the orifice plate test. Vacuum may pull the testers finger into the orifice
hole.
Content
Vacuum Pump Testing
Vacuum pumps are the key components of every vacuum system. Efficient performance is necessary for
maintaining optimum airflow and vacuum levels throughout the paper machine. Performance should be monitored
to ensure that pumps are consuming minimum energy and water while removing maximum water from the paper
sheet or felts. The most effective vacuum pump performance test that can be performed in the paper mill is the flat
plate orifice test method. This test must be done with the testing vacuum pump isolated from the paper machine.
To summarize, an orifice plate or plates are placed on the vacuum pump inlets. These plates contain a series of
bored holes that are calibrated to allow specified air flows over the entire range of vacuum levels of a vacuum pump.
This test gives the paper maker performance data to compare to the performance curve of the vacuum pump and to
insure that necessary air flow requirements are being met. The orifice plate test method is described in TIP 0420-12.
Most vacuum pump suppliers offer pump field tests as a service.
A borescope can be used to visually measure rotor and cone clearances. A rough estimation of vacuum pump
capacity can be determined by evaluating these clearances. This method allows for an easier, although less accurate
determination of pump efficiency.

Approved by the Water Removal Committee of the Engineering Division


TAPPI

TIP 0404-55

Performance evaluation techniques / 2


for paper machine vacuum systems

Evaluating Pump Tests


Pump test results should be compared to original capacity at the optimum vacuum level for each application. By
dividing the actual tested capacity, m3/hr (ACFM), by the capacity, m3/hr (ACFM), shown on the pump
manufacturers performance curve, the % of original capacity is obtained. For example, if a pump designed to have
a capacity of 5,950 m3/hr (3,500 ACFM) at 380 mm Hg (15 inches Hg) vacuum only tested at 5,100 m3/hr (3,000
ACFM) at 380 mm Hg (15 inches Hg) vacuum, this pump is said to be at eighty-six percent (86%) of original
capacity at that vacuum level. Capacity comparisons are made at the actual rotational speed (RPM) of the pump.
Calculating Vacuum Pump Operating Costs
The two primary operating costs associated with vacuum pumps are energy and seal water. Use Equation 1 to
calculate annual energy costs for vacuum pump operation.
Equation 1:
$Ea = kW x $UR x hr x day
where:
$Ea = Annual energy cost
kW = pump kilowatt usage from curve
$UR = utility rate at mill in $/kWhr
hr = operation hours per day
day = operation days per year

$Ea = BHP x 0.746 x $UR x hr x day


where:
$Ea = Annual energy cost
BHP = pump horsepower from curve
$UR = utility rate at mill in $/kWhr
hr
= operation hours per day
day = operation days per year

To calculate the annual seal water costs for vacuum pump operation, use Equation 2.
Equation 2:
$SWa = l/min x 60 x $SWr x hr x day
where:
$SWa = Annual Seal Water Cost
l/min = seal water flow
$SWr = seal water cost rate, $/1000 liters
hr
= operation hours per day
day
= operation days per year

$SWa = gpm x 60 x $SWr x hr x day


where:
$SWa = Annual Seal Water Cost
gpm = seal water flow
$SWr = seal water cost, $/1000 gallons
hr
= operation hours per day
day
= operation days per year

After calculating the energy and seal water costs for each vacuum pump, they can be summed to give the total cost
for operating the vacuum pumps for the entire machine.
Calculating Wasted Operating Costs
As vacuum pumps lose capacity due to erosion or corrosion on the rotor and cone surfaces, they continue to
consume the same horsepower and require the same seal water flow as if the pump were new. The result is wasted
energy and water costs. When evaluating total vacuum system operating costs, it is important to establish how much
of the operating costs are being wasted on inefficient vacuum pumps. For the example above, the 86% capacity
pump is wasting 14% of these operating costs. From the performance curve it is found that the 86% capacity pump
is consuming 215 kW (160 BHP). Because the pump is producing 14% less capacity as a new pump, it is wasting
14% of the power or 30.1 kW (22.4 BHP). This principle is also true for the seal water flow. If the pump
mentioned requires 227 l/min (60 gpm) of seal water flow for operation, 32l/min (4 gpm) is being wasted on
inefficiency.
The next step is to calculate the wasted operating costs by using Equations 3 and 4.
Equation 3:
$Ewa = $Ea x (1-Eff)
where:
$Ewa = Annual Wasted Energy Cost
$Ea = annual energy costs from Eq.1
Eff = vacuum pump efficiency from pump test

3 / Performance evaluation techniques


for paper machine vacuum systems

TIP 0404-55

Equation 4:
$SWwa = $SWa x (1-Eff)
where:
$SWwa = annual wasted seal water cost
$SWa = annual seal water costs from Eq.2
Eff
= vacuum pump efficiency from pump test
More detail is available regarding vacuum pump operating cost in The Full Operating Costs of Liquid
Ring Vacuum Pumps located in the 1995 TAPPI Engineering Conference Proceedings.
Suction (Uhle) Box Sizing
Properly sized felt suction or uhle boxes are critical to insure that felt de-watering is maximized. There are two
sizing parameters that should be evaluated: box diameter and slot width.
Box Diameter
The velocity of the water/air mixture flowing through the felt suction box should be below 1,065 m/min (3,500
ft/min). By knowing the airflow, m3/hr (ACFM), supplied from the vacuum pump, minimum box diameters can be
calculated using Equation 5:
Equation 5:
Minimum Box Diameter (mm) =

3
flow( m / hr )  19.89

Minimum Box Diameter (inch) =

flow( ACFM )  0.052

Slot Width
Suction box slot widths should be sized to maintain a dwell time of 2 to 4 milliseconds. Dwell time is the amount of
time that it takes for the felt to travel across the slot. Maintaining a dwell time within this range will allow enough
time for the water in the felt to travel through the felt and into the suction box. If the dwell time is greater than 4
milliseconds, felts will tend to drag across the box and could experience premature wear. Calculating correct slot
width sizing base on a specific dwell time is done using Equation 6:
Equation 6:
Slot Width (mm) = Dwell time (ms) x machine speed (m/min)
60
Slot Width (inch) = Dwell time (ms) x machine speed (ft/min)
5000
Slot widths should not be less than 13 mm (0.5 inch) or greater than 25 mm (1.0 inch). If the slot width is calculated
to be greater than 25 mm (1.0 inch), multiple slots should be used.
Vacuum Pump Sizing
There are several types of vacuum applications on the wet end of a paper machine. The most common applications
are as follows:
Fourdrinier Machine
Vacuum Levels (HgV)
Application
Purpose (with vacuum)
Wire (Flat) Boxes Consolidate sheet by high volume water removal
25-380 mm (1-15 inches)
Couch Roll
Consolidate and strengthen sheet by water removal
255-510 mm (10-20 inches)
Suction Pick-Up
Transfers sheet from wire to felt
255-510 mm (10-20 inches)
Suction Press
Dewater sheet with pressing and vacuum
255-510 mm (10-20 inches)
Felt Suction Box
Dewater felt for cleaning
205-455 mm (8-18 inches)

TIP 0404-55

Cylinder Machine
Application
Suction Drum
Sheet Boxes
Suction Press
Felt Suction Box

Performance evaluation techniques / 4


for paper machine vacuum systems

Purpose (with vacuum)


Consolidate and strengthen sheet by water removal
Consolidate sheet by water removal
Dewater sheet with pressing and vacuum
Dewater felt for cleaning

Vacuum Levels (HgV)


510-560 mm (20-22 inches)
510-560 mm (20-22 inches)
255-510 mm (10-20 inches)
205-455 mm (8-18 inches)

To properly size vacuum pumps for their respective applications, TAPPIs technical information paper Paper
Machine Vacuum Selection Factors (TIP 0502-01) can be used. These factors (ACFM/in2) are used to calculate the
total airflow (ACFM) that is required for most wet end application. To calculate the total ACFM requirement of
each application, the vacuum factor (ACFM/in2) is multiplied by the total open area (in2) of the application. For
example, suppose a couch roll application on a 200 inch wide SBS paperboard machine having single 6 inch box has
a vacuum factor of 7 ACFM/in2 (found in TIP 0502-01). The total required capacity for that suction box is:
6 in x 200 in x 7 ACFM/in2 = 8,400 ACFM @ 20HgV (14,274 m3/hr @ 560 mm HgV).
Adjustments should always be made for inlet vapor and seal water temperatures. Your vacuum pump supplier will
be able to provide these correction factors for their specific vacuum pumps. For applications not located in the TIP,
contact your vacuum pump supplier for assistance.
Process Piping
Piping diameters and layouts are selected based on air flow and vacuum pump requirements. It is important that
process piping be sized properly to prevent excessive line losses and vacuum pump operating problems. Sizing and
layout recommendations for the different areas of the vacuum system are discussed here.
Inlet Piping from Machine to Pre-separator
The piping from the paper machine to the vacuum pre-separators will be carrying air with large volumes of water.
Because of this, all piping in this area should be horizontal or downhill to the separator. Uphill piping can result in
large vacuum losses along with vacuum fluctuations. The velocity of the air with entrained water should be kept
below 1,067 m/min (3,500 ft/min). Equation 7 can be used to calculate the minimum pipe diameter.
Equation 7:
Minimum Pipe Diameter (mm) =

3
flow( m / hr )  19.89

Minimum Pipe Diameter (inch) =

flow( ACFM )  0.052

Process Piping from Pre-separator to Vacuum Pump


After the water has been separated out from the air stream, pipe runs can be vertical and the velocity maximum is
1,667 m/min (5,500 ft/min). To calculate the proper pipe diameter for this piping area, use Equation 8:
Equation 8:
Minimum Pipe Diameter (mm) =

3
flow( m / hr )  12.53

Minimum Pipe Diameter (inch) =

flow( ACFM )  0.033

Pre-separators
Pre-separation packages are recommended to prevent process liquids and chemicals from being carried through the
vacuum pumps. This will reduce line losses and help the vacuum pumps last longer. The diameter of the inlet
separators should be sized to reduce the air/liquid velocity below 228 m/min (750 ft/min). To calculate the
minimum inlet separator diameter, use Equation 9:

5 / Performance evaluation techniques


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TIP 0404-55

Equation 9:
Minimum Inlet Separator Diameter (mm) =

3
flow( m / hr )  92.83

Minimum Inlet Separator Diameter (inch) =

flow( ACFM )  0.245

The rule of thumb for sizing minimum separator height is, height > 2 x diameter.
Separator suppliers should be contacted to verify that the chosen separator is able to separate the amount of water
being pulled from the process.
Barometric Droplegs
Once the process air and water have been separated, the water must be removed from the separator with either a
barometric dropleg or water removal pump. The barometric dropleg must be long enough to obtain a standing water
level that has enough static head to overcome the vacuum level being pulled by the vacuum pump. If not, the water
will be pulled up the dropleg, fill the separator, and pulled over into the vacuum pump. The barometric dropleg
length is calculated using Equation 10:
Equation 10:
Minimum barometric dropleg length (m) = (0.0136 m x vac) + 0.9 m
where vac = vacuum level, mm Hg
Minimum barometric dropleg length (feet) = (1.13 ft. x vac) + 3 ft
where vac = vacuum level, inches Hg
The length calculated is the distance from the bottom of the separator to the overflow drain in the seal pit.
The drop-leg diameter should be sized to maintain a water velocity below 2.44 m/sec (8 ft/sec). Equation 11 is used
the calculate the drop-leg pipe diameter:
Equation 11:
Minimum barometric dropleg diameter (mm) =

flow(l / min)  8.7

Minimum barometric dropleg diameter (inch) =

flow( gpm)  0.051

Seal Pit Design


The water from the barometric dropleg will flow to a seal pit. The seal pit must be designed properly so that it will
hold sufficient volume of water. If not, the vacuum pump will empty the seal pit upon start-up and vacuum will then
be lost. The following guidelines should be used when designing a seal pit.
Seal Pit Design Guidelines:
1. Seal Pit Volume = 2.5 x dropleg volume.
2. Height used in volume calculation is the distance from bottom of dropleg to overflow drain.
3. Length from dropleg to bottom of seal pit > 152 mm (6 inches).
Vacuum Pump Discharge Piping
The discharge piping from the vacuum pump should be sized to be equal to or greater than the vacuum pump
discharge for single outlet pumps and the manifold discharge for dual outlet pumps. All discharge piping should be
horizontal or downhill to a discharge separator/silencer. Any uphill or vertical piping will cause back-pressure
reducing the pumps capacity and could even eventually lead to a mechanical pump problems.
Discharge Separator/Silencers
Discharge separator/silencers serve two purposes for liquid ring vacuum pumps installations. First, they separate the
air and water so the water can be recovered and sent to another mill location and the air can be vented into the
atmosphere. Secondly, they reduce the noise generated by the vacuum pump by as much as 40 dB. Like the inlet

TIP 0404-55

Performance evaluation techniques / 6


for paper machine vacuum systems

separators, the diameter should be sized to reduce the air/water velocity below 750 fpm. To calculate the minimum
inlet separator diameter, use Equation 12:
Equation 12:
Minimum Discharge Separator Diameter (mm) =
Minimum Discharge Separator Diameter (inch) =

3
m / hr 1000  vac)  1000   92.83

ACFM  30  vac )  30   0.245

Again, the rule of thumb sizing for minimum separator/silencer height is, height > 2 x diameter.
Separator suppliers can offer various levels of separation efficiency and silencing capabilities when specifying
separator/silencers. They should be contacted to select a specific silencer that best fits the application.
Summary
The techniques discussed in this TIP will help to generalize the overall condition and design of a vacuum system.
There are many other aspects involved in vacuum system design that are not covered in this paper. Topics such as
seal water and felt conditioning systems are detailed in other TAPPI Technical Information Papers. The following
outline summarizes the design parameters and equations discussed in the body of the paper. The figure at the end of
the paper also shows many of the guidelines that have been defined.
1.

Vacuum Pump Testing: see TIP 0420-12

2.

Vacuum Pump Operating Costs:


Annual Wasted Energy Cost, Equation 1
 $Ea = kW x $UR x hr x day
$Ea = BHP x 0.746 x $UR x hr x day
Annual Seal Water Cost, Equation 2
 $SWa = l/min x 60 x $SW x hr x day
$SWa = GPM x 60 x $SW x hr x day

3.

Wasted Operating Costs:


Annual Wasted Energy Cost, Equation 3
 $Ewa = $Ea x 1-(Eff)
Annual Wasted Seal Water Cost, Equation 4
 $SWwa = $SWa x 1-(Eff)

4.


Suction (Uhle) Box Sizing:


Maximum Air/Water Velocity = 1,065 m/min (3,500 ft/min)

Minimum Box Diameter (mm) =

Minimum Box Diameter (in) = flow( ACFM )  0.052


Dwell Time Requirement = 2-4 ms

3
flow( m / hr )  19.89 , Equation 5

Slot Width (mm) = Dwell time (ms) x machine speed (m/min)


60




Slot Width (in) = Dwell time (ms) x machine speed (ft/min)


5000
Minimum Slot Width = 13 mm (0.5 inch)
Maximum Slot Width = 25 mm (1.0 inch)

5.

Vacuum Pump Sizing: see TIP 0502-01

7 / Performance evaluation techniques


for paper machine vacuum systems
6.

Vacuum System Piping:


a. From Machine to Pre-Separator:
 Maximum Air/Water Velocity = 1,065 m/min (3,500 ft/min)
3
flow( m / hr )  19.89 , Equation 7

Minimum Pipe Diameter (mm) =

b.


Minimum Pipe Diameter (in) = flow( ACFM )  0.052


From Pre-Separator to Vacuum Pump:
Maximum Air Velocity = 1,677 m/min (5,500 ft/min)

Minimum Pipe Diameter (mm) =


Minimum Pipe Diameter (in) =

7.

TIP 0404-55

3
flow( m / hr )  12.53 , Equation 8

flow( ACFM )  0.033

Pre-separators
Maximum Internal Velocity = 228 m/min (750 ft/min)

Minimum Inlet Separator Diameter (mm) =

Minimum Inlet Separator Diameter (in) =


Minimum Height > 2 x Diameter

8.




3
flow( m / hr )  92.83 , Equation 9

flow( ACFM )  0.245

Barometric Drop-legs
Minimum barometric dropleg length (m) = (0.0136 m x vac) + 0.9 m, Equation 10
Minimum dropleg length (feet) = (1.13 ft. x vac) + 3 ft
Maximum drain water velocity = 2.44 m/sec
Maximum drain water velocity = 8.0 ft/sec
Minimum barometric dropleg diameter (mm) =
Minimum barometric dropleg diameter (inches) =

9.




flow(l / min)  8.7 , Equation 11


flow( gpm)  0.051

Seal Pits
Seal Pit Volume = 2.5 x Dropleg Volume.
Height used in volume calculation is the distance from bottom of drop-leg to overflow drain
Length from dropleg to bottom of seal pit > 6 inches.

10. Vacuum Pump Discharge Piping


 Size: Equal to or larger than vacuum pump discharge or manifold discharge
 Run: horizontal or downhill
11. Discharge Separator/Silencers
 Maximum Internal Velocity = 228 m/min (750 ft/min)


Minimum Discharge Separator Diameter (mm) =


Minimum Discharge Separator Diameter (in) =



ACFM  30  vac )  30   0.245

3
m / hr 1000  vac)  1000   92.83 , Eq. 12

Minimum Height > 2 x Diameter

Keywords
Paper machines, Vacuum boxes, Vacuum pumps, Performance evaluations

TIP 0404-55

Performance evaluation techniques / 8


for paper machine vacuum systems

Additional information
Effective date of issue: January 19, 2001.
Task Group Members:
Jeff Pappalardo, Chairman
James Stein
Richard Reese
Jeffrey Reese
References
1.
2.
3.
4.

Pappalardo, J.P., Tappi 1995 Engineering Conference Proceedings, The Full Operating Costs of Liquid Ring
Vacuum Pumps.
TAPPI, Tappi 1999 Technical Information Papers, Guidelines for Measurement of Vacuum Pump Air Flow.
TAPPI, Tappi 1998 Technical Information Papers, Paper Machine Vacuum Selection Factors.
Smith, G.F., The Machine Vacuum System How to Get the Most Out of This Versatile Papermakers Tool.

9 / Performance evaluation techniques for paper machine vacuum systems

TIP 0404-55

Maximum Velocity  5,500 ft/min


Minimum Pipe Diameter 

ACFM x 0.033

Air-flow to Vacuum Pump

Max. Velocity  750 ft/min

Inlet
Separator

Maximum Velocity  3,500 ft/min


Minimum Pipe Diameter 

Min . D 

Discharge
Separator

ACFM x 0.245

H>2xD

ACFM x 0.052

Air/Water From Process

Water to Seal
Max. Velocity  8 ft/sec

L
L (ft) = (1.13 ft/HgV x Vacuum HgV) + 3 ft.

Max. Velocity  750 ft/min

Min . D 

X
6 in.

Min. D  ACFM x [(30 - Vac)  30] x 0.245

GPM x 0.051

H>2xD

Seal Pit Volume = 2.5 x dropleg Volume


Height X is used in volume calculation
Length from dropleg to bottom of seal pit > 6 inches