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feature reducing running costs

Upgrading boiler feed pumps in a

UK coal-fired power station
The reduction in running costs following a carefully considered pump modification can
effectively pay back the initial expense, as in the case of the upgrade of a series of boiler
feed pumps in a UK 2000 MW coal-fired power station where life cycle costs were used to
justify capital investment. Peter Irlam, an aftermarket technical services manager at
Flowserve Pump Division, provides the details.

n light of the deregulation of the

UK electricity industry, power
stations needed to become
flexible in terms of generating load
and operating times, with numerous
starts/stops and part-load operation
becoming the norm. At Fiddlers
Ferry, a 2000 MW coal-fired power
station commissioned in the 1960s,
the fundamental design of a 12 000
kW boiler feed pump (BFP) and aging
associated ancillary equipment led to
significant reliability problems when
faced with these new operating
demands. Moreover, the power
station had been given a finite life
and the associated reduction in
maintenance spend had further
aggravated the situation. However,
with the increasing cost of gas and
relatively low price of coal, older
fossil fuel fired power stations became
more economical to run.
Faced with this situation, Flowserve
worked with the customer to
understand the root causes of the
pump and system problems. An
upgrade solution was proposed, using
life cycle costs (LCC) to calculate the
reduced maintenance and operating

Figure 1. Applied
approach to problem


0262 1762/06 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved

costs on a return-on-investment
reliability/availability is expected
to significantly increase the pumps
mean time between overhauls
(MTBO) to 70 000 hours (eight
years). The first of the upgraded
pumps is now installed, operating
very satisfactorily and assisting with
the generation of 25 MW more
electricity than with the original BFP.

The initial scenario

Fiddlers Ferry power station consists
of four units generating 500 MW,
each containing a Mather & Platt
16-16 Plurovane main boiler
driven by a steam turbine, together
with two start & standby boiler
feed pumps (SSBFP) driven by
variable speed motors. Up to the
1990s, the station generated at full
load power totalling 2000 MW, as per
the original design. During this
period the MBFPs were operating
almost nonstop. This optimum
condition resulted in a reasonable
reliability of the pumps.

With deregulation of the electricity

industry, and the subsequent
increased competitiveness of the
market, the station had to adopt a
more-flexible operating regime,
generating only at times when
economically viable. Two-shifting
became the normal mode of
operation with the pumps only
operating at peak demand times
between low and high pump loads.
The result was that the pump units
were being started and stopped an
ever-increasing number of times.
This had a significant effect on the
reliability of the boiler feed pumps.
Observation of the cartridges during
overhauls revealed a number of
failure modes. The pumps were
usually stopped because their
efficiency had deteriorated so much
that their performance did not meet
the demands of the boiler.
The performance degradation was a
result of high internal wear.
In addition, the first stage impeller
suffered from severe cavitation and
recirculation damage, often resulting
in an out-of-balance force that
increased the vibration levels of the
pump above alarm-trip levels.
The maintenance spend on the
pumps was far above average and,
with the foreseen requirements on
the pump, the situation would only
get worse.
Flowserve had worked with this
power station previously, looking at
the reliability of the SSBFP, which
had an MTBO of around 600 hours.
As such, the company was familiar

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

feature reducing running costs

with the designs of the MBFPs and

proposed the course of action
outlined in Figure 1.



History and field

The history and field measurements
were collated by a week-long site
survey carried out by a team of five
The agreed agenda with the customer
was to:
Review MBFP current operating
Determine the pump requirements
Review historical files detailing
pump failures (internal and
Obtain system and machine
Perform customer archive review
Measure hydraulic performance
and dynamic behaviour of the
Obtain historical MBFP maintenance costs.

Figure 2. (a) Historical main boiler feed pump (MBFP) cartridges changes; (b) MBFP starts per unit per year.

wear/erosion causing loss of pump

performance, and only one for a
planned overhaul.
The average MTBO for unit 4 was <9
months and the MTBO for units
1, 2 and 3 was <3 years.

Reverse engineering
A common observation during a
cartridge change-out was severe
damage to the first stage impeller, as
shown in Figure 3.
In order to determine the root cause
of the vane erosion, several
parameters were reviewed:

On completion of the site survey, a

detailed engineering report was
produced for the customer indicating
the areas of the pump design and
operation contributing to the poor
reliability. Some major observations
were made.

Net positive suction head

available (NPSHA) versus NPSH
required (NPSHR)
Onset of suction eye recirculation
Onset of discharge recirculation
General hydraulics of the first
stage impeller.

From 1998 to 2003 the number of

start/stops on the MBFP increased
from an average of 100 per unit to
239 per year (Figure 2).

During testing of BFPs before 1990,

3% head decay on the total pump
head was used to determine NPSHR.
Current BFP specifications require
NPSH testing based on 3% head
decay over the first stage impeller.
The difference is large: for a sixstage BFP, a 3% total head decay
is equivalent to an 18% head drop
over the first stage impeller.
The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) data for NPSHR
looked like calculated rather than
tested data and it could not be
determined whether it was 3% of the
total pump or first stage head.

Before 1993, when the station

introduced two-shifting operation,
the average MTBO was 44 months.
After 1993, over a period of ten years,
the average cartridge MTBO was
21 months.
Of the 16 cartridge changes between
1998 and 2003 (Figure 2), seven
were for vibration, five as a result
of pump seizure, two through

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

Figure 3. Typical recirculation damage to

the first stage impeller vanes.

On site, the MBFP are fed directly

from a deaerator mounted 30 m above
the pump centre line. Taking into
account pipework friction losses, the
calculated NPSH available was 24 m.
From the OEM curves, the NPSH
required was 22.5 m, giving a margin
ratio of 1.08. This is entirely
insufficient for BFP applications,
where margins of NPSHA/NPSHR
>>1.5 are required. It would not be
possible to increase the NPSHA;
instead, the NPSHR would have to
be reduced to improve the margin
From the impeller hydraulic design
information, the onset of both the
suction and discharge recirculation
(Figure 4) was calculated using the
methods of Fraser1. The discharge
recirculation was 15001550 m3/h,
less than the best efficiency point
(BEP) of the pump. Also, the vane
overlap was very small, a symptom
that contributes to a strong suction
eye recirculation. Both recirculations
present will result in pump
performance degradation with an
associated loss in efficiency.
The hydraulic review had pinpointed
the reasons behind the damage to the

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feature reducing running costs



Figure 4. (a) Impeller suction eye recirculation; (b) discharge recirculation.

first stage impeller. Recirculation was

occurring during normal pump
operation leading to extensive
damage. This operating condition
caused loss of impeller material,
leading to the rotor going out

Figure 5. (a) Original impeller/diffuser design. (b) Predicted radial

force (Data B) for six impeller vane/five diffuser vane combination.

of balance. Continued operation

resulted in increasing pump vibration
Many operating parameters were
recorded during the site survey.
Vibration spectra taken on the
bearing housings showed the erosioninduced out-of-balance signal but
coincident with the vane passing
frequency (VPF). There were six
vanes in the impellers, leading to an
ever-present vibration signature at
six times the running speed. This
vibration signature was caused by the
interaction with the five vanes in the
diffuser. It is well known that
impeller/diffuser vane combinations
having a numerical difference of one
maximize VPF vibration. Further
detailed analysis using in-house
proprietary software programs Pump
Doctor and Pulsatr predicted
severe pulsations, with rotor
vibrations at 6x running speed
(see Figure 5).
Data B represents the magnitude and
direction of the resultant radial force
for 60 of rotor rotation, caused by
the hydraulic interaction between
the impellers and diffusers [NB: Data
A does not apply to this analysis].
The orbit of force rotates 360 for
every 60 of rotor movement. Hence,
for one revolution of the rotor the
resultant force rotates six times,
equating to VPF as measured. Note
also that the magnitude of the force
from the origin equates to about ten.

Figure 6. (a) Proposed design with a seven-vane impeller and a ninevane diffuser. (b) Predicted radial force for the proposed
impeller/diffuser vane combination.


The same software programs were

used to predict the vibration
behaviour of a proposed hydraulic
design with seven impeller vanes and

nine diffuser vanes. Pump Doctor

predicted some pulsations, rotor
vibrations at 28x running speed
(Figure 6). Data B representing the
resultant radial load no longer rotates
but has a random pattern. In
addition, the magnitude of the force
is of the order of one.

Investigation of the headflow
operating point of the pump showed
the pump performance curve was not
matched to the actual operating
conditions. The BEP of the existing
hydraulics was too high for the actual
100% operating point of the pump.
As a consequence, the pump was
operating below peak efficiency, a
situation made even worse when
operating at part load.
From the operating data review, the
units were operating for 50% of the
time at 100% block load (489 MW),
and 50% of the time at 60% block
load (292 MW).
Once the operating scenario was
understood, the hydraulic design
could be tailored to best meet the
actual demands of the power station,
i.e. providing the highest possible
efficiency at the power plants future
operating conditions (Figure 7).

Energy saving
The power station feed-water system
was reviewed for possible energy
savings using actual operating data,
and various opportunities were

improvements on the
The MBFP optimized for efficiency
with the operating scenario between
100% and 60% block load,
combined with new impeller/diffuser
design, gives higher peak efficiency

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

feature reducing running costs

2.5 to 3 bar. This pressure drop
presents an opportunity to reduce
valve throttling and save energy as a
result of the lower MBFP drive power.
Once the MBFPs are retrofitted with
more reliable cartridges, the entire
boiler regulation can be done by
speed regulation rather than by valve
throttling combined with speed
A 10 bar reduced valve throttling at
100% block load equates to a pump
power reduction of 648 kW. With a
plant thermal efficiency of 36% this
represents 1800 kW of boiler heat.
Figure 7. Comparison of existing over designed hydraulics versus new optimized

(+6%) than the original pump

generates large energy savings
in the drive power needed from
the MBFP steam turbine. This saving
amounts to 420 kW which, with a
thermal efficiency of 36%, is equal to
1167 kW of boiler heat. The MBFP in
unit 4 had additional performance
degradation due to head reduction
resulting from suction recirculation,
hence the damage observed on unit 4
impeller vanes (Figure 3). The
measured head degradation on the
unit 4 MBFP was 184 m of head,
resulting in 821 kW of extra drive
power required from the steam
turbine, which represents 2200 kW of
boiler heat.
Finally, steam tapped from the outlet
of the high-pressure (HP) stage of the
main turbine reached the auxiliary
steam turbine outlet at too low a
pressure for it to flow back to the
deaerator after passing through the
HP heaters. This required the steam
to flow back to the condenser,
thermodynamic efficiency. The
power plant operated with an
additional steam tap from the main
turbine IP (intermediate pressure)
stage fed into the last stage of the
auxiliary steam turbine to increase
the back pressure of this steam
turbine, allowing the outlet steam to
be returned to the deaerator, which is
mounted 30 m higher, rather than all
the steam flowing to the condenser.

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

Upgrading the MBFP hydraulics to

generate a much lower drive power
for the steam turbine could possibly
eliminate the turbine back pressure
problem, resulting in a large gain in
thermodynamic efficiency.

Reduced regulator
valve throttling
The pressure drop across the
feedwater regulator valve over the
pump operating range is in excess
of 10 bar. For Benson and sliding
drum type boilers this is normally

HP injection, super
heated, tapped from
Currently, the superheated HP
injection water is tapped from the
boiler economizer manifold and all
attemperation is heated in the highpressure heaters. This HP injection
could be tapped directly from the
MBFP, if equipped with a special
certainly when energy savings by
implemented. By increasing only 5%
of the injection flow to the required

HP turbine
LP turbine
IP turbine




LP heaters






Figure 8. Thermodynamic analysis of steam cycle (where HP, IP and LP = high, intermediate and low pressure,
respectively; HP5..HP7 are high-pressure feedwater heaters).

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feature reducing running costs

Figure 9. Life cycle

costs for MBFP
(1 = c. 1.48).

problem areas that were improved

in the upgraded design (Figure 11)
as follows:
Single suction first stage impeller.
Suction specific speed (Nss) >14 000.
This is very high for a BFP and should
be closer to 9500. The pump requires
a double suction first stage impeller
optimized for minimum NPSHR and
reduced suction and discharge

injection pressure, rather than all the

pump mass flow, the drive power of the
MBFP can be reduced for 95% of the
MBFP mass flow, which is instead
increased to the lower boiler inlet
pressure rather than the injection
pressure. This lower drive power for the
MBFP represents 3194 kW of boiler
heat savings.

A one-off engineering study

in 2003
Installation of one upgraded
MBFP per year starting in 2004
Eight years MTBO for upgraded
LCC does not include the extra 25
MW generating capacity owing
to the installed MBFP unit.

The energy savings, all expressed

in boiler heat, were calculated
using an average cost of 2 per
gigajoule (GJ) of boiler heat and 8000 h
of operation per year in the 60%
to 100% block load range.
A combination of reduced boiler
regulating valve throttling, attemperation injection and using a
small kicker stage impeller on the
MBFP, together with optimized
boiler fuel savings of 370 000
on units 1, 2 and 3 and 505 000
for unit 4.

Figure 9 charts the summation () of

annual costs from the start of the
project to the stations expected life,

Flowserve conducted a full thermodynamic analysis of the steam water

circuit, using the commercially
available Gate cycle software to
analyse the existing and modified
conditions (Figure 8).
The customer chose not to invest in
the energy saving opportunities
associated with HP injection and the
regulating valve. As such the LCC
projection was based on the
installation of a new, more-efficient
cartridge. The LCC model is
based on:


upgrade costs = cost of the pump

upgrade including, MBFP, SSBFP,
technician, savings
yearly costs no improve =
projection of annual costs to run
station with no improvements
pay back = difference between
projected yearly costs without
improvements and upgrade costs.
With the extra generating capacity
of the upgraded MBFP, the
pay back period will be well
before the projection of 2008.
savings are made on an annual

Original pump
design critique
A design review of the existing pump
(Figure 10) revealed a number of

Hydraulics too large. New pump

performance is based on actual
operating conditions with BEP
optimized for 100% and part load
operation, using proven high
efficiency hydraulics tailored to fit in
the existing barrel.
Discharge head too thin. Finite
element analysis showed deflection
at the gasket area leading to steam
leaks. The new discharge head is
designed to ASME VIII pressure
vessel calculations.
Discharge head to barrel fit. Open
fit sealed by Grayloc gasket; leads
misaligned cartridges. Upgraded
design to have metal-to-metal fit
with controlled compression gasket
allowing proper stud pre-load and
torque sequence.
counteracts the entire residual
the pump and negates the
requirement for a thrust bearing.
with a very close axial clearance
making them unsuitable for fluids
containing any particles or for
pumps with varying operating
conditions, without a springloaded thrust bearing arrangement.
The upgraded pump is fitted
with a balance drum, which
operates with a higher clearance
and can tolerate changes in
pump operating conditions. This
design change requires the use
of an associated thrust bearing to
accommodate the residual axial

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

feature reducing running costs

Coupling. Existing coupling is a very

heavy lubricated gear type design
causing an overhung mode predicted
by the rotor dynamic analysis.
Replaced with a lightweight disc
coupling requiring no lubrication.


equipment limited to accelerometers
on bearing housings. New cartridge to
be additionally fitted with noncontacting radial and axial shaft probes
hardwired to the on-line monitoring
system. Embedded temperature probes
are fitted to the journal together with
active and inactive thrust bearing pads.


Recirculation in Centrifugal Pumps,
Machine Design, (1982).

The author thanks the management and engineers in the water

services group at Fiddlers Ferry

Power Station.
Michael Daugherty
Marketing communications manager
Flowserve Pumps
2200 E Monument Ave
Dayton, OH 45402, USA.
Tel: +1-937-226-4376
E-mail: MDaugherty@flowserve.com

Existing wear part materials improved

to PTA (plasma transferred arc) weld
overlay rotating wear parts and
HVOF (high velocity oxy fuel)
overlaid stationary wear parts. This
combination offers the best anti-galling
properties whilst maintaining the
pump performance.
Existing 180 bearing housings
replaced by 360 bearing housings.
These offer greater rigidity, maintaining pump alignment at all times.

This whole process of installation of
the upgraded MBFP was mapped out
to the customer at the beginning of
the investigation. Each of the steps of
the problem solving approach outlined in Figure 1 has been completed
and reported to the customer. By
working closely with the customer, a
detailed LCC model was produced
accurately reflecting the future costs
with and without upgraded cartridges.
This cost justification together with
success stories of working together in
the past, made for an attractive
proposal to the customer. The first
in August 2004, naturally not without
teething issues. However, these were
quickly resolved with the cooperation between Flowserve and the
customer. The unit has been running
successfully since then with vibration
levels of 0.8 mm/s as measured on the
bearing housings.

WORLD PUMPS January 2006

Figure 10. Original MBFP design.

Figure 11. Upgraded MBFP design.

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