Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 13

Table of Contents

Draft Fans

1. Introduction 1

2. Basic Design 2

3. Malfunction Behavior 4

4. Process Effects 8

5. Information Required 11

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 1

Introduction--Draft Fans
In this section, we want to investigate the major fans found in a power plant that
can be placed into the category "Draft Fans." These are typically Induced Draft, Forced
Draft, Primary Air and Gas Recirculation fans. These fans fall mostly into two
categories: centrifugal and axial. Centrifugal fans are by far the most common type of
fan used in power plants. This topic presents information that lets the user know what
types of behavior can be expected from fans, what monitoring is recommended and what
to look for when conducting diagnostics on these fans.

REV B 129285-01
Page 2 Applied Diagnostics

Basic Design---Fans
In this section, we want to cover the basic design of the centrifugal and axial fans
found in power plants. Specifically we want to focus on the design aspects of these fans
that cause them to behave the way they do, and what makes some behavior very unlikely.

Flue Gas or Outlet

Air Inlet

Inlet Guide

Bearing Bearing

Wheel / Rotor

Figure 1 Centifugal Draft Fan

Centrifugal Fans
Consider a centrifugal fan rotor. Usually it consists of a shaft with a bearing
(usually journal type) on each end; the fan wheel and blade assembly are located near the
middle and the shaft with a coupling on the inboard end. The typical centrifugal fan has
no moving parts on the rotor, and the fan wheel is fabricated then welded together.
Centrifugal fans have rotors that can be either one piece (a shaft with the fan wheel
pieces welded on) or be a multiple piece design. The multiple piece design employs shaft
stubs bolted to the fan wheel, so that the rotor acts as if it is one piece. Centrifugal fans
tend to be very rigid units and have generous clearances around the wheel so that rubs
and blade passing vibrations don't usually occur. The bearings used on draft fans are
usually journal type, sleeve or rolling element for small fans. Draft fans rarely run faster

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 3

than 1800 rpm; larger fans are more likely to run at 900 rpm. These fans are probably
running below their first balance resonance speed. Most of the time these fans are
constructed from metals that are classified as plain or low carbon steel. This metal has
good ductility and crack resistance properties. Fans used downstream of a wet scrubber
are sometimes made of an alloy steel selected for its corrosion resistance properties.
These fans may be more prone to cracking since this material tends not to be as ductile as
plain carbon steel.

Axial Fans
Axial fans have long blades radiating outward from the geometric center of the
shaft. The rotor of an axial fan is either a one or a multiple piece design. Axial fans
sometimes have variable pitch blades which involve some fairly complex mechanisms.
These mechanisms present more opportunities for unbalance to occur within an axial fan
than a centrifugal fan. The fact that the fan and bearing assembly, and sometimes the
driver, are inside the air duct, usually necessitates radial struts and other pieces inside
the duct. When impacted by the pressure waves coming off of the fan, these pieces can
cause blade passing frequency vibrations to be generated. Axial fans typically have
internal clearances much closer than found in centrifugal fans, which make them more
desirable from an efficiency standpoint, but can also cause them to rub and generate
aerodynamic instabilities more easily than a centrifugal fan. Axial fan bearings are
typically journal type, sleeve or rolling element on smaller fans.

REV B 129285-01
Page 4 Applied Diagnostics

Malfunction Behavior---Fans
In the last section, we looked briefly at the design aspects of centrifugal and axial
type fans. In this section, we want to discuss the typical behavior evidenced when
examining a draft fan's vibration response. This behavior occurs largely as a result of the
design and operational environment of the fan.

Unbalance is probably the most common problem occurring in draft fans. When
you look at the design of the typical draft fan, it is not hard to see why. A draft fan has a
large diameter wheel centered on the shaft between the bearings. The wheel is large
enough in diameter that a small weight change at the outside of the wheel can create a
significant unbalance force. A fan wheel typically sits in the center of the bearing span
of a symmetrical rotor where the first mode response is the greatest. The most
deflection takes place at the mid-span therefore, fan wheels are easily affected by
unbalance. Unbalance effects can also be generated by bows in the rotor. Fan shafts are
long enough that, when shut down for long periods of time, they can bow; the typical
maintenance outage is long enough for this to occur. Large fans are sometimes equipped
with turning gear, so the bow can be rolled out before they are started. In all cases, be
sure to check slow roll vectors before balancing is attempted. Fans that move hot gasses,
Induced Draft (ID) and Gas Recirculation (GR) tend to be more susceptible to this
behavior. ID and GR fans in coal plants are prone to unbalance problems caused by fly
ash erosion. Fans moving ambient air into the boiler experience unbalance due to the
deposition of dirt and other foreign material on the blades. Usually, a good washing will
remove contamination buildup; it is always good practice to wash fans before balancing
is attempted. Any fan with a hollow hub or blade assembly that is not sealed can
experience unbalance due to foreign material entering the hub and acting like an
unbalance mass. This foreign material may move each time the fan is started or stopped
and can make balancing very difficult. Axial fans with variable pitch blades are
mechanically much more complex and, therefore, more susceptible to unbalance caused
by parts moving or coming off entirely.

Rubs in Centrifugal Fans

Any rubbing that occurs in centrifugal fans usually occurs after maintenance at
shaft penetrations into the housing, where the fan inlet transitions to the inlet of the fan
wheel. The fan rotor system stiffness is not likely to be modified by the relatively

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 5

flexible structure of the fan housing, so any rubbing is not likely to change the fan's
vibration response. The most usual outcome of something rubbing on the fan rotor is
that the rubbing part is worn away until it no longer rubs. Shaft seals often rub,
however, shaft seals are usually soft thin metal that does not have the strength to transmit
sufficient force to the rotor to modify its stiffness.

Rubs in Axial Fans

Axial fans typically don't have the same inlet arrangement as centrifugal fans, so
there is usually nothing to rub on the shaft or hub in this area. Any rubbing that occurs
in an axial fan usually occurs at the blade tips when something is wrong with the fan
housing. For a rub to occur at the blade tips, there would have to be fairly significant
movement of the housing, fan blade(s) or the whole fan assembly. If this much
movement did occur in an axial fan, there should be something visibly detectable.

Aerodynamic Problems in Axial Fans

Aerodynamic problems are not often seen in centrifugal fans because of the large
clearances and smooth interior surfaces. Axial fans typically have bearing supports and
struts close enough to the fan to generate blade passing frequency vibrations. Axial fan
housings tend to be more flexible and vibrate more as a result. Blade passing vibration is
usually detectable with seismic transducers mounted on anything connected to the fan
duct. Aerodynamic effects also causes the axial fan to be noisier that a centrifugal fan.
The aerodynamic effects caused by pressure waves bouncing off of the structure in the
fan or duct can cause interference patterns which travel opposite to the direction of flow
and are a major cause of inefficiency and vibration in axial fans. Any projection close to
the blade tips will be struck with the turbulent wave coming off of the blade tip and can
therefore vibrate at blade passing frequency. Any change in the physical geometry of the
inside of the fan or duct work is likely to cause a change in the noise level of the fan and
the vibration of the fan housing. Any significant change in the vibration level of the fan
housing, accompanied by a change in the fan's noise level, could be indicative of
something coming lose and should be investigated.

Shaft Cracks in Centrifugal Fans

Shaft cracks occur in draft fans often enough to be something that should be
looked for. Centrifugal fans have a better reputation for not breaking than axial fans but

REV B 129285-01
Page 6 Applied Diagnostics

they too have been known to crack. Centrifugal fans are usually constructed in one of
two ways. In the first method, the fan hub is sandwiched between two flanges machined
into or shrunk on the shaft halves. The shaft halves and hub are then bolted together
with the hub in the middle to form the fan shaft. The second method is to fabricate the
fan rotor by welding the blades and side shrouds together on the shaft, forming a one
piece rotor.

As with any rotating shaft, stress concentrations should be avoided, for example
corners should be rounded. Usually, the metal used in fan rotors is plain carbon steel
and is, therefore, not particularly susceptible to cracking. Where more exotic metals are
used for corrosion or abrasion resistance or where corrosion resistant overlays are
applied, cracks are more of a concern. A crack in a fan shaft should behave like any
other shaft crack with amplitude and phase shifts as the crack progresses. A fan rotor is
usually quite heavy, and the fan housing is usually light enough that if the shaft did
break in two pieces the housing would probably not be able to contain it. If the bolts on
a rotor which was bolted together were to come loose the rotor would bow as it would
with a crack. As the bolts get loose and fall out or break, the phase angle would change
in a step-wise fashion rather than the smooth continuous phase shift like some cracked
rotors. The bolts on this type of rotor almost never fail and are rarely ever removed, so
this is not a major concern. However, they should at least be checked periodically.

Shaft Cracks in Axial Fans

Axial fans, particularly those with variable pitch blades, have complex hub geometries
and are more prone to developing cracks. The vibration caused by blade passing
exacerbates this situation. As a result of this (and the more complex mechanism used)
axial flow fans have gained a reputation for coming apart in a catastrophic fashion.

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 7

Process Effects---DRAFT FANS

A fan's job is to move air or flue gas from or through the boiler. This is
accomplished by putting energy into the air or flue gas in much the same way as a
centrifugal pump moves liquid. As with a pump, a change in suction or discharge
conditions will change the fans performance and horsepower requirements. Fan
assemblies (fan, coupling, motor, dampers) can be load or flow-sensitive, so a change in
flow (load) can cause a change in their vibration response. When a fan's vibration is
measured, these process effects can change the measured "fan" vibration.



Water SO2 Scubber
Boiler Collector
Substation Air Heater


Cooling Induced
Tower Draft Fan

Combustion Air

Generator Primary
Air Fan

Makeup Condenser

Circulating Pump Forced

Draft Fan
Condensate Pump

Boiler Heaters
Low Pressure Feed
Heaters Pump

Coal Pulverization Coal Supply

Figure 2 Power Plant Arrangement

One of the most common process variables that affect a fan's performance
(temporarily) is sootblowing. When sootblowing, it is common to see increased fan
motor current and changes in air flow and damper position. The reason for this is that
there is a greater volume of material (the normal flue gas plus steam or water vapor and
all the material that is blown off the tubes) that the fan has to move. Sootblowing can
also upset the boiler pressure a little and cause the control system to call for more air
which puts more load on the fan and probably increases nitrous oxide emissions. When

REV B 129285-01
Page 8 Applied Diagnostics

collecting fan vibration information or trying to diagnose a fan problem, be sure that you
know the conditions under which the problem is manifested, so you can track the
problem down. If a problem is manifested in the sootblowing situation mentioned
above, the fan is probably responding to increased load (or speed, if variable speed), so
try changing the load to see if you can make the problem appear (if not too severe).
Once you know what causes the undesirable response, it becomes easier to understand
and detect the root cause of the problem.

Fans don't tend to be temperature sensitive, probably because of the generous

internal clearances and the fact that the range of temperature the typical fan works in is
not very great. Still, if a problem suddenly occurs don't count temperature out totally
because there is the potential within a boiler system to overheat a fan, (usually, Induced
Draft and Gas Recirculation fans) and warp the sheet metal or get the rotor hot enough to
affect the bearings. FD and PA (Forced Draft and Primary Air) fans usually draw air
from outside and can develop ice on the rotor, causing unbalance. Ice can form ice over
the inlet screens or inlet air heaters and change the fan's suction conditions.

Most fans operate at a single speed, a few are two speed and very few are variable
speed; however, variable speed fans are becoming more popular. Variable speed drives
introduce other variables to consider. First, shaft position typically changes when the
speed is changed. When speed is changed, fans will operate nearer of farther from a
resonance. It is also possible to operate on a resonance. Very often electronic variable
speed drives introduce vibration frequencies electrically by the way the electric sine
wave output to the motor is reproduced. Electronic variable speed drives can also cause
significant torsional vibrations in the motor if the drive is not operating correctly. If a
fan is experiencing abnormal vibration and the motor is driven by an electronic drive, try
bypassing the drive or changing the speed and see what happens. The vibrations
generated by this type of drive will mostly affect the motor, however, if the fan vibration
transducers are seismic, they are likely to detect this vibration. Torsional vibrations can
transfer across the coupling (depending on the type), but because of the fan rotor inertia,
may not be detected on the fan. Also, be sure to look at the motor when diagnosing a fan
problem; a fan does not drive itself.

As we mentioned earlier, a fan is designed to operate within a fixed range of

differential pressure. There are many circumstances that can change the fan's operating
conditions and cause it to be suspect. A common cause of this is related to the operation
or mis-operation of the fan inlet or outlet dampers. The fan can be working to full
capacity, but if the dampers aren't opening, the boiler won't see it. A coal-fired boiler
could be partially plugged if the sootblowing system is not working correctly.
Expansion joints can blow out or get sucked in and wreak havoc with the air flow.
Turning vanes sometimes break and cause a disturbance in the air or gas flow and make

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 9

the fan seem to not work correctly. There should be an indication of these problems on
the boiler draft gauges, so you should always check to see if the draft readings are
normal and correct. This can often pinpoint the area where the problem is.
Sometimes (not very often fortunately) boilers experience a rapid-uncontrolled
expansion of gasses (a puff) within its internals. If the incident is not very big and
happens on back shift, it is possible that nobody will talk about it. Sometimes these
puffs bend blades, dampers or ductwork and blow expansion joints out. These
occurrences can affect the fan vibration and performance, and you are left to figure out
why the fan is not behaving correctly. Always look around, and check the related system
out for clues to the cause of the behavior. A fan, like any other machine, responds to
internal and external forces generated within or acting on it. These forces are transmitted
physically, and often the mechanism of transmission is visible to the naked eye.

REV B 129285-01
Page 10 Applied Diagnostics

Information Required---Draft Fans

Let's examine what sort of vibration information is needed to conduct accurate
diagnostics and monitoring on a fan and, therefore, what the minimum instrumentation
should be.

Knowing fan speed is necessary to get so you can know that the fan is basically
running within specification. On variable speed machines, it is essential. Speed
requires a Keyphasor probe or other-once-per turn indicator to be installed. With
speed, the vibration signals can be filtered into their components for balancing and
diagnostics, and polar, Bode and cascade plots can be generated to monitor the fans
transient response. Shaft position information is needed to indicate the alignment
condition, and indicate the bearing clearance and shaft eccentricity position. XY
proximity probes are needed to be able to read shaft position movements. With XY
probes and a Keyphasor transducer, you can develop orbit plots which show the shaft
motion within the bearing and show misalignment very clearly. With a Keyphasor
transducer and XY proximity probes, virtually all of the vibration information needed to
conduct complete diagnostics and or monitoring is available. These probes don't even
need to be connected to a permanent monitoring system, but can be connected to a patch
panel for periodic monitoring. Permanently-mounted probes will yield very consistent,
and, therefore, very useful vibration information. The reason for this discussion is that
most fans and like equipment are not equipped with monitoring of any kind, and this is
basically wrong. When a fan is not functioning correctly, information is needed and is
sought, and the lack of information is cursed. For a very small capitol investment, the
necessary transducers can be installed that will allow for complete vibration diagnostics
and monitoring to take place. Many people cripple themselves with insufficient
information when the cost of insufficient information is usually far greater than that of
installing permanent probes.

A list of information normally required is as follows:

1. Vibration information

1X and 2X amplitude and phase trends. Direct vibration

information. Orbit shape and shaft centerline motion information. Any
changes in transient response and spectral components should be noted.

2. Bearing metal temperatures

Current operating conditions versus trend data and normal.

REV B 129285-01
Fans--Introduction Page 11

3. Oil type and maintenance history

Is the correct oil in the bearings or did somebody add the

wrong oil?

4. Unit load versus reference

5. Air and gas flow versus reference

6. Motor phase voltage and current versus reference

7. Damper position

Are the dampers where they should be?

8. Air flow controller output versus setpoint versus reference

REV B 129285-01