Pump System Improvement
by Ray Hardee

For the last two years I have had the pleasure of writing Pump System Improvement columns for Pumps & Systems magazine. Each column has centered on a typical problem occurring within an operating piping system. The articles started out by providing a system introduction, the suspected difficulty, the troubleshooting conducted to determine the problem and the recommended system improvements.

For the majority of my career, I have been involved with explaining how the various parts of a fluid piping system work together. I have found the best approach is to stick with the basics of how the energy is added to the system and how the system uses that energy.

This led to developing a piping system model, which provides a clear picture of system operation by showing the interaction of the various items found in a working piping system.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a full-motion flight simulator at Boeing. Commercial airline pilots spend an action-packed week in a simulator every six months to practice emergency procedures for the planes they fly.

Using a simulator to practice these challenging procedures does not put the physical airplane or passengers in jeopardy. The flight simulator utilizes a user interface similar to the cockpit, which is connected to a computer program that has the airplanes’ flight characteristics and accurately reflects the operation of the physical aircraft.

I then started thinking about developing a piping system simulator program for use in designing new systems to gain a better understanding of how an existing system operates and to look for ways to reduce energy and maintenance costs.

With this computer program, users can build a piping system model using a drawing interface—similar to a piping drawing—complete with available plant design data. Once the model is built, the piping system simulator shows how the items in the total system work together. Using a piping system model with the simulator allows users to see how the system should operate under any proposed changes without affecting the operation of the physical piping system.

New Direction

Going forward, my Pump System Improvement columns will focus on the equipment found in the system along with the interactions of the various items. Once the model is built and has been tested, the calculated results of the piping system model will accurately represent the observations of the physical piping system.

With an accurate model of the piping system, we can use the simulation to see how a physical piping system should operate without affecting the operation of the physical system. For example, changing the flow rate through the piping system model will demonstrate the effects on the physical piping system.

The piping system model can offer other insights as well. The piping system model is built on design data along with manufacturers’ supplied test data when the equipment is new. Any difference between the validated piping system model and the current operation of the physical piping system will be caused by wear and tear on the equipment in the operating system. The only other possible reason for the difference is if the engineering principles used to build the model no longer pertain to the physical piping system.

When developing the piping system model, it is important to remember that all the information is based on available design specifications. Once the data for the model is available, calculations can be performed using a hand calculator, a computer spreadsheet or piping system simulation program.

Pump System Improvement columns will continue to cover the engineering principles, equipment physical properties and equipment needed to build a piping system model. In each column, we will cover tricks and tips that readers can use in everyday operations in their piping systems.

In recent months, supplemental information has been posted directly to the Pumps & Systems website in the form of online-exclusive articles to further explain various topics.

Pump System Improvement articles will continue to be available on pumpsandsystems.com for use as references for future articles or for review at a later date. Pump System Improvement subjects will be adjusted to better meet readers’ needs based on reader suggestions for new topics and feedback. Readers can continue to reach me with their comments, questions and suggestions by email at ray.hardee@eng-software.com.

As always, I am looking forward to working with the editorial staff members at Pumps & Systems. They are dedicated to provide their readers with timely information needed to operate and maintain fluid piping systems.

To read more Pump System Improvement columns, click here.