During the last 20 years, the common understanding that new industrial pumps require some basic checks and adjustments prior to installation and startup has been supplanted by a new notion that pumps arrive from the factory ready to go, a phenomenon known as "plug-and-play."
Every pump original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has its own requirements for its specific pump models and applications. The requirements to install a 60,000-horsepower (HP) boiler feed pump are different than those of a 300-HP American Petroleum Institute (API) pump or a 100-HP American National Standards Institute (ANSI) pump. Regardless of a pump's horsepower, fluid properties, speed, physical geometry or energy level, all pump installations require some basic action steps from a well-thought-out checklist to yield a successful startup.
When I have a field project to manage, I typically think of the phrase "begin with the end in mind" from Steven Covey's book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. If you imagine what a successful startup looks like, you can then evaluate the process backward and determine the steps that are required to achieve the goal.
While the sequence of required steps on the to-do list can be debated, most are self-evident. Depending on pump type, some of these steps may not be applicable. Details on how to perform these steps can be found in the manufacturer's instruction and operating manual (IOM) and in books and technical papers on the subject.
Foundations have become a frequent omission on new installations. Unfortunately, ignoring this step can lead to chronic misalignment issues from the driver to the pump and other potential problems. If you want to have a best-in-class operation that increases mean time between failures and repairs (MTBF/R) to more than five years, I highly recommend that you provide a proper foundation.
Industry rules of thumb for centrifugal pumps suggest that the foundation size should be three to five times the mass of the pump and driver combined.
Install the base on the foundation, and take steps to ensure that the base is flat and level. "Flat" is a condition (state) accomplished by the manufacturer and is difficult to properly measure in the field; however, you can ensure the foundation is flat by using a precision ground flat bar and feeler gauges. Using a level to check flatness is actually an incorrect method. The flatness specification will vary by manufacturer, application and base types.
"Level" is a condition that is adjusted and set in the field. It typically means less than 0.002 to 0.005 inches per foot in two directions. It is recommended to set the axial level first. If the unit is not level, the subsequent alignment processes will be laborious and likely incorrect. Many pumps require a specified state of level for the lubrication system to function correctly. Level is also a good practice from a rotor dynamics aspect.
Pump & Driver Installation
Install the pump and the driver (turbine/engine/motor) on the baseplate. Best practice usually calls for the pump to be placed directly on the base. Unless specified by the OEM design, it should not be shimmed.
Add the proper oil to the correct level in the pump bearing housing(s). (See my two-part article on this subject in the April and June 2015 issues of Pumps & Systems.
Initial Alignment Check
This step is often overlooked and can have negative consequences later if not conducted at this point. Once the base is grouted and/or the piping is installed, it may be too late to accomplish some simple machinery placement moves to achieve precision alignment.
Grouting the Base
Grouting is another step frequently omitted or performed incorrectly. If the grout is not added or if it does not make full contact with the base and foundation, the forces from pipe strain and machine vibrations cannot be successfully transmitted to the foundation. The top surface of the foundation and the underside of the baseplate must be properly prepared for the required grout/epoxy adhesion and bonding. Recheck the unit alignment after the grout process.
Up to this point in the process, the piping installation should not be completed within 10 feet of the pump. The universal best practice and accepted method is to pipe away from the pump and not to the pump. This strategy will prevent any pipe strain on the pump. Someone once said, "A pump is the most expensive pipe support you can buy."