When is a vertical turbine pump an optimal solution?
by Jose Gutierrez
February 16, 2018

For example, an operator seeking high pressures with volumes ranging from 30 gallons per minute (gpm) to 2,800 gpm and high heads to 4,500 feet or more can achieve this with a vertical multi-stage low-flow, high-head pump. The latest vertical turbine pump technology makes it possible to provide a 30-stage pump with less than 7 feet height featuring a short compact stack of impellers.

An example of an industry benefiting from this pump design and technology are boiler feed applications in the power market. Traditionally, some of these applications are supplied by horizontal pumps. Verticals can be an improved solution in this type of scenario.

Challenging Field Environments
Sometimes installations are in environments with extreme temperatures. A vertical pump can go below ground, away from the elements, avoiding exposure of equipment and liquids to extreme, frigid temperatures at ground level that can wreak havoc on a traditional horizontal pump. Being below ground at more stable temperatures can often eliminate the need to make additional accommodations to equipment to enable the pump to function properly. Some of the latest vertical technologies feature radially split, double-walled pressure casings with metal-to-metal fits and controlled compression gaskets. This design functionality is ideal for light hydrocarbon applications. Finally, some regions or markets have limitations due to regulations. A vertical pump can feature reduced can length and low specific speed Ns resulting in minimal excavation to meet uploading and storage of light hydrocarbons in a confined space.

Many high head applications involve pumping low specific gravity hydrocarbons in a VS6 suction can arrangement.Image 2. Many high head applications involve pumping low specific gravity hydrocarbons in a VS6 suction can arrangement.

Evolving Site Needs
Users face many challenges within the markets described above—harsh elements, high temperatures and hazardous materials. A major trend is occurring on sites where the needs evolve over time. There is a need for a scalable pump design platform allowing right sizing for pumping needs. This flexibility and convenience towards customization allows for many advantages on these type of job sites. For example, a vertical pump can be purchased in five stages or impellers to meet maximum head or pressure requirements of the system to cover the pressure required by the system each year.

This is not possible with a horizontal pump. Instead the entire investment must be made upfront for the equipment. Spacing out the purchase can be a major factor in a purchasing evaluation and decision. Choosing the right vertical pump solution is made easier with a phased investment in purchasing pump equipment as needed. This enables a site operator to order a pump that they need for today and into the short-term future, but also features a scalable design where they can easily order more stages and stack impellers as head needs increase.

An example would be a mining operator only needs one stage for the first year of operations in a specific pumping application. In the second year, more stages are needed and the flexibility and customization available via a vertical pump design enables a staged or phased purchase based on immediate needs. As more pressure is needed, then more stages can be added. In addition, in many instances a variable frequency drive (VFD) is often paired with these pumping solutions in the oil and gas market, to manage specific gravities of liquids and avoid changing drivers and pumps due to over loads.

The Bottom Line

Selecting a vertical pump over a horizontal pump in many energy related applications can often result in less downtime and more accurate preventative maintenance schedules at the site, resulting in more efficient, reliable and profitable operations. Understanding the functionality and features of all available pump design options, helps to increase uptime due to lowered pump vibration levels and less wear and tear on internal pump components. Armed with a more thorough understanding, pump operators can more accurately assess all options and make an informed decision that keeps their operations online longer and improves the bottom line.