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When Pipe Flow Modeling Is Not Enough

Within the world of pumping system specialists there is a wide range of areas of domain expertise. I was reminded of this earlier this month while attending the AFT Calgary User Group meeting sponsored by AFT's Canadian channel partner. One of the invited speakers, Jordan Grose of Beta Machinery, used several areas of domain expertise to solve a waterhammer problem in the field. I will discuss more about Mr. Grose's presentation later in this article.

Over the years I have attended many conferences, forums, technical committees and customer meetings where I have met many engineers with different areas of domain expertise. These domains include vibration measurements and analysis of pumps, statistical reliability and MTBF analysis of pumps, analysis of installed pump instrumentation, variable frequency drive specialists, as well as computer modeling of the entire system which is of course AFT's domain.

One of the things that strikes me is that while engineers with these different areas of domain expertise have successfully solved many pumping system problems, there is a tendency to think their domain expertise can solve all pumping system problems - and that their domain expertise should be the preferred approach for all pumping system problems. This reminds me of the old saying that if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

The reality is that some areas of domain expertise will work better than others given the unique situation of the pumping system in question. Further, solving certain operational problems may require combining different areas of domain expertise. That was the subject of discussion in Calgary this month.

Jordan Grose, Pumps Systems Manager at Beta Machinery's Calgary office, was invited to speak at the AFT Calgary User Group meeting. Mr. Grose was a winner of AFT's Platinum Pipe Award in 2013 where he used AFT Impulse to model a crude oil booster pump station (find more information of his winning entry here). What I was impressed by was how Mr. Grose and Beta Machinery used three domain expertise areas to solve an operational problem.

Firstly, Beta Machinery used their expertise in high speed data acquisition to set up temporary data collection to try and understand the reports of "loud noises" that occured in the pumping station during pump shutdown. The loud noises were suspected to be caused by pressure spikes caused by waterhammer. The measurements confirmed this when a very large spike was documented.

Secondly, Beta Machinery used their expertise in waterhammer simulation to construct an AFT Impulse model of the pumping station. This was complicated by the fact that while they had measurements at the pump discharge, they could not obtain any data on the main pipeline users. As a result, they tried various guesses at the main pipeline user transient flow rates to try to recreate a simulated result at the pump discharge similar to what they measured. After many iterations they succeeded. This allowed them to evaluate different options to resolve the problem using the AFT Impulse model.

Thirdly, Beta Machinery used their domain expertise in check valve design to suggest the existing check valves be replaced with venturi check valves. This change was implemented and now the waterhammer pressure transient that occurs during pump shutdown is much smaller and acceptable.

In this case an AFT Impulse model was not enough to solve an operational problem. Indeed, other areas of domain expertise were also needed. This was thus a case when pipe flow modeling was not enough to solve a problem. 

If you have a similar story please submit it for consideration in the 2014 AFT Platinum Pipe Award contest by October 31. We would love to hear about it!

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Sunday, 25 February 2024
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