Hydrocarbon Processing Copying and distributing are prohibited without permission of the publisher
Email a friend
  • Please enter a maximum of 5 recipients. Use ; to separate more than one email address.

One pump fire per 1,000 pump repairs

11.01.2011  |  Bloch, H. P.,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, 

Keywords: [pump fires] [fires] [pumps] [maintenance] [saftey] [rotating equipment]

While performing reliability audits decades ago, pump-failure statistics were made available or could be recovered with relative ease. But even then, the sources were usually kept confidential because fire incidents are stressful, to say the least (Fig. 1). In 1974, it was known that, for every 1,000 pump repairs, there was a pump-related fire incident. More recently and in a facility with approximately 2,000 installed pumps, the acknowledged meantime between repairs (MTBR) was six years. This would allow us to calculate that approximately 333 pumps underwent repair each year. Since that particular plant experienced five pump-related near-disasters over a 14-year period, doing the simple math tells us that its rate of major pump issues tracked the “1 fire per 1,000 repairs” within 6% accuracy.


  Fig. 1.  Assets and human lives are at stake
  when there are pump fires in refineries.

Failure statistics tell the story. An airplane has about 4 million parts; an automobile has approximately 10,000 parts and a centrifugal process pump has about 200 parts. It’s fair to say that if a machine is made up of a large number of parts, more parts could malfunction. However, this does not mean that more parts will, in fact, malfunction during an operational cycle. So, what’s the point of this reminder?

As we think about the reasons why the average process pump requires a repair after approximately six years, we realize that not all of its components are designed, fabricated, assembled, maintained, operated or perhaps installed with the same diligence as aircraft components.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Alloys can be upgraded, and better components are sold to owner-purchasers who insist on such upgrades. Advanced computer-based and reasonably priced design tools are available for the pump hydraulic assembly. It has been shown that computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can be used to define the improvement potential of impellers and stationary passages within pumps; Fig. 2 certainly attests to that.


  Fig. 2.  Relative velocity plot of an optimized
  vertical pump stage (Source: Pump Design,
  Development & Diagnostics;

But the mechanical assembly (drive end) of some pumps also deserves attention, especially since this portion of the pump has been neglected in some brands or models. Fortunately, expert advice is available for the specification and selection of better drive-end geometries for process pumps.1

Thoughtful specification and selection used to be par for the course at best-of-class companies, and there is really no reason why that thinking should have undergone change. What we see lacking today is an awareness of the precise steps that are needed for such specifying and selecting. Management has fallen prey to consultant-conceived generalities, including “lean and mean” and other similar, catchy utterances. HP


1 Bloch, H. P., Pump Wisdom—Problem Solving for Operators and Specialists, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

The author 

Heinz P. Bloch is Hydrocarbon Processing’s Reliability/Equipment Editor. A practicing consulting engineer with almost 50 years of applicable experience, he advises process plants worldwide on failure analysis, reliability improvement and maintenance cost avoidance topics. He has authored or co-authored 18 textbooks on machinery reliability improvement and close to 500 papers or articles dealing with related subjects. 

Have your say
  • All comments are subject to editorial review.
    All fields are compulsory.


Thank you. One of Thank you. One of the problems has been the cost of the metal hddyire heat exchangers. Historically they have been very expensive, but in the last few months we have lowered this by a factor of 4 to under $5 per watt (electric). Our goal is <$0.20 per watt in large scale mass production.

Related articles


Sign-up for the Free Daily HP Enewsletter!

Boxscore Database

A searchable database of project activity in the global hydrocarbon processing industry


Is 2016 the peak for US gasoline demand?




View previous results

Popular Searches

Please read our Term and Conditions and Privacy Policy before using the site. All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws.
© 2016 Hydrocarbon Processing. © 2016 Gulf Publishing Company.