May 2007

Special Report: Maintenance/Reliability

Requirements for successful cooling water pumping—lessons learned from a major failure

Mechanical design of the pump and system design of the installation are both equally important

Majumdar, K., Jacobs Canada Inc.

About two years ago severe cavitation of cooling water pumps forced a large synthetic crude plant (upgrader), owned by a major oil company in northern Alberta, to suspend its startup until extensive modifications were carried out to the original installation (Fig. 1). Noise and vibration were so unmanageable that the pumps could not run even for a short period anywhere near their rated capacity. A crash remedial project was launched, which included lowering the base of all the pumps, motors and turbine; modification of pump impellers and piping (54 in./42 in.); and procurement of pipes and fittings, all at enormous cost and production loss. 

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