Abstract

The subsea oil & gas industry efficiently uses multiphase pumps and wet gas compressors to eliminate upstream oil and gas separation stations, hence saving up to 30% in capital expenditures. Subsea multiphase process facilities must operate reliably for extended lengths of time while the wells, as they deplete, produce a process fluid varying from a pure liquid, to a mixture of gas and liquid, and to eventually just gas. The variation of gas volume fraction (GVF), by affecting the leakage and dynamic forced performance of sealing elements, alters turbomachinery performance to produce both an increase in synchronous speed rotor vibrations and a reduction in rotor dynamic stability. Prior laboratory work shows that plain cylindrical surface annular seals operating with a fluid flow in the laminar flow regime produce no direct (centering) stiffness and a large added mass, in particular for the liquid only condition. The early work also advanced a simple three-wave shape seal (akin to lobes) that generates a significant direct stiffness, impervious to GVF as large as 90%, and hence aids to increase the natural frequency of a vertical pump. Dynamic load tests for this wavy-seal configuration operating with a gas in liquid mixture [air in light ISO VG 10 oil] are the subject of this paper that presents dynamic force coefficients vs. excitation frequency (ω) while the shaft turns at a speed (Ω) equal to 3.5 krpm (23.3 m/s surface speed), a typical operating speed for multiphase pumps. The test seal has length L = 43 mm, diameter D = 127 mm, and a mean radial clearance cm = 0.191 mm. For operation with a pure liquid (GVF = 0), the seal force coefficients are frequency independent, thus a stiffness (K) - damping (C) − Mass (M) model fully characterizes the test article. On the other hand, for operation with an air in oil mixture, the test seal dynamic stiffness coefficients vary greatly with excitation frequency; the direct dynamic stiffness hardens while the cross coupled stiffness decreases as the frequency approaches running speed (ω < Ω) and then increases for super synchronous frequency excitations (ω > Ω). For operation with GVF from 0.1 to 0.8, the wavy seal produces a positive centering dynamic stiffness with large magnitude; a most desirable feature for a vertically installed pump. Notably, the seal direct damping coefficient (C) does not depend on the excitation frequency though reduces continuously as the inlet GVF increases from 0 to 1. For operation with either a pure liquid or a pure air conditions, a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis accurately captures the seal leakage and force coefficients. The current research product adds relevant test data to better the design selection of seals in multiphase pumps.

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