Abstract

Seals in multiple phase rotordynamic pumps must operate without compromising system efficiency and stability. Both field operation and laboratory experiments show that seals supplied with a gas in liquid mixture (bubbly flow) can produce rotordynamic instability and excessive rotor vibrations. This paper advances a nonhomogeneous bulk flow model (NHBFM) for the prediction of the leakage and dynamic force coefficients of uniform clearance annular seals lubricated with gas in liquid mixtures. Compared to a homogeneous BFM (HBFM), the current model includes diffusion coefficients in the momentum transport equations and a field equation for the transport of the gas volume fraction (GVF). Published experimental leakage and dynamic force coefficients for two seals supplied with an air in oil mixture whose GVF varies from 0 (pure liquid) to 20% serve to validate the novel model as well as to benchmark it against predictions from a HBFM. The first seal withstands a large pressure drop (~ 38 bar) and the shaft speed equals 7.5 krpm. The second seal restricts a small pressure drop (1.6 bar) as the shaft turns at 3.5 krpm. The first seal is typical as a balance piston whereas the second seal is found as a neck-ring seal in an impeller. For the high pressure seal and inlet GVF = 0.1, the flow is mostly homogeneous as the maximum diffusion velocity at the seal exit plane is just ~0.1% of the liquid flow velocity. Thus, both the NHBFM and HBFM predict similar flow fields, leakage (mass flow rate) and drag torque. The difference between the predicted leakage and measurement is less than 5%. The NHBFM direct stiffness (K) agrees with the experimental results and reduces faster with inlet GVF than the HBFM K. Both direct damping (C) and cross-coupled stiffness (k) increase with inlet GVF < 0.1.Compared to the test data, the two models generally under predict C and k by ~ 25%. Both models deliver a whirl frequency ratio (fw) ~ 0.3 for the pure liquid seal, hence closely matching the test data. fw raises to ~0.35 as the GVF approaches 0.1. For the low pressure seal the flow is laminar, the experimental results and both NHBFM and HBFM predict a null direct stiffness (K). At an inlet GVF = 0.2, the NHBFM predicted added mass (M) is ~30 % below the experimental result while the HBFM predicts a null M. C and k predicted by both models are within the uncertainty of the experimental results. For operation with either a pure liquid or a mixture (GVF = 0.2), both models deliver fw = 0.5 and equal to the experimental finding. The comparisons of predictions against experimental data demonstrate the NHBFM offers a marked improvement, in particular for the direct stiffness (K). The predictions reveal the fluid flow maintains the homogeneous character known at the inlet condition.

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