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Centrifugal Pumps Operating in Series Configuration

By Joe Honeywell



Series pump configurations are frequently found in every industry and in a wide variety of pump applications. The reasons may arise from hydraulic concerns, control issues, life cycle costs, operation flexibility, and pump suction limitations to name just a few. That is why it is important to understand the intricacies of series pumps and how they apply to various pump types and services. Whatever the reason for considering series pumps, a thorough understanding of their proper use and the consequence they have on the process is paramount to the proper application of series pumps.

Multiple pumps are sometimes needed to meet a wide range of head requirements. For example, a pumping system may require a small head value at one operating condition and a larger one at another. If the range of values is too large for one pump then multiple pumps configured in series operation may be the answer. Another common reason for series pumps is an application that receives fluid at a low pressure and delivers it at a high pressure. For instance, if the fluid is stored in an atmospheric tank and delivered to high-pressured pipeline or process. A booster pump configured in series operation may be required because the pressure from the tanks may be too low to meet a high-pressure pump suction limit. These are two applications commonly found in industry in which the solution is to use pumps configured in series.

Pumps operating in series may have far reaching consequences that can impact the design. Merely basing the decision to utilize series pumps on the system hydraulics, like the applications given above, can affect such things as the system controllability and pressure limitations. There are other important design considerations, such as limitations of the selected pumps, matching the pump’s performance curves, and pump degradation. In essence, the designer should understand all aspects of a series pump configuration before finalizing the design.

This paper will examine the many aspects of centrifugal type pumps configured in series applications. Topics discussed are typical applications of series pumps, equivalent pump hydraulics, system control and cautionary issues. Finally, an example problem will be given which summarizes the performance of series pumps.


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