Software makes pumps "smarter"; helps monitor and react to system conditions

In this installment of What Works, a manufacturing plant uses software to help pumps monitor and react to system conditions.

Millennium Chemicals' manufacturing plant in Brunswick, Georgia produces the terpene-based fragrance and flavor chemicals used in consumer products, such as detergents and soaps. Like any comparable plant, it relies on dozens of pumps. However, Millennium discovered a way to reduce pump repairs, maintenance and energy requirements dramatically.

The discovery can be traced back to one pump at the Brunswick plant,a Goulds 3196 XLTX centrifugal pump. To keep hot fluid flowing through the distillation tower, the pump recirculates it through a heat exchanger and back through a reboiler. Because some of the batch process chemicals are corrosive, the pump was outfitted with stainless parts. It also had to accommodate dramatic changes in liquid level. For example, level would drop from 100 percent to virtually zero, subjecting the pump to vastly different suction head conditions. As a result, it experienced mechanical seal failure, on average, every 17 days.

"As far as pumps are concerned, I'm a believer in basics," says Frank Upton, maintenance manager with Millennium "We were trying to make the pump do too much, and it was failing. We were running a double-seal pressurized fluid pot, but cavitating the heck out of it. In the end, it wasn't the pump that was the problem. It was the combination of the pump and the application."

Software allows a pump to monitor and react to any system condition.

Upton and Chris Van Dyke, branch manager for Hudson Pump, the local Goulds Pumps distributor, targeted the bottoms pump as part of a plant-wide survey to identify the 10 pumps with the highest failure rates. "It jumped out that this would be a perfect candidate for PumpSmart," says Van Dyke.

PumpSmart is a control system that uses a standard centrifugal process pump in conjunction with ITT Industries' patented PumpSmart Control System and software. The software allows a pump to monitor and react to any system condition. As a result, the pump can be stopped, slowed down, alarmed or put in any combination of those activities, depending on the controller programming.

It took one day to install the PumpSmart PS300 controller on the Goulds pump; commisioning required another half-day. Since installation, the pump has gone from a mean time between failure of 17 days to virtually no failure.

"We've saved money," said Upton, "And we've saved headaches." He estimates that Millennium is saving $25 a day in electricity costs alone. Before installing PumpSmart, Millennium used a 40-hp motor to run the pump at 1,200 rpm. But PumpSmart demonstrated that the pump was oversized. "We are currently using between 7 and 10 hp and running the pump between 550 and 700 rpm. I could justify the PumpSmart alone on the $25 a day in energy savings."

More PumpSmart applications are anticipated for Millennium, not surprising when the payback period is considered. "If you look at energy, maintenance and downtime, the PumpSmart installation has paid for itself in just over 30 days," says Van Dyke.

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