Water is precious, meaning that industrial plants have both a legal and environmental responsibility to conserve it. However, it’s no secret that this is logistically and financially very challenging.
One of the most effective ways for industrial plants to reduce their water consumption is to address that age-old problem – leaks. Often out of sight, water leakage accounts for a huge amount of waste. What begins as a small creep of liquid will soon snowball – leading to higher running costs and expensive repairs.
Addressing the root causes is the key to reducing water consumption, energy uses and maintenance – and how to do this can be summed up in a single phrase:
Upgrading the sealing properties of rotating equipment.
The problem with seals is that they’re often overlooked. Generally out of sight, there’s also a mentality of “we’ve always done it this way”, meaning that many are still operating outdated practices.
Of course, many other associated issues surround excessive water consumption and leaks, especially that of aging infrastructure. However, sealing solutions can easily be retrofitted to existing assets, providing what can amount to tremendous savings in water use and the associated energy consumption.
These solutions can be divided into three distinct categories:
- Identifying pump process issues
- Advanced packing solutions
- Advanced mechanical seal solutions
Identifying pump process issues
Industrial plant maintenance has historically been a reactive process. Seals leak, so it’s usual to use a blueprint that estimates the typical lifespan of a seal, replacing it at the appropriate time.
However, this relies on extensive guesswork and is, therefore, pretty unreliable. It’s commonplace to simply accept that leakage is something that happens and build it into the running costs.
This is expensive and wasteful – and, today, totally unnecessary.
Simple-to-use tools, such as Chesterton ConnectTM, make it easy to monitor process conditions in real-time, allowing maintenance teams to better understand the:
- Process temperatures
- Process pressures
- Equipment vibration
- Surface temperatures.
In addition, if any readings should move out of user-settable predetermined ranges, an immediate alert is activated, allowing action to be taken.
Such data revolutionises the field of industrial plant maintenance, changing it from a reactive to a proactive one. Having such crucial information allows for strategic planning, as well as accurately being able to determine the MTBF and ward off future leakage issues.
Advanced packing solutions
In tandem with the above knowledge, upgrading the packing can reduce or even eliminate the need for water flushes. It’s common knowledge that, over time, packing degrades as solids build up around them, and this is most usually dealt with by expensive water flush cooling.
However, the simple change from traditional packing to the low friction, thermal conduction properties of advanced DualPac technology brings the following advantages:
- Longer MTBF: Thanks to having increased strength and wear resistance
- Less frequent gland adjustments: Sealing pressure is maintained, reducing over-compression and the need for retightening
- Less or no flush needed: Thanks to reduced friction and heat generation
- Lower energy consumption: Due to reduced friction
- Less overall leakage: Sealing pressure is retained over an extended time thanks to its dynamic adaptation properties
All of the above is possible due to the unique construction of DualPac packing. The combination of graphite PTFE with para-aramid fibres utilises the excellent mechanical properties of both substances, leading to an innovative solution that addresses many historical packing issues.
Advanced mechanical seal solutions
Naturally, the seals themselves play a huge part in water control, and this is where advanced split seal technology becomes so important. Designed to be easily fitted without an expensive shutdown and deconstruction of an asset, advanced split seals can provide leak-free operation with a lifespan way beyond traditional seals.
Adding an environmental controller into the mix further upscales the ability to reduce water consumption. SpiralTrac™ is the final element that can increase the cooling and lubrication effectiveness. When used in this ‘holy trinity’ of seal control, SpiralTrac™ only allows the service liquid to circulate the packing or mechanical seal faces. In turn, this reduces or even removes the need for any external water flush at all.
To sum up, the art of water conservation requires a global approach, with all of the following needs to be addressed:
- Understanding of the process conditions
- Upgraded mechanical seals
- Using the most advanced packing
- Environmental controllers
Together, the combination of knowledge and technology is already providing hugely effective for industry adopters keen to reduce water and energy usage. Not only is this advantageous to an outfit’s bottom line (and shareholders), but it’s a massive step in the right direction regarding environmental obligations.
Chesterton is committed to advancing sealing technology and continually pushing the evolutionary boundaries and has a range of Chesterton and Chesterton Customseal solutions.
This article was first published in Utility Magazine