Getting Pumps off to a Good Start: Installation and Commissioning

Pumps are like people: giving them a good start in life can contribute substantially to their long-term health and productivity. In the case of pumps, taking extra care with installation and commissioning procedures can pay off handsomely in ensuring long and trouble-free service lives. Proper installation and commissioning will also help ensure that the manufacturer’s warranty will be honoured.  While some builders or plant operators will opt to install new pumps on their own, many recognize the value of contracting the manufacturer’s service experts to do this work.  The manufacturer brings a depth of specialized experience that on staff maintenance have not had the opportunity to develop.

Figure 1 Neurath PS Figure 1: Startup and Commissioning of Boiler Feed Water Pump at Power Plant

Starting off on the Right Foot: Site Preparation

Getting your pumps installed properly begins even before the equipment arrives on site. Mounting foundations should be checked to ensure that they have flat, level surfaces and securely anchored tie-down bolts. Properly positioned piping nozzles will reduce stresses on the pump’s casing and help reduce leakage from flange joints. For submersible pumps mounted on rails or wires, the alignment of these components should be carefully checked. Pipes should be flushed to ensure that there is no construction waste or foreign objects waiting to be drawn into the new pump or valve.

Checking the Order

When pumps are delivered, carefully review the shipping documents and pump nameplate to ensure that machinery – as received – matches specifications in the order. Where pumps and motors are shipped separately, it’s also a good idea to check that the direction of rotation of the motor matches that of the pump.

For some pumps, it is important to periodically rotate the shaft manually if the machines are stored onsite or in a warehouse for an extended period. This helps avoid future problems with seals and bearings. The manufacturer’s guidelines will explain the requirements.

Collecting Documentation

Before the tools are brought out to start installing the new pumps on site, it’s helpful to ensure that installation manuals and other relevant documents are available and that those responsible for the work have reviewed the information and understand what is required to do the job properly. The manufacturer’s service staff are especially helpful here as they have access to up-to-date installation and service documents for both the pumps, motors and special components such as VFDs (variable frequency drives).

 At this stage – and at each of the other stages in the installation and commissioning process – the best practice is to work with comprehensive checklists that list and explain each step in the process. The person in charge of each task should sign off that the step has been completed. Photographs of key components including equipment nameplates can be very valuable additions to the installation/commissioning records.

Installing the Pumps and Motors

Once the mounting foundations and piping system have been properly prepared, it’s time to uncrate the new pumps and move them into position. Clearly, the correct lift points must be used. The pumps and motors (or assembled pumpsets) will be carefully located on their mounting foundations, leveled and bolted in place to the correct torque levels. If there is any sign that the casings or pumpset frames are being distorted when the tie-down bolts are tightened, the installation must be delayed until any problems with the foundations or piping system have been corrected.

The pumps and motors of pre-assembled pumpsets are normally aligned at the factory. However, shaft alignment should also be checked as part of the pre-commissioning process.
Specialized equipment such as laser alignment tools can speed this process and improve accuracy, especially when used by experienced service specialists.

Figure 2 Lasering Figure 2: KSB Service Technician do an Laser Alignment

The electrical supply and control systems must also be thoroughly checked before they are attached to the motors. Many pumps include sensors that will detect abnormal conditions such as excessive vibration or the presence of moisture inside motor casings. These must all be connected to the appropriate readouts or control systems.

Oil levels must be checked. If the pump has been left standing for an extended period, it may be necessary to renew grease and oil in the seals and bearings.

Preparing to Run

Before any attempt is made to start the pump, all connections – mechanical and electrical – must be carefully checked and all drain and filler plugs properly tightened. Vents must be checked to ensure that they are clear.  The area around the pump should be cleared so that nothing will interfere with operations. This is especially important for submersible pumps where stray pieces of equipment could be drawn into the pumps’ intake, causing significant damage.

Manufacturers will normally provide detailed instructions for priming and starting new pumps. Not only must these be followed, but careful records of each step should be kept – including photographs and videos.

Once a pump is running, it is important to check operating conditions (speed, vibration levels, temperatures, pressures, power etc.) and note any abnormalities. Once again, recording all of the relevant data is an important part of the commissioning process.

Conclusion

This is a summary of the main steps involved in properly installing and commissioning a new pump or pumpset. Depending on the situation, experienced millwrights and pump specialists may recommend additional steps and procedures. KSB’s Service Department is often contracted to complete this work to ensure that all details of installation have been attended to.  By inviting the manufacturer to complete installation and commissioning, the buyer will be assured that all the necessary steps have been taken. This not only helps ensure that the pump will operate properly from the outset, but will also guarantee that warranties will be fully in effect.


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