Vertical Pumps: What Are They, Where Are They Used and How To Design Them?


Vertical pump designs are similar to conventional pumps, with some unique differences in their applications.  Pumps use centrifugal force to convert mechanical energy into kinetic energy and increase the pressure of the liquid. Vertical pumps move liquids in the vertical direction upwards through a pipe. All pumps pressurize liquids, which are mostly incompressible. Unlike compressible gases, it is impossible to compress liquids, therefore the volumetric flow rate can not be reduced. Therefore liquids are transported by pumping and the inlet volume flow rate is equal to the exit volume flow rate.

Vertical centrifugal pumps are simply designed machines, and have similarities to their horizontal counterparts. A casing called a volute contains an impeller mounted perpendicularly on an upright (vertical) rotating shaft. The electric drive motor uses its mechanical energy to turn the pump impeller with blades, and imparts kinetic energy to the liquid as it begins to rotate. These pumps can be single stage or multistage with several in-line stages mounted in series.

The centrifugal force through the impeller rotor causes the liquid and any particulates within the liquid to move radially outward, away from the impeller center of rotation at high tangential velocity. The swirling flow at the exit of the impeller is then channeled into a diffusion system which can be a volute or collector, which diffuses the high velocity flow and converts the velocity into high pressure. In vertical pumps, the high exit pressure enables the liquid to be pumped to high vertical locations. Thus the pump exit pressure force is utilized to lift the liquid to high levels, and usually at high residual pressure even at the pipe discharge.

Applications of Vertical Pumps

An “in line” vertical pump is illustrated in Figure 1 (Reference 1), where the flow enters horizontally and exits horizontally and can be mounted such that the center line of the inlet and discharge pipes are in line with each other.  This is a centrifugal pump with a tangential scroll at the inlet that redirects the flow by 90 degrees and distributes it circumferentially and in the axial direction into the impeller eye. The discharge is a simple volute that collects the tangential flow from the impeller exit, and redirects it into the radial direction.

in line Pump - Figure 1
An “in line” Vertical Pump. Source

Figure 2 shows a vertical pump that has a vertical intake that directs the flow straight into the eye of the pump rotor. At the impeller exit, the tangential flow is collected by a volute and diffused in an exit cone. An elbow after the exit cone redirects the flow into the vertical direction to lift the liquid to the desired altitude. (Reference 2). Read More

Back to Basics: What Makes a Good Pump?

Everyone is familiar with pumps, but how many people really think about how much depends on this ubiquitous invention? The scope of pump applications is wide: distribution and circulation of water in water supply and heat supply systems, irrigation in agriculture, in the oil industry, in fire extinguishing systems, etc.

A pump is a hydraulic machine designed to move fluid and impart energy to it. A schematic diagram of a simple pumping unit is presented below.

Figure 1 Pumping Unit Diagram
Figure 1: Pumping Unit Diagram
1 – intake valve; 2 – suction pipeline; 3 – vacuum gauge; 4 – pump; 5 – manometer; 6 – check valve; 7 – gate valve; 8 – pressure pipeline

Positive Displacement and Dynamic Pumps

According to the principle of operation, pumps can be divided into two main groups: positive displacement and dynamic. In positive displacement pumps, a certain volume of the pumped liquid is cut off and moved from the inlet to the pressure head, where additional energy is supplied to it. In pumps with dynamic action, the increase in energy occurs due to the interaction of the liquid with a rotating working body.

The most widely used pumps are centrifugal pumps which are of the dynamic type. The principle of centrifugal pumps uses a rotating impeller to create a vacuum in order to move the fluid. The impeller rotates within the housing and reduces pressure at the inlet. This motion then drives fluid to the outside of the pump’s housing, which increases the pressure.

These pumps benefit from a simple design and lower maintenance requirements and costs. This makes them suited to applications where the pump is used often or continuously run.

Figure 2 Centrifugal Pump
Figure 2a: Centrifugal Pump
Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM
Figure 2b: Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM

In most cases, the pumps are electrically driven, but if the pump is of high power and high speed, then these pumps are driven by steam turbines. Read More

Centrifugal Compressor Reverse Engineering and Digital Twin Development

Centrifugal Compressors are the turbomachines also known as turbo-compressors, and belong to the roto-dynamic class of compressors. In these compressors the required pressure rise takes place due to the continuous conversion of angular momentum imparted to the working fluid by a high-speed impeller into pressure. These compressors are used in small gas-turbines, turbochargers, chiller units, in the process and paper industries, oil & gas industries and others.

The design and manufacturing of such compressors are always challenging because of its 3-dimensional shapes, high rotational speeds that interact with different loss mechanisms, and stringent working environments. In many circumstances, it is necessary to analyze an existing compressor, with the end goal being to redesign it, enhance its performance, or to use it in completely different applications. In order to meet such requirements, reverse engineering is a viable option. With reverse engineering, one can review competitor’s design to remain in market competition.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering allows us to collect incomplete or non-existing design data and manufacture an accurate recreation, safely, of the original product or component.

Sometimes, it is also referred to as back engineering, in which centrifugal compressors or any other product are deconstructed to extract design information from them. Oftentimes, reverse engineering involves deconstructing individual components like the impeller or diffuser of larger compressors. End-users often use this approach when purchasing a replacement impeller or any other compressor part from an OEM is not an option. In some cases, where older impellers that have not been manufactured for 20 years or more, the original 2D drawings are no longer available.  When this is the case, the only way to obtain the design of an original compressor is through reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering requires a series of steps to gather precise information on a product’s dimensions. Once collected, the data can be stored in digital archives. Figure 1 (left) shows the typical process of reverse engineering. In figure 1 (right), one can see the scanning process of the centrifugal impeller using a laser scanner.

Figure 1 (left) Reverse Engineering Process (right) Scanning of impeller
Figure 1 (left) Reverse Engineering Process (right) Scanning of Impeller. Source

To reverse engineer an impeller or any other part of compressor, an organization will typically acquire the component and take it apart to examine its internal mechanisms. This way, engineers can unveil information about the original design and construction of the product. One can start by analyzing the dimensions and attributes of the impeller and make measurements of the blade widths, diameters and angles, as these dimensions often relate to the compressor’s performance. Read More

Considerations in Industrial Pump Selection

Pumps are machines that transfer liquids from suction to discharge by converting mechanical energy from a rotating impeller into what is known as head. The pressure applied to the liquid forces the fluid to flow at the required rate and to overcome frictional losses in piping, valves, fittings, and process equipment.

When it comes to pump selection, reliability and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Generally, a pump that has been selected and controlled properly for its normal operating points will operate near its best efficiency point (BEP) flow, with low forces exerted on the mechanical components and low vibration — all of which result in optimal reliability.

There are several factors like process fluid properties, end use requirements, environmental conditions, pump material, inlet conditions, and others which should be considered while selecting pumps for industrial applications. Selecting the right pump type and sizing it correctly are critical to the success of any pump application. Pumping applications include constant or variable flow rate requirements, serving single or networked loads, and consisting of open loops (nonreturn or liquid delivery) or closed loops (return systems).

Some crucial factors considered while pump selections include:

Fluid Properties: The pumping fluid properties can significantly affect the choice of pump. Key considerations include:

  • Acidity/alkalinity and chemical composition. Corrosive and acidic fluids can degrade pumps and should be considered when selecting pump materials.
  • Operating temperature: Pump materials and expansion, mechanical seal components, and packing materials need to be considered with pumped fluids that are hotter than 200°F.
  • Solids concentrations/particle sizes: When pumping abrasive liquids such as industrial slurries, selecting a pump that will not clog or fail prematurely depends on particle size, hardness, and the volumetric percentage of solids.
  • Specific gravity: It affects the energy required to lift and move the fluid and must be considered when determining pump power requirements.
  • Vapor pressure and Viscosity: Proper consideration of the fluid’s vapor pressure will help to minimize the risk of cavitation. High viscosity fluids result in reduced centrifugal pump performance and increased power requirements. It is particularly important to consider pump suction-side line losses when pumping viscous fluids.


Materials of Construction: It is always required to check the compatibility of materials of construction with the process liquid or any other liquids the pump might encounter. The initial cost of these materials is normally the first consideration. The operational costs, replacement costs and longevity of service and repair costs will, however, determine the actual cost of the pump during its lifetime. Charts are available to check the chemical compatibility and identify the most appropriate materials of construction for the pump.

The impact of the impeller material on the life of a pump under cavitation conditions is shown in Figure 1. As an example, changing from mild steel (reliability factor of 1.0) to stainless steel (reliability factor of 4.0) would increase the impeller life from cavitation damage by a factor of four. Hard coatings, such as certain ceramics, can also increase the impeller life under cavitating conditions.

Material Cavitation Life Factors
Figure 1 Material Cavitation life factors

Pump Sizing and Performance Specifications: The desired pump discharge is needed to accurately size the piping system, determine friction head losses, construct a system curve, and select a pump and drive motor. Process requirements can be achieved by providing a constant flow rate, or by using a throttling valve or variable speed drives. Read More

Rotor Dynamics Study of 4-Stage Compressor – from Theory to Application

Rotating machines have huge and important roles in our daily life although we may rarely think about them. Steam turbines at electrical power plants rotate the electrical generator shafts which produce electricity coming into our homes and offices. Driving to or from work, the reciprocating cycle in your vehicle’s internal combustion engine results in rotation of the transmission and the wheels of vehicles, while the electric car wheel operation is a result of induction motor rotation. If you get on an airplane, rotation of the turbo reactive gas turbine engine produces the effective thrust to sustain flight by moving, compressing and throwing the gas behind the plane. We can even find the useful effects of rotation in our kitchens when we are blending the food or washing our closes.

Although these rotating machines are different, the approaches to modelling their rotor dynamics are pretty much the same, since similar processes occur in rotating parts which differ in their vibrations from the non-rotating machines.

Do you remember the example of rotating washing machine? Have you ever seen it jumping on the floor trying to squeeze out your closet? We bet you have. This is the simplest example of the increased unbalance affecting the amplitudes of machine vibrations. Washing machines are designed to experience these noticeable vibrations during their operation without breaking. But the steam turbine or compressor rotors which have the tight clearances between the impellers and the casing can not boast of that leeway. In addition to that, the excessive vibrations significantly influence the machine’s useful life due to the increased fatigue.
This is why the rotor dynamics predictions are one of the most important parts of rotating machine analyses. And although they may seem easier than comprehensive stress-strain investigations of machine components, in some cases the rotor dynamics analysis can be trickiest part.

Usually, the rotor dynamics analyses are divided into lateral and torsional stages depending on the nature of rotor response to be used. They are discussed in different types of standards (API [1], ISO [2], etc.). Let’s consider the example of the lateral vibrations of a 4 stage compressor rotor with an operational speed of 8856 rpm.

Fig. 1 - 4 Stage Compressor Rotor
Fig. 1 – 4 Stage Compressor Rotor

This rotor rotates in the 4 pad tilting, pad oil film journal bearings. The characteristics of these bearings should be determined carefully to ensure that there will not be an excessive wear, heat generation or friction in them. Read More

Unsteady Flow Simulation in Hydraulic Systems

An unsteady flow is one where the parameters change with respect to time. In general, any liquid flow is unsteady. But if a hydraulic system is working at constant boundary conditions, then the parameters of the fluid flow change slowly; thus this flow is considered steady. At the same time, if the parameters of the fluid flow oscillate over time relative to some constant value, then it called quasi-steady flow 1.

In practice, most fluid flows are steady or quasi-steady. Examples of the three flows are presented in Figure 1. Steady flow is presented by a simple pipe. The quasi-steady flow is represented by a sharpened edge channel. The unsteady flow is presented by an outflow from a reservoir.

Figure 1 - Different Types of Fluid Flow
Figure 1 – Different Types of Fluid Flow
Different Cases of Unsteady Flow

During operations, hydraulic systems act for long intervals at steady conditions which are called operating modes. Change between two different operating modes occurs over a short time interval (called a transient mode). If any hydraulic system works more than 95% of the time at these operating modes though, why is the unsteady flow is so important? Because the loads depend on time intervals. If the load is less, then the maximum system pressure is higher. Read More

Oil Systems for Turbine Lubrication

The oil system is an integral element of the turbine unit, which largely determines its reliability and trouble-free operation. The main purpose of the turbine lubricating oil system is to provide fluid friction in the bearings of turbines, generators, feed pumps, and gearboxes.

An oil system should provide:

– continuous supply of the required amount of oil in all modes of operation of the turbine unit, which guarantees:

  • – prevention of wear on friction surfaces;
  • – reduction of friction power losses;
  • – removal of heat released during friction and transmitted from the hot parts of the turbine

– maintaining the required temperature of the oil in the system; and

– cleaning the oil from contamination.

At the same time, the necessary qualities of the lubricating oil system are reliability, safety of operation, ease of maintenance.

The pressure and the temperature of the oil should be constantly monitored during operation of the turbine unit. Specifically, the lube oil temperature after the bearings requires special attention. Overheating of the bearing leads to wear of the working parts and changes in the properties of the lubricant itself. The quality of the lube oil is controlled by physicochemical characteristics such as density and viscosity. The system leaks must be stopped quickly and oil replenished on time. These factors will significantly extend the service life of the steam turbine.

Nowadays, computer simulation is a very powerful and useful tool. It helps you predict the processes occurring in the bearing chambers, and determine the flow of the working fluid when the operating modes change, all without installing expensive experimental equipment.

We suggest using the 1D-Analysis AxSTREAM NET™ tool to simulate the lubrication system. This software product allows you to quite simply, clearly and quickly build the desired model. It provides a flexible method to represent fluid path as a set of 1D elements, which easily can be connected to each other to form a thermal-fluid network. The program calculates fluid flow parameters for inlet and outlet of each element. There are many different components that allow you to simulate stationary and non-stationary modes. Also there is a convenient library of fluids. It is also possible for a user to add fluids of their choice.

The example of modeling in AxSTREAM NET™ is the system of oil supply for the K-500-240 turbine. This turbine is quite massive with bearing loads of up to 450 kN. The schematic diagram of the oil supply K-500-240-2 is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Principle Scheme of K-500-240 Steam Turbine
Figure 1. Principle Scheme of K-500-240 Steam Turbine.


(1 – main tank; 2 & 3 – pumps; 4 – oil cooler; 5 – damp tank; 6 – journal bearings; 7 – thrust bearing).

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Applications of Centrifugal Pumps

Centrifugal Pumps are the most popular and commonly used type of pump for the transfer of any type of fluid. The volumetric flow rate range of centrifugal pumps can vary from several tens of ml/hour to  one hundred thousand m3/hour , while the pressure can be normal pressure to nearly 20MPa; and the liquid temperature can be as low as -200℃ or as high as 800℃. The fluid being transferred can be water (clean or sewage), oil, acid or alkali, suspension or liquid metal, etc. Therefore, centrifugal pumps are used across numerous industries:

  1. In the oil and gas or chemical industries, converting crude oil to products requires a complex process. Pumps play an important role in transferring these liquids, providing the required pressure and flow rate for chemical reactions. Sometimes, pumps are used to adjust temperature in certain parts of the system.
  2. In agriculture, centrifugal pumps are used in the majority of irrigation machinery. Agriculture pumps make up half of the total amount of centrifugal pumps being used today.
  3. In mining and metallurgy industries, centrifugal pumps are the most widely used equipment, for draining, and cooling of water supplies, etc.
  4. For power generation, the nuclear power plants need large amounts of primary, and secondary system pumps, while the thermal power plants also need boiler feed pumps, condensate pumps, loop pumps and as well as ash pumps.
  5. In military applications, the adjusting of airplane wings and rudders, turning of turret on ships and tanks, the up and down of submarines, all rely on pumps for hydraulic fluids.
  6. In shipbuilding, there are more than 100 different types of pumps in one typical ocean ship.
  7. Other applications include municipal water supplies and drainage; water supplies of locomotives; lubricating and cooling of machining equipment; bleach and dye transfer of textile industry; and milk and beverage pumping and sugar refining in the food industry.


Centrifugal pumps can be classified based on the number of impellers in the pump:

A single-stage pump, with only one impeller, is commonly used for high flow and low to moderate total dynamic head, as in Figure 1.

Single Stage Centrifugal Pump
Figure 1. Single Stage Centrifugal Pump

A multi-stage pump has two or more impellers working in a series to achieve higher total dynamic head.
Read More

Can a sales team select the right turbomachinery for a client without bothering the engineering team?

This might seem like a strange question, but we get ask this a lot. The question takes the form of: Can the sales side do a proper preliminary design and select the optimal machine (turbine/compressor/pump)?  Is it possible for the design and application task to be integrated in a way allowing the application team the autonomy to make decisions without going back to the engineering team every time they get an inquiry? After realizing how large of a pain point this is for our clients, we decided to solve this problem for a major turbine manufacturer in Asia and in the process, provided a time-saving solution to maximize the returns for all the stakeholders.

The challenge came with the different competencies of the sales and design team. The sales/application teams are not necessarily experts in design while designers cannot double as application engineers to meet the sales requirements.

In our efforts to solve this issue, we worked with this turbine manufacturer. We listed all of their current processes, limitation, requirements, constraints, and etc. to explore the many possible ways to resolve this pain point. In the end, there were two solutions; (1) Develop custom selection software, or (2) Leverage the AxSTREAM® platform using AxSTREAM ION™.

    1. Developing Custom Selection Software: Developing a custom selection software specific to the manufacturer where their application team can choose the optimal turbine based on expected customer needs. Developing such a custom system requires bringing together the expertise of different teams from turbomachinery (such as aero-thermal and structural) to software developer, testing, etc. Developing such a one-off system also takes considerable time at considerable cost. This approach could solve the current problem, but with rapidly changing technologies and market requirements, this is not a viable long-term solution.
    2. Leverage the AxSTREAM® Platform using AxSTREAM ION™: We evaluated the limitation and possibilities of utilizing our turbomachinery design platform AxSTREAM® to meet the requirement of sales/application engineering team for today’s needs and in the future. We found the organization had a greater advantage using this existing platform rather than investing in the short-term solution of developing a custom selection software. Many of the building blocks required for customization are already available to use via an interface a non-technical sales person could easily use. This platform was utilized for meeting the requirement of this turbine manufacturer saving time and cost while resolving a large pain-point for the organization.

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Demystifying S1-S2 Optimization in Turbomachinery

  1. Historically turbomachinery development began with empirical rules postulated by early pioneers. With the need for jet engine for aircraft propulsion, dimensionless analysis became popular, followed by the 1 D mean line design and 2D meridional methods. Today 2D meridional methods with 3D blade to blade CFD/FEA methods are a necessity as efficiency and reliability requirements are further pushed.


  1. One key aspect of 2D meridional design is S1-S2 optimization, which is a time consuming, laborious task and hence subject to human errors. S1-S2 optimization is a task of reviewing, adjusting and optimizing the flow path in the Tangential (S1 or blade-to-blade or pitchwise) and the Meridional (S2 or span wise) planes. The main purpose is to:
  • Fit the flow path to specific meridional dimensional constraints
  • Adjust blade-to-blade parameters while taking into account structural constraints.

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