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The secret to turning a power generating plant around

May 28, 2007
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There’s no arguing the fact that the power generating industry is a 24/7 business. And although an industrial pump may be a small piece of the overall operational picture, a failed pump can cause more than a few problems - even if a backup is at hand. Paired with the decrease in manpower that most plants have suffered throughout the last several years, the overall goal of maximizing effectiveness of even the best plants is jeopardized today. The solution to a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and a more efficient job, without compromising rigorous production standards, can be found in making smarter decisions about equipment.

Choosing the right pump for your plant can not only offer peace of mind, but allow you to focus on meeting the needs of the plant without being interrupted by sudden and unexpected malfunctions. Self-priming pumps can assist you by allowing for effective preventative maintenance - therefore providing cost-cutting efficiency. Upgrading your pump systems may be all that’s needed to achieve significant savings, less stress and a lower TCO.

Saving manpower on repairs

Aside from emergency pump repair requirements, which present unique labor challenges unto it self, the challenge of managing physical labor in the Power Gen industry is more intense today than ever before. Why? Because like most other segments, the industry is faced with manpower reductions - with some departments shifting from a 25 man team to as little as five. As manpower continues to be stretched, utilizing physical resources to the plant’s maximum advantage becomes even more important. From a labor standpoint, the goal should be to improve the type of maintenance associated with your plants critical equipment. One way to do this is to replace the common submersible or line shaft sump pumps with self-priming pump technology.

All pumps clog occasionally, but when a traditional sump pump gets clogged, it takes both time and manpower to remove that pump and clear the clog. And if the pump has suffered any long-term damage as a result, a major repair may be required to return the equipment back into service.

The advantage of self-priming technology, however, is that the complete pump and motor are above grade and are easily accessible. Unlike a submersible or line shaft pump, which use “dedicated purpose” motors, Gorman-Rupp’s pumps use standard off the shelf motors, greatly increasing the chance for onsite and timely repairs. Whether a 3” or 10” self-priming pump, debris can be easily removed without removing the pump or piping from the wet well via the removable coverplate. This means the plant no longer needs to send the pump – or pumps — to a service shop. That equates to big savings in terms of time and money for a plant with minimal staff.

In short, installing a line of pumps you can rely on, even when a chance of clogging is possible, allows the plant to better utilize your staff in areas where they’re needed. While we can not eliminate maintenance or repairs, we can help control the time associated with getting your pumps back up and running (not to mention the expense associated with sending the pumps out for repair) which can be utilized for more mission critical initiatives.

Put preventive maintenance in your corner

When a successful day depends on each piece of equipment within your plant running smoothly, few things are more bothersome than being hit with an unexpected pump failure.

Generally when a submersible or line shaft pump fails unexpectedly, it’s typically because the pump is cloaked by the vary liquid you are trying to move. Thus, downtime is a common occurrence. It’s the moving parts of the pump that you don’t see that typically end up causing havoc with a plant’s productivity. Hopefully, the plant has invested in a backup pump - or spare parts to repair the failed unit quickly. Still, not knowing the true condition of the pumps installed, a plant can be faced with more then one pump failing at the same time. This type of failure can lead to equipment loss, environmental and flood damage or just plain down time.

On the other hand, by virtue of the above-grade design, self-priming pump technology allows for ease of maintenance, supported by electronic monitoring that alerts the plant team to even subtle changes in vibration and power consumption. These features alone allow the crew to anticipate potential pitfalls before they strike. Electronic monitoring also allows for early intervention and hands-on maintenance, so plants can catch problems before they occur – repairing or replacing parts before they seriously damage the rest of the equipment.

Keep it clean

In a power plant, dealing with water also means dealing with anything that slips into that water. This covers all types of debris - including oils, rags and other obstructions that can clog and inflict a fair amount of damage to pumps. And when a power plant’s sump pump fails - and the pit can’t be de-watered - that contaminated water endangers surrounding equipment - as well as plant staff.

To remove a pump for repairs and service, plant personnel must wear protective clothing and also ensure that residual spills and oil residue do not affect the surrounding environment. With self-priming technology, however, the worker himself is better protected, as personnel are no longer faced with a pump that is completely submerged in whatever might be in the wet well sump. In the end, failures are prevented in a way that promotes a safer, more environmentally sound environment.

Seek peace of mind in the event of emergencies

Clearly, one of the most important aspects of choosing equipment for a Power Generating plant is choosing a credible manufacturer. Plants should be aware of the capabilities of the manufacturer in terms of replacements parts, equipment and repairs. At the very least, emergency situations may call for some sort of backup plan or policy. Finding partners – both distributors and manufacturers – that support the plant in this way will prove invaluable in all situations.

In most cases within a Power Gen plant, it is recommended that an inventory always be kept on site – due to the tenuous nature of the operation. But companies such as Gorman-Rupp maintain significant investments in spare parts inventories, and partner with a distributor that knows the industry. In doing so, rather than carrying a huge dollar amount of inventory in spare parts, power plants can instead rely upon the manufacturer/distributor team to get them through tough situations – and onto the next job.

But recent events have demonstrated to the world that yesterday’s emergencies pale in comparison to today’s disasters. Accordingly, power plants across the globe are realizing that they need to re-evaluate processes, procedures and personnel to meet the new challenge. Many power plants are already beginning to make smart, preventative measures with self-priming technology.

Some Power Gen plants are planning ahead for large disasters by attempting to anticipate potential scenarios. As a result, plants are moving towards the installation of self-priming pump technology. In the end, these progressive-thinking plant managers are formulating strategic plans that call for the installation of backup pumps – thereby restoring power quickly to the population, industry and services that depend upon that plant. That’s the name of the game.

Having a backup plan - and the right equipment to help you set the plain into action - can help avoid the high cost equipment losses associated with natural disasters and emergencies. More importantly, those that depend on you will know that trust has been instilled in the right people.

Keeping an eye on the real need being served

Different plants are faced with pumping liquids laden with varying levels of debris. For this reason, each calls for a unique pump application. It’s best to weigh the options to ensure the right pump is selected for the job. Existing pumps may get the job done, but today many pumps are designed specifically for the application.

This is the case with Gorman-Rupp’s Industrial offerings. Both the T-Series, which can handle liquids with solids content up to 3” in diameter, and the newest technology, the Ultra V - which brings with it new levels of high head performance, meet very unique needs. In the specific case of Power Generating plants, cooling tower and process applications can often be more efficiently addressed with a new-found sense of security by implementing the Ultra V technology. As cooling towers typically have a need for the higher heads that this new technology yields, the Ultra V can pump head requirements exceeding 40% over the nearest competition, with up to 60% more flow.

In the long-run, opting to install above grade technology versus below grade pumps, Power Generating plants will benefit from the long-term benefits and a lower TCO associated with self-priming technology. Ease of maintenance and availability of parts are only two of the many features that add to the overall benefits of these pumps. In the end, plants find that the smarter investment remains above ground … and to be seen. After all, seeing is believing.

Vito Gullo is President of Metro Pumps & Systems, Inc., a distribution and service company located in Edison, N.J.

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