Upstream or down, sliding vane pumps have role in petroleum supply chain

Nov. 1, 2013

Around a century ago, the United States stood at the epicenter of the global oil & gas industry. Large amounts of recoverable crude oil in Texas, as well as the burgeoning automobile industry, put the country at the forefront in the development of a petroleum-based economy. But over the years, the status of the United States in the global oil & gas universe changed.

By Thomas L. Stone

Around a century ago, the United States stood at the epicenter of the global oil & gas industry. Large amounts of recoverable crude oil in Texas, as well as the burgeoning automobile industry, put the country at the forefront in the development of a petroleum-based economy. But over the years, the status of the United States in the global oil & gas universe changed, with those changes have come new technologies like the vane pump.

Vast deposits of crude oil in such far-flung locales as the Middle East, Nigeria, Norway and Venezuela turned the United States into a net importer of petroleum-based fuels. This made the country reliant on the vagaries of the global market, with its wild price fluctuations and threats of oftentimes politically motivated embargoes and production slowdowns.

However, in what seems a classic case of "what’s old is new again," the United States —and North America as a whole — suddenly finds itself poised to resume its role as the world’s leading provider of petroleum-based fuels and ancillary products. A slew of recent headlines portend such a reversal, such as:

• IEA Pegs U.S. as Top Oil Producer by 2020 — Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2012: "A shale-oil boom will thrust the U.S. ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020, a radical shift that could profoundly transform not just the world’s energy supplies but also its geopolitics, the International Energy Agency said. In its closely watched annual World Energy Outlook, the IEA said the global energy map ‘is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States’."

• U.S. monthly crude oil production reaches highest level since 1998 — U.S. Energy Information Administration, Dec. 4, 2012: "U.S. crude oil production averaged almost 6.5 million barrels per day in September 2012, the highest volume in nearly 15 years. The last time the United States produced 6.5 million barrels per day or more of crude oil was in January 1998. Since September 2011, U.S. production has increased by more than 900,000 barrels per day. Most of that increase is due to use of horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing. The states with the largest increases (in production) are Texas and North Dakota."

• Canada oil sands output seen beating projections — Reuters, May 17, 2012: "Production in the Canadian oil sands is likely to increase at a much faster clip than the industry currently projects, an analyst said…. Andrew Potter, analyst at CIBC World Markets, said he expects production from the oil sands of northern Alberta, the world’s third biggest crude resource, to jump to 2 million to 2.5 million barrels a day by 2020 from 2011’s output of 1.6 million b/d."

This stunning turnaround is being driven by advanced technologies for enhanced oil recovery from traditional oil deposits, and newly discovered sources of "unconventional" oil and gas, i.e., the shale plays and oil sands, that point to the eventual recovery of billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Within crude oil exploration and recovery, as well as in the production of refined fuels and other end-products there is the need for safe, reliable, efficient and cost-effective pumping systems. One type of pump technology — the positive displacement sliding vane pump style — can help optimize fluid-transfer operations along the oil & gas production and supply chain.

Challenging characteristics

The oil & gas production and supply chain is broken into three distinct sectors:

The upstream sector includes the search for, recovery of and production of crude oil and natural gas. This sector is also widely known as the exploration and production (E&P) sector. Stages within the upstream petroleum-product industry include the search for underground or underwater oil and gas fields, the drilling of exploratory wells and, if the wells are deemed economically viable and recoverable, the operation of wells that bring a mix of oil, gas and water to the surface.

The midstream sector involves the transportation, storage and wholesale marketing of crude or refined petroleum. Pipelines and other transport systems move crude oil from production sites to refineries. Natural gas pipeline networks aggregate gas from purification plants for delivery to utilities and others.

The downstream segment includes oil refineries, petrochemical plants, petroleum distribution outlets, retail outlets and natural gas distribution companies.

The challenge for producers, handlers and suppliers along the supply chain — from crude oil extraction to the delivery of gasoline to a retail-fueling site — is to keep the flow of any raw or refined liquids, whether corrosive or non-corrosive, moving smoothly. Pumps may be tasked to handle highly viscous crude oil at the recovery end of the process, as well as thin, shear-sensitive liquids during the manufacture and transfer of refined fuels and petrochemicals.

Pumping solutions

For more than 100 years, sliding vane pumps have been a standard-setter in reliable performance in oil and refined-fuels transfer operations. The secret to the sliding vane pump’s repeated success is found in its unique design and method of operation.

Pump vanes are free to slide into or out of slots in the pump rotor. When the pump driver turns the rotor, a combination of forces (centrifugal, mechanical — push rods and liquid), causes the vanes to move outward in their slots and around the inner bore of the pump casing. This forms internal pumping chambers and, as the rotor revolves, the fluid flows through the suction port and into the pumping chambers that are created by the vanes. The fluid is then transported around the pump casing until the discharge port is reached, at which point the fluid is moved into the discharge piping.

This simple, yet ingenious, design enables the sliding vane pump to deliver the operational characteristics that are necessary for effective fluid-transfer within oil and refined-fuel production and supply.

All of these characteristics help make sliding vane pumps the technology of choice in critical oil and refined-fuel applications, from the wellhead where the oil and gas exit the ground to the transport truck that makes a retail-fuel delivery.

Final words

It’s a fact: petroleum products derived from crude will continue to heat our homes, fuel our vehicles and contribute to the manufacture of many of our most necessary products for decades to come. In the search for a reliable pumping technology, many producers and suppliers of petroleum products incorporate sliding vane pumps into their most critical fluid-handling operations. With more than 100 years of proven success in these applications, sliding vane pumps remain the wise choice in safe, efficient, cost-effective and optimized operations from the oilfield to the fueling site.

Thomas L. Stone is the PSG® Director of Marketing for Blackmer®, based in Grand Rapids, Mich.  He can be reached at [email protected] or (616) 248-9252.

For more information on Blackmer’s full line of pumps and compressors, please go to or call (616) 241-1611. Blackmer is a member of Dover Corporation’s Pump Solutions Group (PSG®), Oakbrook Terrace, IL, USA, which is comprised of leading pump companies — Abaque™, Almatec®, Blackmer®, EnviroGear®, Griswold™, Maag®, Mouvex®, Neptune™, Quattroflow™, RedScrew® and Wilden®.

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