Pump Balancing Drums

By 28 January 2017

The balancing drum is illustrated in Figure 61. The balancing chamber at the back of the last-stage impeller is separated from the pump interior by a drum that is usually keyed to the shaft and rotates with it. The drum is separated by a small radial clearance from the stationary portion of the balancing device, called the balancing drum head, or balancing sleeve, which is fixed to the pump casing.

The balancing chamber is connected either to the pump suction or to the vessel from which the pump takes its suction. Thus, the back pressure in the balancing chamber is only slightly higher than the suction pressure, the difference between the two being equal to the friction losses between this chamber and the point of return. The leakage between the drum and the drum head is, of course, a function of the differential pressure across the drum and of the clearance area.

The forces acting on the balancing drum in Figure 61 are the following:
• Toward the discharge end: the discharge pressure multiplied by the front balancing area (area B) of the drum
• Toward the suction end: the back pressure in the balancing chamber multiplied by the back balancing area (area C) of the drum

The first force is greater than the second, thereby counterbalancing the axial thrust exerted upon the single-suction impellers. The drum diameter can be selected to balance the axial thrust completely or within 90 to 95 percent, depending on the desirability of carrying any thrust-bearing loads.

It has been assumed in the preceding simplified description that the pressure acting on the impeller walls is constant over their entire surface and that the axial thrust is equal to the product of the total net pressure generated and the unbalanced area. Actually, this pressure varies somewhat in the radial direction because of the centrifugal force exerted upon the liquid by the outer impeller shroud. Furthermore, the pressures at two corresponding points on the opposite impeller faces (D and E in Figure 61) may not be equal because of a variation in clearance between the impeller wall and the casing section separating successive stages. Finally, a pressure distribution over the impeller wall surface may vary with head and capacity operating conditions.

This pressure distribution and design data can be determined quite accurately for any one fixed operating condition, and an effective balancing drum could be designed on the basis of the forces resulting from this pressure distribution. Unfortunately, varying head and capacity conditions change the pressure distribution, and as the area of the balancing drum is necessarily fixed, the equilibrium of the axial forces can be destroyed.

The objection to this is not primarily the amount of the thrust, but rather that the direction of the thrust cannot be predetermined because of the uncertainty about internal pressures. Still it is advisable to predetermine normal thrust direction, as this can influence external mechanical thrust-bearing design. Because 100 percent balance is unattainable in practice and because the slight but predictable unbalance can be carried on a thrust bearing, the balancing drum is often designed to balance only 90 to 95 percent of the total impeller thrust.

The balancing drum satisfactorily balances the axial thrust of single-suction impellers and reduces pressure on the discharge-side stuffing box. It lacks, however, the virtue of automatic compensation for any changes in axial thrust caused by varying impeller reaction characteristics. In effect, if the axial thrust and balancing drum forces become unequal, the rotating element will tend to move in the direction of the greater force. The thrust bearing must then prevent excessive movement of the rotating element. The balancing drum performs no restoring function until such time as the drum force again equals the axial thrust. This automatic compensation is the major feature that differentiates the balancing disk from the balancing drum.