Pump Head – Performance Curve
In fluid dynamics, the term pump head is used to measure the kinetic energy which a pump creates. Head is a measurement of the height of the incompressible fluid column the pump could create from the kinetic energy that the pump gives to the liquid. The head and flow rate determine the performance of a pump, which is graphically shown in the figure as the performance curve or pump characteristic curve. The main reason for using head instead of pressure to determine the performance of a centrifugal pump is that the height of the fluid column is not dependent on the specific gravity (weight) of the liquid. In contrast, the pressure from a pump will change. In terms of pressure, the pump head (ΔPpump) is the difference between system backpressure and the pump’s inlet pressure.
The maximum pump head of a centrifugal pump is mainly determined by the outside diameter of the pump’s impeller and the shaft angular velocity – speed of the rotating shaft. The head will also change as the volumetric flow rate through the pump is increased.
When a centrifugal pump is operating at a constant angular velocity, an increase in the system head (back pressure) on the flowing stream causes a reduction in the volumetric flow rate that the centrifugal pump can maintain.
The relationship between the pump head and the volumetric flow rate (Q) that a centrifugal pump can maintain is dependent on various physical characteristics of the pump is:
- the power supplied to the pump
- the angular velocity of the shaft
- the type and diameter of the impeller
and the used fluid:
- fluid density
- fluid viscosity
This relationship is very complicated, and its analysis lies in extensive hydraulic testing of certain centrifugal pumps, as seen in the picture below.
Series Operation of Centrifugal Pumps (Booster)
Series operation of centrifugal pumps is used to overcome large system head loss or gain large pressure increase when liquid is injected into a very high-pressure system (e.g.,, High-Pressure Safety Injection Systems in PWRs, where multi-stage pumps are used).
When a centrifugal pump is operated in a closed-loop, the resulting discharge pressure will be simply the sum of the suction pressure and the pressure normally developed by the pump when operating at zero suction pressure. Therefore it is well suited for use as a booster pump when operated in series. The head produced by two or more pumps is equal to the sum of the individual heads. The volumetric flow rate from the inlet of the first pump to the outlet of the second remains the same. In practical application, multi-stage pumps (multiple impeller pumps) are built to reach a higher pump head.
Parallel Operation of Centrifugal Pumps
Centrifugal pumps are often used in parallel or series to increase the volumetric flow rate in a system or compensate for large major or minor losses.
Parallel operation of centrifugal pumps is used to increase the flow rate through the system. Pumps operating in parallel take their suction from a common header and discharge into a common discharge. While head changes only slightly, flow is almost doubled at any given point. It must be noted the volumetric flow rate is less than twice the flow rate achieved by using a single pump. This is caused by a greater system head loss resulting from a higher flow rate.