Centrifugal pumps have existed in one form or another for ages. Though actual working pumps that moved fluids through the application of rotational energy wouldn’t actually exist until the late 1600s, their first appearance in print occurred in 1475 as a way to move mud put forward by Renaissance engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Since then, centrifugal pumps have found end uses in fields as varied as petroleum, agriculture, and sewage treatment. Indeed, today bulk transfer pumps are often employed in transferring various kinds of chemicals with industrial applications.
In this article, we will explain how to use centrifugal pumps in bulk chemical transfer, as well as how to find the right pump and some of the positives and negatives of this pump type.
Follow Best Practices
Virtually any kind of non-food-grade chemical substance that isn’t water may require the use of a chemical transfer pump to move it from one place to another (e.g., a marine gasoline transfer pump used for refueling). That wide range of substances means that chemical transfer pumps will come in a variety of configurations and with vastly different capabilities. Still, you will find a number of best practices apply to every situation, no matter the context. They include:
Safe Pump Installation Considerations. Many kinds of industrial chemicals pose risks to people, equipment, and the environment if not properly handled. Acids, bases, dehydrating agents, and oxidizing agents can corrode assets, poison employees, and damage soil, water, and air. For this reason, installers must ensure that they’ve picked a proper pump and correctly installed it. Consider the following prior to selecting and installing a chemical transfer pump:
- Into what category does the pumped material fall (acid, base, dehydrator, oxidizer)? Is the pump and its concomitant equipment — ventilators, piping, processing tanks, storage tanks — compatible?
- Will the liquid supply be located above or below the pump? Have you paired the correct pump type with the applicable supply location? For instance, a self-priming pump works best when the liquid is located below the pump, but a flooded-suction system wherein the liquid is above the pump requires no such technology.
- Is the pump properly sized given the chemical needing to be moved and the viscosity at pumping temperature? Is there adequate net positive suction head available to avoid cavitation (i.e., the development of vapor-filled pockets within a liquid)? If the pump is situated with an area that contains flammable vapors, is the motor itself explosion proof (a necessity when dealing with fuel oil pumps or bulk oil transfer pumps)?
Process Hazard Analysis. Because bulk chemical transfer typically involves the movement of dangerous materials, decision makers ought to conduct an analysis of potential hazards. This includes measuring the risk of negative interactions between processed chemicals, whether pumping or storage facilities pose a danger to surrounding structures, and whether disposal and ventilation could introduce toxic materials to the surroundings.
Pump Operating Procedures and Training. To put it bluntly, bulk chemical transport isn’t a task for cowboys; no employee should (to use the colloquial phrase) “wing it” when moving large amounts of hazardous substances. Management needs to codify proper pump operating techniques and ensure that all employees know them by heart.
Choose the Right Pump
As alluded to in the “Safe Pump Installation Considerations” section above, choosing the right pump is an essential step when it comes to transferring chemicals. Picking an underpowered fuel oil transfer pump, for instance, can lead to costly delays, expensive repairs, or even disaster if it can’t keep up with the demands placed upon it. In order to select a proper pump, you should focus on these things.
First, define the chemical fluid characteristics. Exactly what pump you select will be determined by the characteristics of the chemical you want to move. Specific elements to consider include the liquid’s:
- Pumping temperature
- Specific gravity
- Concentration of solids
Defining these elements will help you determine your pump’s construction materials, total head, motor power, net positive suction head available, physical placement in the available space, use of sealed or sealless models, and use of flooded-suction or self-priming technology.
Next describe the application. Different end uses will necessarily require different kinds of pumps. Some factors to consider include the total volume of chemical to be moved, the distance of movement required, the tank and storage size, and any specific regulatory requirements.
Pros and cons of centrifugal chemical transfer pumps
Centrifugal pumps offer numerous advantages when it comes to bulk chemical transferring. Because they are constructed in a simple manner, manufacturers can build them with multiple kinds of materials, virtually ensuring that you’ll find a model that will work with your specific substance. They also excel at moving large volumes of liquid and are compact when compared with other types of pumps. Finally, sealless, mag-drive centrifugal pumps can deal with extremely caustic substances without leaking, are inexpensive to operate, and require little maintenance.
However, centrifugal pumps aren’t without their downsides. They struggle to handle substances containing solids and they typically can’t transport materials requiring higher temperatures. Finally, although they require much less maintenance, they may cost more upfront than other options.
Partner with a Proven Manufacturer
The most important factor to consider when purchasing a pump for bulk chemical transport is the quality of your equipment. Finding cheaper options constructed with less care and of lower-grade materials may make sense in the short run. However, over the long haul it may prove significantly more costly in terms of ongoing operating expenses, maintenance costs, production delays, and possibly even injury or environmental contamination.
Don’t be penny wise and a pound foolish when it comes to finding the right chemical transfer pump. Look no further than the options provided by March Pump! We’re the inventors of the original centrifugal sealless magnetic drive pump, and we provide multiple configuration options for all sorts of industries. Contact us today!