Examining pump repair records and MTBF (mean time between failures) is of great importance to responsible and conscientious pump users. In view of that fact, the preface to the 2006 Pump User’s Handbook alludes to “pump failure” statistics. For the sake of convenience, these failure statistics often are translated into MTBF (in this case, installed life before failure).http://acmgs.info/unlimitedbladeworks/?p=19
In early 2005, Gordon Buck, John Crane Inc.’s chief engineer for Field Operations in Baton Rouge, LA, examined the repair records for a number of refinery and chemical plants to obtain meaningful reliability data for centrifugal pumps. A total of 15 operating plants having nearly 15,000 pumps were included in the survey. The smallest of these plants had about 100 pumps; several plants had over 2000. All facilities were located in the United States. In addition, considered as “new,” others as “renewed” and still others as “established.” Many of these plants—but not all—had an alliance arrangement with John Crane. In some cases, the alliance contract included having a John Crane Inc. technician or engineer on-site to coordinate various aspects of the program.
Not all plants are refineries, however, and different results can be expected elsewhere. In chemical plants, pumps have traditionally been “throw-away” items as chemical attack can result in limited life. Things have improved in recent years, but the somewhat restricted space available in “old” DIN and ASME-standardized stuffing boxes places limits on the type of seal that can be fitted. Unless the pump user upgrades the seal chamber, only the more compact and simple versions can be accommodated. Without this upgrading, lifetimes in chemical installations are generally believed to be around 50 to 60 percent of the refinery values.
It goes without saying that unscheduled maintenance often is one of the most significant costs of ownership, and failures of mechanical seals and bearings are among the major causes. Keep in mind the potential value of selecting pumps that cost more initially, but last much longer between repairs. The MTBF of a better pump may be one to four years longer than that of its non-upgraded counterpart. Consider that published average values of avoided pump failures range from $2600 to $12,000. This does not include lost opportunity costs. One pump fire occurs per 1000 failures. Having fewer pump failures means having fewer destructive pump fires.
As has been noted, a typical pump failure based on actual year 2002 reports, costs $5,000 on average. This includes costs for material, parts, labor and overhead. Let us now assume that the MTBF for a particular pump is 12 months and that it could be extended to 18 months. This would result in a cost avoidance of $2,500/yr—which is greater than the premium one would pay for the reliability-upgraded centrifugal pump.