Did you know you can get a liquid to flow up? You don’t need a science fiction anti-gravity device, and you don’t need to attend an academy for wizards. All you need is an extremely useful device called a vertical turbine pump.
But how do they work? Keep reading this short guide, and you’ll know all you need to about vertical turbine pumps.
What Is a Vertical Turbine Pump?
A turbine pump is a special type of centrifugal pump. It uses something called an impeller—which is like a fan with the blades (called vanes in this case) oriented differently—to move fluid. These pumps are also called vortex pumps, periphery pumps, or regenerative pumps.
A vertical turbine pump is a turbine pump whose shaft has been aligned vertically, and it can also be referred to as a deep well turbine pump or a line shaft turbine pump. This configuration is specifically geared toward pumping water from deep sources whose surface level changes regularly.
A vertical turbine pump differs from a submersible pump in the location of its motor. While a submersible pump’s electric motor is located underwater along with its pumping apparatus (and is usually contained in the same housing), a vertical turbine pump’s motor is located at the top of its shaft, usually above the ground.
Anatomy of a Vertical Turbine Pump
Depending on the individual instance, one vertical turbine pump’s setup can look very different from that of another. However, they all have the following components in common:
- A motor
- Mechanical seals
- One or more impellers
- One or more discharge heads
- One or more flanged columns that house the pump shaft
- One or more bowls (also called stages)
- A suction bell
- A basket strainer is also a common feature; this prevents unwanted debris from entering the pump
The number of impellers, columns, and bowls varies depending mostly on the distance of the given liquid’s source to the surface (or wherever else the discharge head needs to be placed). This also depends on the environment in which the pump is placed and the media that it’s pumping, but a vertical pump’s parts are usually made of combinations of cast iron, stainless steel, various plastics, and bronze or brass.
How Does a Vertical Turbine Pump Work?
The pumping action of a vertical turbine pump is achieved by its impeller(s), which is a radial arrangement of vanes that accelerates a fluid by applying centrifugal force to it.
This high-velocity fluid is forced through a bell. This stage of the pump increases the fluid’s pressure by acting like the nozzle of a rocket engine. The fluid is then thrust up the shaft of the pump until it finally reaches the discharge head, where its flow is redirected as necessary.
Is There a Difference Between a Vertical Turbine Pump and a Centrifugal Pump?
As mentioned above, a vertical turbine pump is only one type of centrifugal pump. But there are others:
- Canned motor pump
- Magnetic drive pump
- Hopper/grinder pump
- Circulator pump
- Multistage pump
- Cryogenic pump
- Trash pump
- Slurry pump
And despite the inclusion of “turbine” in its name, there are technically no turbines involved in the operation of a vertical turbine pump. Like all other centrifugal pumps, turbine pumps use impellers. So, is there a difference between a turbine and an impeller?
Yes! In essence, the difference between a turbine and an impeller is what’s pushing what. With an impeller, the mechanism pushes the fluid. In a turbine, the fluid pushes the mechanism.
It’s useful to illustrate this difference by comparing a fan with a windmill. Since a motor causes the blades of a fan to move (which push air along), you can think of the fan as being analogous to an impeller. Likewise, since the wind hitting the blades of a windmill causes them to move (which push something else along), you can think of the windmill as a turbine.
A vertical turbine-type pump also differs somewhat from most other centrifugal pumps in how they’re designed to move fluid. The impellers of a turbine pump tend to be smaller in diameter than those of most other centrifugal pumps, and they also incorporate rows of small vanes. Turbine pumps also draw fluid in from the edges of their impeller blades rather than through the central eye most other centrifugal pumps use.
Where Are Vertical Turbine Pumps Used?
Generally speaking, vertical turbine pumps are used in places where a submersible pump just isn’t a viable option. This is usually because the flow rate exceeds the range of the submersible pump’s impellers or the fluid’s surface level fluctuates rapidly and regularly.
Vertical turbine pumps enjoy heavy use in agricultural, municipal, and industrial settings. In agricultural applications, they are used in bored wells to provide irrigation. In municipal applications, they provide groundwater where surface water isn’t an option. They can also be used on open bodies of water like reservoirs or rivers.
They see the most use in industrial applications, though. They are used to supply fire water and plant make-up water. They can also be installed atop tanks or fitted inside barrels, which allows for a more effective and controlled balance of source versus atmospheric pressure.
The advantages and disadvantages that vertical turbine pumps offer greatly influence their use in the applications mentioned above.
- Small footprint
- Ideal for low-flow, high-head applications
- High discharge pressure
- No priming issues
- Easy to customize
- Comparatively better at dealing with gas–liquid mixtures
- Less variability in flow rate with changes in pressure
- Compact design
- High headroom required for installation and maintenance of motor
- Not ideal for high-suction, high-pressure applications
- Low flow rate
- Mechanical seals can encounter difficulties when pump media contain entrained or dissolved gasses
- Clean liquids (i.e., without solids) are required due to tight internal clearances
- Unforgiving of improper assembly
- Performance not easily adjusted
Replacement Parts and Repairs for Your Vertical Turbine Pump
We at ERL Commercial Marine offer a vast array of top-quality vertical turbine pump products. And as America’s tanker barge industry leaders since 1970, we are also proud to provide barge service and replacement parts, around the clock, to anywhere in the US within 12 hours.
All you have to do is click here to contact us if you’d like to see what parts we currently have in stock. Or, why not drop by to meet our team in either New Albany, IN or Houston, TX? We look forward to seeing you!