Centrifugal pump performance is affected when pumping viscous liquids, requiring a larger power input than the same pump handling water. In applications of chemical, civil, environmental, and mechanical engineering that involve centrifugal pumps, it is a challenge to accurately estimate and even more of a challenge to improve their performance when handling viscous liquids. When accurate performance data is needed, difficult experiments must be conducted with the operating viscous flow. The extension of the applicability of numerical techniques for solving fluid dynamics (CFD) permits the consideration of these tools as a definite possibility for predicting the performance of centrifugal pumps with viscous flows. The purpose of this study is to perform a 3D-CFD steady-state simulation of three different configurations of centrifugal pumps. The first is an impeller-diffuser pump (ns = 19) taken from an ESP model. The second is a Francis Pump-Turbine (ns = 28). Finally, the third configuration possesses an impeller and volute (ns = 32). The objective is to characterize and evaluate their performances with four different fluids from 1 to 420 cSt. These are: water at 25°C, SAE10 and SAE30 oils, and Fuel Oil Medium (FOM). For water flow conditions, the numerical results were compared with experimental data, and found to be consistent with global performance parameters. With regard to the higher viscosity fluids, the CFD calculation was compared with those obtained through the standard empirical method (ANSI/HI9.6.7). This resulted in good agreement between the performance results. The commercial software ANSYS-CFX was used for the CFD calculations.

The resulting pump performance curve (head, hydraulic efficiency and power output) is consistent with that expected by theory. In general, as the viscosity of fluids increases, the hydraulic energy losses increase. Of the three pumps, slip factor for SAE30 oil was larger for all volumetric flows since it features the best guidance of the flow in the impeller blade passage. For the ns32 pump and the pump-turbine ns28, the volute losses rose from water to FOM, just like the impeller hydraulic losses. For these two turbo machines, the impeller losses were larger than volute losses. For the pumps with volute, the effects of fluid viscosity on the radial forces were evaluated. It was found that the radial forces decrease when the viscosity increases. This paper attempts to contribute to a better understanding of fluid dynamics within centrifugal pump impellers handling viscous fluids, and intends to shed more light on the approaches that performance prediction models should follow in the future.

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