MechChem Africa

KSB Pumps and Valves South Africa has engineered, manufactured and supplied sizeable contracts for advanced magnetic drive API pumps to refineries in Russia and Germany, where they are being used to pump potentially hazardous ‘goudron’ and ‘mazout’ products and Isobutane HF. KSB Pumps and Valves product manager, Jan van Vuuren explains.

KSB RPH API Mag drive PumpLocally developed KSB RPHmdp mag-drive pumps were selected for use in a refinery in Russia for their ability to completely separate the drive-ends from the wet-ends of the pumps, which are in contact with the dangerous materials being circulated. Instead, RPHmdp pumps use separate magnetic drives to power the impellors, which negates the need for the traditionally used API Plan 53 sealing solution on the pumps.

The magnetic drive pumps require significantly less maintenance and are a safer option than the Plan 53 pumps, which are complicated and require pressure regulated seals on either end of the pump to prevent hazardous liquids from leaking, which could have disastrous consequences. Plan 53 pumps also require constant management and maintenance to ensure that they are 100% sealed and operational at all times.

Strict requirements

KSB Pumps and Valves product manager, Jan van Vuuren, says the 18 locally developed RPHmdp pumps supplied for the project do not require a shaft sealing solution and therefore do not need nearly as much maintenance nor supervision as the old type.

“In the case of the Russian Samara Transneft Refinery project, the deal was awarded to KSB Russia on merit, based on the advanced nature of the pumps, quality of construction and the long-term ability of our global group to support and maintain the pumps within a mission-critical environment. The pumps also needed to be specially manufactured to withstand extreme operating temperatures of between -70 ̊C and 380 ̊C, as well as to withstand pressures of up to 40 bar – as per API requirements.

“This was vetted by our Russian counterparts who conducted an in-depth inspection of our manufacturing facility in Germiston to ensure production of the highest quality would be met and that API standards were in place. In addition, KSB Russia’s representative, Vladimir Dragonman, also needed to be satisfied that the South African operation would be able to provide full back-up and support for the pumps whenever required. Needless to say, we far surpassed his expectations and he went back to Russia more eager than ever to continue with the deal,” says Van Vuuren.

Another key reason why the refinery, one of the largest of its type in the world, chose RPHmdp pumps is due to its good track record at a number of petrochemical companies throughout the world – including Sasol – where they are successfully used in place of the old Plan 53 pumps. In Russia and globally, KSB has also sold hundreds of standard-type RPH pumps to the petrochemical industry and these have proved to be well supported throughout their lifespan by the company.

Working with Monel

The local manufacturing facility of KSB Pumps and Valves has also developed a specialised pump for the pumping of the highly dangerous Isobutane with HF (hydrofluoric acid) on behalf of another of the world’s refineries, PCK Schwedt.

This chemical is regarded as one of the riskiest materials on earth to pump and called for special engineering to manufacture magnetic drive RPHmdp pumps out of Monel, which is able to withstand the acidity of Isobutane HF.

“Monel is super tough and is so difficult to work with that few people anywhere in the world are prepared to even try. It is tough to drill, difficult to machine and takes hours to perform the simplest machining. However, here in South Africa and in our manufacturing facilities in Germany, we are able to work with it and have successfully manufactured the pump as specified.

“When finished it will cost twice the price of a standard magnetic drive pump as a result of the difficult manufacturing process, but this pales into insignificance if one were to try and manufacture the pump according to the traditionally used API Plan 53, which requires double seals, pressure balanced valves and a number of other technical requirements to prevent the dangerous chemical from leaking.

“By comparison, the RPHmpd pump only exposes the wet-end of the pump to the chemical and the drive-end is completely separated. This makes it safer and much more cost-effective than Plan 53 pumps,” Van Vuuren argues.

The popularity of magnetic drive pumps has been spurred by stricter requirements from TÜV and other verification agencies for seal-less pumps to be used in chemical and petrochemical plants where potentially hazardous materials are being handled. In addition, the pumps are easily serviced, do not need constant supervision and have wet-ends that are fully interchangeable with the company’s standard RPH pumps, making for commonality of spares and maintenance.

“With European standards calling for seal-less pumps and the movement towards simplicity, reliability and durability in the petrochemical and other industries, we are confident that the KSB RPHmdp will become the de facto pump wherever potentially hazardous materials are required to be pumped,” concludes Van Vuuren.

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