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Sealless Pumps

Better Without: The Must–Know Facts About Sealless Pumps

| Author / Editor: Chrishelle Rogers, Nicholas Ortega* / Dr. Jörg Kempf

Seal-less sliding vane pumps feature a magnetic coupling consisting of samarium-cobalt magnets and a unique bearing and head design.
Seal-less sliding vane pumps feature a magnetic coupling consisting of samarium-cobalt magnets and a unique bearing and head design. (Picture: PSG)

Why seal-less pumps can provide benefits over pumps with packing rings or mechanical seals — When manufacturing or handling dangerous and hazardous substances, full product containment may be necessary to prevent costly downtimes or risky exposure of workers or environment. Thus, pump failures are a common risk in chemical operations — and the seal a major cause of concern. Can seal-less pump designs do better?

To the average person, many of the raw materials that are commonly used in the manufacture of chemicals can resemble either a steaming bowl of alphabet soup — KOH, NaOH, HCl and HF, for example — or a bad Scrabble rack — toluene and xylene, monomers and polymers, for instance.

However, those who make a living manufacturing such chemical- based compounds as caustics, acids, solvents and polymers know that valuable chemicals are pivotal to the production process, but can also be extremely dangerous and harmful to site personnel and the environment if not handled properly. This is a constant concern for manufacturers as hazardous chemicals are used in a large number of industries and products, such as adhesives, biofuels, petrochemicals, food, pulp and paper and paints and coatings, among others.

In addition to being widely used and potentially dangerous or hazardous if mishandled, many compounds are also extremely expensive. If a leak were to occur during the handling or transfer of these products, large costs would be incurred by the operator due not only to the loss of raw materials, but also for cleanup and potential environmental remediation. All of these factors make the full containment of chemicals a front-of-mind concern for facility operators.

The most obvious shortcomings of mechanically sealed pumps are the catastrophic failures that can occur when the seals fail. In these instances, valuable materials are irretrievably lost, while the safety of personnel and environment is put at risk.
The most obvious shortcomings of mechanically sealed pumps are the catastrophic failures that can occur when the seals fail. In these instances, valuable materials are irretrievably lost, while the safety of personnel and environment is put at risk. (Picture: PSG)

Crucial pieces of equipment for the manufacture and handling of dangerous chemicals are the pumps that either introduce raw materials into the production process or transfer end products for packaging, storage or shipping.

When handling dangerous chemicals, there are four main areas of concern for manufacturers:

  • Safety: Ensuring that personnel, communities and the environment are not harmed.
  • Product Containment: When dangerous or hazardous products are fully contained and not allowed to leak, valuable raw materials and products are not lost, improving safety overall.
  • Maintenance: Mechanical seal failures are the number one cause of pump downtime. Excessive maintenance costs generally are accumulated in two forms: the need to constantly repair or replace underperforming pumps and in the downtime that brings production runs to a halt.
  • Operating Costs: An overlooked drag on the bottom line can be in the form of seal-flush water with its impact on the process.

The most common pump technologies include diaphragm, sliding vane, lobe, progressive cavity, centrifugal and gear.

But there is one factor that all traditional pump technologies: The rely on seals. Discover the different approaches to shaft seals on page 2!

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