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5 Vibration Induced by Pressure Waves in Piping

Flow in piping generally has random frequency characteristics. However, a particular fre- quency component may become dominant when a change of flow interacts with fluid machinery such as compressors and pumps, as well as equipment such as valves, branch pipes, and perforated plates. When the particular frequency matches the acoustic natural frequency of any equipment, oscillations are strongly amplified. The associated pressure pulsations excite the piping and/or equipment, which may result in damage. Flow oscillations in piping has been addressed by a research subgroup and a workshop of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME) [1]. However, the phenomenon has never been discussed comprehensively. This chapter presents an outline of the physical phenomenon, research history, calculation, and evaluation methods. The effect on equip-

ment when pressure waves occur in piping is discussed. Some case examples and coun- termeasures based on the latest information are also presented.

5.1 Pressure pulsation in piping caused by compressors

5.1.1 Summary

Compressors and blowers installed in chemical plants can efficiently transport and pres- surize fluids as well as transfer power. Their classification by type is shown in Table 5.1. This chapter describes the flow oscillation (pressure pulsations) in piping and the vibra- tion of piping caused by suction/discharge flows in such fluid machinery. In addition, some cases of automobile engines are introduced.

Table 5.1 Classification of compressors and blowers


Turbo type Centrifugal type (Centrifugal compressor/blower) Diagonal flow type (Diagonal flow compressor/blower) Axial
Turbo type
Centrifugal type (Centrifugal compressor/blower)
Diagonal flow type (Diagonal flow compressor/blower)
Axial flow type (Axial flow compressor/blower)
Rotary type
Displacement type
Reciprocating type
Two roots type (Roots blower)
Screw type (Screw compressor)
Rotor blade type (Vane compressor)
Scroll type (Scroll compressor)
Reciprocating type
(Reciprocating compressor)


178 Flow induced vibrations: classifications and lessons from practical experiences

5.1.2 Explanation of the phenomenon, and the history of research/evaluation What is the pressure pulsation phenomenon?

Specific flow oscillations occur in piping connected to compressors or blowers. These oscillations can be categorized into two groups: (1) oscillations caused by pressure pul- sations in the fluid machinery and the piping system, and (2) oscillations caused by the change of momentum (centrifugal action) at pipe bends, etc. Only the former case is dis- cussed here. The latter seldom cause any problem in gas systems. Refer to Section 4.1.2 for this case. Displacement type compressors, such as reciprocating compressors, cause large flow fluctuations because of the intermittent suction/discharge flow, as shown in Fig. 5.1. The resulting pressure pulsations contain many harmonic components of the rotational speed. The reciprocating compressor rotational speed is generally low and the frequency of the pressure pulsation is 100 Hz or less in many cases. This pressure pulsation is generally too weak to cause any problem. However, it may be amplified due to coincidence with an acoustic natural frequency of the piping. The resulting resonance can induce severe piping vibration and/or malfunction of instruments, compromising plant operation. As a familiar example, the exhaust gas discharged from an automobile exhaust pipe may have

large flow fluctuations. Compressors having series of blades, such as turbomachinery,

cause flow fluctuation at the blade passing frequency (blade number compressor rota- tional speed) and its harmonic components. The frequency of the pulsations is generally

several hundred Hertz, often resulting in severe noise problems. Research history

Axial type and centrifugal type turbomachinery do not cause large pressure pulsations due to their different compressing and blowing mechanisms. There has been little work done on pressure pulsation in these machines. On the other hand, for displacement type compressors, such as reciprocating compressors, pressure pulsation has been the subject of research over the years since the suction/discharge flow fluctuations are relatively large. Among the displacement type compressors, the discussion below focuses on the reciprocating type, for which a lot of research has been carried out with the goal of regulating that the maximum allowable level of pulsation. For turbomachinery, when the flow fluctuation is known, the pressure pulsation can be evaluated using the same tech- niques developed for piping systems connected to reciprocating compressors. In September 1952, the Southern Gas Association (SGA) in the U.S.A. organized the pulsation research committee and launched a project for pulsation analysis. This was

Q Q T Time Waveform of flow
T Time
Waveform of flow
Resonance 1/T 2/T Hz

Frequency analysis of flow


1/T 2/T Hz

Pressure pulsation in piping

Fig. 5.1 Suction/discharge flow and pressure pulsation in reciprocating compressors.

Chapter 5. Vibration excited by pressure waves in piping


the beginning of systematic research on pulsation in piping connected to reciprocat- ing compressors. The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) was selected as an external research agency and achieved good results in pulsation analysis using an analog computer for the first time in autumn of 1954. They started calculations for practical use in the summer of 1955 and have undertaken pulsation analysis on a commercial basis around the world. Then, in the 1960s, the American Petroleum Institute Standard 618 (API Standard 618) imposed the requirement that pulsation analysis be done at the design stage of process plants in order to control pulsations to an appropriate level. The API Standard 618 had specified that pulsation analysis be done using analog simulation until the third edition revised the standard in February 1986. This was based on the background that the digital computer at the time had difficulty performing pulsation analysis considering the interac- tion between reciprocating compressors and piping which is a requirement of the API Standard 618. Based on an analogy between equations for fluid flow and those for an electric circuit, the analog simulation method [2, 3] evaluates the pulsation in piping by simulating the fluid characteristic with an L-C-R circuit on the assumption that pressure and flow in the fluid system are equivalent to voltage and current in the electric circuit. However, the third edition of API Standard 618, revised in 1986, removed the restriction on the kind of computer to be used and allowed the use of digital computers for pulsa-

tion analysis. In addition to this revision of the API Standard, along with the remarkable progress in the performance of digital computers and achievements in research efforts on pulsation in piping in the late 1960s, the mainstream of the pulsation analysis in piping in Japan moved to digital simulations and today pressure pulsation in piping can be calcu- lated with sufficient accuracy for design purposes.

5.1.3 Calculation and evaluation methods Calculation method

Calculation method for pressure pulsations in piping Generally, the transfer matrix method, developed and employed in the field of mechan- ical vibration and acoustics, is extensively used in pulsation analysis. This method has been used since the beginning because the acoustic natural frequency in piping can be obtained theoretically. However, the analysis may be difficult when the piping system is complicated due to bypass-lines or in the presence of a piping network. In this case, alternative calculation/analysis methods, such as the stiffness matrix method, the modal analysis method, and the finite element method, have been developed and used in compu- tations for practical use. The internal fluid is considered as a one-dimensional flow when the pipe diameter is less than 1/5 of the pulsation wavelength [4] in the above analy- sis methods. When such an assumption is not applicable, the boundary element method, which is used in the field of acoustics, can be employed effectively. Table 5.2 shows the calculation/analysis methods that are currently used in calculations for practical use. The impedance method [5] that uses the ratio of the pressure fluctuation to the flow fluctua- tion and the pressure pulsation analysis method [6] that applies the nodal analysis method for an electric circuit network are not listed. These methods are rarely used in pulsation analysis today. The transfer matrix method is described below.

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