Electric submersible pumps utilize grooved-rotor seals to reduce leakage and break up contaminants within the pumped fluid. Additionally, due to their decreased surface area (when compared to a smooth seal), grooved seals decrease the chance of seizure in the case of rotor-stator rubs. Despite their use in industry, the literature does not contain measurements for smooth-stator/circumferentially-grooved-rotor liquid annular seals.

This paper presents test results consisting of leakage measurements and rotordynamic coefficients for a smooth-stator/circumferentially-grooved-rotor liquid annular seal. Both static and dynamic performance for the grooved seal are investigated for various imposed pre-swirl ratios, static eccentricities, axial pressure drops, and running speeds. The grooved seals′ static and dynamic performance are compared to those of a smooth seal with identical length, diameter, and radial clearance.

Results show that adding grooves reduces leakage at lower speeds (less than 5 krpm) and higher axial pressure drops, but does little at higher speeds. The grooved seal’s direct stiffness is generally negative, which would be detrimental to pump rotordynamics. Furthermore, increasing pre-swirl increases the magnitude of cross-coupled stiffness and increases the whirl frequency ratio. When compared to the smooth seal, the grooved seal has smaller effective damping coefficients, indicative of worse stability characteristics.

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