The presence of high subsynchronous vibrations and other rotordynamic instabilities in steam turbines can prevent operation at full speed and/or full load. The destabilizing forces generating subsynchronous vibrations can be derived from bearings, seals, impellers or other aerodynamic sources. The present paper describes the case of an 11 MW steam turbine, driving a syngas centrifugal compressor train, affected by subsynchronous vibrations at full load.

After the occurrence of anomalous vibrations at high load and a machine trip due to the high vibrations, the analysis of data collected at the site confirmed instability of the first lateral mode. Further calculations identified that the labyrinth seal at the balance drum was the main source of destabilizing effects, due to the high pre-swirl and the relatively tight seal clearance.

The particular layout of the turbine, a passing-through machine with a combined journal/double thrust bearing on the steam admission side, together with the need for a fast and reliable corrective action limited the possible solutions. Based on the analyses performed, adjusting the clearance and preload of the journal bearings could not have ensured stable operation at each operating condition. The use of swirl brakes to reduce the steam pre-swirl at the recovery seal entrance would have required a lengthy overhaul of the unit and significant labor to access and modify the parts. The final choice was a drop-in replacement of only the rear bearing (on the steam exhaust side) with a bearing featuring integral squeeze film damper (ISFD) technology. In addition to being a time efficient solution, the ISFD technology ensured an effective tuning of stiffness and damping, as proven by the field results.

The analyses carried out to understand the source of the subsynchronous vibrations and to identify possible corrective actions, as well as the comparison of rotordynamic data before and after the application of the bearing with ISFD technology, are discussed.

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