Hole-pattern or honeycomb seals have been commonly used for many years in the Oil & Gas industry as damper seals for turbomachinery. The main motivation has been to introduce additional damping to improve the shaft rotordynamic stability operating under high pressure conditions.
Experience has shown that the dynamic and even static characteristics of those seals are very sensitive to the operating clearance profile as well as the installation tolerances. Rotordynamic stability is related not only to the seal effective damping but to the effective stiffness as well. In fact, for this kind of seal, the effective stiffness can be high enough to alter the rotor system’s natural frequency. The seal stiffness is strictly related to the tapering contour: if the clearance profile changes from divergent to convergent, the effective stiffness may change from a strong negative to a strong positive magnitude, thus avoiding the rotor natural frequency drop as it is detrimental for the stability. Unfortunately the effective damping is reduced at the same time but this can be improved using proper devices to keep the pre-swirl low or even negative (e.g. swirl brakes, shunt holes).
This paper presents the results from an extended test campaign performed in a high-speed rotor test rig equipped with active magnetic bearings working under high pressure (14krpm, 200bar gas inlet pressure), with the aim to validate the rotordynamic characteristics of a negative pre-swirl, convergent honeycomb seal and demonstrate its ability to effectively act as a gas bearing as well as a seal.
The test plan included variations of inlet pressure, differential pressure (given the same inlet pressure) as well as rotational speed in order to fully validate the seal behaviour. This kind of test was performed in a “dynamic mode”, exciting the spinning test rotor through a pair of AMBs along linear orbits.
Additionally the impact of the seal to rotor static eccentricity and the seal to rotor angular misalignment were both experimentally investigated and compared to relevant CFD simulations. This kind of test was performed in a “static mode”, imposing through the AMBs the required eccentricity / angular misalignment and then measuring the forces needed to keep the rotor in the original position. “Dynamic mode” test was also performed in order to check the impact of the seal static eccentricity on its dynamic behaviour.
Finally the test results were compared with predictions from a state of the art bulk flow code in order to check the predictability level for future design applications.