Centrifugal compressor impellers and shafts are subject to severe fluctuating axial and radial forces when operating in surge. These forces can cause severe damage to the close clearance components of a centrifugal compressor such as the thrust and radial bearings, inter-stage and dry gas seals, and balance piston. Being able to accurately quantify the cyclic surge forces on the close clearance components of the compressor allows the user to determine whether an accidental surge event, or emergency shutdown (ESD) transient, has caused damage requiring inspection, repair, or part replacement. For the test, a 700 Hp (∼520 kW) industrial air centrifugal compressor was operated in surge at speeds ranging from 7,000 to 13,000 rpm and pressure ratios from 1.2 to 1.8. The axial surge forces were directly measured using axial load cells on the thrust bearings. Suction and discharge pressures, proximity probe axial shaft position, flows, and temperatures were also measured. Time domain and frequency plots of axial vibration and dynamic pulsations showed the impact of the operating conditions on surge force amplitudes and frequencies. A surge severity coefficient was also derived as a simple screening tool to evaluate the magnitude of potential damage to a compressor during surge.

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