Measured results are presented for rotordynamic coefficients and mass leakage rates of a long smooth annular seal (length-to-diameter ratio L/D = 0.75, diameter D = 114.686 mm, and radial clearance Cr = 0.200 mm) tested with a mixture of silicone oil (PSF-5cSt) and air. The test seal is centered, the seal exit pressure is maintained at 6.9 bars-g while the fluid inlet temperature is controlled within 37.8–40.6°C. It is tested with 3 inlet-preswirl inserts, namely, zero, medium, and high (the preswirl ratios, i.e., the ratio between the fluid’s circumferential velocity and the shaft surface’s velocity, are in ranges of 0.10–0.18, 0.30–0.65, and 0.65–1.40 for zero, medium, and high preswirls, respectively), 6 inlet gas-volume-fractions GVFi (0%, 2%, 4%, 6%, 8%, 10%), 4 pressure drops PD (20.7, 27.6, 34.5, 41.4 bars), and 3 speeds ω (3, 4, 5 krpm). The targeted test matrix could not be achieved for the medium- and high-preswirl inserts at PD ≥ 27.6 bars due to the test-rig stator’s dynamic instability issues. Spargers were used to inject air into the oil, and GVFi values higher than 0.10 could not be consistently achieved because of unsteady surging flow downstream from the sparger mixing section.

Leakage mass flow rate and rotordynamic coefficients are measured, and the effect of changing inlet preswirl and GVFi are studied. The test results are then compared with predictions from a 2-phase, homogeneous-mixture, bulk-flow model developed in 2011.

Generally, both measurements and predictions show little change in as inlet preswirl changes. Measured remains unchanged or slightly increases with increasing GVFi, but predicted decreases. Measured is comparable to predicted values but consistently lower.

Dynamic-stiffness coefficients are measured using an ensemble of excitation frequencies and curve-fitted well by frequency-independent stiffness Kij, damping Cij, and virtual mass Mij coefficients.

Planned tests with the medium and high-preswirl inserts could not be accomplished at PD = 34.5 and 41.4 bars because the seal stator became unstable with any finite injection of air. The test results show that the instability arose because the seal’s direct stiffness K became negative and increased in magnitude with increasing GVFi. The model predicts a drop in K as GVFi increases, but the test results dropped substantially more rapidly than predicted. Also, the model does not predict the observed strong tendency for K to drop with an increase in preswirl in moving from the zero-to-medium, and medium-to-high preswirl inserts. The authors believe that the observed drop in K due to increasing GVFi is not explained by either: (a) A reverse Lomakin effect from operating in the transition flow regime, or (b) The predicted drop in K at higher GVFi values from the model. A separate and as yet unidentified 2-phase flow phenomenon probably causes the observed results.

The negative K results due to increasing GVFi and moving from the zero to medium, and medium to high preswirl observed here could explain the instability issue (sudden nonsynchronous vibration) on a high-differential-pressure helico-axial multiphase pump, reported in 2013.

Effective damping Ceff combines the stabilizing effect of direct damping C, the destabilizing effect of cross-coupled stiffness k, and the influence of cross-coupled mass mq. As predicted and measured, increasing inlet preswirl significantly increases k and decreases Ceff, which decrease the seal’s stabilizing properties. Ceff increases with increasing GVFi — becomes more stable.

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