Electric submersible pumps (ESPs) provide artificial lift within oil wells. ESPs commonly fail from mechanical vibrations that increase as bearing clearances increase from debris, gas, and liquid pumped through the ESP. In order to understand journal bearing wear within an ESP, three stages of a mixed flow electric submersible pump were subjected to hydraulic fracture sand slurry in water. One hundred seventeen hours were conducted with sand and water, followed by 68 h with air added at 15% inlet gas volume fraction. The journal bearings were severely worn by the end of testing, and pump vibrations increased with increased bearing clearances. Bearing vibrations and clearances became significantly larger than the impeller labyrinth seal vibrations and clearances, indicating that the labyrinth seals became the dominant rotor support once the bearings were worn. Adding air increased the wear and rotor vibration orbit variability. Rotor vibration orbits were entirely independent of gas void fraction by the end of testing, indicating that the lubricant composition no longer directly impacted vibrations. Fine axial cracks from heat checking were observed on the journal of the bearings. Results indicate that controlling journal bearing wear is a critical factor for increasing operating lifetimes. Alternative bearing geometry and materials should be investigated to prevent the occurrence of three-body abrasion, limit the resultant wear rate from three-body abrasion, and limit the damage from heat checking.
The Impact of Journal Bearing Wear on an Electric Submersible Pump in Two-Phase and Three-Phase Flow
Contributed by the Tribology Division of ASME for publication in the Journal of Tribology. Manuscript received September 24, 2018; final manuscript received February 4, 2019; published online March 4, 2019. Assoc. Editor: Noel Brunetiere.
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Bai, C., Zheng, D., Hure, R., Saleh, R., Carvajal, N., and Morrison, G. (March 4, 2019). "The Impact of Journal Bearing Wear on an Electric Submersible Pump in Two-Phase and Three-Phase Flow." ASME. J. Tribol. May 2019; 141(5): 051702. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4042773
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