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research-article

The Impact of Journal Bearing Wear on an Electric Submersible Pump in Two-Phase and Three-Phase Flow

[+] Author and Article Information
Changrui Bai

3123 TAMU College Station, TX 77843 bcrbuaa@gmail.com

Dezhi Zheng

3123 TAMU Mechanical Engineering College Station, TX 77843 dezhi.zheng28@gmail.com

Robert Hure

2200 Cottage Lane Apt. A302 College Station, TX 77845 robertbhure1@gmail.com

Ramy Saleh

3123 TAMU College Station, TX 77843 r.moaness@gmail.com

Nicolas Carvajal

3123 TAMU College Station, TX 77843 nicolascarva@gmail.com

Gerald Morrison

Turbomachinery Laboratory College Station, TX 77843 gmorrison@tamu.edu

1Corresponding author.

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 xx xx, xxxx. Assoc. Editor: Noel Brunetiere.

ASME doi:10.1115/1.4042773 History: Received September 24, 2018; Accepted February 06, 2019

Abstract

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 hours 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 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 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 damage from heat checking.

Copyright © 2019 by ASME
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