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Mechanical Seal Maintenance and

Application Guide

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Technical Report

Plant
Maintenance
Support
Reduced
Cost

Equipment
Reliability

Mechanical Seal Maintenance and


Application Guide
1000987

Final Report, November 2000

EPRI Project Manager


M. Pugh

EPRI 3412 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94304 PO Box 10412, Palo Alto, California 94303 USA
800.313.3774 650.855.2121 askepri@epri.com www.epri.com

DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITIES


THIS DOCUMENT WAS PREPARED BY THE ORGANIZATION(S) NAMED BELOW AS AN
ACCOUNT OF WORK SPONSORED OR COSPONSORED BY THE ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH
INSTITUTE, INC. (EPRI). NEITHER EPRI, ANY MEMBER OF EPRI, ANY COSPONSOR, THE
ORGANIZATION(S) BELOW, NOR ANY PERSON ACTING ON BEHALF OF ANY OF THEM:
(A) MAKES ANY WARRANTY OR REPRESENTATION WHATSOEVER, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, (I)
WITH RESPECT TO THE USE OF ANY INFORMATION, APPARATUS, METHOD, PROCESS, OR
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FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OR (II) THAT SUCH USE DOES NOT INFRINGE ON OR
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PROPERTY, OR (III) THAT THIS DOCUMENT IS SUITABLE TO ANY PARTICULAR USER'S
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(INCLUDING ANY CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, EVEN IF EPRI OR ANY EPRI REPRESENTATIVE
HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES) RESULTING FROM YOUR
SELECTION OR USE OF THIS DOCUMENT OR ANY INFORMATION, APPARATUS, METHOD,
PROCESS, OR SIMILAR ITEM DISCLOSED IN THIS DOCUMENT.
ORGANIZATION(S) THAT PREPARED THIS DOCUMENT
Kalsi Engineering, Inc.

ORDERING INFORMATION
Requests for copies of this report should be directed to the EPRI Distribution Center, 207 Coggins
Drive, P.O. Box 23205, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, (800) 313-3774.
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Copyright 2000 Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

CITATIONS
This report was produced by
Nuclear Maintenance Application Center
EPRI
1300 W.T. Harris Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28262
This report describes research sponsored by EPRI.
The report is a corporate document that should be cited in the literature in the following manner:
Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide, EPRI, Palo Alto, CA: 2000. 1000987.

iii

REPORT SUMMARY

This guide provides information to personnel involved with the maintenance of mechanical seals,
including good maintenance practices, planning, predictive and preventive techniques, and
troubleshooting guidance. It provides insight to experienced personnel as well as basic
information, guidance, and instructions to personnel assigned to maintain mechanical seals.
Background
A mechanical seal prevents leakage of pressurized fluid between a rotating shaft and a stationary
housing. They are widely used for numerous power plant equipment applications, particularly on
pumps of various sizes and pressure ratings. Even though they are capable of providing longterm service, mechanical seals sometimes exhibit unsatisfactory performance, unpredictable
failures, and a short life, which can directly affect plant reliability and performance, resulting in
costly downtime and outages. Mechanical seal issues rank high in surveys completed by power
plant maintenance personnel.
Objectives
x To help power plant personnel deal with the maintenance and reliability issues of this critical
power plant component
x

To provide technical information to plant personnel on proper selection and installation of


mechanical seals, seal failure modes, and troubleshooting

To provide maintenance recommendations for optimizing seal performance and operating life

Approach
A detailed review of industry literature, product information, and standards was conducted to
establish the state of technology for mechanical seals. Utility and industry personnel were
surveyed to determine specific problems and commonly encountered failure mechanisms. Based
on all of the information gathered, suitable recommendations were developed for the problems
encountered and presented in this report.
Results
This guide presents a thorough discussion of mechanical seals and provides an in-depth
understanding of their design and operation, including expected life and a discussion of proper
application and selection. It also provides proper installation methods and guidance on expected
failure mechanisms. This guide offers troubleshooting approaches to assist in determining the
causes of failure and discusses recommended predictive, preventive, and corrective maintenance
practices. The contents of this guide will assist plant personnel in reducing costs and equipment
unavailability and in improving equipment reliability and performance.

EPRI Perspective
Problems with mechanical seals represent a significant reliability impact on rotating equipment.
This guide provides power plant maintenance personnel with information to help improve seal
performance and component reliability through a better understanding of the operation of
mechanical seals and their critical components. It also provides guidelines on investigating and
troubleshooting problems that arise during inservice operation and normal planned maintenance
activities.
Keywords
Mechanical seals
Maintenance
Engineers

vi

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This guide was developed by the Nuclear Maintenance Application Center (NMAC) and the
following Technical Advisory Group (TAG):
Steve Lemberger
Bob Mundlapudi
Vic Varma
Hugh Nixon
Steve Rosenau
Larry Price
Rich Hansen
John Montgomery

AEP
Amergen
Consultant
Consumers Energy
Duke Energy
PG&E
UNICOM
UNICOM

NMAC and the TAG were supported in this effort by:


Kalsi Engineering, Inc.
Sugar Land, TX
Principal Investigators:
M. S. Kalsi
P. D. Alvarez

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CONTENTS

1 INTRODUCTION.................................................................................................................. 1-1
1.1

Background............................................................................................................... 1-1

1.2

Purpose .................................................................................................................... 1-2

1.3

Approach................................................................................................................... 1-2

1.4

Highlighting of Key Points ......................................................................................... 1-3

2 GLOSSARY OF TERMS...................................................................................................... 2-1


3 TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION ............................................................................................... 3-1
3.1

Operating Principles and Basic Components of a Mechanical Face Seal .................. 3-1

3.2

Major Design Variations ............................................................................................ 3-8

3.3

Multiple Seals.......................................................................................................... 3-10

3.4

Seal Cartridges ....................................................................................................... 3-12

3.5

Seal Chamber Design and Flushing ........................................................................ 3-15

3.5.1 Seal Arrangements for Abrasive Applications ..................................................... 3-17


3.6

Closing Force.......................................................................................................... 3-17

3.6.1 Balance Ratio ..................................................................................................... 3-18


3.6.2 Pressure Distribution Between the Sealing Faces .............................................. 3-21
3.6.3 Stationary Versus Rotating Seal Balance ........................................................... 3-22
3.7

Pressure Velocity (PV) Parameter and Limit ........................................................... 3-23

3.8

Temperature Considerations and 'T Limit .............................................................. 3-24

3.9

Improved Seal Face Designs .................................................................................. 3-25

3.10 Hydrostatic Seal Design .......................................................................................... 3-28


4 FAILURE MODES AND FUNDAMENTAL MECHANISMS.................................................. 4-1
4.1

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 4-1

4.2

Definition of Seal Failure ........................................................................................... 4-1

4.3

Industry Survey ......................................................................................................... 4-2

4.4

Fundamental Failure Mechanisms............................................................................. 4-3

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4.4.1 PV Limits Exceeded ............................................................................................. 4-4


4.4.2 'T Limits Exceeded, Causing Film Vaporization/Collapse .................................... 4-5
4.4.3 Inadequate Cooling .............................................................................................. 4-6
4.4.4 Transients Causing Excessive Seal Face Coning................................................. 4-6
4.4.5 Operation Away from Best Efficiency Point........................................................... 4-9
4.4.6 Seal Misalignment/Premature Degradation of Primary and Secondary Seals ..... 4-12
4.4.7 Excessive Out-of-Flatness (Warpage) During Operation .................................... 4-15
4.4.8 Seal Faces Too Perfectly Flat to Generate a Film............................................... 4-16
5 APPLICATION AND SELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................. 5-1
5.1

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 5-1

5.2

Selection Specification .............................................................................................. 5-1

5.3

Selection Data Sheet ................................................................................................ 5-3

5.4

Qualification Testing.................................................................................................. 5-6

6 CONDITION-BASED MONITORING GUIDELINES ............................................................. 6-1


6.1

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 6-1

6.2

Typical Performance Data Logging ........................................................................... 6-2

6.3

Seal Performance Parameters .................................................................................. 6-5

6.4

Instrumentation ......................................................................................................... 6-5

6.4.1 Temperature Gauge ............................................................................................. 6-5


6.4.2 Thermowells ......................................................................................................... 6-6
6.4.3 Pressure Gauges.................................................................................................. 6-6
6.4.4 Alarm, Trip, and Control Switches ........................................................................ 6-6
6.4.5 Pressure Switches................................................................................................ 6-7
6.4.6 Level Switches ..................................................................................................... 6-7
6.4.7 Level Indicators .................................................................................................... 6-8
6.4.8 Flow Indicators ..................................................................................................... 6-8
7 TROUBLESHOOTING TO IDENTIFY CAUSE OF SEAL FAILURE .................................... 7-1
7.1

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 7-1

7.2

Failure Diagnosis ...................................................................................................... 7-1

7.2.1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure....................................................................... 7-2


7.2.2 Checks Before Dismantling .................................................................................. 7-7
7.2.3 Checks During Dismantling .................................................................................. 7-9
7.2.3.1 General Checks............................................................................................. 7-9

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7.2.3.2 Premature Failure Checks ........................................................................... 7-10


7.2.3.3 Mid-Life Failure Checks............................................................................... 7-11
7.3

Visual Seal Examination.......................................................................................... 7-12

8 MAINTENANCE................................................................................................................... 8-1
8.1

Introduction ............................................................................................................... 8-1

8.2

Installation and Operation ......................................................................................... 8-2

8.2.1 Seal Handling and Inspection ............................................................................... 8-2


8.2.1.1 Packaging ..................................................................................................... 8-2
8.2.1.2 Storage.......................................................................................................... 8-3
8.2.1.3 Handling ........................................................................................................ 8-3
8.2.1.4 Physical Checks of Mechanical Seals ........................................................... 8-3
8.2.1.5 Seal Rotating and Stationary Components .................................................... 8-3
8.2.1.6 Seal Faces .................................................................................................... 8-4
8.2.1.7 Gaskets ......................................................................................................... 8-4
8.2.1.8 Spring............................................................................................................ 8-4
8.2.2 Pre-Installation Equipment Checks ....................................................................... 8-4
8.2.2.1 Shaft Straightness ......................................................................................... 8-4
8.2.2.2 Shaft Runout ................................................................................................. 8-5
8.2.2.3 Squareness of Stuffing Box ........................................................................... 8-5
8.2.2.4 Rotational Balance ........................................................................................ 8-6
8.2.2.5 Shaft Bearing Clearances.............................................................................. 8-6
8.2.2.6 Shaft/Sleeve Diameter and Surface Finish .................................................... 8-7
8.2.2.7 Sleeve Hardfacing ......................................................................................... 8-7
8.2.2.8 Sharp Edges ................................................................................................. 8-8
8.2.3 Seal Installation Checks ....................................................................................... 8-8
8.2.3.1 Seal Dimensional Checks.............................................................................. 8-8
8.2.3.2 Seal Cavity Dimensions................................................................................. 8-9
8.2.3.3 Compression Length Tolerance..................................................................... 8-9
8.2.3.4 Auxiliary Glands ............................................................................................ 8-9
8.2.4 Seal Removal ..................................................................................................... 8-10
8.2.4.1 Safety.......................................................................................................... 8-10
8.2.4.2 Failure Evidence.......................................................................................... 8-10
8.2.4.3 Seal Re-use and Inspection......................................................................... 8-10
8.2.5 Startup................................................................................................................ 8-10

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8.2.5.1 Avoid Dry Running ...................................................................................... 8-11


8.2.5.2 Filtration ...................................................................................................... 8-11
8.2.5.3 Venting the Stuffing Box .............................................................................. 8-11
9 REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................ 9-1
A MECHANICAL SEALS APPLICATION AND MAINTENANCE GUIDE SURVEY................ A-1
B INSPECTION OF SEAL FACES FOR FLATNESS .............................................................B-1
B.1

Optical Principle ........................................................................................................ B-1

B.2

Procedure for Measuring Face Flatness.................................................................... B-2

C TRAINING COURSES.........................................................................................................C-1
D LISTING OF KEY INFORMATION ......................................................................................D-1

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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 3-1 Essential Components of a Mechanical Face Seal................................................. 3-1
Figure 3-2 Multiple Coil Springs .............................................................................................. 3-4
Figure 3-3 Single Coil Springs................................................................................................. 3-4
Figure 3-4 Corrugated Bellows................................................................................................ 3-4
Figure 3-5 Welded Bellows ..................................................................................................... 3-4
Figure 3-6 Rubber Bellows...................................................................................................... 3-5
Figure 3-7 Belleville Washers.................................................................................................. 3-5
Figure 3-8 Rotating Primary Ring - Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) .............................. 3-9
Figure 3-9 Rotating Primary Ring - Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) .............................. 3-9
Figure 3-10 Stationary Primary Ring - Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted) ......................... 3-9
Figure 3-11 Stationary Primary Ring - Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted) ....................... 3-10
Figure 3-12 Back-to-Back Dual Seal ..................................................................................... 3-10
Figure 3-13 Face-to-Face Dual Seal ..................................................................................... 3-11
Figure 3-14 Pressure Stage Tandem Seal ............................................................................ 3-11
Figure 3-15 Single Seal Cartridge ......................................................................................... 3-12
Figure 3-16 Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for
a Main Coolant Pump .................................................................................................... 3-13
Figure 3-17 Seal Stage Details of a Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge
Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump................................................... 3-14
Figure 3-18 Common Variations in Seal Chamber Design .................................................... 3-15
Figure 3-19 A Typical Flush Plan for a Cooling Seal Chamber .............................................. 3-16
Figure 3-20 Unbalanced, Balanced, and Partially Balanced Seal Designs ............................ 3-19
Figure 3-21 Face Pressure Distribution Due to Hydraulic Pressure and Spring Force........... 3-21
Figure 3-22 Rotating Seal Balance Designs.......................................................................... 3-22
Figure 3-23 Pressure/Temperature Operating Envelope Showing 'T Margin Required for
Seal Operation .............................................................................................................. 3-25
Figure 3-24 Seal Face with Thermal Hydrodynamic Grooves for Positive Hydrodynamic
Lubrication..................................................................................................................... 3-26
Figure 3-25 Design Options with Hydrodynamic Grooves on the Outer Periphery or Inner
Periphery of Seal Face .................................................................................................. 3-27
Figure 3-26 Other Variations in Seal Face Geometry to Enhance Lubrication of the
Faces ............................................................................................................................ 3-27
Figure 3-27 Hydrostatic Face Seal Design ............................................................................ 3-29

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Figure 4-1 Lubrication Regimes at Seal Interface Showing Asperity Contact as


Lubrication Changes from Full Film to Mixed to Boundary ............................................... 4-5
Figure 4-2 Extremes of Seal Face Distortion (Coning) Due to Thermal and Pressure
Effects ............................................................................................................................. 4-7
Figure 4-3 Pressure Distribution Changes Caused by Coning of the Seal Faces
(for Outside Pressurized Seal)......................................................................................... 4-8
Figure 4-4 Changes in Seal Contact Area Under Constant Operating Conditions During
the Wear-In Process for a Seal With a Hard Face and a Soft Face ................................. 4-9
Figure 4-5 Example of a Wear-In Sequence (Stages 1 through 4) for a Mechanical Seal
with a Soft Seal Face....................................................................................................... 4-9
Figure 4-6 Fluid Pumping Action Across the Seal Faces Due to Static Offset and
Misalignment ................................................................................................................. 4-11
Figure 4-7 Rotating Balance Seal Wobble Caused by Shaft Tilt ............................................ 4-12
Figure 4-8 Shaft Tilt Accommodated by Stationary Ring Pivot .............................................. 4-14
Figure 4-9 Seal Pumping Caused by Dynamic Offset of Rotating Narrow Face .................... 4-15
Figure 6-1 Seal Data Plot Showing Declining Performance..................................................... 6-4
Figure 8-1 Shaft Straightness Check....................................................................................... 8-5
Figure 8-2 Shaft Runout Measurement ................................................................................... 8-5
Figure 8-3 Stuffing Box Squareness Measurement ................................................................. 8-6
Figure 8-4 Shaft and Impeller Rotational Balance Check ........................................................ 8-6
Figure 8-5 Radial and Axial Bearing Clearance Checks .......................................................... 8-7
Figure 8-6 Measurement of Critical Shaft and Sleeve Diameters ............................................ 8-7
Figure 8-7 Sleeve Hardfacing to Prolong Life .......................................................................... 8-8
Figure 8-8 Lead-In Chamfers to Prevent Secondary Seal Damage During Installation............ 8-8
Figure 8-9 Seal Cavity Dimensional Checks Prior to Installation ............................................. 8-9
Figure B-1 Using an Optical Flat to Determine Seal Face Flatness Light Bands ..................... B-2
Figure B-2 The Viewing Angle Typically Should be 80q to 90q While Checking Flatness
Using a Monochromatic Light Source .............................................................................. B-3
Figure B-3 Flat Within One Light Band .................................................................................... B-4
Figure B-4 Bands Bend on One side and Line AB Intersects 3 Bands .................................... B-5
Figure B-5 This Indicates an Egg-Shaped Curvature of 2.5 Light Bands ................................. B-5
Figure B-6 Bands Show a Saddle Shape Out-of-Flat Condition of 3 Light Bands .................... B-6
Figure B-7 Bands Show a Cylindrical-Shaped Part with a 3-Light Band Reading Error ........... B-6
Figure B-8 Band Symmetrical Pattern Indicates a Conical Convex or Concave Part ............... B-6

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LIST OF TABLES
Table 2-1 Glossary of Terms................................................................................................... 2-1
Table 3-1 Secondary Seal Properties...................................................................................... 3-3
Table 3-2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations............... 3-6
Table 3-3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Springs ......................... 3-8
Table 3-4 Approximate PV Limits psi-ft/min (Mpa-m/sec) for General Seals with Various
Combinations of Seal Face Materials and Fluids ........................................................... 3-23
Table 5-1 Seal Application and Selection Guidelines .............................................................. 5-2
Table 6-1 Seal System Log Sheet........................................................................................... 6-3
Table 7-1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure ......................................................................... 7-3
Table 7-2 Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling .................................................................. 7-7
Table 7-3 General Checks During Dismantling........................................................................ 7-9
Table 7-4 Premature Failure Checks During Dismantling ...................................................... 7-10
Table 7-5 Mid-Life Failure Checks During Dismantling.......................................................... 7-11
Table 7-6 Visual Examination: Failure Symptoms Based on Mechanical, Thermal, or
Chemical Damage......................................................................................................... 7-13
Table 7-7 Visual Examination: Symptoms, Characteristics, Causes and Remedies .............. 7-14

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1
INTRODUCTION

1.1

Background

In the past, the Nuclear Maintenance Application Center (NMAC) of EPRI has published a
number of application and maintenance guides to provide technical guidance to engineers and
other plant personnel on mechanical seal equipment and component operation. These have
included information on proper selection, installation, and failure mode analysis, and
maintenance recommendations designed to optimize equipment operating life. EPRI has
conducted and published the following documents relating to equipment seals:
x

Guide to Optimized Replacement of Equipment Seals. March 1990 (NP-6731).

Shelf Life of Elastomeric Components. 1994 (NP-6608).

Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide. 1993 (TR-100855).

Static Seal Maintenance Guide. 1994 (TR-104749).

Centrifugal and Positive Displacement Maintenance Guide. 1997 (TR-107252).

Mechanical seals are widely used in many types of rotating power plant equipment, especially
pumps of various sizes and pressure ratings. Even though mechanical seals are capable of
providing reliable long-term service with proper consideration to design, application, installation,
and maintenance, they still exhibit unsatisfactory performance, short life, and unpredictable
(random) failures in some applications. As such, mechanical seals have a significant influence on
the reliability of plant equipment.
A mechanical seal is a complex assembly of precision-machined components. Design and
prediction of mechanical seal performance in a given application requires an in-depth knowledge
of all mechanical disciplines: stress/deflection analysis, vibration analysis, heat transfer, fluid
mechanics, lubrication, friction and wear, materials, and manufacturing processes.
Mechanical seal technology, as well as a fundamental understanding of how such seals work, has
evolved and improved significantly over the last two decades. This has been the result of
extensive industry-wide research, testing, plant experience, availability of sophisticated
analytical tools (for example, computational fluid dynamics analysis and finite element analysis),
and advances in manufacturing technology. This has enabled improvements in the performance
of mechanical seals in a number of critical applications in nuclear and fossil power plants,
petrochemical plants, and other industries.

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Introduction

1.2

Purpose

The objective of this NMAC Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide is to provide
personnel in nuclear and fossil power plants with:
x

An in-depth understanding of the design and operation of mechanical seals

Correct selection of mechanical seals for an application

Proper installation methods

Guidance on failure mechanisms and their causes, including troubleshooting information

Guidance on expected seal life under various operating conditions

Recommended predictive (diagnostics), preventive, and corrective methods of maintenance


to optimize seal life

Training material to support personnel training

This guide presents the latest developments in mechanical seal technology and materials. Some
of the new seal designs are already in use in industries other than power plants. Their viability in
power plant operation was researched and, based on this research, the guide includes
recommendations for achieving plant-wide improvements in nuclear and fossil power plants.
This NMAC Mechanical Seal Maintenance and Application Guide is a comprehensive, state-ofthe-art text for nuclear and fossil power utility engineers.

1.3

Approach

A detailed review of the available literature was conducted to establish the state of technology in
mechanical seals [1-65*]. The objective was to establish the present state of the art regarding:
x

The operation of seals

Designs offered by the manufacturers

Application problems

Solutions to address these problems

Installation and maintenance recommendations

Statistical/failure data

Plant experiences

Emerging technologies

All relevant technical papers, reports, and publications were reviewed from:
x
*

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)


Numerals in brackets denote references listed in Section 9 of this Guide.

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Introduction

The American Society of Lubrication Engineers (ASLE)

The British Hydromechanics Research Association (BHRA)

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME)

Seal manufacturers

The review included both domestic and international mechanical seal manufacturers such as John
Crane Company, Chesterton, Borg-Warner, Durametallic, Sealol, AST, Burgmann Seals,
Flexibox, Latty International. Significant United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Generic
Communications relating to shaft seal issues were also reviewed and evaluated to develop
suitable recommendations for inclusion in this guide.
Additionally, a questionnaire was developed as a survey distributed among the nuclear and fossil
power utilities to facilitate determination of specific problems and commonly encountered failure
modes. The results of the survey were analyzed to determine the root causes of seal failure, to
develop troubleshooting, failure diagnosis, installation and maintenance guidelines, and to
develop suitable recommendations for this guide. This guide also utilizes relevant data from
technical papers, as well as principal investigators experience with mechanical seals in the
petrochemical, chemical, drilling, and mining industries.

1.4

Highlighting of Key Points

Throughout this guide, key information is summarized in Pop Outs. Pop outs are bold-lettered
boxes that succinctly restate information covered in detail in the surrounding text, making the
key point easier to locate.
The primary intent of a pop out is to emphasize information that will allow individuals to take
action for the benefit of the plant. The information included in these pop outs was selected by
NMAC personnel and the consultants and utility personnel who prepared and reviewed this
guide.
The pop outs are organized according to three categories: O&M Costs, Technical, and Human
Performance. Each category has an identifying icon, as shown below, to draw attention to it
when quickly reviewing the guide.
Key O&M Cost Point
Emphasizes information that will result in reduced purchase, operating, or
maintenance costs.
Key Technical Point
Targets information that will lead to improved equipment reliability.

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Introduction

Key Human Performance Point


Denotes information that requires personnel action or consideration in order
to prevent injury or damage, or ease completion of the task.
Appendix D contains a listing of all key points in each category. The listing restates each key
point and provides reference to its location in the body of the report. By reviewing this listing,
users of this guide can determine if they have taken advantage of key information that the
authors believe would benefit their plants.

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2
GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The terminology used to describe the various design features, configurations, applications,
installation, and performance of mechanical face seals has evolved over the years. Seal
handbooks, manufacturer catalogs, technical papers, and the industry standards for both the
United States of America and European countries [3-9] were reviewed to reconcile the
differences in definitions and prepare the following comprehensive glossary (Table 2-1) of terms
in common use today and adopted in this guide.
Table 2-1
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Abeyance seal

A non-contacting auxiliary seal that is activated by failure of the primary seal in the
case of a single seal, or the outer seal in the case of a double seal.

Abrasive wear

Wear occurring by the mechanical action of an abrasive. Abrasives are substances


that are harder than the abraded surface and usually have an angular profile.

Adhesive wear

Wear arising from small-scale local welding at asperities; a common wear mode
associated with running in and mild steady state wear.

Anti-rotation pin
or device

A device, usually a pin, designed to prevent the stationary seal member from
rotating in its mounting.

API 610

API Standard: Centrifugal Pumps for General Refinery Services (8th Ed. in
preparation). A specification widely used for heavy duty centrifugal pumps.

API 682

API Standard: Shaft Sealing System for Centrifugal and Rotary Pumps (1st Ed.,
1994).

API piping plan

Arrangements recommended in API 610 for connecting auxiliary pipework to the


seal chamber.

Asperity

Minute high spot on the seal face resulting from the manufacturing process.

Autobalancing

Alternative term for double balancing (see double balancing).

Auxiliary seal

A seal fitted to the atmospheric side of a quench chamber or secondarycontainment chamber.

Back-to-back seal

A seal configuration consisting of a double seal with the seal rings adjacent to each
other, that is, two mechanical seals facing in opposite directions.

Back-up seal

Alternative name for auxiliary seal.

Balance diameter

See note under balance ratio.

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Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Balance ratio

Balance ratio determines the proportion of the seal chamber pressure that is applied
to the faces of a mechanical seal. Mechanical seals are available as both balanced
and unbalanced designs. The balance ratio is a ratio of the area subjected to the
differential pressure of the fluid to the area between the seal ring faces. Seals are
often identified by their balance diameter. The balance diameter, Db, is located
between the inside diameter, Di, and outside diameter, Do, of the seal ring contact
area.
For seals pressurized on the outside diameter:

Balance Ratio

Do 2  D b 2
D o 2  Di 2

For seals pressurized on the inside diameter:


D b 2 - Di 2
Balance Ratio
D o 2 - Di 2
Note: Balance diameter varies with seal design, but for spring pusher seals under
outer diameter (OD) pressure, it is normally the diameter of the sliding contact
surface of the inner diameter (ID) of the dynamic O-ring. For spring pusher seals
under inner diameter pressure, it is normally the diameter of the sliding contact
surface of the outer diameter of the dynamic O-ring.
For welded metal bellows type seals, the balance diameter is normally the mean
diameter of the bellows but this can vary with pressure. As stated in Diametral Tilt
and Leakage of End Face Seals with Convergent Sealing Gaps [26], the balance
diameter for the welded bellows is equal to the root mean square average of the
bellows OD and ID, that is, Db = [0.5 (OD2 + ID2)]1/2.

2-2

Balanced seal

A mechanical seal arrangement whereby the effect of the hydraulic pressure in the
seal chamber on the seal face closing forces has been reduced through seal
geometry. Balanced seals have a seal balance ratio of less than 1 (0.65 to 0.85 is
typical range).

Balanced sleeve/
secondary seal
sleeve

Stationary balance seal designs allow the stationary member to move axially. The
secondary seal slides on a sleeve, or insert, called the balance sleeve.

Barrier fluid

A fluid injected between dual mechanical seals to completely isolate the pump
process liquid from the environment. Pressure of the barrier fluid is always higher
than the process pressure being sealed. (For contrast, see buffer fluid definition.)

Bellows seal

A type of mechanical seal in which one of the faces is mounted on an elastomeric


or a flexible metal bellows to provide secondary sealing. Metal bellows, and in
some designs elastomeric bellows, also provide spring-type loading to the seal
faces.

Blistering

A term used to describe a particular form of damage to carbon-graphite seal faces,


usually caused by hydrocarbons.

Boundary
lubrication

Condition of lubrication where the seal faces are in solid contact, though separated
by adsorbed surface films.

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Bubble point

Mixtures of liquids do not have a clearly defined boiling point. The bubble point is
the temperature at which the first bubble is evolved on raising the temperature at
constant pressure. The term is most frequently used with mixtures of hydrocarbons.

Buffer fluid

A fluid used as a lubricant or buffer between dual mechanical seals. The fluid is
always at a pressure lower than the pump process pressure being sealed. (For
contrast, see barrier fluid definition.)

Cartridge seal

A completely self-contained mechanical face seal unit (including seal, gland,


sleeve, and mating ring) that is pre-assembled and requires no field adjustments.

Clamp plate

An alternative term for seal plate.

Closing force

Combined hydraulic and spring load acting on the floating seal member in the
closing direction.

Coking

The formation of carbonaceous deposits on the atmospheric side of a mechanical


seal resulting from the oxidation/polymerization of leakage of organic products.

Compression set

The difference between the thickness of a gasket, or elastomer, or length of a


spring, both as supplied and after being subject to compression in service. More
specifically, the compression set of an elastomer is defined as:

change in specimen length


applied strain x original specimen length
Coning

Axisymmetric distortion of the seal faces, causing a rotation of the seal ring crosssection and creating a radial variation in seal film thickness.

Contact pattern

An alternative term for wear track.

Controlled bleedoff (CBO) or


staging flow

Staged seal designs use an orifice to bypass a small flow around each seal to reduce
pressure to subsequent stages. If the resistance of each orifice device is equal, and
the seals are not leaking, the differential pressure across each stage will be equal.
This distribution of pressure provides the optimum condition to obtain the
maximum seal life.

Controlled
leakage seal

Alternative term for hydrostatic seal.

Convergence/
divergence

It is necessary to have an adequate gap at the inner or the outer periphery of the
seal faces that is exposed to the pressurized fluid to allow fluid to enter and provide
lubrication and cooling. Coning of seal faces can cause the gap to decrease
(converging seal faces) or increase (diverging seal faces) in the direction of
leakage.

Coolant

A liquid from an external source circulated through a stationary seal member or


other separate cooling element to remove heat.

Critical
dimensions

Each specific seal design has a unique geometry. In this geometry some dimensions
are very important to the successful operation of the seal. Other dimensions,
although important, might not have a significant effect as they vary within
reasonable values. Dimensions that are very important to the proper operation of
the seal are termed critical dimensions. These might be very precise dimensions,
such as seal face flatness, or they might have tolerances of 1/16" (.16 cm), such as a
spring gap. Generally, critical dimensions are verified and recorded to ensure they
are correct.

2-3

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Crystallization

The formation of crystalline solids on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal


resulting from evaporation of product leakage (for example, borated water).

Cyclone separator

Hydrocyclone fitted in a product recirculation line to remove solids.

Dead-ended

Seal arrangement in which there is no product recirculation or injection of flush


into the seal chamber.

Degree of balance

The proportion of the face area that is exposed to the low-pressure side of the
balance diameter ( = 1 balance ratio).

Delta T, 'T

The difference between the bulk temperature of the liquid in the seal chamber and
the boiling point (or bubble point in the case of mixtures) of this liquid at the
pressure in the seal chamber. Also known as the product temperature margin.

Destaging

When individual seal stages leak more than other stages, the differential pressure
across the stages that are not leaking increases, and the differential pressure across
stages that are leaking decreases. This shift in differential pressures is termed
destaging.

Diameter ratio

The ratio (>1) between the outer and inner diameters of the narrower of the seal
faces.

Double balancing

A mechanical seal design feature that changes the balance diameter to improve the
seal's resistance to operating under reverse pressure. This prevents opening of the
inside seal in a double seal upon loss of barrier fluid pressure. (Sometimes called
autobalancing.)

Double seal

Restricted in this publication to the arrangement of two mechanical seals in a seal


chamber sealing in opposite directions. The seals can be either the back-to-back or
face-to-face seal configuration (qv).
Note: An alternative usage is to include two seals sealing in the same direction
in the category of double seal; in this publication, the latter configuration is
referred to as a tandem seal.

2-4

Drain connection

A connection to the quench (or secondary containment) chamber for the collection
of liquid.

Drive collar

The part of a cartridge seal that mechanically connects the sleeve to the shaft to
transmit rotation and prevent axial movement of the sleeve relative to the shaft.

Drive pin

A device for transmitting torque from the shaft to the rotating seal member.

Dry running

Running with no liquid between the seal faces.

Dual mechanical
seal

A seal arrangement using more than one seal in the same seal chamber in any
orientation that can utilize either a pressurized barrier fluid or a non-pressurized
buffer fluid. (It is also referred to as a double or tandem seal.)

Dynamic
secondary seal

A secondary seal in a pusher seal that prevents leakage between the shaft or
housing and the floating seal member of a mechanical seal.

Early-life failures

Failures occurring shortly after start-up because of manufacturing or fitting errors;


sometimes referred to as infantile mortality.

Elastomer

Non-metallic parts such as O-rings, U-cups, quad-rings, and bellows.

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Erosion

Abrasive wear of a surface by small particles in a gas, vapor or liquid, or droplets


of liquid in a gas or vapor (wire-drawing) flowing across it.

Externally
mounted seal
(also called
outside mounted).

An arrangement in which the mechanical seal is mounted outside the pump or


sealed vessel so that fewer seal parts are exposed to contact with a corrosive sealed
fluid. In this arrangement, the sealed fluid is in contact with the inner diameter of
the seal faces.

Face

This term is used in a strict sense to mean the surface of a seal ring at the sealing
interface, but is also commonly used for the whole ring, for example, hard face.

Face load

The combined spring and hydraulic load carried between the seal faces before
allowing for any fluid pressure in the sealing interface.

Face plate

The primary sealing surface in a hydrostatic seal is a ceramic piece called the
faceplate. Some faceplates are stainless steel coated with aluminum oxide and
others are silica nitride.

Face width

Half the difference between the outer and inner diameters of the narrower of the
seal faces.

Face-to-face seal

A seal configuration consisting of a double seal with the seats adjacent to each
other, that is, two mechanical seals facing in opposite directions.

Film thickness

The thickness of the fluid film between the seal faces.

Film transfer

A process by which a film of the material of the soft face is deposited on the hard
face.

Fitness testing

Cartridge seals are assembled outside the pump and can be tested to verify the
assembly. Normally, a test vessel (with adequate ports, nozzles, gauges, and a flow
meter) is used to measure staging pressures and controlled bleed-off flow.
Frequently, fitness testers are supplied as skid-mounted assemblies with the
required pumps, reservoirs, instrumentation, and connecting piping.

Flashing

A rapid change in fluid state, from liquid to gaseous. In a dynamic seal, this can
occur when frictional energy is added to the fluid as the latter passes between the
primary sealing faces, or when fluid pressure is reduced below the fluid's vapor
pressure because of a pressure drop across the sealing faces. In this publication, the
definition of flashing is that vapor pressure is greater than 1 bar (14.5 psia) at
pumping temperature.

Flashing
hydrocarbon
service

Any service that requires vapor suppression by cooling or pressurization to prevent


flashing. This category includes all hydrocarbon services where the fluid has a
vapor pressure greater than 1 bar (14.5 psia) at pumping temperature.

Flatness

The degree of flatness (peak-to-valley amplitude) of the seal faces, normally


expressed in helium light bands (1 helium light band = 11.6 micro-inches (0.29
Pm)).

Flexible graphite

A pure carbon graphite material used for static gaskets in mechanical seal design,
both for cryogenic and hot service.

Floating seal
member
(also called
primary ring)

The spring-loaded seal member of a mechanical seal that is allowed limited axial
movement to accommodate shaft end float and seal wear.

2-5

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms

2-6

Term

Definition

Fluid film

A film of liquid separating the seal faces, generated by hydrostatic and/or


hydrodynamic lubrication.

Fluid film
lubrication

Condition of lubrication in which the seal faces are completely separated by a


liquid film.

Fluoroelastomer

A type of O-ring material commonly used in mechanical seals, such as Viton.

Flush

A small amount of fluid that is introduced into the seal chamber on the process
fluid side in close proximity to the sealing faces and usually used for cooling and
lubricating the seal faces and to prevent accumulation of solid particulates.

Flush connection

Connection to the seal chamber to allow circulation of the sealed fluid.

Free length

The unconstrained axial length of a mechanical seal.

Fretting

A combination of corrosion and wear resulting from very small amplitude relative
motion. In a mechanical seal, a common example of fretting occurs when the
rubbing motion of a secondary seal continually wipes the oxide coating from a
shaft or sleeve. The increased surface roughness of fretted surfaces can adversely
affect the ability of the floating seal member to track its mating seal ring.

Friction
coefficient

Defined in a mechanical seal as the ratio of the friction force at the sealing interface
to the closing force.

Gland plate

(Alternative term for seal plate.) An end plate that connects the stationary assembly
of a mechanical seal to the seal chamber.

Hang-up

Failure of the secondary dynamic seal to move under the applied spring and
hydraulic forces.

Hard face

Seal face manufactured from ceramic, silicon carbide, or metal.

Header tank

An external vessel providing a pressurized barrier fluid to a double seal, either with
a static head or with a thermal siphon system.

Heat checking

The formation of fine radial cracks on a hard seal face caused by thermal stresses
set up by inadequately lubricated or dry running and quenching by the sealed fluid.

Heat exchanger

A device for cooling a fluid by heat transfer. Heat exchangers might be internal to
the pump, or externally mounted and connected with piping spools. Typically,
these heat exchangers also cool the water that passes through the pump water
bearing. Three types of construction are used for these heat exchangers: a tube-intube, a tube bundle, or a rotating baffle type. Cooling water might be provided from
the component cooling water system (CCW).

Hook sleeve

A cylindrical sleeve with a step or hook at the product end placed over the shaft to
protect it from wear and corrosion. This step is usually abutted against the impeller
to hold it in place with a gasket between the shaft and the step (hook).

Hydraulic balance

Same as balance ratio.

Hydraulic load

The load on the floating seal member resulting from differential pressure between
the seal chamber and the low-pressure side of the seal acting on the area of the
sealing ring above the balance diameter plus that caused by pressure on the lowpressure side acting on the area of the seal ring below the balance diameter.

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Hydrodynamic
lubrication

Fluid-film lubrication in which the pressure in the fluid film is generated by the
relative velocity between the seal faces; this can be in either a circumferential or
an axial direction.

Hydrodynamic
seal

A mechanical seal designed to operate with hydrodynamic lubrication between the


seal faces.

Hydrostatic
instability

Face separation occurring when hydraulic opening forces exceed the total closing
force.

Hydrostatic
lubrication

Fluid-film lubrication in which the pressure in the fluid film is generated externally
to the seal faces, and is used to maintain separation of the seal faces.

Hydrostatic
opening force

The separating force on the seal faces resulting from the hydrostatic pressure
between the faces.

Hydrostatic seal

A mechanical seal designed to operate with hydrostatic lubrication between the seal
faces. Some seals in use as main coolant pump seals are of hydrostatic film riding
taper face design. These seals use large converging gap geometry designed to
separate the seal faceplates by introducing pressurized fluid before the pump is
rotated.

Icing

Build-up of ice on the outside of a mechanical seal caused by solidification of


atmospheric water vapor through evaporative cooling of leakage of a liquid sealed
above its atmospheric boiling point.

Inside mounted
seal (or internally
mounted)

The common arrangement with the mechanical seal mounted inside the pump or
sealed vessel. No parts of the seal's flexible element or stationary faces are outside
the gland. In this arrangement the sealed liquid is in contact with the outer diameter
of the seal faces.

Internal
circulating device

A device located in the seal chamber to circulate seal chamber fluid through an
internal cooler area or an external cooler barrier/buffer fluid reservoir. Usually
referred to as a pumping ring.

L10 life

A statistic used to express the life of a population of mechanical seals; it is the time
when 10 percent of the seals have failed.

Lapping

Abrasive machining to achieve a very flat surface is called lapping. It can be


performed by hand on a plate or by a lapping machine. A lapping machine rotates a
flat surface and the parts being lapped, with respect to each other, using an abrasive
as a cutting agent between the two. Abrasives used include diamond compound,
aluminum oxide compound, and silicon carbide compound.

Leakage

Sealed fluid loss from the system; it includes non-obvious vapor formed by
evaporation, as well as the more obvious liquid emission. Leakage might occur
through secondary as well as primary seals.

Leakage rate

The volume of fluid (compressible or incompressible) passing through a seal in a


given length of time. For compressible fluids, leakage rate is normally expressed in
standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM), and for incompressible fluids, in terms of
cubic centimeters per minute.

Light band

Refers to the wavelength of helium light (= 11.6 micro-inches, or 0.29 Pm) used as
a measure of the flatness of the seal faces.

2-7

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Mating ring

A disc- or ring-shaped member, mounted either on a shaft sleeve or in a housing,


that provides the primary fluid seal when in proximity to the face of an axially
adjustable face seal assembly.

Maximum
allowable
working pressure
(MAWP)

The greatest discharge pressure at the specified pumping temperature for which the
pump casing is designed.

Maximum
dynamic sealing
pressure (MDSP)

The highest pressure expected at the seal (or seals) during any specified operating
condition and during start-up and shutdown. In determining this pressure,
consideration should be given to the maximum suction pressure, the flush pressure,
and the effect of clearance changes with the pump.

Maximum static
sealing pressure
(MSSP)

The highest pressure, excluding pressure encountered during hydrostatic testing, to


which the seal (or seals) can be subjected while the pump is shut down.

Main coolant
pump (MCP)

The term used to describe a group or family of reactor coolant pumps used in
pressurized water reactors, and reactor recirculation pumps used in boiling water
reactors, is main coolant pumps (MCP).

Mechanical seal

A device for sealing a rotating shaft whereby the sealing interface is located
between a pair of radial faces, one rotating, the other stationary.

Mixed lubrication

Condition of lubrication where the load between the seal faces is partly carried by
boundary lubrication and partly by fluid-film lubrication.

Mean time
between failures
(MTBF)

Mean time between failures. A statistic used to express the life of a population of
mechanical seals. It is given mathematically by the expression

MTBF

L1  L 2  . . .  L n
n

where L1, L2, etc., are the lives of individual seals.

2-8

Neck bush

Closed clearance bush at the inner end of seal chamber to restrict flow of dirty fluid
from pump into the seal chamber or to maintain pressure of recirculation flow in
seal chamber.

Net closing force

The difference between the total closing force and the hydrostatic opening force.

Non-flashing

A fluid state that does not change to a vapor phase at any operating condition or
operating temperature.

Non-flashing
hydrocarbon
service

This category includes all hydrocarbon services that are predominately all
hydrogen and carbon atoms; however, other non-hydrocarbon constituents might
be entrained in the stream. A product in this category does not require vapor
suppression to prevent transformation from a liquid phase to a vapor phase. For this
publication, the definition of non-flashing means that the vapor pressure is less than
1 bar (14.5 psia) at pumping temperature.

Non-hydrocarbon
service

This service category includes all services that cannot be defined as containing all
hydrogen and carbon molecules. However, some hydrocarbons might be entrained
in the fluids. Included in this category are boiler feed water (and other water
services), borated water, caustics, acids, amines, and other chemicals commonly
used in refinery services.

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Non-pusher type
seal

A mechanical seal (usually metal bellows) in which the secondary seal is fixed to
the shaft. A bellows seal is an example of a non-pusher seal in which the dynamic
secondary seal is eliminated.

Operating length

Axial length of installed mechanical seal.

Optical flat

An optical flat is a precision ground quartz or Pyrex plate. When light waves reflect
off the lapped surface through the flat, light bands are visible. The greater the gap
between the flat and the lapped surface, the larger the number of light bands. When
used with a monochromatic light (emits only one wavelength visible light), the
number of light bands can be used to measure the flatness of the lapped parts.

Orifice nipple

A pipe nipple made of solid bar stock with an orifice drilled through it to regulate
the flush flow commonly found on Plan 11 systems described in API 682. The
nipple should be welded to the discharge casing.

O-ring

Toroidal sealing ring with an O-shaped (circular) cross-section, used as a


secondary seal or gasket in both static and dynamic situations.

Outside mounted
seal

See externally mounted seal.

Perfluoroelastomer

High temperature, chemical resistant O-ring material such as DuPont Dow


Elastomer, Kalrez or Green Tweed, Chemraz. This material requires a wider
O-ring groove than standard O-ring materials.

Popping

A term used to indicate intermittent leakage of vapor resulting from a rapid change
in fluid state from liquid to gaseous and characterized by a popping sound.

Pressure
breakdown cells/
staging coils

Staged seal designs in MCPs use an orifice to bypass a small flow around each seal
to reduce pressure to subsequent stages. This configuration allows pressure to be
evenly distributed at each seal stage. The orifice is usually either a series of small,
machined grooves or a coil of small diameter tubing. These breakdown devices are
referred to as pressure breakdown cells or staging coils.

Pressure casing

The composite of all stationary pressure-containing parts of the seal, including seal
chamber, seal gland, and barrier/buffer fluid chamber (container) and other
attached parts, but excluding the stationary and rotating members of the mechanical
seal.

Primary seal

Mechanical seals have a rotating seal ring and a stationary seal ring. Fluid sealing
occurs at the interface of the rotating ring and the stationary ring. The seal that
occurs at this interface is often referred to as the primary seal.

Primary ring

See floating seal member.

Product

The process fluid.

Product
recirculation

Circulation of the product through the seal chamber to provide cooling (see
recirculation flow, reverse circulation).

Product
temperature
margin

Alternative name for Delta T, 'T.

Pumping ring

A device fitted inside the seal chamber to circulate the liquid in the seal chamber
through an external cooler and/or header tank.

2-9

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms

2-10

Term

Definition

Pusher type seal

A mechanical seal in which the secondary seal (for example, an O-ring, U-cup,
plastic wedge ring) is mechanically pushed (and therefore can move) along the
shaft or sleeve to compensate for face wear. Bellows are not classified as pusher
type seals.

PV factor

A parameter used to express the severity of operating conditions for a mechanical


face seal. In this publication, it is defined as the product of the pressure drop across
the seal and the mean relative velocity of the seal faces.

Quench

A neutral fluid, usually water or steam, introduced on the atmospheric side of the
seal to retard formation of solids or crystallization of dissolved solids that might
interfere with seal movement.

Quench chamber

Enclosed space on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal to which the quench is
introduced; normally fitted with an auxiliary seal to prevent excessive leakage to
the atmosphere.

RMS or Ra

Root mean square or roughness average terms used to define surface roughness.

Random failures

Failures occurring during operation, other than early-life failures and those caused
by normal wear-out of the seal faces.

Recirculation flow

Flow of the product from the pump discharge through the seal chamber to the back
of the pump impeller, or from the back of the pump impeller through the seal
chamber to the pump suction.

Recirculation
impeller

Many MCPs have external heat exchangers mounted to the pump motor stand.
These heat exchangers require the fluid to be pumped from the seal/bearing cavity
to the heat exchanger and back. The recirculation impeller is normally a shaftmounted, axial flow-type impeller. Flow rates are normally in the range of 30 to 50
gpm (113 to 189 lpm) for MCPs.

Reverse balancing

Selection of the balance diameter so that a mechanical seal can withstand pressure
on the inside diameter of its face rather than on the outside diameter, that is, the
reverse of normal outside diameter pressurization. This is of particular use for the
inboard seal of a double seal as it puts any solids on the outside diameter of the
inboard seal and minimizes clogging.

Reverse
circulation

Flow of the product from the back of the pump impeller through the seal chamber
to the pump suction to provide cooling of the seal and reduce access of solids to the
seal faces.

Rotating balance

A rotating balance seal has the balance diameter Db on the rotating member.

Rotating seal

Mechanical seal in which the floating seal member is mounted on the shaft.

Rotating seal
member

The seal member that is mounted on the shaft, either directly or on a sleeve that
rotates with the shaft.

Rotation (coning)

Rotation (or conical deformation) of the seal ring cross-section due to torsional
ring-type axisymmetrically-distributed load applied by the differential pressure or
thermal load.

Seal arrangement

The way in which a seal is mounted in the seal chamber and the method of
exercising control over the liquid in the seal chamber, viz, dead-ended, product
recirculation (see also API piping plan).

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term
Seal balance ratio

Definition
See balance ratio.

Seal cavity

The seal assembly fits inside the pump between the shaft and housing. The area
that the seal fits into is referred to as the seal cavity.

Seal chamber

The region between the shaft and the pump case (housing) into which the shaft seal
is installed.

Seal configuration

The design or style of the primary seal (for example, pusher seal, bellows seal,
double seal).

Seal envelope

The external dimensions of a mechanical seal.

Seal environment

The physical and chemical conditions prevailing in the seal chamber.

Seal face width

The radial dimension of the sealing face measured from the inside edge to the
outside edge.

Seal face(s)

The surfaces of the seal ring and seat in contact with each other.

Seal head

Assembly consisting of primary ring, spring, retainer, set screw, and secondary seal
(see Figure 3-1).

Seal injection

Plant designs include MCPs both with and without seal injection. Many seal
designers prefer units with seal injection, believing these installations to be more
reliable. Seal injection is taken off the charging and volume control system on
PWRs and off the control rod drive system for BWRs. Seal injection provides a
source of cool filtered water entering the pump seal cavity. Filter sizes typically
range from 2 Pm to 20 Pm and the supply temperature is usually between 110F
(43C) and 120F (49C).

Seal plate

A plate that is bolted to the seal chamber and carries the stationary seal member.

Seal reference
dimension

A reference mark scribed on the shaft to ensure that a mechanical seal is fitted with
the correct operating length.

Seal ring

The floating seal member (sprung seal member) that contacts the mating ring. It
can be either the stationary or rotating seal member.

Seal setting

The proper relative position of the rotating portion of the seal to the stationary
portion of the seal is necessary to establish the proper seal spring force. The
process of establishing this position is termed setting the seal. Some designs do not
require any adjustments, only that certain dimensions be measured to confirm the
seal setting dimensions. Other designs rely on taking measurements on the
assembled seal prior to installation, then establishing the same reference dimension
once the seal is installed in the pump.

Seal size

The maximum diameter of the shaft that will pass through the seal, that is, the
diameter of the shaft (or shaft sleeve) to which the mechanical seal is fitted.
(Alternative definitions based on other dimensions, for example, balance diameter,
are also in current use).

Seal springs

Staged seals use coil springs to create closing force at low pressures. The force
from the springs must be great enough to overcome the frictional forces from the
secondary seal, but not to cause unacceptably high contact pressure when the seal
is operating at low pressures.

2-11

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms

2-12

Term

Definition

Seal tooling

Some mechanical face seals require special tools for inspection, assembly,
installation, removal, and refurbishment. This collection of special tools is
generally referred to as seal tooling. Seal tooling should be carefully controlled to
ensure that the tools are not lost or discarded. Attempts to perform seal
maintenance with inadequate tooling can result in equipment failures.

Sealant

Alternative term for barrier fluid.

Sealed fluid

Fluid in the seal chamber.

Sealed pressure

Fluid pressure in the seal chamber.

Sealing interface

Contact area between the seal ring and the seat.

Seat

The axially fixed (unsprung) sealing element. It can be either the stationary or
rotating seal member.

Secondary
containment

An arrangement with a chamber on the atmospheric side of a mechanical seal to


contain high leakage consequent on failure. This chamber is normally fitted with an
auxiliary seal.

Secondary seal

Seal used to prevent leakage through paths alternative to that between the seal
faces. See dynamic and static secondary seals.

Secondary seal
land

That part of the shaft or seal sleeve in contact with the dynamic secondary seal.

Service condition

The maximum/minimum temperature and pressure under static or dynamic


condition.

Shaft sleeve

A sleeve fitted between the shaft and a mechanical seal to provide a wear-resistant
and replaceable secondary seal land. The sleeve is sealed to the shaft with
elastomers.

Shelf life

Some mechanical face seal components have a specific shelf life. These parts are
usually elastomers that have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years when properly stored.
Additionally, lapped parts should always be verified prior to installation.
Occasionally, lapped parts will distort over time and need to be relapped prior to
installation.

Single seal

A seal arrangement with only one mechanical seal regardless of whether other seal
types (for example, throttle bush, lip seal) are included in the seal arrangement.

Slotted seal gland


plate

A gland plate with slots instead of holes for the mounting studs.

Soft face

Seal faces manufactured from a relatively softer material (for example, carbongraphite or PTFE) as compared to a harder mating seal face material (for example,
tungsten carbide).

Solid length

The axial length of a fully compressed mechanical seal.

Specific load

Face load per unit area of sealing interface.

Spring load

The load on the floating sealing element exerted by the seal spring(s).

Spring pressure

The average seal face pressure due to spring load.

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Stage

Many MCP seals use multiple mechanical seals in series, each seal having a
predetermined differential pressure created by the controlled bleed-off. Each
individual seal in this style design is termed a stage. Seals of this type of design are
termed staged seals.

Start-up torque

The torque transmitted/absorbed by a mechanical seal on start-up.

Static secondary
seal

Seal used to prevent leakage between assembled parts that are not subject to
relative motion in service, for example, between seal sleeve and shaft, between
stationary seal member and seal plate.

Stationary balance

A stationary balance seal has the balance diameter Db on the stationary member.

Stationary seal

Mechanical seal in which the floating seal member is mounted on the seal plate.

Stationary seal
member

The seal member that is mounted on the seal plate.

Stationary seal
ring

The stationary seal ring is mounted in a supporting piece called a gland, carrier,
holder, or ring support. In staged seal designs, the seal ring is generally a soft
material, normally carbon graphite. In hydrostatic seals, the stationary member
consists of an aluminum oxide or silica nitride faceplate mounted on a ring support.

Stator

Alternative term for stationary seal member of a mechanical seal.

Stuffing box

Alternative name for seal chamber, carried over from soft-packing technology.

Tandem seal

Seal configuration consisting of a pair of mechanical seals mounted in series (that


is, two mechanical seals sealing in the same direction).

Thermal stress
failure

Alternative term for heat checking.

Throat bushing

A device that forms a restrictive close clearance around the sleeve (or shaft)
between the seal and the impeller.

Throttle bush

A close-fitting bush around the shaft to restrict flow; can be used at the inner end of
the seal chamber (neck bush) or as an auxiliary seal.

Throttle bushing

A device that forms a restrictive close clearance around the sleeve (or shaft) at the
outboard end of a mechanical seal gland.

Total closing
force

The sum of the hydraulic load and spring load acting on the floating sealing
member to close the seal faces.

Total indicated
runout (TIR)

Also known as total indicator reading, is the runout of a diameter or face


determined by measurement with a dial indicator. The indicator reading implies an
out-of-squareness or an eccentricity equal to half the reading. TIR is measured by
securing a dial indicator to either the stationary or rotating component, setting the
dial indicator to zero, and then rotating either component.

2-13

EPRI Licensed Material


Glossary of Terms
Table 2-1 (cont.)
Glossary of Terms
Term

Definition

Toxicity rating

Classification of fluid toxicity defined in N. Irving Sax Dangerous Properties of


Industrial Materials, 1984.
Toxicity Rating:
0 = No harmful effects under normal conditions
1 = Short-term effects that disappear once exposure is removed
2 = May produce both short- and long-term effects, but normally not lethal
3 = May cause death or permanent injury even after short exposure to only
small quantities
U = Insufficient data available on humans

2-14

Unbalanced seal

A mechanical seal in which the balance ratio is greater than or equal to 1.

U-ring

A "U" section dynamic secondary seal.

Vent connection

A connection to the seal chamber for eliminating gas or vapor from the seal
chamber. This is normally accomplished through a gland connection, such as the
flush connection.

Volatile
hazardous air
pollutants
(VHAP)

Any compound as defined by Title I, Part A, Section 112 of the National Emission
Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (Clean Air Act Amendment).

Volatile organic
compound (VOC)

Term used by various environmental agencies to designate regulated compounds.


Emissions are measured as PPM with a calibrated analyzer.

V-ring

A V section dynamic secondary seal.

Waviness

Deviation of the seal faces from circumferential flatness. Waviness can be present
on the faces as manufactured or can develop after running.

Wear track

The wear mark of the narrower seal face on the wider one.

Wedge ring

A wedge-section dynamic secondary seal, usually manufactured from PTFE.

Support surface

Most seal designs provide some type of support surface for the seal rings to control
seal ring deflection. Different terminology might be used for these surfaces, such as
seat or back seat. In this publication, surfaces controlled to limit seal ring
deflections will be referred to as support surfaces.

Thermal barrier

Most MCP designs are insulated from the high Reactor Coolant System (RCS)
temperatures by a thermal barrier. The thermal barrier reduces pump cover (or
main flange), pump water bearing, and shaft seal cavity temperatures.

Total outflow

The combined flow, consisting of seal leakage and controlled bleed-off, which
leaves the seal cavity is referred to as total outflow. This flow rate is the amount of
fluid that leaves the seal cavity and is made up with injection or RCS that has been
cooled through the seal heat exchanger.

Wear tracking

The mating surfaces of both hydrostatic and hydrodynamic seals operate in close
proximity. The faces might either contact or have particulates contact the seal ring
faces, resulting in a circular grooving or wear pattern referred to as wear tracking.

EPRI Licensed Material

3
TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION

3.1

Operating Principles and Basic Components of a Mechanical Face


Seal

A mechanical face seal is a dynamic seal that prevents leakage of pressurized fluid between a
rotating shaft and a stationary housing. Mechanical face seals are available in a variety of
configurations, and their selection depends on the application. However, no matter what the
application is, all mechanical face seals operate on the same principle. Basically, the seal is
comprised of two rings, either of which rotates relative to the other. One of the rings is usually
mounted rigidly and the other is mounted so that it can flex and align axially and angularly with
the rigidly mounted ring. Dynamic sealing is achieved at the interface between the two rings, the
primary ring and the mating ring. The rings achieve a seal at the interface due to their very high
face flatness. Typically, the two rings are made of dissimilar materials.
The essential elements of a mechanical face seal are illustrated in Figure 3-1. These elements
serve the functions of sealing dynamically and statically, loading the faces, and transmitting
rotation to the ring. The essential elements are described below. Advantages and disadvantages
of various configurations of these elements are discussed in Table 3-2.

Figure 3-1
Essential Components of a Mechanical Face Seal

Primary Ring: The primary ring is also called a seal ring. The primary ring is the floating seal
element that is usually spring-mounted and permits axial and angular alignment in the assembly.
Depending on the application requirements, it can be either the rotating member as shown in
Figure 3-1 or the stationary member as shown in Figure 3-10. The method in which the primary
3-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

ring is mounted is dictated by the application requirements because each configuration offers
both advantages and disadvantages. The mechanical face seal design or style is defined by the
primary ring configuration, that is, rotating primary ring, stationary primary ring, double seal,
bellows seal, and so on.
Mating Ring: The mating ring is also called a seat or seal seat. The mating ring is the rigidly
mounted element and can be installed in the housing as shown in Figure 3-1 or on the shaft as
shown in Figure 3-10. Where the mating ring is installed is dependent upon the application
requirements and the preferred implementation of the primary ring.
Key Technical Point
Mechanical face seals come in a variety of configurations, materials, and
designs for primary sealing faces, secondary seals, springs, drive
mechanisms. Options also include unbalanced or balanced designs, whether
the primary seal or the mating seal is rotating, and whether the fluid
pressure is on the outside or the inside surface of the seal. Seal design for a
given application should be selected after a careful evaluation of trade-offs,
as discussed in this section, Section 3.
Secondary Seal: Seals used to prevent leakage through paths alternative to that between the seal
faces. The secondary seals can be static or dynamic. Static secondary seals prevent leakage
between assembled parts that are not subject to relative motion in service, for example, between
seal sleeve and shaft, between stationary seal member and housing. Dynamic secondary seals
prevent leakage between the shaft or housing and the floating seal member.
The type of secondary seal depends on the fluid type, service pressure, and service temperature.
Table 3-1 provides the operating temperature limits and properties of materials typically used for
secondary seals.

3-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description
Table 3-1
Secondary Seal Properties
Material

Nitrile

Temp
F

-22 to 248

-30 to 120

Air
Permeability

Properties

0.25-1.00

General purpose
Low cost
Oil resistant
Attacked by ozone

Ethylene
Propylene

-58 to 302

-50 to 150

9.6

Steam, ozone, acid, and


alkali resistant

Silicone

-67 to 392

-55 to 200

170-260

Good at low temperature


Easily damaged
High permeability

Neoprene

-31 to 248

-35 to 120

104

Weather resistant
Fair oil resistant

Fluoroelastomer

14 to 302

-10 to 150

0.32

Oil, fuel, chemical resistant

PTFE

-67 to 446

-55 to 230

Polyacrylate

-22 to 347

30 to 175

1.5

Hot oil and ozone resistant

Epichlorohydrin

-40 to 302

-40 to 150

.015-0.70

Oil resistant

Resistant to virtually all fluids

Low permeability
Metal Bellows

High
Temperature
Fluoroelastomer

-328 to 1202
650

-200 to

12 to 545

-10 to 285

Positive seal
Chemical resistant
0.32

Excellent chemical resistant

Spring
Springs are used to develop the contact load between the primary ring and the mating ring in the
absence of fluid pressure. The amount of face load generated can vary significantly depending on
the type of spring selected. The choice includes a single coil spring, multiple coil springs, metal
bellows, non-metal bellows, wave or Belleville washer, and magnets (see Figures 3-2 to 3-7). In
some cases, such as bellows, the spring can serve both the face-loading function and the
secondary sealing function. Advantages and disadvantages of each type of spring are
summarized in Table 3-3.

3-3

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Technical Description

Figure 3-2
Multiple Coil Springs

Figure 3-3
Single Coil Springs

Figure 3-4
Corrugated Bellows

Figure 3-5
Welded Bellows

3-4

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

Figure 3-6
Rubber Bellows

Figure 3-7
Belleville Washers

Drive Mechanism: All mechanical face seals require some kind of device to position the
primary ring axially and to transmit the rotation of the shaft to the primary ring to ensure that
relative motion occurs only at the seal faces. The drive mechanism is designed such that it is not
rigidly attached to the primary ring so that it does not prevent self-alignment between the
primary ring and the mating ring. The drive mechanism is typically a setscrew, locking collar,
key, or wedge ring. In some designs, the secondary seal is used to transmit the torque to the
primary ring when sufficient friction can be developed at the secondary seal interface. The drive
mechanism is also used to provide torque restraint to the stationary seal if the static secondary
seal does not develop sufficient friction to prevent the stationary seal from turning.
Seal/Flushing Chamber: An area around the seal is provided to permit heat transfer through the
fluid and to allow flushing of contaminants such as abrasive particles or toxic media. In a singleseal configuration, flushing is accomplished by injecting a liquid into the seal chamber at a
higher pressure than the sealed product.

3-5

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description
Table 3-2
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations
Type of Seal
Internallymounted
primary seal

Externallymounted
primary seal
Rotating primary
seal

Stationary
primary seal

3-6

Balanced seal

Unbalanced
seal

Advantages
Better cooling - seal surrounded by
product
Pressure acts to close the seal faces
(pressure assisted)
Can therefore be used at high
pressure
Components in compression
(preferable to tension)
Rotating elements centrifuge
particles away from seal face
Lower leakage due to centrifugal
action
Most of the seal is inside machine
housing, less space required outside
housing
Seal leakage containment is simpler
Easier to install/replace
Easier to inspect
Minimizes components in contact
with pumped fluid (corrosives, etc.)
Centrifugal action keeps particles
away from flexible member
Generally requires less axial
envelope, particularly outside seal
chambers
Smaller radial section for a given
shaft size
Generally lower cost
Capable of higher speeds
Better able to cope with
misalignment (particularly angular)
Less prone to clogging if leaked
product is inside seal chamber
Will accept media with higher
viscosity
Less friction loss due to turbulence of
liquids
Capable of much higher pressures
and/or speeds (enhanced Pressure,
Velocity (PV) capability)
Smaller envelope, particularly radial
No step required on shaft or sleeve
Lower cost

Disadvantages
No access for visual inspection
Any repair/replacement is labor
intensive

Subject to environmental
contamination and external
damage from other environmental
factors

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description
Table 3-2 (cont.)
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Configurations
Type of Seal
Non-metal
bellows

Dynamic pusher
seal

Metal bellows

Single spring
seal

Multi-spring seal

Wave/Belleville
Magnetic
coupling

Advantages
PTFE bellows used in very severe
corrosive duties
Rubber bellows seal low in cost
Eliminates sliding packing (hang-up
hysteresis, sleeve wear)
More robust
Higher pressure/temperature/speed
capability
Rubber bellows require specially
designed components in a variety of
materials to cope with different media
Less prone to fatigue failure
More tolerant to shock and vibration
Eliminates sliding packing (hang-up
hysteresis, sleeve wear)
Can be used at higher temperatures
Can be used at higher speeds
Inherently balanced without stepping
shaft/sleeve
More compact (particularly larger
sizes)
Can be used for a flexible drive
Larger section, more robust
Better protection against corrosion
Less prone to clogging
Smaller radial space
Low stiffness gives greater axial
tolerance on fitting
Shorter axial length
Rotating seal can tolerate higher
speeds
Independent of direction of rotation
(some single spring designs are also
independent)
More consistent loading onto face

Reduces axial length

Disadvantages
Rubber bellows require specially
designed components in a variety
of materials to cope with different
media

Not suitable for high pressures

Small axial tolerance


Limited seal face loading
Requires the use of materials that
can be magnetized
Reduces the choice of materials
suitable for corrosive environments

3-7

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description
Table 3-3
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mechanical Face Seal Springs
Type of Spring
Single coil

Advantages

Disadvantages

Corrosion, blockage resistance

Uneven loading

Low stress levels

Requires more axial space

Low cost

Difficult to compress as size


increases

Greater axial tolerance

May unwind/tighten at high speeds


Multiple coils

Less axial space required

Less corrosion/blockage resistance

Even face loading

High stress levels

Resists high speeds

More costly

Wave/Belleville
washer

Saves space

High spring rate

Elastomer bellows

Also provides secondary seal

Cannot be used in all fluids

Relatively inexpensive

Has temperature limitations

Provides secondary seal

Expensive

Corrosion resistant

Requires more space than coil


springs

Corrugated/welded
metal bellows

Generally high cost

High temperature
High controlled spring rate

3.2

Provides little damping to vibration

Major Design Variations

Design variations of the basic mechanical face seal illustrated in Figure 3-1 permit extending the
application range and life of the seal. The configuration variation description is based on two
primary factors:
x

Whether the primary ring is rotating or stationary

Location of the pressure relative to the annulus

A combination of these two parameters results in the four configurations illustrated in Figures 38 through 3-11. Figures 3-8 and 3-9 show rotating primary rings where pressure is applied to the
outside diameter of the seal and the inside diameter of the seal, respectively. Conversely, Figures
3-10 and 3-11 show a stationary primary ring with pressure on the outside and inside of the seal,
respectively. A description of each configuration, with its advantages and disadvantages, is given
in Table 3-2.
Rotating Primary Ring - Outside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-8) is also referred to
as a rotating primary ring - inside mounted. In this configuration, the primary ring is mounted on
the shaft inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter of the seal faces.
A major advantage of this setup is that the product surrounds the face seals to provide good
cooling.

3-8

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Technical Description

Figure 3-8
Rotating Primary Ring - Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted)

Rotating Primary Ring Inside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-9) is also referred to
as rotating primary ring - outside mounted. In this configuration, the primary ring is mounted
outside the stuffing box and pressure is applied to the inside diameter of the seal faces. These
designs are easier to install and inspect than the other configurations. Because the pressure works
to push apart the seal faces, this design is not suitable for high pressures.

Figure 3-9
Rotating Primary Ring - Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted)

Stationary Primary Ring Outside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-10) is also
referred to as stationary primary ring - inside mounted. In this configuration, the primary ring is
mounted on the housing inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter of
the seal faces. This design offers higher speed capability with ease of inspection. Because the
rotating ring does not have multiple parts, this configuration is less susceptible to imbalance.

Figure 3-10
Stationary Primary Ring - Outside Pressure (or Inside Mounted)

3-9

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Technical Description

Stationary Primary Ring Inside Pressure: This configuration (Figure 3-11) is also referred
to as stationary primary ring - outside mounted. In this configuration, the primary ring is
mounted on the housing inside the stuffing box and pressure is applied on the outside diameter.
This design also offers high-speed capability and is less susceptible to imbalance due to a single
rotating ring.

Figure 3-11
Stationary Primary Ring - Inside Pressure (or Outside Mounted)

3.3

Multiple Seals

Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for flushing or barrier fluids, or
pressure staging to deal with higher pressures. Flushing is used to remove contaminants, to cool
the faces, or to provide for proper lubrication. This is achieved by installing the seals in a backto-back or face-to-face configuration, as illustrated in Figures 3-12 and 3-13. For cooling and
solids/abrasives removal, fluid can be re-circulated from the product side or provided by an
external source. In applications where the product has a relatively low vapor pressure, for
example, water or hydrocarbons, a barrier fluid with a higher vapor pressure is used to keep the
product from vaporizing at the seal interface and to prevent the inboard seal from running dry. If
the product is toxic or harmful, a clean barrier fluid is introduced at a higher pressure to
minimize toxin release. The outboard seal also provides a back-up in case of failure of the
product seal.

Figure 3-12
Back-to-Back Dual Seal

3-10

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Technical Description

Figure 3-13
Face-to-Face Dual Seal

Key Technical Point


Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for flushing or
barrier fluids, or pressure staging to deal with higher pressures. Flushing is
used to remove contaminants, to cool the faces, or to provide for proper
lubrication. Selections include back-to-back, face-to-face double
arrangements, and a choice of buffer fluid or barrier fluid, depending upon
application.
Pressure staging is accomplished by using multiple seals installed in series (shown in Figure
3-14) so that the fluid pressure between any two cavities is limited to the maximum service
pressure limit of the mechanical face seal for the particular product fluid. Pressure staging
permits isolating very high pressures that cannot be handled by a single mechanical face seal.
Pressure staging usually requires the use of an intermediate fluid that is circulated to keep the
seals cool. This is because stagnant fluid in the seal cavity is ineffective in removing the heat
generated at the sealing interface, which can create hot pockets that cause the seal to
malfunction.

Figure 3-14
Pressure Stage Tandem Seal

3-11

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.4

Seal Cartridges

Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that contain all of the essential
components. Cartridges are used to package mechanical face seals for ease of handling and
installation. An example of a single seal cartridge is shown in Figure 3-15. In this arrangement,
the primary ring and its associated devices are mounted on a sleeve temporarily attached to the
enclosure that holds the mating ring. The assembly provides for proper spring loading and axial
positioning of the primary ring and mating ring. After the cartridge is mounted on the housing
and the sleeve is secured to the shaft, the temporary attachment device holding the sleeve to the
mating ring enclosure is removed.

Figure 3-15
Single Seal Cartridge

Cartridges can be provided with either rotating primary rings or stationary primary rings and
with single or multiple mechanical face seals. The schemes for assembling cartridges vary from
design to design.
Figure 3-16 shows a multi-stage balanced stator design seal cartridge assembly and Figure 3-17
shows details of one of the stages. This seal design is one of the four alternative designs
commonly used in a critical application (Main Coolant Pump) in U.S. nuclear power plants [35].
Key O&M Cost Point
Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that
contain all of the essential components. Cartridges are used to package
mechanical face seals for ease of handling and installation. Even though
material cost is higher, cartridges save money by simplifying maintenance
and eliminating installation related failures.

3-12

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Technical Description

Figure 3-16
Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a Manufacturer for a Main
Coolant Pump [35]

3-13

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Technical Description

Figure 3-17
Seal Stage Details of a Balanced Stator Design Multi-Seal Cartridge Supplied by a
Manufacturer for a Main Coolant Pump [35]

3-14

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.5

Seal Chamber Design and Flushing

The seal chamber is sometimes referred to as the seal cavity or seal box. Figure 3-18 shows the
most common variations in the seal chamber designs in centrifugal pumps. The seal chamber is
the cavity where the mechanical face seal resides and is often the same stuffing box chamber that
was designed to house conventional soft packing. As such, the chamber provides only limited
volume for the fluid to circulate naturally. Lack of circulation leads to hot spots in the face seal,
and the stagnant cavity allows solids to settle. To overcome these space limitations, either an
alternative seal chamber design can be used or the seal chamber can be equipped with a means to
circulate fluid. Depending on the application, the circulated fluid can be the process fluid or an
external fluid selected to provide better conditions in which the seal can operate, or to control the
release of contaminants.

Figure 3-18
Common Variations in Seal Chamber Design

3-15

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

Based on research in seal chamber designs [7,48], it is now well established that enlarged seal
chambers, and the use of tapered bore chambers, can dramatically lower fluid temperature and
seal face temperatures. Wherever the envelope constraints in a given pump application permit,
the seal chamber should be enlarged to improve the seal performance/life due to lower
temperatures and increased fluid circulation around the seal. The seal chamber design also plays
a critical role in obtaining satisfactory performance from mechanical face seals handling abrasive
slurries.
Key Technical Point
Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to
accept conventional packings. This limits the fluid circulation around the
seal, leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. An
enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid
circulation, lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of
solids.
In addition to the chamber design, seal flushing is dictated by application requirements in many
cases to achieve satisfactory performance. API Standard 682 describes 17 plans to flush the seal
chamber [8]. Selection of the type of plan needed will depend on the process fluid and operating
temperature. Fluids having high vapor pressures (for example, hot water, light hydrocarbons,
etc.), high temperature, containing abrasives (for example, service water, slurries, etc.), or
containing dissolved solids (for example, borated water) are common mechanical seal
application problems that can benefit from flushing.
The most common API Standard 682 flush plans used with clean process fluids are Plan 11 and
Plan 21. Plan 11 is illustrated in Figure 3-19. To control the amount of fluid re-circulated, a
throttle bushing is incorporated inboard of the mechanical face seal and a control orifice is
installed in the flush line. Flow enters the seal chamber adjacent to the mechanical face seal,
flushes the faces, and flows across the seal back into the pump. Plan 21 is similar to Plan 11
except that a cooler is installed in the flush line in series with the control orifice. For
contaminated process fluids, strainers/filters can be added to clean the flush fluid.

Figure 3-19
A Typical Flush Plan for a Cooling Seal Chamber

3-16

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.5.1 Seal Arrangements for Abrasive Applications


Abrasives will generally cause rapid wear of the faces while excessive heat from the pumped
fluid, or as a result of seal friction, will damage the elastomers and distort seal components,
causing the seal to leak and fail [49,50,51,55]. The seal should be provided with a clean,
relatively cool, abrasive-free flush to lubricate and remove the heat generated by the seal faces
and to prevent flashing at the seal faces. A clean liquid from an outside source can be used.
However, the resulting contamination of the pumped product by an external source might make
this type of flush undesirable. For this reason, a re-circulated or bypass fluid from the liquid
being pumped is frequently used. If necessary, this re-circulated flush fluid can be cooled and
any abrasive particles removed before it is injected into the seal. When multiple seals, as shown
in Figures 3-12, 3-13, or 3-14, are used, a combination of internal and/or external seal flush
arrangements can be used.
In severe abrasive duty applications (for example, clinker grinder in fossil plants and abrasive
slurry handling pumps), mechanical face seals have a history of unreliable performance and short
life, even when flushing arrangements are used [50, 51]. This is due to the fact that, in addition to
exposure to harsh abrasive particles, seals are exposed to large shaft deflections (both static and
dynamic), frequent starts/stops, transients, shock, and vibration, which exceed the capabilities of
face seals. Similar sealing problems in downhole drilling applications have been solved by an
alternative elastomeric seal design employing hydrodynamic lubrication [52, 53, 54]. This design
might be a potential solution to the fossil plant slurry handling equipment and sealing problems
where application conditions are unsuitable for mechanical face seals.

3.6

Closing Force

In order for the face seal to function properly, a certain amount of face load is required. Face
loading is developed by the energizing springs and by the process of pressure acting on the
unbalanced area of the seal. The closing force is the sum of the spring load plus the fluid
pressure, multiplied by the unbalanced area, and is expressed as:
Fclosing

=
=

Spring (Fs) + Hydraulic closing force (Fh)


Fs + Af ('P x B + P2)

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

Pressure drop (P1-P2)


Face area
Balance ratio
Upstream pressure
Downstream pressure
Closing force
Spring force
Hydraulic force

Where,

'P
Af
B
P1
P2
Fclosing
Fs
Fh

3-17

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

The total closing force, Fclosing, is supported primarily by the fluid film pressure (p) between the
seal faces, and the residual force is supported by mechanical asperity contact (pm) between the
faces:
Fclosing

k p Af + pm Af

In this equation, k is a factor that can vary between zero and 1.0, depending upon the actual
pressure distribution across the face.
k = 0.5 for linear pressure distribution
> 0.5 for convex pressure distribution,
< 0.5 for concave pressure distribution
The value of k depends upon whether the faces are parallel convergent or divergent (Figure 4-3)
as further discussed in Section 4.4.4.
3.6.1 Balance Ratio
Mechanical face seals can be of an unbalanced design, a fully balanced design, or partially
balanced design to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure, as shown in Figure 3-20.
The term balanced refers to the case where B < 1.0, or where the average pressure load on the
face is less than the sealed pressure. Most mechanical face seals have a balance ratio between
0.65 to 0.85. This range provides reduced face loading while maintaining stability. The seal can
become hydraulically unstable or the seal faces can separate under pressure fluctuations if the
balance ratio becomes less than 0.65. Seals with a balance ratio greater than 1.0 are termed
unbalanced, that is, these seals have an average pressure load on the face that is greater than the
sealed pressure. While most seals that operate at high pressure are of the balanced type, many
low-pressure seals operate at B > 1.0 because of the convenience of design.

3-18

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

Figure 3-20
Unbalanced, Balanced, and Partially Balanced Seal Designs

3-19

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Technical Description

Key Technical Point


Mechanical face seals can be unbalanced, fully balanced, or partially
balanced to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure. The term
balanced refers to the case where the average pressure load on the face is less
than the sealed pressure. Most mechanical face seals have a balance ratio
between 0.65 to 0.85. This range provides reduced face loading without
potential concern of face parting.
The term balance ratio is used to describe the fraction of the fluid pressure that is acting to close
the seal faces. It is defined as the ratio of hydraulic loading area to the seal interface area. If a
bellows seal is used, the effective sealing diameter must be calculated. Balance ratios are
calculated as follows.
For externally pressurized seals:

Be

S/4 D 2o  D 2b
S/4 D o2  D i2

2  D2
b

D o

D o

 D i2

For internally pressurized seals:

Bi

S/4 D 2b  D i2
S/4 D o2  D i2

2 D2
b  i
2
2
D o  D
i

For bellows seals, the mean diameter can be used or, alternatively, diameter Dsb is substituted for
diameter Db:

D 2bo  D 2bi

D sb
Where
B
Be
Bi
Do
Di
Db
Dsb
Dbo
Dbi

3-20

2
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

Balance ratio (Be or Bi)


Balance ratio for externally pressurized seals
Balance ratio for internally pressurized seals
Outside interface diameter
Inside interface diameter
Balance diameter
Effective sealing diameter for bellows seals
Outside diameter of bellows
Inside diameter of bellows

EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.6.2 Pressure Distribution Between the Sealing Faces


In any standard seal design configuration, the hydraulic pressure acts across the seal interface
either from the OD to the ID or vice versa. In either case, the fluid film pressure between the
faces at the point of action is a maximum that is reduced across the interface to the pressure on
the downstream side at the opposite side of the contact area.
Although several theories have been advanced that define the pressure gradient across the faces
as being either linear, concave, or convex, no one theory has gained general recognition. In fact,
the pressure gradient varies during operation due to seal wear and deflections caused by pressure
and temperature changes. Whatever the true pressure gradient across the face might be, the film
pressure tends to separate the contact faces of the primary seal rings, opposing the closing forces
due to the mechanical spring load and the hydraulic pressures acting on the unbalanced area of
the seal. However, in most mechanical seal designs, the resultant force from the film pressure
does not completely balance the closing forces and the small residual force is supported by the
mechanical contact of the asperities on the faces.
Key Technical Point
Pressure distribution across the seal face width can be linear, concave, or
convex and it can change with variations in pressure, temperature, and seal
wear. This can affect seal performance (leakage, torque, temperature)
during operation.
Figure 3-21 shows how the closing force due to spring pressure and hydraulic imbalance is in
equilibrium with the pressure. Based on a linearly varying pressure gradient, the seal would be
100 percent balanced when the hydraulic area is one-half the face area. Making the hydraulic
area less than half the seal face area would then cause the hydraulic pressure to separate the faces
in the absence of spring force.

Figure 3-21
Face Pressure Distribution Due to Hydraulic Pressure and Spring Force

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EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.6.3 Stationary Versus Rotating Seal Balance


The balance ratio can be affected by the way the pressure area is defined. The same balance ratio
can be achieved by two different primary ring and mating ring geometries, depending upon
which one of the two faces is the narrower face.
If the stationary ring (mating ring) defines the pressure area, as shown in Figure 3-22(a), the face
load due to pressure can vary around the circumference if the mating ring is offset radially with
respect to the primary ring. The differential pressure area defined by the diameter Do on the
mating ring and the shaft diameter Db would be maximum in the direction of the offset and
minimum on the opposite side. This circumferential variation in the seal face load exerts
moments on the seal faces that can cause vibrations and instability, and affect seal performance.
This problem can be eliminated by defining the differential pressure area using the face of the
rotating member as shown in Figure 3-22(b). Additional considerations related to primary and
secondary seal wear when selecting a rotating balance or stationary balance design are discussed
in Section 4.4.6.

Figure 3-22
Rotating Seal Balance Designs

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EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.7

Pressure Velocity (PV) Parameter and Limit

The measure of a seal to provide useful service is defined by its PV parameter that, like Journal
bearings, is the product of the pressure and the sliding velocity. Two ways are used to define the
PV parameter. The first method uses differential pressure multiplied by the average sliding
velocity, and the second method uses net face pressure multiplied by the average sliding velocity.
The more common method used by mechanical face seal manufacturers and users to rate the PV
parameter, is the differential pressure drop method because it can be easily related to seal
operating pressure and balance ratio does not need to be known.
Table 3-4 provides the PV values (based on differential pressure approach) for materials
commonly used in both unbalanced and balanced mechanical face seals.
In general, the unbalanced seal design is simpler and less costly, and is the preferred choice if it
satisfies the PV limits for a given application. The balanced seal design permits operation under
higher pressure and speed combinations but it requires a stepped shaft or stepped sleeve
arrangement, which is generally more expensive. If the fluid is clean (free of abrasives/solid
particles) and is compatible with the carbon material, the carbon versus the appropriate harder
material combination should be selected. For non-clean fluids, both seal faces need to be hard to
provide satisfactory wear life.
Table 3-4
Approximate PV Limits psi-ft/min (Mpa-m/sec) for General Seals with Various
Combinations of Seal Face Materials and Fluids
Water and Aqueous Liquids
Face Material
Combination

Unbalanced

Balanced

Other Liquids
Unbalanced

Balanced

Carbon vs.
4

1.45x 10 (3)

1.01 x 10 (3.5)

x Stainless steel

1.45 x 10 (0.5)

x Lead bronze

7.23 x 10 (2.5)

x Stellite

7.23 x10 (2.5)

x Alumina

1.01 x 10 (3.5)

2.46 x 10 (8.6)

1.45 x 10 (5)

6.08 x 10 (21)

2.60 x 10 (9)

1.22 x 10 (43)

1.22 x 10 (43)

1.82 x 10 (64)

x Chrome oxide

2.03 x 10 (7)

x Tungsten carbide

2.03 x 10 (7)

x Silicon carbide

2.60 x 10 (9)

1.68 x 10 (59)

1.22 x 10 (43)

3.53 x 10 (124)

5.35 x 10 (188)

1.22 x 10 (43)

3.04 x 10 (106)

6
6

2.60 x 10 (9)

2.60 x 10 (9)

2.03 x 10 (7)

2.60 x 10 (9)

6
6

Tungsten carbide vs.


x Tungsten carbide
x Silicon carbide

1.30E+10 (4.6)
5

1.74E+10 (6)

7.52 x 10 (26)
1.04 x 10 (36)

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EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

3.8

Temperature Considerations and 'T Limit

For a mechanical seal to function reliably, a fluid film needs to be maintained between the seal
faces. Operation of the seal results in frictional heat generation at the sealing interface, which
lowers the fluid viscosity and the load carrying capacity of the liquid film. The load bearing
capacity can decrease sufficiently and result in heavy contact between the seal face, causing
severe wear or face damage. The frictional heat can also raise the temperature of the liquid film
at the sealing interface to such an extent that fluid instantaneously changes its phase from liquid
to gaseous under the pressure that is present on the low-pressure side of the seal. This phase
change often causes an intermittent banging or popping sound and results in severe face damage
and excessive leakage.
During seal operation, it is necessary that a stable liquid film be maintained, considering the
anticipated increase in temperature ('T) due to the seal friction over the bulk fluid temperature.
Figure 3-23 shows how pressure and temperature affect the boiling point of a liquid, and the 'T
margin that needs to be maintained between the bulk fluid temperature and the boiling point
curve to accommodate the increase in fluid temperature at the sealing interface without causing
vaporization. This figure also shows the operating envelope for seal performance defined by the
pressure/temperature limits (including the 'T margin), as well as the PV limit.
Cooling of the seal chamber (for example, by using one of the flushing arrangements described
in Section 3.5) protects against boiling of the fluid, as does an increase in the chamber pressure
above the vapor pressure. The most suitable approach to suppress boiling and ensure adequate
'T margin below the limit depends upon the application. Technical performance data regarding
the 'T margin should be obtained from seal manufacturers to evaluate and ensure reliable
operation in a given application.
Key Technical Point
For satisfactory performance, the seal design and material selections should
satisfy the PV limit and the 'T limit under all operating conditions to ensure
that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. Loss of film can lead to
immediate seizure and seal failure.

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Technical Description

Figure 3-23
Pressure/Temperature Operating Envelope Showing 'T Margin Required for Seal
Operation

3.9

Improved Seal Face Designs

A fundamental requirement for a mechanical face seal to function reliably is that the faces be
separated by a thin fluid film during operation. In practice, a small amount of asperity contact
between the faces occurs in most applications, causing a small amount of wear that determines
seal life but does not affect seal performance. Under high pressure and high temperature
combinations, the film thickness decreases and the asperity contact between the faces increases,
which in turn increases seal friction and heat (see Section 4.4.1 for further discussion). This
limits the pressure, temperature, and speed performance envelope, as well as, reliability of the
conventional flat face mechanical seals. The problem becomes especially severe when sealing
hot water and other low lubricity fluids [21-34].
One approach that has proven to be successful for sealing hot water under high pressure and high
speeds, as well as for sealing other high-volatility, low-lubricity fluids, is the use of seal face
designs that have positive hydrodynamic lubrication features. Figure 3-24 is the first design that
became commercially successful and is widely used in critical hot water sealing applications
(including Main Coolant Pumps) in many European nuclear power plants and some U.S. nuclear
power plants [3]. In this design, the cooling notches or thermal hydrodynamic grooves introduce
circumferential waviness of the seal face due to variations in the temperature around the seal
circumference.

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Technical Description

Figure 3-24
Seal Face with Thermal Hydrodynamic Grooves for Positive Hydrodynamic Lubrication [3]

The circumferential waviness in conjunction with the relative rotational velocity between the
faces introduces a strong hydrodynamic action, higher film pressures, and a thicker film. This is
the fundamental mechanism responsible for extending the performance envelope of the seals
with hydrodynamic grooves on the seal face. It should be noted that the higher pressure and
speed capabilities are achieved at the cost of increased leakage and vulnerability of the seal to
ingest debris and unfiltered solid particulates in the fluid. The manufacturer of the specific seal
design being considered should be consulted for their recommendations and their experience in
similar applications. Prototype qualification testing is strongly recommended for critical service
applications.
As shown in Figure 3-25, the hydrodynamic grooves can be incorporated on the seal face to pick
up fluid from either the outer or the inner periphery, depending upon the application
requirements. Figure 3-26 shows several other variations of this basic approach to enhance the
lubrication between the seal faces.

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EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

Figure 3-25
Design Options with Hydrodynamic Grooves on the Outer Periphery or Inner Periphery of
Seal Face

Figure 3-26
Other Variations in Seal Face Geometry to Enhance Lubrication of the Faces

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EPRI Licensed Material


Technical Description

Several alternative designs that also maintain a full hydrodynamic film lubrication under high
duty application conditions (including transients) have been reported over the years since the
successful commercial introduction of the design shown in Figure 3-24. These include eccentric
seals for nuclear pumps, optimized grooves face seals, Rayleigh-step floating-ring seals, movingwave mechanical face seals, and polymer seal rings sliding against silicone carbide [37-41, 47].

Key Technical Point


Seal designs with special features to enhance lubrication at the sealing
interface (for example, hydrodynamic grooves, recesses, or laser-textured
surfaces) can extend the pressure, speed, and temperature limits. The tradeoff (for example, higher leakage rate versus increased reliability under
transient conditions) should be carefully evaluated during seal selection.

Research in recent years has shown that the newest technology, laser-textured surface designs,
are capable of providing the full film lubrication (and therefore long life) without the penalty of
excessive leakage associated with the earlier hydrodynamic film seal designs. These include
laser-faced entry and return-flow recesses, laser-textured faces with micro-pores that serve as
micro-hydrodynamic bearings [42-46]. One of these laser-textured surface designs that has
emerged as a promising and commercially viable design was recently introduced by a seal
manufacturer [46].

3.10 Hydrostatic Seal Design


The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal that permits some controlled
flow rate to pass between the faces. As illustrated in Figure 3-27, the seals are designed with a
converging taper on the faces to balance the pressure distribution between the back of the seal
ring and the seal face. Under no-pressure conditions, the seal faces can come into contact and
cause dry running during startup. To prevent dry running, the seal requires that some pressure be
applied to the tapered side prior to rotation. The initial pressure ensures that minimum leakage
develops and that the seal faces will not contact during startup. Because no rubbing contact
occurs in this type of seal, there is virtually no wear. In the Westinghouse configurations used in
Main Coolant Pumps, the tapered seal faces are designed to permit a minimum leakage of 0.2
gallons per minute (10 milliliters per second) during startup conditions and a nominal leakage of
3.0 gallons per minute (190 milliliters per second) during normal operation. Filtered seal
injection is used to keep particulates from entering the seal cavity.
Key Technical Point
The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal that
permits some controlled flow rate to pass between the faces. To prevent dry
running, the seal requires that some pressure be applied to the tapered side
prior to rotation.

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Technical Description

In some applications, conventional mechanical face seals contain the leakage past the hydrostatic
seal. In this tandem configuration, most of the pressure breakdown occurs as leakage crosses the
hydrostatic seal, and the remaining pressure drop is taken across the conventional mechanical
face seal. Under normal operation, the mechanical face seal is exposed to a significantly lower
pressure drop than the hydrostatic seal. It is typically designed as a backup to the hydrostatic seal
to permit a safe shutdown of the system under higher pressure drop, should the hydrostatic seal
fail.
Hydrostatic seals are available in either a rotating balance design or a stationary balance design.
A detailed description of these designs, used in conjunction with hydrodynamic seals, is
provided in NMAC TR-100855, Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide [35].

Figure 3-27
Hydrostatic Face Seal Design

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EPRI Licensed Material

4
FAILURE MODES AND FUNDAMENTAL MECHANISMS

4.1

Introduction

The purpose of this section is to describe the failure modes of mechanical face seals and the
fundamental mechanisms that are responsible for the failures. A significant amount of research
by seal manufacturers, universities, independent research organizations, national laboratories,
and seal users has continued over the last four decades to improve fundamental understanding of
the mechanisms that cause seal failure, which in turn has led to improvements in design, the
selection of an appropriate design for each application, and guidance for installation and
maintenance [3, 7, 9, 34, 36].
Industry-specific data were gathered under this project by conducting a utility survey to
determine the most common failure modes in the nuclear and fossil power applications. Analyses
were then performed to determine all of the significant seal failure mechanisms that are
described in this section.

4.2

Definition of Seal Failure

The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is considered unacceptable
for the seal design/configuration being used. Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of
fluid, reduction of pressure, or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in doubleseal installations.
Seal leakage can occur for a variety of reasons and might result from failure at any of several
leak paths. The possible leak paths in a typical mechanical face seal are (see Figures 3-1 and 315 for reference):
x

Between the seal faces

Between the secondary seal and the primary ring

Between the secondary seal and the mating ring

At the secondary seal in the sleeve (in seal designs employing sleeves)

At the secondary seal at the gland plate

While mechanical seal faces require some small level of leakage to function properly, the extent
of leakage above this minimum requirement can be from a few drops to a continuous drip. Under
normal performance, typical leakage rates from mechanical face seals are in the range of a
fraction of ml/hr to a few ml/hr, depending upon seal size, fluid viscosity, pressure, temperature,
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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

and speed. There are no general quantitative criteria for what constitutes seal failure due to
excessive leakage.
The level of permissible leakage is dependent upon the operating requirements, environmental
and safety considerations, and economic considerations. In most clean water systems, quite high
leakage rates are often tolerated as long as other functions of the operation are not affected. In
general, most premature leakage problems result from improper selection of the seal design and
materials, improper use of the seal, and improper installation.
Key Technical Point
The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is
considered unacceptable for the seal design/configuration being used.
Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of fluid, reduction of pressure,
or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in double seal
installations. The level of acceptable leakage is dependent upon the
application.

4.3

Industry Survey

Under this EPRI project, an industry survey was conducted to determine the most common
failure modes for mechanical seals encountered in the nuclear and fossil power plant
applications. A survey questionnaire was sent to all EPRI NMAC and FMAC utility members,
both domestic and international. The nuclear utilities included both BWR and PWR plants.
Appendix A includes a complete copy of the questionnaire. In addition to the survey results,
technical information from many other industry sources was used to identify the most common
failure modes and mechanisms responsible for the failures. Based on the above, the following
appear to be the most problematical mechanical seal applications:
x

Multi-stage centrifugal charging pumps

Start-up feedwater pumps

Condensate booster pumps

Station heat pumps

Pumps with mini-flow operation

Pumps with variable flow requirements

Boric acid system pumps with heat trace lines

This list does not include the main coolant pump seals, which, due to their higher importance,
have already been addressed separately in NMAC TR-100855, Main Coolant Pump Seal
Maintenance Guide [35].

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

It should be noted that the only European nuclear power utility that responded reported no
problematical applications. It is conjectured that, like most other European utilities, they are
using mechanical seal designs with special features (for example, thermal hydrodynamic grooves
or notches on the seal faces as described in Section 3.9) to provide enhanced seal face
lubrication.
A common denominator in all of these applications is sealing of hot water, which is a lowlubricity/high-volatility liquid that is difficult to seal, especially when high fluid pressures are
encountered [21-25]. The problem applications also include operation off the Best Efficiency
Point (mini-flow operation, variable flow requirements) and dissolved solids that can crystallize
(boric acid application).
The most commonly cited reasons (not root causes) for mechanical seal problems encountered at
the plants surveyed were:
x

Improper installation

Improper seal face compression

Dirty or abrasive fluids

Differences between normal operating conditions and design conditions

Excessive axial or radial movement caused by off Best Efficiency Point operation cavitation,
out of balance, bent shaft, misalignment, and bad bearings

Equipment operating conditions not completely defined

Improper design and face seal material selected for the application

Pressure and/or temperature transients due to variable system operation

Lack of training

4.4

Fundamental Failure Mechanisms

Successful operation of mechanical seals depends upon the development of a thin film of fluid
[typically less than 40 micro-inches (1 Pm)] that separates the seal faces during operation, thus
keeping the seal wear to a minimum and providing long life [1-6]. It is now well accepted that
the fundamental mechanism responsible for generating a fluid film during operation of
mechanical seals is hydrodynamic lubrication caused by unavoidable geometrical imperfections,
especially waviness of seal faces in the circumferential direction [5,7]. The amount of waviness
required to generate hydrodynamic film pressures and keep the faces apart is small, less than 40
micro-inches (1 Pm), and can be caused by manufacturing imperfections, local mechanical
distortions due to drive pins/anti-rotation mechanisms, thermal distortions due to non-uniform
contact pressure, and wear of the faces during operation.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

To function properly, mechanical seals must maintain a fluid film to provide lubrication, prevent
direct rubbing contact, and provide cooling of the seal faces under all operating conditions. Seal
failures occur when the film thickness and the film pressure between the seal faces change and
become unacceptably low or unacceptably high. This either leads to excessive friction, wear, and
heat, causing damage to the seal faces and other seal hardware, or leads to parting of the seal
faces. The eventual seal failure mode in both cases is high leakage.
The fundamental mechanisms most commonly responsible for seal failures are described below.
4.4.1 PV Limits Exceeded
As discussed in Section 3.7, the face loading of the seal faces is dependent upon whether the seal
is a balanced or unbalanced design, the degree of balance, the spring force, and the fluid pressure
being sealed. For optimum life, the film thickness should be sufficient to completely eliminate
asperity contact between the seal faces. As the fluid pressure increases, the film thickness
between the seal faces decreases, transitioning from full film lubrication to mixed lubrication,
and in extreme cases, to boundary lubrication (Figure 4-1).
Under full film operation, all of the seal face load is carried by the fluid pressure generated by
hydrodynamic action. Under mixed lubrication, the fluid film pressure still carries a majority of
the seal face load; however, the solid contact between the asperities of the mating seal faces
carries part of the load. Under a boundary lubrication regime, practically the entire load is carried
by direct solid contact and the fluid film carries a negligible amount of the total load.
When the asperity contact does occur but is not extensive (as in mixed lubrication), seal life is
governed by the wear of the face materials. Seal life can vary from several months to over 3 to 4
years, depending upon the application conditions. When asperity contact becomes extensive, as
in boundary lubrication, the seal frictional heat leads to immediate failure. Adverse thermal
stress conditions can result from higher pressures as well as from inadequate heat dissipation,
and can cause heat checking of the seal faces.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-1
Lubrication Regimes at Seal Interface Showing Asperity
Contact as Lubrication Changes from Full Film to Mixed to Boundary

For higher pressures, balanced seals provide the best performance because they reduce the face
loads and the asperity contact. However, as the balance ratio is decreased to handle higher
pressures, the vulnerability of the seal to parting of the seal faces under fluid pressure/
temperature transients increases. Balance ratios of 0.62 or less should be avoided to prevent face
parting. The PV limits for both balanced and unbalanced seals for all commonly used materials
are provided in Table 3-4.
Key Technical Point
For satisfactory performance, the seal design and material selections should
satisfy the PV limit and the 'T limit under all operating conditions to ensure
that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces. Loss of film can lead to
immediate seizure and seal failure.

4.4.2

'T Limits Exceeded, Causing Film Vaporization/Collapse

This is one of the most common causes of seal failure in high pressure, hot water pumps. As
discussed in Sections 3.7 and 3.8, sealing of low-lubricity/high-volatility fluids (for example,
water, glycol, and light hydrocarbons) is difficult, particularly under higher pressure and speed
combinations. If under given operating conditions the liquid film at the seal interface vaporizes,
dry rubbing of the seal faces occurs, leading to excessive heat, seal popping, and failure.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 3-23 in Section 3 shows the 'T margin that needs to be maintained between the bulk fluid
temperature and the boiling point curve of the fluid being sealed to accommodate the increase in
fluid temperature at the sealing interface without vaporization. Both the PV limits and the 'T
margins are frequently challenged and must be respected for successful operation of face seals in
high pressure, low-lubricity/high-volatility fluid applications. Increasing the chamber pressure
and/or cooling to suppress fluid vaporization can improve seal performance.
Approaches discussed in Section 3.9 to improve lubrication of the seal faces can be used to
extend the PV and 'T limits of mechanical seals in many applications.
4.4.3 Inadequate Cooling
Many mechanical seal chamber dimensions in pumps are based on interchangeability with
stuffing box packing arrangement. Often this imposes severe restrictions on the seal design, thus
limiting the structural strength of and heat transfer from the seal to the process fluid. The narrow
radial clearances between the seal boundary and the seal chamber limits flow of the hightemperature fluid surrounding the seal, resulting in unacceptable thermal distortions and coning
of the seal faces. In such cases, isolated pockets of hot fluid in the vicinity of the seal can reach
temperatures that are several hundred degrees higher than the process fluid. Excessive coning
due to high differential temperatures is often responsible for seal failure as described in Section
4.4.4.
As described in Section 3.5, increasing the radial clearance at the seal outside diameter, using
enlarged and/or tapered seal chamber designs, incorporating a seal flushing arrangement, or
increasing the flow rate of the flushing fluid can significantly reduce the seal temperature. This
can provide a dramatic improvement in the performance of the seal in such installations.
Key Technical Point
Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed to
accept conventional packings. This limits the fluid circulation around the
seal, leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids. An
enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve fluid
circulation, lowering seal temperature and eliminating accumulation of
solids.
4.4.4 Transients Causing Excessive Seal Face Coning
Thermal stresses and pressures cause deflections of the seal faces (coning) that change the
initially parallel fluid film gap between the seal faces to either a convergent or a divergent gap
(Figure 4-2). By design, the distortion of the seal faces caused by coning should be limited to
less than 40 micro-inches (1 Pm), which is the typical film thickness between the seal faces.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-2
Extremes of Seal Face Distortion (Coning) Due to Thermal and Pressure Effects

A frequent cause of seal failure is coning of seal faces that results in heavy contact at the inside
diameter of seal faces during operation (positive coning). Positive coning is caused by thermal
distortions due to seal friction and inadequate cooling. Positive coning, if excessive, changes the
lubrication regime from full film to mixed or boundary lubrication. This, in turn, increases
friction and interfacial temperature and causes rapid wear of the seal faces. Positive coning
changes the interfacial film pressure distribution from linear in a parallel face situation to convex
or concave pressure distribution, depending upon whether the seal is pressurized on the inside or
the outside diameter. Figure 4-3 shows the changes in pressure distribution for an outside
pressurized seal.
Key Technical Point
Thermal distortions of seal faces due to operational transients can cause
positive coning (contact on ID) or negative coning (contact on OD) of the seal
faces. Coning in excess of film thickness can cause film rupture seizure or
face parting, resulting in a large increase in leakage.
In extreme cases of positive coning with inside pressurization, fluid leakage past the sealing
faces is completely cut off, thus leading to total collapse of the fluid film and immediate failure.
In the case of outside pressurization, the increase in film pressure can cause parting of the seal
faces.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-3
Pressure Distribution Changes Caused by Coning of the Seal Faces (for Outside
Pressurized Seal)

Another cause of seal failure is coning of seal faces that results in contact at the outside diameter
of seal faces (negative coning). Negative coning is caused by seal distortion due to pressures,
including transients, exceeding acceptable limits. Negative coning causes the pressure
distribution between the seal faces to change sufficiently to either overcome the seal closing
force, thus causing parting of the seal faces and very high leakage, or to reduce the film
thickness, resulting in mixed/boundary lubrication.
Key Technical Point
Pressure distribution across the seal faces is affected by seal face coning due
to changes in pressure and speed as well as the wear-in process. Excessive
coning causes seal failure either due to seizure or face parting. Hard face
versus soft face material combinations are more tolerant of coning than if
both faces are hard.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

In fact, the coning and the wear-in process have complex interactions on seal performance,
depending upon the sequence of events (Figures 4-4 and 4-5). The performance is also affected
by the ability of one of the faces to wear-in rapidly without causing immediate seal failure (for
example, in the case of a carbon face) or by whether both the seal faces are too hard to wear-in
rapidly (for example, silicone carbide, tungsten carbide).

Figure 4-4
Changes in Seal Contact Area Under Constant Operating Conditions During the Wear-In
Process for a Seal With a Hard Face and a Soft Face

Figure 4-5
Example of a Wear-In Sequence (Stages 1 through 4) for a Mechanical Seal with a Soft Seal
Face

4.4.5 Operation Away from Best Efficiency Point


Large shaft deflections in pumps due to operation far away from the best efficiency point can
cause misalignment and eccentricity between the seal faces during operation. Extensive
analytical and experimental research sponsored by NASA has led to a good understanding of
how rotor/stator eccentricity and angular misalignment of the faces can create a strong pumping
action across the seal faces, over and beyond the hydrodynamic action caused by normal
circumferential waviness [5].

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EPRI Licensed Material


Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

In applications where fluid is present on only one side of the seal, eccentricity can cause high
external leakage. In applications where fluid is present on both sides of the seal (for example, in
a double seal arrangement with buffer fluid), a high rate of fluid transfer can occur either
outwardly (from high-pressure to low-pressure side) or inwardly (from low-pressure to highpressure side). The fluid flow by this mechanism from low-pressure to high-pressure side is
called inward pumping. Inward pumping can cause significant mixing of the fluids. When
abrasives are present in one of the fluids, inward pumping causes high abrasive wear of the seal
faces. These effects can be minimized by controlling the misalignments and eccentricities to an
acceptably low level.

Key Technical Point


Operation away from Best Efficiency Point (BEP) is a frequent cause of
short seal life/seal failures. Off BEP conditions cause large shaft deflections
and vibrations resulting in premature degradation of mechanical seals.
It is also important to note that the pumping action in a misaligned, eccentric face seal causes the
fluid to transfer across the seal interface if the wide seal face is rotating as shown in Figure
4-6(a). Fluid transfer can accelerate abrasive wear of the seal faces, especially in applications
where one fluid has solid particulates, for example, service water applications. The effect can be
minimized by selecting a seal design in which the narrow face is the rotating element, as shown
in Figure 4-6(b).

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-6
Fluid Pumping Action Across the Seal Faces Due to Static Offset and Misalignment

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

4.4.6 Seal Misalignment/Premature Degradation of Primary and Secondary Seals


Mechanical face seal misalignment occurs in all installations, but the severity of the
misalignment and the manner in which it is accommodated dictates whether the mechanical face
seal will perform satisfactorily in service. Misalignment can be caused by runout of the shaft or
face seal due to manufacturing clearances and tolerances or by deflection of the mounting
surfaces due to load or temperature. It can be classified in two categories: static misalignment or
dynamic misalignment. Both static and dynamic misalignment can reduce the service life of the
mechanical face seal by premature degradation of the primary or secondary seals.
Static Misalignment: Static misalignment is the condition in which the seal faces run in an
eccentric position relative to each other. They remain in that position unless a change in
operating conditions upsets their relative positions. The effect of static misalignment is a wear
track on the wider face that is offset from its concentric position. If the misalignment remains
constant (within limits) after installation, the primary seal faces should function properly and
provide normal service life. If the misalignment is the result of load, such as shaft tilt due to side
loading as shown in Figure 4-7, then the mechanical face seal will operate satisfactorily until the
load is changed. Once the load is changed, a new wear track will need to develop before the
mating seal faces again begin to function normally. This condition becomes more severe when
the wider face is made of relatively soft material that permits a relatively deep wear track to
develop. In most cases, a deep wear track causes face leakage under both static and running
conditions.

Figure 4-7
Rotating Balance Seal Wobble Caused by Shaft Tilt

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Key Technical Point


Static and dynamic misalignment between seal faces can cause strong fluid
pumping action across the faces causing either inward pumping or outward
pumping of the product fluid and/or buffer fluid. Leakages under misaligned
conditions can be several times the normal leak rate.
Static misalignment can also create a condition called pumping-in or pumping-out of the fluid
when the rotating face is wider than the stationary face, as already described in Section 4.4.5 and
illustrated in Figure 4-6. Pumping is caused by the radial velocity vector that forces fluid in and
out of the narrower seal face. This radial vector can be large enough to pump fluid from the lowpressure side to the higher-pressure side. Pumping-in is particularly harmful when the lowpressure side has contaminants. Pumping-out does not usually damage the seal, but only
increases the leak rate. As stated earlier, the pumping phenomenon due to static offset can be
eliminated by making the rotating face narrower and selecting the softer face material for the
narrower face.
Static misalignment due to shaft tilt also creates an axial sliding action at the secondary seal
location, as shown in Figure 4-7. Premature degradation of the secondary seal area due to
fretting/wear can cause seal problems.
Dynamic Misalignment: Dynamic misalignment exists when the mechanical face seals have to
respond to changes with each revolution. Shaft tilt creates a condition where the seal has to
respond dynamically to the change in axial position of the mechanical face seal with every
revolution of the shaft. Shaft tilt can create premature failure of the secondary seal and can
significantly affect the integrity of the sealing faces. When the secondary seal slides to
accommodate shaft tilt (shown in Figure 4-7), it axially sweeps the shaft with each revolution of
the shaft and causes the secondary seal and its mating surface to wear. Excessive leakage,
especially at high speeds, can also develop if the seal faces cannot dynamically respond to
relative axial movement to maintain face contact. Leakage due to shaft tilt can also occur at
relatively low speeds if the spring load or pressure do not generate enough face loading,
especially when the inside diameter of the seal is pressurized. Problems associated with shaft tilt
can be reduced or eliminated by allowing the stationary ring to pivot as shown in Figure 4-8.

Key Technical Point


Premature wear of the primary sealing faces and secondary seals, causing
excessive leakage when stationary and when running, are also common
symptoms of excessive misalignment.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-8
Shaft Tilt Accommodated by Stationary Ring Pivot

Problems caused by dynamic misalignment also occur when the rotating seal face axis is offset
from the rotation axis of the shaft. Under this condition, the rotating seal face radially sweeps the
stationary face once every revolution as shown in Figure 4-9. This condition exists to some
extent in all seals, however, leakage and wear become a problem only when the runout is
excessive and the rotating face is narrower than the stationary face. If the narrower rotating face
turns with an offset around the axis of revolution, a radial vector is generated that pumps fluid in
and out of the narrow face. The problem becomes severe when the product or environment
contains abrasives that can be forced between the sealing faces. Leakage due to runout is usually
present only during running conditions unless the sealing faces have been damaged.

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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

Figure 4-9
Seal Pumping Caused by Dynamic Offset of Rotating Narrow Face

Problems associated with dynamic offset are more common when the primary face (which has
more components and more potential for imbalance) rotates rather than when the mating ring
rotates. Offset problems can also be caused by excessive clearances in the assembly or improper
installation. The problem can usually be eliminated by selecting a seal configuration with a
rotating mating ring, which can be manufactured to much tighter tolerances to minimize
clearances and imbalance.
4.4.7 Excessive Out-of-Flatness (Warpage) During Operation
Key Technical Point
Mechanical face seals are precision components, requiring the sealing faces
to be flat, typically within one light band (11.6 x 10-6 inches) across one-inch
width. Too much out-of-flatness can lead to excessive seal leakage.
For proper operation without excessive leakage, manufacturers control seal flatness to typically
within one light-band per lineal inch. In some cases, the flatness of the seal faces can change
considerably during operation due to wear, misalignment, and exposure to high temperatures that
continue to age the seal face material. In applications where both faces are made of hard
materials (for example, tungsten carbide and silicone carbide), distortions of the seal faces that
result in excessive waviness can generate a much higher hydrodynamic pressure than under
normal conditions, thus causing a dramatic increase in fluid film thickness and leakage. In such
cases, the seal faces typically show no sign of wear or abnormal contact and the problem is only
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Failure Modes and Fundamental Mechanisms

recognized by inspecting the seal flatness. Local warpage of several light-bands over a small
circumferential part of the seal was observed in a controlled test in which leakage was found to
increase by a factor of more than 100 during operation [52]. A more thorough heat treatment and
stress relief prior to the final grinding and lapping operation can minimize distortions due to
continued aging in operation.
4.4.8 Seal Faces Too Perfectly Flat to Generate a Film
As mentioned earlier, mechanical seals function well due to a small, unavoidable circumferential
waviness (introduced by manufacturing tolerances or mechanical/thermal loads) that generates
hydrodynamic lubricant film pressure at the sealing interface, which prevents direct asperity
contact between the faces. Under certain circumstances (fortunately rare), in which the seal faces
are lapped too perfectly flat and the seal construction is robust enough to prevent mechanical
distortion of the seal faces, the hydrodynamic film pressures are insufficient to separate the faces.
This results in direct rubbing and very high friction, causing the seal temperatures to increase
rapidly and immediate destruction of the seal. Evidence of high temperatures is also seen in
discoloration of the seal hardware. This type of failure was encountered in controlled laboratory
tests performed under identical conditions for which a number of tests had been successfully
conducted previously [52]. It should be noted that, even though a maximum out-of-flatness
criterion has been established by seal manufacturers, there is no minimum flatness requirement
to ensure proper operation.

Key Technical Point


Conventional mechanical face seals rely on a small amount of waviness,
automatically created by face distortions due to mechanical loads, to
function properly. Too perfectly flat seal faces on structurally robust seal
rings prevent the faces from distorting and developing a fluid film. This
results in seal failure due to seizure. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence.

In conclusion, this section has described in detail all of the significant failure mechanisms that
can cause seal failure, either singly or in combination. The insights provided here should be very
helpful in following the systematic approach to troubleshooting and diagnosing seal failures in
service as outlined in Section 7.

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5
APPLICATION AND SELECTION RECOMMENDATIONS

5.1

Introduction

The mechanical face seal represents a complex design that consists of several single-design
components. In order to achieve optimum performance, each of the single design components
must be selected to cover the operational requirements. Factors that affect the performance of the
seal (and that should be considered when selecting a seal) include:
x

Liquid type

Liquid temperature during normal and design conditions

Liquid pressure during normal and design conditions

Rotational speed

Radiation exposure

In addition to the above factors, the ease of maintenance is an important consideration in


selecting a seal.

5.2

Selection Specification

In most power plants, the system liquid is either water or some type of hydrocarbon. The water
might be clean or contain abrasives that can significantly affect seal life if proper flushing is not
provided to remove the abrasives from the seal faces. In general, the following recommendations
are made depending on the process liquid.

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Application and Selection Recommendations
Table 5-1
Seal Application and Selection Guidelines
Application

Typical Construction

Installation Considerations

Water and
fuel

The rubber bellows seal is commonly used for


water and fuel applications. The seal is
relatively inexpensive and typically uses a
rotating carbon head and a stationary metal
face. To improve life and minimize abrasion, a
ceramic face is often used. Tungsten or
silicone faces are used in extreme cases.
Bellows made from ethylene propylene are
used up to 284qF (140qC) with water and
water-glycol mixtures. Fluoroelastomers are
used for fuels up to a temperature of 302qF
(150qC). Faces are typically loaded using a
single coil spring

Might require the use of double


seals with a clean barrier liquid to
prevent vaporization at the seal
faces and to provide better
lubrication for the seal faces.
Borated water, which can
crystallize on the seal surfaces,
must be externally flushed.
Flushing of the interface by direct
jetting is mandatory for all liquids
with a specific gravity of less than
0.63.

Boiler feed

Demineralized water is a poor lubricant and


the face materials must be selected to
withstand sparse lubrication. The seals are
often sleeve-mounted because the shaft
speed might approach 6,000 rpm. Faces are
loaded using wave springs, welded springs, or
multiple springs.

If the pressure is high, double


seals with a clean barrier liquid
might be required to stage the
pressure drop. The barrier liquid
might also be circulated and
cooled to remove heat away from
the seal.

Mild
corrosives

Seals used in mild corrosives usually


incorporate PTFE wedge secondary seals to
provide the required compatibility with the
process liquid. Conventional O-ring and
elastomeric bellows seals are also sometimes
used provided they do not degrade in service.
It is not uncommon to specify asymmetric
formed metal bellows for higher temperature
applications. Face loading is achieved using
multiple springs or metal bellows.

Stainless steel components might


be required to prevent corrosion.

Highly

PTFE bellows are typically used in highly


corrosive liquids to prevent from escaping into
the environment. Asymmetric-formed metal
bellows are also available for some
applications. The seals are usually externally
mounted and have visual wear indicators that
signal when the seal must be changed. Dual
seals are also often used with a benign barrier
liquid to minimize the toxic liquid escaping to
the environment. The seal faces are loaded
using multiple stainless steel springs or using
the metal bellows seals.

Depending on the effects,


corrosion might be either
beneficial or detrimental. If soft
oxides are formed, wear might be
reduced as long as the oxide
layer is not disturbed. However,
free hard oxide particles, floating
between the faces, can act as
grinders and increase wear. In
those instances, flushing with a
clean liquid might be required to
enhance seal performance and
life.

corrosive
liquid

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Application and Selection Recommendations
Table 5-1 (cont.)
Seal Application and Selection Guidelines
Application

Typical Construction

Installation Considerations

Hot
hydrocarbons

A wedge seal with multiple springs is used to


seal hot hydrocarbons. The wedge is typically
made of a high-temperature graphite if high
pressure is encountered. Welded metal
bellows are used for temperatures up to
572qF (300qC) and pressures up to 290 psi
(20 bars). Multiple springs are usually used to
load the seal faces unless clogging can occur.
When clogging is a problem, then a single coil
spring is used.

Clean flushing liquid with


lubricating properties are typically
required to prevent volatile liquids
from vaporization in the vicinity of
the seal interface. Vaporization
will cause liquid film breakdown
and loss of lubrication. Flushing of
the interface by direct jetting is
mandatory for all liquids with a
specific gravity of less than 0.63.

Slurry/dirty
process

Seals in slurry applications normally used


asymmetrically formed bellows to provide the
seal on the primary ring and to load the faces.
Bellows are typically made from corrosionresistant materials and have no sharp corners
to trap contaminants. The static seals on the
stationary ring are usually elastomeric Orings. Hard faced materials are used for the
faces to prevent wear caused by the
abrasives contained within the slurry.

Clean flushing liquid is typically


required to remove abrasives
from the seal surfaces. The
flushing liquid should be neutral
to prevent contamination of the
process liquid. Cooling provided
by flushing also improves seal
life.

Key Technical Point


Seal selection requires a detailed and systematic evaluation of all the
significant application parameters, for example, fluid type, pressure,
temperature, speed, normal operating conditions versus design conditions,
radiation exposure, and maintenance. Appropriate data sheets and check
lists should be used to ensure a thorough and complete evaluation of suitable
alternatives and trade-offs. Prototype qualification tests should be
performed for all critical applications.

5.3

Selection Data Sheet

The proper selection of a mechanical face seal requires examination of different areas of the seal
installation and operating requirements. The following selection sheet provides guidance on
recognizing the critical area that must be identified. This data sheet was developed from the data
sheets in API Standard 682. The more detailed data sheet in API 682 can be used in lieu of this
abbreviated data sheet. It is expected that the seal manufacturer might need to be contacted to
assist in filling out the data sheet.

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Application and Selection Recommendations

SELECTION DATA SHEET


1. Purchaser Requirements
Purchaser
Pump service
Enquiry Ref
Seal mfg

Company
Date
Plant item no.
Ref pump drwg
For proposal/purchase
Seal installation drwg required, Y/N?

2. Application Details
Liquid
Seal Size
Temperature range
Speed range, rpm
3. Supplement Process Data
Pump suction pressure
Static pressure, max/min
Boiling temp at sealed pressure
Abrasives Y/N
Abrasives concentration
Specific gravity of process
Auto-ignition temp
Corrosive/pH
Dry running, Y/N
Special operation comments
4. Process Hazard
Hazard (state)
Toxicity rating
5. Standards
Identify applicable compliance standards
API
ANSI
NACE
ISO

Shaft/sleeve size
Sealed pressure range
Rotation CW/CCW

Pump discharge pressure


Vapor pressure at process temp
Vacuum pressure
Abrasives constituents
Dissolved solids constituents
Viscosity, max/min
Max/min ambient temp
Carbon dioxide, ppm

Allowable leakage

DIN

Other

6. Type of Installation (circle application selections)


Single
Double back-to-back
Double face-to-face
Cartridge
Stationary mounted
Clean flush can be used
Compatible sealant for double seal installation
7. Design Type (circle applicable selection)
Rubber bellows
O-ring
PTFE wedge
Metal bellows
Unbalanced
Balanced
Multiple springs
Seal materials

5-4

Tandem

PTFE O-ring
Single spring

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Application and Selection Recommendations

SELECTION DATA SHEET (cont.)

8. Containment Seal in Addition to Item 6 (circle applicable selection)


Non spark bushing
Lip seal
Labyrinth bushing
Mechanical
Floating labyrinth
Standstill
Other
Maximum temperature
Maximum Pressure
9. Auxiliary Fluids Available on Site
Water, Y/N
Pressure
Steam, Y/N
Pressure
Flush, Y/N
Pressure
Other, Y/N
Pressure

Temperature
Temperature
Temperature
Temperature

10. Auxiliary Equipment to be Provided by Seal Supplier


Sealant system per attachment
Cooler, type
Cyclone separator
Filter, type
Flow controller
Leakage detector type

11. Sealed Equipment Details


Pump Make/Model
Pump, type
Description
Horizontal/vertical
Axial/Radial split
Seal mounted on shaft or sleeve
Seals per pump
Shaft axial movement
Driver (electric motor, steam turbine, engine, etc)
Wetted parts materials
12. Material Certification and Performance Test
Specify Certification
Seal Test (std/spl)

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Application and Selection Recommendations

5.4

Qualification Testing

In some critical service applications, where seal failure is unacceptable from a safety standpoint,
or where the economic impact of failure is unacceptable (for example, unscheduled plant
shutdowns), seal selection should be verified by appropriate qualification testing. This is
especially recommended where the manufacturers cannot provide reference experience for the
selected designs from other similar applications.
The extent of testing, the key factors to be simulated, and parameters monitored during testing
depends upon the criticality of the application and the cost of performing the qualification tests.
Guidance is provided in API Standard 682 [8] and in other publications related to mechanical
seals [7,56,57], which can be consulted to tailor the qualification testing for a specific
application.

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6
CONDITION-BASED MONITORING GUIDELINES

6.1

Introduction

Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility, and from site to site. Some of this is
the result of different equipment designs, operating philosophies, and different rates of forced
outages experienced. Based on survey results, the level of condition monitoring required to
develop reliable seal performance data is quite basic except for main coolant pump mechanical
face seals. For many plants, condition based monitoring is limited to visual observations with
little actual quantification.
This section of the guide provides information on how to evaluate seal performance and
suggestions for monitoring and data acquisition. The data acquired and tended can be used to
assess seal performance and to provide reasonable predictions of the remaining life or operability
of a mechanical face seal. The parameters to be trended will be identified, evaluation described,
and examples provided. Trouble-shooting problems require good data. Without a trending
program, determining the root cause of an operating problem is difficult, if not impossible.
Data logging of the various parameters associated with mechanical face seals can be performed
in many different ways. The simplest way is to use manual recording, however, sophisticated
data-logging systems can also be utilized. Hand logging of data and trending is time consuming,
but it is effective in trending most seal performance characteristics over the long term. Required
parameters that are routinely trended can be added to the daily or shift logs recorded by the
operators. These parameters can then be plotted using standard spreadsheet programs and trends
can be maintained and provided to plant personnel as part of the normal system status reports.
The major advantages of automated systems are that data can be routinely recorded and
downloaded to trending programs, and changes in the frequency of data-logging can be triggered
from performance changes. Generally, when analyzing seal performance changes, it is necessary
to have data recorded frequently or to have key parameters on continuous recorders. These
automated systems are reasonably expensive and, in a time where utilities are being challenged
to hold the line on costs, are only appropriate for systems with a relatively high frequency of seal
failures.
Key O&M Cost Point
Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility and from site to
site due to different equipment designs, operating philosophies, and different
rates of forced outages experienced. For many plants, condition-based
monitoring is limited to visual observations with little actual quantification,
except for main coolant pump mechanical face seals.
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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

6.2

Typical Performance Data Logging

Data that is typically available for logging includes pressures, temperatures, flows, vibration
levels, and, in some cases, speed. The amount of each type of data collected for each seal will
depend on the type of seal used and its installation. For example, single seals will require less
data collection than double or tandem seal arrangements. The frequency of data logging will vary
from system to system based on system conditions and seal operating experience and
characteristics. Manual recording might be required only once a day. Automated data-logging
systems can acquire data at any frequency, and the frequency can be dynamically adjusted
depending on seal performance. A typical log sheet for a multiple seal arrangement and its
support system is shown in Table 6-1.
An example of pressure being used to trend seal performance is illustrated in Figure 6-1 for a
staged seal arrangement. In this example, the lower seal stage differential pressure is plotted
against time and a best guess projection is made to predict when the failure limit has been
reached. Similar trends can be plotted of temperature in a barrier fluid or loss of barrier fluid in
the barrier fluid reservoir. Loss of barrier fluid can be very useful in characterizing seal
performance in a corrosive system seal arrangement.

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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines
Table 6-1
Seal System Log Sheet
Plant

Unit

System

Equip. No.

Date

Time

Recorded By:
Seal No. 1

Item

Normal

Minimum

Maximum

Startup

Flow
Temperature
Differential Pressure
Backpressure
Frame Vibration level
Shaft Vibration level
Speed
Leakage rate
Seal No. 2
Flow
Temperature
Differential Pressure
Backpressure
Seal No. 3
Flow
Temperature
Differential Pressure
Backpressure
Flush
API Plan No.

Fluid type

Flow rate
Temperature, inlet
Pressure
Filtration
Quench/Drain
API Plan No.

Fluid type

Flow rate
Temperature, inlet
Temperature, outlet
Pressure
Filtration

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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

Figure 6-1
Seal Data Plot Showing Declining Performance (Courtesy of Southern California Edison)

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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

6.3

Seal Performance Parameters

Other than seal dynamic torque, seal face temperatures and seal face temperature changes are the
key measures of the performance of a seal because they characterize what is happening at the
seal interface. Seal dynamic torque is almost impossible to measure and is, therefore, not a viable
measurement. Temperature is the easiest parameter to measure and, depending on the seal
arrangement, temperature measurements can directly characterize seal performance. Usually
temperature data in the vicinity of the seal are a measure of the process fluid or support system,
especially in seal systems that are flushed or quenched. These temperature measurements tend to
mask the actual seal performance and many times fail to provide meaningful data. The more
obvious measure of seal performance is leakage, but this method is only viable for single seals or
outboard seals of multiple seal arrangements. In systems where only a small leak is acceptable,
leakage measurement fails to provide an indication of impending failure.
Even within these limitations and short falls, data taken to monitor seal performance can provide
a useful tool. These measurements become even more meaningful when tracked over an
extended period of time and correlated to seal failure. Parameters such as pressure and flow,
which do not directly characterize seal performance but do affect seal performance, become
extremely important when predicting when the seal might fail.

Key O&M Cost Point


Monitoring and data logging of key performance parameters can serve as
very useful tools for trending wear and performance degradation of
mechanical seals and preventing unscheduled outages.

6.4

Instrumentation

Seal monitoring can be accomplished with simple and easy-to-implement manual instruments
such as temperature and pressure gauges, or with complex computer data-acquisition systems
that can initiate controls based on parameter limits. This section describes the manual sensors
and switches that are commonly available and used. When used, the sensors should comply with
a recognized standard such as API Standard 682. Electronic sensors, such as pressure
transducers, thermocouples, etc., should be subject to similar design requirements. The following
sections (6.4.1 through 6.4.8) that outline various sensors and switches are based on
recommendations contained in the API Standard 682. Deviations from the following
recommendations can be made, and other design requirements might be imposed, based on
specific needs of the plant.
6.4.1 Temperature Gauge
Temperature gauges provide a visual indication of the local temperature. The sensing element is
in contact with the liquid being measured.

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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

Dial temperature gauges should be heavy-duty and corrosion resistant. They should be bimetallic or liquid-filled, with a rigid stem suitable for mounting as needed. Mercury-filled
thermometers are not acceptable. Black printing on a white background is standard.
Dial temperature gauges should be installed in pipe sections or in tubing runs. The sensing
element of temperature gauges should be in the flowing fluid to the depth specified by the gauge
manufacturer.
Temperature gauges installed in tubing should be a minimum of 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) in
diameter and the stem should be a minimum of 2 inches (50 mm) long. All other gauges should
be a minimum of 3 1/2 inches (90 mm) in diameter and the stem should be a minimum of 3
inches (75 mm) long.
6.4.2 Thermowells
Thermowells provide protection for the sensing element of temperature gauges.
Temperature gauges that are in contact with flammable or toxic fluids, or that are located in
pressurized or flooded lines, should be furnished with separable threaded solid-bar thermowells
made of AISI Standard Type 300 stainless steel or another material more compatible with the
liquid as defined by the manufacturer. Thermowells installed in piping should be 1/2 inch-NPT
minimum. Thermowell designs and installation should not restrict liquid flow.
6.4.3 Pressure Gauges
Pressure gauges provide a visual indication of the pressure and the sensing element is in contact
with the liquid being measured.
Pressure gauges should conform to ANSI/ASME Standard B.40.1 grade 2A. The gauges should
be furnished with AISI Standard Type 316 stainless steel bourdon tubes or other material
compatible with the liquid, stainless steel movements, and 1/2-inch NPT male alloy steel
connections with wrench flats. Gauges installed in tubing should have 2 1/2-inch (64 mm)
diameter dials. Gauges not installed in tubing should have 4 1/2-inch (114 mm) diameter dials.
Black printing on a white background is standard for gauges. Gauge range should be selected so
that the normal operating pressure is at the middle of the gauge's range. In no case, however,
should the maximum reading on the dial be less than the applicable relief valve setting plus 10
percent.
6.4.4 Alarm, Trip, and Control Switches
Alarm, trip, and control switches provide a visual or audible signal or control an electric circuit
when the preset limit of a sensor has been exceeded.
Each alarm switch, each shutdown switch, and each control switch should be furnished in a
separate housing located to facilitate inspection and maintenance. Hermetically-sealed, double
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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

pole, double throw switches, with a minimum rating of 5 amperes at 120 volts AC and 1/2
ampere at 120 volts DC, should be used. Mercury switches should not be used.
Unless otherwise specified, electrical switches that open (de-energize) to alarm and close
(energize) to trip should be furnished.
Alarm and trip switch settings should not be adjustable from outside the housing. Alarm and trip
switches should be arranged to permit testing of the control circuit, including when possible, the
actuating element, without interfering with normal operation of the equipment. If a shutdown
system is being implemented, the need for bypass indication and testing features should be
considered.
Pressure-sensing elements should be of AISI Standard Type 300 stainless steel. Low-pressure
alarms, which are activated by falling pressure, should be equipped with a valved bleed or vent
connection to allow controlled depressurization so that the operator can note the alarm set
pressure on the associated pressure gauge. High-pressure alarms, which are activated by rising
pressure, should be equipped with a valved test connection so that a portable test pump can be
used to raise the pressure.
All switches sensing the same variable should have reset ranges, such that changing the variable
to reset one switch does not activate other switches.
6.4.5 Pressure Switches
Pressure switches trip when a pre-set pressure limit has been exceeded. Pressure switches can
have low and/or high limit settings.
Pressure switches should have over-range protection to the maximum pressure to which the
switch can be exposed. Switches exposed to vacuum should have under-range protection to full
vacuum.
The measuring element and all pressure-containing parts should be AISI Standard Type 316
stainless steel unless the pumped fluid requires the use of alternate materials, as determined by
the seal manufacturer. Unless otherwise specified, pressure switches should be bellows or
diaphragm. Connections for pressure input should be 1/2-inch NPT. Connection for the air
transmission signal should be 1/4-inch NPT.
6.4.6 Level Switches
Level switches trip when a pre-set liquid level has been exceeded. Level switches can have low
and/or high limit settings.
Unless otherwise specified, level switches should be hydrostatic, capacitance, or ultrasonic.

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Condition-Based Monitoring Guidelines

Be aware that level switches might have a dead band wide enough to activate other switches
during re-setting. This is especially true when dealing with the small volumes of barrier fluids
associated with dual-seal reservoirs.
6.4.7 Level Indicators
Level indicators provide a visual indication of the liquid level and are also used when dealing
with small volumes of barrier fluids associated with dual-seal reservoirs. The standard level
indicator should be the weld pad reflex design.
When specified, an externally mounted, removable, reflex indicator should be furnished instead
of the standard weld pad design.
6.4.8 Flow Indicators
A flow indicator provides a visual indication of flow rate and, when used, should be a steel body
non-restrictive bull's eye.
To facilitate viewing of flow through the line, each flow indicator should be installed with its
bull's-eye glass in a vertical plane. The diameter of the bull's eye should be at least one-half of
the inside diameter of the line in which it is installed and should clearly show the minimum flow.

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7
TROUBLESHOOTING TO IDENTIFY CAUSE OF SEAL
FAILURE

Key O&M Cost Point


Seal performance is often directly linked to equipment performance and
reliability. An in-depth inspection and review of seal failures can improve
equipment availability and performance.

7.1

Introduction

A discussion of the fundamental mechanisms responsible for seal failure was presented in
Section 4. To improve seal reliability and extend its life in a particular application, a thorough
analysis of the cause of failure of a mechanical seal often gives the best indication of action
required. This section provides a comprehensive step-by-step troubleshooting approach that can
be followed by engineers and operating and maintenance personnel to diagnose seal failures in
actual applications.
Several excellent sources, including seal manufacturers' published information and seal
handbooks, identify causes of seal failure and provide illustrations of failed parts to aid in
diagnosis [3,7,11-19]. The troubleshooting approach and tables in this section are based on
relevant information for nuclear and fossil power applications from these sources along with the
authors experience in root cause analysis of seal failures. A number of the illustrations and
technical notes included in the tables in this section were obtained from John Crane Mechanical
Seals and Mechanical Engineering Publications, Ltd., London [7,17]. They have been updated
and are used here with permission from these organizations.

7.2

Failure Diagnosis

Seal failure diagnosis is very similar to any other failure investigation and often the best
indication of the cause of failure is from visual examination of the seal itself. Once the likely
cause of the problem is decided, the available solutions are usually clear. It is very important to
keep in mind that evidence of seal failure is an essential element in determining the cause of seal
failure and if the evidence is lost there is no way to back track. Therefore, to reduce the risk of
losing evidence, it is suggested that a systematic step-by-step approach be followed during the
investigation process.

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Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Properly document external symptoms of seal failure

Perform detailed checks before dismantling

Clearly document evidence during dismantling and disassembly

Perform detailed visual examinations of seal components

7.2.1 External Symptoms of Seal Failure


A useful indication of the cause of a seal problem can often be obtained by analysis of the
symptoms experienced in service. These might suggest either the remedy directly or at least the
direction of subsequent failure diagnosis. On critical duties, instrumentation might be available
to give further assistance, or portable devices can be used for condition checks.
Table 7-1 outlines various external symptoms of seal failure and their possible causes, and offers
recommendations for managing the symptoms.

7-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-1
External Symptoms of Seal Failure
Symptom
Seal squeals during
operation

Possible Causes
Inadequate amount of liquid
to lubricate seal faces (Note
that not all dry seals squeal.)

Recommendations/Remarks
x If not in use, a bypass flush line might be

required. If already in use, the line or


associated restrictions, for example,
orifices in the gland plate, might need to be
enlarged.
x If increase in leakage is permissible, use

seal designs with positive hydrodynamic


lubrication features, for example, face
notches, laser-textured seal faces
Carbon dust
accumulating on
outside of seal area

Seal spits and sputters


in operation (often
called popping)

Inadequate amount of liquid


to lubricate seal faces

See above

Liquid film vaporizing/


flashing between seal faces.
In some cases, this leaves a
residue that grinds away the
carbon-graphite seal ring.

Pressure in seal chamber might be


excessively high for the type of seal and the
fluid being sealed. See below for actions
against vaporization.

Product vaporizing/flashing
across the seal faces

Remedial action is aimed at providing a


positive liquid condition of the product at all
times
x Increase seal chamber pressure if it is

possible to remain in seal operating


envelope
x Check for proper balance design with seal

manufacturer
x Change to a seal design not requiring so

much product temperature margin


x If not in use, a bypass flush line will be

required
x If already in use, the bypass flush line or

associated restrictions might need to be


enlarged
x Increase cooling of seal faces
x Check for seal interface cooling with seal

manufacturer
x If increase in leakage is permissible, use

seal designs with positive hydrodynamic


lubrication features, for example, face
notches, laser-textured seal faces.
Note that a review of balance design requires
accurate measurement of seal chamber
pressure, temperature, and specific gravity of
product.

7-3

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-1 (cont.)
External Symptoms of Seal Failure
Symptom
Seal drips or leaks
steadily

Possible Causes

Recommendations/Remarks

If possible, first determine the source of the leakage. Heavy leakage is


normally from the faces rather than the O-ring, and so on.
Insufficient load on the seal
faces
Primary seal concerns:
x

Faces not flat

Faces cracked, chipped,


or blistered

Distortion of seal faces


for thermal or mechanical
reasons (usually
determined from wear
pattern on faces)

Typical corrective actions:


x Check for incorrect installation dimensions

or loosening of set screws during


operation, permitting axial slippage.
x Check for improper seals or material being

used in the application.


x Check gland gasket for proper

compression.
x Check for gland plate distortion because of

over-torquing of gland bolts (this can cause


faces to become distorted).
x Clean out any foreign particles between

seal faces. Relap faces or renew.


x Check for any installation or similar

damage and renew if necessary.


x Check for squareness of stuffing box to

shaft and similar equipment condition


concerns.
x Ensure pipe strain or machine

misalignment is not causing distortion of


seal faces (especially end suction
overhung type pumps).
x Improve cooling flushing lines.

Secondary seal concerns:

Typical corrective actions

x Secondary seals nicked or

x Renew secondary seals.

scratched during
installation
x Leakage of liquid under

pump shaft sleeve


x Overaged O-ring
x Compression set of

secondary seals (hard and


brittle)
x Chemical attack of

secondary seals (soft and


sticky)

7-4

x Check for proper lead in chamfers, burr

removal, and so on.


x Check for correct seals with manufacturer.
x Check for correct seal materials with

manufacturer.

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-1 (cont.)
External Symptoms of Seal Failure
Symptom
Seal drips or leaks
steadily (cont.)

Pump/shaft vibration

Short seal life

Possible Causes

Recommendations/Remarks

Seal hardware concerns:

Typical corrective actions:

Spring failure

Renew parts

Erosion damage of
hardware

Check for improved material availability

Corrosion of drive
mechanisms

Modify recirculation flow arrangement to


reduce high velocity jets on hardware.
Install cyclone separator to remove solids
from recirculation flow

Misalignment

Impeller/shaft system
imbalance

Cavitation

Bearing problems

This will reduce seal life even though leakage


might not be immediately apparent.

Equipment mechanically out


of line (for example, from
undue pipe strain)

See above. In the extreme, this can cause


rubbing of the seat on the shaft

Abrasive product (causing


excessive seal face wear)

Typical actions are aimed at determining the


source of abrasives and preventing them
from accumulating at the seal faces
x

If abrasives are in suspension, bypass


flushing over the seal faces will improve
the situation by keeping the abrasive
particles moving and so reducing their
tendency to settle out or accumulate in
the seal area. A cyclone separator is often
added to this bypass line (filters give
longer term problems unless regularly
cleared).

When abrasives are forming locally in the


seal area, a bypass flush will help
introduce the maximum product to the
seal cavity at the correct temperature.
Abrasives form in the area because of the
process liquid cooling down and
crystallizing or partly solidifying, or
because of local product evaporation.

7-5

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-1 (cont.)
External Symptoms of Seal Failure
Symptom
Short seal life (cont.)

Seal leaks excessively


following a pressure
and temperature
transient

7-6

Possible Causes
Seal running too hot

Recommendations/Remarks
x

Check that all cooling lines are connected


and operational

Check that flow is not obstructed in


cooling lines or jackets (for example, from
scale formation)

Increase the capacity of cooling lines

A recirculation or bypass flush line might


be necessary

Check for possible rubbing of a seal


component against the shaft (see also
OKUCNKIPOGPV above). Some good points
to check are: neck bush clearance,
clearance between the rotating seal unit
and the seal chamber bore, the bore of
the seat, and the seal plate clearance
from the sleeve.

Inadequate seal type or seal


material for duty.

If there is a concern, advice is readily


available from seal manufacturers. Seal
material deficiencies might well result in
deterioration from corrosion or excessive
heat.

Seal wears into a pattern and


transients can cause
excessive positive or negative
coning of the seal faces.
Coning changes the film
pressure distribution, which
can either cause face parting
of balanced seals with low
balance ratio or cut off the
entrance of the lubricant/fluid
between the seal faces. Loss
of film causes heat damage.

Use seal with higher balance ratio if face


parting is encountered

Control seal environmental temperature


by a suitable flushing arrangement

Use seal designs with enhanced fluid film


lubrication features at the seal faces, for
example, cooling notches, hydropads

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7.2.2 Checks Before Dismantling


In addition to noting any seal failure symptoms, other checks prior to disassembly can be
valuable, either directly or to facilitate later diagnosis. Most of these checks are straightforward
and are carried out as routine by most engineers. Thus, they are presented as a checklist in Table
7-2 to act as an aide.
Key Human Performance Point
The importance of maintaining As Found conditions is important to failure
mode determinations. Personnel should be instructed to exercise care
during the disassembly steps.
Table 7-2
Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling
Topic

Checklist

Documentation

Take photographs of all key components and subassemblies before


and during disassembly

Toxic/hazardous product

In such cases, all necessary precautions are to be observed prior and


during assembly. Consult material safety data sheets (MSDS).

Service life of seal

Hours of operation. Duty cycle, stop/starts, and so on.

Process change

Identify any change - often the key to a solution


Seal might have been selected on theory of process, not practice
Changes in fluid pressure, temperature, or composition
Process variation or fluctuation

Background information
required

Fluid sealed (including contaminants)


Fluid pressure on seal and in system
Fluid temperature at seal and in system
Fluid flow within the seal chamber
Sealed fluid vapor pressure/temperature data
Operating shaft speed(s)
Special operating conditions
Machine assembly drawing
Seal assembly drawing
Seal design data

Machine vibration

Useful even when not immediately apparent as a symptom


Axial and radial bearing housing or shaft vibration
Frequency analysis to confirm out-of-balance, misalignment, etc., until
machine can be stopped for physical checks

7-7

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-2 (cont.)
Checklist of Actions Before Dismantling
Topic
Seal leakage pattern

Checklist
Safety note: all necessary precautions must be observed during any
leakage checks, especially if the fluid is toxic or hazardous.
Amount and nature of abnormal leakage?
Leakage constant or variable?
Leaks when shaft is stationary?
Leaks when shaft is rotating?
Related to changes of speed, pressure, or temperature of operation?

Possible leakage path(s)

An assembly drawing is of great assistance.


If possible, identify source of abnormal leakage while machine is still
operating.
Inspect exposed machine surfaces for indications of leakage path(s),
for example, along shaft, under sleeve, from seal plate gaskets, and
so on.
This inspection to continue through subsequent equipment and seal
dismantling until the leakage path(s) are all found.
Typical leakage paths:

Hydrostatic testing

Face leakage

Secondary seal on primary ring

Secondary seal on mating ring

Seal/gasket on seal plate(s)

Seal/gasket under shaft sleeve

Cracked or damaged housing component

If possible, for example with double seals, bench testing of equipment


can be a useful method of identifying the leak path.
With other seal layouts, a suitable test fixture for subassembly
pressure testing might be justifiable if large numbers of seals are being
examined.

7-8

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7.2.3 Checks During Dismantling


For proper diagnosis of seal problems, several checks and observations should be made during
the dismantling of a mechanical face seal. These observations are divided into three categories:
general, premature failure, and mid-life failure checks, and are given in the checklist Tables 7-3,
7-4, and 7-5.
7.2.3.1

General Checks

Table 7-3
General Checks During Dismantling
Topic
Seal surfaces

Checklist
Avoid disturbing the seal surfaces
Avoid wiping or cleaning the faces more than is necessary for safe
disassembly
Visual examination of seal faces is included in Section 7.3

Dimensional checks

The necessary marks and measurements to determine are:


x Seal working length
x Squareness of seal faces to shaft axis
x Concentricity of seal faces to shaft axis
x
x

Shaft end play


Shaft radial run out, whip and deflection

Possible leakage path(s)

Examination of surfaces as they become exposed for all possible


causes of abnormal leakage

Deposits and debris

Examination prior to cleaning for:


x Foreign contaminants
x
x
x
x

Wear debris
Small fragments or chips from broken components
Corrosion products
Miscellaneous debris/deposits

Seal hang-up

Check for hang-up by flexing the seal slightly above and below its
installed working length

Seal sub-assembly cleaning

Avoid removing or obscuring any vital evidence on the seal failure


mechanism (especially on the seal faces)
Avoid using wire brushes, sharp tools, abrasive cleaners, or powerful
solvent cleaning agents (which can attack the elastomeric
components)

Packaging

For seal manufacturer examinations/repair:


x Many seal makers will personally collect unusual/critical seals for
failure diagnosis
x
x

Packaging needs to be of high standard (as for new seals)


Avoid wire mounted identification tags, etc., that can damage parts
in transit

7-9

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7.2.3.2

Premature Failure Checks

Table 7-4
Premature Failure Checks During Dismantling
Topic
Seal faces

Checklist
Examination for nicks, scratches, and fractures:
x

Low power magnification can assist

Examination of non-uniform contact pattern:


x

Dirt trapped between the faces

Distortion of one or both faces

Improperly finished faces

See also Appendix B optical flat checking

Examination for thermal distortion:

Secondary seals

Drive mechanism

From running dry

Heat checks/thermal cracking

Pitting, grooving, galling, spalling, blistering, and so on

Examination for :
x

Omitted seals

Misassembled seals

Nicks, extruded, or distorted static seals

Score marks from relative rotational movement between


secondary seals and mating surface

Excessive volume change or compression set

Fretting of sealing surfaces at secondary seal positions

Examination for:
x

Mis-assembly

Mis-indexing

Omission

Check for loss of secondary seal interference when used for drive
purposes, for example, static seals and bellows
Face loading hardware

7-10

Examination for:
x

Incorrect type

Mis-assembly

Mis-indexing

Omission

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7.2.3.3

Mid-Life Failure Checks

Table 7-5
Mid-Life Failure Checks During Dismantling
Topic
Seal faces

Checklist
Examination for nicks, scratches, and fractures:
x

Overall corrosion

Leaching

Abnormal grooving

Erosion damage

Excessive pitting, galling, and spalling

Thermal damage such as waviness, heat checks, cracks, blisters, deposition of


solid material, and overall thermal discoloration

Wear profile check by:

Secondary
seals

Drive
mechanism

Naked eye examination

Use of low incidence angle light to highlight features

10X magnification, then 50X

Measurement to determine the amount of wear

Examination for:
x

Extrusion

Chemical attack on both seal and its interface surfaces

Excessive volume damage

Excessive compression set

Hardening and cracking

Examination for:
x

Failure

Excessive wear

Check for loss of secondary seal interference when used for drive purposes, for
example, static seals and bellows

7-11

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7.3

Visual Seal Examination

The symptoms experienced might not be the prime cause of failure. It is often necessary to
identify the root cause in order to avoid a recurrence. Once the likely cause of the problem is
decided, the available solutions are usually clear. There are cases, however, where further checks
are necessary to clarify diagnosis. There are also proven remedies for particular concerns.
Therefore, this section notes likely causes, further checks, and proven remedies, as appropriate,
for each symptom.

Key Human Performance Point


Visual examination is an important element in determining failure
mechanisms. Personnel should be attentive during disassembly to be alert
for evidence of incipient or chronic failure mechanisms.

As there are a relatively large number of ways a mechanical seal can fail (this section lists 45), it
is helpful to group them alpha-numerically, as shown in Table 7-6 below. This split is somewhat
arbitrary and several failure modes are caused by a complex mixture of mechanical, thermal,
and/or chemical aspects. However, it does show a pattern, which can be helpful when using the
subsequent extensive table of common seal, failure modes. Table 7-7 is similarly divided into
three parts: seal faced, secondary seals, and seal hardware.

7-12

EPRI Licensed Material


Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure
Table 7-6
Visual Examination: Failure Symptoms Based on Mechanical, Thermal, or Chemical
Damage
Contact Pattern
Seal faces

Secondary
seal

Seal
hardware

A1: Proper contact


pattern
A2: No contact
pattern
A3: Heavy outside
diameter
contact
A4: Heavy inside
diameter
contact
A5: Wide contact
pattern
A6: Eccentric
contact pattern
A7: Contact with
one high spot
A8: Contact at two
or more high
spots
A9: Contact
through 270q
A10: Contact at
gland bolt
locations

Mechanical

Thermal

Chemical

A11: Fracture
A12: Scratches and
chips
A13: Adhesive wear
A14: Abrasive wear
A15: Grooving and
severe wear
A16: Erosion of
carbon ring

A17: Thermal
distress, over
360q
A18: Thermal
distress over
120q - 180q
A19: Thermal
distress in
patches
A20: Coking

A21: Carbon
chemical attack
A22: Corrosion of
metal faces
A23: Corrosion of
hard faces
A24: Flaking and
peeling
A25: Crystallization
A26: Sludging
A27: Bonding
A28: Blistering

B1: Physical
damage
B2: Extrusion
B3: Excessive
torque
C1: Physical
damage
C2: Hardware
rubbing
C3: Erosion or
abrasive wear
C4: Drive failure
C5: Spring distortion
and breakage
C6: Seal hang-up
C7: Sleeve marking
and damage

B4: Hard or cracked


elastomer
B5: Compression
set of elastomer

B6: Elastomer
chemical attack
B7: Corrosion at
secondary seal
interfaces

C8: Overheated
metal
components

C9: Corrosion of
seal hardware
C10: Excessive
deposits

7-13

7-14

A1:

Proper contact pattern

Symptom

the secondary seals and, in this situation,


the seal typically drips steadily with the
shaft stationary or rotating.
warpage of the seal faces due to thermal
aging and incomplete stress relief of the
seal face material during operation.

If leakage is present, suspect

Typical contact pattern of a non-leaking seal.


Full contact through 360 degrees on the seat
surface with little or no measurable wear on
either seal ring.

Common Seal Failure Modes Seal Faces

Characteristics

Table 7-7
Visual Examination: Symptoms, Characteristics, Causes and Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

EPRI Licensed Material

Check secondary seals for damage, porosity,


thermal or chemical attack.
Check for compression set of o-ring.
Check for correct material with seal
manufacturers.
Seal hang up (see C6 below).
Check face flatness.

x
x
x
x
x

Provide lead-in chamfers.


Remove burrs.
Lubricate secondary seals.

x
x
x

Pipework distortion.
Remedial Action

Secondary seals nicked or scratched or


installation. If so, renew seals, having
checked for proper lead in chamfers,
removed burrs, and so on.

Leakage is most commonly from secondary


seals but in some cases due to excessive
waviness of the seal faces due to high
temperature exposure during operation.
Checks

Causes

Causes/Checks/Remedies

No contact pattern

Heavy outside diameter contact


(negative coning or rotation)

A2:

A3:

Symptom

Heavy contact on the sealing ring and the seat


at the outside diameter of the sealing plane.
Fades away to no visible contact at the inside
diameter of the contact pattern. Possible edge
chipping on the outside diameter of the sealing
ring.

This indicates that the rotary face is not turning


against the stationary face.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Slipping of the rotary drive mechanism.


Interference of a rotary with a stationary
component, for example, seal body with seal
chamber bore.

x
x

Excessive swell of confined secondary seals.


Improper seal face support surface.
Entrapment of foreign particles.
Thermal effects (usually on ID; see A17-A19
below).

x
x
x
x

7-15

Incorrect lapping, leaving the seal faces not


flat.

Can also occur from:

Checks

Usually caused by the faces not being flat


because of over-pressurization of the seal.

Cause

Improper installation.

Possibilities include the following:

Causes

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Wide contact pattern

A5:

7-16

Heavy inside diameter contact


(positive coning or rotation)

A4:

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Pump misalignment - this might also cause


seal to hang-up on the shaft.
Pipe strain.
Bearing failure or excessive clearance.
Bent shaft.
Shaft whirl of large amplitude.
Pump cavitation.
Pump vibration.
Misaligned seat.
Pump operation outside specification.

x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Seal does not leak when shaft is stationary, but


leaks steadily when shaft is rotating.

Possibilities include the following:


x

Changes of seal material.

Cause

Improved cooling of the seal.

Remedial Actions

Also can occur from causes listed above under


heavy outside diameter contact, A3.

Checks

Typically caused by thermal distortion of seal


faces.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Contact pattern is considerably wider on the


seat than the face width of the sealing ring.
Possible wear at drive notches if present in
sealing ring.

Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is rotating


and usually no leakage when the shaft is
stationary.

Heavy contact on the sealing ring and the seat


at the inside diameter of the sealing plane.
Fades away to no visible contact at the outside
diameter of the contact pattern. Possible edge
chipping on the inside diameter of the sealing
ring.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Eccentric contact pattern

Contact with one high spot

A6:

A7:

Symptom

Seal does not leak when shaft is stationary, but


leaks steadily when rotating.

Contact pattern on seat through 360 slightly


larger than the sealing ring face width. High spot
or highly polished area might be present on the
seat (for example, opposite a drive pin hole or at
location of anti-rotation pin if not correctly
assembled into hole). Seat without static seal(s)
will rock or move in gland plate or holder. Wear
at drive notches if present in sealing ring.

No leakage if the shaft has not contacted the


inside diameter of the seat. If seat is damaged,
then leakage will occur when the shaft is
rotating or stationary.

Eccentric contact pattern on the seat with width


of contact equal to sealing ring through 360.
Seat might have contact marks on its internal
bore or local cracking (from a shaft rub). No
abnormal wear on sealing ring if seat is
undamaged.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Check for concentricity between the outside


diameter of the shaft sleeve and the inside of
the seal chamber.

Check that anti-rotation pin is correctly


located into seat.
Check that anti-rotation pin does not bottom
into the seat.
Check for correct extension of all drive pins
from seal plate.
Check for adequate shaft alignment (to avoid
it passing through the seal chamber at an
angle).
Check for piping strain on pump casing.

x
x
x
x

7-17

Check that the seal plate surface in contact


with the seat is free from nicks/burrs and
shows a full pattern when blued with seat.

Checks

Mating surfaces are not square.

Cause

Check for correct clearances between the


gland plate and the seal chamber.

Check for correct seat design and


clearances.

Checks

7UWCNN[ ECWUGF D[ C OKUCNKIPGF UGCV

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Contact through 270

A9:

7-18

Contact at two or more high spots

A8:

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or


stationary.

Sealing ring shows same symptoms as for


mechanical distortion above.

Seal is distorted mechanically giving contact


through approximately 270 with the pattern
fading away at the low spot.

Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is rotating or


stationary.

Sealing ring shows excellent condition after


short static and dynamic tests. Possible wire
drawing erosion of the sealing ring if it remains
stationary. Possible wire brushing erosion if the
sealing ring rotates because out-of-flat mating
surface allows dirt to enter the seal area.

Seat is distorted mechanically, typically creating


two large contact spots - pattern fades away
between contact areas.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Check flatness of faces using optical flat.


Check squareness of parts used to clamp
seat.
Check seal chamber face flatness of split
case pumps.
Check that the seal plate surface in contact
with the seat is free from nicks/burrs and
shows a full pattern when blued with the
seat.

x
x
x
x

Change to a softer gasket material between


the seal chamber and the seal plate.
Provide full face gasket contact or contact
above centerline of bolts to prevent bending
of the seal plate.

x
x

Check for seal plate distortion because of overtorquing of bolts.


Remedial Actions

Seal faces not flat.


Check

Cause

Check for seal plate distortion because of


over-torquing of bolts.

Checks

Seal faces not flat.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

A10: Contact at gland bolt locations

Symptom

Sealing ring in good condition as initial leakage


is high, preventing any long-term service life.
Seal leaks steadily when the shaft is stationary
or rotating.

Seal is distorted mechanically giving high spots


at each bolt location.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Provide full face gasket contact or contact


above centerline of bolts to prevent bending
of the seal plate.

7-19

Change to a softer gasket material between


the seal chamber and the seal plate.

Remedial Actions

Check for seal plate distortion because of overtorquing of bolts.

Check

Seal faces not flat.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-20

A11:

Fracture

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Non-uniform discoloration or partial discoloration


of the fracture surface of the presence of wear
debris indicates fracture prior to or during seal
operation. If no wear debris is present, the
fracture probably occurred during disassembly.
Fractures caused by excessive face torque
generally emanate from one or more points of
drive engagement and also show wear or
damage on mating drive device. This problem
can occur when PTFE O-rings are used to seal
a pinned stationary carbon seat without a buffer
sleeve over the pin. In this case, it can result in
a severe gouge emanating from the pin slot
rather than ring fracture. Seal leaks steadily
when the shaft is stationary or rotating. When
broken parts are well retained the amount of
leakage can sometimes be remarkably low.

Broken seal rings or cracked seal rings (if


retained in some assembly). Many seal face
materials are brittle and relatively thin sections
are fragile.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

x
x
x

Excessive face torque:

Pin sleeve of PTFE not fitted as


recommended by seal makers.

Corrosion at seal faces.

Poor lubrication.

Excessive fluid pressure.

Excessive thermal stress from thermal shock


or excessive gradients (see Thermal
distress, A17-A19 below).

Damage during seal removal and


disassembly.

Excessive swell of confined secondary seals.

Excessive hydraulic pressure.






Failure of axial holding devices,


excessive fluid pressure, poor
lubrication.

Jamming from improper assembly.

Improper seal assembly or installation.




Mishandling before or during assembly.

Possibilities include the following:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

A12:

Scratches and chips

Symptom

Leakage rate depends on the degree of damage


and might be reduced when the shaft is
stationary.

Chips are usually at seal face edges and severe


chipping is similar to that caused by excessive
hydraulic distortion.

Scratches and nicks are often erroneously cited


as a cause of seal failure and it helps to decide
if the scratch was caused before, during, or
after operation. If the wear pattern is altered by
the scratch, then the scratch occurred before or
during operation. If the same scratch extends
outside the mating area, it is more likely to have
occurred prior to operation. If it does not extend
outside the mating area, and is spiral in form
relative to the shaft axis and in the direction of
rotation, it probably occurred during operation
and can be attributed to a particle entering or
coming from the seal faces. Scratches that
interrupt, but do not alter, the wear pattern, were
probably produced after seal operation.

Scratches in the radial direction usually give a


leak regardless of depth or width. In other
directions, scratches less than 1Pm deep by
25Pm wide do not typically cause extensive
leakage.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Edge chipping from slamming together


during operation when pump cavitates or
fluid vaporizes at seal faces.

Dirt trapped between seal faces.

Mishandling during manufacture, storage,


assembly, or installation.

x
x
x
x

7-21

(These conditions also cause excessive


wear of the drive mechanism.)

Out of square seal faces.

Excessive shaft deflection or whip.

Excessive shaft run out.

Edge chipping can also occur from the


following:

Checks

x
x

Possibilities include the following:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-22

A13:

Adhesive wear

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Seal leaks when shaft is rotating. When


stationary, the seal might hold or might leak
severely.

Excessive adhesive wear leaves typical nonmetallic seal faces heavily worn with a relatively
smooth appearance and a minimum of
grooving. Severe adhesive wear of metallic
faces can lead to scuffing, grooving, and even
face seizure.

A combination of mild adhesive/abrasive wear is


the normal way seals wear out over a long
service life (see proper contact pattern, A1).

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Excessive seal contact pressure for the face


materials.

Check 28 value of seal face materials (this


method has its limitations: see Section 3.7).

Check for excessive local temperatures


caused by inadequate cooling for the face
surface speed.

Improved seal lubricating properties can be


achieved by a temperature change.
Changing seal face materials.
Changing seal balance.

x
x
x

Remedial Actions

Degraded seal face conditions.


Checks

Inadequate lubrication.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

A14:

Abrasive wear

Symptom

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

The key clue to abrasive wear is the deposit of


solids on the seal faces or adjacent to them.
The solids might also result from chemical
effects (see A20, A21, A22, A23, A24, A25,
A26, A27, and A28 below).

Virtually no wear takes place away from the face


contact. Mild abrasive wear from very fine
particles gives a wear pattern similar to
adhesive wear.

Excessive abrasive wear leaves seal faces


severely grooved and even scuffed (both metals
and non-metals). Harder faces show regular
grooving, while carbon faces tend to wear less
evenly with heavy scoring both across the face
and in the direction of rotation.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

In spite of clean fluid flushing or use of


barrier fluid in dual seal arrangement, the
seal is causing inward pumping of the
abrasive process fluid across the seal faces.
The inward pumping phenomenon is caused
by large angular misalignments and
eccentricities between the seal faces.

Introduce a clean flow to the seal from a


separate source.
Install harder wear-resisting face material, for
example, silicon carbide, tungsten carbide.
Use double seals.
Eliminate excessive misalignment and
eccentricities.

x
x
x
x

7-23

Introduce a clean flow to the seal by using


filters or cyclone separator.

Remedial Actions

Pumped product or flush fluid contains


abrasive matter of a sizeable amount to
enter between the faces and cause wear.

Possibilities include:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-24

A15:

Grooving and severe wear

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

with abrasive wear (see A14).

0QVG that the scoring damage can be confused

This is often a start-up problem and the seal


drips steadily when the shaft is stationary or
rotating.

The sealing ring displays severe, though even,


wear throughout 360, with ITCOQRJQPG
UEQTKPI. Soft carbon seal rings possibly have
edge chipping. Harder sealing rings, for
example, tungsten carbide, have rounded
edges. Possible wear at any drive mechanism
or notches. Other overheating symptoms might
be apparent, for example, hardening and
cracking of O-rings.

High wear, even cracking, of the seat with


polished circumferential scoring, discoloration,
and over-heating symptoms. Metal parts might
"blue" with heat of dry running. Even short
periods of dry running can form a deep wear
groove.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Check for blockage/restriction of circulation


line.

If a circulation line does not exist, review the


need to install one.
Increase seal circulation flow.
Review operating procedures (see also
Section 8.2).

x
x
x

4GOGFKCN #EVKQPU

Check pump suction flows and filters.

Check for adequate priming and seal


chamber venting.

Checks

Dry running because of insufficient or no liquid


between the seal faces.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

A16:

Erosion of carbon ring

Symptom

Seal leaks when the shaft is stationary or


rotating.

If the carbon is the stationary component, this


forms a groove partway across the carbon face
adjacent to the circulation inlet on the seal plate.
In severe cases, harder face materials such as
alumnina can also be eroded in a similar
manner.

If the carbon ring is on a rotating component,


this results in a sculptured appearance with
islands of original mating surface still showing.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Shrouding the seal faces.


Injecting the circulation at several points.
Methods to reduce abrasive damage as for
abrasive wear.

x
x
x

7-25

Adding a flow controller in circulation line.

Remedial Actions

Caused by excessive flow velocity at the seal


circulation inlet, the circulation flow containing
abrasive materials, or a combination of these.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-26

A17:
Thermal distress over 360
vaporization

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Other seal damage can also result, for example,


fatigue of metal bellows or wear of shaft/sleeve
at secondary seals (called YGFIG GVEJKPI for
PTFE wedge designs). In the latter case,
carbon pick-up on the secondary seal and wear
of the secondary seal (for example, at the nose
of the wedge) might be apparent.

The carbon sealing ring shows high wear and


possibly light pitting leading to EQOGV trailing.
Possible edge chipping of the sealing ring
because of opening and closing of the seal
faces and also possible wear of any drive
notches. Carbon dust deposits on the
atmospheric side of the seal and wear/fretting of
the shaft/sleeve at the secondary seal (if
dynamic) are also symptoms. Seal leaks
steadily when shaft is stationary or rotating.
The latter usually with sound from flashing or
face popping.

High wear or thermally-distressed surface (heat


checking) through 360. This appears as radial
surface cracks, sometimes accompanied with
circular scoring or discoloration from overheating. If necessary, dye penetrant can help to
show up the surface cracks.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Increased circulation flow assists in


marginal situation

Check circulation lines for blockage

Use seal design with enhanced face


lubrication features, for example, cooling
notches, hydropads, laser textured faces.

Review seal design and seal material


selection, for example, use a seal design not
requiring so much product temperature
margin ('T).

Review options to alter seal chamber


pressure; on multiple stage pumps the seal
chamber pressure might be taken off another
stage to prevent flashing. The seal design
will require review to ensure it is then not
over-pressurized.




Increase cooling to faces:

Use a narrow face carbon (of the order of 2.5


mm).

Checks/Remedial Actions

Insufficient film thickness.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Thermal distress over 120


to 180

Thermal distress in patches

A18:

A19:

Symptom

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or


stationary. Leakage might be in the form of
vapor and with sound from flashing or face
popping.

High sealing ring wear with possible carbon


deposits on the atmospheric side of the seal.
Also possible wear at any drive mechanism
notches.

CURGTKVKGU

Two, three, four, five, or six hot spots of


thermally-distressed or heat-checked surface.
These patches are sometimes called VJGTOCN

Seal drips steadily when shaft is rotating or


stationary possible sound from flashing or
face popping.

High sealing ring wear with possible carbon


deposits on the atmospheric side of the seal.
Also possible wear at any drive mechanism
notches.

Thermally-distressed (heat-checked) area


approximately one-third of the contact pattern.
Distressed area 180 from inlet of seal flush with
good contact pattern at flush inlet.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Check that seal chamber neck bush


clearance is correct.

Add a tangential inlet matched to the shaft


rotation to aid distribution.
See Thermal Distress Over 360 (A17).

x
x

Check for seat distortion.

Review possibility of seal interface cooling


with the seal manufacturer.
See Thermal Distress Over 360 (A17).

x
x

7-27

Increase cooling of seal faces.

Remedial Actions

Check for adequate cooling of seal faces.

Sealed liquid vaporizing between the seal faces.


Failure from hot spots is more likely to occur on
light specific-gravity liquids at high speeds and
pressures.
Checks

Cause

Add a circumferential flush groove in the


gland plate.

Remedial Actions

Check for adequate clearances around the


seal face to give sufficient face lubrication
and cooling.

Checks

Sealed liquid vaporizing 180 from the seal flush.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-28

A20:

Coking

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Leakage typically occurs on start-up after a


period of shut-down or on standby when
solidification of waxes/gums associated with the
coke particles takes place. The leakage can in
odd cases reduce after a short period of running
as these waxes soften.

This usually occurs with hydrocarbon products


at high temperatures. It is indicated by failure of
the seal to follow up, that is, no sliding action.
This can be found after removal of the seal plate
during the stripdown for inspection. Coke
particles collect on the inside of the sliding
member, even to the extent where it can be
difficult to remove. In many cases of continuous
operation, heat from the product and seal
friction can keep the coke and associated
waxes and gums reasonably soft and the seal
will operate satisfactorily.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

The usual approach with hydrocarbons is to


fit a permanent low-pressure steam quench
on the atmospheric side of the seal to
prevent the build-up and solidification of coke
and wax particles. An adequately sized drain
will both prevent excessive steam pressure
and assist particle removal. This quench
must be operational before start-up.
If not already fitted, a high-temperature lip
seal at the back of the seal plate improves
quenching efficiency. It also reduces the
likelihood of steam entering the bearing
housing.

Minute quantities of leakage carbonizing on the


atmospheric side of the seal causing the sliding
member to jam and hence not follow up any face
wear.
Remedial Actions

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

A21:

Carbon chemical attack

Symptom

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

Selective leaching of the impregnant (added to


the otherwise porous carbon to make it
impervious) results in either increased wear rate
or seal face porosity. With this mechanism, a
hardness reduction of 5 Shore scleroscope
points is typical for carbon-graphite materials.
Pressure testing for porosity can also be used to
confirm such a problem.

Overall corrosion occurs when it is attacked by


highly oxidizing acids or highly concentrated
caustic fluids. A hardness reduction of 20 Shore
scleroscope points is typical for carbon-graphite
materials that have been chemically attacked. In
severe cases of this type, seal faces are
reduced to sludge.

Essentially, there are two carbon-graphite


corrosion modes: overall corrosion and selective
leaching.

Area of carbon ring in contact with the product is


corrosively attacked, resulting in overall material
removal, pitting, porosity, softening, or
disintegration.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Overall corrosion.

7-29

Many highly corrosive products, for example,


oleum, present a conflict between corrosion and
wear resistance of the face materials, which,
even with the latest materials, results in a
maximum seal life of only a few months.

A corrosion rate of 0.025 mm (0.001 in.) per year


is normally quite unacceptable for seals, even
though this is satisfactory for most industrial
hardware. It is usually, therefore, better to use
seal manufacturer data than any non-numerical
industrial corrosion data when assessing such a
problem.

A change of material both failure mechanisms


require checking the material selection for
product compatibility and the original product
conditions against the seal selection.

Selective leaching of impregnant.


Remedial Actions

Incompatibility of the carbon with the product,


resulting in two failure mechanisms.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Corrosion of hard faces

A23:

7-30

Corrosion of metal faces

A22:

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

This is commonly the result of leaching of


binders or fillers in alumina, tungsten carbide,
and silicon carbide. Certain corrosive fluids
leach the binders/fillers from these ceramics
and, in effect, convert the seal face into a
grinding surface. As leaching continues, the
ceramic particles eventually become dislodged
from the base material and cause abrasive wear
of one or both seal faces. Seal face flatness is
degraded to the point of seal failure by the
resulting voids in the ceramic surface and/or the
abrasive damage.

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

Corrosive attack by the product, sealant, or


atmosphere. Corrosion is accelerated because
the face is subject to sliding contact wear.
Dissimilar materials can also set up an
electrolytic corrosive action.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

99.5% alumina, silicon-free silicon carbide


(sometimes called UKPVGTGF CNRJC), and alloybonded tungsten carbide that withstand such
fluids more effectively are now available.

Remedial Actions

Acidic fluids might leach nickel or cobalt binders


incorporated in cemented tungsten carbide,
again giving the failure characteristics described.

Certain grades of silicon carbide contain free


silicon that can be similarly attacked (for
example, by hydrofluoric acid).

In typical commercial alumina (75 or 85%), the


alumina particles are bonded together by a
predominantly silica glass binder. Sealed fluids
with a pH greater than 10, or containing
hydrofluoric acid, leach out this binder, giving the
failure characteristics described.

Cause

This can be analyzed and solved in just the


same way as with other mechanical devices.

Many corrosion failure mechanisms such as


overall corrosion, intergranular corrosion, stress
corrosion cracking, etc., occur in mechanical
seals.
Remedial Actions

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Flaking and peeling


(of hard coatings)

A25: Crystallization

A24:

Symptom

Leakage rates vary widely.

Similar symptoms as for Coking (A20), except


that it occurs on various products and
conditions. Sometimes the crystals embed in the
softer face and rapidly abrade the harder face.
Note that as well as from the product, crystals
can come from the atmosphere (for example,
ice crystals) or from a barrier fluid (for example,
hard water deposit).

Seal leakage can escalate quickly and


continues when the shaft is stopped.

The failure often starts with slight blistering, then


lifting of the coating. Final failure might well be
accelerated by abrasive wear of one or both
seal faces by hard particles as they become
dislodged from the coating.

Stainless steel seal faces are usually plated with


a hard-facing of Stellite, ceramic, tungsten
carbide, or a variety of other materials.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

A defective coating

7-31

The crystals can come from the atmosphere, for


example, ice on LPG pump duties, where a
nitrogen quench to keep moisture from the seal
is one possible approach.

As with coking, the best remedy is a permanent


quench to dissolve or disperse the crystals.
Examples of quench fluids are hot water, steam,
and solvent, according to the product. Again, lip
seal improves quench efficiency.

A build-up of crystals from the pumped product


giving both high Abrasive Wear Rates (A14) or
failure to follow up (Coking, A20, and Seal Hangup, C6).
Remedial Actions

Cause

Changing to a solid face material is the usual


solution adopted.

The chemical attack might be aggravated by


both heat generation at the seal face and the
porosity inherent in some coating techniques.
Remedial Actions

Chemical attack at the bond between the


base metal and the coating.
Checks

Possibilities are:

Causes

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-32

A26:

Sludging

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Once leakage occurs after start-up, it seldom


stops when the pump is stopped again.

Associated with the sealing of high viscosity


liquids, particularly acute on pumps sealing
hydrocarbon liquids at temperatures above
ambient. When shut down, the viscosity of the
pumped liquid and the interface film increases
as the temperature drops and problems might
arise on restarting the pump.

A polished wear track or slight scoring on the


hard face. Small cavity holes on the carbon face
(from which particles have been pulled).
Possible distortion of the drive spring or
excessive wear/damage on other drive
mechanisms.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Ensure viscosity range of products is within


seal capabilities.

Preheat seal area (for example, low


pressure steam to seal chamber
jacket/tracing).
Preheat seal faces (for example, lowpressure steam quench).

Supply continuous heat through a heated


seal plate.

Such heating to be used for 15 30


minutes prior to start-up.

Preheat circulation lines (for example,


by steam tracking).

To overcome start-up problems:

Check that pump heat is adequate to give


product circulation around the seal area
under pumping conditions.
Remedial Actions

The shear stresses between the seal faces


exceed the rupture strength of the carbon and
particles are pulled from the carbon face. This is
usually because of a viscosity increase when
shut down, but it also occurs when the interface
film partially carbonizes from overheating.
Checks

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Bonding

Blistering

A27:

A28:

Symptom

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is rotating or


stationary.

Normally associated with start-stop applications.

Initially, this failure appears as a shiny bruised


effect in the surface and, at a later stage,
manifests itself as a crater where the bruise has
detached itself from the surface and passed
through the seal faces.

Similar phenomenon to Sludging (A26) and


Bonding (A27).

Once leakage occurs after start-up, it seldom


stops when the pump is stopped again.

The appearance of the seal and other


symptoms are similar to that from sludging
problems.

Similar phenomenon to Sludging (A26). In this


situation, a bond is formed between the two seal
faces after the pump has been stationary for a
long period. On starting, particles are pulled
from the carbon face and leakage occurs.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Operation on an intermediate flushing fluid


for a short period between testing and
production use.

Careful choice of seal materials. Ones with


higher thermal conductivity produce less
blistering against carbon counterfaces.
Certain grades of carbon-graphite are more
resistant.
Review of start-up procedures.

7-33

Keeping product viscosity low by heating.

Difficult problem to solve; useful approaches


include the following:

Remedial Actions

High local heating occurs in a few seconds on


start-up, particularly with high viscosity products
in high speed, motor-driven pumps operating at
high pressure. This heating can cause rapid
expansion of liquid that has been absorbed into
the seal face surface. This rapid expansion
causes high stress which, in extreme cases,
exceeds the rupture strength of material.

Cause

Selection of suitable test fluid.

The main cause is when a pump is tested on a


different liquid to that on which it will operate and
a chemical reaction occurs between the test fluid
film and the actual product film.
Remedial Actions

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Extrusion

B2:

7-34

Physical damage

B1:

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Flaying or shredding is most common on


synthetic rubber rings, whereas a lip is usually
formed on Viton or PTFE. Thermoplastic
materials, for example, PTFE and Viton, are
more susceptible to extrusion at elevated
temperatures. Seal leakage might reduce when
shaft is stopped.

This can occur with O-rings, wedges, bellows,


and other secondary seals. The most common
form is O-ring extrusion and this occurs when
part of the O-ring is forced through close
clearance gaps. Typically, a lip is first formed on
the O-ring; it is then cut and, in some cases,
peeled off like an outer cover.

Seal drips steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

All forms of bellows, rubber, PTFE, and metal,


can easily be damaged and the location might
not be easy to spot.

Plastic seals, for example, PTFE, possess less


elastic self-healing properties than elastomeric
secondary seals.

Cuts, scratches, nicks, or tears in O-rings,


bellows, wedges, and other secondary seals.

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Inadequate installation practice.


Presence of dirt.
Failure to remove burrs, sharp edges of
steps, keyways, holes, etc., and previous set
screw indentations prior to seal installation.

x
x
x

As well as checking the above, other changes


can be made, such as fitting a back-up ring, a
change of seal design, a change of material, and
so on.

Incorrect shaft and/or O-ring groove sizing


giving excessive clearance between
components.
Remedial Actions

Excessive pressure (possibly aggravated by


overheating and chemical incompatibility).

x
x

Use of excessive force when fitting and


assembling components.

Possibilities include:

Cause

Having found the cause, the only usual


rectification of the secondary seal damage is
renewal.

Bellows damage can also be caused by


manufacturing defectsinclusions, incorrect
curing, inadequate weld quality, and so on.
Remedial Actions

Mishandling.

Possibilities include:

Cause

Common Seal Failure Modes Secondary Seals

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

B3:

Excessive torque

Symptom

The photograph shows a metal bellows failure


(rubber bellows tear in a similar manner). This
can be compared with bellows overpressurization, which can also rupture the
bellows.

Some secondary seals provide a drive function;


exceeding the torque capacity will cause
problems. Typically this will either involve (1)
rotational movement resulting in wear or
ultimate failure of seal from frictional heat
developed during sliding contact, or (2)
exceeding the structural torque capacity of the
device. An example of (1) is rotation of a seat
dependent on friction of its O-ring to avoid
rotation (no anti-rotation pin). An example of (2)
is bellows torsional failure. This can give very
large seal leaks.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Bonding of a high viscosity film between the


seal faces (A27). On start-up, the bond
strength is greater than the design torque
capacity of the seal.

7-35

If the cause cannot be rectified using methods


referred to under Sludging (A26), Bonding (A27),
Adhesive Wear (A13), Grooving and Severe
Wear (A15), and Thermal Distress (A17, A18,
A19), modified seals with an anti-rotation device
appropriate to the problem are available.

High seal face friction, for example, from lack


of lubrication.
Remedial Actions

Possibilities include:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-36

B4.

Hard or cracked elastomer

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Seal drips steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

It is important to distinguish between chemical


attack and thermal damage to decide on the
remedy. Chemical attack is more likely on
secondary seal surfaces exposed to the fluid;
thermal degradation is more frequently found on
surfaces exposed to the atmosphere.

Rubber O-ring hardened and cracked. PTFE Oring discolored blue/black. The portion of the
ring nearest the faces is usually the worst. Most
commonly a problem with nitrile rubber.
Comparative analysis of secondary seals from
all locations will reveal whether the thermal
condition was local to one secondary seal or an
overall excessive temperature.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Relative rotational movement between the


secondary seal and the shaft or housing.

Check circulation to seal area.


Check for dry running, low pump suction
flow, sludging, and so on.
Ensure any cooling is fully operational.
Check product conditions are as originally
specified and that O-ring material is suitable.

x
x
x
x

Checks

It is important to identify the source of thermal


damage as it might lead to the root cause of the
failure. For example, excessive loading of the
seal face material could have caused the
frictional heat, and changing the O-ring material
would not avoid premature future failure of the
seal faces.

Heat soak from the seal environment


including the shaft and housing.

Other possible thermal damage sources are:

Two possibilities: overheating or chemical attack


(see also Elastomer Chemical Attack, B6 below).
If most or all damage is on secondary seal
surfaces that contact a seal face member,
excessive frictional heat from the face is the
likely cause.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Compression
set of elastomer

Elastomer chemical attack

B5:

B6:

Symptom

Seal face distortion and misalignment


caused by swell.
Loss of secondary seal interference caused
by shrinkage.
Shrinkage of seals giving loss of secondary
seal drive.

x
x
x

Leakage rates vary widely.

Leakage might occur from the O-ring being


eaten away. It might also appear to have lost its
original composition and to be breaking up.
Often product-side is badly attacked while nonproduct side has a relatively good appearance.

Extrusion caused by swell.

This gives excessive volume change, either


swell or shrinkage, which causes a seal failure
through one or more of the following:

Seal leaks steadily when shaft is stationary or


rotating.

Although this will occur over a period of time,


early changes in section as shown will result in
premature failure. Compression set does not
involve a significant volume change.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

7-37

Specially colored O-rings to assist in


identification help to ensure that the correct
material is used. However, some coloring
additives might have a lower corrosion
resistance than the base elastomer.

O-ring/chemical incompatibility charts are


available from seal manufacturers. If there is a
doubt about a volume change, secondary seal
dimensions should be measured in both free and
assembled conditions and compared with those
specified on assembly drawing. An optical
comparator is one useful instrument for such Oring examination.

It is necessary to check the original product


conditions against the seal selection and ensure
that the O-ring fitted is made of the correct
material.

Checks

Chemical attack of elastomer by the product.

Cause

Excessive temperature for the O-ring material.


Sometimes caused by incompatibility with fluids.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-38

B7:

Corrosion at secondary seal


interfaces

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Crevice (or oxygen concentration cell) corrosion


occurs because secondary seals, for example,
elastomeric bellows, can trap a small amount of
fluid adjacent to the shaft. A good indication of
this failure mode is a polished or gas-scrubbed
area adjacent to the corroded section that is
generated by hydrogen emanating from the
crevice, that is, from beneath the bellows.

This gives a subtle leakage path resulting from


two different mechanisms; fretting corrosion and
crevice corrosion. Fretting corrosion is caused
by small relative movements between a
secondary seal and its mating surface. The
degree of damage is accelerated in the
presence of even a slightly aggressive product
(for example, water) and is particularly
aggravated by the presence of chlorides. The
fretting corrosion debris is abrasive and the later
stages of attack are assisted by a 3-body
abrasive wear mechanism, where debris
embeds in the secondary seal and wears the
shaft or sleeve.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Excessive shaft deflection over 0.08 mm


(0-.003 in.).
Excessive out-of-squareness of seal face to
shaft axis over 0.08 mm (0.003 in) Total
Indicated Runout (TIR).

x
x

It is common to hardface the sleeve in the


secondary seal area to minimize the damage
from fretting corrosion.
Use a non-pusher seal, for example, a metal
bellows seal, to avoid the fretting contact.
If crevice corrosion is suspected, then any
action to avoid the crevice or provide a
corrosion-resistant surface treatment will
correct this effect.

x
x

Fretting corrosion is most common at the


dynamic secondary seal under a pusher type
seal (for which the above values refer). In a
pusher type seal, the secondary seal is pushed
along the shaft or sleeve to compensate for
wear.
Remedial Actions

Excessive shaft end play over 0.1 mm


(0.004 in.).

Common contributors to fretting corrosion


include

Fretting corrosion is primarily governed by


mechanical factors such as equipment condition,
seal assembly procedures, and correct materials
selection.
Checks

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C1:

Physical damage

Symptom

A wide variety of symptoms from chips, minor


distortion, nicks in metal bellows, to the example
in the picture. In that specific case, care was
taken not to damage the faces by placing the
seal on its edge. Unfortunately, it was not
wedged, and it rolled away and was run over by
a forklift truck.

Common Seal Failure Modes Seal Hardware

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Excessive force.
Use of incorrect tools, and so on.

x
x

7-39

After being careful with the seal faces and


secondary seals, the hardware is sometimes
damaged by accident.

Insufficient cleanliness.

Not observing good fitting practice:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-40

C2:

Hardware rubbing

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

In severe cases, the part might be heated to


such an extent that it reaches its melting point.

Certain conditions might cause abnormal wear


where little should occur, for example, the outer
skin of the rotary unit, the shaft (for example,
against the stationary seat), the neck bush, and
the throttle bush in the back of the seal plate.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Seal chamber too small for rotary unit.


Unspigotted stationary unit slips and touches
shaft.
Non-piloted seal plate touches shaft.
Set screws in the rotary unit come loose and
contact the seal chamber wall.
Pieces of the face break off and jam between
the rotary unit and the seal chamber wall.
Flush connection lines extend too far into the
seal chamber and touch the seal.
Single-spring seals might rub the seal
chamber wall if broken or over-compressed,
or are subjected to high speed.
Multiple springs break up and jam between
the rotary unit and the seal chamber wall.
Product or other seal deposits (see C10
below) might scale up on the seal or on the
seal chamber wall.
Thermal expansion causing the metal body
or other part to expand and, hence, contact
the seal chamber wall.
Equipment vibration.

x
x
x
x
x
x

x
x

Pump/motor shaft misalignment.

x
x

Bearing failure.

Possibilities include:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C3:

Erosion or abrasive wear

Symptom

On stationary seal hardware, grooving damage


occurs again, often in line with a circulation inlet.

Circular marks on the outside diameter of the


rotating seal body often in line with a
circulation inlet.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Making it tangential.
Checking this inlet for protrusion into the seal
chamber.
Flushing with a cleaner fluid.
Selecting a smaller outside diameter seal.
Boring out the seal chamber.

x
x
x
x
x

7-41

Changing the circulation inlet position.

Solutions can involve:

Remedial Action

Also caused by wear debris circulating in the


seat chamber.

It also can result from the incoming flush


containing abrasives and eroding the seal body,
especially if the flush pressure differential is too
high.

This can be caused by Hardware rubbing (C2).

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-42

C4:

Drive failure

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Fatigue failure of metal bellows (an


adequate product temperature margin, 'T,
is vital as this is often caused by
vaporization).

(4) Failure of drive screws/collars, for


example, set screws cutting into the body.

Wear of drive lugs.

Wear/fracture of drive pins.

This can occur with both the torsional drive


devices of rotating components and the antirotation devices of stationary components.
Typical examples include:

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x
x

Stick-slip face friction giving seal face


vibration.

Equipment vibration.

Excessive shaft deflection.

Excessive shaft run-out.

Seal face out of square with shaft axis.

Excessive seal fluid pressure.

Poor seal face lubrication.

Failure of axial holding device.

Excessive shaft end play.

Jammed seal assembly.

Possibilities include:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C5:

Spring distortion and breakage

Symptom

See also Excessive Torque (B3), re: bellows


assembly failure.

Typical failure characteristics are radial cracking


of the spring section, especially on the inside
diameter, straight fracture, wear marks in ends
of spring coils and on the sleeve and rotary
necks, and build-up of solid contaminants
around spring(s), making them ineffective.

All mechanical seals require movement to keep


the faces together during changing pump and
seal conditions and to compensate for wear.
Spring action is obtained by a single coil spring,
multiple coil springs, a metal bellows assembly,
or a wave spring washer.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

7-43

On multi-spring seals, diversion of part of the


product circulation through the spring pockets
can reduce future build-up of solids.

On multi-spring seals, a build-up of solids around


the springs can make some springs ineffective
and, hence, cause overload and failure of the
others.
Remedial Actions

The above and other spring problems are most


common on high viscosity duties prone to
Sludging (A26) or Bonding (A27).

On many single-spring seals, the drive is


unidirectional and the spring should always grip
its mating parts. With such seals, reverse
rotation or incorrect spring fitting causes the
spring to tend to uncoil, slip, distort, crack, or
even break.

Checks

These spring devices fail in a variety of ways, for


example, corrosion, stress-corrosion and fatigue.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

7-44

C6:

Seal hang-up

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

The sliding assembly movement is typically


prevented by a build-up of deposited dissolved
solids, corrosion, oxidation, or decomposition
products. This possibility is present whenever a
pusher type seal (where the secondary seal is
pushed along the shaft or sleeve to compensate
for wear) is used. See Coking (A20) and
Crystallization (A25).

This occurs when the sliding assembly is


prevented from following up (by moving axially),
thus leaving a gap between the sealing ring and
the seat.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Provision of a suitable quench, for example:

Use of a seal design in which the secondary


seals advance onto clean surfaces can also
help.
In many cases, mechanical sleeve damage
that has occurred will require rectification
(including hard facing in the secondary seal
area).

A suitable coolant quench to prevent


thermal decomposition products from
forming.

Oil or similar to prevent the formation of


corrosion products.

Nitrogen to prevent the formation of


oxidation products.

Water to prevent deposition of aqueous


dissolved solids.

Use of a non-pusher type seal, for example,


metal bellows type.

Remedial Actions

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C7:

Sleeve marking and damage

Symptom

From fretting corrosion or crevice corrosion


between the sleeve and the secondary seal.
See Corrosion at Secondary Seal Interfaces
(B7).
Overall corrosion, usually found on the
product side of the sleeve; unless the seal is
leaking badly, the atmospheric side is often
in good condition. See Corrosion of Seal
Hardware (C9).

When in operation, an increase in shaft


eccentricity will increase hydrodynamic action,
resulting in thicker fluid film and increased
leakage.

Mechanical causes typically give leakage only


when running and often leakage disappears
when the machine is static.

From mechanical reasons causes in this


section give details.

This marking can be divided into three types:

This might well relate to Seal Hang-Up (C6),


Coking (A20), or Crystallization (A25). The
marking on a sleeve (or shaft if no sleeve is
fitted) often gives a useful indication of the
cause of seal failure.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

If above contact occupies part of the sleeve


circumference, this usually suggests an
eccentric or gyrating shaft. It is often an
indication that external forces are imposing
misalignment between the seal faces and
causing leakage.
A bent shaft often gives rise to two marks
diametrically opposite: one on the front
landing and one on the opposite rear
landing. This bending might be from an outof-balance shaft/rotor assembly.
Severe vibration can cause the O-ring
landings to contact, resulting in fretting and
marking into which foreign matter can lodge,
thus causing Seal Hang-Up (C6).
Failed bearings can result in either increased
vibration or misalignment.
Incorrect sleeve manufacture or seal
assembly.
Lack of hard facing gives excessive wear in
secondary seal area of shaft, especially if
abrasives are present in the product.

x
x
x

7-45

If above contact occupies all the sleeve


circumference, it is probably caused by a
misaligned seal that forces the sealing ring to
oscillate relative to the shaft sleeve once per
revolution. This is often accompanied by
wear on the inside diameter of the secondary
seal on the sealing ring.

Contact between O-ring landings on the


inside of a rotary seal ring is often caused by
an eccentric or misaligned shaft. If landing
wear is severe, O-ring extrusion can result.

Typical causes of sleeve marking:

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

Corrosion of seal hardware

C9:

7-46

Overheated metal components

C8:

Symptom

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure

900-1000F
(480-540C)
1100F (590C)
1200F (650C)

Brown
Blue
Black

Corrosion damage is often not present on the


atmospheric side of the seal (unless it is leaking
badly). Seals can continue to function
adequately until quite advanced stages of
corrosion.

Corrosive attack results in overall and local loss


of metal. Damage characteristics are usually
indicative of the corrosion mechanism; these
mechanisms are as conventionally experienced
in other engineering components.

700-800F
(370-430C)

Straw Yellow

Typical colors and temperatures that create


these colors on stainless steel:

When steel is heated, a color change takes


place. This heating causes tempering and,
hence, loss of required mechanical properties.
This color change might be present generally or
related to specific components.

Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

Check for correct processing in manufacture


with seal supplier.
Review use of any dissimilar metals
(electrolytic action).

x
x

A change of material.
Ground the pump effectively to earth if pitting
from electrolysis is suspected.

x
x

Remedial Actions

Check material selection against the product


and its conditions.

This occurs through the various usual


mechanisms: overall corrosion, stress-corrosion,
electrolytic attack, hydrogen embrittlement,
crevice corrosion and fretting corrosion.
Checks

Cause

Comparative analysis of parts from all locations


will reveal whether the thermal condition was
local to one component or an overall excessive
temperature.

Checks

Unless caused by Hardware Rubbing (C2), there


are usually other components, that is, seal faces
or secondary seals that are also damaged and
assist diagnosis of the likely cause of excessive
heat. Typical reasons are dry running,
vaporization, excessive heat soak, and so on.

An easily distinguishable sign of seal trouble.

Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

C10:

Excessive deposits

Symptom

7-47

In severe cases, a separate clean purge might


be required.

Remedial Actions

Inadequate seal chamber circulation to flush out


the deposits and stop them from building up.

Deposits from the product, corrosion, etc., build


up on the rotary body. This can cause the
rotating unit to freeze in the seal chamber.
Other concerns, for example, Seal Hang-Up
(C6), might well occur first.
Cause

Causes/Checks/Remedies

Troubleshooting to Identify Cause of Seal Failure


Characteristics

EPRI Licensed Material

EPRI Licensed Material

8
MAINTENANCE

8.1

Introduction

Seal maintenance programs at most power plants fall within one or more of the following
categories: reactive maintenance, preventative maintenance, and predictive maintenance based
on condition monitoring. The most cost effective maintenance program should be based on
predicted seal performance and its expected life. The least cost effective maintenance program is
one based on reactions to failure. Reaction type programs result in unexpected plant shutdowns
and reduced plant availability.
Except for seals in safety-related and critical applications, most maintenance is performed under
the reactive category because of a lack of control of the various factors that lead to premature
seal failure and the effort required to perform condition monitoring on such a large population of
seals. To prevent reactive maintenance of seals in critical applications, most plants implement
some level of preventative or periodic maintenance programs based on experience and
manufacturer recommendations. In safety-related installations, seals are maintained periodically,
regardless of the condition of the seal to prevent unexpected plant shutdowns.
Maintenance in most power plants is performed by maintenance personnel at the plant with
assistance from the plant engineer and seal manufacturer on unique problems and specialized
processes. In all cases, plant maintenance personnel are responsible for seal removal and
installation. However, to maximize their effectiveness, plant engineers and maintenance
personnel should not be limited to removal and installation. They should be trained in the proper
diagnosis of seal failure and how to correctly address the root cause of a seal failure. It, therefore,
becomes particularly important to provide the proper level of training necessary to identify the
problem rather than to just maintain the seal. Appendix C lists organizations that provide training
classes, short courses, and seminars on the design, selection, operation, maintenance,
troubleshooting, and failure diagnosis of mechanical face seals.
Key O&M Cost Point
The most cost-effective maintenance program should be based on predicted
seal performance and its expected life. The least cost-effective maintenance
program is one based on reactions to failure. An effective preventative or
periodic maintenance program, based on plant experience and manufacturer
recommendations, should be implemented to improve plant reliability and
prevent unplanned shutdowns.

8-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

8.2

Installation and Operation

As discussed in Sections 4 and 5, mechanical face seals are relatively precise and complex
assemblies that are subject to a variety of failure modes. For reliable operation, mechanical seals
require the correct working environment, which demands good engineering, maintenance, and
operations practices, and well-written and detailed procedures. Written procedures should be
kept current so that, as new information is acquired, it is properly accounted for and
implemented into working practice.
The following discussion outlines methods that can be utilized by plant engineers and
maintenance personnel to improve the chances of obtaining longer life from the seals. The topics
covered address:
x

Seal handling and inspection

Pre-installation equipment checks

Seal installation

Startup and operation


Key Human Performance Point
Personnel training is a very important aspect of a mechanical seal
maintenance program that is striving to achieve improvements in plant
reliability. Comprehensive training courses covering mechanical seal design
options, installation, operation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and failure
diagnosis are regularly offered by seal manufacturers, universities, and
research associates (see Appendix C).

8.2.1 Seal Handling and Inspection


This section covers pre-installation checks applicable to the mechanical seal itself and includes
seal storage. Checks to be performed on the equipment are discussed in Section 8.2.2. These
checks should supplement rather than supercede manufacturer recommendations. These checks
should be tempered by plant personnel experience.
8.2.1.1

Packaging
Key Human Performance Point
Proper storage and handling of seal components is important to seal
longevity and performance. Manufacturers recommendations should be
followed at all times.

8-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Seal assemblies and spare parts are typically wrapped and boxed. If the package is opened with a
knife for inspection, care should be taken to ensure that the faces and elastomeric seals are not
cut or scored. If not used, seals should be repackaged in the same manner and returned to their
original box, if practical, to ensure that proper labeling and identification is maintained. If the
box is unusable, then the replacement box should have proper labeling.
8.2.1.2

Storage

To protect the seals from damage, storage of the seal assemblies and spare parts should be in
accordance with the seal manufacturer's recommendations. The storage area should be clean, dry,
and adequately warm and ventilated.
8.2.1.3

Handling

Many mechanical seal faces are brittle and fragile and can easily break if dropped. The metal
components of a mechanical seal provide the proper restraints and alignment needed for
operation. Care should be taken that these components are not damaged.
Protect parts from damage wherever possible. Avoid placing a seal face down on any surface,
unless it is protected by a clean cloth or similar material.
Some parts are prone to attack by common liquids. For example, ethylene propylene rubber is
attacked by mineral oil and silicone rubber is attacked by silicone oil.
8.2.1.4

Physical Checks of Mechanical Seals

Obtain specific drawings from the manufacturer. The drawings provide assembly details and key
dimensions for fitting and installation. When sufficient information is not available, contact the
manufacturer for advice. Technical recommendations and technical information provided with
the mechanical seal should be transferred to maintenance procedures for future use. Care should
be taken to note any safety/toxicity/industrial hygiene issues.
8.2.1.5

Seal Rotating and Stationary Components

Check for physical damage

Ensure drive pins and/or spring pins are free to move in the pin holes or slots

Check that set screws are free in the threads. Set screws should not be reused because
damage to the drive end might have occurred in previous use.

Check metal bellows for damage that might cause leakage or improper alignment of the
faces.

Check secondary seals for nicks or cuts. If the seals need to be replaced, make certain that the
replacement seals are of the same type to ensure fluid and temperature compatibility.

8-3

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

8.2.1.6

Seal Faces

Visually check for nicks or scratches. Face imperfections of any kind can lead to leakage and
premature failure of the seal. Detailed inspection of the seal faces for flatness is discussed in
Section 8.2.3.1, Seal Dimensional Checks.
8.2.1.7

Gaskets

Check thickness against the manufacturer's specifications. Incorrect gasket thickness can lead to
incorrect seal length settings and improper face loading.
8.2.1.8

Spring

Check rotation of spring coil when a single coil is used. The spring coil rotation should be such
that shaft rotation tends to tighten the coil. Springs are available in right-hand and left-hand coil
rotation. Some springs can be used bi-directionally.
8.2.2 Pre-Installation Equipment Checks
Proper equipment function is critical to seal performance and it is recognized that seal life is
adversely affected by equipment misalignment and vibration. The following checks can be easily
accomplished using good engineering practices and simple measuring instruments. Limits of
acceptability on runout provided in this section are general in nature. The seal manufacturer
should be contacted for limits applicable to their products.
Key Human Performance Point
Pre-installation checks are an important element in reliable seal
performance. Personnel should perform the steps outlined herein to prevent
unsatisfactory seal performance.

8.2.2.1

Shaft Straightness (Figure 8-1)

Shaft straightness is checked with the shaft removed from the equipment. It is mounted between
centers to check for runout between the bearing and the shaft or shaft sleeve at the location
where the mechanical face seal is installed.
Typical runout limits:
0.004 inches (0.1 mm) for speeds d 1,800 rpm
0.002 inches (0.05 mm) for speeds > 1,800 rpm

8-4

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Figure 8-1
Shaft Straightness Check

8.2.2.2

Shaft Runout (Figure 8-2)

Shaft runout is checked with the shaft installed in the equipment. Runout is checked at the
location where the mechanical face seal is located on the shaft or shaft sleeve, and is
accomplished by slowly rotating the shaft against a stationary dial indicator.

Figure 8-2
Shaft Runout Measurement

8.2.2.3

Squareness of Stuffing Box (Figure 8-3)

Squareness of the stuffing box is checked to ensure that angular misalignment does not occur
upon installation. Angular misalignment is checked with the equipment completely assembled
except for the seals. The measurement is made by mounting a dial indicator on the shaft and then
slowly rotating the shaft and dial indicator to measure the runout of the face that controls the
angular placement of mating ring.
Typical runout limits for wedges, O-rings, and metal bellows seals:
0.003 inches (0.08 mm) for speeds d 1,800 rpm
0.0015 inches (0.04 mm) for speeds > 1,800 rpm
Typical runout limits for elastomer and PTFE bellows seals:
0.007 inches (0.18 mm) for speeds d 1,800 rpm
0.0035 inches (0.09 mm) for speeds > 1,800 rpm

8-5

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Figure 8-3
Stuffing Box Squareness Measurement

8.2.2.4

Rotational Balance (Figure 8-4)

Rotational balance of the shaft should be checked with the impeller installed as well as other
components that normally rotate with the shaft. Excessive out-of-balance can cause premature
seal failure. The acceptable amount of out-of-balance is dependent upon the specific application
but, in general, the deflection caused by out-of-balance should not exceed the limits defined in
8.2.2.1 and 8.2.2.3 when the shaft is turning at normal operating conditions.

Figure 8-4
Shaft and Impeller Rotational Balance Check

8.2.2.5

Shaft Bearing Clearances (Figure 8-5)

Shaft-to-bearing clearance can allow both radial and axial movement of the shaft. These tests are
performed with the shaft installed in the equipment. Radial movement is checked by loading the
shaft laterally with a light force so that the shaft does not bend. Axial movement is checked by
pulling and pushing the shaft along its axis.
Radial movement should be limited to 0.003 inches (0.08 mm) for rolling element bearings. For
plain bearings, the movement should not exceed the maximum bearing clearance specified by the
manufacturer.
Axial movement of the shaft should be limited to 0.003 inches (0.08 mm). If this limit is
exceeded, then the face seal load generated by the springs should be checked to ensure that it
remains within the manufacturer's recommendation for normal operating conditions. Abnormal
operating conditions and stop/start conditions that cause excessive axial movement can lead to
reduced seal life.
8-6

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Figure 8-5
Radial and Axial Bearing Clearance Checks

8.2.2.6

Shaft/Sleeve Diameter and Surface Finish (Figure 8-6)

The shaft and shaft sleeve should be checked to ensure that the diameter at the seal locations
(including secondary seals) is within the seal manufacturer's recommendations.
The surface finish under the seal (especially at the secondary seal position) should be free of
machine marks, and should have a roughness of less than 25 micro-inches (600 Pm) for static
seals and less than 10 micro-inches (250 Pm) for dynamic O-rings and wedge rings.
For elastomeric/rubber bellows, the shaft/sleeve surface finish can have fine machined marks but
the surface roughness should be limited to 50 micro-inches (1200 Pm).

Figure 8-6
Measurement of Critical Shaft and Sleeve Diameters

8.2.2.7

Sleeve Hardfacing (Figure 8-7)

Sleeves are sometimes hardfaced to prolong their useful life in abrasive service. However,
hardfacing should be limited to secondary seal areas and should not extend to the location where
the set screws lock the seal to the sleeve. If the set screw lands on the hardfaced surface, the
screw grip might be impaired and allow relative movement between the seal and sleeve.

8-7

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Figure 8-7
Sleeve Hardfacing to Prolong Life

8.2.2.8

Sharp Edges (Figure 8-8)

Sharp edges are not acceptable where a seal must pass with an interference fit. Sharp edges can
occur at shaft steps, keyways, splines, holes, and so on. Sharp edges can cut or nick a soft sealing
member and create a leak path. If possible, chamfer the leading edge of the shoulder to allow the
seal to slide over it.

Figure 8-8
Lead-In Chamfers to Prevent Secondary Seal Damage During Installation

8.2.3 Seal Installation Checks


This section provides some basic step to follow during seal installation and the manufacturer
should be contacted for detailed information and recommendations. Some of these steps require
some type of measurement. It is therefore important to obtain assembly drawings from the
manufacturer.
8.2.3.1

Seal Dimensional Checks

The overall dimensions and critical interface dimensions should be checked against drawings to
ensure that the mechanical seal is correct to the drawing. Some check should be made to verify
that the seal is able to compress to the correct length. Caution should be taken when compressing
metal bellows seals because over-compression might result in yielding of the bellows. If the
bellows yield, they will not generate the required load at the installed length.

8-8

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Seal faces should be inspected by an optical flat to ensure that they meet the flatness
requirements specified by the seal manufacturer. Appendix B describes the typical procedures
used to check the seal face flatness and typical examples of out-of-flat conditions.
8.2.3.2

Seal Cavity Dimensions (Figure 8-9)

Seal cavity dimensions should be checked to ensure that proper clearance and alignment will be
achieved and to prevent seal damage during installation. Check the seal cavity inside diameters
and depths. Visually check for damage of the cavity that might have occurred during previous
operation or during disassembly.

Figure 8-9
Seal Cavity Dimensional Checks Prior to Installation

8.2.3.3

Compression Length Tolerance

Interrelated dimensions between the shaft and seal cavity should be checked to ensure proper
compression loading of the seal faces. It is important to correctly account for the gasket thickness
when calculating the compression of the seal.
Do not use previous set screw indention in the shaft/sleeve as a reference point because there can
be significant difference in the stacked height of seals, particularly between different
manufacturers. It is also important to install the seal so that the set screws do not align with
previous indentations that might guide the set screw away from the preferred installation
position.
8.2.3.4

Auxiliary Glands

Auxiliary glands should be checked to ensure that fittings do not protrude into the seal cavity and
come into contact or affect the performance of the seal. The glands should also be checked to
verify that they are clear of obstructions that could prevent proper circulation of the barrier or
flushing fluids.

8-9

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

8.2.4 Seal Removal


As discussed in the beginning of this section, seal maintenance programs often occur as a
reaction to a seal failure rather than as a planned activity. As a result, seal removals are done at
an accelerated pace in order to bring the plant or process back into service. Under this type of
condition, special emphasis should be made to ensure that safety and failure evidence are
maintained.
8.2.4.1

Safety

Because of their tolerance to a variety of fluids, mechanical face seals are often used in toxic or
hazardous processes. To ensure safety of personnel during the removal and handling of the seal
and the fluid in the seal cavity, training and written instructions should be provided to clearly
identify the type of equipment needed and other safety devices to be utilized during disassembly,
handling, and storage.
Key Human Performance Point
Equipment contents and conditions should be fully known before
disassembly to preclude injury.

8.2.4.2

Failure Evidence

As identified in Section 7, the best guide to determining the cause of failure of a seal is often the
condition of the seal. It is, therefore, important to properly mark, photograph, and carefully store
the seal and other related components for later detailed examinations. It is also recommended
that some of the seal cavity fluid be retained because it might also be used to determine the cause
of failure.
8.2.4.3

Seal Re-use and Inspection

It is strongly recommended that mechanical face seals not be re-used unless they have been
reconditioned to the manufacturer's specifications. The mating faces of mechanical seals develop
a wear pattern after an extended period of use and it is almost impossible to reestablish the same
relationship after their alignment has been disturbed. Even checking for damage by separating
the faces can upset their relationship. The faces should not be separated unless it is absolutely
necessary. Whenever possible, inspection of the seals should be limited to visual external
inspection only.
8.2.5 Startup
Mechanical face seals are precision pieces of equipment. If they are to provide good service, they
must be correctly commissioned and operated. The primary aim of a proper startup is to ensure
that the seal does not initially run dry.
8-10

EPRI Licensed Material


Maintenance

Key O&M Cost Point


Adherence to manufacturers recommendations during start-up and
operation is vital to seal longevity and performance.

8.2.5.1

Avoid Dry Running

If barrier or flushing fluids are used, ensure that the seal cavity is properly filled and that there
are no leaks. If the fluids in the seal cavity are circulated externally, verify that the equipment is
functioning properly and delivering the required flow.
Fluids with low vapor pressures should be properly pressurized to ensure that the fluid at the
faces does not vaporize when the faces heat up during normal running.
8.2.5.2

Filtration

Dirt and particulate can cause a seal to fail in a very short period of time. Ensure that the seal
cavity is completely clean and that the recirculated fluid has been properly filtered. When
installing mechanical seals in new piping systems, it might even be necessary to temporarily
replace the mechanical face seal with conventional soft packing until the system has been
thoroughly flushed of construction and installation debris.
8.2.5.3

Venting the Stuffing Box

The stuffing box should be properly vented to ensure that the seal chamber is completely filled.
Never start a mechanical face seal before venting the seal cavity of air and foreign fluids. Ideally,
the installation should allow the seal cavity to be vented automatically during pump priming, but,
in some installations, it might be possible to flood the pump suction without purging the air
trapped in the top portion of the seal cavity. Special attention should be paid to vertical
installations where the mechanical face seal is in the uppermost portion of the pressure boundary.
Key Human Performance Point
Proper venting of seal chamber prior to placing into service is critical to seal
performance and longevity.

8-11

EPRI Licensed Material

9
REFERENCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. B. S. Nau, Hydrodynamic Lubrication in Face Seals. Paper No. E5, 3rd International
Conference on Fluid Sealing, BHRA, Cranfield, Bradford, UK (1967).
2. J. G. Pape, Fundamental Research on a Radial Face Seal, ASLE Transactions. Vol. 11,
No. 4, (October 1968).
3. E. Mayer. Mechanical Seals, 3rd Edition. J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd., Bristol 1969.
4. H. H. Buchter. Industrial Sealing Technology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York 1979.
5. Alan O. Lebeck. Principles and Design of Mechanical Face Seals. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
New York 1991.
6. Handbook of Fluid Sealing, edited by Robert V. Brink, McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York 1993.
7. Mechanical Seal Practice for Improved Performance, edited by Summers-Smith, Mechanical
Engineering Publications, Ltd., for The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London 1988.
8. API Standard 682: Shaft Sealing Systems for Centrifugal and Rotary Pumps, 1st Edition,
American Petroleum Institute, Washington, D.C. October 1994.
9. Robert L. Johnson and Karl Schoenherr. Seal Wear, Wear Control Handbook, pp. 727-754,
American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1980.
10. Seals Flow Code Development 93, NASA Conference Publication 10136, Proceedings
of a workshop held at the NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH (November 3-4,
1993).
11. F. A. Conner and M. T. Thew, Trends in Mechanical Seal Performance at Three Process
Plants in the Oil Industry, 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 9,
BHR Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1994).
12. D. H. Ahlberg and E. C. Fitch, Leaking Seals: Causes and Cures, ASME Paper 79-DE-E-7,
1979.
13. O. von Bertele, Why Do Seals Fail Unpredictably, Paper L4, presented at the 10th
International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Innsbruck, Austria (April 3-5, 1984).
14. F. K. Orcutt, An Investigation of the Operation and Failure of Mechanical Face Seals,
presented at the 4th International Conference on Fluid Sealing held in conjunction with the
1969 ASLE Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA (1969).
9-1

EPRI Licensed Material


References and Bibliography

15. John C. Hudelson, Dynamic Instability of Undamped Bellows Face Seals in Cryogenic
Liquid, pp. 381-390, ASLE Transactions 9. (1966).
16. J. W. Abar, Failures of Mechanical Face Seals, pp. 437-449, Metals Handbook, American
Society of Metals, 8th Ed., Vol. 10, (1975).
17. Anon. Identifying Causes of Seal Leakage, Crane Packing Company, Form No. S-2031
(1979).
18. Donald L. Berg, Dynamic Seal MaintenanceStuffingbox Sealing Considerations,
presented at NMAC 6th Annual Conference and Technical Workshop, Orlando, FL
(December 9-11, 1996).
19. Steven Lemberger, Mechanical Seal Maintenance, presented at the NMAC 6th Annual
Meeting and Workshop, Orlando, FL (December 9-11, 1996).
20. E. Mayer, High Duty Mechanical Seals for Nuclear Power Stations, Paper A5, presented at
the 5th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Warwick, Coventry, UK, March 30-April
2, 1971, BHRA Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1971).
21. H. Laumer and D. Florjancic, Mechanical Seals for High Pressures and High
Circumferential Speeds, Paper A4, presented at the 5th International Conference on Fluid
Sealing, Warwick, Coventry, UK, March 30-April 2, 1971, BHRA Group, Mechanical
Engineering Publications Limited, London (1971).
22. W. Schopplein. Mechanical Seals for Aqueous Media Subject to High Pressures, Paper E3,
presented at the 8th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, University of Durham, UK
(September 11-13, 1978).
23. William V. Adams and Peter Lytwyn. Retrofit of an Unspared Main Boiler Feed Pump to
End Face Mechanical Seals, Paper No. 86-JPGC-Pwr-52, presented at the joint ASME/IEEE
Power Generation Conference, Portland, OR (October 19-23, 1986).
24. H-J. Franke, R. Lachmayer, and J. Mosowicz. Long-Term Tests of Mechanical Seals for
Hot Water Application, 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 9,
BHRA Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1994).
25. J. Nosowicz and A. Eiletz. Operating Performance of Mechanical Seals for Boiler Feed
Pumps, 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 26, BHR Group,
Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1997).
26. R. Metcalfe, N. E. Pothier, and B. H. Rod. Diametral Tilt and Leakage of End Face Seals
with Convergent Sealing Gaps, Paper A1, presented at the 8th International Conference on
Fluid Sealing, University of Durham, UK (September 11-13, 1978).
27. A. H-C. Marr, R. L. Phelps, and B. Katz. Loss of Component Cooling Water Capability of a
PWR Reactor Coolant Pump, Paper No. 80-C2/PVP-28, presented at the Century 2 Pressure
Vessels & Piping Conference, San Francisco, CA (August 12-15, 1980).

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EPRI Licensed Material


References and Bibliography

28. Thomas R. Morton. Seal Performance from the Manufacturers Viewpoint, Paper No. 84PVP-115, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, NY, 1984.
29. M. S. Kalsi, T. Horst, H. L. Richter, and M. Hojati. O-Ring Static Seal Performance at
Elevated Temperatures Simulating A Loss of Component Cooling Water Accident, Paper
87-PVP-5, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, presented at the Pressure Vessel &
Piping Conference, San Diego, CA (July 1987).
30. David L. Cummings and Sherman W. Shaw. Increased Reliability of Reactor Coolant Pump
Seals through Retrofit of Proven Technology, paper presented at the American Nuclear
Society Topical Meeting, Myrtle Beach, SC (April 17-20, 1988).
31. Takuya Fujita, et al. Development of Rotary Shaft Seals for Primary Coolant Pumps for
Nuclear Reactors, Preprint No. 87-TC-3D-1, presented at the STLE/ASME Tribology
Conference, San Antonio, TX (October 5-8, 1987).
32. Joseph A. Marsi and Dr. S. Gopalakrishnan, Full-Scale Station Blackout Test Conducted on
Advanced RCP Mechanical Seal, Nuclear Plant Journal. P. 86 (September-October 1988).
33. Ray Metcalfe, Canadians Solve Seal Problems, Nuclear Engineering Internationa.
p. 46 (July 1989).
34. T. E. Greene and G. B. Inch. Evaluation of Shaft Seal Leakage under Station Blackout
Conditions for the ReactorCirculation pumps at Nine Mile Point, Unit One, presented at
Fifth International Workshop on Main Coolant Pumps, Orlando, FL (April 21-24, 1992).
35. Main Coolant Pump Seal Maintenance Guide. Prepared by Quadrex Energy Services for
Nuclear Maintenance Application Center: 1993. TR-100855.
36. A. Parmar. Thermal Distortion Control in Mechanical Seals, 12th International Conference
on Fluid Sealing, BHRA, Cranfield, Bedford, UK (1989).
37. Antonio Artiles, Wilbur Shapiro, and Henry F. Jones. Design Analysis of Rayleigh-Step
Floating-Ring Seals, Preprint No. 83-LC-38-2, presented at the ASLE/ASME Lubrication
Conference, Hartford, CT (October 18-20, 1983).
38. L. A. Young and A. O. Lebeck, The Design and Testing of Moving-Wave Mechanical Face
Seals Under Variable Operating Conditions in Water, Preprint No. 85-TC-1C-1, presented
at the ASLE/ASME Tribology Conference, Atlanta, GA (October 8-10, 1985).
39. J. G. Evans. New Developments in Bellow Seals for Improved Performance and
Reliability, 14th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 9, BHR Group,
Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1994).
40. R. Metcalf, T. A. Graham, and W. C. Wong. Eccentric Seals for Nuclear Pumps, 14th
International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 9, BHR Group, Mechanical
Engineering Publications Limited, London (1994).

9-3

EPRI Licensed Material


References and Bibliography

41. B. Tournerie, J. Huitric, D. Bonneau, and J. Prene. Optimization and Performance


Prediction of Grooved Face Seals for Gases and Liquids, 14th International Conference on
Fluid Sealing, Publication 9, BHR Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited,
London (1994).
42. N. W. Wallace and H. K. Muller. The Development of Low Friction, Low Leakage
Mechanical Seals Using Laser Technology, 11th International Pump Users Symposium &
Short Courses, Houston, TX (March 7-10, 1994).
43. H. K. Muller, C. Schefzik, N. Wallace, and J. Evans. Laserface Sealing Technology:
Analysis and Application, 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 26,
BHR Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1997).
44. I. Etsion, G. Halperin, and Y. Greenberg. Increasing Mechanical Seals Life with LaserTextured Seal Faces, 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 26, BHR
Group, Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1997).
45. B. Antoszewski and J. Rokicki. Tribology Aspect of the Laser Treatment for Mechanical
Seals, 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 26, BHR Group,
Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1997).
46. Izhak Etsion. Improving Tribological Performance of Mechanical Seals by Laser Surface
Texturing, Surface Technologies Ltd., Nesher, Israel, product catalog, 2000.
47. H. K. Muller. Polymer Seal Rings in Sliding Contact with Silicon Carbide in a Mechanical
Seal, 15th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Publication 26, BHR Group,
Mechanical Engineering Publications Limited, London (1997).
48. N. D. Barnes, R. K. Flitney, and B. S. Nau, Designing Chambers for Mechanical Seals,
World Pumps. (April 1990).
49. A. I. Golubiev and V. V. Gordeev. Investigation of Wear in Mechanical Seals in Liquids
Containing Abrasive Particles, Paper B3, 7th International Conference on Fluid Sealing,
held at University of Nottingham, England (September 24-26, 1975).
50. David Nolan, Sorting Out Slurry Pump Seals, Coal. pp. 86-90 (1988).
51. James S. Budrow, Seals for Abrasive Slurries, Chemical Engineering. (September 1,
1986).
52. M. S. Kalsi. Development of a New High Pressure Rotary Seal for Abrasive Environments,
Proceedings of BHRA 12th International Conference on Fluid Sealing, Paper H2 (May
1989).
53. M. S. Kalsi, W. T. Conroy, L. L. Dietle, and J. D. Gobeli. A Novel High-Pressure Rotary
Shaft Seal Facilitates Innovations in Drilling and Production Equipment, SPE/ IADC 37627,
paper presented at SPE/IADC Drilling Conference, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (March
1997).

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EPRI Licensed Material


References and Bibliography

54. M. S. Kalsi. A Novel High Pressure (up to 5000 psi / 340 Bars) Polymeric Rotary Shaft
Seal, World Tribology Congress, Organized by the Tribology Group of the Institution of
Mechanical Engineers, London (September 8-12, 1997).
55. K. C. Wilson, G. R. Addie, A. Sellgren, and R. Clift. Slurry Transport Using Centrifugal
Pumps, 2nd Edition. Blackie Academic & Professional, London 1996.
56. R. K. Flitney and B. S. Nau. Performance Testing of Mechanical Seals, Fluid Sealing.
Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 441-466.
57. Denis Buchdahl, Roger Martin, and Jean-Michel Girault. Mechanical Seals Qualification
Procedure of the Main Pumps of Nuclear Power Plants in France, Fluid Sealing. Kluwer
Academic Publishers, pp. 429-439 (1992).
NRC Information Notices and Generic Communications
58. USNRC Information Notice 95-42: Commission Decision on the Resolution of Generic Issue
23, Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failure, September 22, 1995.
59. USNRC Information Notice 87-51: Failure of Low Pressure Safety Injection Pump Due to
Seal Problems, October 13, 1987.
60. USNRC Information Notice 96-58: RCP Seal Replacement with Pump on Backseat, October
30, 1996.
61. USNRC GI23: Reactor Coolant Pump Seal Failures and its Possible Effect on Station
Blackout (Generic Letter 91-07).
62. USNRC Information Notice 93-61: Excessive Reactor Coolant Leakage Following a Seal
Failure in a Reactor Coolant Pump or Reactor Recirculation Pump, August 9, 1993.
63. USNRC Information Notice 93-84: Determination of Westinghouse Reactor Coolant Pump
Seal Failure, October 20, 1993.
64. USNRC Regulatory Issue Summary 2000-02: Closure of Generic Safety Issue 23, Reactor
Coolant Pump Seal Failure, February 15, 2000.
65. USNRC Draft Regulatory Guide DG-1008: Reactor Coolant Pump Seals, April 1991.

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A
MECHANICAL SEALS APPLICATION AND
MAINTENANCE GUIDE SURVEY

This appendix contains the form used to conduct the survey of fossil and nuclear power utilities
to determine the most common failure modes, the root causes, and installation and maintenance
recommendations in support of the development of this guide.

A-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey

EPRI/NMAC Nuclear Maintenance Application Center


Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide
Survey

At the direction of the NMAC Steering Committee, NMAC has begun the preparation of an Application
and Maintenance Guide for Mechanical Seals used in nuclear power plants. This survey is intended to
obtain the most common problems with mechanical seals in use today. Information obtained from this
survey will be used in developing a comprehensive and state-of-the-art Guide for the application, use,
maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting of problems with mechanical seal. Your participation in this
survey is vital to the accuracy and usefulness of this Guide. The Guide is intended to be a single source
for utility engineers and maintenance personnel to minimize problems with mechanical seals while
extending the number of cycles between seal inspections.
In order to evaluate the responses and to make comparisons between utilities to determine successful and
unsuccessful practices, besides the responses to the following questions (which can be done by e-mail on
this form), the following information is also requested:
1) A copy of your latest procedures for mechanical seal maintenance, repairs, and troubleshooting.
2) Itemization of each individual pump's mechanical seal history since 1/1/90 (Maintenance Rule data is
acceptable). This should include any mechanical seal failures and the root cause determination of
those failures, corrective actions taken, and the seal inspection reports, even if the maintenance was
solely of a routine nature. Please include any mechanical seal leakage trending data available. Please
contact us if there is a question about this request.
3) Special problems that the plant may have experienced, and the plant's approach to addressing them.
The outcome of each repair or corrective action will be a valuable addition to your response.
An important element of a typical NMAC Guide is to involve industry personnel in the review/ comment
stages of guide development. Would someone at your facility be willing to participate as a member of our
Technical Advisory Group (TAG) which typically involves review/comment of an initial draft and final
version of the planned maintenance guide?
No
Yes
Please mail, fax or e-mail responses to:

A-2

Mike Pugh
1300 W. T. Harris Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28262
Fax: 704-547-6035
E-mail: mpugh@epri.com
Phone: 704-547-6004

EPRI Licensed Material


Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 1 of 7
EPRI/NMAC MECHANICAL SEALS MAINTENANCE GUIDE
SURVEY QUESTIONS
Contact Name:

Phone: (_____)

Utility:

Fax: (_____)

Plant:

E-Mail:

1) Date of initial plant startup:


2) Number of loops:
3) Plant design:

1
PWR

3
BWR

4
or Fossil

4a) Estimated number of all rotary shaft seals in your plant.


4b) Estimated number of mechanical seals in critical applications.
4c) Estimated number of mechanical seals in other applications.
5) Where mechanical face seals are not being used, select the two most important factors for not
using them (select two)
Cost

Leakage

Unpredictable catastrophic failure potential

Availability

Specialized training & maintenance

Other (explain)

Types of Mechanical Seals, Manufacturers, and Applications in Power Stations


6)

Manufacturers (check all that apply):

6a) Main Coolant Pump Seal:


(1) Westinghouse

(3) BWIP

(2) Sulzer Bingham

(4) AECL

6b) Other Mechanical Seal Manufacturers (check all that apply):


(1) Crane

(4) Chesterton

(7) Borg-Warner/BWIP

(2) Durametallic

(5) Sealol

(8) AST

(3) Burgmann Seals

(6) Flexibox

(9) Latty International

(10) Other
6c) Most common at your plant (select 3 numbers from list in Question 6b) .

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 2 of 7
7a) Most common mechanical seal configurations in your plant (2 selections):
(1) Inside mounted with rotating seal head (pressure on outside diameter of face)
(2) Outside mounted with rotating, externally mounted seal head (pressure on inside diameter
of face)
(3) Outside mounted with stationary, internally mounted seal head (pressure on inside
diameter of face)
(4) Inside mounted with stationary, externally mounted seal head (pressure on outside
diameter of faces)
(5) Cartridge
(6) Other (Specify)
7b) Which configurations have the most problems (select 2 from Question 7a) .
8a) Sealed Fluid (select all that apply)
Incompressible
(1) Clean Water
(2) Service Water
(3) Oil
(4) Hydrocarbon
(5) Slurry
(6) Other (Specify)

Compressible
(6) Air/Nitrogen
(7) Steam
(8) Other (Specify)

8b) Most common at this location (select 2 numbers from each category in Question 8a)
9) Most common secondary seals (select 2)
Elastomeric O-Ring
Elastomeric U-Cup
Metal Bellows
Other (specify)

Elastomeric Chevron
Elastomeric Wedge
Elastomeric Bellows

10) Select the 3 most common face material combinations from the list below
Rotating
Face

Stationary
Face

Combination 1
Combination 2
Combination 3
(1) Carbon - Graphite
(2) Carbon - Babbit
(3) Ceramic
(4) Nickel - Resist
(5) Silicon Carbide
(6) Laminated Plastic
(7) Teflon
(8) Stainless Steel
(9) Stellite Hard-Facing on
Stainless Steel

A-4

(10)
(11)
(12)
(13)
(14)
(15)
(16)
(17)
(18)

Aluminum - Bronze
Bronze
Monel
Tungsten Carbide
Phosphor - Bronze
Carbon-Filled Teflon (nonoxidizing acids)
Glass-Filled Teflon (oxidizing acids)
Hasteloy A, B, or C
Other (specify)

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 3 of 7
Present Failure Rates and Causes
11) Mean time between failure of mechanical seals resulting in leakage
less than 6 months
6 to 12 month
12 to 18 months
18 to 36 months
36 to 72 months
Other (specify)
12) Symptoms of mechanical seal problems:

Most
Least
Never
Common Common Occurs

Visible or detectable leakage


Wear of rotating face
Wear of counterface
Loss of spring force due to contamination and
accumulation of solids
Loss of contact force due to spring element relaxation
Excessive friction heat
Excessive friction torque
Loss of coolant/lubricant
Corrosion
Other (explain)

13a) Causes of mechanical seal problems (select all that apply):


Maintenance installation problem
(1) Improper seal face compression
(2) Contamination or damage during installation
(3) Excessive eccentricity cause by set screw tightening sequence
(4) Slippage due to incorrect set screw tip geometry (dog point versus cup point)
(5) Slippage due to set screw material being too soft
(6) Elastomers not installed correctly
(7) Elastomer/lubricant incompatibility
(8) Other
Equipment interface/operation problem
(9) Mounting surface for seal not square/parallel to shaft
(10) Excessive axial or radial movement (off Best Efficiency Point operation, cavitation, out
of balance, bent shaft, misalignment, bad bearings, etc.)
(11) Other
Manufacturing problem
(12) Wrong or improper materials supplied
(13) Defects introduced during manufacturing
(14) Other

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 4 of 7
Application or system problem
(15) Incorrect seal selected for the application (e.g., vacuum applications should use a
double seal of some sort)
(16) Face materials improperly selected for the application
(17) Improper environmental controls causing the seal to overheat or allow contaminants
(18) Fluid vaporization across seal faces
(19) Pressure and/or temperature transients due to variable system operation
(20) Equipment operating conditions not completely defined
(21) Material chemical attack and corrosion
(22) Dirty or abrasive system
(23) Product (e.g., crystallized boron) sticks to seal parts and keeps them from moving
properly
(24) Other
13b) Most common at your plant (select three from list in Question 13a)
Inspection and Predictive Maintenance Methods as Related to the
Mechanical Seal Condition
14) Frequency of mechanical seal visual inspection (check all that apply and provide number of seals
inspected in each category)
Monthly
seals
Quarterly
seals
Annually
seals
Every outage
seals
Over two years (specify period and number of seals)
,
seals
15) Predictive Maintenance Schedule is based on:
Manufacturer Recommendation
Plant/Utility Experience
Importance of the Equipment to Plant Operation and Plant Output Power Level
Importance of the Equipment to Plant Safety
Other (specify)
16) Predictive Maintenance Methods Used (select all that apply)
Temperature measurement
Leakage detection
Vibration level
None
Other (specify)
Periodic Preventive Maintenance/Replacement Performed Regardless
of the Actual Condition of the Mechanical Seal
17a) Equipment under Periodic Preventive Maintenance (specify or provide list)
Safety-Related
Critical For Plant Output
Balance of the Plant
None

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 5 of 7
17b)

Maintenance/replacement frequency (if none in 17a, skip this question)


Every Outage
Every Other Outage
Other (specify)

Plant-Specific Approaches to Address


Mechanical Seal Problems and Maintenance
18) Troubleshooting is performed by:
Plant Maintenance
Manufacturer Representative
Outside Contractor
19) Mechanical seal repairs are performed by:
Plant Maintenance; the level of maintenance being:
Install only
Change O-rings/static seals
Change seal faces and finish machine, i.e., grind, lap, inspect
Remanufacture complete assembly
Manufacturer Representative
Outside Contractor
20) Spare parts and inventory (check all applicable options)
Spare mechanical seals for high priority equipment are kept at the plant warehouse
Spare parts for some key seals for high priority equipment are kept at the plant warehouse
Seals and spare parts are stocked by manufacturers and ordered as needed
Spare parts are machined from material stock kept at the plant
None of the above (explain)

21) Please provide a copy of your data sheet used to specify mechanical seals (if available).
Data sheet attached
22) Shaft stiffness criterion used to determine the suitability of a mechanical seal for a given
application.
3
4
Shaft deflection at seal
L /D ratio Specify value:
Other
None
23) List 3 applications in which mechanical seal problems continue to be difficult to solve.
Application 1:
Application 2:
Application 3:
Provide details of the 3 applications in the following table:

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 6 of 7
Data Requested

Application
1

Application: safety-related/critical/ balance of the


plant
Equipment type (pump, agitator, compressor...)
Equipment manufacturer
Mechanical seal manufacturer
(Model No or type if available)
Estimated leak rate at failure
Fluid (clear water, service water, slurry, ...)
Temperature, F
Pressure, psi
Speed, rpm
Approximate shaft diameter
Face material
-

Stationary

Rotating

Seal design
-

Balanced or unbalanced

Single, double, or tandem

Secondary seals (bellows, elastomers,...)

Face loading achieved by single coil, multiple,


& Belleville springs; bellows, elastomers, ...
Flushing: Process fluid, external source,...

Mean time between failures


Parameters monitored for predictive maintenance
(leakage, temp, pressure, vibration,...)
Root cause of failure determined (Yes/No)
Provide or attach the root cause
Frequency of periodic maintenance if any
Attach description of alternative solutions
(successful or pursued)

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Mechanical Seals Application and Maintenance Guide Survey
Page 7 of 7
Training Provided for In-House Maintenance Personnel
24) Mechanical seal training is provided to
Equipment engineer
All in-house rotating equipment maintenance personnel
Only selected group of maintenance personnel
No training is provided
25) If training is provided what is the frequency of re-training
Every year

Every 3 years

Every 5 years or more

Other

26) Does your plant require contractors to have formal mechanical seal training before commencing
repair or replacement work?
Yes
No

A-9

EPRI Licensed Material

B
INSPECTION OF SEAL FACES FOR FLATNESS

B.1

Optical Principle

Lapped surfaces of seal parts are inspected for flatness using an optical flat and monochromatic
light. Light is passed through the optical flat, then reflected off the lapped surface, and back
through the optical flat. When a gap exists between the optical flat and lapped surface, the light
reflections off the lapped surface and the optical flat interfere with each other, preventing some
of the light from passing back through the optical flat. Between the dark bands, the reflections
reinforce each other and produce light bands. This phenomenon produces a series of dark and
light bands when the optical flat is viewed from above, as shown in Figure B-1. The parallel dark
bands form where the change in distance between the flat and lapped surface is one-half the
wave length of the light as shown in this figure.
An optical flat is made from transparent material, normally quartz or Pyrex, which is very flat.
Different size optical flats with different flatness tolerances are available. Typically, seal parts
are inspected with an optical flat that is flat within 2 to 5 micro-inches (one micro-inch or 1 P in.
is one-millionth (0.000001) of an inch). Optical flats can be flat within the specified tolerance on
one or both sides. Single-sided flats are normally adequate for seal inspection. Coating on the flat
increases its reflectivity and makes the light bands easier to see.
A monochromatic light source emits light of a known wavelength. The most common type is a
helium-filled tube that emits orange/yellow light with a wavelength of 23.2 P in. The light bands
visible through the optical flat are one-half the total wavelength. Consequently, each band
(consisting of one light and one dark band) that is visible represents a gap of 11.6 P in. The
actual width of the bands cannot be related to the flatness of the part. The total number of bands
seen during inspection is a function of the gap that is created between the flat and the lapped
surface, not the flatness. Manufacturers will specify flatness in light bands, normally without
regard to the size of the part. A seal part that is required to be flat within 2 light bands has a
flatness tolerance of 23.2 P in. over the specified surface.

B-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness

Figure B-1
Using an Optical Flat to Determine Seal Face Flatness Light Bands

B.2

Procedure for Measuring Face Flatness

When measuring the flatness of seal parts, the following basic good practices should be used to
obtain accurate results.
x

The optical flat and lapped surface should be free of dirt or other particles. Parts can be
wiped with a lint-free cloth or brushed off with a fine bristle brush prior to setting the flat on
the lapped surface.

Avoid putting any unnecessary force on the parts being inspected. The tolerances for lapped
surfaces are extraordinarily small and exerting unnecessary force on the parts can distort the
flatness.

The size of the flat needs to be matched to the part. Do not use an optical flat that is much
larger and heavier than what is required.

B-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness

When inspecting carbon seal parts, place the carbon seal ring on a flat surface, such as
another flat or a lapped surface, like a carbide seal ring.

Perform the inspections in a controlled environment. Changes in temperature and humidity


can affect flatness readings.

Flatness measurements should only be taken when the part being inspected and the flat are
both at a uniform room temperature. For example, if the flat is at room temperature and the
part has just been brought in from an uncontrolled cold environment, the warm flat might
distort a cold surface.

View the optical flat from the correct angle. The flatness reading can be seriously distorted
by determining the flatness when viewing the part with too great of incidence angle. Light
bands should be determined when looking straight down on the part, as shown in Figure
B-2, at a viewing angle of close to 90q. If the flatness reading is taken with a viewing angle
of 60q, each light band represents 13.4 P in. instead of 11.6 P in.

Figure B-2
The Viewing Angle Typically Should be 80q to 90q While Checking Flatness Using a
Monochromatic Light Source

A procedure for measuring flatness on seal rings and other toroidally shaped lapped seal surfaces
is provided below. This method places an air wedge under one side of the flat to help determine
if the part is convex or concave, or if it has other out-of-flatness conditions.
1. Place the lapped part under the monochromatic light. If the part is a carbon ring, make sure it
is adequately supported.
2. Clean the lapped surface and the optical flat of dust with a lint-free cloth or fine bristle brush.
3. Place the flat on the lapped surface.

B-3

EPRI Licensed Material


Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness

4. Use a piece of lint-free tissue to create an air wedge. Place the tissue between the left side of
the lapped surface and the optical flat. Slowly pull the tissue out until the edge of the tissue is
at the edge of the lapped surface. The tissue can be manipulated until a light band pattern
width that is easy to view is visible. If the tissue wedge is too thick or foreign particles are
between the flat and the lapped surface, the light band pattern will be too narrow to read. To
check to see if the air wedge is too thick, use light thumb pressure at the air wedge to vary
the appearance of the light bands.
5. The light bands are used to determine the degree of flatness. When interference bands are
straight, parallel, and equally spaced, the surface is assumed to be flat to within 11.6 P in.
6. Interpretation is carried out noting the number of bands intersected by a straight tangent line,
as in the examples shown in Figures B-3 through B-7. Out-of-flatness is measured by
multiplying this number by 11.6 P in. It is important to note that, if the bands are inconsistent
or missing, it is necessary to draw two imaginary centerlines 90q apart and perpendicular to
the axis of the part, and then draw line AB at 45q, connecting the two previous lines (see
examples in Figures B-6 and B-7).
The procedure used by different seal manufacturers to determine flatness might vary from the
procedure above. The relationship to successful performance and flatness measurements should
be kept in perspective. If the lapping and measurement techniques provide consistent successful
operation, the procedures should not be changed.

Figure B-3
Flat Within One Light Band (The distance x is dependent on the amount of air between the
optical flat and the face and does not indicate lack of flatness.)

B-4

EPRI Licensed Material


Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness

Figure B-4
Bands Bend on One side and Line AB Intersects 3 Bands (The face is therefore out-of-flat
by 3 light bands or 35 P in.)

Figure B-5
This Indicates an Egg-Shaped Curvature of 2.5 Light Bands (That is, 29 P in. Line AB
intersects 2 bands and falls between another 2 at the center of the ring. Line A'B'
intersects 2 bands that curve in the opposite direction.)

B-5

EPRI Licensed Material


Inspection of Seal Faces for Flatness

Figure B-6
Bands Show a Saddle Shape Out-of-Flat Condition of 3 Light Bands,
35 P in.

Figure B-7
Bands Show a Cylindrical-Shaped Part with a 3-Light Band Reading Error

Figure B-8
Band Symmetrical Pattern Indicates a Conical Convex or Concave Part. (The out-offlatness is measured by the number of bands on the part, that is, 3 bands
or 35 P in.)

B-6

EPRI Licensed Material

C
TRAINING COURSES

The following is a listing and description of training materials or courses that are presently
known to NMAC that are available for enhancing skills involved with mechanical seals. They
are broken down into two major categories. The first category of training, Category A, supports
a basic understanding of mechanical seal installation and maintenance practices as well as
personnel qualification materials. The second category, Category B, provides a higher level of
training that will improve craftsmanship and understanding of seal operation and technology, and
also gives a greater insight into performance, problem analysis, and plant implications. NMAC
has reviewed these course offerings in limited detail. Reference herein is not intended to be an
endorsement of the materials but simply a reference, should additional training information be
desired by the membership.
CATEGORY A
EPRI Maintenance Performance Evaluation Test Bank
The Maintenance Proficiency Evaluation Test Bank (MPETB) is a database of validated and
reliable task-specific written and performance tests developed by participating utilities following
the proven MPE methodology referenced in EPRI technical reports. The database, made
available exclusively to utility participants in this project, already contains a large population of
task-specific written and performance tests that can be administered to plant or contractor
personnel. Currently there are several tests for mechanical seals that are available to
participating members. If you would like to find out more about the Mechanical Seals MPEs
you can visit the EPRI webpage at http://www.epriweb.com/epriweb2.5/ecd/np/mpe/index.html
or contact Loran Maier at 704-547-6152.
Annual International Pump Users Symposium and Short Courses Program
Texas A&M Turbomachinery Laboratory
College Station, Texas 77843-3254
Phone: 979/845-7417
Website: http://turbolab.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Bailey, Marketing Director
Background:
The Turbomachinery Laboratory receives inquiries from fluid handling and rotating equipment
users who are looking for intensive training opportunities in addition to those currently offered at
their symposia. In response to these inquiries, they have initiated a cooperative effort with some
exhibiting companies to provide information on their professional development opportunities.
These technical training sessions are listed below, by company, with a brief description of each
course.
C-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Training Courses

FLOWSERVE Educational Services Group


Pump Training Programs taught at the Learning Resource Center in Dallas
Website: www.flowserve.com
Course Title: Take the Mystery Out of Pumps and Mechanical Seals
Audience: Engineers, supervisors, and craftsmen specializing in Pump and Mechanical Seal
Reliability Improvement.
Synopsis: This five-day course, split equally between classroom and hands-on learning activities,
will provide participants with a strong understanding of centrifugal pumps and mechanical seals.
Chesterton
Chesterton offers learning via the Internet to allow students to learn at their own pace on a more
flexible schedule. Students are provided with immediate feedback on their progress through each
course. An index of terms is provided under the Performance Support section. Students can
search this section for terms pertinent to their topic area. Course outlines are available at their
website: www.activedistancelearning.com/distancelearning/index.asp
Course Title: Mechanical Seal Principles I
Students will learn each aspect of mechanical seals, including the purpose of a mechanical seal,
its component parts, their classifications, its materials of construction, proper operation,
environmental controls, and troubleshooting for some basic mechanical packing failures.
CATEGORY B
Georgia Institute of Technology
Paul Weber Space Science and Technology Building on the Georgia Tech Campus
Registration: 404/385-3501
Contact: Greg Stenzoski, Marketing Dept.
Course Title: Fluid Sealing Technology
This four-day, annual course provides an extensive introduction to fluid sealing and is designed
to meet the needs of equipment designers, plant and maintenance engineers, and technical sales
engineers. This course has been presented at Georgia Tech for the last 11 years. It utilizes the
fluid sealing and tribology expertise of both Georgia Tech and the BHR Group (British
Hydromechanics Research Group).
A sound understanding of the complex factors involved in successful fluid sealing is essential for
engineers who specify, design, operate and maintain machinery and mechanical equipment. Seals
specialists show how an understanding of basic engineering factors can be used to practical
advantage. Fluid sealing technology is based on disciplines as diverse as lubrication, friction,
wear, properties of materials, mechanical design, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer. All of these
factors are considered in the discussion of different types of seals, seal materials, and sealing
applications.
Annual International Pump Users Symposium and Short Courses Program
See above discussion for background on the below listed courses.
C-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Training Courses

FLOWSERVE Educational Services Group


Pump Training Programs taught at the Learning Resource Center in Dallas, TX.
Website: www.flowserve.com/
Course Title: Improving Pump, Mechanical Seal, and Systems Reliability Through
Maintenance
Audience: Pump and mechanical seal craftsmen and technicians.
Synopsis: Designed to assist craftsmen in becoming more effective and efficient, and to add
value to equipment operation and reliability through thorough maintenance. More than three full
days of the five-day course are spent conducting hands-on learning activities.
Course Title: Improving Pump, Mechanical Seal, and Systems Reliability
Audience: Maintenance engineers, supervisors, and others responsible for reliability
improvement will benefit from this course, as will their companies.
Synopsis: This weeklong program equips the attendees to identify the root cause of pump
failures and apply appropriate corrections. Over 50 failures and 90 corrections are studied
utilizing real pumps and mechanical seals, both static and in operation in our six learning labs.
Chesterton
Chesterton Distance Learning Course Curriculum:
Chesterton offers learning via the Internet to allow students to learn at their own pace on a more
flexible schedule. Students are provided with immediate feedback on their progress through each
course. An index of terms is provided under the Performance Support section. Students can
search this section for terms pertinent to their topic area. Course outlines are available at:
www.activedistancelearning.com/distancelearning/index.asp
Course Title: Mechanical Seal Operation
Mechanical seals are designed and engineered differently for specific reasons. Different
applications require diverse mechanical seal designs and operational characteristics. This course
will describe the different ways that mechanical seals can be designed to operate in order to
perform their tasks.
Course Title: Common Mechanical Seal Failures
To further increase mechanical seal life, we must be able to analyze premature failures. Many of
these incidents have symptoms that can tell us what caused it. By examining these failures
closely, we can try to eliminate their reoccurrence. This course will identify common mechanical
seal failure symptoms and their possible causes.
International Conference on Fluid Sealing
This conference is held every two to three years and the first conference dates back to April
1961.

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EPRI Licensed Material


Training Courses

BHR Group Ltd.


The Fluid Engineering Centre
Cranfield
Bedfordshire MK43 0AJ, UK
Contact: Mrs. Catherine Cox, The Conference Organizer
Tel: 44 (0) 1234 750422
Email: ccox@bhrgoup.co.uk
Description:
This sealing technology forum is the premier event in its field and never fails to provide
important and interesting information and new insights into old problems. The aim is to further
improve sealing reliability and effectiveness.

C-4

EPRI Licensed Material

D
LISTING OF KEY INFORMATION

The following list provides the location of key Pop Out information in this report.
Key O&M Cost Point
Emphasizes information that will reduce purchase, operating, or
maintenance costs.

Section

Page

Key Point

3.4

3-12

Seal cartridges are pre-assembled mechanical face seal assemblies that


contain all of the essential components. Cartridges are used to package
mechanical face seals for ease of handling and installation. Even
though material cost is higher, cartridges save money by simplifying
maintenance and eliminating installation related failures.

6.1

6-1

Seal monitoring programs vary greatly from utility to utility, and from
site to site due to different equipment designs, operating philosophies,
and different rates of forced outages experienced. For many plants,
condition-based monitoring is limited to visual observations with little
actual quantification except for main coolant pump mechanical face
seals.

6.3

6-5

Monitoring and data logging of key performance parameters can serve


as very useful tools for trending wear and performance degradation of
mechanical seals and preventing unscheduled outages.

7-1

Seal performance is often directly linked to equipment performance and


reliability. An in-depth inspection and review of seal failures can
improve equipment availability and performance.

8.1

8-1

The most cost-effective maintenance program should be based on


predicted seal performance and its expected life. The least cost-effective
maintenance program is one based on reactions to failure. An effective
preventative or periodic maintenance program, based on plant
experience and manufacturer recommendations, should be implemented
to improve plant reliability and prevent unplanned shutdowns.

8.2.5

8-11

Adherence to manufacturers recommendations during start-up and


operation is vital to seal longevity and performance.

D-1

EPRI Licensed Material


Listing of Key Information

Key Technical Point


Targets information that will lead to improved equipment reliability.

Section

Page

Key Point

3.1

3-2

Mechanical face seals come in a variety of configurations, materials, and


designs for primary sealing faces, secondary seals, springs, and drive
mechanisms. Options also include unbalanced or balanced designs,
whether the primary seal or the mating seal is rotating, and whether the
fluid pressure is on the outside or the inside surface of the seal. Seal
design for a given application should be selected after a careful
evaluation of trade-offs discussed in this section, Section 3.

3.3

3-11

Some applications require the use of multiple seals to provide for


flushing or barrier fluids, or pressure staging to deal with higher
pressures. Flushing is used to remove contaminants, to cool the faces,
or to provide for proper lubrication. Selections include back-to-back,
face-to-face double arrangements, and a choice of buffer fluid or barrier
fluid, depending upon application.

3.5

3-16

Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed
to accept conventional packings. This limits the fluid circulation around
the seal, leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids.
An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve
fluid circulation, lowering seal temperature and eliminating
accumulation of solids.

3.6.1

3-20

Mechanical face seals can be unbalanced, fully balanced, or partially


balanced to reduce the face loading due to hydraulic pressure. The term
balanced refers to the case where the average pressure load on the face
is less than the sealed pressure. Most mechanical face seals have a
balance ratio of between 0.65 to 0.85. This range provides reduced face
loading without potential concern of face parting.

3.6.2

3-21

Pressure distribution across the seal face width can be linear, concave,
or convex and it can change with variations in pressure, temperature,
and seal wear. This can affect seal performance (leakage, torque,
temperature) during operation.

3.8

3-24

For satisfactory performance, the seal design and material selections


should satisfy the PV limit and the 'T limit under all operating
conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces.
Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure.

3.9

3-28

Seal designs with special features to enhance lubrication at the sealing


interface (for example, hydrodynamic grooves, recesses, or lasertextured surfaces) can extend the pressure, speed, and temperature
limits. The trade-off (for example, higher leakage rate versus increased
reliability under transient conditions) should be carefully evaluated
during seal selection.

D-2

EPRI Licensed Material


Listing of Key Information
3.10

3-28

The hydrostatic seal design is a non-contacting mechanical face seal


that permits some controlled flow rate to pass between the faces. To
prevent dry running, the seal requires that some pressure be applied to
the tapered side prior to rotation.

4.2

4-2

The eventual failure mode of all mechanical face seals is leakage that is
considered unacceptable for the seal design/configuration being used.
Excessive leakage can cause unacceptable loss of fluid, reduction of
pressure, or contamination of the system fluid by the barrier fluid in
double-seal installations. Level of acceptable leakage is dependent upon
the application.

4.4.1

4-5

For satisfactory performance, the seal design and material selections


should satisfy the PV limit and the 'T limit under all operating
conditions to ensure that fluid film is maintained between the seal faces.
Loss of film can lead to immediate seizure and seal failure.

4.4.3

4-6

Mechanical seals are often installed in the same cavity that is designed
to accept conventional packings. This limits the fluid circulation around
the seal, leading to high seal temperatures and accumulation of solids.
An enlarged seal chamber with tapered bore can dramatically improve
fluid circulation, lowering seal temperature and eliminating
accumulation of solids.

4.4.4

4-7

Thermal distortions of seal faces due to operational transients can


cause positive coning (contact on ID) or negative coning (contact on
OD) of the seal faces. Coning in excess of film thickness can cause film
rupture seizure or face parting, resulting in a large increase in leakage.

4.4.4

4-8

Pressure distribution across the seal faces is affected by seal face


coning due to changes in pressure and speed as well as the wear-in
process. Excessive coning causes seal failure either due to seizure or
face parting. Hard face versus soft face material combinations are more
tolerant of coning than if both faces are hard.

4.4.5

4-10

Operation away from Best Efficiency Point (BEP) is a frequent cause of


short seal life/seal failures. Off BEP conditions cause large shaft
deflections and vibrations resulting in premature degradation of
mechanical seals.

4.4.6

4-13

Static and dynamic misalignment between seal faces can cause strong
fluid pumping action across the faces causing either inward pumping or
outward pumping of the product fluid and/or buffer fluid. Leakages
under misaligned conditions can be several times the normal leak rate.

4.4.6

4-13

Premature wear of the primary sealing faces and secondary seals,


causing excessive leakage when stationary and when running, are also
common symptoms of excessive misalignment.

4.4.7

4-15

Mechanical face seals are precision components, requiring the sealing


faces to be flat, typically within one light band (11.6 x 10-6 inches) across
one-inch width. Too much out-of-flatness can lead to excessive seal
leakage.

D-3

EPRI Licensed Material


Listing of Key Information

4.4.8

4-16

Conventional mechanical face seals rely on a small amount of waviness


automatically created by face distortions due to mechanical loads to
function properly. Too perfectly flat seal faces on structurally robust
seal rings prevent the faces from distorting and developing a fluid film.
This results in seal failure due to seizure. Fortunately, this is a rare
occurrence.

5.2

5-3

Seal selection requires a detailed and systematic evaluation of all of the


significant application parameters, for example, fluid type, pressure,
temperature, speed, normal operating conditions versus design
conditions, radiation exposure and maintenance. Appropriate data
sheets and check lists should be used to ensure a thorough and
complete evaluation of suitable alternatives and trade-offs. Prototype
qualification tests should be performed for all critical applications.

D-4

EPRI Licensed Material


Listing of Key Information

Key Human Performance Point


Denotes information that requires personnel action or consideration in
order to prevent injury or damage, or ease completion of the task.

Section

Page

Key Point

7.2.2

7-7

The importance of maintaining As Found conditions is important to


failure mode determinations. Personnel should be instructed to
exercise care during the disassembly steps.

7.3

7-12

Visual examination is an important element in determining failure


mechanisms. Personnel should be attentive during disassembly to
be alert for evidence of incipient or chronic failure mechanisms.

8.2

8-2

Personnel training is a very important aspect of a mechanical seal


maintenance program that is striving to achieve improvements in
plant reliability. Comprehensive training courses covering
mechanical seal design options, installation, operation,
maintenance, troubleshooting, and failure diagnosis are regularly
offered by seal manufacturers, universities, and research
associates (see Appendix C).

8.2.1.1

8-2

Proper storage and handling of seal components is important to


seal longevity and performance. Manufacturers recommendations
should be followed at all times.

8.2.2

8-4

Pre-installation checks are an important element in reliable seal


performance. Personnel should perform the steps outlined herein
to prevent unsatisfactory seal performance.

8.2.4.1

8-10

Equipment contents and conditions should be fully known before


disassembly to preclude injury.

8.2.5.3

8-11

Proper venting of seal chamber prior to placing into service is


critical to seal performance and longevity.

D-5

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