SPP Pumps has invested in a multi-million pound upgrade to the test facility at its HQ in Coleford, Gloucestershire, meaning rigorous testing of pumps and systems can be carried out more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before.
The new state-of-the-art facility boasts a 6-metre test well with capacity to hold one million litres of water. It is equipped with everything needed to handle the testing of between 120 and 150 different pumps or complete systems each year, covering all industry sectors.
SPP Pumps Test Engineer, Jamie Lightly, explains the reasoning behind this investment: “A customer buying pump equipment has to be certain it will meet strict performance criteria specified in the contract. Testing takes time and money, but by housing all the appropriate facilities, we can reduce cost, avoid delays and ensure the most top quality pumps.”
Specifications are largely defined in terms of a pump’s duty point, which is in turn specified according to the relationship between head (the height to which water can be pumped - which also relates to the pressure the pump can generate) and flow rate. A test procedure is drawn up to verify that the equipment meets all performance criteria agreed between the customer and SPP, typically with reference to ISO standards. The test team then creates a set of pump curves (flow rate versus pressure) and assesses the energy efficiency under a range of demanding conditions.
Understanding all sectors
SPP can provide diesel engines or electric motors to drive the pumps under test, but often a whole pumpset complete with power unit and all other components is tested. “In the oil and gas sector, for example, a pumping system may consist of several sub-assemblies containing equipment from different manufacturers,” says Jamie Lightly.
“Each item needs to be approved, even down to things like the cabling. There is scope for problems such as incorrect wiring together of components, so our role includes project management to ensure the system works as a whole and to fix issues if necessary. SPP’s understanding of all industry sectors is essential to bringing such issues to light and resolving them before pumps are used in the field.”
He adds: “There are differences in focus between industries. The water and wastewater industry, for instance, is particularly interested in the efficiency of operation. A current test project of interest to that sector involves a system which pumps water at 1,500 litres per second through pipework almost a metre in diameter. In some applications, such as fire, economical running is much less important than being sure the right pressure and flow will be there when needed.”
Among the most demanding systems tested by SPP are large pumpsets used in the oil and gas business, which can be worth millions of pounds each and which need to be almost ‘bombproof’. Special considerations include use of non-sparking starter motors, rather than conventional units, if there is potential for gas leaks. The testing for these systems may last around two weeks.
Along with the well itself, the associated test facilities at Colefield have also been upgraded. An increased power supply now allows testing of very large pump motors, rated up to 2MW. A new test console is linked to a variety of starter drives, including soft start motors, using a range of voltages.
Test engineers and visitors have been provided with a new, purpose-built office with full sound insulation and meeting space for up to 12 people. The outputs from all test instruments can be monitored there via two touchscreens, so there is no need for manual recording, and some of the testing is now semi-automatic, with data logged directly onto computers.
In some cases customers observe the tests themselves or send third-party inspectors. To make this easier, SPP is working on remote monitoring, via cameras and test screens, so that soon it will be possible to follow tests from anywhere in the world. Other plans include a new facility, on the same site, for testing flow rates of up to 3,500 litres per second. Government funding will help towards its construction and SPP is investing now to pave the way for this development.
Jamie Lightly concludes: “Our investment never stops. With our higher-capacity test well and the facilities around it we are fully equipped to give customers a complete, economical, streamlined service on one site – from initial consultation, design and manufacturing to proving that the pumps and systems will perform as they should where it really matters.”