Replacement clutches improve pipeline reliability

Jon Lawson

While the Andes is the longest mountain range on Earth, many forget that it’s also the tallest outside of Asia. It’s daunting topographical features present regional pipeline engineers with large challenges when it comes to ensuring uptime, especially when the pipeline is moving a critical resource such as water. However, one Andean water pipeline operator has been able to further safeguard its uptime by replacing manual clutches at its pumping stations with Stromag Periflex VN Disc Couplings for increased reliability and durability.

Pumping water 4,000 vertical feet up and over the Andes, the pipeline in question is a highly complex system. Several diesel engine powered pumping stations are installed in stages up the side of a mountain. Each pumping station contains a massive remote-mounted 34-stage centrifugal pump to provide the required final discharge pressure to move the water uphill to the next station. Every 12 cylinder diesel engine installed at the stations offers 1425 HP driven to a speed increasing gearbox with a 1:1.356 output ratio. 

Pipeline operators had been utilising the manual clutches, which could engage and disengage regardless of speed. Due to the respective differential in RPM between the two shafts during engagement and disengagement, the clutches were experiencing excessive wear in operation. This would eventually lead to total clutch failure, ceasing pumping along the entire stretch of pipeline until a new replacement could be found. With each individual pumping station housing a manual clutch, another power transmission solution was required to safeguard the continued reliability of the pipeline and its associated pump drivetrains.

The solution was found in the form of Stromag’s Periflex VN Disc Couplings which are designed specifically for use with diesel engines. Torsional flexibility is built in along with linear spring characteristics, which ensures the same coupling stiffness regardless of applied torque. As diesel engines produce high torque outputs in operation, this inherent flexibility and consistency ensured a smoother transition of power to the pump. The couplings selected for the project delivered a maximum torque of 48,000 Nm, with this high torque capacity and direct-mounted design ensuring that the clutches could be entirely eliminated from the drivetrain of each pumping station.



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