Pumps and pumping systems play a vital role in several sectors of the economy. A variety of pumps are used for various industrial as well as municipal applications. These pumps perform a wide range of functions in the oil and gas, power, water supply and sewerage, petroleum refining and mining sectors. Demand in the pump industry is driven primarily by the water and wastewater treatment and power sectors.
In thermal power plants, pumps are used to move fluids to enable effective operations. In terms of pumping applications, a power plant can be segmented into two basic systems – primary and secondary. Primary pump systems comprise boiler feed pumps, condensate pumps, cooling water circulation pumps, cooling water make-up pumps and heater drain pumps. Secondary pump systems comprise chemical feed pumps, chemical transfer pumps, fuel transfer pumps, fuel injection pumps, slurry and dewatering pumps, lubrication pumps, fire service pumps, etc.
In the past few years, many power plants have been opting for concrete volute pumps as cooling water pumps for their installations. Concrete volute pumps are vertical volute pumps in which the casing is made of concrete instead of steel. These offer several advantages over steel volute pumps and vertical line shaft pumps. Concrete pumps have fewer steel parts and the concrete casing is resistant to corrosion and erosion, thereby reducing the maintenance cost.
Oil and gas
In the oil and gas industry, pumps are used in a variety of operations including extraction, processing and final product delivery. This holds true regardless of whether the source is conventional or unconventional reservoirs, onshore or offshore fields, and whether it is meant for domestic markets or for export purposes. These pumps transport fluids from one process or location to another, with the pump size generally being proportional to the volume moved.
In the oil and gas sector, pumps are generally used for crude oil transfer (truck loading or transfer to pipelines), secondary recovery (well water flooding via seawater or freshwater injection, chemical injection, etc.), glycol dehydration, disposal of water produced, blowout prevention, hydraulic fracturing, well servicing, amine sweetening, water cooling, fire protection, lean oil circulation, refinery and gas plant process fluids, water disposal for refineries and gas plants, etc.
The entire cycle of the extraction, transportation and refining process substantiates the need for pumping equipment of the highest quality and reliability. As pumps in this industry are required to operate under extreme environmental conditions, such as high temperatures and pressures, or extremely low pressures and cryogenic temperatures, these must be composed of materials which are capable of withstanding operating conditions. Further, they must also be non-reactive with any chemicals they could be exposed to. Decisions regarding the choice of material are generally driven by the prevention of oxidisation and corrosion. In the oil and gas industry, the failure of pumps can result in a huge financial cost, and pose safety and environmental hazards, thereby making their reliability extremely important.
Water and waste management
The increased penetration of desalination plants in the industrial sector has provided a major boost to the demand for water pumps. Over the next few years, several desalination plants that have been announced earlier are likely to be developed. The demand for desalinated water has further been exacerbated by the depleting per capita availability of water, as a result of which the government has taken steps to explore alternative sources.
In the water treatment sector, pumps are used to accelerate water flow along the collection system and move it towards the treatment plant. As the wastewater contains large amounts of rags, organic solids and other waste matter, its transportation is difficult. Therefore, there is a need for reliable pumping systems, as overflows and spills will result in damage to the environment and imposition of fines.
The types of pumps available for handling raw sewage have also changed considerably over the years. These include vertical turbine pumps; vertical volute pumps; multistage pumps; jet monobloc pumps; end-suction pumps; borewell, submersible motor, non-clog pumps; and horizontal, non-clog, end-suction pumps.
The way forward
Going forward, the Indian pump industry is expected to reap the benefits of higher agricultural growth, the promotion of water-intensive industries and enhanced infrastructure development. The pump industry is gradually enhancing its ability to manufacture pumps that match international standards. Though IoT intelligent pumps are still nascent in the country, the industry is likely to move towards digitilisation in the pumps manufactured.