Monthly Archives: February 2021

Grey shell & tube chiller evaporator being maintained with centrifugal compressor above

Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

With shell & tube chiller evaporator maintenance to be carried out- it was time to sign the permit to work and get going. There are 5 chillers in total, but 1 of the chillers had been dismantled by the previous company and is unlikely to run again. This left 4 flooded systems to be maintained while the factory was still in production. Therefore, it had been decided in the Method Statement that one chiller would be done at a time. The plant had been designed with N+1 in mind, as it is critical not to loose the process- causing a factory shutdown. This means that so long as 2 of the chillers are running, there will be no loss in production. With 1 chiller out of service and another being worked on, this left 3 chillers in operation. If 1 were to fail, then there would still be the minimum of 2 left running.

Hire Chillers

In the unlikely event that 2 of the 3 chillers left running were to fail, an action plan was in place to lift in 1 MW of hire chillers.

Pump Sets and Hoses

The hire chillers would come with 2 engineers to pipe the pump sets into the onsite water system. This water system has been designed with this in mind so ‘stab ins’ have been built into it with shut off valves for the connection of temporary hoses.

Vanes

The chilled water is close control with a critical 6°C to 8°C set point. The chillers in the photo are very good at achieving this close control as they use vanes on the inlet to the suction. These vanes can be adjusted from anywhere between fully closed, with a small amount of bypassing, to fully open.

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Buffer Vessel

The hire chillers, on the other hand would not be close control. They would be multiple system chillers with various stages of loading on each chiller. One 600 kW chiller and another 400 kW. Each of the chillers onsite are 1.3 MW, but as they never run at 100% the onsite maintenance manager agreed to the proposal. It is unlikely that this plan would be needed, but planning for it is critical. A 10,000 ltr buffer vessel was decided upon to make the hire chillers close control. The chillers discharge into the buffer vessel, then the water mixes around before returning back to the chillers. The process water too being discharged into the buffer vessel before returning to the process. The position of the inlet and outlet on both water systems being strategically decided upon to ensure a steady exchange of heat and a smooth water out temperature back to the process.

Valve off and Drain Down

The Water In and Water Out pipes were valved off and the contents of the evaporator drained down. There was no glycol or chemicals in the water system which made the job easy. Otherwise, the water in the evaporator would have to have been pumped into vessels for disposal.

End Plate Removal during Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

The lift and shift team were on site to assist with the removal of the end plate. After the bolts were removed, they attached their lifting eyes and straps, then lifted the end plate to the side.

Evaporator Cleaning 

We have in our stores a specialist evaporator cleaning tool. After a period of time, the evaporator tubes become fouled with impurities picked up from the water system. Also, contaminants get in from the air into the water tower. The strainer has some effect, but thermal insulation builds up on the water side of the tubes. It prevents latent heat being absorbed into the fridge system from the process. After the cleaning process, the efficiency of the copper tubes was increased to the same level as when the chiller was new. This is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. 

Reassembly after Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

The seal was replaced from our range of seal sizes, on the shelf in our stores. The reassembly being the reverse of the strip down, the lift and shift team aligning the end plate for refitting on guide runners. It was then tightened to the correct torque setting. A little at a time, the water system valves were opened until full flow and water system pressure was achieved. No leaks occurred, so it was time to go on to the next phase of the job…

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Run Up after Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

After bringing this chiller back online, it went through a timer, then loaded up steadily to 68%. The refrigerant system readings had been taken previously, so they were compared to the readings taken after the job. A lot more heat transfer being achieved with more latent heat being absorbed from the process.

Remaining Chillers

The above mentioned process was repeated to the remaining chillers one at a time. No issues were encountered and the whole job proceeded steadily to completion.

Compressor Loading

The load from the factory is very steady, so each time another chiller evaporator was cleaned, the row of chillers would unload slightly. They were running at 72% on arrival, then 68%, then 63% then 59%. This was demonstrated to the customer as a visual way of proving how we had improved the efficiency of his plant. Compressor unloading uses less electricity, so lower carbon emissions and a lower electricity bill are the direct result of our maintenance. Also, kilowatt hour meters are linked to the maintenance manager's computer for monitoring.

Shell & Tube Evaporator Chiller Maintenance Tidiness

As with all of our jobs, the work location of the chillers was left in a better condition than when we arrived. Any waste and unused items being recycled or returned to the stores on site or the stores at our Head Office. The chillers being wiped down and the end plates re painted. With regular maintenance, we at Maximus Chillers will take years off the life of your plant. It is not unusual for us to keep this kind of plant running for more than 50 years.

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Green Bitzer screw chiller compressor with oil separator removed on bench in our workshop

Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Open Drive Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Open drive screw chiller compressor maintenance involves changing the shaft seal at intervals, or if it leaks. This kind of compressor is used with ammonia as this refrigerant corrodes the copper windings and the insulation. It is also used with most large HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) and HFO (hydrofluoroolefin) chillers.

Semi Hermetic Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Because all of the components are internal, this kind of compressor needs less maintenance. It is most often used with smaller chillers running on HFC and HFO refrigerants. This is the compressor type featured in the photo.

Matched Helical Rotors

This kind of compressor design uses a matched pair of helical rotors. These are accurately machined so as to trap, then compress the refrigerant as it travels along the screw. Oil injection is used to create a seal between the rotors. The two rotors are different in shape: the male rotor is driven by the motor and usually has 4 lobes. The female rotor meshes with male and usually has 6 interlobe spaces. The cylinder casting around the rotors is equally important as it seals in the vapour along the screw. Both rotors are helixes with the male rotor moving more rapidly. This compressor design provides a continuous pumping action, rather than pulsating as with a reciprocating compressor. Another advantage of this kind of compression is that there is very little vibration. Indeed, you can place a coin, on its side, on top of the compressors we look after and it does not fall over. This lack of vibration helps to prevent refrigerant leaks around the compressor.

Single Screw with Gate Rotors

This kind of compressor design uses one main rotor, meshing with 2 star gate rotors. These are at right angles with the main rotor. The main rotor usually has 6 grooves.

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Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance and Reliability

Both of these compressor designs are very reliable with a long bearing life. A maintenance free lifespan of 30 years for the bearings is not uncommon. It is quite common that the compressor will outlive the chiller. In the unlikely event of bearing wear, a characteristic is for there to be undue noise from the compressor at part load which goes away at full load. Higher oil temperature and an unsatisfactory oil analysis are also indicators.

Slide Valve

The capacity is seamless as it is regulated with a slide valve. A spring returns the valve to the unloaded position and a gear type oil pump gives above discharge pressure to load it. The oil pump is not for lubrication, it is just to give the valve enough force to slide with the discharge pressure acting against it. A slide valve potentiometer is fitted to a sliding rod on the end of the valve. It translates the movement along this rod into usually 4-20mA. This signal feeds back to the controller which converts it into a percentage loading reading.

Lubrication during Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Pressures and temperatures are taken during the maintenance to ensure seamless operation. The oil sump is usually inside the base of the oil separator which is at discharge pressure. An oil return pipe is available from the oil sump to the suction side of the screw. Because of the pressure difference from discharge to suction, the oil naturally lubricates the compressor without any need of an oil pump. The oil lubricates the bearings and is injected with the refrigerant along the screw. This provides a seal between the rotors or gate rotors, it also lubricates the rotors to prevent excessive wear.

Oil Separator

The oil enters the oil separator after being discharged with the refrigerant from the compressor. This vessel is insulated so as to stop refrigerant condensing inside as it would in the condenser. An oil heater keeps the oil at the optimum temperature for the compressor. This heater also prevents liquid from forming in the oil separator during off cycles. A check valve on the outlet also prevents this from happening by stopping the migration of refrigerant from the condenser. As the oil sump is the oil supply to the compressor, a temperature sensor will make the program lock the compressor out, should the oil be too cold. This is usually because the main power supply to the chiller has been off during maintenance. The larger volume inside the oil separator slows the speed of the refrigerant so as to allow the oil to drop out. A common design is for the discharge to be directed to the top of the vessel, with a spiral going down to the sump. The oil falls out of the refrigerant vapour during this process. For additional oil recovery, the oil goes up through finer and finer layers of mesh. The oil sticks to this mesh and runs down into the sump.

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Oil Return

Small amounts of oil that have escaped the oil separator will end up in various vessels around the system. On smaller HFC systems there is less of a problem as the oil is entrained by the refrigerant, round the system and back to the compressor. In larger, flooded HFC systems, the oil mainly ends up in the bottom of the evaporator. For ammonia systems, the oil does not entrain with the refrigerant, so oil return devices must be used.

Eductor

This is a pot at the bottom of the vessel where the oil collects. At periodic intervals, discharge gas is blown across the top of the oil which has collected. This has the effect of picking it up and carrying it into the suction of the compressor.

Periodic Oil Changes

We at Maximus Chillers have the full range of refrigerant grade oil for all refrigerant types. It is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. It is critical that the correct oil is selected otherwise compressor failure will result. During each maintenance visit, we make a note of the compressor run hours and carry out oil changes at the correct intervals.

Oil Analysis

We take oil samples which we analyse in our laboratory for signs of compressor wear, oil quality and contaminants. This way, we can prevent untimely compressor failure. If one of your compressors were to fail, however, we have a remanufacturing facility and a lift and shift team to get the job done fast! 

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To read more about screw chiller compressors hit the Tag at the top of the page.

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