Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Grey centrifugal chiller compressor being maintained

Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Centrifugal chiller compressor maintenance keeps your critical plant up and running and your customers happy. The work can be scheduled to be carried out during factory shutdown, so as not to disrupt your production. We can also carry out this work to your compressors while the factory is in production. This is achieved by isolating the compressor that needs to be worked on when it is in an off cycle. The compressors on remaining machines can carry on running.

Tasks during Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Here are some of the tasks that we carry out…

Oil Changes

The oil becomes dirty over time by picking up contaminants that have formed in the system. Two of these contaminants are…

Acid

Compressor discharge is the hottest part of the refrigerant cycle. Acid can be formed from the refrigerant in this part of the system.

Refrigerant Types

A popular refrigerant for centrifs is R134a. Because it consists only of one kind of refrigerant, it does not fractionalise into different component refrigerants. This would be no good for a flooded system because one or more of the refrigerants would end up in the bottom of the evaporator and condenser. The remaining refrigerant would circulate and the whole plant would not function as it should. Refrigerants popular for other kinds of system are zeotropic HFC refrigerants. This means that the different component refrigerants have different boiling points- R407c is a good example.

Metal

White metal from the compressor and copper from the heat exchangers end up in the oil. They will eventually be caught by the system oil filters…

Oil Filter Change

After completing the above, now is a good time to change the filter as the compressor is valved off and has been broken into. It is also when an oil sample is taken depending on the schedule…

Oil Samples during Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Our oil samples are transported using our specialist kits which include the bottles and labels. This saves mix ups in our laboratory during the analysis.

Leak Rectification

The drawback of carrying out the above are leaks because the pressure has been pumped out of the compressor into another part of the system. The ‘o’ rings and shaft seal can now leak, this kind of failure can be rectified whilst still on site by the knowledge of our engineers.

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Oil Pre Lubrication

When the compressor starts, the oil pressure is built up first using an oil pump. This is so the internal components such as the high and low speed shaft are properly oiled before they start to rotate. They can run at 10,000 RPM and are very expensive to replace. Therefore, we check the oil pressure gauges and the system controls to ensure optimum ‘pre lubing’ of your compressors.

Volumetric Efficiency

The ratio between the volume actually compressed and the theoretical volume derived from compressor design calculations. This kind of compressor has a lower volumetric efficiency than positive displacement compressors. It is because the refrigerant is compressed off the tip of the rotating impellor or impellors. The refrigerant moves outwards in a circular path due to centrifugal force. A centrif more than makes up for this lower volumetric efficiency by the high mass and volume of the refrigerant that it circulates around the system.

Design 

The refrigerant is sucked from the evaporator into the centre of the impellor which is a disc of radial blades positioned to direct the refrigerant outwards. Due to the low differential of pressure, multiple stages of impellors are often arranged in series with the discharge being directed onto the suction of the next impellor. This is simple in design with less moving parts than some other compressor types. Modern centrifs can have magnetic, levitating bearings and so remove the need for oil in the system altogether. The faster the speed, the better the efficiency- so high speed rotation of the impellor is achieved at full load. The compressed refrigerant is discharged into the condenser.

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Electric Drive Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Most modern centrifs are driven by variable speed drives. This is for efficiency as the load can be exactly matched. Another reason for this is to soft start the compressor. 415v and 3.3kv are popular volt inputs, although other voltages can be made available by the onsite transformer.

Open

An open drive electric motor is the most popular design. It has the drawback, however, of needing a shaft seal which needs to be replaced at periodic intervals. This shaft seal is also prone to leaking refrigerant and oil.

Semi Hermetic

The photo is of a semi hermetic design of this compressor type. The motor is contained inside the suction housing and so has the benefit of being cooled by the refrigerant. No shaft seal is needed and therefore it has none of the associated maintenance drawbacks.

Steam Drive Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

On oil rigs there can be an abundant supply of steam that can be used to drive the compressor. It is often used on multi stage compressors which are used for the liquefaction of natural gas. The steam goes through a turbine which is connected to a shaft- this drives the impellors. The steam flow and pressure can be tested and adjusted during the visit.

Woops Something Went Wrong

When you suffer a centrifugal compressor failure- don’t worry. You are in safe hands with the team here at Maximus Chillers. We have a team who can get the compressor out and lift it to the workshop on site, or transport it to our Head Office. We have another team who are experts in the remanufacturing of this kind of compressor. A fast supply chain is in place for delivery of the internal moving parts, gaskets and bearings. We are so confident that you will be happy with us- we offer a 12 month warranty on all of our compressor rebuilds.

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PLC and relay board in a panel during chiller service company visit

Chiller Service Company

Electrical Testing

A chiller service company can carry out electrical testing and diagnosis even when a wiring diagram is not available- our engineers can trace the wiring around a chiller.

News Article No.3

Doing this often aids with the diagnosis even when there is a wiring diagram, as having your eyes on a component often makes more sense than a symbol. In any case, our engineers carry out system testing with Fluke multimetes and ammeters.

F-gas Leak Testing by Chiller Service Company

We also carry a range of thermocouples and probes to be used in conjunction with our calibrated digital thermometers. We use these along with comparators to carry out leak testing. After fitting the probes, we first have a visual look around for a sign of a gas leak. All parts of the pipework and system components are inspected. Then, we carry out a full refrigerant diagnosis to determine that the refrigerant system is operating with a full charge. Reports for each chiller are completed and filed in the onsite F-gas leak register. A history can be built up to assess the serviceability of the plant and the frequency of any leaks.

Chiller Service Company Monitoring

Where intermittent faults are concerned, on site monitoring is required. If the job is not progressed on each visit, there is little point in a call out. We carry out tests during monitoring and ensure that the wiring is tight. Hopefully, waiting for the fault to occur whilst next to the machine. Alongside this, we rely on feedback from the end user, as regards, the symptoms and the circumstances of the chiller when the fault occurred. From this we extrapolate the diagnosis and decide the next step to take. This may be to attempt to move the fault to another machine or, at least eliminate one thing each visit.

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Chiller Service Company Evaporators

Shell and Tube

These have a rolled steel shell, welded down the seam with and end plate on either end. The water system pipes can be bolted to the sides or the end. The endplate can be removed for access to the waterside of the tubes. A strainer is fitted to the inlet to catch any foreign objects that may have been carried around the water system. Inlet and outlet gauges are fitted for the monitoring of the water system readings during a visit. 

Flooded

On larger chillers, the screw or centrifugal compressor is mounted directly on top of the flooded evaporator. The refrigerant is in its liquid phase on the outside of the tubes. These are arranged in a rack extending through the length of the shell. The warmer process water running through the tubes causes the refrigerant to boil off. A sight glass is usually available to check the state of the refrigerant evaporating on the copper tubes. The suction from the top of the evaporator goes round a baffle so as to prevent the slug back of liquid refrigerant into the compressor. The refrigerant flow into the evaporator is controlled by the expansion valve…

Expansion Valves

This takes the form of a fixed size orifice on the liquid line in between the shell and tube condenser and the flooded evaporator. The size of the orifice previously being calculated to match the mass flow rate of the refrigerant dictated by the compressor. Some newer systems have a variable orifice for the more efficient running of the plant. This is controlled electronically along with the loading of the compressor, relative to the available load.

Multiple System N+1

Smaller DX evaporators are usually multi system. This gives an N+1 redundancy of the plant. Indeed, when one side of a 2 system evaporator is having service work carried out, the other side continues to operate normally. Thinking ahead and allowing for additional capacity is essential when the application is critical, such as, a data centre or a hospital. When a redundant system comes online due to a failure- getting the failed system back up and running is a matter of urgency. For this we offer same day delivery of parts and a fully stocked mobile workshop.

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Chiller Service Company Condensers

Various configurations are employed to ensure good air flow through the condenser fins. The most popular being a ‘v’ condenser as the surface area is increased with this design. Powerful fans are used to reject the air and heat upwards and away from the chiller. Where system location causes the recirculation of air, duct work can be fitted to direct the air away from the chiller. The pressure is monitored using a HP gauge.

Pressure Transducers

Johnson Controls

A popular kind of pressure transducer that is used on condensers is Johnson Controls. These can be bolted onto the refrigerant discharge pipe to sense the system pressure. They have a 5vdc input that comes into the transducer on a red wire, a black wire is the ground and a white wire is the signal back to the fan speed controller. The transducer has a minimum to maximum range, so a chart can be used to determine if the signal is reading back correctly. On chillers where the transducer is wired directly in the controller- calibration can be carried out to offset the readings.

Keller

Another kind of pressure transducer is the 4-20mA type. It sends a mA signal back to the controller or the fan speed controller. 4mA is the minimum position, so this relates to the minimum of the transducer pressure range.

R134a Refrigerant

R134a refrigerant operates at a lower pressure in a condenser than the other commonly used HFC refrigerants. If you were looking for a chilled water set point of 6°C in the UK ambient for example, the R134a refrigerant saturation on the high side of the system would be around 36°C Latent heat from the water system and heat added into the refrigerant from the compressor are rejected from the condenser. As the refrigerant passes down the condenser tubes, cool air blowing across the outside of the tubes, cools the refrigerant vapour down through the latent heat phase and into a subcooled liquid.

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Chiller Service Company Compressors

Centrifugal Compressors

This kind of compressor has a lower volumetric efficiency compared with the positive displacement compressors below. This is because the refrigerant is compressed using centrifugal force off the tip of the impeller, instead of being mechanically compressed. The advantage of this kind of compressor is a high mass flow rate of refrigerant. These compressors are used in factories where a large amount of chilled water is required to cool the process. They are also used in countries where district cooling is used. The chillers are arranged in rows in a chiller hall and are piped into the district cooling loop.

Screw Compressors

Oil used to lubricate the bearings is also used to create a seal between the rotors. Computer aided design (CAD) software and computer numerical control (CNC) grinding machines are used in the construction of screw rotors. The shape of the rotors is designed to compress the refrigerant along the screw. The length of the screw that is available to compress the refrigerant can be adjusted with a slide valve. Any stage of loading between 0- 100% can be achieved. This is regulated with a slide valve potentiometer. Screw compressors are very reliable and have a long service life. They also have a low vibration reading which ensures a lower instance of refrigerant leaks around the compressor.

Scroll Compressors

A service free compressor. Service free assuming that the rest of the system is functioning correctly. This kind of compressor relies on oil migration around the system. The oil is entrained along the inside of the pipework, around the system and back to the compressor. An oil level sight glass is fitted into the body of the compressor at the required level. Refrigerant shortage can cause the oil to stay in the bottom of the evaporator, causing a low oil level condition in the compressor. We can be scheduled to attend site to drain the oil, then pump new oil into the compressor.

Compressor Failure

When any of the above compressors fail, you are in safe hands with Maximus Chillers. We have the capability to lift and shift the compressor to our remanufacturing facility for a full overhaul. The reason for the failure is diagnosed to ensure the new compressor does not fail for the same reason. Improving the reliability of your plant and extending its life is what we are all about- if we can reduce your service costs- that makes us happy! All temperatures and pressures are recorded to ensure the replacement compressor goes into seamless operation.

Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere- The MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

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Two dark green centrifugal chillers undergoing maintenance in plant room

Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance

At the beginning of the year we completed centrifugal chiller maintenance for one of our customers in America. A last overseas trip for the moment given the current world lockdown. The machines in the photo chill water that is pumped around a university campus.

Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance of Redundant System

The plant has a water cooling shell and tube evaporator and a water cooled shell and tube condenser. It has been designed according to the N+1 principle: N being the amount of cooling required and 1 being that same amount of cooling again. Each chiller has enough capacity to satisfy demand. Given the large size of the campus, this principle was critical to keeping the University functioning should system failure occur. The chiller on the right was the lead chiller on arrival. After taking detailed readings during the maintenance, our engineer switched that chiller over into being the lag chiller and took readings from the chiller on the left. He rotates the lead/ lag of the chillers on each visit to balance the run hours of the compressors.

Volumetric Efficiency

Centrifugal chillers have a lower volumetric efficiency compared with positive displacement compressors such as screws and recips. This is because the impeller does not mechanically compress the refrigerant like a piston in a reciprocating compressor. This kind of compressor relies on centrifugal force to spin the refrigerant off the tip of the impeller and onto the next stage. The refrigerant is then discharged from the compressor.

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Mass Flow Rate

The above is more than compensated for with a high mass flow rate. That is to say: a high volume of refrigerant circulates around the system at its operating density. A large capacity machine is cost effective when considering energy efficiency and centrifugal chiller maintenance costs.

Gantry Crane for Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance

The gantry crane in the picture is available to aid with the lift and shift of the compressor, should compressor failure occur. Maximus Chillers are specialists in the overhaul of centrifugal compressors. We can arrange the lift out, transportation, strip down and reassembly of your compressors. All of our strip downs come with a 12 month warranty to give you peace of mind and confidence in our ability.

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