Abstract

Rotating machinery relies on engineered tilting-pad journal bearings (TPJB) to provide static load support with minimal drag power losses, safe pad temperatures, and ensuring a rotordynamic stable rotor operation. End users focus on reducing the supplied oil flow rate into a bearing to both lower operational costs and to increase drive power efficiency. This paper presents measurements of the steady-state and dynamic forced performance of a TPJB whilst focusing on the influence of supplied oil flow rate, below and above a nominal condition (50% and 150%). The test bearing has five pads, slenderness ratio L/D = 0.4, spherical pivots with pad offset = 50% and a preload ∼ 0.40, with a clearance to radius ratio (Cr/R) ≈ 0.001 at room temperature. The bearing is installed under a load-between-pads (LBP) orientation and has a flooded housing with end seals. The test conditions include operation at various shaft surface speeds (32 m/s-85 m/s) and specific static loads from 0.17 MPa to 2.1 MPa. A turbine oil lubricates the bearing with a speed-dependent flow rate delivered at a constant supply temperature. Measurements obtained at a steady thermal equilibrium include the journal static eccentricity and attitude angle, the oil exit temperature rise, and the pads’ subsurface temperatures at various locations, circumferential and axial. The rig includes measurement of the drive torque and shaft speed to produce the bearing drag power loss. Dynamic force coefficients include stiffness, damping, and virtual-mass coefficients. As expected, the drag power and the lubricant temperature rise depend mainly on shaft speed rather than on applied load. A reduction in oil flow rate to 50% of its nominal magnitude causes a modest increase in journal eccentricity, a 15% reduction in drag power loss, a moderate raise (6°C) in pads’ subsurface temperatures, a slight increase (up to 6%) in the direct stiffnesses, and a decrease (up to 7%) in direct damping coefficients. Conversely, a 1.5 times increase in oil flow rate causes a slight increase (up to 9 %) in drag power loss, a moderate reduction of pads’ temperatures (up to 3°C), a maximum 5% reduction in direct stiffnesses, and a maximum 10% increase in direct damping. The paper also presents comparisons of the test results against predictions from a thermo-elasto-hydrodynamic lubrication model. In conclusion, a 50% reduced oil flow rate only causes a slight degradation in the test bearing static and dynamic force performance and does not make the bearing operation unsafe for tests with surface speed up to 74 m/s. As an important corollary, the measured bearing drag power differs from the conventional estimate derived from the product of the supplied flow rate, the lubricant specific heat and the oil exit temperature rise.

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