In the last 10 years, major centrifugal compressor manufacturers have been investing in developing technologies to improve their products. Following the increasing demand in terms of performance, efficiency and compactness, the current trend in the compressor industry is to increase the “power density”. One big challenge of this “power density” approach is the increase of the rotational speed which may be related to rotordynamic concerns (e.g. crossing of higher rotor modes, stability). Commonly used in the aircraft gas turbines [16], the squeeze film dampers represent an efficient solution to deal with high vibrations and to ensure stable operation for supercritical rotors. In the Oil & Gas Centrifugal Compressors world, SFDs are not so often utilized by the manufacturers but sometimes chosen by the end users as a retrofit solution when high level of synchronous/sub-synchronous vibrations are experienced in the field. The experimental activities described in this paper represent the authors’ Company effort to validate the behavior of a special, integrated SFD type in order to add this component in the available technology portfolio of a centrifugal compressor using it since the design phase. To accomplish this target, the SFD testing was performed originally at the component level and finally at a system level on a “dummy rotor”, specifically designed to mimic the rotordynamic behavior of a real rotor (e.g. running across both the two first rigid modes and the first bending mode). The main objectives of the testing activity were: to check the benefit of using SFDs in order to increase the rotor system damping, to check the SFD overall operational performances, and finally to validate the rotordynamic predictability of this new rotor system. The system level testing program was performed in a high speed balancing bunker where the rotor was equipped with a magnetic exciter able to deliver sub-synchronous excitation. The main test results which will be described in details in the paper are anticipated here. SFDs showed a significant increase in the damping of rigid modes compared to a baseline configuration (rotor running on traditional journal bearings); the SFDs behavior was fully assessed both from rotordynamic viewpoint (rotor and damper housing vibrations) and from operational viewpoint (oil temperature and pressures directly measured in the damper land); finally the rotor modal damping identification techniques are applied to this highly damped rotor system in order to compare the experiment with the relevant predictions. As a conclusion the testing activity provided the authors’ Company with confidence in the use of this integrated SFD technology and enabled a new option for centrifugal compressor design.

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