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Understand and Mitigate Waterhammer in Fluid Processes

By Walt Prentice, Applied Flow Technology |

Waterhammer arises because of sudden changes in fluid flow, and can present significant problems in processes that involve flowing liquids. This article outlines these potential issues and offers guidance for handling the pressure changes arising from waterhammer Most large-scale processes in the chemical process industries (CPI) are designed to run at steady state. Even if a process is a batch operation overall, it usually includes at least some continuous segments. When fluid flows are constant, process operation is efficient, cost-effective and safe, and effects are predictable. However, when fluid flows change (whether the change was intentional or not), a wide range of consequences can result, and they are often difficult to fully comprehend and predict. The effects from changing fluid flow are collectively classified as “waterhammer.” This term has also been used in the context of home plumbing systems, where waterhammer can generate noise from otherwise silent pipes. However, waterhammer in home plumbing represents only a small-scale example of what can be very serious topic at industrial scales (Figure 1). Figure 1. Changes in fluid flows within industrial piping systems can cause waterhammer, which can result in a wide…
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