At HOSS we frequently discuss what it takes to ensure a successful and reliable pump
installation. Horizontal pumps are complex, engineered rotating equipment. They operate
with large motors, at high speeds, pumping harsh fluids in challenging ambient conditions.
There’s a big difference between the installation requirements of a small single stage
centrifugal pump and high pressure horizontal pumps. Reliable operation requires a system
design approach, application expertise, and adherence to best practices.
A horizontal pump “system” is more than the flange-to-flange skidded pump package. All
upstream and downstream factors must be considered, including piping size, layout, valves,
instrumentation, and control logic. Foundation design and piping support are also part of the
pump system. With all these variables, it quickly becomes clear that pump system reliability
is a much larger challenge than providing a reliable pump package. A good place to start
before designing a new pump system is API Recommended Practice 686. While generic, this
260 page document provides a roadmap of applicable standards that inform the design of the
Thankfully, designing a pump system can be simplified by following best practices that have
been proven to work. It’s also helpful to over-design elements of the system that are
inexpensive in relation to the total project cost. For example, we are frequently asked by
customers familiar with API 610 pumps to provide foundation loading diagrams. A proper
foundation for a HOSS unit consists of thick concrete and rebar, it’s not complex and not a
major cost in the total system design, but does ensure pump longevity. The job of the
foundation is to structurally support the weight of the pump system and dissipate vibration
from the pump unit. Instead of spending valuable time calculating exactly the right
foundation thickness and rebar spacing, it’s a lot simpler to make a quick estimate and then
oversize by a large margin. For example, if a quick estimate indicates an 8 inch foundation
with 12 inch rebar spacing, specify the foundation to be 12 inches thick with 6 inch spacing.
It may cost a little more, but if you experience any vibration problems after installation, you
can immediately rule out the foundation as the culprit. Boost pump output and quantity of
piping supports are other examples where having more than the minimum is a good thing.
You don’t want to be doing NPSH and nozzle loading calculations in the field if you can avoid
Careful selection of each pump system component goes a long way towards ensuring
successful operation and equipment reliability. HOSS has simplified this selection process by
offering standard control valves, filter pots, and VFDs on each project proposal that are
matched with the quoted pump unit. These components are stocked at our Tulsa and Midland
facilities for quick delivery in a variety of sizes to handle various flow rate and horsepower
In our experience, piping is the most frequent root cause of problems in a pump system.
Piping seems simple, which is one reason why it can be overlooked in the design process.
However, every detail can have a significant impact on pump operation. Size of the pipe
dictates frictional head loss as the fluid travels to and from the pump. Poor layout of the
piping also has an impact, with frequent bends and diameter changes resulting in friction loss.
Careful layout is an important factor in the proper operation of instrumentation and valves.
Most need a minimum of 5-10 pipe diameters of straight piping before and after the
component to dissipate turbulent flow energy for proper operation and low vibration. Flow
meters and pressure transducers are especially susceptible to turbulent flow effects. It’s
difficult to diagnose or control a pump system if the output of the instrumentation has large
fluctuations due to turbulent flow.
Control logic can be the most difficult system design challenge. Selecting the method of
pump control and setting the various control parameters presents hundreds of choices, each
with varying risk and effect on pump operation. HOSS firmly believes that these choices
should be made as a team, with the end user and our pump application expert discussing the
pros and cons of each decision before implementation. It’s important to revisit the control
parameters during the commissioning process. Top performing pump systems are “tuned” on
site to account for variables that cannot be exactly predicted during the design process. This
includes details such as alarm thresholds and PID loop settings.
A best practice is to maintain a strict hierarchy between the site control logic (usually
through a PLC) and each pump’s control logic. A site PLC is well equipped to provide start
and stop permissives based on the overall control needs of the entire site, but most are
poorly suited to customizing control for individual pumps. Centrifugal pumps are ideal for
variable speed operation, however the vast majority of PLCs do not have prebuilt logic to
consider centrifugal pump performance behavior across a speed range (as shown in “tornado”
curves). A graphical user interface (GUI) designed for quick setpoint navigation and
adjustment significantly reduces commissioning time and leads to easier maintenance in the
HOSS will soon be releasing a revolutionary touchscreen controller integrated into our next
generation KODIAK VFD to dramatically reduce setup time and easily implement complex,
precise variable speed pump control. To receive more information when this product is
launched next month, enter your contact information here: https://www.hosspumps.com/kodiak/.
As HOSS has grown and evolved, our manufacturing and service capabilities have continued to expand. This has caused some confusion in the marketplace as pump customers see these changes and inquire about the future of HOSS and where we are positioned among horizontal pump manufacturers.
The list below should clarify some of the most common misconceptions about HOSS and the truth about our capabilities:
1. HOSS has no service personnel
In fact, HOSS has one of the largest service fleets in the United States. We have ten field service technicians in the Permian Basin, and have recently been hiring an additional technician every month in this fast growing region. We also have an experienced service group of three technicians in the Mid-Continent area, with additional technicians being recruited to support our growth.
Our service strategy also includes support through our channel partners. We are continually training channel partner technicians through our factory-authorized training program. Knighten Industries offers authorized support throughout Texas and New Mexico, and Northland Industrial Specialties supports Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota with their authorized technicians.
2. HOSS is a small company with limited support
HOSS has become one of the Top 3 manufacturers of horizontal pumping equipment in the United States. We are proud of our roots as a pragmatic, nimble manufacturer, however the truth is that we have more resources and experience than our primary competitors. Superior service starts with expertise. HOSS has exclusively focused on the North American market, however we currently employ the largest team of horizontal pump professionals in the industry. Our engineering and service employees have worked at all major horizontal pump providers, and have decades of experience with centrifugal pumps. Rest assured, there is no manufacturer in the industry that can offer more support for your challenging applications.
3. HOSS does not manufacture their own pumps
HOSS historically purchased the centrifugal pump barrel assembly from a variety of experienced manufacturers. These manufacturers produced a high quality pump, however supporting emergency pump replacements was a consistent challenge. This is no longer a problem at HOSS today. HOSS maintains two pump manufacturing locations to support legacy and new customers. Our Tulsa operation, strategically located near the Mid-Continent install base and within 8 hours of the Permian Basin, can produce a fully assembled pump barrel for most applications in 24 hours or less. Both manufacturing facilities consistently maintain 2-3 week lead times to support our standard 6-8 week delivery time for new systems.
4. HOSS has a limited application range with less technical experience
The HOSS engineering team has a distinguished 15 year history of consistently expanding our technical capabilities in new applications. HOSS has installed hundreds of units in saltwater disposal, crude transfer, amine gas treatment, NGL pipelines, and condensate applications (to name a few). HOSS has built units with component and cartridge seals, as well as a variety of API seal plans (Plan 11, 52, 53, 76, etc.). We have installed facilities with over a dozen units running in parallel, mobile units on trailers, and multiple units operating in series. HOSS currently offers the widest horsepower range, highest thrust rating, and highest pressure rating of any horizontal pump manufacturer.
5. HOSS is too expensive for my application
Some of our competitors brag that they build the lowest cost horizontal pump systems. They use light duty skids combined with antiquated ball bearing thrust chambers. They buy motors from cheap manufacturers, and fail to provide proper bearing protection or sufficient instrumentation. And sometimes they even cut corners by selling a pump system incapable of operating across the full hydraulic operating range. These practices are designed to reduce the upfront cost of the pump system, but they ultimately impact reliability. Given the revenue created in critical horizontal pump applications, runtime should be the goal, not lowest possible purchase price.
HOSS designs our pump systems carefully. Our application practices prioritize reliability. Our standard thrust chamber carries three times the load and operates five times as long as our largest competitor’s standard thrust chamber. Our pump barrels include AR bearings in abrasive applications. Our motors are selected from the most reputable manufacturers, are always new, and are capable of operating the pump across the full flow range. This quality-first approach might cost 5% more, but it’s an investment in reliability. This investment may not be obvious during the first year of operation, however it will pay dividends over the life of the pump system.
6. HOSS lead times are long and manufacturing capacity is limited
HOSS is the only vertically integrated manufacturer among the Top 3 horizontal pump providers. We control the entire engineering and production process for each major component, from skid welding to final assembly. This control has resulted in a consistent 6-8 week delivery time for standard pump applications over the past two years, even as our manufacturing output has more than doubled each year. HOSS wins the business and trust of the fastest growing E&P and midstream customers because they know HOSS can scale with them as they grow.
7. HOSS can only service their own equipment
As mentioned in a previous blog post, HOSS does not only focus on the new equipment market. We have extensive experience retrofitting competitor systems with HOSS thrust chambers and pump barrels. We can also repair several popular competitor thrust chamber models. Our service technicians have worked at all major horizontal pump manufacturers, providing us with decades of experience maintaining, diagnosing, and repairing all makes and models of horizontal pump systems. Many customers have a mixed fleet, consisting of multiple brands of horizontal pumps. We embrace this challenge and work closely with our customers to keep all of their pumps in operation, regardless of the original manufacturer.
One of the rare constants in the domestic oil & gas pump market has been the need for quick deliveries. Upstream and midstream companies in the United States have sprung into action to expand production by building a supply chain focused on rapid delivery and continuous improvement. “Engineer-to-Order” and traditional project management bureaucracies are obsolete in America’s modern oilfield. Our customers have communicated loud and clear: faster is better… except if it’s more expensive.
HOSS has grown dramatically in the last two years by offering built-for-purpose pump systems that can be delivered fast. How fast? We recently completed a fully customized pump project within 3 weeks of receiving the order. Some of our competitors brag about quick deliveries, without acknowledging that a customer is forced to buy stock systems that are a poor fit for many applications. Stock systems have their place in a true field emergency. For example, HOSS carries inventory of fully assembled units and accessories to help our customers recover quickly after natural disasters or complete production outages. But unless the customer has no other option, ordering a fully customized unit that can be delivered in 4-6 weeks is usually a better choice.
Customizing the pump system is not about designing to a customer’s preference. It’s about maximizing efficiency at the lowest cost. Put simply, a customized pump system is designed to exactly match the application. No more… no less. HOSS is able to respond quickly and consistently by applying principles of mass customization. We have designed a robust and extensive catalog of modular parts that can be mixed and matched to tailor our pump system exactly to a given set of flow and pressure requirements. And we back this up with inventory and streamlined processes for scalable, reliable manufacturing output.
Analyzing the Life Cycle Cost (LCC) of a pump system can be complicated, but is useful when comparing alternatives like ordering a customized unit vs. a stock unit. The US Department of Energy and the Hydraulic Institute have published a very thorough guide for pump customers.
The largest contributors to a typical horizontal pump’s Life Cycle Cost are purchase price, energy (electricity) needed to run the pump, maintenance, and the expense of unplanned downtime. Buying a high quality, perfectly sized, quick delivery pump is the best way to minimize LCC.
Selecting a stock system increases life cycle cost, initially from the higher relative purchase price. In addition, a stock horizontal pump is usually too large for the application conditions. This results in operating at a less efficient point on the pump’s head-capacity curve. Less efficient operation increases the energy required to meet the duty point. And less efficient operation can lead to higher thrust and vibration, which results in premature pump and thrust chamber failure. A surprise failure of the key pump system components creates the highest expense of all: unplanned downtime. A typical salt water disposal (SWD) operator could lose over $10,000 of revenue every day a pump is not running. Downtime in a crude transfer or gas treatment plant can lead to even greater lost daily revenue.
HOSS will continue to respond to our customers’ needs by offering a variety of fast delivery options. However, we believe an informed customer is a happy customer. Honesty and integrity require candor and full disclosure. While we could make more money by forcing customers to buy fully standard stock units, we believe customized horizontal pump systems are usually a better solution.
Horizontal pumping systems are not governed by API or ANSI classifications (such as API 610). Manufacturers have been completely free to develop their own system designs, without being forced to follow any industry guidelines. This has resulted in true innovation, as evidenced by our HOSS thrust chamber design, but can have consequences when servicing installed equipment. There are many different pump hydraulic designs and a wide variety of dimensional standards offered by the various manufacturers. Certain manufacturers have even produced multiple generations of design standards and product lines during their history. Bolt patterns, shaft sizes, and even rotation direction commonly vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Some horizontal pump providers use this lack of standardization to convince customers that the only feasible option is contact the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) when servicing or buying replacement parts for installed units. This approach is not in the best interest of the end user however, especially with the poor service level and long delivery times that are common in the market today.
HOSS believes that retrofitting and upgrading existing horizontal pump systems can be done economically while also increasing reliability. We have worked with many customers that have stopped recurring failures by working with our team of engineers to fully diagnose root cause and upgrade their pump system to permanently mitigate failure modes. Examples have included changing metallurgy, upgrading pump or motor bearings, and adjusting the hydraulic design point. Root cause failure analysis is a structured process that requires careful collection of evidence, a thorough review of operational history, and technical competence. We take this process seriously at HOSS and are passionate about permanently fixing problems through engineering analysis.
Retrofits usually fall into three primary categories: pump replacement, thrust chamber retrofit, and motor replacement.
Pump replacement requires dimensional and hydraulic validation of the existing pump, with a detailed comparison to the new pump’s mounting dimensions and hydraulic performance. The pump needs to be able to produce similar flow and pressure, while being compatible to the existing skid and piping infrastructure. Dimensional verification is fairly straightforward. The following must be measured:
- Housing diameter
- Flange to flange length
- Bolt pattern (quantity, size, and bolt circle diameter)
- Shaft size
- Shaft spline type
- Shaft extension
Verification of hydraulic performance is done by matching the existing pump’s output to the retrofit pump’s output. Power required by the new pump is checked against the motor’s nameplate rating. Thrust generated is checked against the thrust chamber’s bearing capacity. And the performance curve is verified to ensure all possible operating points are covered by the pump within the permissible speed range.
Thrust chamber (HTC / TC) retrofits can be the most complex, but potentially offer the most performance gain. As stated in a previous blog post, cheap thrust chambers are a frequent culprit when investigating poor reliability. HOSS has standardized on a robust, patented high thrust capacity design to achieve maximum HTC longevity. It is possible on most competitor systems to eliminate low-capacity ball bearing thrust chambers by replacing them with the HOSS design (see example pictures). HOSS provides a compatible bolt-on skid mount, along with the required coupling and intake modifications to adapt existing system components to the HOSS thrust chamber system. The following information is typically gathered to prepare for a full HTC retrofit:
- Motor HP rating and frame size
- Various dimensions between the motor shaft and the skid’s first pump support
- Pump barrel manufacturer and nameplate data
- Mechanical seal type, intake pressure, and pumped fluid
- Intake size, class, and material
Past customers have reported a 4-5X improvement in mean time between failure (MTBF) by transitioning away from short-runlife ball bearing thrust chambers on their installed systems.
Motor replacements are the easiest retrofit, assuming that the skid is large enough to accommodate the chosen motor. Motors are typically replaced when increased flow or pressure require more power, or an above-NEMA frame motor fails and a replacement is not immediately available from the original motor manufacturer. The existing motor is removed and the skid’s motor plate is re-drilled for the replacement motor.
Even if a horizontal pump provider is capable of the rigorous retrofit engineering process (most are not), they must possess comprehensive manufacturing capabilities to quickly produce equipment for the retrofit. Above all, a successful retrofit also requires trained, experienced field service technicians that will be present at every service visit, from the first dimensional survey to the final commissioning. Retrofits are undoubtedly complex. However, the promise of improved pumping system performance is worth the effort.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the sad state of the horizontal pump industry and how HOSS is working to change the status quo. I also referenced what I refer to as the “race to the bottom” by our competitors. Many pump providers have focused on reducing cost, which is ultimately reflected in lower reliability. The thrust chamber is the most severely stressed component in any horizontal pumping system. This is the last place a design engineer should try to reduce cost, yet we see many configure their systems to be more competitive on bids with their lowest cost thrust chamber at the bleeding edge of the thrust rating.
To understand why a horizontal thrust chamber (HTC) is so critical to pumping system reliability, you need to understand the HTC’s critical function in pump operation. The HTC is tasked with transferring torque from the motor to the pump barrel, absorbing thrust loads generated by the pump, and securely mounting the mechanical seal that keeps pumped fluid from escaping to the environment. The HTC shaft must be rigid, minimizing deflections that can cause misalignment and seal leakage due to torsional and axial loads. The HTC bearings must be capable of handling the maximum thrust generated across the application range during the life of the pump. While this sounds simple enough, these requirements can be challenging for cheap thrust chambers.
The most common cause of thrust chamber failures, and most frequent source of horizontal pump downtime, is excessive thrust generated by a worn out pump. Horizontal pumps are ideally suited to corrosive and abrasive service, but any pump will eventually fail in severe conditions. Centrifugal pumps usually experience a gradual wearing process. Abrasion or corrosion from aggressive fluids will cause the material surfaces on internal running clearances to wear. This wearing process causes internal hydraulic forces inside the pump impellers and diffusers to change. The hydraulic force balance on the pump impellers will “shift”, as internal recirculation increases and impeller surface area changes. The resulting pump thrust from these increased hydraulic forces can be 200-300% of the original application design condition. Longevity and reliability of the pumping system depends on anticipating pump wear, and mitigating it through sufficient HTC thrust load capacity.
Designing a reliable thrust chamber is actually pretty easy. It’s not cheap, but it is easy. The proven path to reliability requires the use of a high capacity thrust bearing, eliminating the potential for metal-on-metal bearing wear, and keeping the lubricating oil cool.
HOSS has created a patented thrust chamber system that meets each of these objectives. We use a large fluid film bearing that offers three times more thrust capacity than our competitors’ standard thrust ratings. We do not use angular contact ball bearings, as these bearings are designed to fail within 18 months of full load operation (quicker when overloaded). The HOSS thrust chamber is designed for five years of continuous full load operation (longer when lightly loaded). Our fluid film bearing also eliminates the key vulnerability of all ball bearings: metal-on-metal wear. And finally, HOSS installs a lubrication cooler system on every unit. Whether the system is 25HP or 2500HP, it will have a cooler. The reason is simple. If you can maintain a stable oil temperature in all ambient temperatures, and under any load scenario, the thrust bearing is much more likely to survive worn out pumps, hot weather, frequent flow changes, and numerous other operational threats.
At HOSS, we know that downtime is the enemy. Our pumps were purchased by our customers to help them make a profit. And you can’t make a profit when the pump isn’t running. We don’t sell cheap ball bearing thrust chambers, and we haven’t designed our business model around frequent HTC replacements. The HOSS system was designed for uptime by investing in components that ensure reliability. When reliability is critical, I encourage you to choose HOSS.
At HOSS we take our promises seriously. It’s personal to us. Most of our employees have worked for other horizontal pump providers, often in an environment where personal commitments are difficult to honor even with the best of intentions. I use the word “provider” intentionally. Very few of our competitors solely focus on horizontal pumps, and most don’t manufacture the majority of their system components. By and large, the industry has become a sea of “me-too” equipment packagers.
Oilfield conglomerates relentlessly pursue “cost-out” efforts. Their management applies continuous pressure to generate ever-higher profits, often forcing horizontal pumps to compete against other oilfield businesses for capital and personnel. As you can imagine, the ESP companies that offer horizontal pumps think of these products as “portfolio fillers” that dilute their overall profit percentage. Horizontal pump product lines are then left to operate with shared resources and business processes designed for ESP sales and service (not a highly engineered project business).
At HOSS, we’ve learned from the mistakes of the past. We are an autonomous, independent company operating within the Extract Companies. We have dedicated people, customized processes, and a complete focus on the horizontal pump market. This singular mission allows us to run our business without distraction and without sacrifices. We don’t shy away from expectations of high quality, superior service, and quick deliveries. Every process, procedure, and decision is made for the exclusive benefit of horizontal pump customers.
So how do we do it? How did HOSS grow substantially in 2018, while achieving 99% on-time delivery? It comes down to execution, communication, and good project management fundamentals.
Execution and communication sound simple, but both require experienced personnel up to the task. Every member of our management team has been in the horizontal pump business for at least 10 years. We have all worked at other providers and have learned the most important lesson: how not to do things. Mistakes can be instructive, and we’ve seen them all (usually repeated over and over again). Things like matrix management, “one-size fits all” ERP systems, inadequate facilities, lack of inventory, etc. Once these systemic barriers to success are removed, communication can naturally flow between capable people. And most importantly – to the customer.
Good project management is not complicated. But it takes careful process design and open dialogue between every function. At HOSS, we’ve developed an online business system called “HD”. Every quote, every order, and every service ticket are tracked in HD. Changes are instantly visible and communicated to all employees assigned to a project or service. Every member of management, sales, service, and manufacturing attend coordination meetings twice per week to discuss progress and make decisions. New orders are reviewed as a group, with a full project scope checklist clarified and documented before proceeding. Then we execute in parallel. Components are ordered, engineering begins, new part numbers are created, and manufacturing proceeds.
At HOSS, we know from experience that simplicity is a best practice. Simple isn’t easy though. It takes discipline and self-awareness to guard against bureaucracy. Rest assured, the members of our team will continue to work together as we grow, continuously refining our business so that every promise made is a promise kept.