The Root Cause of a Plant Fire: Bearing Defects and Pump Cavitation




Abstract: A fire occurred at a lubricant mixing plant, originating in a centrifugal pump. As with any situation involving the potential for loss of life, understanding the cause of the incident and preventing future occurrences is of the utmost importance. To ensure that the correct root cause was identified, a multidisciplinary analysis of the incident was employed. Examination of the debris showed that the fire originated when the pump impeller came into contact with the pump front casing. Mechanical analysis of the pump operation revealed that at times the pump was operated in the cavitation regime. Metallurgical analysis of the debris revealed cavitation of the pump front casing and rolling contact fatigue of the pump bearings that was exacerbated by the presence of aluminum oxides in the bearing steel. The combination of bearing fatigue and the high loads caused by the off-design operation of the pump ultimately led to the fire.

Authors: Michael Hoerner, Linda Robinson, Pooja Sheth, and Farzam Mortazavi

Keywords: Root Cause, Failure, Rolling Contact Fatigue, Bearing, Pump, Cavitation

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Page Count

8 pages


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