Pumps distribute fluids—either liquids or gases—through systems, either by circulating them through closed systems or by transporting them across linear systems. Liquids and gases are two of the three common phases of matter. That leaves out solids. Can pumps handle those?
Yes and no. A pump would struggle to push true solids through piping. But by mixing a solid with a liquid, you can take that solid along for the ride in what we refer to as a slurry. In this beginner’s guide to slurry pumps, we’ll explain how they work.
What’s in a Slurry?
A slurry is any suspension of solid particles within a liquid. In industrial applications, slurries transport solids such as coal, clay, sand, manure, and cement. Perhaps one of the more prominent slurries is in the oil sands industry, where sand and bitumen mix with water to form a slurry from which processors extract valuable petroleum.
How Do Slurries Behave?
Not only does this increased viscosity make slurry more difficult to pump, but the hardness of the suspended solids often proves highly abrasive to piping and a pump’s parts, calling for more frequent repair or replacement. Slurry pumps require more energy to operate than pumps working with non-slurry fluids.
How Do the Pumps Work?
A slurry pump is one variety of centrifugal pump. Centrifugal pumps work by applying rotational force to a fluid, which transforms the force into kinetic energy, setting the fluid in motion. Fluid enters the pump, and the rotating impeller blades push it through to the pump’s diffuser. Centrifugal pumps can work with a variety of fluids, but they’re the pump of choice for slurries.
Concerns With Slurries
A beginner’s guide to slurry pumps must include some of the dangers to both operators and operations. In addition to their high viscosity and abrasive nature doing damage to the pumps, slurries themselves are often toxic. Workers must exercise caution when dealing with slurries outside of their piping. Agricultural slurry in particular contains methane, bacteria, and other hazards.