Condensate pumps retrofitted by Sulzer offer fourfold improvement in MTBF

Operators of offshore platforms are very focused on the reliability of their equipment. Working in such a remote location means that major repairs, if not carefully planned, can result in extended downtime and loss of production. For one platform in Malaysia, a change in output was shortly followed by an increased rate of seal failures on the condensate pumps – an issue that was effectively resolved with a Sulzer retrofit.

Offshore pump
Customer International Oil & Gas company
Location Offshore Malaysia
Industry Offshore Oil & Gas
Key Services


48 months


216 kW


2 years


9 years

The Challenge

Unexpected faults and output reduction led to dropping MTBF

An offshore platform in Malaysia started experiencing an increased rate of seal failures in its BB5 condensate pumps, following a change in output which led to reduced condensate flow rate from 93 m3/hr to 46 m3/hr. Inevitably, the MTBF dropped to around 12 months. The pump’s american OEM suggested the three pumps be replaced with new equipment, but the scale of expense and lead time was unacceptable, leading to Sulzer being approached for an alternative. A number of challenges needed to be solved:

  • Pumps operating far away from its ‘comfort zone’.
  • Excessive vibration caused the seal leaks.
  • OEM solution unacceptable in terms of cost and time.
  • Operator needed a solution that ensures production continuity with minimal lead timeand without substantial capital outlay.
  • Cartridge was due to be replaced.
  • Project was discussed and executed during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Solution

Optimized design for reliability

Pandemic conditions meant that Sulzer’s field services team were not able to 3D scan the pump on-site. The team had exercise flexibility and rely on measurements provided by the offshore operator to design and manufacture a direct replacement retrofit pump with optimized hydraulics for the revised application.

A rigorous reverse engineering process was undertaken by Sulzer’s engineers to ascertain the pump’s mechanics which involved:

  • To overcome pandemic travel restrictions and a lack of 3D scanning expertise within the customer team, dimensions had to be taken rather unconventionally. Sulzer’s experts shared a detailed format on how and which dimensions were to be taken for the pump components. Multiple video calls were arranged between the two parties to ensure that procedures were correct and also to render close advisory and support.
  • Design and engineering to develop cartridge and barrel matching dimensions with existing pump and new process requirement.
  • Supply of hydraulic upgraded cartridge suitable for new flow rate, compatible with existing barrel.
  • Supply of spare barrel to increase interchangeability.

The parts’ dimensions were also archived and served as assurance for future parts supply and availability to be delivered, on-demand by Sulzer.

The pump was rigorously tested before being shipped to the platform. The original mechanical seal design was retained after performing very well during testing. The deployment was well within the operator’s expectations:

  • Successful installation and commissioning.
  • Operator intends to upgrade two more pumps.
  • The whole project was delivered on time.

Explore our solutions

  • OEM-X Line
    Outages and downtime are costly. Even worse, rotating machinery and pumps face numerous specific challenges, many of which are hard to isolate. Choosing the right supplier is vital when you factor in high maintenance levels and running costs of critical equipment.

  • Retrofit
    Retrofitting your critical assets with the latest technology will maximize performance, minimize costs, and improve reliability.

  • Reverse engineering
    Re-engineering provides customers with an alternative for sourcing parts for their equipment. Whether looking to upgrade components, quicker deliveries, or replacing parts, re-engineering provides an opportunity to ensure your equipment keeps running at peak performance.

The Customer Benefit

Extended reliability and route to success for all condensate pumps

Compared to the alternative offered by the OEM, Sulzer’s solution provided a cost-effective and timely solution that resolved the issue with reduced MTBF. In terms of on-site installation, there was also minimal impact on site footprint as the drop-in replacement matched existing interfaces for suction, discharge and small-bore pipe work. Most critically, the pump will be operating within the optimal ‘comfort zone’ on the performance curve. In addition, there was no need to replace existing seal as the shaft was able to be customized to fit into the retrofitted pump.

The new design also has a reduced power requirement, 216 kW instead of 370 kW, a 42% reduction in power. Having been installed and commissioned, the MTBF for the new pump has been calculated at 48 months – a fourfold improvement. Following the successful implementation, the platform operator requested Sulzer to engineer two remaining pumps to ensure further improved reliability and an optimized spare parts inventory.

Summary of benefits as follows:

  • A dramatic reduction in maintenance costs due to increase in MTBF.
  • A significant saving in operating costs due to uplift in energy efficiency.
  • The return on investment was just two years.
  • The new design of pump conforms to API 610, providing a minimum of 36 months between maintenance interventions.
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