The pumps sub-industry continues to evolve, and whether it may be the recent push for energy-efficient solutions or the integration and acceptance of IoT-powered controls, it’s time to ascertain what drives the pumps market.
Hari Prasad, Project Manager, KSB Middle East, estimates the worth of the pump’s sub-industry in the MENA region to be approximately USD 10 million. He says, “Every year, there is a five per cent increase in the worth of the pumps sub-industry.”
Sharing a similar opinion is Ronak Monga, Business Development Manager, Grundfos Middle East, who asserts that the development in infrastructure and rise in population have been major contributing factors to the growth of the sub-industry. Ronnel Olarte, Senior Engineer, Business Development, Ebara Pumps Middle East, echoes Monga, and points to the willingness by the UAE government to continually invest in infrastructure, as one of the key factors contributing to the growth of the sub-industry. “The pumps manufacturing business is a challenging one, and manufacturers are under constant pressure to come up with a new and better product,” Olarte says.
Echoing Olarte is Pietro Moro, Sales Director, Building Services and Industry, Xylem Pumps. He believes that the industry continues to grow by 3-5% per year; however, he insists that there is a need to look at pumps used in cooling towers from a systems perspective, rather than from a product perspective. Today, there is a push for District Cooling, which is in itself a step towards the energy-efficiency goal, Prasad says. However, he adds that the performance of a pump depends on the quality of maintenance and the kind of building to which it caters.
An emerging demand for energy-efficient solutions
Energy efficiency is always a point of discussion in the pumps industry, says Moro and today, clients ask for pumps that are energy efficient. However, pointing to the need for a ‘sustainable solution,’ as a recent trend, he says, “Often, energy demand is not a constant, and the consumption of energy is relative to the season and the usage profile of the pump.” Echoing Moro is Olarte, who says, “To be specific on the kind of pumps clients are generally looking for; it is the pump with the IE3 motor, the latest in energy efficiency.” Referring to the demand for an energy-efficient solution as just the tip of the iceberg, Monga stresses the need to look deeper. “In terms of new projects, the challenge begins with the contractor, who tends to focus on minimising the initial cost,” he says. He highlights that contractors today have no reason to step up and opt for an energy-efficient solution.
To them, it’s all about the budget and profit margins, Monga adds. Large-scale developers, on the other hand, he says, seem to be more attuned to energy efficiency and ensure that they get an energy-efficient solution, irrespective of the cost.
While highlighting another trend, Monga pointed to the improvement in metallurgy as an important development in the pumps and energy efficiency space. Today, stainless steel materials are used in pumps. This is a superior metal and works against corrosion, he says. “Initially, impellers used in pumps were made of bronze, but today, manufacturers use stainless steel, as this not only increases the lifespan of the product but also lowers maintenance cost. In addition to the development of metallurgy, Prasad points to a trend and says that clients are aware that low-quality equipment can lead to rusting, and, hence, tend to ask for pumps with high-quality castings. “Clients even consider using sea water or treated water for cooling in pumps and this requires good quality duplex or super duplex pumps,” Prasad says. However, Monga highlights that it is often difficult to analyse the amount of energy saved, just by the casting or coatings in pumps. He says: “One of the most common castings is made of sand, which mixes with the molten metal. The main parameters to keep in check here are the flow, head and the energy consumed by the pump; however, calculating energy efficiency in such a scenario can get complicated.”
‘Design influences efficiency’
Drawing parallels between faulty designs in the past, which has led to the increasing demand for retrofit projects on pumps used in cooling towers, Rajesh Kumar Sunkarineni, Product Manager, Controls Monitoring, Grundfos Middle East, says, “During the years 2005-2010, buildings sprouted from the ground and were completed in a hurry under tight schedules.” It was here, he says, that pumps were not designed as per demand and, hence, even today, operate in an inefficient manner.
Reiterating Sunkarineni and giving an example, Kevin Laidler, Sales Director, Middle East and Africa, Armstrong Fluid Technology, points to an existing challenge and says: “Today, 50% of the time, pumps are either over-designed or are a misfit for the building requirement.” For instance, he adds, if a building requires a 300-tonne cooling system, there is a 600-tonne pump installed. The consensus of energy being cheap and its irresponsible usage, he says, is a matter that is not being given due attention. “There has to be awareness and a willingness to change. If the cost of energy goes up, then automatically people will retrofit for energy efficiency,” Laidler says. Adding, Olarte points to how new pumps can be designed to operate on demand. He says: “3D Inverse Design technology can be used to optimise the efficiency level of the pump. The technology calculates the geometry of the hydraulics in a pump and designs it to operate as per requirement.”
Other factors influencing efficiency in pumps
In addition to the design aspect of pumping systems used in cooling towers, Moro points to the inaccurate evaluation of pumps as an everyday problem. He says, “Safety factors are generally embedded in the pumps and very often, the over-running of the pump’s motor is a common sight.”
Making the call for education, he says that a customer must safeguard the system and take the necessary steps to be able to change loads at any point in time, during the day. He says, “There is a need for the market to use controllers that integrate with the Building Management System (BMS).”
In addition to the inaccurate evaluation, Monga points to cavitation as something that must be avoided in pumps and its application in cooling towers. “Every pump needs a certain pressure, and if the pressure is less than required, there is a vacuum created, causing damage to the pump, which then results in vibration.” Moro says, in such a scenario, the first step is to propose the right system size for the pump, which makes monitoring and the working of the pump smooth. He says, “There is a need to take strategic steps and look for more efficient District Cooling solutions in order to keep the focus on energy efficiency.” With regard to standards for pumps, Prasad points to ISO 10816-7, the latest European standard, which he says, is applicable to centrifugal pumps and is a standard that must be adhered to.
Acceptance of IoT-powered smart controls in pumping systems
“IoT is a word being used for the past four to five years and was implemented in the pumping space 10 years ago,” Sunkarineni says. Today, he says, there are web-based monitoring systems, which connect the pump to the Internet, allowing the end-user to access the account, while tracking energy-use from a standard web browser. “Today, there are a number of algorithms that help in the predictive analysis and help carry out predictive maintenance, while cutting on the downtime of the pumping system,” Sunkarineni says. However, he says that there are challenges. “Today, the acceptance of IoT-driven controls is low and the market is just curious about energy efficiency,” he says. He adds that the main stakeholder is the client, who must understand the benefit smart controls can bring to a pumping system.
Highlighting a challenge with regard to pumps and smart controls, Sunkarineni says: “Unlike Europe and America, in the Middle East, pumps and its control systems are sourced separately from different manufacturers.” This, he says, poses a problem, when it comes to compatibility. “The problem is that the control is usually sourced from a local panel builder, who is not even trained on how pumps in cooling towers operate. How will he know how to calibrate the pump to make it operate on the required load and on demand?” Sunkarineni asks. Each pump, he adds, has an operating characteristic and is tested at the factory. If the control system and the pump do not match and are not compatible, it leads to vibration and system surges. He adds that if an installation has not been done right, the manufacturer must take the onus and the ultimate choice must be made by the end-user.