In 1996, I started my graduation with Skanska1 in Sweden. They had a project to clean up a lake2 with an auger dredge. The auger was not performing and they asked the Delft University of Technology to investigate the problem and write a report with my solution. Off, I went to Växjö and spent a year on a dredge. During my reconnaissance of the project in the first week, I noticed that the flow in the pipe line was very slow and the motor was hardly working at full speed. As an innocent student, I asked where they were pumping the material to. ‘Oh, through 7 kilometre of pipe and 30 meter up into the hills.’ They were lucky it was such a fluid material and did not settle at such a low velocity. I then proposed they should buy a booster station to increase production3, as I could not see anything wrong with the auger. ‘No, no. It has to be the auger and the engine is strong enough; you see, there is no power required.’
That was the first time I saw the slow flow fallacy at work. Intuitively you would expect, that a long pipeline would require more power to transport the mixture than a short pipe line. This is exactly what this exhibit is trying to visualise. Water can be pumped through either the short or long pipe. From the lines on the tank wall, you can read that the output velocity of the fluid is about 1.5 m/s. In the vertical pipe, the delivery pressure is indicated. Multiplying pipe velocity and fluid pressure results in the actual power in the pipe line. The pump has to provide this power, by converting electrical power to mechanical power and eventually fluid power. On the display at the left of the buttons, the consumed electrical power can be read.
When you select the short pipe line, you have to notice the higher flow velocity and the required power at the display. Switching over to the longer pipeline, you will notice a drop in velocity. Due to the longer pipe, the fluid experiences more resistance. For the same pressure, the flow will be lower. Consequently, the power consumption will be lower also! This is exactly according to the theory. A pump at a lower capacity will consume less power, even if the pressure rises slightly.
Off course, the delivered mixture will be less, on the longer line. You might increase the speed of the pump to have more pressure. And indeed, that would require more power. But there is a maximum speed on the pump drive. Same for a very short pipe. You might end up below the idle speed of the diesel engine. Be careful in your project layout that you do take into account this viable operating range for the length of the pipe line. A longer pipeline might require a booster station for increased production. Conversely, a shorter pipe line might be chosen with a smaller diameter for increased resistance and lower power consumption, while keeping the operating point of the dredge pump near the Best Efficiency Point.
And the Swedish dredge on 7 km of pipeline? It turned out, it was not a technical problem. They had no hurry. The contractor was hired per week on an open contract…