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USA/ The Netherlands

Presented at
Venezuelan Gas Processors Association (AVPG)
XIV International Gas Convention
May 10-12, 2000
Caracas, Venezuela


John A. Kocur, Jr.
Manager, Compressor and Test Engineering
Trenton, NJ USA
Frits M. de Jongh
Manager, Research and Development
Hengelo, The Netherlands
Demag Delaval Turbomachinery
The phenomenon of thermal rotor instability in gas
compression equipment is explored. Differential heating
of the journal at the radial bearing locations has been
identified as the source of the instability. Theoretical
investigations have shown that fluid film bearings
inherently exhibit a non-uniform temperature differential
around the circumference of the bearing journal. This
has been confirmed with test data on an instrumented
rotor. The differential heating leads to a rotor bow. In
combination with the overhung masses of impellers or
couplings, an increase in the unbalance of the rotor
results and, correspondingly, the synchronous vibration
levels. In certain situations, the synchronous vibration
can become unbounded, i.e. unstable, and can not be
predicted using the standard rotordynamic tools.
This paper describes the thermal rotor instability
phenomenon referred to as the Morton Effect. The
experimental efforts to measure the differential heating
are described and presented.
This work was
incorporated into existing rotordynamic analysis methods
to obtain a predictive tool. The prediction is based upon
unbalance response calculations made in concert with the
experimental results from the test rig. As with classical
subsynchronous vibrations, the susceptibility of the
rotor/bearing configuration to the thermal bowing and
unbounded growth of the synchronous vibration is
Gas compression equipment has been shown to be
susceptible to this behavior due to the overhung
impellers used in pipeline service and the high
horsepower rotors used in gas boost service. Two such
examples are discussed. The first rotor is a single stage
overhung pipeline compressor. In this case, vibration
AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

problems had plagued operation since the train

commissioning. Thermal bowing was evident on the
impeller end probes as synchronous vibration levels at
maximum continuous speed increased independently of
speed. Modifications to the impeller to affect the
overhung mass were not practical. A journal sleeve was
installed to isolate the differential heating from the shaft.
A second example of a 30,000 HP gas boost compressor
is presented. The high power input into the shaft
required a large shaft end and coupling. The greater
overhung moment increased the sensitivity of the rotor
to thermal rotor instablity. The described analytical
method was used to determine the overhung moment
acceptable to the rotor/bearing configuration. In both
cases, the growth of the synchronous vibration was
Thermal or synchronous rotor instability due to
differential journal heating is not a well-known
rotordynamic phenomenon. One of the reasons of this
may be the misdiagnosis of the problem. Several more
publicized conditions, piping strain and rubbing
(Newkirk, 1926), also are connected with changes in
synchronous behavior over time. Even if thermal rotor
instability is considered as a possible cause, direct
measurement of the differential temperature in the
journal to identify the source of the vibrations may be
difficult if not impossible. In the authors opinion, this
highlights the need to develop an accurate and reliable
prediction tool to assist the designer or troubleshooter in
identifying compressors susceptible to this behavior.
It is assumed that a few percent of the newly designed
and existing rotating compression equipment are affected
by this phenomenon. The extent of the problem may
range from higher than desired synchronous levels or
vibration magnitudes deemed unsafe for operation. The
nature of the problem can be experienced as an increase
of synchronous levels over a short period of time or the
fluctuation of both the synchronous phase and
magnitude. In the worst case, the levels may increase
unbounded causing damage or outright failure of the
rotating equipment.
Theoretical investigations have indicated that rotors
supported by fluid-film bearings inherently exhibit a nonuniform temperature distribution around the bearing
journal circumference (Keogh and Morton, 1993 &
1994). The effect this had on a particular compressor
rotor was investigated at the authors company including
the development of an experimental rotor rig to measure
the temperature differential (de Jongh and Morton,
1996). This differential results in rotor bending, which in
combination with an overhung mass, can significantly
increase the unbalance and thus, synchronous rotor
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vibration. In certain circumstances, it can lead to

synchronous rotor instability.
Especially susceptible to this phenomenon is high-speed
compression equipment with relatively large overhung
moments. While the obvious candidates are overhung
compressors and expanders, drive-through compressors
and high horsepower equipment can also experience
thermal rotor instabilities. The phenomenon was also
observed on the high-speed pinion of a parallel gear box.
The type of equipment afflicted is diverse and not limited
to a particular configuration or application.
Faulkner, et al. (1997) describe a case history of a radial
inflow turbine exhibiting the described phenomenon.
The problem was recognized and resolved by changing
the bearing geometry. It was argued that the thermal
bowing would be less evident if the bearing would be
loaded to a higher eccentricity.
investigation of this hypothesis is underway at the
authors company. A special bearing test rig has been
developed to study the effect of bearing loading on the
temperature differential.
Corcoran, et al. (1997) describe an extensive case history
involving a compressor rotor with a high overhung
moment. While not recognized as such in the paper, the
authors believe that the compressor is experiencing a
thermal instability problem at the coupling end bearing.
It is interesting to see that either decreasing or
significantly increasing the coupling weight can solve the
problem. This fact is confirmed by the theory under
certain circumstances.

frequency synchronous to the rotor speed (Morton,

1994). In fact, every practical journal will execute a small
synchronous orbit due to residual unbalance that exists in
the rotor. Any journal that is synchronously orbiting in a
fluid-film bearing produces a temperature difference
across its diameter. Figure 1) shows a bearing journal,
which is rotating with a constant speed, executing a
forward circular orbit. One specific point on the journal
will always be at the outside of the orbit and will
therefore be nearest to the bearing wall. The point
opposite of it will always be furthest away from it. Due
to differences in the oil-film shearing, different heat input
will be generated for these two points resulting in a
differential temperature locally across the bearing journal.
This will result in a thermal bend. Figure 1) shows this
principle and indicates the point on the journal with the
smallest distance to the bearing wall as the hot spot,
whereas the point opposite to it is indicated as the cold
spot. The greater the size of the orbit, the larger the
differential temperature. In Figure 1), a forward circular
orbit is shown, but the same principle applies for a
backward orbit when the journal is positioned eccentric
in the bearing, although the heat input will be smaller in
this case. For an elliptical orbit, the forward and
backward thermal effects can be superimposed, since a
linear system is assumed.

Berot, et al. (1999) describe another case history of an

overhung centrifugal compressor. At a constant speed of
6536 rpm, the rotor of this compressor clearly showed
synchronous spiral vibrations. The problem was
successfully solved by reduction of the NDE bearing
This paper presents a description of the thermal rotor
instability phenomenon, the experimental verification
and calculation method developed to predict it. Two
case histories are also presented as examples of gas
compression equipment with a vibration problem caused
by differential heating in the bearing journal. Solely
addressing thermal instability as the cause solved both
vibration problems.
Phenomenon of Thermal Rotor Instability
The root cause of thermal rotor instability is a
temperature effect, which appears in all practical fluidfilm bearings. This temperature effect is the result of
differential heating of bearing journals. It is normally
assumed that a rotating bearing journal has a uniform
circumference. However this assumption does not hold
true when a journal is orbiting in its bearing with a whirl

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Figure 1) Differential Heating at Bearing Journal for

Synchronous Forward Rotor Whirl
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Figure 2) shows the instability principal for a rotor with

one overhung end. For simplicity, the concentrated
overhung mass, Mc, is located at the rotor end at a length,
l, from the bearing. If we consider for this rotor a very
small synchronous orbit vector, , at the bearing location,
a small thermal bend, , will be developed, due to
differential heating at the bearing journal, and an
unbalance vector, U, will result at the overhang. The
unbalance vector can be described as:

U = M c * l * sin ( )

Eq. 1)

This unbalance vector produces a new orbit vector at the

bearing. If the resulting orbit is smaller, the process will
But if the resulting orbit is greater, this
continuous process will grow. In that case the system is
unstable and the vibrations will continue to increase.
Since the resulting vibrations are being initiated by rotor
unbalance, the vibration frequency of the instability is
synchronous with the rotor running speed. The vibration
amplitudes of an unstable rotor can increase rapidly to
unacceptable levels because they are of the self-excited

Figure 2) Analytical Thermal Shaft Bow at Bearing

Experimental verification
In order to verify the existence of a non-uniform
temperature distribution around the bearing journal
circumference, several experiments were executed. The
first experiment in the authors company was executed in
1992. A simple test rotor as shown in Figure 3) was
manufactured and prepared for testing. The rotor was
supported by two 4-inch tilting-pad journal bearings. In
the non-drive end (NDE) bearing journal 4 calibrated
temperature sensors were installed at around 1.0 mm
below the journal surface, each sensor spaced 90. Since,
according to the theory, the temperature distribution
around the journal is sinusoidal; at least 4 temperature
sensors were required to establish the magnitude and
direction of any differential temperature vector across the

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Figure 3) Test Rotor with Measuring Equipment

For this experiment, the rotor was driven by a variable
speed electric motor in the manufacturers high-speed
balancing facility. To transfer the electrical signals from
the rotating shaft to the stationary measuring equipment a
special slipringless transmitter has been used. The
temperature sensors were electrically wired to the
transmitter in such a way that both absolute and
differential temperature of the journal could be measured.
The differential temperatures were measured with a twochannel carrier wave amplifier, each pair of temperature
sensors (spaced 180) being connected to one channel in a
half-bridge configuration.
The shaft was accurately balanced according to ISO 1940
/ G=1.0. During the run up the absolute journal
temperatures increased and when the shaft speed was kept
constant at 12,500 rpm they stabilized. Figure 4) shows a
cross section of the shaft at the center of the bearing with
the four temperature sensors indicated. The measured
temperatures for the first run up, which are nearly equal,
are given in Figure 5(a). The orbit size at the NDE
bearing was established with two vibration displacement
probes, spaced 90, and after subtraction of the slow roll
vector, only around 2 microns pk-pk was measured at this
speed. The objective of the experiment was to generate a
shaft orbit in the NDE bearing and measure the
temperature distribution around the bearing journal. To
generate a distinct shaft orbit in the bearing, an unbalance
weight was applied on the shaft at a defined location of 0.
Figure 5(b) shows the 4 measured temperatures caused by
this shaft orbit.
After removing the weight, the
temperature values shown in Figure 5(a) were reproduced
within 0.3 C.
Figure 5(c) shows the measured
temperatures of the next run up were the unbalance was
applied at the same axial location on the shaft, but now
rotated 180. As can be seen the direction of the
differential temperature was also rotated 180.

Figure 4) Test Rotor with Four Temperature Sensors at

NDE Bearing
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temperature level at the NDE bearing journal during this

process. Figure 6) shows a Bode plot of one of these
unstable test runs, whereas
Figure 7) shows the
corresponding journal differential temperatures of this run.
The test rotor was gradually increased in speed to 10,500
rpm. As can be seen in Figures 6&7(a), at this speed the
vibration level was around 8% of the bearing clearance
with an observed temperature difference across the
bearing journal of about 3C with the rotor-bearing system
being completely stable. When the rotor was accelerated
to 11,500 rpm, the system became unstable. Vibration
levels were increasing at a constant rotor speed. A phase
decrease was also observed. For this case, the vibration
vector was spiralling in the same direction as the rotation
direction. The differential temperatures measured at the
NDE journal were continuously growing. When the
vibration level reached about 30% of the bearing clearance,
the rotor speed was reduced to 10,500 rpm and held
constant. After around two minutes, the initial conditions
with respect to vibration amplitude, phase and journal
differential temperature were reached again.

Figure 6) Synchronous Shaft Vibration at the NDE


Figure 5) Sinusoidal Temperature Distribution at the

NDE Bearing - Direction and Magnitude of Maximum
Temperature Derived from the Four Temperature
After this first experiment another test rotor, with a
significant overhung weight, was instrumented with
temperature sensors. The design of this rotor is described
in de Jongh and Morton, (1994). The aim was to drive this
rotor unstable and experimentally establish the differential
AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

The above mentioned rotor behavior was obtained on a

balanced test rotor to which a small unbalance weight was
attached at the NDE overhang. This was done to force a
defined point on the NDE journal circumference to be at
the outside of the orbit, being the point of the thinnest oilfilm and so influencing the location of the hot spot.
Similar results however were obtained without an
additional unbalance weight, where the location of the hot
spot was determined by the position of the residual
unbalance of the rotor. Rotating the attached unbalance
weight over an angle of 180 resulted in a change of the
location of the hot spot of about the same angle (See
Figure 7(b)). At 11,500 rpm the experiments showed a
significant journal differential temperature proportional to
the size of the orbit.
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Figure 7) Measured at the NDE Bearing

a) Unbalance Weight @ 0
b) Unbalance Weight @ 180
Prediction of Thermal Rotor Instability
Based on the theory and the experiments described
above, a computer program has been developed in order
to predict the onset of thermal rotor instability.
Referring to Figure 8), three transfer functions Mc * l ,
IOB and T(t, ) are shown for one overhang end of the
rotor. For a practical rotor Mc * l is defined by the
overhang geometry, and IOB is the complex rotor
response between the overhang and bearing locations.
T(t,) is the complex thermal gain and is depending on
the bearing assembly and its operating conditions. The
scheme of Figure 8) starts with an initial thermal input
bend, i. The overall Gain vector, G, of the three
transfer functions is defined as the ratio of the output
bend, o, and the input bend, i. The rotor system is
unstable when the real part of the complex vector, G, is
greater than unity. Since a practical rotor usually has two
overhung ends, the program establishes this gain vector,
G, for each overhung end. When establishing the vector
for one overhung end, the influence from the other end
must also be taken into account.

Differential temperatures across a bearing journal were

measured on a rotating shaft for various configurations
of fluid-film bearings and different orbit sizes. This
experimentally obtained bearing data is implemented to
quantitatively describe the thermal effect, T(t, ). The
sequence of the program is as follows. Depending on
the overhang geometry, the program first calculates the
unbalance for unit bending at the bearing journals
respectively. Then, the rotor response at the bearing
locations, due to this unbalance, can be calculated using a
general rotor response program. This can be done for a
defined rotor speed range with small speed increments.
From the calculated rotor response, which also includes
phase information, the location of the high spot of the
shaft is established. The experimentally obtained data are
implemented here to establish the differential
temperature across the shaft. From this differential
temperature a resulting output thermal bend, o,
including its angular direction is calculated. The complex
gain vector, G, results from the ratio between the output
and the input bend.
Figure 9) shows a typical output plot of an example
analysis, which shows the real part of the gain vector G
versus rotor speed. From this figure it can be seen that
the drive end (DE) overhung end is not causing any
trouble. However, at a speed of around 10,500 rpm the
rotor in this example becomes unstable, because of the
NDE overhung end. For this rotor end the real part of
the complex gain vector, G, is exceeding unity. Above
13,800 rpm the rotor becomes stable again, due to a
phase change in the dynamic system.

Figure 9) Real Part of the Gain Vector vs. Rotor Speed

Figure 8) Schematic of the Thermal Instability

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

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Case Studies
Gas compression equipment is susceptible to thermal
rotor instability due to the overhung impellers used in
pipeline service and the high horsepower rotors used in
gas boost service. Two examples are presented to
illustrate the effectiveness of the theory in identifying an
existing field problem and completing the rotordynamic
analysis of new designs.
Both compressors were
designed to and satisfy the API 617 specifications.
Case History #1: Overhung Pipeline Compressor
The case history discussed in this section involves an
overhung compressor in pipeline service. The single
stage compressor boosts hydrocarbons to the pipeline
pressure of 76 bar. This is accomplished with a 490mm
diameter impeller rotating at 10,800 rpm, Figure 10).
Movement of 8500 ACFM of gas by the impeller requires
9000 HP. The train consists of the overhung compressor
coupled to a speed increasing gear driven by an induction
Since commissioning of the unit, high vibration on the
impeller end probes was reported. Levels in excess of 50
microns p-p were measured following the start of the
train. The vibration was chiefly synchronous in nature.
Initial reports from the field indicated a sensitivity to
unbalance thought to be caused by a critical speed in
close proximity to the operating speed. However,
examination of the dynamic behavior of the compressor
did not reveal an encroachment on the operating speed
by a rotor natural frequency. The undamped critical
speed map and mode shapes for the rotor at maximum
continuous speed (MCS) are displayed on Figures
11&12). A minimum separation margin of 20% to any
mode and greater than 50% to the impeller overhung
mode is shown on the map. As expected with this type
of machinery, the unbalance response indicated a welldamped machine insensitive to unbalance.

Several hypotheses were developed to help understand

the problem and reduce the vibration levels. These were;
1) a manufacturing defect is preventing the compressor
from operating as intended, 2) current balancing
techniques are inadequate in reducing residual unbalance
to acceptable levels and 3) a phenomenon exists that is
not predicted by the standard rotordynamic methods.
While steps could be clearly defined to address
hypotheses 1&2), the final hypothesis is troubling since it
infers that a behavior exists for this class of machines
that is not predictable at the design stage. (Note: This
compressor was designed, tested and shipped years
before the Morton or thermal rotor instability
phenomenon was understood or developed.)

Figure 10) Cross-section of the Overhung Pipeline


Figure 12) Undamped Rotor Mode Shapes at MCS

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Figure 11) Undamped Critical Speed Map

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At considerable cost to both parties, repeated attempts

were made to address points 1&2). These included the
complete disassembly of the unit in the field and
comparison of the as-built condition to the drawings.
While this blueprinting of the compressor did turn up
some out-of-tolerance dimensions, correcting these did
not alter the vibration levels or dynamic behavior of the
Upon reassembling the compressor, the cold and hot
alignment conditions were checked.
The train
movements were compared against the predicted values.
Only minor corrections were needed and did not have a
significant impact on the vibration.
Additionally, the balance procedure of the rotor was
refined. In this compressor configuration, the impeller is
hydraulically mounted on the shaft. While this eliminates
the need for heat application, it does prevent the use of
axial keys maintaining a fixed circumferential location of
the impeller with respect to the shaft. Index balancing of
the shaft and impeller was implemented to permit
arbitrary placement of the impeller on the shaft. A highspeed check balance was used to monitor the success of
the index balancing procedure. All practical efforts were
made to reduce the residual unbalance levels in the shop.
However, these efforts also failed to reduce the vibration
levels in the field.
In an effort to extend the capabilities of the
rotordynamic model and analysis, several other factors
were investigated for their impact on the analytical
predictions. The bearing support stiffness was measured
in the field and included in the analysis. Disk attachment
flexibility was considered at the impeller to shaft
mounting location. These factors, while interesting from
an academic viewpoint, did not improve the analysis.
Either their impact on the predicted behavior was small
and/or their contributions did not explain the vibration
This signature can be seen on Figures 13-15). Figure 13)
displays a typical Bode plot of two successive starts of
the compressor. The impeller end B probe is plotted. A
large hysteresis is evident between the runup (lower
curve) and shutdown vibration levels. Both curves are
repeatable as seen for the two starts plotted. Figures
14&15) plot the trend data of one start. Notice that
maximum speed is reached in seconds. However, the
vibration level continues to change over the next several
minutes with the compressor in recycle and no significant
changes to the operating conditions.

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Figure 13) Bode Plot of Successive Starts of the Pipeline

Years later, this behavior was associated with the thermal
rotor instability described previously in this paper. With
the development of the prediction tool for the thermal
rotor instability, the pipeline compressor was reanalyzed
for its sensitivity to this factor. Figure 16) plots the gain
vector against speed for the impeller and coupling shaft
ends. The prediction confirmed what was seen in the
field; namely that the impeller end of the overhung
compressor is susceptible to this instability at speeds
greater than 10,000 rpm. At the maximum operating
speed of 10,800 rpm, the gain vector or thermal index is
1.15 or barely in the unstable region. This may explain
the quasi-stable behavior of the rotor with the vibration
rising above 75 microns but reaching a steady state level
7 minutes after the start.

Pgina 8


the fluid-film bearing. However, it was argued that the

heating effects could be isolated from the shaft by
installing a heat barrier sleeve. A typical design of the
sleeve is shown on Figure 17). The air gap between the
sleeve and shaft under the radial bearing acts as the heat
insulator which greatly reduces the differential heating of
the shaft.
Figures 18&19) illustrate the typical
temperature distribution in the shaft with and without
the sleeve. Since analytical predictions indicated that the
sleeve could greatly reduce the effects of the oil-film
heating, the decision to install the sleeve was made. To
alleviate concerns of sleeve slippage under the radial
bearing, thermal and stress finite element studies of the
sleeve were made. The sleeve was designed to remain in
contact with the shaft under the most severe temperature
conditions expected during operation. Stress levels were
kept below high cycle fatigue limits to ensure infinite
operating life of the sleeve. A patent of the heat barrier
sleeve has been applied for by the authors company.

Figure 14) Speed vs. Time for One Start

Impeller End

Coupling End

Figure 16) Real Part of the Gain Vector for the Pipeline

Figure 15) Synchronous Vibration vs. Time for One

The root cause of the problem, as described in the
previous sections of this paper, is the differential heating
of the shaft at the impeller end journal location due to
the oil-film shearing. The differential heating can not be
eliminated since it is inherent to the journal behavior in
AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Great care was taken during the manufacturing and

assembly of the sleeve on the shaft.
dimensional checks were made to ensure that the sleeve
was within the design tolerances. The shaft runout was
also monitored to make certain that the addition of the
sleeve to the shaft did not significantly alter the
concentricity of the journal to the impeller fit.

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The identical assembly and balancing procedures were

followed to isolate the changes to the addition of the
sleeve only. The rotor assembly with the sleeve was
installed in the compressor train for its only test in the
field under normal operating conditions. Figure 20)
presents the plot of the compressor start for the impeller
end B probe. During the several minutes following the
start, the transient vibration rise was basically eliminated
with the sleeve. Vibration levels remained below 25
microns even during loading of the compressor 20
minutes later. To date, over 25,000 hours of operation
have been logged without a vibration-related incident or
trip. Levels have remained below 25 microns, well within
the customer specifications.
Figure 17) Typical Shaft Barrier Sleeve

Figure 18) Typical Temperature Distribution Across


Figure 20) Synchronous Vibration vs. Time with Barrier

Sleeve Installed

Figure 19) Typical Temperature Distribution Across

Journal with Barrier

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Case History #2: Gas Boost Compressor

The second case history involves a 30,000 HP gas boost
compressor intended for offshore operation.
discharge pressure of 186 bar is reached at the MCS of
12,700 rpm. Five 400mm diameter impellers were
needed to boost the natural gas from the 65.5 bar suction
pressure with a gas turbine drive. The high power input
to the shaft required a large shaft end coupling and,
accordingly, a greater overhang to accommodate the
increased size. Figure 21) presents a cross-section of the
compressor assembly. The greater overhung moment at
the coupling end is evident from the picture.

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Coupling End

Thrust End

Figure 21) Cross-section of Gas Boost Compressor

Following the development of the thermal rotor
instability theory and its successful application in
identifying susceptible rotors, the analytical method was
added as part of the standard rotordynamic
calculations. This included an undamped critical speed
analysis, an unbalance response calculation and a study of
the sensitivity to aerodynamic and seal destabilizing
forces. These studies are performed during the initial
design stage of the compressor rotor/bearing system to
determine its dynamic behavior and acceptability to the
job specifications both internal and external.
The thermal rotor stability of the gas boost compressor
was calculated using the procedure previously described.
A plot of the real and imaginary components of the gain
vector for the gas boost compressor is shown on Figure
22). In this view, the unstable region is shown as the
crosshatched area. The coupling end of the compressor
was predicted to go unstable near the MCS and reached a
value of the real component of 1.3 at trip speed. At this
point, the gas turbine supplier, the coupling purchaser,
was informed that the coupling overhung weight was too
high. Discussions with the coupling vendor did not
result in sufficient reductions in weight and an alternate
vendor was not available. With the lack of options
available, an engineering decision was made to proceed
with the coupling and rotor design in its original form.
The decision was based on the thermal index of rotors
currently operating in the field. Several were identified
with real parts of the index exceeding 1.3 at MCS. While
these compressors did not possess a configuration similar
to the gas boost compressor under review and with the
perceived lack of alternatives, it was felt they represented
a sufficient database to proceed with the design. (An
error in judgement in both cases as it turned out.)

AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.

Figure 22) Complex Gain Vector for the Gas Boost

The gas boost compressor proceeded to the test floor to
undergo an API mechanical test. At MCS, proximity
probe readings were below the API limit of 25 microns at
both ends of the compressor. However, during the
excursion to trip speed at 13,300 rpm, high vibration was
noted on the coupling end of the rotor. Vibration
remained below 25 microns until trip speed was reached.
Once there the vibration grew over a several minute time
span to 50 microns.
Figure 23) is the Bode plot of the coupling end X probe.
Immediate identification of the problem as thermal rotor
instability was made upon review of the vibration plot.
The classical hysteresis loop in the synchronous vibration
is evident in both the amplitude and phase angle.
Unfortunately, the shop test verified the analytical
prediction that the rotor was sensitive to this
phenomenon at trip speed.
Methods to reduce the sensitivity of the compressor to
thermal instability with minimal impact to the project
were investigated. While Demag Delaval had successfully
designed heat barrier sleeves for several rotors at this
point, sleeves were not possible due to the high power
input to the shaft. In order to transmit the power, a large
coupling and shaft end was required. This shaft diameter
at the coupling was also selected for the size of the radial
bearing. This proved to be the largest practical size of
the radial bearing for this application keeping losses and
heat production to a minimum. However, the lack of a
diameter change between the radial bearing and coupling
did not permit the installation of a sleeve that maintained
the radial bearing size. Oversized bearing and new
housings would be required which would severely impact
the schedule of the project.
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rotor behavior with the original coupling at MCS was

found to be stable during the mechanical test, this was
identified as the stability threshold. The study of the
Mod A coupling did not predict both MCS and trip
would be on the left side on the threshold. Of the
coupling configuration options, only the reduced
moment and coupling from the alternate vendor were
predicted to be stable at both MCS and trip speed.
However, due to the modifications required to the
bearing housing and oil guard, the reduced moment
coupling was rejected as having too great an impact on
the project schedule.


Trip Speed
Observed Stable Point

Figure 23) Coupling End Synchronous Vibration on

Test Stand
Bearing clearance changes have also been used by Demag
Delaval to reduce the thermal instability of compressor
rotors. In its current rotor/bearing configuration, the gas
boost compressor had satisfactory safety margin for
critical speed separation and dynamic stability of the first
lateral mode. Modifications to the bearing clearance
needed to improve the thermal rotor stability were found
to erode these safety margins to unsatisfactory levels.
A significant factor in determining the thermal rotor
stability of the gas boost rotor is the overhung mass of
the coupling. With the failure of the mechanical test,
more urgent discussions were held with the coupling
manufacturer and an alternate supplier was sought.
From these discussions, several new options were
uncovered. The original coupling (Original) had an
overhung moment from the radial bearing centerline of
5415 kg-mm. Early on in the design process, the
manufacturer proposed a modification of the original
coupling (Mod A). This reduced the overhung moment
to 4954 kg-mm or an 8.5% reduction. The manufacturer
also proposed a reduced moment coupling (Mod C)
which reduced the overhung moment by 29% to 3860
kg-mm. Finally, an alternate selection (Mod B) from a
different vendor was obtained that reduced the overhung
moment by 22% to 4205 kg-mm. A moment of 3975
kg-mm (Hypothetical) was required by the thermal
analysis calculations to meet the internal design
requirements of a thermal index of 0.75 at the MCS.

Imaginary Part of Gain



Stability Boundary




Observed Unstable Point

Mod C


Mod A


Mod B










Figure 24) Predicted Gain Vector of Various Coupling

To minimize the impact of the lead-time necessary for
delivery of a new coupling, a test coupling was modified
to mimic the overhung mass. This permitted the testing
to be carried out with minimal delays. The new coupling
would be delivered in time for the string testing with the
gas turbine. Figure 25) plots the vibration from
minimum to trip speed for the coupling end X-probe.
There is no sign of hysteresis or transient vibration. The
synchronous levels are now stable through trip speed at
levels below 12.5 microns.

The thermal rotor instability for each rotor/coupling

configuration was calculated at MCS and trip speed.
Figure 24) presents the results of this study. Since the
AVPG, XIV Convencin de Gas, Caracas, Mayo 10 al 12, 2000.


Real Part of Gain

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American Petroleum Institute Standard, 1979,
Centrifugal Compressors for Refinery Service, API
617, Fifth Edition.
Berot, F. and Dourlens, H., 1999, On Instability of
Overhung Centrifugal Compressors, International Gas
Turbine & Aeroengine Congress, Indianapolis, Indiana.
ASME 99-GT-202.
Corcoran, J.P., Rea H., Cornejo, G.A. and Leonhard,
M.L., 1997, Discovering the Hard Way, How a High
Performance Coupling Influenced the Critical Speeds and
the Bearing Loading of an Overhung Radial Compressor
A Case History, Proceedings of the 26th
Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station,
Texas, pp. 67-78.

Figure 25) Synchronous Coupling End Vibration

with Reduced Coupling Overhung Moment
This paper described the thermal rotor instability
phenomenon commonly referred to as the Morton
Effect. Differential heating of the bearing journals was
found to be the root cause of the unstable synchronous
vibration behavior. Even for small orbits of the shaft, a
significant temperature difference across the bearing
journal was measured in the test rig. As a largely
unexplored source of a significant number of vibration
problems, the approach developed in this paper will
bring a better understanding of the rotordynamic
behavior of gas compression equipment. Where such
problems have occurred in the industry, they have often
been resolved pragmatically by changing the overhung
mass or altering the bearing geometry. A comprehensive
program of theoretical and experimental research was
carried out to develop a design method to minimize the
thermal rotor instability in gas compression equipment.
Further efforts will examine the effect of bearing loading
and optimization of the heat barrier sleeve.

de Jongh, F.M. and Morton, P.G., 1996, The

Synchronous Instability of a Compressor Rotor due to
Bearing Journal Differential Heating, ASME
Transactions, Journal of Engineering for Gas Turbines
and Power, Vol. 118, pp. 816-824.
De Jongh, F.M. and Van der Hoeven, P., 1998,
Application of a Heat Barrier Sleeve to Prevent
Synchronous Rotor Instability, Proceedings of the 27th
Laboratory, Texas A&M University, College Station,
Texas, pp. 17-26.
Faulkner, H.B., Strong, W.F. and Kirk, R.G., 1997,
Thermally Induced Synchronous Instability of a Radial
Inflow Overhung Turbine PART II, Proceedings of the
ASME Design Engineering Technical Conference,
Sacramento, California.
Keogh, P.S. and Morton, P.G., 1993, Journal Bearing
Differential Heating Evaluation with Influence on
Rotordynamic Behavior, Proceedings of the Royal Society,
London, England, A441, pp. 527-548.
Keogh, P.S. and Morton, P.G., 1994, The Dynamic
Nature of Rotor Thermal Bending Due to Unstable
Lubricant Shearing Within a Bearing, Proceedings of the
Royal Society, London, England, A445, pp. 273-290.
Morton, P.G., 1994, Recent Advances in the Study of
Oil Lubricated Journal Bearings, Proceedings of the Fourth
International Conference on Rotordynamics, IFFToMM,
Chicago, Illinois, pp. 299-305.
Newkirk, B.L., 1926, Shaft Rubbing, Mechanical
Engineering, No. 48, pp. 830-832.

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= Gain vector

= Influence coefficient


= Concentrated overhung mass

= Journal radius

= Thermal gain

= Unbalance vector

= Distance between journal and bearing wall

= Overhang length

= Time

= Velocity

= Orbit vector

= Phase angle

= Change in shaft slope at bearing journal

= Rotational speed


= input

= output

= Overhang position

= Bearing position

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