Rent to Solve Pumping Problems
EP Editorial Staff | March 1, 2021
Acquiring pump systems for short-term or emergency needs requires a multi-faceted rental partner.
By Colin Linn, United Rentals
Industrial plants rely on pumps and fluid-solution systems for regular ongoing requirements—moving product in and out of units and tanks, moving cooling-tower water, operating wastewater systems, regular dewatering applications, and import/export of product to and from a facility. These pumping needs are fairly consistent and plant owners and operators typically operate owned equipment for such requirements.
There are instances in which it makes sense to rent a pump or pumping system, particularly for temporary or unexpected situations. Often these types of applications require pumps of different sizes, casing materials, and flow and pressure ratings. Also, in these situations, time/urgency typically play a major role. It’s rare that using capital funds to purchase a temporary pump or fluid-solutions system makes sense because the equipment will sit idle for the foreseeable future once the issue is resolved.
For instance, a plant may have a scheduled storage-tank maintenance event, which usually involves a pressurized hydro blast and possibly a hydro test once the maintenance is completed. This type of work requires specialty high-pressure pumps for the hydro blast and then standard run-of-the mill pumps to fill and empty the tank for the hydro test. Both pump types are essential to the procedure but may sit idle after the maintenance is completed.
The same can be said for a turnaround or shutdown, especially one that involves flushing pipes or systems. In this case, a pump need could be any of a wide range of flow and pressure requirements. Since these projects usually only last four-to-six weeks, renting the unit(s) that meet the plant’s exact requirements often makes the most sense.
Another situation where renting is a good option is critical-equipment failure, such as a cooling tower or clarifier. In these cases, a solution usually requires a number of pumps, along with pipe, hose, and fittings, all of which have to be carefully specified to the need. These outages often happen without warning, so having access to a strategic supplier with local inventories of these systems can be beneficial.
Pump and fluid solution needs often affect multiple departments. To be effective, an equipment-rental provider needs to understand the range of roles and the different needs associated with these roles. The rental provider must be able to effectively perform a jobsite planning walk, engineer a system, and provide a very detailed proposal to stakeholders. Plant teams that need these types of systems typically include:
• turnaround managers and planners who typically require a variety of pumps and related equipment for flushing and material transport
• maintenance managers and planners who must manage scheduled and unscheduled maintenance events
• environmental-management staff charged with managing runoff water, weather events such as flooding and hurricanes, contamination events, and any fluid-transport needs that result.
• wastewater-management personnel who often need surge pumps, process pumps, and/or temporary clarifiers.
• storage-tank managers who often need to hydro blast tanks and move water in and out for hydro testing.
When it comes time to evaluate equipment-rental resources, the first step is to identify a company that has a safety culture and team specifically trained to perform work in an industrial plant. Second, the team should have demonstrable expertise with people who understand plant needs and how to properly design, plan, and install a fluid-solutions system. Third, the rental provider should have an appropriate and locally available inventory
Items to look for in a robust inventory of pumps and related products include:
• diesel or electric vacuum-assisted trash pumps (with or without a silent housing), that are commonly needed to move fluids with or without solids
• diesel or electric high-head, high-pressure, high-flow pumps, that are useful for applications that require specialized pressures and/or flows such as hydro blasting, long pumping runs, or pumping into a pressurized system
• diesel or electric stainless-steel pumps used for corrosive materials
• sludge-master pumps designed to move thick sludge
• wellpoint pumps used to lower the water table and remove ground water when performing construction work
• air-operated diaphragm pumps used to move volatile products or when air is the only available energy source.
• electric or hydraulic submersible pumps, which are compact pumps useful for moving fluids from hard-to-access areas.
Another common requirement is fluid storage and/or filtration. For example, during a routine turnaround equipment flush, a team may need to mix cleaning product with water in a large tank before pumping. As a follow-up operation, the personnel may also need a particulate-filtration system to remove solids from the flush-water stream. A rental provider should be able to supply the specialty tanks and filtration equipment required to meet these needs.
A robust equipment rental portfolio can also reduce the number of vendors needed which, in turn, means fewer contracts to manage, fewer purchase orders to issue or track, and the ability to leverage spend. Rental providers can also provide cost-saving tools and technology such as online equipment tracking and reporting. In addition, look for rental equipment fitted with telematics and GPS that work with cloud-based fleet-management software to track and manage equipment location and use rates. This capability can often have an enormous impact on overall cost.
To achieve success, a pumping system will often need to meet specific parameters. It is important that the rental provider have an engineering team ready to assist with the most challenging of projects. In addition to a specifically engineered system, projects may have needs such as failsafe redundancy and backup pumps that are automatically activated or remote monitoring and alerting systems to regularly communicate the status of equipment and systems.
As required, the equipment rental provider should be able to provide project managers and trained labor to deliver and install a pumping system. This could involve placing equipment on site as planned; connecting pipes, hoses, valves, and manifolds; welding HDPE pipes and fittings; and testing the system prior to use. While the system is in use, the rental company should also be able to provide a crew to manage the system for the duration of the job.
From single-pump rentals to custom-designed high-flow or pressurized fluid-transfer systems, an equipment rental provider should be able to specify and install the correct solution for a situation. In addition, that solution needs to be backed by a team that is trained to execute in a plant environment, helping to ensure the job gets done in a safe and efficient manner, on time and on budget.
Colin Linn is Region Product Development Manager, National Accounts at United Rentals Co., Stamford, CT (unitedrentals.com). He has 24 years of experience providing equipment-rental solutions.