During the last 20 years of my career, my main focus was on the refining and chemical industries. As I approached retirement last year, I was allowed to make some comments for Pump and Systems related to the problem facing those industries as it relates to the availability of “replacement parts” for pumps that have moved into the age range of 40 plus years; namely, we have a nationwide infrastructure problem if we do not find ways to extend the lives of hundreds of thousands of pumps by having parts availability.
After a brief retirement, I was fortunate enough to find another role to play in the same capacity but more so in the utility industry for both fossil and nuclear power plants. I was actually not surprised to find the same problem; pumps are getting so aged that parts are no longer available. If you give this a little thought you will probably come to the same alarming opinion…..we have a problem that is nationwide and is not industry specific.
Just today I visited with a utility company executive who confirmed that this is a problem that is already large and one that will grow AND that thus far there are few initiatives to address the problem. Most people say that when the pump ends its useful life, it will simply be replaced. This ignores the additional and often very considerable capital cost involved in replacing the pump beyond the cost of the pump itself; such as motors, piping, foundations, interruption in service, etc.
The purpose of my comments is to bring light to this problem and to answer a few simple questions:
Who is responsible for addressing the problem? While many will say this is the fault of the OEM and that they should address it, that is simply not correct. The OEM originally sold the pump noting a useful life of 20-25 years. Many pumps are decades older than that. The companies that originally bought the pumps have enjoyed service well beyond the original estimated useful life of the pumps. Our company recently rebuilt a pump that was 82-years old. The owner of that pump should look back on the purchase of that pump as a real bargain. The current owners of these older pumps should accept responsibility for addressing this problem.