Turbomachines with large & heavy rotors have journal bearings that utilize thin hydrodynamic oil film to maintain a gap between the shaft & bearings. They are fed with a continuous supply of lube oil at a high rate to maintain the oil film and remove the heat generated. The shaft imparts high rotational velocities to the oil as it passes through the bearing. Due to high kinetic energy of oil leaving the bearing, gravity drained bearing housings generally have a big sump near the bottom dead center to collect and reduce the kinetic energy of the oil. This facilitates smooth drain of oil back to the oil tank. The use of gravity to facilitate the draining results in a simple and cost-effective bearing system. The size of sump is determined by the oil flow rate in the bearing housing which itself is a function of rotor load, speed & temperature. In absence of this oil sump (in applications where there is little or no room for a large bearing housing) the swirling oil in the bearing housing doesn’t get enough time to slow down. The rapidly swirling oil therefore fails to drain into the drainpipe(s), and eventually floods the housing and leaks out through the shaft seals. The failure to drain can be attributed to multiple reasons like air pressure fluctuation, oil vortex formation, oil frothing, etc.
This paper focusses on the design of a journal bearing for gas turbines without an oil sump due to design space restrictions. The flow fields in the bearing are chaotic and difficult to analytically predict without experimental validation. Therefore, a bearing rig was constructed, and multiple tests were conducted to understand the flow characteristics inside the bearing housing. Based on the understanding of the flow characteristics, design modifications were made and validated to enable the design of a sumpless gravity drained bearing housing. This paper discusses the methodology and findings from these rig tests which led to the design solutions that solved the issue of draining the high energy oil back to the oil tank without the need of having a traditional oil sump.