When summer turns to fall, it’ll be time to check out our Western methanol pumps in your oil and gas production fields.
Inevitably, those little pumps get dried up from lack of use over the summer. That said, September and October is generally the time to get them functioning and get those methanol tanks filled—not when it suddenly goes from 80 degrees to 10 degrees, as it does here in Oklahoma.
Believe me, I have spent my fair share of hours laying on the snow-covered Oklahoma prairie in 40 MPH winds tinkering with either a Western methanol pump or the regulators that feed pressure to them! Those regulators go out when you least expect them to.
I have found in my pumping career that the easiest thing to do is simply to take those pumps out of the weather for the summer. They are easily reconnected to a gas supply in the fall, and you’re keeping the fittings and screens from getting filled with fine dust and keeping the rubber gaskets that help the pump hold pressure from drying out.
But if you tend to be one of those pumpers (like me and about 90 percent of pump users) who just shut off the methanol to the pump and let it sit all summer, you will likely need to check the pumps out before putting the gas to them and expecting them to work.
The Western is a reliable diaphragm type pump, but it is gas operated. With a ceramic ball and seat these old pumps a pretty much bullet-proof, but if your supply gas is wet, and you are not using a dryer at the source you can have trouble with them. Some operators are getting away from gas driven pumps nowadays because they vent to atmosphere, and it will just be a matter of time before this is a cost prohibitive option with regulations (DEQ, etc.) coming down the pipe (pun intended).
However, until then, here is a checklist to make sure your Western pumps are in order for the winter:
1. If the pump is still hooked into the methanol lines:
- take the fitting off of the pump
- ensure that all valves are turned on
- Make sure that methanol is running through your copper tubing to the pump.
2. Replace the fitting onto the pump inlet and then crack open the gas line valve that feeds pressure to your pump. This line should be running through a small regulator (probably a Meco or Fisher regulator) and then into the pump.
3. Don’t be worried if you turn on the gas and the pump doesn’t take off right away. There is a petcock on the top of the pump that regulates the speed and delivery of the chemical. A simple jiggle back and forth of that petcock can start the pump again.
4. If there is still no pumping sound, loosen the gas fitting and make sure you have gas to the inlet. Sometimes there are tiny inline regulators on the supply gas outlet (from the casing) that also get clogged over summer. The regulators are about a two-inch long, thick fitting that comes directly from the supply gas off the casing, which fits onto the copper line that goes to the Western.
If that is clear, take the fitting off the inlet to the Meco regulator. The Mecos and Fishers have tiny screens that are often just packed with rust or crud that is easily cleaned. Replace the fitting and off you will probably go.
5. If your gas supply is working and your regulators are not clogged and you still don’t get pumping action, it is likely the stem, which runs right through the middle of the Western Chemical Pump.
Most of the time, at that point, you just need to tell your company man and they can have someone work the pump over and put a kit in it. Sometimes, you may have to kit one yourself. I hate putting kits in anything, and these pumps are no different. The kits come with instructions, so my advice is just to clear about an hour and a half out of your pumping schedule to do it.
For the most part, Western Chemical Pumps (and another kind called a bean pump) are fairly straightforward. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. Set yourself some kind of reminder to drain them in the spring and put them up for the summer. They will treat you way better, and you won’t have to freeze your fingers off trying to get one to work in a blizzard!