Accelerated Lifetime Testing of Main Shaft Seals for Tidal Turbine Rotors

Miles Skinner, Scott Lambert, Robynne Murray, Jonathan Colby

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This document will briefly discuss the observations and results from an NREL conducted accelerated lifetime testing of the main shaft seal for the Verdant Power fifth generation Gen5 underwater Tidal Energy Converter (TEC) turbine, which successfully performed at the RITE project in 2020-2021. In order to evaluate a 5-year Service Interval ( SI) for this component, testing at NREL operated the main shaft seal nearly continuously for over 135 (text says 130 days on page 5 and 125 days on page 7 and 137 days on page 11) days at a rotational velocity of 160 rpm while the test stand recorded water pressure, barrier fluid pressure, temperature, and number of cycles., representing ~ 40% of the SI. An additional separate test was conducted to measure the aging behavior of the rubber drive rings. The water pressure reservoir was held constant as 29 psi. Barrier fluid pressure remained relatively constant throughout the duration of the test but was seen to sink to as low as 10.1 psi. No barrier fluid leakage was observed throughout the test. A sudden failure occurred within the seal after the power to test machine was interrupted for a scheduled building maintenance procedure. Upon restarting, the main shaft seal lost all ability to prevent water ingress. The exact cause is not known but is believed to be either a seal assembly issue or a change in the alignment of the seal components during or following the power outage. Following seal disassembly, significant wear was seen on one of the graphite sealing rings. Based on these results it is recommended that a follow-on TEAMER be conducted to rectify protocol and assembly issues to further evaluate SI of this component. The support and participation of Verdant Power Inc, Dovetail Solutions LLC and Garlock Manufacturing Inc were instrumental in understanding the results. NREL thanks them for their significant effort.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-89380


  • accelerated life testing
  • failure analysis
  • hydroturbines
  • main shaft seal


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