By Emma Gerard, Thordon Bearings Inc.

Pumps for flood defense must handle high-capacity volumes and also be reliable in extreme conditions. Bedford Pumps Ltd., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-capacity flood defense pumps, has selected Thordon Bearings water lubricated SXL bearings for a new pump design developed for the Islington Pumping Station, in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England.

This important project will see four fish-friendly land drainage and flood control pumps installed at the new 253,605-gallons-per-minute capacity pumping station which, when commissioned, will protect a 6,000-hectare area of low-lying fenland. 


The existing pumping station, built in 1959, had reached the end of its service life and will be demolished following the construction of the new pumping station. Canadian based Thordon Bearings, a pioneer in elastomeric polymer materials, supplied eight 7.9 inch inside diameter fully finished water lubricated SXL bearings, in a contract that marked the first application of a Thordon bearing in a Bedford pump.

Alix Macdonald, engineering manager, Bedford Pumps, says, “We have created a brand-new type of axial flow pump to offer better efficiency, better solids handling, and enhanced environmental protection compared to other concrete casing pumps of comparable size.

“We found the Thordon product to be the best solution for large diameter vertical shaft bearings. The water lubricated elastomeric polymer material allows the impeller to run at much tighter tolerances, improving overall efficiency, maintainability, and reliability.”


Macdonald adds that “competitive pricing, high quality material and a long-life expectancy” were also important factors in the procurement decision. 

“The material is very easy to use, and easy to machine. And then when it comes to installation, we can freeze fit, press fit, or bond fit, so there are some options there too.”

Axel Swanson, business development manager, Thordon Bearings, says, “The SXL bearing is the market leader in product lubricated vertical pump bearings due to its durability, resistance to abrasion, shock loading and vibration. Wear life and performance are the biggest advantage to using Thordon materials.”


To achieve “fish-friendly” status, a key requirement for pump station owner Kings Lynn Internal Drainage Board (IDB), Bedford Pumps designed a 63,401-gallon-per-minute pump capable of allowing fish, migratory eels, and other marine life to pass through unencumbered. 

A complementary intake was also designed which offers significant advantages over a standard ANSI type 10 intake, such as allowing the water levels to be drawn down to half the minimum submergence when compared to the type 10 design. 

“This intake significantly reduces the pumping station’s footprint and the deep excavations typically required,” says Macdonald.


Chris Simmons, sales manager, Duwel Group, Thordon Bearings’ U.K. distributor, which also provided front end engineering assistance, says, “As a new customer for Thordon and Duwel, it is a privilege to be involved not only in an important flood defense project but also in the development of a new range of Bedford pumps. We are proud to have supplied Thordon bearings to what is a unique, ecologically safe pump. It is an important project and important piece of kit.”

Macdonald adds, “We will definitely look at using Thordon’s bearings in the future for similar pumps. The workshop staff gave Thordon SXL bearings a very high rating based on how easy they were to fit with dry ice.” 

At full capacity, the Islington Pumping Station will be capable of pumping 369 billion gallons of water per day.


Emma Gerard is marketing communications specialist for Thordon Bearings Inc. Thordon Bearings designs and manufactures a complete range of journal bearing and seal systems for marine, clean power generation, pump, and other industrial markets. These products are built using Thordon proprietary non-metallic polymer materials that are lubricated with water eliminating oil or grease usage, meaning zero risk of oil pollution to our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Thordon systems and bearings are available worldwide through over seventy-five agents and distributors. For more information, visit


Bedford Pumps Ltd. is a flexible, highly experienced British manufacturer of robust pumping plant for the water, wastewater, flood control, and dock industries. With pump ranges from typically 7,925 to 317,007 gallons per minute at heads between 9.8 and 328 feet, the pumps are designed for the most arduous and demanding applications and the brand is synonymous for efficiency, reliability, and longevity.

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