You can deadhead a centrifugal pump if you operate it full of liquid with the inlet and outlet valves closed, so there is no flow through the pump. In this case, the rotating component of the pump (impeller) will continue to agitate the same volume of liquid.
The danger of deadheading a centrifugal pump is that, as the liquid rotates, frictional forces cause its temperature to rise to the point where it vaporises. The vapour disrupts cooling of the pump and may cause excessive wear and tear to its bearings. Deadheaded centrifugal pumps have been known to explode even if they contain just water or brine.
A centrifugal pump can be protected from the effects of deadheading by fitting a line, upstream of the outlet valve, to recycle liquid back to the inlet valve. The diameter of the line should be sufficient to recycle enough liquid to prevent the pump overheating.
The ammeter -- the device that measures current flow -- on a centrifugal pump is not a reliable indicator of deadheading. Centrifugal pumps typically use lower power and it can be difficult to distinguish between normal and abnormal operating conditions just by looking at the ammeter.
- Engineers Edge: Centrifugal Pump Protection
- "Kent and Riegel's Handbook of Industrial Chemistry and Biotechnology"; James Albert Kent, Emil Raymond Riegel; 2007