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Submitted by
APARNA I (1303ID9214)


Troublefree and smooth operation of centrifugal compressors is vital for process

plants. Interruptions and outage of these machines results in huge production losses as
these machines are mostly unspared.
The module aims to provide knowledge & information about the various aspects of
machines covering constructional details, selection, operation and maintenance etc.
To make the module easy to use, contents are divided into short sections like

Overview of gas compression machinery

Classification of Compressors
Selection criteria
Types of compressors
Constructional features of compressors
Accessory systems
Operation and performance of compressors

Overview of gas compression machinery
Classification of compressors
2.1 Dynamic type compressor
2.2 Positive displacement compressor
Fans and Blowers
3.1 Fans
3.2 Blowers
Selection of Compressors
Considerations while specifying CF Compressors
Centrifugal compressors
6.1 Horizontal Split Centrifugal
6.2 Sidestream Compressors
6.3 Multistage Geared Compressors
6.4 Overhung Compressors
6.5 Vertically Split Compressors
6.6 Compressor Trains
Page No



Compressors are the machines required for transportation / movement of gases
in a system. The purpose of compression is simply to increase the pressure of
a gas from one level to another. Depending on a host of circumstances and
situations, the pressure increase imparted to a gas will be from a fraction of a
bar in laboratory equipment to literally tens of hundred of bars in hypercompressors used for the manufacture of polyethylene.
Before we embark on our more thorough consideration of centrifugal
compressors, we should examine gas compression machinery in general. In a
typical process plant, compression services include instrumentation and plant
air, combustion air for burners and furnaces, gas circulation or simple
elevation to pressure conditions that will allow chemical reactions to take
place. Gas volumes will vary from laboratory quantities to flows well in
excess of a 2 million m3/hr.
Not to many years ago, it was common practice to use reciprocating
compressors when high pressures were required. Dynamic compressors were
usually called blowers when air or gas was compressed to about 40 Psig. The
term compressor was applied to any such machine when air or gas was
compressed to a final pressure over 50 Psig. In recent years, this
differentiation has become meaningless. Industry now uses the term
compressor for all types of machines compressing air or gas.


The three basic types of air compressors are

rotary screw
rotary centrifugal
These types are further specified by:
the number of compression stages
cooling method (air, water, oil)
drive method (motor, engine, steam, other)
lubrication (oil, Oil-Free where Oil Free means no lubricating oil contacts the compressed air)
packaged or custom-built
Reciprocating Air Compressors
Reciprocating air compressors are positive displacement machines, meaning that they increase the pressure
of the air by reducing its volume. This means they are taking in successive volumes of air which is
confined within a closed space and elevating this air to a higher pressure. The reciprocating air compressor
accomplishes this by a piston within a cylinder as the compressing and displacing element.
Single-stage and two-stage reciprocating compressors are commercially available.
Single-stage compressors are generally used for pressures in the range of 70 psig to 100 psig.
Two-stage compressors are generally used for higher pressures in the range of 100 psig to 250
Note that
1 HP ~ 4 CFM at 100 psi
and that 1 to 50 HP are typically for reciprocating units. Compressors 100 hp and above are typically
Rotary Screw or Centrifugal Compressors.
The reciprocating air compressor is single acting when the compressing is accomplished using only one
side of the piston. A compressor using both sides of the piston is considered double acting.
Load reduction is achieved by unloading individual cylinders. Typically this is accomplished by throttling
the suction pressure to the cylinder or bypassing air either within or outside the compressor. Capacity
control is achieved by varying speed in engine-driven units through fuel flow control.
Reciprocating air compressors are available either as air-cooled or water-cooled in lubricated and nonlubricated configurations and provide a wide range of pressure and capacity selections.

Rotary Screw Compressors

Rotary air compressors are positive displacement compressors. The most common rotary air compressor is
the single stage helical or spiral lobe oil flooded screw air compressor. These compressors consist of two
rotors within a casing where the rotors compress the air internally. There are no valves. These units are
basically oil cooled (with air cooled or water cooled oil coolers) where the oil seals the internal clearances.
Since the cooling takes place right inside the compressor, the working parts never experience extreme
operating temperatures. The rotary compressor, therefore, is a continuous duty, air cooled or water cooled
compressor package.
Rotary screw air compressors are easy to maintain and operate. Capacity control for these compressors is
accomplished by variable speed and variable compressor displacement. For the latter control technique, a
slide valve is positioned in the casing. As the compressor capacity is reduced, the slide valve opens,
bypassing a portion of the compressed air back to the suction. Advantages of the rotary screw compressor
include smooth, pulse-free air output in a compact size with high output volume over a long life.
The oil free rotary screw air compressor utilizes specially designed air ends to compress air without oil in
the compression chamber yielding true oil free air. Oil free rotary screw air compressors are available air
cooled and water cooled and provide the same flexibility as oil flooded rotaries when oil free air is
Centrifugal Compressors
The centrifugal air compressor is a dynamic compressor which depends on transfer of energy from a
rotating impeller to the air.
Centrifugal compressors produce high-pressure discharge by converting angular momentum imparted by
the rotating impeller (dynamic displacement). In order to do this efficiently, centrifugal compressors rotate
at higher speeds than the other types of compressors. These types of compressors are also designed for
higher capacity because flow through the compressor is continuous.
Adjusting the inlet guide vanes is the most common method to control capacity of a centrifugal
compressor. By closing the guide vanes, volumetric flows and capacity are reduced.
The centrifugal air compressor is an oil free compressor by design. The oil lubricated running gear is
separated from the air by shaft seals and atmospheric vents.

Figure showing parts of centrifugal compressor

Figure depicting parts of centrifugal compressor

2.1.1 Centrifugal Compressors:

The machine in which velocity and pressure are imparted to the air or gas in a
radial direction by one or more impeller diffuser combination.
2.1.2 Axial Compressors:
The machines in which velocity and pressure are imparted to the air or gas in
an axial direction by one or more sets of moving and stationary rows of
2.1.3 Mixed Flow Compressors:
The dynamic machines with impeller, which combine some characteristics of
both centrifugal and axial type.
Positive Displacement compressors:
Positive displacement type compressors are machines in which successive
volumes of air or gas are confined within a closed space. The pressure is
increased as the volume of the closed space is decreased. Four general types,
broken down according to the constructional method used to carry out
compression are available:
2.2.1 Reciprocating compressors :
The machines in which the compressing element is a piston following a
reciprocating motion in a cylinder.
2.2.2 Rotary lobe compressors:
The machines in which two mating lobe impellers revolve within a cylinder
and are prevented from making a contact with each other by timing gears
mounted outside the cylinder. The gas is trapped by the lobes, which displace
it from intake to discharge.
2.2.3 Rotary slide-vane compressors :
The machines in which longitudinal vanes slide radially in a rotor mounted
eccentrically in cylinder. Gas gets trapped in the sliding vanes and is
compressed and finally discharged as the rotor moves in the casing having
suitable ports.

2.2.4 Rotary liquid piston compressors :

The machines in which water or other liquids are used usually in a single
rotating element to compress and to displace the air or gas handled.
Although each of the positive displacement types will vary from the other
somewhat, they can be grouped together as single class of machines for the
purpose of compression with dynamic type compressors.


While discussing Compressors, it would only be appropriate to briefly cover
fans and blowers.
Though essentially belonging to the same family of machines, fans and
blowers generally differentiate from compressors in their nomenclature. This
is most likely due to the fact that the pressure development is marginal and
does not affect much of volume reduction.
Fans are used for low pressure when generally the delivery pressure is less
than 0.5 lbs/m2. Fans can also be either centrifugal, axial or mixed flow types.
Fans are generally used to handle very large flow rates and low pressure. Main
applications consist of Combustion Air, Draft, Cooling Towers and Fin
Coolers, Drying Units, Ventilation System etc.
While centrifugal fans would have axial entry and radial exit, the axial fans are
of propeller design having axial entry as well as discharge. Unlike centrifugal
fans, axial flow fans would not have ducts.
Blowers develop little higher pressure in comparison to fans. They are used
for pressure below 1.65 Psi.
The centrifugal blower produces energy in the air stream by the centrifugal
force and a velocity to the gas by the blades. The scroll shaped volute diffuses
the air and creates an increase in the static pressure by reducing the gas
The performance of a centrifugal fan varies with change in conditions like
temperature, speed and density of the gas being handled. Corrections must be
applied to manufacturing standards with respect to operating conditions.


The figure 1 shows the basic pressure-capacity constant speed characteristics
of positive displacement, dynamic type and centrifugal compressors. The
centrifugal compressor is essentially a variable capacity constant pressure
machine. The axial compressor and the positive displacement compressors are
essentially constant capacity, variable pressure machines.

Choosing the right type of compressor is a difficult job as the machine

selection would depend on not only capacity and discharge pressure, but also
on pressure ratio, service, gas composition, duty (continuous or intermittent),
criticality of service, different operating cases etc.

These basic characteristics however represents only part of the problem of

choosing the type of compressor best suited to a specific application. Equally
important is the capacity range that can be built into a single machine. As a
general rule, positive displacement machines are for smaller capacities.
Centrifugal compressors are for medium capacities and axial compressors are
for large capacities per machines. As in all other general statements, however,
it must be realized that there is considerable overlap of capacity range between
these different types of compressors.
Although flow limits for compressors are dictated somewhat by the specific
conditions involved and design philosophy of different manufacturers, general
range of compressor selection goes as below.
1. Positive displacement machines below 3000 m3/hr
2. Axial compressors above 30,000 m3/hr
3. Flow region between 3000-12,000 m3/hr can be considered over-lapping
between positive displacement and centrifugal compressors.
4. Flow region between 30,000-1,20,000 m3/hr can be considered as overlapped between centrifugal and axial compressors.


For proper and reliable performance of compressor, the vendor should be
provided with accurate and realistic design data. In past, it is observed that
many serious problems, which caused lot of anxiety during commissioning
and subsequent operation, could be avoided by considering some of the minor
but vital points during contract stage. Effort is made here to discuss some
aspects which need more emphasis during selection / design of the equipment
and which need to be explicitly specified in the inquiry.
Basic Data:
It is needless to mention that adequate basic data for carrying out
proper selection and design of compressors must be furnished. The
data includes mass flow, inlet and outlet pressures, inlet temperature,
type of gas, its analysis, and related information like availability of
utilities etc.
Specifying special process requirements and presence of certain
constituents in gas that are dangerous to machine or process will
ensure proper selection of materials and sizing of various equipment.
Presence of potential dangerous impurities like dust, H2S, HCL,
H2SO4, hydroxides, oil vapor etc. even in PPM levels must be
Moisture Separators:
No compressor specification is complete without mentioning the need
of moisture separators following intercoolers or at the inlet of
compressor when liquids may be present in the gas stream.
If separators are not present or inadequately sized, it may lead to
ingress of liquid particles inside compressor causing high rotor
vibrations, pitting and corrosion / erosion of impellers and seals, gas
passages etc. Deposits of solids inside compressor tend to restrict the
flow and causes unbalance in rotor.
Degree of filtration and type of filter, particle size and analysis of dust
should be duly considered to ensure machine safety and process

Excess Capability:
Due to peculiar drooping characteristic curve of centrifugal compressor
at any speed, virtually no possibility exists for increasing the discharge
pressure for additional volume of gas over designed value. In view of
this, the compressor must be built with excess capability for achieving
higher plant loads beyond rated one. This implies that the driver also
must be suitably sized over and above the ten percent reserve specified
in API standards.
Operation at off design Point:
Sometimes, compressor is required to operate at conditions, which are
entirely different from those specified. This may involve operation at
different suction and discharge conditions and / or with different type
of gas resulting in lower compressor efficiency and higher operational
cost. Many a times the compressor may not meet a particular operating
case. So it is absolutely must that all the operating conditions including
Start Of Run, End Of Run, Regen Case, Start Up case etc should be
properly envisaged and specified before equipment selection.
Parallel Operation:
In some cases additional compressors envisaged for augmenting
existing capacity. These compressors are required to operate in parallel
with existing machines. Since no two compressors can have identical
characteristics, it is quite likely that these machines will operate at
different loads. In extreme case, the desired plant load augmentation
can not be achieved due to the operating point of one of the machines
shifting towards surge limit. Hence, following points need careful
consideration, while deciding parallel operation of compressor:
System Resistance:
As the machine designers are not fully aware of variation in system
resistance with plant load. It is therefore extremely important that all
aspects of system resistance shall be thoroughly discussed before
recommending parallel operation.

Characteristics of Existing Machines:
The actual characteristics of existing machines under all
operating conditions should be furnished to enable selection of
a compressor with optimum matching characteristics.
Control System:
Generally, system resistance curve does not follow compressor
characteristics. This implies that the selection of proper control
system is necessary for successful parallel operation.
Noise Control:
In order to reduce total noise, the various contributions must be
identified and evaluated. The ideal method for reducing noise is to
prevent generation of noise by better design as
use of acoustic abatement in compressor hall
proper dimensioning of compressor hall to eliminate noise due
to resonance
Better ventilation in compressor hall with preferably sides open
at least upto working level.
Use of special low noise valves
Isolation of background plant noise
Proper location of high noise auxiliary equipment
But this may involve higher cost. Practical approach would be to try to
reduce noise level after the compressor and auxiliary equipment are
installed by use of acoustic abatement.
Instrumentation & Control:
The objective of any compressor is to achieve smooth capacity
regulation and to prevent the compressor from surging, even the
process flow reduces below the surge limit of compressor. In order to
achieve this objective effectively, it is advisable to include compressor
control in the scope of machine manufacturer, who has better
knowledge about the performance characteristic of machine and
provide correct type of instruments necessary for the service.


Centrifugal compressors are employed in numerous fields, chemical and
petrochemical industries, refineries, fertilizer plants, nuclear reactors and air
separation plants, iron and steel plants, production of liquefied natural gas
(LNG) and substitute natural gas (SNG), cryogenic and refrigeration plants,
mining, transportation and storage of gas, on-shore and off-shore installations.
The range of application can be expanded still further by combining these
centrifugal compressors with other compressor type such as axial flow or
reciprocating compressors.
The wide range of processes in which centrifugal compressors are employed
makes varying demands on these machines. Compressor demand is dependent
on such factors as fluid handled, pressure ratio, the volume flow, the number
of inter stage coolers, injection and extraction of the medium, and the type of
shaft sealing.
Taking all this factors into consideration, the major compressor manufacturers
have developed series of centrifugal compressors offering optimum
engineering solution implemented by the use of standard components. These
series include the two basic types, distinguished by horizontally or vertically
split casing, compressors with two or three pairs of main nozzles, and
compressors with additional side stream nozzles.
Horizontally split casing permits simple removal of rotor and facilitates the
checking of labyrinth clearances and o-rings. As pressure level rise and gas
molecular becomes smaller, vertical split casings are employed.
Horizontal Split Centrifugal:
Centrifugal compressors with horizontally split casing typically permit internal
pressures of 70 bar and volume flow rates of upto 3,00,000 m3/hr at low
pressures. Drive ratings of 30 MW for single casing machines have already
been implemented.
Figure 3 shows a cross section of a six-stage horizontally split centrifugal
compressor. Standardized components ensure high availability and easy
fitting. The two halves of casing are sealed and bolted together.
The rigid structure is supported at the centerline, thus preventing vertical
shifting of the compressor shaft as result of thermal expansion. For erection
and dismantling purposes, the top half of the casing, complete with the

associated stationary components, can be handled as a single unit. All types of

drives can be employed, for example, gas turbines, steam turbines, and electric
Many processes require compression of a fluid in one process stage only, i.e.
continuous compression from the first to the final stage with constant mass
flow rate.
Most major centrifugal compressor manufacturers build machines for the field
of application with up to nine or as many as twelve compression stages.
Aerodynamic matching of the individual compression stages is by means of
diaphragms with diffuser channels and vaned return passages. Following the
final stage, the compressed gas enters a collecting chamber in the form of a
volute before it reaches the discharge nozzle. The shaft is supported in
bearings out side the compression space. Shaft sealing is means of tried and
proven systems such as labyrinth ring, mechanical contact or non-contact
The wide range of possible variations in the materials used and in the selection
of the sealing system render compressors of this series suitable for virtually all
fields of application in industry, chemical and petrochemical and processes,
and for almost all gases and mixtures of gases.


Sidestream Compressors
In multistage refrigeration processes, different mass flows pass through the
various refrigeration stages. Sidestreams therefore have to or extracted from
the main flow in the compressor at process-dependent pressures and
temperatures. Injection or extraction is by means of additional nozzles.
Incase of gas injection, the side stream is mixed with the main stream in the
return channel. Mixing takes place over the entire periphery. When a stream is
extracted, a separating volute removes part of the main stream. The
compressor stages are designed to correspond to the stages of the refrigeration
process. The working media for the refrigeration process are primarily
ethylene, propylene, ethane and propane. Refrigeration process usually form a
closed cycle, rather less frequently a semi-open cycle.
In centrifugal compressor with two main nozzles pairs, the two process stages
can be arranged back to back, i.e., flow in the two process stages is in the
opposite directions, or they can be arranged in series. In the double flow
version, the compression process of both stages terminates in a common
discharge nozzle.

Back to back arrangement of the first and third stages or series arrangement of
the stages is also possible.
Tried and proven labyrinth seals separate the individual process stages. The
choice of the seal system is dictated by the service. Whereas casings with two
main nozzle pairs are widely employed for a variety of media and processes,
casing with three process stages are mainly employed for air, oxygen and
nitrogen. The medium is normally cooled outside the compressor. Interstage
cooling produces an almost isothermal compression process. This requires
least compression work. Intercooling also becomes necessary when the
temperature produced by compression has to be limited.
In most compression systems, the coolers are mounted separately, permitting a
high degree of freedom in design and layout. However, compressors with
internally arranged coolers are available from some manufacturers and may
merit consideration when the ultimate in compactness must be achieved.


Depending upon the flow and differential pressure requirements. Single stage
centrifugal compressors are also built in overhung design. This design is very
similar to overhung (End suction) pumps in which the suction takes place in
axial direction and the discharge takes in the radial direction into the scroll
casing. Seals of different designs can be used at the back of impeller to
prevent leakage to atmosphere. The bearings are mostly sleeve / tilting pad
suitably designed to take care of radial and axial loads.

Vertically split (barrel type) centrifugal compressors are the preferred, and
sometimes are mandatory design for high pressure or for compressing gases
rich in hydrogen. The cylindrical casing ensures good stress distribution and
extremely good gas tightness. Unlike the casing, the stationary internal
components of the compressors, with the exception of the seal components,
are horizontally split. During the assembly of the compressor they are
Vertically Split Compressors
mounted together with the rotor and are inserted axially into the casing. The
end covers are retained by the shear ring segments. Some designs have bolted
end covers.
The inlet and the discharge nozzles are welded to the cylindrical casing or,
where heavy wall thickness is involved, are integral with the casing; the pipe
work is bolted to these nozzles. These compressors are built for two process
stages; in this case they feature two main nozzle pairs.
The main fields of application for barrel type are in handling gases rich in
hydrogen; hydro cracking; synthesis of ammonia urea, and methanol; gas lift
and reinjection; and transportation of gas in pipelines.
A compressor with one stage is often adequate for compression applications
involving low head. For such applications, the user may choose from
compressor types that may be vertically or horizontally split. As mentioned
earlier, the vertically split version is particularly suitable for high pressure and
for compressing gases of low molecular weight.
Depending on the operating conditions involved the tried and proven systems
employing labyrinth, mechanical contact, or floating ring seals are used for
shaft sealing. Non-contact seals (Dry gas seals) has acquired large acceptance
due to high reliability, compactness and simpler control systems.