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Compliance with environmental regulations requires the gasket (1) between the first box, and the cylinder itself;
elimination of gas leakage from machines, especially when contact surface (2) between adjacent rings housing
working with hazardous or toxic gases. boxes;
In the field of reciprocating compressors, GE Oil & Gas rings (3) and especially the last rings (4) downstream
has designed a special type of stuffing boxes, separation of the gas recovery, which work at low pressure.
cover or intermediate stuffing box equipped with special
rings for low pressures and inert gas buffers enabling to Other factors influencing leakage are the finish of the rod
do the following: and of the contact surfaces between boxes, the piston rod
Eliminate gas leaks and convey hazardous gases to run-out and the cylinder alignment.
safe handling areas By applying a unique surface finish for both rods (recip-
Increase operational and personnel safety rocating compressors modification kit 06) and boxes,
Comply with even the most restrictive environmental appropriate plastic materials for seal rings (reciprocating
laws compressors modification kit 03) and proper assembly of
the different parts, it is possible to minimize gas leak-
GAS LEAKS IN RECIPROCATING COMPRESSORS ages. However, even with a new stuffing box, leakage
In a reciprocating compressor, where the gas is processed cannot be completely avoided the ring seal closure
in a cylinder, assuming that all mechanical seals (cylinder depends on gas pressure exerted on the exposed sur-
bottom and valve covers) are efficient, gas can only leak to face of the ring.
the outside from the stuffing box which functions as a Since conditions of insufficient pressure force can com-
seal for piston rod. Figure 1 shows, the three potential promise the seal leaks can be eliminated only by adopting
leakage areas: further measures.

GE Power Systems CM&Us CO/AL08-9/2002

Oil & Gas
RESISTANCE In addition to the buffer system, a set of rings working as
The stuffing box a positive seal for the buffer chamber is necessary to
To guarantee efficient sealing of the cylinder to the exten- minimize the quantity of inert gas consumed.
sion and frame, both when the seals are new and after nor- Indeed, contrary to intuition, it is more difficult to seal stuffing
mal wear, it is absolutely necessary to provide an exit path box components with rings working at low rather than high
for the gas leaking from the rings. pressure. While the only problem at high pressure is wear
The most efficient approach is to inject (see Ffigure 1) inert resistance, for low pressures below 3.5-4 bar (recovery gas
gas into an appropriate location in the stuffing box (5), (if pressures) the problem is guaranteeing a perfect seal with
possible N2 or a gas which is environmentally benign at a the rod and especially with the housing box surface.
pressure slightly higher than the gas recovery pressure. In Infact, in locations where the pressure between rings is low,
this way, any process gas leakage is swept out and con- during the intake stroke friction between the rod and rings
veyed to a location for safe handling. In the extension there could cause detachment of the rings from the box surface
will be only an insignificant quantity of inert gas leaking from and hence gas leakage. Given that recovery pressures
the buffer intermediate stuffing box and separation cover. may be well under this limit, it is very important to use rings
With reference to figure 2, the extension can contain a small specifically designed for this application, that is rings with
amount of inert gas or even process gas in the event of a springs for an axial preload (1) to guarantee sealing at all
stuffing box failure or annomolous back pressure from the conditions (Figure 3b).
gas recovery line. Therefore, Nuovo Pignone has designed a new low pres-
Therefore, it is necessary to equip the intermediate stuffing sure ring system consisting of three components; two rings
box (a) (in the case of machines with double compartment are tangential (2), the third consists of two parts (3) providing
extensions) or the separation cover (b) (in the case of simple axial preload against the tangential rings by means of
extensions) with an inert gas buffer system, as indicated springs (1) housed on the inner surface of the box.
above for the main stuffing box. In this case, the chamber Rings with axial preload are recommended for their high
adjacent to the cylinder is equipped with a vent to convey efficiency at low pressure even when there is no inert gas
any gases to a safe area. buffer.

6 2 1

GAS + N2


Cylinder GAS

5 4 3
Figure 1

2 3 1 Gas leakage Gas pressure

a b (cylinder side)

N2 N2 Friction force acting on the rings

during piston rod movement

Figure 2 Figure 3b Figure 3a

SCOPE OF SUPPLY a) inert gas filter;
For each cylinder, the supply consists of the following b) buffer pressure reducing valve;
items: c) low pressure alarm pressure switch;
Stuffing box with set of three rings with axial preload. d) safety valve for protection from buffer over-pressure.
Intermediate stuffing box or separation cover with
set of three rings with axial preload. Stuffing box types 2 and 3
Modification drawings. a) inert gas filter;
Buffer instrumentation. b) variable set point buffer pressure reducing valve;
Buffer instrumentation consists of: c) pressure switch for low differential pressure alarm;
Stuffing box type 1, intermediate stuffing box and sepa- d) safety valve for protection from over-pressure;
ration covers e) maximum signal selector (only for case 3).

GAS + N2


COMK/MARK 700/II- Studio Tre Fasi - 9-2002 2002 Nuovo Pignone S.p.A. all rights reserved


Figure 5

Nuovo Pignone S.p.A.

via F. Matteucci, 2 - 50127 Florence (Italy)
Tel. +39-055-423-211- Fax +39-055-423-2800
In this case, only three rings with springs housed in the last The pressures of each chamber are compared and the
box are used (Figure 4). When a buffer gas is used, the sets buffer pressure is set at 0.2 bar over the highest valve.
of three rings are installed with opposing preload (Figure 5) This results in increased safety and reduced N2 con-
so that rings create a chamber with high leak resistance for sumption.
buffer gas injection.
Types of buffers Elimination of gas leaks and hazardous environmental
Usually, the maximum buffer pressure with standard materials conditions.
is 6 bar g; the recommended pressure is 0.3 to 0.5 bar higher High increase in operational and operator safety.
than the recovery gas pressure. High increase in seal efficiency at low pressure.
Different buffer gas strategies are available to meet specific Optimization of buffer gas consumption.
plant requirements and customer preferences:
1 - Constant pressure: APPLICATION
buffer pressure is kept constant and higher than the maximum For older style stuffing boxes with metallic seal ele-
value of the recovery pressure. Recommended recovery pres- ments it is advisable to replace the stuffing box com-
sure does not change very much. pletely such as with the reciprocating compressor 03 kit.
2 - Variable pressure: For new generation machines, it is only necessary to
buffer pressure maintained at a fixed differential with modify stuffing boxes downstream of the recovery cham-
respect to the recovery pressure, therefore following varia- ber and ring housing boxes of the intermediate stuffing
tions in the recovery gas to maintain a constant over pressure. box or of the separation cover, to allow assembly of
Recommended if recovery pressure undergoes large varia- enclosed springs.
tions and to optimize nitrogen consumption. On the contrary, for models HM, SHM and SHMB,
3 - Variable pressure with respect to pressure in the because of dimensional limits, it is possible to assem-
recovery chamber: ble only one set of three rings with axial springs; there-
An electronic pressure transducer is connected to the fore, the buffer chamber is manufactured with a tangen-
recovery chamber of each stuffing box. This gives the actu- tial - tangential couple upstream of the recovery cham-
al pressure within each stuffing box recovery chamber ber and with a set of three rings towards the extension,
including effects of losses in piping and ducts. as indicated in Figure 4.


Figure 4