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Anti-surge Technology

Centrifugal compressors are the key drivers of many industrial processes, and as a result, damage to them can often result in costly maintenance expenditures, increased downtime and an overall drop-off in system efficiency. Surging is one of the most common causes of compressor damage and because it is highly dependent on a number of different variables, its occurrence is difficult to accurately predict. Even with anti-surge measures in place, many compressors have to be used rather conservatively in order to prevent damage to equipment. This results in wasted energy, decreased productivity and makes process optimization virtually impossible to achieve. The remainder of this paper will focus largely on Dresser-Rands anti-surge technology and how its proprietary Universal Performance Curve is used to accurately predict the surge point over a wide range of changing conditions, especially in process applications where variations in both fluid composition and temperature are common. It will also include a detailed overview of Dresser-Rands proprietary Load Sharing Algorithm along with a comparison of how its technology performs with respect to some of the most common anti-surge methodologies in use today.

forward flow but when it resumes, the resulting pressure differential again reaches a point where the compressor becomes unstable, flow is reversed and this cycle is repeated. This continues until a change is made in the process and/or compressor conditions. Surging can cause serious physical damage to pumps, fittings, valves, pipes, and other ancillary pieces of equipment. Rotor shifting caused by the surge cycle can also destroy thrust bearings, and in many cases, operating temperatures can exceed allowable limits and cause compressors to overheat. Because of this, it is always important to have effective anti-surge measures in place. Surge can be prevented either by blow-off or recirculation of flow in order to keep the pressure differential across the compressor at a level in which reversal cannot occur. The moment at which either of these actions needs to take place is determined by a controller, which is designed to predict the point at which surging is imminent (i.e., the surge line) by measuring a function of pressure rise vs. flow. The challenge, however, is being able to accurately define the surge line over a wide range of operating conditions. Because this is so difficult to do, engineers generally have to err on the side of caution and use compressors in a very conservative manner, resulting in decreased throughput and low operating efficiencies. The key to maximizing compressor efficiency is to determine the surge line with a high degree of accuracy. In doing so, the workable limits of the compressor can be clearly defined and unnecessary recirculation of flow can be kept to an absolute minimum.

Surging occurs when insufficient flow into the compressor and/or an increasing pressure rise across the compressor causes a condition in which forward flow is unable to be sustained. This results in a temporary reversal of flow within the impeller, causing a decrease in the discharge pressure and/or an increase in the suction pressure. This rise in suction pressure allows the compressor to reestablish
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Anti-surge Technology


The surge line (or surge limit) is a complex function that is largely dependent upon a number of different variables including gas composition, temperature, molecular weight, and compressor speed. Several methods for determining surge limits are in use today, each with its own approximations and consequent inaccuracies. Operating the compressor safely in spite of these inaccuracies is usually accomplished by establishing the surge controller flow set point based on expected worst-case conditions. This worst-case flow setting approach is necessary to ensure safe operation of the compressor at all expected conditions but it often results in wasted energy and inefficient compressor operation caused by excess recycle and/or blow-off. The technology that drives many of the antisurge applications used today is based upon the premise that for any given rotational speed, the compressor surge limit flow will correspond to fixed values of polytropic head and volumetric suction flow. This generally holds true for single-stage compressors but

many multi-stage compressors deviate from this theory. This methodology also produces surge control maps with coordinate systems that are only partially invariant to inlet gas molecular weight, temperature and compressibility. Due to the volume ratio effect, which affects the polytropic head suction flow relationship, the temperature and molecular weight of incoming gas can significantly change the point at which surge occurs in a multi-stage compressor. As a result, anti-surge algorithms that fail to produce surge control maps with coordinate systems that are completely invariant to changes in the properties of an incoming fluid are subject to a wide margin of error. Figure 1 displays the compressor performance maps for two gases with different molecular weights. The maps have been super-imposed onto one image to illustrate how molecular weight can dramatically change the surge point of a compressor. If an anti-surge controller that was unable to compensate for this difference was used on this particular compressor, it would either not be able to prevent surge under all conditions, or it would produce a control line located so far to the right that the compressor would be highly inefficient when dealing with heavier gases.

Figure 1. Compressor Performance Map for Two Different Gases

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Anti-surge Technology


Using a five segment approach that disregards approximations using speedbased characterizers, Dresser-Rands antisurge controlling technology offers a more practical method for accurately determining the surge point of a compressor over a wide range of changing conditions. Featuring their proprietary Universal Performance Curve Coordinate System, this technology makes it possible to maximize process efficiency and optimize compressor function by eliminating unnecessary fluid recirculation and/or blow-off.

conditions, surge control action is initiated at the control line by opening the surge valve. This prevents a further shift of the operating point to the left towards the surge line.


Dresser-Rands Universal Performance Curve Coordinate System lies at the heart of its antisurge control algorithms, and unlike many other methodologies that are only partially invariant to inlet gas composition, this system automatically compensates for changes in molecular weight, temperature, pressure, compressibility, and rotor speed to produce a surge control map that is accurate across all possible scenarios. How Dresser-Rands anti-surge controllers function under both normal and abnormal operating conditions are described in the sections below.
Figure 2. Compressor Surge Control Map (Universal Performance Map)


In the case of rapid reductions in flow, such as process upsets, three additional controls are implemented to prevent surge from occurring. The first control is a backup line, which is located between the control line and the surge line on the surge control map. In the event that the operating point reaches this line, Dresser-Rands Open Loop Step Logic quickly forces the surge valve open to increase forward flow through the compressor. The second control takes effect if the operating point of the compressor reaches the backup line a certain number of times within a specified period of time. When this occurs, the control set point is shifted to the right via Dresser-Rands Set Point Shift Logic. The flow set point continues to be shifted until the cause of instability can be corrected. This action establishes a larger margin of safety from the surge line.


Under normal operating conditions, proportional integral (PI) control is used to operate the compressor. The PI control loop is used to compare the control set point to the operating point of the compressor and provides an output to the surge valve to prevent flow from decreasing below the control line (see Figure 2). Under these

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Anti-surge Technology The third control is a variable proportional gain action that takes effect when normal PI control response is unable to prevent flow from dropping below the control line during rapid system upsets. To prevent surge under these circumstances, Dresser-Rands Floating Proportional Control Algorithm is initiated and surge valves are opened before the operating point reaches the control line. When the upset has been stabilized, normal PI control is resumed. way of determining surge and is recommended by the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) PTC-10 Performance Test code for compressors.


Dresser-Rands method of accurately predicting surge over a wide range of operating conditions makes it possible to optimize compressor function without incurring any added risk of damaging equipment. How its controlling technology differs from conventional anti-surge methodologies is discussed in the sections below.


Most anti-surge controllers require six different input values in order to operate. These values include suction gas temperature, discharge gas temperature, suction pressure, discharge pressure (to calculate reduced polytropic head), compressor speed for surge limit flow correction, and compressor flow. Dresser-Rands controllers only require three input values: suction pressure, discharge pressure and compressor flow, which is used to calculate corrected flow for surge control on Dresser-Rands proprietary Universal Performance Map.


Most anti-surge controlling algorithms used today feature a coordinate system thats based on the slope of the reduced flow variable squared (hs/Ps) vs. reduced polytropic head curve. This makes them only partially invariant to changes in the properties of the incoming gas. Dresser-Rands controlling algorithms use a coordinate system based on the corrected flow variable ( ), which makes surge control completely invariant to changes in suction gas temperature, pressure and molecular weight. This method to correct flow for compressor map reference conditions is the most accurate

Figure 4. Required Input Signals

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Anti-surge Technology


In order to compensate for changes in compressor speed, many anti-surge algorithms use the Fan Law characteristic, which states that flow is proportional to rotative speed. This methodology only allows for accurate prediction of surge under conditions in which surge limit lines do not deviate from the Fan Law. In instances when they do deviate, approximations must be made based upon a speed measurement correction factor. In most cases, these approximations are subject to a wide margin of error. Dresser-Rands five segment approach for determining surge requires no approximations and is based upon its proprietary Universal Performance Coordinate System, which allows for accurate prediction of surge from one compressor speed to the next.

the surge limit line and the control line seen in Figure 2), Dresser-Rands controllers provide a useful combination of open and closed loop responses in the event that compressor flow falls below the control line. This allows for fast step openings of the recycle valve to prevent surge and is particularly effective at eliminating overcompensations that frequently cause process destabilization.


Unlike conventional anti-surge applications, Dresser-Rands controllers automatically adjust PI gains to optimum values in the event that the default gains set at the time of unit commissioning can not adequately provide timely control response under all process conditions.


In addition to its Universal Performance Algorithm, Dresser-Rands anti-surge controllers also feature a proprietary load sharing algorithm, which helps equalize surge margins and maximize system efficiency by sharing flow among multiple compressors that are connected to common suction and discharge lines. How their algorithm differs from other load sharing technologies is discussed below.


Compressors whose sole line of defense against surge are PI controllers with anti-reset windup provisions when the recycle valve is fully closed are highly susceptible to abrupt disturbances that can entirely destabilize a system. Dresser-Rands anti-surge controllers feature a Floating Proportional Algorithm in addition to the PI algorithm so that surge can be prevented in the event that flow approaches the surge control set point at a high rate (as is the case during process upsets).


Conventional load sharing algorithms are based upon the relationship between compressor inlet flow (Qin) and the surge control set point (Qsp). This limits the load sharing range to the surge control line, at which point Qin becomes meaningless because it does not account for


With the use of an easily configurable backup line (the secondary control line located between

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Anti-surge Technology recycled flow (Qrrec). To eliminate this problem, Dresser-Rands algorithm uses a Coefficient of Export Flow (CEF), which is the distance from the operating point to the surge control line. This value takes into account any flow being recycled and allows for effective load sharing over the entire operating range of the compressor. To ensure consistency across an entire system, each compressors load sharing controller receives the same CEF set point from a master controller.

The Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI) estimates that industrial facilities in the U.S. waste up to $3.2 billion every year on energy costs due to poorly designed and maintained compression systems1. Compressors are the key drivers of many of these systems and with energy prices on the rise, the need for new and innovative controlling technologies that can help cut operating expenditures and boost process efficiency will become increasingly prominent.

Figure 5. Calculation of Coefficient of Export Flow (CEF)


When the operating point reaches the control line, interaction between anti-surge controllers and load sharing controllers (LSC) can lead to destabilization. This can result in operators having to shut the unit down, and in some severe cases can cause catastrophic damage to the compressor. To prevent this from occurring, Dresser-Rands load sharing controllers are designed to decouple from anti-surge controllers when flow approaches the surge line. By communicating with anti-surge controllers, the load sharing controller can stabilize the process in the event that flow moves beyond the surge control line.

Figure 6. Equalization of Surge Margins During Load Sharing Operation

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This document comprises a general overview of the products described herein. It is solely for informational purposes, does not represent a warranty or guarantee of the information contained herein, and is not to be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy. Contact Dresser-Rand for detailed design and engineering information suitable to your specific applications. Dresser-Rand reserves the right to modify its products and related product information at any time without prior notice.