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Valve Theory and Design

Compressor valves permit one-way
flow of gas into and out of the cylinder.
There must be one or more valves
for suction and discharge in each
compressor cylinder end.
A compressor valve must open and close
with every stroke of the piston – 1000
times or more a minute, and must do
so day after day, month after month. It

A compressor valve requires only three

The basic demands on today’s compressor

must do this directly in the path of the

components to do the job it is required

valves require:

gas stream which can be entrained with

to do:

liquids, foreign particles, corrosive gases

„ A large passage area and good

„ Valve seat

aerodynamics of flow for low

to all types of destructive forces such as

„ Sealing element

throttling effect (pressure drop)

tension, compression, impact, twisting,

„ A stop to contain the travel of the

or materials. A valve is also subjected

bending, abrasion, erosion and extreme
heat or cold. It is a marvel then, not that
we have valve trouble, but that we have
as little as we do.

sealing element
A valve comprised of the above
components installed in a modern
compressor would not fulfill life and

„ The moving parts should be of a low
mass for low impact energy
„ A quick response to low differential
„ Small outside dimensions to allow for

A failure of the valve to perform means

efficiency requirements. Due to the

the compressor must be shut down for

high sophistication level of today’s

corrective action. Consequently, anything

reciprocating compressors, the demands

that can be done to improve the operation

on a compressor valve require a much

of a compressor valve will improve the

more elaborate design than the three

„ Ease of maintenance and service

operation of the overall machine.

basic components mentioned above.

„ Tightness in closed position

low clearance volume
„ Low noise level
„ High reliability factor and long life

The valves have the greatest effect on the
operation of a reciprocating compressor
in terms of its efficiency and mechanical


At p2. and their movement is controlled through the compression cycle.. the (point 4 in the diagram). reducing the volume in the decreases and cylinder pressure drops in below suction line pressure. keeps the valve closed. discharge pressure. In a properly designed valve. is momentarily zero. Gas expansion At top dead center. no positive mechanical device is used. the velocity compression chamber increases. © HOERBIGER 2007 pressure across the valve. The valves are opened solely by the difference in pressure across the valve. This excess pressure is necessary to overcome the equalization of static pressure on the valve plate and to lift the valve plate. A schematic drawing of a horizontal. As the piston pressure in the cylinder permits suction the gas increase its temperature and reaches the end of its discharge stroke pressure P1 to push the suction valve pressure. The compressor valve cycle is best explained by correlating piston movement to the pressure volume diagram.Fundamentals of the compression cycle A compressor valve regulates the cycle of operation in a compressor cylinder.. the discharge open. its speed decreases which causes a decrease in the gas velocity through the open valve. The under compression chamber which causes diminishing waves to p2. cylinder pressure. The piston moves to increase the pressure by the amount sufficient to open the discharge valve (point 3 in the PV-diagram). 1. gas from the suction plenum is drawn into the cylinder (point 1 in the diagram). Stroke n. pressure in the cylinder is equal to the valve is gently lowered onto the valve seat Gas intake (suction event) pressure in the discharge line.. As valves are closed as the volume in the the cylinder is full of gas at suction the piston speed decreases. Compressor valves are pressure activated. the piston stops and changes direction so piston velocity Succion Pienum From Suction Line P 1 To Discharge line Discharge Pienum Stroke P 2 Mean Piston Speed Cm = s·n 30 Cmax s. the gas expands. Compression work The area enclosed by the pressure-volume curve represents the total work performed in the compression cycle. .Speed (rpm) P2 P1 4 3 1 2 Fig.. As the piston nears the end of its suction stroke. against spring load. The portions of the area above the discharge pressure (p2) and below the suction pressure (p1) indicate the work required to activate the valves and overcome the flow resistance in and out of the cylinder. Once the suction valve is open. When the piston starts moving. This static at top dead center by its springs. the small amount of Gas compression Gas discharge gas remaining in the clearance volume At bottom dead center. the spring-load closes the valve at the moment the piston reaches its bottom dead center (point 2 in the PV-diagram). piston speed (middle) and cylinder pressure versus volume diagram (bottom). The piston motion changes of the gas passing through the valve also pressure decreases until it falls slightly direction. Both suction and discharge and discharge valves are closed and is delivered into the discharge line. the suction When the discharge valve opens. single-acting reciprocating compressor (top).

The sealing element initially lifts off the seat land slowly but accelerates rapidly towards the guard Closed Flow through open suction valve to cylinder Closed Open Disc once three forces are overcome: „ cylinder pressure is exposed to the Cylinder Pressure Spring entire surface area of the sealing Piston Side element „ the sticking effect of lubrication or Fig. 3a (top). . the springs or other cushioning elements force the sealing element to return to the seat lands and close the valve in time. As the sealing element lifts off the seat lands. Sealing element movement in suction and discharge valves. Linear acceleration to overcome springload. difference in area of a sealing element Valve velocity follows a slower path than is normally 15% to sometimes as high the piston (Fig. The sealing pressure differential between cylinder and element impacts against the guard line pressure at valve opening that is seen causing the opening impact. 2. Therefore.Fundamentals of valve operation Once we understand how the pressure in the compression cycle activates the valves. Pressure differential opens the valve Gas velocity keeps the valve open To lift the sealing element off the Piston velocity at top or bottom dead seat land. Preferably.s rin sp ad o gl t All of these factors account for the initial spring load toward the guard. a pressure differential is center is zero and increases gradually to required across the sealing element. As the flow diminishes due to the decreasing piston speed. © HOERBIGER 2007 the actual pressure differential needed to break the valve open is only 5% to 15% over the line pressure. Since there is always some leakage through the closed valve plate along the s= oci lift ty seat lands. the valve is completely closed when the piston is at or near dead center. there is a certain amount of v= v el pressure build-up in this area. 3b (bottom). The a maximum at the middle of its stroke. Piston velocity versus sealing element velocity (lift). the valve is considered fully open. condensate „ the spring load force (Fig. we can look closely at the factors that affect the valve’s operation. t Fig. at this stage on all PV-diagrams. In Out Suction Valve Discharge Valve Suction Line Pressure Flow through open discharge valve into discharge line When the valve is closed. part of the valve plate or valve ring is firmly set against Open the seat lands. Fig. 3a) Initial Motion Conditions tio n a (∆p) ra le ce ac ∆p v. as 30% between exposure underneath (seat side) and exposure on top (guard lift=distance from seat side). it accelerates rapidly against the The flow of the gas out through the seat keeps the sealing element open. 3b).

Valve seat area. like ring valve. 5. However. is The available guard area is the area that the most important one. Seat Area The seat area is the area where light can be seen when the valve seat is held Guard Port (B) Gas Flow Valve Lift (N) Seat Land (W) Bottom View Seat Port (A) Fig. seat (bottom) and sealing element (positioned against guard).Valve geometry In this section we explore the geometry of a typical plate valve. the seat area is somewhat always passes first through the valve smaller than the lift area at maximum lift. 4b. efficient valve. poppet valves. 4b). that the webs or bridges on a valve seat are „ Seat area not included in the seat area. Other valve types. Gas fow through an open valve. seat. 4a. Fig. when area. Cross section of a valve guard (top). 4a. . than the ones through the lift area. © HOERBIGER 2007 Fig. From these three areas. Guard area which varies with the applied valve lift. This means. Ports or holes that are the other two areas are within a certain covered by the sealing element when the proportion to the lift area to allow for an valve is open are useless. demonstrated in the Fig. The shaded „ Guard area areas in the bottom view of a drilled and „ Lift of gap area (passage area) milled valve seat are considered seat The flow of gas through a valve is areas (Fig. Every valve has three critical areas: against a light source. the lift area. then through the lift area where it This is tolerated since the flow conditions is forced to turn twice and finally through through the valve seat are more favorable the valve guard. it is equally important that the valve is open). The gas In most valves. and channel valves can be analyzed using the methods we use here. This is why valve remains open when the valve plate is velocities are calculated based on lift placed on top of the guard (that is.

This diagram illustrates the dimensions used to calculate the passage area. late closing. © HOERBIGER 2007 applied. Since the plate 5 Fig. valve flutter. 6. seat (bottom) and sealing element (positioned against guard). due to high-velocity seats and guards and high valve lifts. require and other life-deteriorating developments. polymers. operating pressure and molecular weight of the gas determine the limits of allowable valve lift. 3 d1 design valves with acceptable life and uninterrupted service. narrow ports and lower lifts would be Once an acceptable valve lift is defined. d2 d 4 d6 Based on the foregoing equation. The impact resilience of various materials used for valve plates (steel.) also has an influence on maximum acceptable valve lift. the rest of the valve geometry can be selected to balance the ratios of seat and guard area to free lift area. etc. d Valve lift d Valve lift is governed by the goal to or sealing element opens and closes with every revolution of the crankshaft. This approach has its limitations since a certain ratio between the seat and guard areas. while high-speed applications. Excessive valve lift can have detrimental slow-speed applications favor wide-ported effects on valve life. It is the sum of all circumferences of the small diameters where the flow turns multiplied by the valve lift. Different valve manufacturers will use more or less conservative guidelines for allowable lift for a given set of operation conditions. impact forces. . The diverse applications results in a variety of valve concepts. to the lift area must d7 be maintained. respectively. Cross section of a half valve guard (top). such factors as rotating speed. For example.Valve lift The lift area is generally the area of reference in a compressor valve. it appears to be advantageous to design a H valve with a large number of narrow ports.

Measuring flow loss p Flow Each valve causes a certain pressure loss as gas flows through it. Valve efficiency can be defined as that part of the overall compression horsepower that is attributed to the accumulative flow loss in all valves. The pressure drop across the valve is measured. 2 . to measure the pressure drop through It constitutes an orifice area (with a the valve. The factors that determine this loss are based on the valve’s geometry. port openings. 7. The pressure drop and discharge valves and determine the is used to calculate the flow coefficient and equivalent area. free lift area. The purpose of static flow testing is is called the equivalent area or phi-value. © HOERBIGER 2007 The coefficient of flow and equivalent area are defined for a specific valve geometry at a specific valve lift and vary as these criteria are changed. The pressure drop is used to flow coefficient = 1) with an equal flow calculate the coefficient of flow that restriction as the value with its multiple corresponds to the lift area. We can measure this pressure drop Calculating the coefficient of flow The derivative of the coefficient of flow by conducting a static flow test. and the density of the gas. Valve and spring load. we can calculate the flow losses for both suction Fig. The coefficient of flow is a parameter for the flow efficiency of a specific valve and can be used to calculate valve losses in a compressor cylinder with some degree of accuracy.Pressure drop Compressor valve performance is generally categorized in two ways. efficiency and life. The valve is mounted in a sufficiently   Lift Area  Coefficient of Flow =  Equivalent Area   sized pipe and a constant flow of air passes through the valve. A static flow test measures the pressure drop through a valve. valve lift. Analyzing one cylinder at a time. The coefficient of flow is a volumetric flow rate (or capacity). the measured flow rate. horsepower required to flow gas past the valve. It can be determined from the measured pressure drop.

I. π is 3. it is important designed differently because there are that the gas passes through the valves at Valve velocity differences in a reasonably slow speed.Mean gas velocity The suction and discharge valves are For efficiency reasons. dimensions Typical valve velocities „ Slow-speed transmission line 2. the mean gas velocity decreases. Higher intake temperature means a lower actual output since less gas is taken into where: vm is the mean valve velocity [ft/min] (m/sec) the cylinder. High mean gas velocities lift area is increased. d is the piston diameter [inch] (mm) The calculation for mean valve velocity s is the piston stroke [inch] (mm) is given in the side bar. and „ the pressure and temperature at which suction and discharge occur All gas displaced in a compressor cylinder must pass through the suction and discharge valves mounted in the cylinder.000 ft/min (40-65 m/s) © HOERBIGER 2007 .14159 fe is the lift area of valve [sq. This speed is The valve velocity is calculated at referred to as either the mean gas velocity the lift area and decreases if the or valve velocity.000-6. The mean gas have the following consequences: velocity through a valve is a widely „ the piston velocities at which suction and discharge valves open and close „ the duration of the suction and discharge events. „ temperature increase due to gas friction The pressure loss results in higher horsepower consumption.000-13.000-11.000 ft/min (25-55 m/s) „ Air compressors 8.000 ft/min (15-30 m/s) „ High-speed gas gathering 5. Note as lift n is the compressor speed in RPM area increases. „ large pressure loss due to the throttling effect within the valve used parameter for comparative valve evalution.2 x 107) for S.500-4. inch] (cm²) z is the number of suction or discharge valves per cylinder end k is the [24] for inches (1.000 ft/min (12-20 m/s) „ Process and petrochemical 3.

relates the equivalent area 3 2 The valve geometry and comparative Seat performance parameters. © HOERBIGER 2007 . Seat valve lift Flow loss Discharge Pressure P2 Suction Pressure P1 discharge valve motion 1 4 Typical indicators are: „ coefficient of flow. free lift area. valve dynamics and motion pattern and below are the motion patterns of pulsations. and/or „ equivalent area The resistance factor. Influences The same is true for valves. 8. where the a typical compression cycle and above such as the valve geometry. Guard but all three together determine the flow losses through a valve. Valve motion Rarely do valves perform in such ideal Fig.The seat area. and guard area have little meaning individually. due to pocket configuration affect valve valve can drastically influence the valve Notice that the discharge valve must open motion. spring load. shows a pressure-volume curve for motion patterns as shown. 8. and uneven flow of the opening and closing cycle of a suction and discharge valves. and life. oil sticking. discussed in this section. serve a purpose in comparing Guard valve lift to the available pocket area. The rated mileage of a car. TDC competitive products and can be valuable in deciding which might best be applied clearance in a certain operating environment. conditions than the suction valve. both in terms of efficiency and close in a shorter time and under be quantified or easily predicted. will differs from the actual gas mileage achieved since gas mileage varies with BDC suction valve motion piston displacement (stroke) Fig. various indicators have been introduced and are used today by valve manufacturers. more severe pressure and temperature the driving pattern of the operator. A typical compression cycle. for example. To measure or calculate flow loss. used by some manufacturers. and not all of these factors can performance.

Figures 9a and 9b are valve motion to valve life since it is associated with diagrams that show flutter (9a) and slamming of the valve against a seat. Ideally. fashion and do it with low-impact velocity when striking the seat face. Crank Angle it should impact against the guard with TDC low-impact velocity. but at the end of its lift. 9a. too costly and Examples of poor dynamics Delayed closing is especially damaging cumbersome to do in field units. Notice how the valve closes well after top dead center. it should Seat Valve Lift Valve dynamics open quickly. © HOERBIGER 2007 . Delayed valve closure. Valve flutter. however. Notice how the valve lift fluctuates between the seat and the guard. the valve should remain fully open without flutter. the motion is easier to Seat Valve Lift end of the stroke it must close in a timely control and predict than in valves using Crank Angle multi-sealing elements such as multi-ring TDC valves or poppet valves. During the discharge or inlet cycle. every valve should open early on with a minimum of differential pressure between cylinder and line pressure.The motion pattern of a suction or discharge valve is essentially the plot Guard of its opening and closing path. Actual valve motion behavior has been measured and analyzed by HOERBIGER for more than 35 years. limited to laboratory or in-house tests and remain. Fig. improve valve performance and will alter design conditions of the valve offered for a specific application to optimize performance. it Credible valve manufacturers for some reduces the effective lift area and also time have used valve motion studies to flow efficiency. so far. delayed closing (9b) the resultant back flow lowers overall Valve flutter is not only detrimental to efficiency by a substantial margin. 9b. where there is only one sealing element. Such studies are. Guard Plate valves have only one moving part. and towards the Fig. In plate valves. valve life because of multi impacting.

Engineering valves that perform Computer Modeling Once a design is developed. entirely different team of specialists: The objective is to design valves in a „ procurement geometry with a lift and springload that „ manufacturing design engineers provide a motion pattern as close to ideal as possible. users are ill-advised if they accept compromises in design and quality. „ compressor applications Older field units or installations where „ 3D modelling performance is not up to expectations often can be corrected or upgraded to © HOERBIGER 2007 New valve designs lead to new compressor designs—ones that could operate at higher speeds. in an effort to keep these assets efficient and up-to-date. and the money invested Computer modeling simulates valve needs to be manufactured in the most frequently experiences a fast payback. as „ metallurgy „ flow dynamics „ non-metallic material specialists outlined above. valve technology and research has advanced continually in the last 25 years. Developments in electronics lead to more responsive. However. more automated capacity control devices. manufacturing may seem simple on the The best valve performance in both life surface. If adverse effects such as flutter or early or late closing can be prevented. That requires an design phase. Research and development continues to advance the field of valve design and will undoubtedly continue to bring about new valve concepts that will ultimately improve new cylinder designs. the valve better designs. designing a long- and efficiency is normally found from lasting. Engineering know-how and support on all levels Compressor valve engineering and component in every compressor. Although the reciprocating compressor industry is considered mature. efficient valve requires an entire designers who provide the engineering team of specialists in the fields of: know-how and support on all levels. for example. . motion and is a tool valve designers cost-effective manner using the best use to predict valve behavior during the choice of materials. reciprocating compressors continue to be „ thermodynamic properties of gas valuable plant assets because they are „ mechanical engineering easy to repair and they run reliably. Because the valve is such a critical if they failed (like steel plates can). allowed valve designers to „ quality control invent valves that could withstand higher impacts for longer periods of time and valve efficiency and valve life will be „ field engineers wouldn’t damage the compressor cylinder substantially improved. in the „ experienced machinists mid-1970s. The introduction of non-metallic valve „ CNC programmers sealing elements. both Therefore.

that are available. To select the right material and components for the valve. the more successful the become brittle at higher temperatures. dry gas. customers are not always able to provide enough information to run the simulation. „ the valve clearance volume for both suction and discharge because changes in clearance will affect © HOERBIGER 2007 . Proper material selection is critical to The more the designer knows about a valve’s performance. Simulated valve dynamics is used more in valve failure diagnostics to analyze the performance of a field study tells the valve designer if the Valve Performance compressor will operating close to the Some valve manufacturers will provide gas dew point (the point where the gas more comprehensive information on valve Comprehensive information is required to changes to a liquid). The temperature increases Luckily. should be known when discharge temperature and reduces performance based on the analytical tools designing a replacement valve so the the cylinder capacity.Valve upgrade and retrofit proposals A valve retrofit proposal starts with a Correct dimensional information of the volumetric efficiency and may. performance such as: run a proper valve simulation and many The compressor design is also important. nor does one valve cover all the different applications. A thermodynamic „ valve lift „ the mean gas velocity calculated at medium piston speed „ the selected materials for the different valve components there is always a discrepancy between the computer simulated dynamics and the real world operation. most valve manufacturers have valve application engineer must study the Fundamental Valve Information computer programs that allow them to gas analysis and operating pressures and „ valve geometry perform valve dynamics. „ energy consumption in both absolute Is the compressor lubricated? is it a multi-stage unit? How are the valves horsepower or percent of adiabatic „ the coefficient of flow for a specific installation that is unsatisfactory. it is advisable to complement static flow criteria with a dynamic performance analysis Simulated Valve Dynamics The most comprehensive analysis would include valve information. some resist corrosive environments better than others. such as added through valve throttling increases the be made with a good certainty of clearances. “window of proper application” can be selected for a successful retrofit. the proximity of the two in actual comparisons has been quite close. and although temperatures. a What your proposal should contain Besides price and delivery. a buyer truly passages allow for even the gas flow equivalent area has a choice. look for the following information in your valve offer: „ In critical applications. some are designed for use with specific gases. plus a dynamic simulation. valve retrofit will be. valve performance. or it may contain contaminants. Similarly. With the multitude of brands and valve positioned in the cylinder? Do the valve at a specified valve lift or concepts that are available. fluctuations in pressures or through the throttling effect of the molecular weight of the gas or changes valves. If contaminants or impurities cannot be removed the valve design must minimize their negative effects. No single valve design will distribution in the valve cage? „ the temperature increase generated outperform all others. Today. impact on the overall list of the customer’s expected objectives. study of the operating conditions and a envelope of the current valve is also therefore. Some materials the application and the expected perform good at low temperatures but performance. performance of the compressor. purchasing decisions can in the operating mode. required. The application may contain clean.

HOERBIGER Compression Technology – Always near you.hoerbiger.www. hydraulic systems and piezo technology for vehicles and machine tools. its 6. anywhere in the world Algeria · Argentina · Australia · Austria · Bolivia · Brasil · Brunei · Canada · Chile · China · Colombia · Croatia · Czech Republic · Ecuador · Egypt · Finland · France Germany · Greece · Hungary · India · Indonesia · Israel · Italy · Japan · Kuwait · Libya · Lithuania · Malaysia · Mexico · Montenegro · Netherlands · New Zealand Nigeria · Norway · Oman · Pakistan · Peru · Philippines · Poland · Portugal · Romania · Russia · Saudi Arabia · Serbia · Singapore · Slovakia · South Africa · South Korea · Spain · Sweden · Switzerland · Syria · Taiwan · Thailand · Turkey · United Arab Emirates · United Kingdom · United States of America · Venezuela · Vietnam . automation technology and drive technology. engines and turbomachines. the HOERBIGER Group sets standards and delivers cutting-edge solutions for the benefit of its customers. Through innovations in attractive technological niche The HOERBIGER Group HOERBIGER Compression Technology is a business unit of HOERBIGER Holding AG.300 employees achieved sales of around 1 billion Euro. HOERBIGER is active throughout the world as a leading player in the fields of compression technology. Zug / Switzerland. In 2008. The focal points of its business activities include key components and services for compressors. as well as components and systems for shift and clutch operations in vehicle drive trains of all kinds.