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9/9/2015

ReciprocatingNaturalGasCompressors

ReciprocatingNaturalGasCompressors
RobertScott
Tags:compressorlubrication,industriallubricants

MachineryLubrication(11/2003)

Large,doubleacting(Figure1),multicylinder,multistagecrossheaddesignreciprocating
compressorsareusedtogeneratelowpressureplantair,movenaturalgasinthenaturalgas
productionindustry,supplyhighpressuregasforoilwelldrilling,andforvariousapplicationsin
manufacturingorchemicalprocessingthatrequiremediumtohighpressureair.Because
positivedisplacementscrewcompressors(Figure2)aremostcommontoindustrialplantair
requirements,thisarticlefocusesongastransmissionpipelineapplications.
However,manyoftheissuespertainingtolubricationofreciprocatingcompressorsforthe
pipelineapplicationwouldalsopertaintotheeffectivelubricationofmachinesforinplant
service.
Gastransmissionapplicationsaretypicallypoweredbyareciprocatingenginefueledbynatural
gas.Thesecompressorsmaybelocatedinthefieldataremotestationorattheinlettoagas
plantwhereraw,wet(containingdropletsofwaterorhydrocarbon)andpossiblysour(containing
hydrogensulfide,H2S)naturalgasiscompressed.

Figure1.HighpressureService,Forgedsteel,DoubleactingCyclinder
Thepackingboxiswatercooled.Thepackingmaybeoilorwatercooledbyaforcedcirculation
systemformaximumheatdissipation,dependingonoperatingpressures.Tieboltswhichrun
perpendiculartothecylinderbaseprestresshighpressureforgings,decreasingmaximum
tensilestressinducedbygaspressure.
(Source:DresserRand,PaintedPost,NY)
Theymayalsobelocatedatthedownstreamendofagasplantwheretotallycleananddry
salesgasiscompressedandmovedintoapipelinesystem.Inaddition,reciprocating
compressorsareusedforhighpressuregasreinjectionintodownholereservoirstoenhance
crudeoilrecovery.Centrifugalcompressors(notdiscussedhere)aretypicallyusedonnatural
gaspipelinesystemstomovelargevolumesofgasatlowerpressures.
Compressorcrankcaselubricationisrelativelysimple.Crankcaselubricationtypicallyusesanoil
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systemthatisentirelyseparatefromthecompressorcylinderandrodpackinglubesystem.
Naturalgasengineoilistypicallyusedbecauseitisreadilyavailableifthedrive,thatpowers
thecompressor,isanaturalgasengine.Adieselenginecouldalsobeused.Thedifference
betweenanaturalgasengineoilanddieselengineoilisprimarilyintheamountofantiwear
additiveandtheamountandtypesofdetergentadditivesused.Arustandoxidation(R&O)
inhibitedoiloranantiwear(zinccontaining)oilcouldalsobeused.Theoilviscosityusedinthe
compressorcrankcaseistypicallyanSAE30(ISO100)orSAE40(ISO150)grade.

Figure2.PairofRotorsfromaScrewCompressor
(Source:AerzenUSA,Coatesville,PA)
Thecompressorcylindersandrodpressurepackingoilisthemainfocusofthissection.Theoil
requiredintheseunitsisinjectedintothecylinders,packingsand,insomeinstances,intothe
incominggasupstreamofthesuctionvalves.
ClickHereToSeeTable1:ProductSelectionVariations

TheLubricationSystem
Twomaintypesofoilfeedpumpingsystemsareavailableforthecylindersandpackings.Pump
topointsystemshavemultiplepositivedisplacementpumpsthatpumpoilfromasmall
reservoir.Eachpumpfeedsoiltoonelubricationpointonthecompressor.Distributionblock
systemsuseoneortwolargerpumpstoforceoilthroughsizedandsequencedvalveswhich
distributetheoiltothevariouslubricationpoints.Distributionblocksystemsmustbedesigned
specificallyforagivencompressor.Onceinstalled,onlytheoverallflowthroughtheentire
systemcanbereadilyadjustedbytheonsiteoperatorsandmaintenancestaff.Thisisaonce
throughapplicationinwhichtheoilisnotrecoveredorrecirculated.

LubricantComposition
Lubricationofthecylindersandpackingswhencompressingdrysalesgasorpipelinegasis
typicallyaccomplishedwithanaturalgasengineoil(NGEO)havingaviscosityofanSAE40
grade(oraheavySAE30),asusedinthecrankcase.Forpressureslessthan1,000psi(7,500
kPa)thisisadequate.Atpressuresgreaterthan1,200psi(8,273kPa),ahigherviscosityoilis
requiredandtypicallyaspecialcylinderoilisused,asdescribedbelow.
Ifthegasbeingcompressedisawetorsournaturalgasorasolventgas(propaneandCO2),a
specialcylinderoilisrecommended.Ifindoubtaboutthecompositionofthegas,itisbestto
assumethatitiswetanduseoneofthespecialcylinderoilsavailable.
Mostcompressorcylinderoilsareformulatedwithmineralbaseoilsandasyntheticadditiveor
componenttopreventtheoilbeingwashedoffthecylinderwallbythesolventlikeactionofthe
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gas.Oldertechnologyproductswerecompoundedoilswhichincludedanimaland/orvegetable
fattyadditivessuchastallow,lardorcastoroil.Theseoldertechnologiesweresusceptibleto
formingdepositsinthetanksandflowlinesofthelubricationsystem,especiallyifstoredfora
longtimeand/orexposedtocoldtemperatures.
Theviscosityoftheoilrequiredforthecylindersandpackingsinrawfieldorsolventgasservice
dependsuponthespecificgasesbeingcompressedandthehighestdischargepressure
encountered.Itiscommonforsomeofthesecompressorstohandletwoorthreedifferentgases
atonetimeindifferentcylinders.Thecylinderwiththemostsevereserviceonthecompressor
dictatestheoiltobeused,asmostcompressorswillhaveonlyoneoilinjectionsystem.Forthe
compressionofnaturalgasbelow2,500psi(17,000kPa),whichiscommon,anISO220viscosity
gradeproductoranoilwithaviscosityof250to280cStat40Cisrecommended.Ifthegas
beingcompressedhassignificantcarbondioxidecontent,thenaheavierISO320or460viscosity
grademayberequiredtocompensatefortheviscositythinningeffectoftheCO2gas.
Asdischargepressuresincrease,thecylinderoilsviscositymustalsoincrease.Tocompress
naturalgasatpressuresfrom2,500to4,000psi(17,000to28,000kPa),anISO320or460
gradeofoilisrequired.Atpressuresgreaterthan4,000psi(28,000kPa),asusedindownhole
gasreinjectionsystems,anISO460(mineraloil)productmaynotbesufficientandanISO150
or220syntheticpolyalkyleneglycol(alsoknownaspolyglycol,PAG)mayberequired.These
polyglycollubricantsdonotabsorbanyofthehydrocarbongasesandthereforedonotthinoutor
getwashedoffofthecylinderwallsbythehighpressuregas.Polyalkyleneglycoloilsare
incompatiblewithmineraloilsandthereforecannotbemixedwithmineraloilbasedproducts,
includingthosethataretypicallyusedinthecrankcase.
Thereissomeriskofthecylinder/rodlubricantmixingwiththecrankcaselubricantincrosshead
typesystems.Thesemachinesaredesignedwithawiperthatpushespackingrodlubricantdown
therodtowardandintothecrankcase.Itisimperativetoperiodicallytestforcontaminationif
incompatiblecrankandcylinderlubricantsareused.
Thelowtemperaturepropertiesoftheoilselectedarealsoimportantastheoilmustbeableto
flow,undergravity,fromthe(typicallyelevated)daystoragetanktotheoilinjectionpumpson
thecompressoratambienttemperaturesatorbelow0C.Otherimportantpropertiesincludethe
abilityoftheoiltoresistcokingduetoheatonthevalvesandrodsand,insourservice,the
abilityofthelubricanttoprotectagainstH2Scorrosion.
Ifpropaneisbeingcompressedinanycylinderonthecompressor,tobeusedasarefrigerant
withintheplant,anoilwithgoodlowtemperaturepropertiesisrequired.Thisisnecessaryto
allowtheoiltospreadonthecylinderwallsatthecoldestpropanesuctiontemperature
encountered.Propanealsodissolvesintotheoilonthecylinderwallsandlowerstheoilviscosity.
Therefore,theoilselectedmustbeheavyenoughtoprotectallthecylindersatthemostsevere
conditionsencounteredthroughoutthecompressor.

OilInjectionRates
Determiningtheoilfeedratestoeachcylinderandrodpressurepackingsetisanimportantbut
inexactscience.Therearenumerousmethodsforcalculatingordeterminingtheoilfeedratesto
eachcylinderandeachpackingbox.Mostareroughcalculationsthatareintendedtoprovide
onlyastartingpointforsettingtheoilinjectionrates.Itisimportantfortheuser/engineerto
understandtheintendedpurposeofthespecificformulabeingapplied.Someareintendedfor
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useduringthebreakinperiod.Othersassumesomedegreeofwatersaturationofthegas,while
othersareminimuminjectionrates.Theoldmethodofcountingdropsofoilinthepumpsite
glasstodetermineactualfeedratesisinaccurate.Thesesiteglassesareusefulonlyasaquick
visualchecktoseeifanyoilismovingthroughthesystem.
ClickHeretoSeeTable2:TypicalOilFeedRates
Earlyformulasusedtoquantifyfeedrateswerebasedontheamountoflubricantnecessaryto
provideanoilfilmsufficienttocoverthecylinderpistonringcontactarea.Onemethod
suggestsoneU.S.pintpertwomillionsquarefeetofsweptsurfacearea.Thisisasimple
formulatoestimatefeedrates(inU.S.pintsper24hours)andcouldstillbeusefulforlow
pressure,plantairordrygasapplications(thisformulaisnotintendedtosupercedemore
sophisticatedmethodsforcalculatingfeedratesfornaturalgas,CO2,highpressureair,or
similarprocessapplications)asfollows:
[(BoreDiameter(inches)*

*2*Stroke*RPM*1440)/144]/2,000,000,where:

BoreDiameter=Cylinderinternaldiameterorrodexternaldiameter(forlow
Stroke=Cylinderstrokeortravelininches

Ps)ininches

RPM=Motorspeed(pistoncyclespeedassumingnospeedreductionorincreasefromthe
motor)
AsimplifiedformulawasdevisedbyIngersollRand(nowDresserRand),andisasfollows:
BoreDiameter*Stroke*Speed*/31,800=Pintsper24hours
Morerecently,someoriginalequipmentmanufacturers(OEMs)havedevelopedplotsand
mathematicalcalculationsthattakemorefactorsintoaccount,includingdischargepressure,gas
compositionanddegreeofliquidsaturation.
Thesystemengineerbeginstoestimatefeedvolumesbycalculatingfeedquantitiesforall
cylindersandpistonrods.Theoilfeedratestothemainrodpackingsarecalculatedusingthe
sameformulaasusedforthecylindersexceptthatthediameteroftherodisusedinsteadofthe
boreofthecylinder.Auxiliaryrodpackingsareusuallysuppliedathalfoftherateofthemain
packings.
Therefore,veryroughly,atypicalcylinderandpackingconsumptionrateforanentirefour
cylinder,multistageunitwillbeapproximately12to30U.S.pints(5to15liters)per24hour
operatingperiod.
Oncetheratepercylinderorrodpackingisestimated,thenthenextstepistodividethe
quantityrequiredintotheactualnumberofinjectionpumpsorportsavailableinacylinderor
packingassembly.
Duringthebreakinperiod,theoilvolumeshouldbeincreased,eitherbyusingaformula
designedforbreakinperiodsorbyinjecting1.5to3timesthenormaloperatingcalculated
value.
Underlubricationwillresultinheatandwear.Overlubricationmayresultinvalvedepositsand
breakageproblemsplushydrocarboncontaminationofprocessesdownstreamofthecompressor
andprematurefailureofthepackings.
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FinalInspection
Thereisobviouslymorethatcouldandshouldbeconsidered,suchasincludingcoolant
temperatures,temperaturedifferentialsbetweenthecoolantandthesuctiongas,gasfiltration
quality,riskforrecompressionduetodischargevaluepluggingormalfunction,andoutput
temperatures.
Individualsystemvariationsrequirethesystemengineertofollowuphardcalculationsby
periodicallyshuttingdowntheunit,pullingsuctionordischargevalvesandinspectingtheoilfilm
onthecylinderwallandbuildupofoilinpocketsorbuildupofdepositsondischargevalve
surfaces.
Atriplelayerofcigarettewrappingpaperprovidesausefulguidelinewhenwhippedacrossthe
lubricatedcylinderwall.Ifoilsoaksthroughthethreelayers,thenthefeedrateisconsideredto
behigh.Iftheoilfailstosoakthroughthefirsttothesecondlayerthentherateislow.TheOEM
canandshouldprovideassistancetotheuserinmakingafinaldetermination.

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