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TECH brief

Key Performance Evaluation

Parameters For Centrifugal
Compressors > Relationships of parameters need to be
considered during bid evaluation processes
By Mehul Patel

nowledge of the various performance evaluation Where
parameters typically used during the bid evaluation Qr = rated capacity
process for a centrifugal compressor is an important Qs = capacity at surge on compressor rated speed curve
step toward the selection of machines that fit most econom- Qt = capacity at rated head on surge line
ically and effectively with the application. Hr = rated head
Explained here are generic boundary limit criteria and Hs = head at surge on compressor rated speed curve
the preferred operating envelope for centrifugal compressor Qo = capacity at rated speed where polytropic head is
performance curves, API 617 performance guarantee limits 85% of polytropic head at Qr
and impeller performance evaluation. Qstonewall = capacity where decrease in polytropic head
Smooth and trouble-free operation of compressors is is 10% for 1% increase in inlet volute and
an absolute necessity for continuous operation of oil and shall be 110% of Qr
gas production facilities. Hence, during a detailed design (See equations 5 and 6 in glossary at end)
project, evaluation of compressor performance at various
operating conditions is an important compressor preorder
activity for engineering contractors.
Typically, compressors in offshore installations face vary-
ing flow and pressure during the life of production platforms.
In late-life scenarios, the production of gas from a well can
drop to as low as 15% of compressor designed capacity.
In such instances, the selection of operating envelopes
for a compressor is a very important bid evaluation activity
(to reduce recycle flow and thus the power loss). An en-
gineering contractors responsibility is to select a machine
with optimal efficiency and with a sufficiently broad operat-
ing envelope to cover the entire life of a platform with mini-
mum changes.
n Figure 1. This is the typical performance curve of a centrifugal
Operating envelope for compressor performance curve compressor.
While assessing compressor performance, the following
relationships should be considered in addition to required Compressor characteristics vary with the difference in
shaft power and polytropic efficiency (Figure 1). molecular weight of process gases tabulated below (Table
Stability Range = (Qr Qs) / Qr (1) 1). In general, with higher molecular weight or number of
Turndown Range = (Qr Qt) / Qr (2) stages, the turndown ratio becomes smaller and pressure
Pressure (Head) Rise to Surge = Hs / Hr (3) rise becomes higher. The following should be used as typi-
Overload Range = Qo / Qr (4) cal guidelines for compressor operating envelope range:

Mehul Patel is principal machinery engineer at Chicago Bridge & Performance guarantee
Iron Co. (CB&I) in London, U.K. Before joining CB&I in February, According to API 617:
2012, he was with WorleyParsons in the U.K. and L&T-Chiyoda Variable speed unit: Head and capacity shall have zero
Ltd. in India. Patel, who has a mechanical engineering degree negative tolerance at the normal operating point (or other
from North Gujarat University, India, has a background in execut- point as specified), and the power at this point shall not ex-
ing front-end engineering and design and detailed design engi- ceed 104% of the suppliers predicted shaft power value.
neering for rotating machinery. Contact him at: This tolerance shall be inclusive of all test tolerances.


TECH brief
Constant speed unit: The capacity shall have zero toler- in cases where it exceeds 1, then Relative Mach number
ance. The head shall be within the range of 100 to 105% of (Ma rel) at impeller inlet shall be further investigated. In such
the normal head. The power, based on measured head at cases, suppliers verification is a must as impeller inlet di-
normal capacity, shall not exceed 107% of the value at the ameter is generally not available to engineering contractors.
specified normal operating point.
Process/Customer requirement: Turndown ratio and/or Conclusion
pressure rise to surge ratio shall be checked against vary- Performance evaluation of a compressor involves opti-
ing process requirement for the operating envelope of per- mization between: 1. Operating envelope; 2. Performance
formance curve. guarantee; and 3. Impeller performance parameters.

M.W. < = 10 10<M.W.<4 M.W. > = 44

Stability Range 30 20 Polytropic head: Expression used for centrifugal compres-
Turndown Ratio 35 25 sors to denote the meter-kg of work required per kg of gas.
In Between
Head Rise To Surge 25% 510% Stability range: Flow measurement term that indicates
the flow range on a compressor performance curve for a par-
Overload Range 120 105 to 110%
ticular constant speed or inlet guide vane (IGV) angle. At low
n Table 1. The molecular weight of process gasses affects com- flow end (left side), it is limited by the surge point and at high
puter characteristics. flow end (right side), it is limited by the rated point. It is a very
important parameter for an operations group as it tells them
Impeller performance of the flexibility of compressor operation for varying process
For evaluating impeller performance, flow coefficient (F), demands (without changing speed or IGV angle).
pressure coefficient (C) and Mach number (Ma) are gener- Turndown ratio: Flow measurement term that indicates
ally used (see glossary at end). the flow range upon which compressors can develop constant
Flow Coefficient (F ): (rated) head. In other words, it tells users how much they can
It is a ratio of actual inlet gas flow to impeller character- turn down (reduce) the flow rate while keeping the discharge
istic (machine) flow. pressure constant. Inlet flow can be reduced by changing/re-
F = Q / [(/4) x D22 x U2] (7) ducing either speed or IGV angle. This term is very important
for an operations group specifically for reduced plant operation.
Where Q = actual inlet gas flow (m3/sec) Pressure rise to surge: Ratio of pressure (or head) at
D2 = impeller outside diameter (m) rated point to pressure (or head) at surge.
U2 = impeller tip speed (m/s) Overload range: Represents the ability of a compressor
Impellers having a flow coefficient (F) between 0.01 and to handle maximum flow. It is a ratio of rated flow to end of
0.09 are normally considered to be within proven range. curve flow.
Where flow coefficient (F) > 0.1, 3-D impellers are normally Sonic speed: Velocity of sound and represented as
used. In such cases, suppliers experience should be inves- Vsound = (n x R x T / MW) ^ 0.5
tigated as flow passages in impellers become unusually
narrow. In recent years, flow coefficient (F) > 0.1 has be- Where n = adiabatic constant
come quite common for high flow centrifugal compressors. R = gas constant = 8.314 (J/molK)
Head/Pressure Coefficient (C): T = temperature (kelvin)
It is a ratio of polytropic head to Eulers head. MW = molecular weight (5)
C = Hp / [(1/g) x U22] (8) In compression applications, the pressure wave gener-
ated by gas particles travels at sonic speed.
Where Hp = polytropic head (m) Mach number (Ma or M): The speed of an object moving
g = 9.8 (m/sec2) through air, or any fluid substance, divided by the speed of
U2 = impeller tip speed (m/s) sound characteristic of that substance.
Impellers having pressure coefficient (F) in range of 0.50 M = Vo / Vs (6)
to 0.55 for one stage of a multistage compressor is normally
considered to be within proven range. Where Vo = Velocity of object relative to the medium
Machine Mach number (Ma): It is a ratio of impeller tip Vs = Velocity of sound in the medium
speed to velocity of gas (sonic velocity) through the impeller. The Mach number is commonly used both with objects trav-
Ma = U2 / a (9) eling at high speed in a fluid, and with high-speed fluid flows
inside channels such as nozzles, diffusers or wind tunnels.
Where U2 = impeller tip speed (m/s) Machine Mach number: Ratio of impeller tip speed to
a = sonic speed or velocity of gas through im- velocity of sound.
peller (m/s) Relative Inlet Mach number: Ratio of relative inlet gas
Machine Mach number is always preferred within 1, but velocity to velocity of sound. CTSS