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The success of the 22ndAnnual Meeting of the International Institute of Ammonia
Refrigeration is due to the quality of the technical papers in this volume and the labor
of their authors. lIAR expresses its deep appreciation to the authors, reviewers, and
editors for their contributions to the ammonia refrigeration industry.

Board of Directors, International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration


lIAR Technical Papers are subjected to rigorous technical peer review.

The views expressed in the papers in this volume are those of the authors, not the
International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration. They are not official positions of
the Institute and are not officially endorsed.

Christopher P. Combs, Project Coordmator
M. Kent Anderson, President

International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration
1110 North Glebe Road
Suite 250
Arlington, VA 22201

+1-703-3 12-4200 (voice)
+1-703-312-0065 (fax)

2000 ILAR Ammonia Refrigeration Conference
Nashville, TN
Technical Paper #4

Liquid Carryover:
Prevention and Mitigation of Its Damaging Effects

Wayne Wehber
Mike Fisher
Charlie Klockner
Vilter Manufacturing Corporation
Cudahy, WI

2000 IIAR Ammonia Refrigeration Conference
Nashville, TN

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Separation of a liquid mass fraction from vapor flow has been a topic of many articles
and discussions. We wish to present some of the history behind the development of the
current methodology utilized today as well as additional insight into the separation
mechanisms involved. A greater understanding of the physics involved, the application
operational parameters, and the effect of vessel orientation can prevent the phenomenon
of liquid carryover. Liquid carryover can exist as a mist or a liquid when escaping the
separation mechanisms.

Several categories of potential problems can be seen from liquid carryover:

1. Physical damage to compressors. Since liquid is incompressible, the forces
generated during the attempted compression cycle can result in minor to major
component failures.

2. Dilution of the compressor lubricant, whereby insufficient hydrodynamic support
is provided for journal bearings.

3. Oil carryover from the crankcase for reciprocating compressors or from the oil
separators for screw compressors. Any liquid refrigerant present in the crankcase
or separator will immediately flash upon contact with the hot oil, or if the
crankcase or separator pressure suddenly decreases. The resulting boiling which
occurs can literally “pump” the oil out of the crankcase or separator.

4. Thermal shock due to low temperature liquid refrigerant in contact with and
lowering the temperature of the components operating in the range of 150°F to
300°F. Under some circumstances, the liquid can lower the temperature of
components below their brittle fracture point.

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In order to prevent any of the above undesirable side effects it is imperative to prevent
liquid refrigerant from entering the compressor. The means to provide this function are
commonly referred to under a multitude of names:

1. Suction Traps
2. Knock-out Drums
3. Accumulators
4. Low Pressure Receivers
5. SurgeDrums

These vessels may be stand-alone devices or integral with another component, and may
operate with differing liquid mass to vapor mass fractions entering the vessel. The vessel
examples given below may operate with only vapor entering the vessel or under
conditions where the mass fraction entering the vessel is approximately 100%liquid. The
vessel has to separate the liquid fraction from the vapor fraction to ensure continued safe
and efficient operation of the rotating components.

Examples of the stand-alone operation are:

1. Compressor Suction Protection

2. Intercooling

3. Pumped Recirculation

Examples where integral with other components:

1. Flooded Shell & Tube Exchangers

2. Flooded Air Units

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Basic Particle Mechanics

To set the stage for a discussion on liquid separation one must understand that no
separator is 100% efficient. Some minor liquid / aerosol will always carry over. Finer
particles will elude most disengagement mechanisms and will be carried over to the
compressor. Typically, these fine particles will not present an operational problem since
they will evaporate at the first point where a higher surface temperature is encountered.

Separation of liquid from vapor in industrial refrigeration systems is essentially confined
to two distinct areas: vertical separation flow and horizontal separation flow. For each of
these separation flow patterns, two additional areas apply: gravity separation or
impingement separation.

Our main concern is to reduce large volumes or “slugs” of liquid refrigerant from
reaching the reciprocating or rotating components, which could result in damage or
failure. The aerosols become problematic when the application references oil separators
where we wish to retain the oil in the crankcase or oil separator. These aerosols are
collected by the use of coalescing filters, which reduce the oil carryover down to parts per
million levels (ppm).

Gravity Separation

Vertical separation flow is along the “y” axis and opposite that of gravity. Horizontal
separation flow is that in which liquid particle travel is similar in nature to that of
trajectory motion through an “x” and “y” axis simultaneously.

Balancing the particle size at a certain velocity in a fluid are the particle momentum and
the force exhibited by gravity and drag force. Where the drag force balances the gravity
force, the particle is at its terminal velocity. When the velocity vector is below this
terminal velocity, the particle falls toward the liquid surface. This intersection or balance
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of forces and terminal states is said to be the maximum separating velocity for the fluid at
steady state conditions. In other words, operation above this velocity results in liquid
carryover, and operation below this velocity provides minimal liquid carryover based on
the particle shape, equivalent diameter and mass.

Impingement Separation

This separation mechanism depends primarily upon the growth of liquid articles on an
impingement plate, or a knitted wire mesh. When the coalesced particles agglomerate,
they will fall when the gravity force upon them is greater than the combined forces of
vapor momentum and the exhibited surface tension effects of the fluid. Typically,
impingement separation is used to reduce the vessel diameter for a given vapor volume
flow rate.

Normal practice is to design for full-load, however when knitted wire mesh is utilized for
reducing the vessel diameter, part-load consideration must be taken into account. These
materials are dependent on velocity to operate properly and effectively. At part-load, the
vapor volume flow rate reduces drastically and the resulting velocity change can affect
the mesh efficiency and capacity. The mesh can literally hold liquid at certain limits. This
condition is known as “flooding” and can release liquid to the downstream vapor flow
during a volume flow increase or a decrease in operating pressure.

Early Development of Separation Design

The most commonly referred-to work is that of Souders - Brown (1, 1934). This
groundbreaking article presented the separation mechanism in detail for distillation
columns in chemical processing plants. The inherent problem was to eliminate the liquid
carryover from lower trays in the column to those at subsequently higher levels. Since
the trays were installed in vertical fixed increments it was necessary to predict the vertical

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distance and separation velocity at which liquid from a lower tray would not carryover to
the next higher tray.

Lapple - Shepherd (2, 1939 & 1940) presented the first reference found by the author for
particle trajectories. This work presented a wide array of data and information relating to
particulate systems, where it was necessary to determine the paths described by the
component particles. Case studies are given for single and two-dimensional motion in a
gravitational field and application to centrifugal fields. Equations of motion were
described dependent upon the case (i.e., single or two-dimensional motion, centrifugal,
etc.) and the relative flow regime (i.e., Laminar or Turbulent).

York (3, 1950) introduced the knitted wire mesh pad and new design data for the
treatment of liquid separation problems. This design data lead to the adoption of the
familiar equation given below:

vmax = maximum separation velocity (feet per second)
k = constant based on vessel geometry and fluid properties
Ah,-,= refrigerant liquid density (Ibm / ft3 )
Avap=refrigerant vapor density (lbm / ft3 )

Many different "k" factors have been suggested ranging from 0.1 to 0.35. The "k" factor
is based on specific parameters, such as the type of mesh, mesh density, vertical
separation distance and fluid properties (liquid and vapor density, surface tension, particle
diameter, vapor viscosity, and gravitational effects). This should not be used as the
primary criteria in establishing maximum separation velocities without full consideration

of the impact of the "k" factor. However, for vertical vessels without demister pads, it
has been stated that it is reasonable to use a "k" factor in the range of 0.1 to 0.15 for
ammonia with a minimum separation distance of 24 inches. The use of this value will
return the maximum allowable separation velocity based on the fluid liquid and vapor
density, but the calculated velocity should be corrected by a factor of 0.75 to account for
load fluctuations (ASHRAE, 4, 1976).

Miller ( 5 , 1971) expanded upon the earlier work of Souders-Brown and provided the
basis for the current design practice in use today. The adaptation and refinement of the
original Souders-Brown work resulted in application guidelines and separation prediction
methods for both vertical and horizontal vessel orientations. Maximum separation
velocities for various refrigerants were presented and included further advances in vessel
internals, nozzle locations, and overall vessel geometry.

Wu (6, 1984) presented an approach that summarized the mechanisms of particle
dynamics for both impingement and gravity separators applicable to both vertical and
horizontal vessel orientation. The effect of particle trajectory through two dimensions
was examined as a means to predict the particle impingement upon the liquid surface to
develop the minimum vessel length for disengagement of the given particle mass and

Vessel Design Criteria

Orientation Vertical or Horizontal
Capacity CFM vapor & Velocity
Separation Distance y, or x and y paths

Vertical vessels have a constant cross-section (vapor flow area) so as the liquid level
increases, the vertical separation distance, as well as the vessel capacity, decreases (See
Figure 1).
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I A horizontal vessel will have a decreasing cross-section as the liquid level increases.
Therefore, the horizontal vessel will experience a decrease in capacity due to this change

1 in vapor flow area, based on a constant maximum separation velocity and residence
length (inlet nozzle to outlet nozzle) (See Figure 2).

I In general, allowable separation velocities will increase as the liquid density and the

I distance the liquid particle is allowed to travel increases. Liquid density increases and
vapor density decreases with a reduction in refrigerant temperature. The ratio of liquid

I density to vapor density is one of the main criteria for determining the maximum
allowable separation velocity. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect higher separation

I velocities at lower refrigerant temperatures and lower separation velocities at higher
refrigerant temperatures, for a constant particle size.
The maximum allowable ACFM (Actual Cubic Feet of vapor per Minute) is defined as
I the allowable vessel vapor flow area multiplied by the maximum separation velocity.
Separation distance is dependent on the vessel orientation, vertical or horizontal. In a
I vertical vessel the separation distance is the vertical dimension between the centerline of
the inlet nozzle and essentially the “knuckle of the head” or the girth joint between the
I head and shell (See Figure 3).

I A well-designed horizontal vessel utilizes the entire length of the vessel (x-axis) to

I increase the residence time of the particle in the vessel. The “x” dimension is defined as
the distance between the inlet and outlet nozzles. In addition, there is also the force of

I gravity to pull the particle down out of the carrier fluid (y-axis) (See Figure 4), which will
be determined by the vessel inside diameter and the operating liquid level.

I 2
Nozzles should be sized on a basis of limiting the pV value to reduce nozzle pressure

I losses and impingement erosion. By definition, pV2is equal to the fluid density

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(lbm/ ft3 or kgm/ m3) multiplied by the velocity (feet per second or meters per second)
squared. The fluid density, either liquid, vapor or a two-phase mixture, should be utilized
dependent upon operating phase and pressure to limit the pressure losses or erosion
effects where a two-phase flow is seen (Richards, 7, 1985 and TEMA, 8, 1992). Richards
gives a range of recommendations for suction vessel nozzle sizing as follows:

At -17’F, pV2 = 250
At +17’F, pV2=500

The use of low velocity nozzles provides two benefits:

1) Reducing the total pressure loss created by the vessel for a given volume
flow rate
2) Decreasing the possibility of higher velocity profiles in the fluid which can
reduce the potential for liquid carryover

General Piping Considerations

The most important design requirement for piping arrangements is to utilize gravity
drainage as much as possible. Any piping system where potential two-phase flow will
exist should be sized for low-pressure drop. And the use of slow-acting control valves is
highly recommended to reduce the possibility of liquid hammer (Glennon-Cole, 9, 1998).

The piping segments where this is most likely to occur are the wet suction lines used in
liquid recirculation systems, so-called “dry” suction lines, and hot gas defrost supply
headers. Since these line segments will contain liquid that ultimately returns a two-phase
flow to a vessel for separation, this issue should be addressed. Any force generated from
liquid hammer may be applied back through the piping to the vessel nozzles, which may
exceed the allowable design nozzle load.

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I Some suctions lines may be designed strictly for single-phase vapor flow; but

P occasionally they may operate with momentary volumes of liquid or “slugs”. This is the
case with “perceived” dry suction lines and hot gas piping.

I In addition, a general recommendation for all piping segments where two-hase flow may

I exist is to install globe style valves with the stem in a horizontal plane. This reduces the
potential build-up of liquid in front of the valve, due to the rotation of the valve seat axis.

I Dry Suction Line Piping

Dry suction lines (100% vapor) will contain liquid during a period when the compressors
I unload. The suction line itself will be at the temperature of the saturated vapor during
operation; however, when the compressor unloads, the suction pressure increases slightly.
I Since the actual pipe wall temperature is lower than the equivalent saturated vapor
temperature, the vapor will begin to condense into a liquid. This phenomenon can
I continue until the pipe wall temperature rises to equilibrium with the equivalent saturated
vapor temperature. When the suction pressure begins to rise due to a heavier load, the
II compressor capacity will increase. The increase in vapor volume flowing through the
pipe increases the line velocity and drags the liquid towards the compressor. This will
1 occur in any refrigerant vapor line, for‘example, “dry” suction line to the suction trap or

I in the header prior to the compressors.

I Accommodations can be made to prevent liquid returning to the compressors in the
suction headers by simply installing dnp legs in the bottom of the suction header and

I returning the condensate back to the trap (See Figure 5).

I Another possibility seen in dry suction lines is a process upset condition, where a high
heat load is applied to an exchanger containing large volumes of liquid refrigerant. The

I sudden application of heat to liquid refrigerant can result in a violent boiling behavior that
literally carries liquid, along with the exiting flash gas, back to the compressor suction.

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Wet Suction Line Piping
Wet suction lines, or suction lines for recirculated systems, are normally problem-free if
sized appropriately for low-pressure drop and installed with a slight slope back to the
separator. However, if the hot gas condensate or relief line is connected to the wet
suction line for draining, the suction line may experience higher-than-expected velocities
if the defrost duration is too long or if the quantity of units being defrosted is too great.
This is more of a potential liquid hammer problem than one for the separator design
requirements. I
Hot Gas Defrost Piping I
The source of hot gas is usually the high-stage compressor discharge line. In this case, I
the refrigerant vapor temperature is higher than the surrounding ambient (engine room or
refrigerated spaces) where the piping is installed. These piping segments will tend to I
accumulate liquid refrigerant due to the heat rejection to the ambient space.
This additional liquid refrigerant must pass through the air units, which does not
contribute to the defrosting effect, and returns to the connected separator downstream I
prior to the compressor. This liquid volume plus the liquid generated during defrost must
be stored in the separator to prevent its entrance into the compressor. These two liquid
volumes are part of the “surge volume requirements” for the separator. Surge volume is
the volume of liquid that the separator must store above the normal operating liquid level
with no negative impact on the separator capacity or compressors.
Ideally, it is recommended to drain the condensate from the hot gas supply header to
prevent liquid hammer, but also to provide only hot gas for defrosting the air units (See
Figure 6).
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Horizontal or Vertical Piping Considerations

In all permissible cases, gravity drainage is desired. Since a gravity drain piping network
is desirable, it is sufficient to say there should be a slope in the direction of flow.
Whether this is back to the vessel inlet nozzle for the case of returning liquid back to the
separator, or sloped in the direction of the air units of a hot gas defrost supply line.

Vertical suction lines (wet or dry) represent special cases in design and installation.
Returning liquid and vapor to a separator through a vertical line presents an area where
unusual judgments are necessary. Vertical return lines improperly designed may act as an
old-time percolating coffeepot (from fluid mechanics, this would be the plug- or slug-
flow regime) that may return large volumes of liquid, especially during capacity
increases. Or the lines may operate in an annular flow regime where the vapor travel is
through a core of liquid, and high-pressure drops are encountered. In either case,
compressor capacity is used to provide the motive force to move the liquid and reduces
the effective cooling capacity of the evaporators due to the increased pressure drop in the

Ideally for vertical risers the best method to handle this situation is to separate the liquid
before the vertical lift is encountered (See Figure 7).


Level Controls

It is a must that all low side vessels have a high level switch to shut down all compressors
should the liquid level get too high in the vessel (See Figure 8). It is desirable to have a
high level alarm, to warn of an impending high level, giving the operator a chance to
correct the problem before the compressors are automatically shut-down. It is important
to check the float switches for proper operation on a regularly scheduled basis to be sure

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that they function. Also, the switches need to be piped so that no oil is trapped in the 4
switch, and they should be located on a pipe column 2” to 3” in diameter to minimize
surging. I
For vessels that require maintaining a liquid level, like a recirculator, it is desirable to
maintain a constant flow of liquid into the vessel. Since flash gas can represent as much
as 30% of the total CFM (cubic feet per minute) returning to the compressors, a constant
liquid flow will help prevent suction pressure changes that can create surging and liquid
carryover. This can be accomplished by using a float valve that generally incorporates a
pilot valve or a pulse width type valve, or by using multiple solenoid / hand expansion
valves in parallel, operated by a multi-point level controller (See Figures 9 and 10).

Suction Pressure Control

Close suction pressure control is beneficial for reducing the possibility of liquid surges
and condensing in suction lines. Screw compressors with slide valves are ideal.
Compressors with stepped type capacity reduction should be smaller compressors and
should incorporate several steps to minimize quick drops in suction pressure. Large
screw compressors with stepped capacity reduction should be avoided.

Loading compressors rapidly is to be avoided. This is particularly important when a
system is brought on line after an extended shut-down and pressures have equalized. For
a compressor system on a process that has shut-down over an extended period of time
with the system equalized, the compressor control system should incorporate a slow-
loading mode for the initial pull-down to the normal operating suction pressure.

In the case of a refrigerated warehouse with a recirculator where the refrigeration system
is shut-down, a rapid drop in suction pressure on start-up will create a large amount of gas
in air unit coils. This causes a surge of liquid to quickly return from the air units back to

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the recirculator. If complete shutdown of the system is desired, a Control System should
incorporate a shutdown sequence. A simple sequence for a recirculator would be to
de-energize the liquid feed and at the same time shutdown all but one compressor with its
capacity reduced to a minimum for a slow pump-down cycle. All air units should be in
the refrigeration mode in order to boil off as much liquid as possible. When the liquid
recirculating pump stops on low level, adequate liquid has been boiled off and is now in
the main receiver. At this point the compressor can be stopped.

Computers and Trend Analysis

With the advent of computer monitoring systems capable of logging operating data, it has
become easier to determine when liquid carryover occurs. Excessive liquid refrigerant
returning to a compressor can cause compressor oil temperatures, suction gas
temperatures and discharge gas temperatures to be depressed. Completing a trend
analysis of these temperatures can reveal that there is a problem. Large slugs of liquid
can actually result in a sudden increase in compressor motor amperage; and this may
result in high amperage alarms or trips. Liquid surges can result in accumulator high
level alarms and trips that can be logged and trended as well.

Compressor Designs for Protection of Liquid Carryover

Although the goal is to design a system that operates efficiently and reliably given the
technologies available for separation, piping, and system control, system transients and
upsets still occur. Although components including coalescing elements are designed for
separation in systems, they are not 100% efficient. Depending on the particle size, some
liquid particles do pass through where they can collect downstream. Furthermore, liquid
refrigerant traps and other types of vessels without coalescing elements will also allow
some liquid to pass through depending on the design and operating conditions. Even with
sophisticated control systems, compressors still must be designed to handle the transient
and system upsets to include liquid carryover. These can result in liquid slugs or a
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dilution of the lubricant in the lubrication system. Compressor design considerations to
maximize reliability must include oil pressure detection, the proper selection of
compressor bearings and pressure relieving designs.

Oil Pressure Detection Devices

Both reciprocating and rotating compressors are equipped with some type of low oil
pressure detection device. Some reciprocating compressors use an electro-mechanical oil
pressure failure switch with a delay built into it. The delay is utilized to prevent nuisance
trips and allow time to obtain a minimum oil pressure on start-ups.

Since the advent of microprocessor controls, a number of additional options are available.
First, an adequate period can be adjusted to allow the oil pressure to reach a minimum
level. Second, a sampling rate can be programmed to avoid nuisance trips but also
provide adequate protection against lubrication failure. Microprocessor control systems
also allow data logging capability to identify short duration lubrication failures that are
not long enough to shut down the compressor, but could cause some gradual damage.
Screw compressors generally have a startup delay to allow the oil system to come up to
pressure but include an instantaneous shutdown due to the loss of oil pressure once the
operating system requirements have been met.

Compressor Bearing Designs

The type of bearings utilized in a compressor design affects its ability to withstand the
high pressures and resulting loads from encountering an incompressible fluid (liquid
slugging) during the compression process. When a liquid slug is encountered the loads
are transmitted through the piston and connecting rod to the bearings. Two types of
bearing designs are primarily used: a journal bearing and thrust-face type of bearing, or a
rolling element type bearing. The journal type bearing relies on a hydrodynamic wedge

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of lubricant to exist between the bearing and the rotating member, while the rolling
element type bearing depends on oil or another media for cooling and lubrication.

Both reciprocating and some rotating type compressors use journal type sleeve and thrust
type bearings. These bearings are typically babbit, aluminum, or a steel-backed
aluminum with a small babbit overlay. The bearings are usually oil pressure fed and are
dependent on developing a hydrodynamic wedge of lubricant to operate with a minimum
oil film thickness between the rotating member and the bearing. The minimum oil film
thickness is typically in the range of a few ten thousandths of an inch. This minimum oil
film thickness is a function of rhe oil pressure supply, the transmitted load applied, the
projected bearing area, the viscosity of the oil, and the amount of time the load is applied
(which is a function of rpm). Compressors have minimum oil viscosity requirements and
minimum operational speeds (See Figures 11 and 12).

If an excessive amount of refrigerant is mixed in with the lubrication system supply of a
compressor using journal type bearings, premature wear and even failure can result. A
properly operating journal bearing is dependent on two components regarding the oil
system: the oil supply pressure and the oil viscosity. If liquid refrigerant is mixed in with
the oil, the viscosity of the oil and resulting oil film thickness is reduced resulting in wear
on the bearing surface. When excessive loads due to a liquid slug are encountered, the oil
film can be broken through, resulting in metal-to-metal contact, wear, and eventual or
immediate failure of the bearing. (Some pictures of bearing failures due to these
conditions can be seen in Figure 17.)

Many reciprocating and rotating type compressors have been designed to utilize rolling
element type bearings. These type of bearings are far more forgiving to transient and
abnormal operating conditions since the bearings are designed to function with almost a
metal-to-metal interface with a minimal supply of lubrication. All of the issues
previously discussed including the necessity of a minimum oil film thickness in journal

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type bearings which can reduce the life and reliability of the compressor are minimized
with rolling element bearings. In fact, there are thousands of screw compressors in air
conditioning which utilize rolling element bearings and which operate in an O F , or oil-
injected, free environment. The most important design criteria is keeping the bearings
cool. This is accomplished by having a few drops of oil mixed in with the gaseous
refrigerant for lubricity.

Many compressor manufacturers have modified compressor designs to utilize more
rolling element type bearings to improve operational reliability. Some screw compressor
manufacturers use journal bearings to handle high radial loads, but use rolling element
bearings to control axial position and thrust loads. Other screw compressor
manufacturers have switched entirely to rolling element bearings - a better choice to
survive peak loads and marginal lubrication.

Pressure Relieving Designs

Several reciprocating compressor manufacturers have built internal relief valves into the
compressor cylinder design to protect the compressors in case liquid carryover occurs. If
a liquid slug (i.e., an incompressible fluid) is able to migrate into a compressor cylinder
during the compression process, a percentage of the gas volume is displaced by the liquid.
As the compression process proceeds and the gas volume reduces in the cylinder, the
pressure increases at a faster rate. Compression continues until the discharge pressure is
reached, the discharge valve opens and both the liquid and gas begin to flow through the
discharge valve ports. Since liquid flows through an opening at a slower rate than gas,
the piston can actually come in contact with the liquid during the compression stroke and
an instantaneous peak pressure is reached. An abnormally high pressure remains until the
liquid has either had enough time to be displaced through the discharge valve port areas
or a pressure relieving design activates. As the piston stroke approaches TDC (top dead
center), the piston velocity decreases, the rate of compression decreases, and the gas and
liquid have more time to exit the compression chamber. Once the piston has reached the
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end of its stroke, the clearance remains filled with some liquid and re-expands (See
Figure 13).

At least one manufacturer has a spring loaded cylinder head (safety head). If the internal
cylinder pressure increases to an undesirable level, the safety head is allowed to
temporarily unseat and axially displace. This movement increases the discharge port flow
area allowing the liquid to be expelled during the compression stroke. This minimizes
the excessive pressure and the resulting loads which could damage the compressor frame
and dnve system including the piston, connecting rod, or crankshaft.

Upon completion of pushing the liquid out of the compression chamber, the safety head
reseats to allow continued operation without any performance loss or down time (See
Figure 14). This type of built-in relief valve, however, does not replace a properly
designed system. If the safety head design is continuously activated due to inherent
system design problems, the head seat can eventually wear and leak. Since the loads
encountered when continuously activating the heads are obviously higher than normal,
even with a safety head design, bearing failures can result.

Another type of internal relief valve that has been utilized in some reciprocating
compressor designs is an internal rupture disk built into the piston. This rupture disk is
also activated by excessive pressure in the compressor chamber caused by a liquid slug.
Although the compressor is protected, once the rupture disk is activated, the piston has a
blow hole that will not allow compression to occur any further. In this case, the
compressor must be disassembled and the piston removed, replaced and/or rebuilt.

At least one manufacturer produces one type of screw compressor, a single screw
compressor, with an internal relief valve built into its design. One of the rotor
assemblies, the gaterotor, acts as a relief valve on start-up.

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A single screw compressor compresses the gas in the groove of the main screw. As the
main screw rotates, the volume of groove (V) decreases (to V2) and the pressure in the
groove increases. This continues until the groove lines up with a discharge port in the
housing and the gas andor liquid discharges the compressor (See Figure 15).

If the groove is filled with liquid on startup, the spring loaded gaterotor assembly
temporarily displaces, allowing a window-shaped portal to open and expel most of the
liquid during the compression stroke. This minimizes any excessive pressures and
resulting loads that could damage the compressor drive system and related components
(See Figure 16).

This design is currently in production on some single screw compressors with single
fixed-length slides. High loads during start-up is a concern on any type of screw
compressor that has a single slide system. This is not a concern, however, when starting a
single screw compressor with a Parallex Slide SystemTM(dual parallel slides), as it starts

Although the design is being successfully applied to minimize loads within a compressor
completely filled with a liquid on startup, laboratory and field testing is currently being
conducted to evaluate the benefits of this design when encountering liquid slugging at full
operational speed.


Liquid carryover, more commonly referred to as liquid slugging, should be prevented if a
system is designed properly. This includes the proper design and use of suction traps,
knockout drums, separators, and accumulators, combined with the gravity drainage
considerations of the piping design. The proper design of the controls and the location of
the level and pressure sensors to control the system are just as important.

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AlthwJgh compressor manufacturers continue to improve compressor designs to make
them more forgiving to system upsets (e.g., safety heads on reciprocating compressors
and spring loaded gaterotor assemblies on single screw compressors) nothing can
substitute for a properly designed system.


Souders, M. and G. G. Brown, “Design of Fractioning Columns, Entrainment and
Capacity,’’ Ind. Eng. Chem., 1934.

Lapple, C. E. and C. B. Shepherd, “Calculation of Particle Trajectories,” Ind. Eng.
Chem., 1940.

York, 0. H., “Performance of Wire-Mesh Demisters,” Chem. Eng. Prog., 1954.

ASHRAE Handbook: Refrigeration Systems and Applications, 1986.

Miller, D. K., “Recent Methods for Sizing Liquid Overfeed Piping and Suction
Accumulator Receivers,” IIR Proceedings, 1971.

Wu, F. H., “Drum Separator Design - A New Approach,” Chem. Eng., 1984.

Richards, W. V., “A Critical Look at Old Habits in Ammonia Vessel
Specifications,” IIAR, 1985.

TEMA, Standards of the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association, 1988.

Glennon, C. and R. A. Cole, “Case Study of Hydraulic Shock Events in Ammonia
Refrigeration Systems,” IIAR, 1998.

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Figure 1: Vertical constant cross-section

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Figure 2: Horizontal constant cross-section

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- I


Figure 3: Vertical separation distance

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Figure 4: Particle trajectory through 2-axis

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Figure 5: Recommended header piping

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Figure 6: Recommended gas main piping

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p I I I I I I I

I (Recommended)

Figure 7: Recommended vertical piping for elevation change

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- - e - - -

Figure 8: Accumulator with high-level float switches

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Figure 9: Level control with pulse-width modulating valve / Two-step level control with two solenoids

W ~ - Q O ~ ~ L ~ ~ ~
Figure 10: Level control with pilot-operated float valve

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Figure 11: Rotating compressorjournal bearing and reciprocating
compressorjournal bearing

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Figure 12: Journal bearing operation

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t' \

z n

, ........ SUCTlON





Figure 13: Reciprocating Compressor

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...................... DISCHARGE




Figure 14: Reciprocating compressor with safety head design

I - 93 -




Figure 16: Single Screw Compressor

Sample A exhibits normal wear patterns.
Sample B exhibits wear due to reduced oil film thickness and excessive loading.
Sample C exhibits excessive wear due to reduced oil film thickness and excessive loading.

Figure 17: Bearing insert failure

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