Compressor Equipment in the Oil and Gas Industry
Within the oil and gas industry, there are many essential aspects that require proper compressor equipment. Here are the most common applications of compressors in this industry.
The oil and gas industry through its refinement and distillation processes has helped in the production of:
- Jet fuel
- Diesel fuel
- A wide range of other products
All it takes is to mine petroleum from locations with naturally occurring crude oil whose makeup include ancient Zooplankton and algae that were formed as a result of being exposed to high-level pressure and heat, millions of years ago.
However, a lot of processes are taken during oil drilling in order to arrive at these end products and notable among them, is the application of compressor equipment and valve parts in the production of oil and gas.
What is Compressor Equipment?
Mechanical devices which reduce the volume of a gas in a bid to increase its pressure are known as compressor equipment.
These machines are used during the initial treatment of crude oil before the gas is transported through pipelines, supply chain, to the final consumers.
In the same vein, the increase in pressure can be carried out along the pipelines, at processing plants field nodes, or the inlets of the pipelines in order to reduce Methane and VOC.
Types of Compressors Used in the Oil and Gas Industry
Two basic types of compressors are employed in the natural gas industry, and these are the rotary and reciprocating compressors.
1. Rotary Compressors:
Rotary compressors are of two major types and these are the rotary blower and centrifugal compressor.
Generally, they have a wet or dry seal configuration and some of their components include:
- A housing with built-in flow passages
- A rotating shaft for mounting the impeller
- Seals and bearings that help to trap the natural gas from leaking
Most of the parts of a rotary machine are immutable asides from the impeller and shaft and as such, they are less susceptible to mechanical inefficiency in comparison to reciprocating compressors.
Additionally, in industrial rotatory machines, parts such as Incremental Encoders can also be used for better positioning and motor speed feedback.
This helps to minimize the expenses that would have been made to cover its lubrication and maintenance.
For its mode of operation, a rotary’s mechanical impellers or vanes enable it to draw the low-pressure natural gas and expel the high-pressure natural gas which in turn increases the pressure.
In the same vein, the circular movement of the impeller or its centrifugal force increases the velocity of the gas which is then transported to a duct section. The latter converts the velocity energy to static pressure.
It is also worthy to note that the pressure ratio of rotary compressors is fixed which is why the pressure output is always constant.
2. Reciprocating Compressor:
Reciprocating compressor equipment used in the oil and gas industry, exhibit a linear motion when increasing the pressure in natural gas.
They are the most commonly used in natural gas compressors because they can handle all volume capacities and pressures.
In comparison with rotary compressors, they have a varying volumetric flow-rate output which could still be limited.
That aside, these machines have more moving parts,
As such, their mechanical efficiencies are lower and there may be a need to lubricate the parts occasionally.
These parts include:
- Cylinder heads
- Discharge valves
Reciprocating compressors can either be driven using gas, electric motors or steam turbine engines instead of the general electric motors of the rotator machines.
A machine of this nature also operates within a certain range of compression ratios and a selection has to be made to get the right clearance volume and piston displacement in the cylinder.
Types of Reciprocating Compressors
Like rotary, you can also find these devices in two different designs and they are single- and two-stage designs:
1. Single Stage Design:
- Air is drawn into the cylinder and compressed in a single stroke
- Compressed gas is transferred to the storage tank
2. Two-Stage Design:
- Employs an extra piston
- Capable of higher pressure levels
Applications of Compressor Equipment in the Oil and Gas Industry
Compressors are needed in both small and large mining operations. Because of this, some areas of applications of compressor equipment in the oil and gas industry include:
1. Petroleum Refining:
Governments in different jurisdictions require that the natural gas in petroleum is compressed by 95 percent.
Therefore, before petroleum is transported through pipelines, a significant part has to be processed in order to boost the pressure levels in the gas.
This, in turn, stirs up a catalytic reaction.
2. Pipeline Transportation:
Compressor equipment is used in oilfield facilities to maintain or boost the pressure in transported gas as it moves along the pipelines to the supplier and final consumer.
In this aspect, reciprocating compressors that are gas-driven are usually employed.
They also have a working discharge pressure between 20 to 50 bar and a power rating between 150 to 3,500 kW.
This process also allows the hydrocarbon to be treated for impurities such as hydrogen sulfide which could be as high as 6 percent.
3. Gas Re-injection:
The pressure in oil reserves and well flow tend to decrease over time and compressors are used to boost them.
This gas lift production process also facilitates the recovery of crude oil through the injection of oil layers.
Here, the re-injection can be carried out using air or associated gas and the compressor working pressure will range between 150 to 350 bar.
An instance is the case of a tandem compressor system which makes use of both the centrifugal compressor and reciprocating compressor.
The first is used to compress the gas initially while the latter is used for further compression in order to attain the desired pressure level.
Generally, rotatory compressors are best suited in large fields while the reciprocating compressor equipment is used small and medium-sized fields.
4. Petrochemical synthesis:
Very specific air and gas pressurization is needed in the manufacturing process for:
- Ethylene glycol
- Other petrochemicals
Because of this, compressor equipment is necessary to make that possible.
The Future of Compressors in Oil and Gas Industry
Mining has advanced from the stage of using a shovel and seeking raw materials in a hole.
This time around, high-end machines are used to back up the process of sourcing for petroleum in oil-rich locations.
On the other hand, the high demand for fossil fuels by consumers to run cars, generators, and other mechanical devices translates into a growing need for compressor equipment to manage the pressure levels of gas in oil fields.
There may be a development in alternative sources of energy, but a majority of the population will still have to fall back on this energy source and non-oil based products such as:
- Paraffin wax
- Petroleum jelly
- Refined bitumen
- Microcrystalline wax
Therefore, an increase in the demand for these machines can be expected over the next few years.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States alone uses 20.5 million barrels of petroleum per day.
The same can be said about the high-level competition between oil and gas compressor manufacturers to bring about easier access and larger yields will lead to the development of more advanced machines.
The application of compressor equipment in the oil and gas industry to process fuel-rich materials is one area that cannot be neglected especially if a company wants to avoid drawing regulatory concerns in the jurisdiction where their services are offered.
Depending on the type of machine that is employed, the pressure in natural gas can be enhanced and those held in a reservoir can be preserved with the right amount of pressure.
Now it’s left for the oilfield to determine which they’ll settle with and which holds a promise of providing the best output while also reducing the high cost that comes with managing these machines.
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