What Is a Natural Gas Compressor Station (and Why Is It Important)?
Natural gas is used in many applications throughout the United States, but many people don’t understand the function and importance of a natural gas compressor station.
When you turn on a natural gas furnace or fire up a gas oven, the fuel for these important household appliances don’t appear by magic.
The gas which powers the vital part of modern homes pass through a carefully constructed utility highway which is monitored for safety and efficiency twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
Gas might be a naturally occurring resource, but it requires human capital and labor before it can be fully utilized.
Natural gas is safe and efficient, thanks to all those who carefully plot its journey to your home and work long hours to locate and extract it. Flow assurance is dependent upon many factors, some of which aren’t in the pipelines beneath your feet.
But one of the most important aspects of North America’s pipeline isn’t underground at all.
Understanding Natural Gas
While it’s true that your fireplace would remain dark and cold without these, you should also be familiar with the function and importance of compressor stations.
Do you know where your nearest compressor station is? Probably not.
They usually occupy anywhere between five to fifteen acres, depending upon their roles and location.
But many appliances in your home probably couldn’t function without it, and you’d certainly know right away if it wasn’t doing its job.
Meet Your Local Natural Gas Compressor Station
Without natural gas compressor stations, the output of the national gasline would trickle out not far past the wellhead.
Especially for those who live in mountainous or rural areas, compressor stations are vital for helping natural gas travel from the wellhead to the end user.
In some cases, the gas must travel hundreds of miles from its extraction point to your home or business.
When natural gas is extracted from a wellhead, it is pressurized to push it along an interstate pipeline.
Changes in terrain can lead to drops in pressure, or friction along the pipe over long distances can also slow the flow.
What Do Compressor Stations Do?
So, every forty or one hundred miles, a natural gas compressor station is placed to restore pressure to the gas.
A natural gas compressor station contain several:
Backups to protect the complex as well as nearby neighborhoods
Some modern compressor stations are operated remotely, and are staffed only by a small crew or an as-needed maintenance team.
Gas compression is accomplished inside the natural gas station by some kind of mechanical means. The compression might take place via engine or turbine, or even with a motor.
What’s truly impressive about compressor stations is that they are powered by the gas they are compressing, making them extremely efficient and energy friendly.
Roles of the Gas Compressor Station
You might be surprised to learn that a compressor station for natural gas does more than just boost the pressure of the gas.
Some of them also take on the task of giving it a quick bath. As the gas whooshes through the pipes, it can collect water molecules or small pollutants, such as bits of clay or soil.
Therefore, when it reaches the compressor station, the gas might be subjected to some form of liquid separation. The gas is also filtered.
Scrubbers strip hydrocarbons out of the gas stream. This removes the particles or water and allows the gas to continue its journey to your gas gill more efficiently.
Some compressor stations also contain odorization equipment. That might sound strange, as part of our lives might be concentrated on deodorizing the world around us.
However, it’s important to give natural gas an odor, as on its own it does not smell like anything in particular. That might seem to be a selling point until you remember the dangers of a potential gas leak.
End users and the general populace must be alert to the presence of gas leak without having to check equipment. To enable this, gas companies introduce mercaptan into the natural gas stream.
Mercaptan is the “rotten egg” or sulfur smell which we normally associate with gas.
Although the odor in in its concentrated form is extremely strong, since it’s an inert substance, mercaptan is safe to include in the gas supply.
Mufflers, Storage, and Cooling
The business of compressing gas, unfortunately, isn’t necessarily a quiet one.
Compressor stations are also outfitted with muffler systems to dampen the decibel level. This usually involves several aspects:
- Insulation of turbines
- Thick walls
- Strong weather stripping
- Air inlet and air discharge mufflers
Bypass lines are usually insulated as well. The ambient sound levels surrounding compressor stations must be lower than 55 decibels while operating at full capacity. This is the approximate equivalent of traffic on a suburban road.
Compressor stations also serve the important role of acting as a storage facility for the gas it scrubs, separates, and boosts.
Sometimes, flow from the wellhead exceeds consumer demand. In order to equalize pressure across the pipeline, the gas is kept in safe storage until demand increases.
Depending on the location of the compressor station and the time of year, the station might be storing a great deal of gas, or none at all.
Finally, the act of compressing gas tends to heat it. Compressor stations must be equipped with coolers to bring it to a more manageable level.
If the gas is sent back out into the pipeline which is too high, it might damage the infrastructure of the pipes, as well as other equipment.
Transmission Pressures and Backup Generators
Not only does the natural gas compressor station prepare the gas to continue its trip to the end user, it also helps to regulate the flow of the flow of the gas.
Metering equipment is usually a staple of compression stations; this enables monitoring of the gas both in and out of the complex.
Because compression stations play such a vital role as they dot the pipeline landscape, they usually also contain backup generators.
In order to keep gas flowing, particularly if needed in an emergency situation, the compressor parts must continue to function as best as it can.
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