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Reciprocating Compressors: The Impact of Compressor Flexibility

What is compressor flexibility? Let’s take a look at the important facts to know.

Reciprocating Compressors: The Impact of Compressor Flexibility - KB Delta

Reciprocating compressors are positive-displacement machines that use cylinders and crankshaft-driven pistons to compress air. They work by drawing air into the cylinder, where the air is compressed and transported to a storage tank. Single-stage reciprocating compressors work a bit differently from a two-stage compressor with a second but smaller piston.

Reciprocating compressors are often used in the oil, gas, and chemical industries as a result of fluid compression at irregular cycles. They are employed in many other industrial applications that involve gas compression.

These usually include compressing air for air-powered tools and instrument systems, compressing various gases for transportation or storage, and compressing oxygen or oxygen.

Some reciprocating compressors have design challenges that include constant regulation of pressure within the piece of machinery as well as minimizing the overall energy consumption of the equipment.


What are the Situations Most Suitable for Reciprocating Compressors?

Reciprocating compressors are commonly employed in situations that require high compression ratios with zero high-flow rates. In most cases, the process fluid is comparatively dry.

In contrast, most centrifugal designs are generally employed for wet gas compressors. Rotary compressors are only suitable when there is a need for compressed air.


Advantages of Reciprocating Compressors

Reciprocating compressors have primary advantages, including flexibility, high efficiencies achieved, higher pressure generation, as well as efficiency of use in cycling.

Let’s take a look at each of them more closely:


Compressor Flexibility

Reciprocating compressors are available in both oil-free and oil-flooded options. This implies that if you prefer a specific type of reciprocating compressor for your unique application, you won’t be limited due to the constraint that oil contamination may present.

Moreover, it is possible to base-mount or tank-mount reciprocating compressors. This significantly decreases the constraints or restrictions of placement.

To boost the flexibility of a reciprocating compressor, it must be capable of operating under less-than-original design conditions. Such compressor must come with that in-built design capability.

Therefore, to provide the desired flexibility of operating at lower suction pressures, the following must be performed:


  1. Include the capacity to increase speed, or
  2. Add a significant variable clearance initially, especially when suction is high. Clearance is removed at lower pressure in order to boost actual throughput.


For the reciprocating compressor to offer flexibility for an eventual higher suction temperature, you must do the following:


  1. Include the capability to boost speed, or
  2. Add significant variable clearance in order to initially minimize capacity at low temperature. Clearance is removed completely at high temperatures in order to boost actual throughput.


Providing compressor flexibility for eventual higher discharge pressures, you must ensure that there are just enough stages at the beginning. This makes it possible to increase the ratio per stage while staying within the discharge temperature range/limits or use variable clearance to adjust or adapt the ratio per stage.

In order to provide compressor flexibility for considerably increased throughput, the following must be done:


  1. Add the capability to boost speed, or
  2. Add a significant variable clearance in order to minimize initial capacity when the throughput is low. Clearance can be removed in order to boost throughput.


This shows how impactful reciprocating compressors are, especially in regard to flexibility.


Higher Efficiency

Reciprocating compressors can generate higher pressures while using far less energy to operate simultaneously. This makes this specific compressor type far more beneficial or advantageous for industrial applications where its intermittent use with considerably high pressure is required.


Generates Higher Pressure

Reciprocating compressors can generate higher pressures than other versions of compressors, such as the popular rotary screw varieties.

As a matter of fact, pressures generally range from zero to 30,000 pounds per square inch (PSI). However, reciprocating compressors are also highly suitable for climate control applications requiring 60 to 90 pounds per square inch.


Excellent Option for Intermittent Tasks

As mentioned earlier, reciprocating compressors are ideal for tasks or applications that require intermittent usage. Due to reciprocating compressors’ operative style, they function effectively by maintaining high efficiency as they run intermittently.

This implies that if your reciprocating compressor is not operating non-stop or continuously, you will enjoy considerable energy savings, especially compared to other compressor types.


Generates High Power

Reciprocating compressors possess the capability to generate high power with maintenance-free operation and relatively less cost involvement. This makes the equipment smoother and more beneficial. Any process that functions efficiently is mostly considered the best – and highly reliable – in terms of cost involvement.



Many reciprocating compressors are highly portable and do not require much area and space for optimal operation. This makes it possible to locate a reciprocating compressor unit relatively close to point-of-use, thereby avoiding pressure drips and lengthy piping runs. This is the best and most effective way to perform resource-efficient work with strategized pressure without dropping one fraction of pressure.

This, in the opinion of many experts, is the real beauty of this remarkable piece of machinery.


Exceptionally Durable

Reciprocating compressors are highly durable with their deliverance and operation. They are also efficient/effective with their operating environment and working scenarios while requiring far less space involvement as well as portable scenarios.

The low price involvement of the purchase of reciprocating compressors, including installation, running costs, and affordability, make these machines exceptional and long-lasting.

Not only that, but reciprocating compressors also possess considerable product life as a result of their fault-proof and energized formation. They mostly do not require in-depth maintenance or even replacement after several operating years.

Other advantages of reciprocating compressors include:


  1. Wide range of application
  2. Low material requirements
  3. Convenient processing
  4. Low cost
  5. Low power consumption per unit
  6. High thermal efficiency


Reciprocating Compressor Component

Reciprocating compressors are made up of over 100 components or parts. However, the top 10 most crucial reciprocating compressor parts include:

  1. Piston
  2. Cylinder
  3. Connecting Rod
  4. Crankshaft
  5. Distance piece
  6. Piston Rod
  7. Valves
  8. Pulley
  9. Crankcase
  10. Rings



A reciprocating compressor is a piece of highly delicate equipment that, when designed well, has a significant life span. Using this piece of machinery comes with several advantages, the most considerable of which is compressor flexibility as well as the high range of pressures that reciprocating compressors reach.



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