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Benefiting from Efficiency Improvements to Gas Compression


The Cost Effectiveness of Technology
Harry Miller
Dresser-Rand, Olean, NY, USA
Introduction
Dresser-Rand is pleased to have the honor of making a presentation to this forum today. Although the subject of benefiting from efficiency
improvements in gas compression is the primary topic of this address, the cost effectiveness of technology will be focused upon as the driver of
these benefits. This discussion will focus on centrifugal turbo compressors, which are the most commonly used in large-scale gas processing plants.
As such, we will address the following topics with you today;
G What has improved recently in centrifugal compressors?
H Aerodynamic Technology
H Mechanical Technology
H Manufacturing Technology
H Design Process Technology
G What benefits do these improvements generate?
H Operation and Maintenance Benefits
H Capital and Operating Expense Benefits
G What will the future bring?
1.0 What has improved recently in centrifugal compressors?
As presented by my colleague David Blauser at a similar conference recently in Europe, the efficiency of centrifugal compressors has shown steady
improvement throughout the years. (FIG.1) This improvement in efficiency can be largely attributed to improvements in technology in three key
areas namely;
1. Improved aero efficiency due to better design tools which permits better flowpath designs.
2. Reduction in parasitic losses due to better bearing and seal designs.
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3. Improvements in manufacturing machine tool technology which permits more complicated geometry's to be machined with greater accuracy.
1. 1 Flowpath Design
By now you have all probably heard of "Computational Fluid Dynamics" otherwise known as "CFD." CFD has been in use in the design of industrial
centrifugal centrifugal compressors for approximately 8 to 10 years. CFD permits the flowpath designer to better visualize what the flow profiles look
like at any point in the flowpath, and can also point out areas contributing to losses of pressure rise as well. (FIG. 2 & 3) Until recently, the CFD
codes in use could not analyze a complete stage in a typical centrifugal compressor. Rather, the impeller, which has a rotating frame of reference,
could not easily be coupled to the diffuser, return bend, return channel, and inlet guide vane, because they had a stationary frame of reference.
Now, today, there are several CFD codes available which can couple the rotating and stationary frames of reference, and thereby analyze the flow
through the complete stage instead of through the impeller and stationary flowpath separately. (FIG. 4-7) This capability allows better matching of
the flow profiles at the exit of the impeller and entrance to the diffuser and well as from the inlet guide vane exit and impeller entrance. The result is
a better visualization of the interaction of the flow between the rotating impeller and stationary components.
Another feature available with some CFD codes today is the ability to analyze two phase flows. Either gas-solid, or, gas-liquid flows maybe analyzed
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to assess the impact of such potential problems as erosion, phase migration, fouling, and the effectiveness of on-line solvent cleaning.
Future developments of CFD codes will probably include the calculation of forces generated by non-uniform unsteady flows which are thought to
interact with the rotor give rise to unsteady vibrations in the rotor.
In addition to helping the aerodynamists design better performing flowpaths, CFD has enabled engineers to refine new designs on the computer
before prototypes are manufactured for test rig verification, thus reducing the number of iterations required to meet design objectives. Therefore, the
time and cost to develop new products is reduced.
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1. 2 Parasitic Loss Reduction
The reductions in parasitic losses due to improved bearing and seal systems are largely due to the efforts of the key suppliers of these components.
For example, several manufactures of journal and thrust bearings have developed "directed lubrication" bearings, which are an innovative alternate
to the conventional flooded bearings. This improvement allows the bearing to operate at the load and speed rating as a conventional flooded
bearing, but with the advantage of requiring less lubricating oil flow, FIG 9. In addition, the directed lubrication bearing typically operates at a lower
pad temperature than it's flooded counterpart, and significantly lower friction horsepower, FIG 11.
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These advantages may not seem like large improvements at first, but when one considers that the lube oil system can be smaller, which includes a
smaller reservoir, smaller pumps, filters, coolers, valves, piping, etc., the savings in initial cost can be significant. In addition, the smaller pumps
require less steam or electricity to operate, the coolers require less water or smaller fans, the reservoir takes less oil to fill, and occupies less space,
etc., and the savings in operating costs begin to look more significant as well.
The cost effectiveness of these improvements is presented in Table 1.
The manufacturers of dry gas seals have continued to make improvements in the range of application and reliability of their seal designs, and as
you are aware, there are already many examples of the cost effectiveness of dry gas seal systems as compared to seal oil systems. Nevertheless, a
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number of compressor manufacturers now take advantage of the dry gas seal's capability to seal each end of the compressor at a slightly different
pressure, and eliminate the balancing of seal pressures at each end of the compressor. FIG. 14 & 15. This does require an additional pressure
control valve in the gas seal system, but it also eliminates a small leakage flow from the discharge end of the compressor back to the inlet end. This
"seal balance flow" is typically 1 % to 3% of the compressor throughflow, but nevertheless it represents a reduction in parasitic power loss. One gas
seal manufacturer even has a design that replaces the balance piston with two vertically stacked gas seals, that provides a substantial reduction in
recycled flow within the compressor. FIG. 16 & 17 The stacked gas seals ride against a vertical disc which provide the same thrust compensating
function as a traditional balance piston and labyrinth seal, but with much less leakage flow. The reduction in parasitic loss for the stacked gas seal is
typically 5% to 10% of the compressor throughflow.

In conclusion, the reduction in parasitic horsepower loss accruing from these new features can be anywhere from 100 to 1000 horsepower,
depending on the size and pressure ratio of the compressor.
1.3 Manufacturing Technology
Some of the most significant improvements that have been made in recent years have been in the area of manufacturing technology. New mufti-
axis "NC" controlled machine tools and cutters FIG. 18 have drastically increased metal removal rates and reduced set-up times by being able to do
more than one type of operation. FIG. 19 For example, some new tools can mill, turn, and drill a component in one set-up as opposed to three, not
to mention that in the not too distant past, three separate tools were required as well. Also, the multi-axis capability of the new NC machine tools
has permitted more complicated shapes to be machined, as opposed to being cast or fabricated. FIG. 20. With it's inherent dimensional accuracy,
and good surface finish capability, it is easy to understand why many turbomachinery designers prefer to machine components rather than use the
casting or fabrication process to manufacture their critical components. Coupled with the improvements in metal removal rates and reduced set-up
time, machining components has recently become a provider of cost advantages over other manufacturing techniques.
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New types of metal joining techniques such as Ebraze Welding have made similar improvements to the specific area of impeller fabrication. FIG.21
& 22. The Ebraze Welding process combines facets of the electron beam welding process with the vacuum furnace brazing process, to produce a
weld joint that has superior fatigue strength compared to traditional types of welding and brazing processes. FIG. 23 & 24. The time required to weld
an impeller is greatly reduced as well, not only reducing the cost per impeller, but reducing the overall investment required to manufacture a given
number of impellers per year.
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1.4 Design Process Technology
Some of the most exciting improvements of recent years have been made in the area of design process technology. More specifically, the latest
CAD/CAM systems offer the potential to integrate design engineering and manufacturing engineering into a seamless electronic environment. Not
only can the time required to prepare component drawings be greatly decreased FIG. 25, but it is becoming increasingly common to go direct from
the designers CAD terminal to the NC programmers terminal and ultimately to the NC machine tool all electronically FIG. 26-29. It will be some
years before "paperless" manufacture of compressors is achieved, but even if it is not completely achieved, the savings in cycle time and cost will
be substantial. Other advantages offered by such systems include:
G Consistent part quality
G Consistent drawing format and quality
G Reduction in drawing errors
G Greater re-use of existing component drawings
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G Quicker release of drawing information for material procurement

Another facet of design process technology that has improved greatly in recent years lies in the area of "Concurrent Engineering". Concurrent
Engineering has been defined as the simultaneous integration of all requirements in the initial development of a product design. In other words, the
development engineer and/or development team, considers input from the customer, his own company's marketing & sales people, the
manufacturing people, the procurement people, and key suppliers. The "design intent" from each of these areas is then defined and incorporated to
the best degree possible with the functional requirements, to develop a product whose design satisfies a greater variety of requirements therefore
has a greater potential for success. This type of thinking has led compressor manufacturers to develop products that offer better aero and
mechanical performance, improved manufacturability and quality, as well as improved maintainability and reliability, and in a cost effective manner.
A few specific examples will help to illustrate this point. The compressor train shown in FIG. 30 was delivered in 1990. At the time it was state of the
art. The application was U.O.P's Oleflex Process for producing M.T.B.E. As you can see, it is a two case train with a double ended steam turbine
and single gearbox as drivers. The efficiency of the large LP compressor was 86% polytropic flange-to-flange, and the smaller HP compressor had
a polytropic efficiency of 85% flange-to-flange. The lube oil system was sized to supply 280 gpm at 20 psig and 120 deg.F. The footprint dimensions
of the baseplate and weight of the assembled skid were 55'x 12'and 390,000 lbs respectively.
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In 1996, another compressor train FIG. 31 was delivered for this same application as described above, however, as you can see, it is a single
casing compressor, with a single ended steam turbine driver directly connected to the compressor. The compressor design is different. Instead of a
straight-thru inline stage configuration, stages are arranged in a back-to-back configuration FIG. 32. Several key differences exist between the
design of the single case unit and the design of the two case train. These differences are tabulated in Fig. 33. What isn't tabulated however, is the
fact that only one spare rotor is required, only one set of spare bearings and seals are required, no gearbox is required. The lube oil system is sized
for only 190 gpm, and the skid size and weight are only 36'x 13'and 667,000 lbs respectively. The size of the single train footprint is approximately
30% smaller than the two case train, however, the weight is approximately 60% more reflecting the larger physical size of the steam turbine driver.
Nevertheless, there is a still considerable advantage to the single case train from a cost and reliability standpoint.
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A similar comparison can be made for a recent ammonia syn gas and ammonia refrigeration compressor train as shown in FIG. 34-35.
In summary, what changed to allow these improvements to be made? The answer is "Technology". Better design tools, better manufacturing tools,
and a concurrent approach to the design, permitted the work of two casings to be fit into one in one application, and the power required to operate
be reduced by 10%, in the other application. Although such dramatic improvements cannot be made in every application, the potential does exist to
make some improvement over the past in almost every situation.
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2.0 What benefits do these improvements generate?
The benefits mentioned above, fewer casings and reduced power are very straightforward and the cost effectiveness is simple to determine. There
are still other benefits that have significant cost effectiveness that are not as traditional in their nature.

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2. 1 Modular Design
Some manufacturers of centrifugal compressors have developed various types of modular designs for their equipment. The primary advantage of a
modular design FIG. 36 & 37 is reduced time for maintenance. For barrel type compressors FIGs. 38-41 the time required to completely replace the
internals of a compressor has been reduced from a few days to less than one shift. For axial split compressors FIGs. 42-45, the reduction in time to
replace internals is comparable to that for the barrel compressors, even in dirty gas applications. The modular design feature has virtually taken the
compressor out of the critical path in most plant maintenance turnaround periods. Another advantage of the modular design is that the compressor
internals can be cleaned, inspected, and assembled, away from the compressor casing in a maintenance shop where environmental conditions can
be better controlled than on the operating deck. Also, complete spare modular assemblies can be kept in storage for quickly restoring operation at
times of emergency.
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What is the benefit of reduced maintenance times? Not being operators of many plants, most compressor manufacturers do not have precise
figures, but daily revenues from today's gas processing plants can be in the millions of dollars.
2.2 Reduced Delivery Time
The improvements in technology noted above will enable compressor manufacturers to provide reduced delivery times for their equipment, and
thereby generate significant savings in finance costs for the purchaser of the equipment. In addition, with shorter delivery times, the equipment can
be place on order at a later date, providing the purchaser with more time to better finalize process design and compressor operating conditions.
3. 0 Conclusion
In retrospect, I believe we can all agree that technology improvements have had a very positive influence on cost effectiveness and the overall
"efficiency" of compressing gas. The cost effectiveness of technology in centrifugal compressors is summarized in the adjacent Figure 46.
4. 0 What will the future bring?
The future is definitely very bright. As discussed above, the tools being made available to today's engineers are permitting the envelope of practical
application to be extended in several frontiers. The time to create and manufacture new equipment designs has greatly diminished. Thus, capital
equipment manufactures are experiencing the ability to be more responsive to the needs of their customers and to bring new products to the market
much more quickly than before. This capability also enables oil and gas companies to implement new processes more quickly.
One older idea that is gaining renewed popularity is magnetic bearings FIG. 47. Dresser-Rand has had several units, FIG. 48 and FIG. 49 in
operation utilizing magnetic bearings. The change from analog to digital control systems has eliminated many of the problems associated with the
early magnetic bearing installations, resulting in dramatic improvements in reliability and availability. More intelligent application of the magnetic
bearings, based upon past experience, has further enhanced their performance. Some of the other new ideas being investigated today throughout
the industry include multi-phase compressors, compressors for mounting inside pipelines FIG. 50, underground, undersea, and even down well
holes. The new science of Thermo-Acoustics, is permitting the refrigeration and compression of gas to be accomplished using sound waves in a
device FIG. 51 that does not contain a rotor or impellers! It maybe several years before such devices are practical for commercial application,
nevertheless, the potential is there, and it didn't even exist until a year or two ago!
Most likely the future will bring answers to today's problems. However, even in an industry as mature as gas processing, the situation is very
dynamic and new challenges will also arise to replace the ones that get resolved. In my humble opinion, the manufacturers of centrifugal gas
compressors are all dedicated to improving their products and providing you with a variety of solutions to meet your compression needs.
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