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earning Objectives
Uses of compressed air Installation requirements Air compression theory Multistage compression Volumetric efficiency Constructional details Operation and Maintenance Compressor lubrication Explosion hazard Air receivers

Uses of compressed air

25 30 bar
Starting of main & auxiliary engines Boiler soot blowing

4 7 bar
Service air Whistle air Pneumatic tools Life boat, pilot ladder

1.5 2 bar
Instrumentation & control

Minimum 2 or more compressors Sufficient capacity to charge air receivers within 1 hour from atm.

to max. pressure to provide

6 starts for non reversible engine 12 starts for reversible engine

1 emergency air compressor & receiver for dead ship condition

Air Receivers
At least 2 air receivers with sufficient capacity without

replenishment and able to provide

6 starts for non reversible engine 12 starts for reversible engine

Pressure Relief devices

Relief v/v to be fitted after each stage of compression Relief v/v to be fitted on the air receiver Relief v/v or bursting disc to be fitted on inter & after coolers

Air Temperature

Limited to 93OC to prevent explosion Fusible plug or high temp cut out provided as safety measure

Pressure Test

Cylinders, cylinder covers, inter & after coolers are tested by hydraulic pressure to twice their working pressure. Casing of intercooler and after cooler is hydraulically tested to 1.5 times the cooling water pressure

Air compression Theory

Nearly perfect gas, as air is composed of mainly 23%

oxygen and 75.5% nitrogen & rest other gases by mass

Mixture of gases behave as near as perfect gases Follows perfect gas laws Boyles and Charles laws

During compression

Volume reduces Pressure & temperature increases Mass remains constant

Air follows the combination of gas laws: PV = mRT; PV / T = mR = Constant

Isothermal compression (PV = C)

no rise in temp during compression heat is removed during compression least power input & most efficient difficult to achieve in practice

Adiabatic/Isentropic compr. (PV1.4 = C)

no heat removed & temp. rises

progressively during compression power input is max. & efficiency is low

Polytropic compression (PV1.3 = C)

actual compression process in practice heat is extracted during compression lies between isothermal and isentropic

compression work done to compress air is reduced

eal P-V Diagram

4-1 1-2 2-3 3-4 Air induction Air compression Air delivery Expansion of remaining air


Clearance vol.
Swept vol (V1 Vc) Induced vol (V1 V4)

Vol eff. = Induced vol/Swept vol Compr. ratio = V1/ V2 = P2 / P1

Actual P-V Diagram

Similar to ideal except

induction & del. process Which are modified by v/v action Waviness of the lines 4-1 and 2-3 is due to v/v bounce v/v inertia spring action variation in back pressure

Volumetric Loss Due to clearance Volume

Effect of increasing Clearance Volume

As the pressure increases, more stages are required with intercooling due to following disadvantages of single stage compression:
Low volumetric efficiency
As pressure ratio P2 / P1 is increased, vol efficiency drops

High air delivery temperature

Increase in pressure ratio results in higher delivery temp. causing

excess coke deposits
thermal stress Lubrication problem Explosion hazard

Increased power input

Inter-stage cooling lowers the work done in compressing air

Number of stages is governed by the required final pressure of the compressed air.

Applied when delivery

press. is high Compression is carried out in stages Ensures equal rise in temp in each stages to prevent v/vs & springs damage Requires minimum work; shaded area indicates the wok saved If stage pressures are P1, P2 & P3, P4 P2 = P1 . P3 & P3 = P2 . P4

Advantages: Compression work is reduced

Vol efficiency and hence compressor capacity is increased It approximates isothermal compression

Vol of air delivered is reduced; as a result reduced size of

cylinder, piston and delivery pipes is required

Reduced air delivery temp gives less thermal &mechanical

loading and better lubrication of piston & cylinder

Due to less temp, suc & del valves remain clean Facilitates moisture separation Use of intercooler allows smaller receiver

Volumetric Efficiency
It is the relationship between the Qty of air discharged and the swept volume. vol of air discharged as free air Vol efficiency = swept vol of L.P. piston
Free air is air at atm. press and at 15 deg C Vol.eff. always refer to low pressure piston

arance Volume
To provide for thermal expansion and prevent the piston from striking cylinder cover, a small clearance, called bumping clearance is maintained between cylinder cover & piston
Bumping clearance must be as small as possible High bumping clearance reduces vol effn. of compressor Reduces compressor capacity & increases disch air temp. Bumping clearance is effected by bearing wear & gasket thickness Low bumping clearance can cause mechanical damage Bumping clearance must be checked after overhauling Clearance volume is about 6% of swept volume

Factors affecting volumetric efficiency

Clearance volume - gaskets , bearing wear down Valves dirty, leaky, spring tension Leakage past piston rings Insufficient cooling water due to dirty coolers High cooling water temp. High air inlet temp. Throttling of air intake due to Dirty intake filter Insufficient suction v/v lift Strong suction v/v spring

Compressed Air System

Two Stage Compressor

Two Stage Air Compressor

Air Filter
Material felt or paper, metal gauze or nylon strands
Remove contaminant to prevent
abrasive wear of piston rings, valves deposit on valves casing source of ignition

Very dirty filter will cause

Reduction in suction pressure Increase in compression ratio Increase in discharge temperature may cause coke deposit Less air flow and danger of overheating coke deposits In extreme case disch. temp.may exceed auto ignition temp of

LO, resulting in an explosion

Suction & Delivery Valves
Low inertia automatic valves which operate on low diff

pressure Material used for

Valve seat 0.4% carbon steel hardened & polished surface Valve plate Nickel or stainless steel hardened & polished Spring tempered hardened steel

Usually of same type, only differences are

spring load and the valve lift Excessive lift causes impact & v/v breakage Late closing of v/v affects volumetric efficiency Coke deposits make v/vs
leaky & sticky causing overheating reduce vol. efficiency

Trunk type piston is used in single acting compressor

Tandem piston is used in multistage compact design

Aluminium alloy material is used for
good friction properties high strength with low coeff. of thermal expansion

Piston rings material is alloyed cast iron HP piston rings are made thicker

Thin shell type in modern compressor

Requires L.O. pressure above 2 bar

Conventional thick shell can run even at 1.0 bar

Usually forged carbon steel integral with counter

weight Cast steel being fatigue prone is not used

Inter-cooler & After-cooler

Multi Tubular
Copper tubes expanded in brass

tube plates with allowance for expansion of tube nest

Cast iron casing with bursting

disc, to protect against sudden over pressure

Drain pocket to remove moisture Relief v/v to protect against over

pressure on air side

In case of tube leakage, leaky

tube is plugged / replaced

Inter-cooler & After-cooler

Single Coil Type
A single long copper coil is used

Casing is protected by bursting disc

in case of coil leakage,

complete replacement of coil is required

Provided to drain off water & oil automatically

from compressed air system

Water must be drained at each stage to prevent
Removal of oil film from cylinder wall, assisting wear of

liner and piston ring Corrosion to form iron oxide, assisting degradation of oil

Requires regular inspection

Prevents compressor to start on load
Some of many methods to unload compressor cylinder throttling of suction speed variation by-pass discharge to suction

depression to hold suction v/v plates on their seats

Last two methods are most widely used in marine compressors.

Suction Valve Depression
Fitted on each stage

suction valves
Actuated by solenoid or

pilot air

Size depends on engine requirements Should have sufficient capacity to give

12 consecutive starts for reversible engine

6 consecutive starts for non reversible engine

Fabricated from good quality mild steel with UTS 500 MN/m2 with an
elongation of not less than 23% to 25%
having one longitudinal welded seam

welded hemispherical dish at the ends with elliptical manhole door

Must be cleaned internally & coated with paint or copal varnish Fitted with necessary mountings

Air Receiver

Air Receiver

echanics of Explosion
Oxidation of oil
Temperature Air pressure Presence of catalyst iron oxide Exposure time

Rate of oxidation depends on

Heat generated due to oxidation is removed by air flow & CW

Coke Deposits
Due to oxidation coke deposit on leaky valves cause high temp. Max tolerable thickness of coke layer 2 mm (for 10 to 30 bar


Fire can initiate in unloaded compressor Burning coke could act as ignition point for air-oil vapour mixture Spontaneous ignition followed by weakening the metal wall can

initiate explosion

Prevention of Explosion
Design of compressor Installation
Air flow rates & exposure time Prevent oil accumulation

Air flow rate of 8m/sec keeps the pipes clean by moving the large oil droplets to cooler areas

Operation & Maintenance

Lubricating oil oil feed rate, viscosity, antioxidant, oil

change, draining of excess oil Air filtration - contaminants Temperature air flow, leaky valves, CW flow, clean coolers Catalysts Iron oxides (rust) requires regular draining of water

Function of Compressor Lubricant

Lubricate bearing, gears & rubbing parts Remove heat due to compression & friction Provide sealing to minimise air loss

Prevent corrosion
Be suitable for long term use

Lube Oil Recommendation Lubricating oil is recommended according to compressor

classification -- light, medium, or heavy duty depending upon parameters as:
Compressor design

Type of cooling Number of stages Air flow rate Oil retention time

Ambient condition
Ambient temp Coolant temperature Presence of dust or oil vapour

Operating system
Continuous or intermittent maintenance

According to normal lubrication requirement and to minimise coke

Plain mineral oil is not used as it oxidises easily at high temp. and

Lube oil must have anti-oxidant additives for good oxidation resistance Low viscosity easy spreading, effective sealing,

hydrodynamic lubrication with low friction

Flash point above 220oC Oil with minimum heavy ends

If oil has too broad distillation range, the more volatile portion may tend to evaporate leaving behind heavier ends in the hot zone

Product made of chemical synthesis Raw materials or base stock may be mineral oil

The chemical structure is planned and controllable
The molecular structure is variable so that product

performance may be modified

Additive treated to produce lubricant with superior

properties to mineral oil

Synthetic Base fluids

Hydrocracked Polyalphaolefin (PAO) Ester


Exceptional low temperature flow Very high viscosity index Exceptional thermal and oxidation resistance Low volatility Exceptional film strength

Choice of Lubricant
Full Synthetic






Synthetic Oil
Superior to mineral oil & excellent protection against corrosion Suitable for severe operation
Good thermal & oxidation stability

Operate over wide temperature range

Good viscosity vs temp. properties
Low pour point (-33OC to - 48OC)

Good wear resistance with low viscosity Reduced maintenance

Cleaner compressor due to minimum deposits Long service life

Enhanced safety due to high flash point (246 to 266 deg C)

Less compatible with seals & paint Initial cost is high, but overall it may be

cost effective Possible mineral oil incompatibility Potential toxicity

Operational Problems of Air Compressor

Drop of compressor capacity / pressure

Choking of air filter

Valves leaking Increased bumping clearance Leaky piston rings Worn crank pin or journal bearing Leaky cooler / breakdown of cooler L.O. contamination Fire and explosion

Case Study
Intercooler Casing Burst

Vessel Type : Tanker Main Engine: Sulzer

The Accident

The vessel was in HK at outside anchorage. One of the electric motor driven main air compressor intercooler casing burst that resulted in the 4th Engr. losing his life and 3rd engineer seriously injured.

An immediate investigation revealed following facts: Heavy sludge deposits in intercooler cast iron casing Cooling water inlet valve was jammed in the open position and partially chocked This allowed restricted cooling water into the cooler The casing bursting disc had ruptured HP and LP relief valves were found in following conditions HP relief v/v lifted @ 235 bar! Relief v/v spindle was partially seized LP relief v/v was in proper order; but lifted at 10 bar The compressor was surveyed 14 months before the accident; but record showed no mention of the followings: testing of inter coolers and relief valves

Poor maintenance

3rd engineer had started the compressor

with disch. valve shut

Relief v/v was inoperable which eventually

resulted in the bursting of the intercooler casing

It is essential all safety devices of a pressure unit are

thoroughly inspected for their general condition, operation, settings etc at every inspection and survey
Machinery eg air compressors, positive

displacement pumps must not be started with discharge line blocked or shut