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Compressor Q&A: Ariel Corp.

Published by , Senior Editor
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

In this special Q&A, Hydrocarbon Engineering sat down with Ben Williams, Process Compressor Sales & Market Development Specialist, Ariel Corp., to talk about some key topics in the downstream compressor market.

Explain why compressor technology is so crucial to downstream operations.

Compressor technology, whether it be selection tools, improvements in components, monitoring, predictive maintenance, or an advanced support network, all lead to improved reliability. Reliability is key in the downstream industry. Downstream compressors must meet the demanding requirements of the industry and run for extended periods between shutdowns.

Reciprocating compressors must continue to operate reliably while being subjected to changing operating conditions, gas compositions or capacity (flow) requirements. The design and materials of construction for compressor components such as valves, seals and capacity control devices are crucial to reliable operation.

How can compressor technology help to improve efficiency in downstream operations?

Improved efficiency can come in many forms, the efficiency at which the compressor operates when compressing gas, the efficiency with which it meets varying operating conditions, extended operating hours between maintenance needs, or the efficiency at which replacement parts and capable service providers are available. All of these ‘technologies’ improve the operations experience.

What steps do you take to improve equipment reliability and safety?

Reliability begins with the compressor selection. With a reciprocating compressor, lower piston speeds, reduced discharge temperatures and lower valve impact velocities will all improve the life of the non-metallic wear parts. These items are taken into consideration when making the initial compressor selection. Ariel provides an industry leading compressor selection tool and offers a line of moderate speed reciprocating compressors specifically designed to meet the reliability requirements of the downstream industry.

Established limits, design guidelines and work instructions/procedures must be followed to ensure safe and reliable operation of a reciprocating compressor.

How can compressor technology assist plants operating in extreme environments or with demanding applications?

A conservative compressor selection that takes into consideration all operating conditions, along with selecting the proper materials of construction and scope of supply, is crucial in these types of situations. For example, in regeneration or sulfiding operations, the gas composition and operating parameters are different from those during normal operations. The compressor valves must be reviewed to ensure they can handle the new conditions and stainless steel materials may be required due to the presence of H2S.

How can compressor technology help to reduce emissions in downstream operations?

Improvements in packing and packing case designs, and an increased focus on the purge and vent systems are all keys to the reducing emissions from reciprocating compressors. Proper instrumentation and monitoring of the packing purge and vent systems will provide real time indication of the packing condition; providing a ‘heads up’ to potential problems.

What has been your company’s biggest recent achievement or innovation in compressor technology?

Ariel Corp. has recently released the Ariel Smart Compressor (ASC). This system is installed on the compressor frame by the manufacturer. The system includes a number of electronic sensors, wired to an onboard central processing unit (CPU). The CPU will deliver data to local control panel(s) and remotely to the cloud.

Among the data collected and available are process gas pressures and temperatures, lube oil temperature, valve cap temperatures, main bearing temperatures and compressor vibration. The collected data will be invaluable in trend analysis, maintenance planning and compressor performance optimisation.

How have advancements in digitalisation changed the compressor sector?

Although condition monitoring has been around for decades, the ability to view and control the compressor from anywhere in the world at any time has revolutionised the compressor industry. Data collection has proven invaluable in troubleshooting and trend analysis of the compressor and its components.

Describe a challenging project that you have encountered recently.

We received an inquiry for a non-lube compressor with a saturated gas stream having a high content of carbon dioxide. Concern over carbonic acid corrosion was expressed by the equipment manufacturer. After multiple discussions with all the parties involved, there was little experience by all the entities involved with the combination of non-lube operation with a saturated high CO2 content gas stream. A dryer was added in order to reduce the dew point of the incoming gas to prevent the formation of liquids in the compressor cylinders.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the downstream compressor market?

As everyone is aware, COVID 19 severely affected the downstream industry due to the halt in travel. This led to a decreased demand for refined products. In the past 12 to 18 months, refineries and chemical plants reduced production and focused on maintaining existing equipment, rather than purchasing new.

What does the future hold for compressor technology?

Hydrogen compression is not new but ‘green’ hydrogen production is an emerging market. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced from electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources. These green hydrogen applications may lead to multiple types of compression being required to meet the higher pressure, higher purity requirements of the hydrogen market. Lower suction pressures are typically better suited for reciprocating compressors and the higher discharge pressures, purity requirements and typical flow requirements may require other compression technology, such as diaphragm compressors or hydraulic intensifiers. Therefore, at times, a combination of compressor technologies may be required.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another advancement in reciprocating compressor technology. This will enhance compressor monitoring and data collection, thereby improving operational reliability. The Ariel Smart Compressor (ASC) captures the power of this technology.

All questions answered by Ben Williams, Process Compressor Sales & Market Development Specialist, Ariel Corp.

Ben is the Process Compressor Sales & Market Development Specialist for Ariel Corp., located in Mount Vernon, Ohio, US. His responsibilities include the sizing and selection of Ariel’s API-618 Moderate Speed Process compressors and consulting with Ariel distributors, end-users and EPCs on their compression requirements. He has over 35 years of experience with reciprocating compressors; primarily those associated with the refinery and petrochemical industries.

This was a preview of the 'Compressor Q&A', which featured in the August issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering. To read the full Q&A, which includes answers from a number of leading experts in compressor technology, sign in here or register for a free trial subscription.

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