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Introduction to Vibration Problems

at Compressor Stations

Presented by:
Gary Maxwell, Chris Harper, Shelley Greenfield
(Beta Machinery Analysis)

 Purpose: Introduction to compressor vibration

(for more detail, recommend the 2.5 day GMRC Course in May)

 Focus on practical issues.

 Audience participation…demo’s, case studies,
questions, etc.
(We can’t take you to the field, so we are bringing the field to the classroom)

 Presenters introductions
 Questions for the parking lot?
Vibration Induced Pipe Fatigue Failure
Compressors, Pumps, Engines, Turbines and other Rotating Machines
Cause Vibration Related Problems


• Significant financial costs
• Safety/environmental liabilities
Today’s Topics

1. Vibration Overview
2. Sources of Vibration
3. Pulsation Control
4. Mechanical Resonance
5. Torsional Analysis
6. Pipe Strain
7. Small Bore Piping
8. Start-up Vibration Survey
9. Summary
1. Vibration Overview

Presented by: Chris Harper

How Equipment Fails

 Vibration is the leading cause of mechanical

 Equipment and piping fail due to excessive
STRESS (fatigue failure)

Pulsation Forces Vibration Stress Failure

What is vibration?

 Vibration = periodic motion about an

equilibrium position
 Vibration can be described with:
 Amplitude and

 Frequency (number of
cycles per time) or
 Period (time to
complete one cycle)
Vibration frequency

 Number of cycles per unit of time

 CPM = cycles per minute

 Hz = cycles per second (cps)

 RPM = rotations per minute

 For simplicity, frequency is measured in Hz

 Convert from CPM or RPM to Hz by dividing
by 60
 3600 RPM  60 Hz
Vibration amplitude

 Three related units

(µm, mils)
(mm/s, in/s or
(mm/s2, in/s2,
 Only related when
vibration is simple,
like in a spring-
mass system
Two Ways to Look at Vibration
Time domain amplitude
typically higher …

Units = seconds
Overall vibration
… than frequency
domain amplitude

Individual vibration
Units = Hz
Time domain  frequency domain
Another way to visualize it

 Time domain and frequency domain show the

same information, just in different ways
 Frequency domain breaks out the
components of the time domain
 Time domain is
 Frequency domain
is calculated
Overall time-domain vibration -




 Peak (measure of deflection) is used more

often than RMS (measure of energy)
 Frequency domain is either peak or RMS (not
Vibration Directions (common terminology)

Axial: along crankshaft

Horizontal: direction
of piston motion
Video #1 – Vibration Equation
Demo #1 – Scrubber Vibration
BETA guidelines - velocity

 Dashed lines
adapted from
 Piping guideline
also applicable for
vessels, and for
small bore
piping (≤ 2“ NPS)
 At individual
frequencies, not
overall (time-
domain) vibration

 Many different
vibration guidelines
 Remember than
vibrations over
guideline mean
 Use 1 ips (FD) or
1.5 ips (TD) as a
screening guideline
for piping
2. Sources of Vibration

Presented by: Shelley Greenfield

Vibration Risk Areas
Pulsation Torsional

Small Bore

Skid & Foundation (Dynamics)

Risk Areas and Design Considerations

Thermal Expansion:
Piping Layout and

Off-skid Pulsations

Between Other Units
Risk Areas and Design Considerations

Thermal Expansion;
Piping Layout and Supports

System Pressure
Drop (performance
issue, losses)
Responsibility Owner

Engineering firm
 Pulsations and thermal growth cross
boundaries of responsibility
 Vibration consultant hired by packager Vibration consultant
may be acceptable for small gathering
 good specifications
and communication
 Large critical pipeline,
storage, or
offshore units -
recommend vibration
consultant hired by
Dynamic force on
reciprocating compressor

Unbalanced Forces and Moments

Pulsation Shaking due to Reciprocating Motion
Forces in Piping

Crosshead Guide Gas Forces

Forces (Cylinder
Forces occur at “multiples of runspeed”

1x Compressor primary forces & moments

Cylinder gas forces (rod load)
Pulsation shaking forces (single-acting)
2x Compressor secondary forces & moment
Crosshead guide forces
Cylinder gas forces
Pulsation shaking forces (double-acting)
3x … Cylinder gas forces
Pulsation shaking forces
How High Can Pulsation Forces Get?

Cooler Nozzle Failure

• Ariel JGK/2 compressor
• Booster service (0.605 specific gravity)
• Waukesha L7042GSI engines (700-1200
• 880 - 1000 psig suction pressure, 1058 -
1270 psig discharge pressure
• HEVV pockets, double acting, 1 stage

• The cooler nozzle cracked shortly after
• Many other problems

Beta Mobilized to Site

• Collected vibration and pulsation data
Pulsation Shaking Forces Can Be Very

Guesses as to how high force

could be in this run of piping?
6” pipe - area = 26 in2


No acoustical study had been performed

To solve problem, Beta conducted acoustical study

and recommended new bottles
As Found Unbalanced Forces

11000 lbf pk-pk at 38 Hz

What speed?

Vertical 38 Hz x 60 s/min ÷ 2
Riser to = 1140 RPM
Gas Forces Cause Cylinder Motion

 Act on cylinder, bottles, scrubber and piping

 Create high vibrations around compressor

ODS Field Data
Vibration Risk: Compressor APPLICATION

Lower Risk Vib. Risk Factors Higher Risk

1 # of Units Online Many

Offshore or
Convenient Location
Critical to the
Not Unit Criticality
Efficiency Important
Vibration Risk: Compressor CONFIGURATION

Lower Risk Vib. Risk Factors Higher Risk

Sweet Gas Composition Sour, Heavy

1 Step, DA Load Steps DA + SA
(>50% turndown)

Fixed Suct./Disc. Pressure Wide range;

Fixed Speed Wide Range
2 stg (4 or Compressor Stages 1 stg (many
6 cylinder) cylinders)
CR > 1.7 Compression Ratio < 1.3
< 150 HP/ Cylinder > 750
Vibration Study Scope
Compressor •Pulsation/mechanical analysis
Package •Torsional vibration analysis
•Options: thermal, skid analysis

Off-Skid Piping •Pulsations & other units

Vibration •Mechanical analysis (supports)
•Transient analysis

Foundation •Dynamic analysis to

& Structure avoid resonance

Small Bore •Design review

Piping and/or field audit
3. Pulsation Control

Presented by: Shelley Greenfield

Pulsation animation

 Pulsations in non-flowing gas

 Notice change in pressure and velocity
Video #2 - Pulsations and Other Forces
Pulsation Forces In Piping System
Example: Interstage System


Pulsation Forces – DA vs. SA
Cylinder vertical forces

 Can be significant
 Pulsations controlled
with orifice
 Vibration controlled
with outboard
Case Study:
Compressor Vibration

Before - Vibration Problem After Modifications

Compressors Installed – Vibration Problem

6 Compressors – 1700 HP each

Vibration Problems

 Customer tried to fix problem – no success

 Units not fully operational … very expensive
 … called BETA for help

Vibration Test Points (from Client)

Example: Piping to Cooler (Riser)
Excessive Pulsation Forces (lbf Pk-Pk)

As Found:
Forces > 3 time guideline

Excessive Vibration
(forced response model)
Other Problem Locations
(Unbalanced Forces, lbf pk-pk)

Suction Discharge
Bottle Forces Bottle Forces


• Excessive forces in suction & discharge system

• Major changes required
Modify Piping and
New Bottles
Supports (including
(Suction; Discharge)
Recommendations Implemented


Location: Piping
Riser to Cooler
Case Summary

 Vibration problems are expensive

 Small errors during design stage are avoidable
 Illustrates how vibration analysis techniques
used to solve or prevent problems (compared
to trial and error fixes)
What Happens to Pulsations if
Operating Envelope Changes?
Design Change: Increased #
Initial Operating Points of Load Steps and Ps Range

Shaking Forces Bottle Shaking Forces >200% of
Guideline. High Risk of Vibration
Bottle sizing

Risks of incorrect bottle sizes:

 Oversized bottles:
 Mechanical problems (i.e., low MNF  bracing)
 Expensive – materials and welding

 Undersized bottles:
 Pulsations/forces not controlled  secondary volumes
 Orifice plates  pressure drop  lost capacity, fuel
gas costs
Pulsation mitigation

 Surge volumes and resistive elements (orifice

plates) are simple but can be costly (capital
and pressure drop)

 Acoustic filtering offers much more pulsation

control with some capital cost but very little
pressure drop
Factors affecting pulsation mitigation

Difficulty Difficulty
Speed Valve
controlling controlled
range unloaders
pulsations vibration
Fixed Very low Low
Narrow Low Medium
Wide Medium High
Fixed  Medium Low
Narrow  High Medium
Wide  Very high High
For example, fixed speed =1200rpm, narrow speed range = 900 - 1200rpm,
wide speed range = 600 - 1200rpm
Optimizing Pulsation Control
Case study - Impact of off-skid piping

 Case study:
 One stage, two-throw Dresser-Rand 5BVIP2

 1200 RPM, gas speed of sound 1200 ft/s

 Both single-acting (SA) and double-acting (DA)

 Off-skid piping comes several weeks after pulsation

study was completed - two units with two coolers
 Stages of analysis:
 Bottle sizing with a “damper check”

 On-skid design with “infinite pipe” termination

 Off-skid piping added

 On-skid design is volume-choke filter

Piping layout

Damper Check Piping Layout

On-Skid Piping Layout
Off-Skid Piping Layout

- Cylinder nozzle
- Bottle outlet nozzle
- Skid edge

Shaking Forces:
- Cylinder
- Bottle
- Crossover piping
Pulsations - discharge nozzle

Damper Check
Pulsations, psi pk-pk



1x, SA 1x, DA 2x, SA 2x, DA
Shaking force - crossover piping

Shaking Forces, lbf pk-pk

2x, SA 2x, DA
What was the difference?

 Hint: the length between

the discharge bottle and the
cooler header is 15 feet
 Half-wave between bottle
and cooler header box
volume amplified pulsations
Multiple compressors – beat frequency
Unit A and B run at slightly different speeds

Because of this, the pulsations go in and

Unit A out of phase

Unit A

Unit B

Unit B

Total pulsation amplitude is sum

of pulsations from each unit

Beat frequency is related to the Combined Pulsations

speed differential between Unit A
and B Animation courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University

 Shaking forces are more important to control

than pulsations
 Acoustic filters are more effective than orifice
plates for controlling pulsations
 More pressure drop is required to filter
pulsations when wider speed ranges are used
or unit single-acting
 The more information included in a pulsation
study improves accuracy and reduces risk
4. Mechanical Resonance

Presented by: Chris Harper

Example of Mechanical Analysis Model
Mechanical Analysis - MNFs

 Frequencies where
small forces result
in large vibration
response of
Modal Analysis

 Finite Element Analysis

(FEA) used to calculate
Mechanical Natural
Frequencies (MNFs)
 Elastic Modulus



 Measure MNFs with Bump

Demo #2 – Mechanical Natural Frequency
Mechanical Resonance

• We define resonance when force frequency is +/- 10% of MNF

• At resonance, displacement can be magnified by 40 times – can cause fatigue
• What happens at 3X? What about 4X? 6X? Potential resonance,
but insufficient force
to cause problems



| | | | | |
1x 2x 3x 4x 5x 6x
Frequency Change design to shift
MNF away from resonance
Mechanical Analysis Design Goal


| | | |
1x 2x 3x 4x
API 618 Design Goal
MNF > 2.4 x
Wide speed range

 Frequency avoidance becomes challenging as

speed range is increased
 Blocking out speeds may help avoid
Speed of
No room for
of Force
MNF to hide
1200 rpm

700 rpm


| |
1x 2x
Frequency (orders of run speed)
MNFs of Main Components in Relation to
Compressor Harmonics

2.4 X 900 RPM 2.4 X 1200 RPM

Bottle MNFs:
40-70 Hz Typ.
Cylinder MNFs:
30-50 Hz Typ.

Scrubber Example: Scrubber Design

MNFs: Move MNF to Higher Frequency
15-30 Hz Typ. = Extra costs; design modification

20 Hz 40 Hz 50 Hz 60 Hz 70 Hz
Load Path Considerations

Poor Installation/Design: Better Design:

Cylinder compressor


Example: Mechanical Analysis

 Demonstrates MNF (Mechanical Natural

Frequency), resonance, cylinder gas loads, forced
response Analysis, LWN (Long Weld Neck) solution
for suction bottles.
 Ariel KBZ-6, Gas Load of 7,500 lbs (0-pk) at 3x on
stage 3
Case Study – 3rd Stage MNF (API 618 Step
Case Study – 3rd Stage MNF
Case Study – Cylinder Gas Loads at 3x?

TABLE L.2 - Cylinder Gas Forces (kips,0-Pk) in Horizontal direction

Unit: Ariel KBZ/6

COND# 01X 02X 03X 04X 05X 06X 07X 08X 09X 10X
1 75.0 5.7 4.3 0.7 3.4 1.2 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.8
2 69.6 5.5 6.5 1.1 2.9 1.2 0.7 0.9 0.9 0.8
3 67.8 5.4 7.0 1.2 2.7 1.2 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.8
4 65.8 5.3 7.5 1.3 2.5 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.7 0.8
5 49.1 4.5 5.2 4.1 1.6 1.1 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.6
6 48.4 4.3 5.5 4.1 1.6 1.2 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.5

 Therefore 7500 lbs (0-pk) at 3x compressor run speed.

 (Weight of large SUV fully reversing 43.5 times per second!)
 Causes “cylinder stretch”
Case Study – Forced Response Analysis
(API 618 Step 3b1)
Case Study – 3rd Stage MNF, with LWN
Case Study – 3rd Stage MNF, with LWN
Case Study – Cylinder Gas Loads at 4x?

TABLE L.2 - Cylinder Gas Forces (kips,0-Pk) in Horizontal direction

Unit: Ariel KBZ/6

COND# 01X 02X 03X 04X 05X 06X 07X 08X 09X 10X
1 75.0 5.7 4.3 0.7 3.4 1.2 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.8
2 69.6 5.5 6.5 1.1 2.9 1.2 0.7 0.9 0.9 0.8
3 67.8 5.4 7.0 1.2 2.7 1.2 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.8
4 65.8 5.3 7.5 1.3 2.5 1.1 1.0 1.0 0.7 0.8
5 49.1 4.5 5.2 4.1 1.6 1.1 0.4 0.4 0.2 0.6
6 48.4 4.3 5.5 4.1 1.6 1.2 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.5

 Gas Loads are less at 4x compressor run speed than at 3x

Case Study – Forced Response Analysis
Conflict Between Thermal and Dynamic Study

 Thermal solution has large distance between

clamps, thermal loops, and resting supports
 Dynamic solution has short distance between
clamps and avoids elbows
 Balanced solution has clamps
and thermal loops
 API 618 recommends same
company conduct
both studies
Solutions - Scrubber Bracing

 Increase MNF of scrubbers

to guideline levels, or
inter-tune if possible
 May be required on some
high RPM compressors
 Scrubber attachments
more likely to fail
5. Torsional Vibration

Presented by: Chris Harper

Torsional Vibration – Crank Failures
Torsional Vibration – Coupling Failures
Video #3 – Torsional Vibration
Purpose of Torsional Analysis

To predict excessive vibratory stress or amplitude

problems in driveline of driver / coupling /

 Potential Torsional Problems

 Compressor/Engine Crankshaft failure
 Motor Shaft Failures or Spider Failure (welded joints)
 Coupling Failure (Disk Pack, Rubber, Other)
 Damper/Coupling Heat Loads
 Compressor auxiliary drive amplitudes
 Engine Free End Amplitudes (Gear Problems)
 Motor Free End Amplitudes (Fan)
 Current Pulsation
Torsional Vibration - Applications

A TVA should be done for:

 Any new driver or compressor combination
 Any change in compressor configuration (different cylinders)
 Different motor (same frame rarely means same rotor inside)
 Different operating conditions (than what was originally studied)
 Drive trains experiencing failures
 VFD applications
 Critical applications

 Risk Chart May help to determine if a Study is required

Thorough Checks Required

 Analyze full operating map PLUS upset conditions

 Include tolerance band to consider fabrication and
installation uncertainty
 Motor stub shaft to be the
same diameter as the
compressor stub

Risk of Failure
at some
pressures and
6. Pipe Strain

Presented by: Chris Harper

Pipe Strain

 Several recent jobs where

we encountered unexplained
high frequency vibrations
and failures
 Isolated the cause as pipe

 Pipe strain can:

 Increase natural frequencies (like a
guitar string)
 Reduce damping (high frequency
vibrations increase)
 Increase mean stress in system (making
it more likely to fail due to vibrations)
Contributing Factors

 Misaligned flanges
 Gaps between pipe and support
Flange Misalignment

 ASME B31.3 offers guidance for flange


 Custom or modified spool pieces, orifice

plates, etc.
 Shim between piping and supports, rather
than just tightening clamp bolts
 Post-weld heat treating (e.g., vessel nozzles)
 Designing more flexibility into system

 Small details are

7. Small Bore Piping Vibration

Presented by: Chris Harper

Small Bore Piping - Introduction

 Also called Branch Connections

 Generally 2 inches (50mm) or less
 Instrumentation connection (taps, thermowells, gauges), vent
lines, drains, site glasses, etc.
 Common on piping and vessels
near compressors, pumps, etc.
Demo #3 – Small Bore Piping
Video #4 – Small Bore Piping Vibration
Why is SBP a High Risk Problem?

 Small bore piping is often overlooked:

 May not be explicitly designed - field
 Not shown on compressor package GAs

 Not included in typical pulsation/vibration

 Difficult to measure properly in the field
 Failure can lead to significant downtime
Field Measurements

 Measure Relative Vibration,

if required
 Steady State (Running)
 Transient (Start-up)
 Further check/investigation if
exceeds screening guideline
Assessment Methods

 Energy Institute
 Need dynamic force & poor design & poor
location = high likelihood of failure
 Tables of lengths
and weights
 Calculate allowable
vibration before failure
8. Start-up Vibration Survey

Presented by: Chris Harper

Steps for Commissioning

 Note the operating condition (speed, loading,

pressure, temperature, SG)
 Take vibration readings (remember units!) at
consistent locations
 When to call an expert
Typical vibration measurement points

Scrubber: Top seam

Both ends of bottle (seam); sometimes
Cylinder: Cylinder head end

Compressor frame Crank height drive and

& engine: non-drive ends

Pipe: Elbows, between supports

PSV: Top of valve body
Main skid: Front and rear corners
Small Bore Piping: End of cantilever; between supports

Plus other points if vibrations at above points are suspect!

Not all vibrations are alike

 Be clear what is being measured and what

guideline is being applied
 Overall vs. individual frequencies

 Units: mm/s vs. inches/second

 Peak or RMS (or pseudo RMS)

 Frequency range

 Apply appropriate guidelines (time-domain

vs. frequency domain guidelines)
When do I call an expert?

 Basic repairs/modifications do not work

 Try temporary bracing first

 Very high vibration levels

 Vibrations are high in multiple areas
 Vibrations are high for multiple operating
 Suspect pulsations are high
 High vibrations away from compressor

 Need help measuring or interpreting data


Vibration = Dynamic Force x Dynamic Flexibility

 Control forces
 Pulsation control devices like orifice plates

 Moving acoustic natural frequencies

 Control flexibility


 Modified or additional clamping

 Moving mechanical natural frequencies

Braces – Test temporary brace

Add wooden brace

as field test
9. Summary

Presented by: Shelley Greenfield

Video #5 - Summary
Summary - Vibration

Vibration = Dynamic Force x Dynamic Flexibility

 Vibration cannot be eliminated, but can be
controlled through a balance between cost,
performance and reliability
 The earlier vibration risk is identified, the
easier (and cheaper) it is to deal with
Draft Vibration Specification (GMRC)
Scope of Work for Compressor System (Pipeline, Gas Injection/Withdrawal, Critical Application)
Study Analysis Step Description
A. Preliminary Design Review & Project Planning Stage:
Preliminary Pulsation Bottle Sizing Assess operating range, unloading plan, piping
layout options.
Provide preliminary pulsation control scheme and estimated vessel sizing.

B. Torsional Vibration Analysis (TVA) Assess stress and vibration on crankshaft(s) (driver and compressor system), and coupling dynamic torque
C Pulsation Analysis Pulsation study of compressor and piping system (including package and station piping). Provide final
recommendations on pulsation control solution.

D Pressure Drop and Performance Evaluate pressure drop of pulsation control devices and piping system concurrently. Evaluate impact on
Report compressor performance.

E Mechanical Mechanical dynamic analysis of on-skid piping, supports, and vessels. FEA modelling can be applied where
Analysis necessary.

Provide recommendations for small bore piping support and vibration control.

Optional: Forced Response Analysis of the Compressor Manifold and Vessels when necessary.
(Proper design practices using resonance avoidance can eliminate the need for this task.)

Optional: Forced Response Analysis of Off-Skid Piping System when necessary.

(Proper design practices using resonance avoidance can eliminate the need for this task.)

F Piping Flexibility (Thermal Stress) Static Analysis of piping and vessels to evaluate stress and equipment loads due to weight, pressure and
Analysis temperature changes.

G Skid Dynamic and Static Analysis Evaluate vibration of the skid and equipment mounted on the skid due to dynamic loads from the compressor
and driver. The foundation and the geotechnical properties should be considered. Evaluate skid design relative
to lifting.

H Commission Testing Evaluate vibration of compressor, piping, skid, foundation and small bore piping. Evaluate pulsation, pressure
drop, performance, and torsional vibration.
Key Take-Aways

 Properly specify vibration studies (scope, etc.)

 Assess vibrations on-skid and off-skid (across
operating envelope)
 Thermal/Mechanical: performed by same group
 Consider small bore vibration survey
 Attention to details (alignment, installation, etc.)
 Start vibration study early

Attend GMRC’s 2.5 day course, “Compressor Station

Vibration,” for more training.

 Chris Harper (charper@betamachinery.com)

 Shelley Greenfield
 Gary Maxwell