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Module 01 Compressors Overview

Compressor Overview

Module 01 Compressors Overview

Types of Compressors

The function of the compressor is to take a definite quantity of fluid (usually a

gas, and most often air) and deliver it at a required pressure. The most efficient
machine is one which will accomplish this with the minimum input of mechanical
work. Both reciprocating and rotary positive displacement machines are used for a
variety of purposes. On the basis of performance a general distinction can be made
between the two types by defining the reciprocating type as having the characteristics
of a low mass rate of flow and high-pressure ratios, and the rotary type as having a
high mass rate of flow and low-pressure ratios. The pressure range of atmospheric to
about 9 bars is common to both types.

Some rotary machines are suitable only for low-pressure ratio work, and are
applied to the scavenging and supercharging of engines, and the various applications
of exhausting and vacuum pumping. For pressures above 9 bar the vane-type rotary
machine can be used to supply boost pressures, but for sustained high-pressure work
up to 500 bars and above, for special purposes, the reciprocating type is used.

Both basic types exist in many different forms each having its own
characteristics. They may be single or multistage, and have either air or water cooling.
The reciprocating machine is pulsating in action which limits the rate at which fluid
can be delivered, but the rotary machine is continuous in action and does not have this
disadvantage. The rotary machines are smaller in size for a given flow, lighter in
weight and mechanically simpler than their reciprocating counterparts. The treatment
and scope of the following sections is fundamental and is not exhaustive. Many
compressors are designed to overcome the deficiencies of the basic machines and to
satisfy special requirements. For descriptions of these machines the excellent
literature supplied by the manufacturers concerned should be consulted.

For a compressor which operates in a cyclic or pulsating manner, such as a

reciprocating compressor, the properties at inlet and outlet are the average values
taken over the cycle. Alternatively the boundary of the control volume is chosen such
that states 1 and 2 are constant with time, the positions selected being remote from the
pulsating disturbance.

a) Compressor Industrial Applications

Gas compressors are used in various applications where either higher
pressures or lower volumes of gas are needed:
1- In pipeline transport of purified natural gas to move the gas from the
production site to the consumer.
2- In petroleum refineries, natural gas processing plants, petrochemical and
chemical plants, and similar large industrial plants for compressing intermediate and
end product gases.
3- In refrigeration and air conditioner equipment to move heat from one place
to another in refrigerant cycles: see Vapor-compression refrigeration.
4- In gas turbine systems to compress the intake combustion air
5- In storing purified or manufactured gases in a small volume, high pressure
cylinders for medical, welding and other uses.

Module 01 Compressors Overview

6- In many various industrial, manufacturing and building processes to power

all types of pneumatic tools.
7- As a medium for transferring energy, such as to power pneumatic
8- In pressurized aircraft to provide a breathable atmosphere of higher than
ambient pressure.
9- In some types of jet engines (such as turbojets and turbofans) to provide the
air required for combustion of the engine fuel. The power to drive the combustion air
compressor comes from the jet's own turbines.
10- In SCUBA diving, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and other life support
devices to store breathing gas in a small volume such as in diving cylinders.
11- In submarines, to store air for later use in displacing water from buoyancy
chambers, for adjustment of depth.
12- In turbochargers and superchargers to increase the performance of internal
combustion engines by increasing mass flow.
13- In rail and heavy road transport to provide compressed air for operation of
rail vehicle brakes or road vehicle brakes and various other systems (doors,
windscreen wipers, engine/gearbox control, etc).
14- In miscellaneous uses such as providing compressed air for filling
pneumatic tires.

b) Types of compressors
The following figure shows the compressor types.

c) Centrifugal compressors
The centrifugal compressors use a vane rotating disk or impeller in a shaped
housing to force the gas to the rim of the impeller, increasing the velocity of the gas. A
diffuser (divergent duct) section converts the velocity energy to pressure energy. They
are primarily used for continuous, stationary service in industries such as oil

Module 01 Compressors Overview

refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants and natural gas processing plants. Their
application can be from 100 hp (75 kW) to thousands of horsepower. With multiple
staging, they can achieve extremely high output pressures greater than 10,000 psi (69

Axial- Flow
Axial flow compressors use a series of fan-like rotating rotor blades to
progressively compress the gas flow. Stationary stator vanes, located downstream of
each rotor, redirect the flow onto the next set of rotor blades. The area of the gas
passage diminishes through the compressor to maintain a roughly constant axial Mach
number. Axial-flow compressors are normally used in high flow applications, such as
medium to large gas turbine engines. They are almost always multi-staged. Beyond
about 4:1 design pressure ratio, variable geometry is often used to improve operation.

Module 01 Compressors Overview

Axial flow compressor

e) Screw Compressors
Rotary screw compressors use two meshed rotating positive-displacement
helical screws to force the gas into a smaller space. These are usually used for
continuous operation in commercial and industrial applications and may be either
stationary or portable. Their application can be from 3 hp (2.24 kW) to over 500 hp
(375 kW) and from low pressure to very high pressure (>1200 psi or 8.3 MPa). They
are commonly seen with roadside repair crews powering air-tools. This type is also
used for many automobile engine superchargers because it is easily matched to the
induction capacity of a piston engine.

Module 01 Compressors Overview

Gas and Oil Diagram of a Rotary Screw Compressor

f) Straight lobe compressor:

Module 01 Compressors Overview

This type has untwisted or straight lobe rotors which intermesh as they rotate,
they use a timing gears to phase the rotors. Gas is trapped in the open area between
the lobes and the casing as the lobe pair crosses the inlet port. There is no
compression as the gas is moved to the discharge port it is compressed by the back
flow from the discharge port.
The pressure range is about 1 bar.

g) Sliding vane compressor:

Sliding vane compressor uses a single rotating element, the rotor is mounted
eccentric to the center of the cylinder portion of the casing, it is slotted and fitted with
vanes. The vanes are free to move in and out within the slots as the rotor revolves.
Gas is trapped between a pair of vanes as they cross the inlet port; gas is moved and
compressed circumferentially as the vane pair moves toward the discharge port.
This compressor is widely used as a vacuum pump as well as a gas
compressor, the compressor rating pressure is about 3.5 bar.



Module 01 Compressors Overview

h) Scroll Compressor
A scroll compressor, also known as scroll pump and scroll vacuum pump, uses
two interleaved spiral-like vanes to pump or compress fluids such as liquids and
gases. The vane geometry may be involute, archimedean spiral, or hybrid curves.
They operate more smoothly, quietly, and reliably than other types of compressors.
Often, one of the scrolls is fixed, while the other orbits eccentrically without
rotating, thereby trapping and pumping or compressing pockets of fluid between the

Scroll Compressor
i) Diaphragm Compressor
A diaphragm compressor (also known as a membrane compressor) is a variant
of the conventional reciprocating compressor. The compression of gas occurs by the
movement of a flexible membrane, instead of an intake element. The back and forth
movement of the membrane is driven by a rod and a crankshaft mechanism. Only the
membrane and the compressor box come in touch with the gas being compressed.
Diaphragm compressors are used for hydrogen and compressed natural gas
(CNG) as well as in a number of other applications.

j) Reciprocating Compressor
Reciprocating compressors use pistons driven by a crankshaft. They can be
either stationary or portable, can be single or multi-staged, and can be driven by
electric motors or internal combustion engines. Small reciprocating compressors from
5 to 30 horsepower (hp) are commonly seen in automotive applications and are
typically for intermittent duty. Larger reciprocating compressors up to 1000 hp are
still commonly found in large industrial applications, but their numbers are declining
as they are replaced by various other types of compressors. Discharge pressures can
range from low pressure to very high pressure (>5000 psi or 35 MPa). In certain
applications, such as air compression, multi-stage double-acting compressors are said

Module 01 Compressors Overview

to be the most efficient compressors available, and are typically larger, noisier, and
more costly than comparable rotary units.

Reciprocating Compressor

Module 01 Compressors Overview

K) Typical Application Ranges of Compressor Types:

Module 01 Compressors Overview


In the following figure the line d-a represents the induction stroke. The mass
in the cylinder increases from zero at d to that required to fill the cylinder at a. In the
ideal case the temperature is constant at Ti for this process and there is no heat
exchange with the surroundings. Induction commences when the pressure difference
across the valve is sufficient to open it. Line abc represents the compression and
delivery stroke. As the piston begins its return stroke the pressure in the cylinder rises
and closes the inlet valve. The pressure rise continues with the returning piston as
shown by line ab until the pressure is reached at which the delivery valve opens (a
value decided by the valve and the pressure in the receiver). The delivery takes place
as shown by the line be, which is a process at constant temperature Ti= constant
pressure Pi zero heat exchange, and decreasing mass. At the end of this stroke the
cycle is repeated.
The value of the delivery temperature Td depends upon the law of
compression between a and b, which in turn depends upon the heat exchange with the
surroundings during this process. It may be assumed that the general form of
compression is the reversible polytropic (i.e. pVn=constant).
The net work done in the cycle is given by the area of the p- V diagram and is
the work done on the gas. Indicated work done on the gas per cycle = area abed

Module 01 Compressors Overview

The compression process on P-V

Work done on the air per unit time is equal to the work done per cycle times
the number of cycles per unit time. The rate of mass flow is more often used than the
mass per cycle; if the rate of mass flow is given the symbol m, and replaces m in
equation, then the equation gives the rate at which work is done on the air, or the
indicated power.
The working fluid changes state between a and b in the figure, from P1 and Ti
to P2 and T2. The delivery temperature, T2, is given by ;

Module 01 Compressors Overview

 n 1 
 
 P  n 
T2  T1  2 
 P1 

The Condition of Minimum Work

The work done on the gas is given by the area of the indicator diagram, and
the work done will be a minimum when the area of the diagram is a minimum. The
height of the diagram is fixed by the required pressure ratio (when pi is fixed), and the
length of the line da is fixed by the cylinder volume, which is itself fixed by the
required induction of gas. The only process which can influence the area of the
diagram is the line ab. The position taken by this line is decided by the value of the
index n, figure (9) shows the limits of the possible processes.
Line ab1 is according to the law PV = constant (i.e. isothermal).
Line ab2 is according to the law PVγ = constant (i.e. isentropic)
Both processes are reversible. Isothermal compression is the most desirable
process between a and b, giving the minimum work to be done on the gas. This means
that in an actual compressor the gas temperature must be kept as close as possible to
its initial value, and a means of cooling the gas is always provided, either by air or by
water. The indicated work done when the gas is compressed isothermally is given by
the area ab1cd.

Axial thrust and thrust bearing load:

Module 01 Compressors Overview

The pressure force and flow forces acting on the individual impellers lead to a
resultant axial thrust.
To calculate these axial forces, knowledge of the pressure progression in the
wheel chambers must be as well as the way this progression is influenced by the
leakage flow across the labyrinths at the shrouded hub ends of the impellers. At the
shroud, the labyrinth leakage flows from the out side to the inside (delivery to
suction) and in the hub disk from the inside to the out side (inlet of second stage to the
suction of the first one).
This results in a differing pressure distribution on the shroud and hub disks.
The pressure differential is directly proportional to the density of the gas and rises
with increasing labyrinth leakage
The axial force developed can be calculated from the simple equation:

Fimpeller = P2*(Aimpeller-Aeye) – P1* Aeye

The resultant forces are in the direction from the discharge side to the suction
side. This for is large enough to be accomplish by a large thrust bearing area, So a
balance piston takes a place here to reduce the axial force acting and the thrust
bearing and the met force only that action the thrust bearing so small thrust bearing
areas can by used.
The force exerted in the balance piston be determined by the equation
Fb.piston = Psuc * Ab.piston

And its direction is from the suction side to the delivery side opposite to the
axial thrust
So the net force acting on the thrust bearing

Fnet = Fimpeller – Fb.piston