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neumatic tools and controls served by a central air station have many advantages in industrial operations. They feature high power density, reliability, and precise control under partial loads and may be used steadily for long periods without overheating. Air motors are widely applied in operations that involve flammable or explosive liquids, vapors, or dust. They may be operated in corrosive, hot, or wet environments, frequently stopped and started, and operated at varying speeds without damage. Pneumatically actuated equipment such as clamps, presses, feeders, and conveyors are commonly applied in production lines, as are pneumatic conveyers. Other common pneumatic applications include drilling, hammering, blast cleaning, spraying, automatic packaging, hoisting, cutting, stapling, sanding, grinding, plastic molding, liquid agitation, and fuel atomization. Due to the wide range of applications for compressed air, air compressors typically account for a large part of an industrial facilitys energy operating budget. The proper application of compressor technology is extremely important, since annual compressor operating costs are often greater than their total capital investment cost.

The ball pulls outward on the string due to the action of centrifugal force, and the pull is increased by a heavier ball, a longer string, or a faster rotation. As shown in Figure 30-1, the effect is the same if the ball is replaced with a molecule of gas, the string is replaced with an impeller, and the person is replaced with a mechanical driver. The centrifugal force imparted to the gas molecule will fling it outward, compressing it into the narrower impeller passageway. The larger the diameter of the impeller, the heavier the molecular weight of the gas, or the greater the speed rotation, the greater the pressure produced.
Force Ball
Sp ee d

Force Gas Molecule Diameter String


Air compressors can produce pressures ranging from slightly above atmospheric to more than 60,000 psi (4,000 bar), although most industrial applications use pressures of around 100 psig (7.9 bar). There are two general methods used to compress gaseous matter: 1. Positive displacement compressors compress air (or other gases) by admitting successive volumes of air into a closed space and then decreasing the volume. Reciprocating and rotary screw compressors operate on this principle. 2. Dynamic compressors are machines in which air or gas is compressed by the mechanical action of rotating vanes or impellers imparting velocity and pressure to the air or gas. Dynamic compressors include axial and centrifugal types. The basic concept behind the dynamic or centrifugal compressor principle can be easily explained with an analogy of a person whirling a ball attached to the end of a string.
Heavier the ball (molecular weight) the more force Longer the string (diameter) the more force Faster the ball rotates (rpm) the more force Fig. 30-1 Centrifugal Principle Illustration. Source: Carrier Corporation

In contrast, in positive displacement machines, a finite amount of the working fluid (e.g., air) is positively moved through the machine. Compression occurs as the machine encloses a finite volume of gas and reduces the internal volume of the compression chamber. The batch process characteristic allows positive displacement compressors to achieve higher pressures and respond to load change more effectively than centrifugal compressors. In particular, positive displacement compressors are more compatible with speed control as a means of controlling capacity under part-load conditions. Rotary screw and reciprocating (piston) compressors are both positive displacement machines, which trap a finite volume of gas, compress it, and transports it to

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

discharge. Dynamic machines, such as axial and centrifugal compressors, use rotary action to exert a torque on the gas to transport it and change its kinetic energy, without positive displacement. Whereas positive displacement compressors are essentially constant volume, variable pressure machines, centrifugal compressors are essentially variable flow, constant pressure machines. Figure 30-2 provides a comparison of performance characteristics of centrifugal versus reciprocating compressors. Line JK represents the constant flow, variable pressure performance of the reciprocating compressor. Due to the decrease in volumetric efficiency at increasing pressures, the compressor will actually have a sloping characteristic, as shown by Line JL. Line FM represents the variable flow, constant pressure performance of the centrifugal compressor. Due to internal losses, the compressor characteristic is not a straight line, but is similar to Line FG. Generally, positive displacement units are selected for smaller volumes of gas and higher pressure ratios. Dynamic machines are selected for higher volumes of gas and smaller pressure ratios. As such, centrifugal compressors are most common in large capacities, except when high pressure ratios are required. Figure 30-3 shows the basic types of compressors discussed in this chapter.

Compressor Types

Positive displacement type

Dynamic type

Reciprocating type

Rotary type

Centrifugal type (radial flow)

Axial flow type

Single-stage Multi-stage (single- or double-acting)

Rotary screw Sliding vane Rotary lobe

Single-stage Multi-stage

Fig. 30-3 Common Compressor Types.

Reciprocating compressors compress gas with piston

G Pressure

J Capacity Fig. 30-2 Performance Characteristics of Centrifugal vs. Reciprocating Compressors. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

action. They offer multi-stage and high-pressure capability and can range in capacity from fractional hp (or kW) to several thousand hp (or kW), although most applications are below 250 hp (185 kW). Pressures range from low vacuum at suction to more than 10,000 psi (700 bar). Reciprocating compressors are categorized as either singleacting or double-acting. In single-acting compressors, air is compressed only on the upstroke of the piston. They may feature single or multiple cylinders, with single-stage or multi-stage compression. Single-stage units are typically rated at discharge pressures of 25 to 100 psig (2.7 to 7.9 bar). Two-stage units are typically rated at discharge pressures of 100 to 250 psig (7.9 to 18.3 bar), though designs for higher pressure are not uncommon. Air-cooled units reject the heat of compression from cylinders, heads, and intercoolers to cooling air driven from the compressor fan. Liquid-cooled compressors have jacketed heads, cylinders, and intercoolers through which the heat of compression is rejected to the circulating coolant. Figure 30-4 is an illustration of a single-acting reciprocating compressor, which reveals the characteristic automotive-type pistons, driven through connecting rods from the crankshaft, with compression taking place on the top of the pistons on each revolution of the crankshaft. Pistons typically use heat-resistant, nonmetallic guides and piston rings. Figure 30-5 is an illustration of a twostage compressor with a liquid-cooled intercooler. In double-acting compressors, air is compressed on both the upstroke and downstroke of the piston. The double-acting piston is driven by a piston rod extending through a packing gland to a crosshead, which is driven through a connecting rod from the main crankshaft.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

Fig. 30-6 Double-Acting Reciprocating Compressor Cylinder Separated from the Frame by a Distance Piece. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute Fig. 30-4 Single-Acting, Reciprocating Compressor with AutomotiveType Skirted Pistons. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Fig. 30-5 Two-Stage Reciprocating Compressor with Liquid Cooled Intercooler. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Double-acting compressors may employ single or multiple cylinders. Discharge pressure may range to several thousand psig. For 100 psig (8 bar) service, two-stage doubleacting units begin at about 75 hp (56 kW). Typically, double-acting compressors are used for heavy-duty continuous service and employ cooling waterjacketed cylinders and heads. Figure 30-6 illustrates a double-acting compressor cylinder separated from the compressor frame by a structural member called a distance piece. Figure 30-7 shows a 125 hp (93 kW), two-stage double-acting reciprocating compressor installed in a paper mill. Reciprocating compressors are essentially constant

Fig. 30-7 125 hp (93 kW) Two-Stage Double-Acting Reciprocating Air Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

capacity, variable pressure machines. Capacity regulation can be achieved with one or more of the following methods: Automatic stop-start control by means of a pressureactuated switch. This method is typically used when compressed air demand is light and intermittent. With constant-speed control, unloading can be accomplished in several different ways. Two common methods are inlet valve unloaders and clearance unloaders. Inlet valve unloaders mechanically hold the cylinder inlet valve open, thereby preventing

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

compression. Clearance unloaders open pockets or small reservoirs, which increases the clearance volume of the cylinder, thereby reducing the volume of air being compressed. For higher capacity motor-driven reciprocating compressors, this process can be accomplished in discrete steps varying from full load to no load. This process is referred to as step control. With variable-speed control, efficient unloading can be accomplished through much of the operating regime. By varying speed in response to changes in air demand, the compressor will operate at near 100% of full-load volumetric efficiency. The ability to reduce speed will be limited by the drivers capability. Once the lower speed limit of the driver is reached, one of the previously mentioned compressor control methods will be required to further reduce output. All of these control systems utilize an air discharge pressure set point that actuates a pressure-sensor or pilot. A falling pressure indicates that air is being used faster than it is being compressed and that more air is required. A rising pressure indicates that more air is being compressed than is being used and that less air is required. With prime mover drives, speed control is a common method of varying reciprocating compressor capacity. In these cases, the regulator actuates the fuel- or steamadmission governor valve on the driver to control the speed. Electric motor-driven compressors generally operate at constant speed, although it is possible to apply variable frequency drives (VFDs) to achieve variable speed operation. On reciprocating compressors of small and intermediate capacities, both constant-speed control and automatic start-stop control are typically used. Reciprocating compressors typically require constant oil feed to the cylinders. Because this oil can contaminate the air stream, heavy-duty filtration is required to keep the oil out of the compressed air system. Oil-free reciprocating units, which are more costly, are used for applications requiring high-purity, non-oil contaminated compressed air. Advantages of reciprocating compressors include their high efficiency and excellent part-load performance, as well as the large range of available sizes and pressures. Disadvantages include relatively high maintenance requirements and downtime because of their many moving parts and the vibration and stress caused by their reciprocating action. Reciprocating units are also physically larger and more expensive than alternative compressor types in larger capacities. A substantial foundation is

required for their support and to dampen the dynamic loading. Pulsation is inherent in reciprocating compressors because suction and discharge valves are open during only part of the stroke.


In a rotary screw compressor, air enters the compressor and is trapped between mating male and female rotors and compressed to the required discharge pressure. In the basic single-stage design, the compressor consists of a pair of rotors meshing in a one-piece, dual-bore cylinder. Oil lubricates, seals, and cools the compressor. Oil-flooded rotary screw compressors are typically available in capacities ranging from 25 to 3,000 cubic feet per minute (cfm) or 0.7 to 85 cubic meters per minute (m3/m) at pressures up to 600 psig (42 bar). Most units are ported for a pressure of 100 psig (7.9 bar), but are suitable for operation between 50 and 200 psig (4.5 to 14.8 bar) without large losses of efficiency. Single-, two-, and three-stage designs are available. Figure 30-8 is an illustration of a rotary helical-screw compressor. In a single-stage unit, the air inlet is usually located at the top of the cylinder. The cylinder provides air inlet passages, oil injection points, compression zone, and discharge port. The male rotor typically has four helical lobes that are spaced 90 degrees apart. The female rotor has corresponding helical grooves, usually six, spaced 60 degrees apart. Typically, the male rotor is driven directly or indirectly by an electric motor or prime mover and the female rotor is driven by the male rotor. The thrust bearings (at the discharge end) take the rotor axial thrust and carry radial loads. The floating bearings on the opposite end allow for unequal thermal expansion of the rotor and cylinder.

Fig. 30-8 Rotary Helical Screw Compressor Showing ThrustCarrying Roller Bearings at One End and Floating Bearings at the Other End. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

Figure 30-9 illustrates the compression cycle for a single-stage helical screw-type compressor. With oil injected rotary screw compressors, air is drawn into the cavity between the main rotor lobes and secondary rotor grooves. As they continue to rotate, the rotor lobes pass the edges of the inlet ports, trapping the air in a cell that forms between the rotor cavities and the cylinder wall. Continued rotation causes the main rotor lobe to roll into the secondary rotor groove, reducing volume and thereby raising pressure. After the cell is closed to the inlet, oil is injected to seal the clearances and remove heat. Compression ceases when the rotor lobes pass the edge of the discharge port and release the compressed air/oil mixture.

Discharge Port Secondary Rotor Main Rotor Inlet A Main Rotor

Discharge Port Secondary Rotor Main Rotor Inlet B

Discharge Port Secondary Rotor

Inlet C

Fig. 30-9 Compression Cycle Illustration for a Single-State Helical Screw Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

As the mixture passes to the oil reservoir, velocity change and impingement cause much of the oil to fall from the air. The air then passes through a separation device which removes most of the rest of the oil. Oil carryover to discharged air typically ranges from 0.002 to 0.005 ounces/cf (2.09 to 5.22 ml/m3). An effective oil filtering system is also required to protect bearings and rotating elements. Oil-free or dry screw compressors are also available, but are much more expensive and less efficient. In an oilfree screw compressor, the rotors have to be geared so that they do not touch. There is also no oil to seal the rotor tips or absorb the heat of compression. Oil-free screw compressors are typically two-stage units. Capacity modulation can be affected in several ways: Air inlet throttling utilizes an inlet air valve that modulates in response to pressure sensing controls. A typical inlet throttled screw compressor operating at 70% capacity will require nearly 90% full-load power (22% efficiency loss). On-line/off-line control cycles the inlet air valve between the fully-open and fully-closed position. This method is more efficient than air inlet throttling, but

results in pressure swings and usually requires a discharge air receiver. It can also produce increased axial stress on bearings. Geometry control uses a turn- or slide-valve to change the geometry within the compression chamber, changing the effective length of the rotors. Speed control can be used to efficiently reduce airflow capacity. Like all positive displacement machines, screw compressors continue to operate near full-load volumetric efficiency when speed is reduced. Input power requirement is reduced roughly in proportion to airflow. Since the ability to reduce speed is limited by the drivers capability, it is usually necessary to rely on an additional control method for operation under low-load conditions. Rotary screw compressors now dominate the midsized compressed air market. They are characterized by low vibration and simple foundation requirements, broad pressure and capacity ranges, low maintenance, and long service life. A critical advantage of the rotary screw compressor over the reciprocating compressor is reduced maintenance requirements. While reciprocating units will typically require minor overhaul (e.g., valves) every 8,000 hours, screw compressor intervals may be 20,000 to 40,000 hours. Screw compressors are also smaller, quieter, and less expensive than reciprocating units in most midrange and larger capacities and use less oil. Screw compressors are usually less efficient than reciprocating units of comparable capacity, particularly under part-load conditions. In many applications, compressors operate at less than full load all or most of the time. As noted above, operating cost can exceed capital investment cost by several times during the life of the compressor, and the inability of constant-speed screw compressors to unload as efficiently as reciprocating units can thus be a significant disadvantage in many applications.

The compression element of a centrifugal compressor is the impeller or wheel. As the impeller rotates, the air caught between the blades is forced to move outward at increasing speed, away from the eye of the impeller. As the air exits the impeller, it enters the diffuser and scroll volute, where the velocity of the air (kinetic energy) is converted to pressure (static energy). Smooth, continuous flow is established as the motion of the air away from the eye causes a low-pressure area that draws more air into the impeller. Figures 30-10a and 30-10b show the impeller,

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

diffuser, and scroll volute of a centrifugal compressor.




Inlet Fig. 30-11 Centrifugal Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Fig. 30-10a Impeller, Diffuser, and Scroll Volute of Centrifugal Compressor. Source: The Elliot Company

Scroll Volute


Diffuser Fig. 30-10b Impeller, Diffuser, and Scroll Volute of Centrifugal Compressor. Source: The Elliot Company

Centrifugal compressors range in capacity from about 125 hp (93 kW) to more than 10,000 hp (7,500 kW). Figure 30-11 shows a three-stage centrifugal compressor rated at 7,250 cfm (205 m3/m). This unit operates at a discharge pressure of 124 psia (8.6 bar) and requires a 1,700 hp (1,270 kW) driver. In a multi-stage compressor, as shown in Figures 30-12 and 30-13, air is ducted from the scroll volute through interstage piping to the first intercooler, then to the second stage impeller, again through a diffuser and scroll volute to the second intercooler. Air from the second intercooler moves through a third impeller, diffuser, and volute where it reaches the final discharge pressure. Centrifugal compressor capacity, or mass flow rate, is a function of volume flow and air density. Because air density is inversely proportional to absolute temperature, mass flow is reduced at higher temperatures. Impellers must be selected to deliver the required flow at the highest anticipated operating temperature. Altitude and the

Fig. 30-12 Cutaway Drawing of Multi-stage Centrifugal Compressor. Source: The Elliot Company

Fig. 30-13 Vertical Section Drawing Showing Typical Multi-stage Centrifugal Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

humidity of inlet air are also important variables. As discussed later in the chapter, moisture is condensed out of compressed air in intercoolers and aftercoolers. When inlet air is very humid, more moisture is condensed and mass flow rate is reduced. Figure 30-14 is a representative centrifugal compressor performance curve in discharge pressure versus flow. Air delivery rises with decreasing pressure until the air velocity in the compressor reaches the speed of sound. At this point, flow is said to be choked, or stonewalled, because any further reduction in system pressure will not result in increased air delivery. This is shown on the lower right region of the curve. Figure 30-15 shows the effect of inlet air temperature on centrifugal compressor performance. Notice that mass flow and power requirement rise with decreasing temperature.
120 Rated Compressor Discharge Pressure, percent 115 110 105 100 95 90 Stonewall 85 80 75 Surge Line

Guaranteed Design Line


85 Rated Inlet Flow, percent


backflow, or surge occurs from the system through the compressor. The surge limit in a given application is a function of the compressor type, pressure ratio, inlet temperature, gas properties, blade angle, and operating speed. Since centrifugal compressors are dynamic machines, flow is much more sensitive than with positive displacement machines. Therefore, more sophisticated control logic is required. Capacity modulation is achieved via the following: Inlet throttling is often used, particularly in smaller capacities. Adjustable guide vanes allow for precise control of air inlet flow and, therefore, reduce the risk of surge. Adjustable vanes also reduce power requirement under partial loads. Speed control, achieved with a variable speed prime mover or electric driver, also provides some degree of output capacity control. Unlike the positive displacement compressors, however, centrifugal compressors achieve a more limited benefit through variable speed operation due to the minimum flow rate that is required to prevent surge. Figure 30-16 shows typical performance under variable speed control. A major advantage of centrifugal compressors is that they provide oil-free air and use oil only in the gearbox. They offer simplicity of design, few moving parts, large clearances, and minimal vibration. This results in high reliability and low maintenance requirements. Their efficiency increases with size and surpasses even reciprocating compressors at full-load operation in the larger capacities. However, like screw compressors, centrifugal compressors exhibit poor part-load performance and are best suited for baseload duty. In smaller capacities, they are less efficient and more costly than screw compressors and offer lower pressure rise per stage.

Fig. 30-14 Representative Centrifugal Compressor Performance Curve. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

All dynamic compressors have a surge limit or minimum flow point below which the performance of the compressor is unstable. Operation below this point results in pulsations in pressure flow, which could become severe enough to cause damage. The intersection of the surge line and the sloping performance curve represents the maximum discharge pressure of the compressor. As system pressure increases, the compressor delivers less air until the system resistance is matched. This continues until the compressor is unable to maintain a steady flow of air and

Discharge Pressure, 100 percent Surge Line Power at Coupling, 100 percent

Design Point


Increase in Air Temperature Reduces Power

100 Weight Flow, percent

Fig. 30-15 Effect of Inlet Air Temperature on Centrifugal Compressor Performance. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

110 100 90 Limit of Stable 80 Operation 70 Compressor Shaft hp, percent 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

100% Speed

90% 80% 70% 60% Locus of Maximum Efficiency

hp (or kW) and are usually larger than 10,000 hp (7,500 kW). Figure 30-18 shows an axial flow compressor used for blast furnace duty in a steel mill. Figure 30-19 shows typical performance curves for axial compressors, including variable speed control.


120 100 80 60 40 20 100% Speed 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% Compressor Inlet Capacity, percent Fig. 30-17 Illustration of Oil-Flooded Sliding Vane Rotary Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90100110

Fig. 30-16 Typical Performance Curves for Centrifugal Compressors. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute


Sliding vane rotary compressors include a radially slotted rotor that is offset in its housing. Sliding vanes held in the slots trap air as the rotor turns and provides compression as the volume between the vanes changes due to the rotor offset in the housing. Figure 30-17 is an illustration of an oil-flooded sliding vane rotary compressor that demonstrates the compression cycle. Vane compressors offer moderate pressure capability. Over the past few decades, the use of sliding vane compressors has dropped substantially, to the point where they are now rather uncommon. Oil-free rotary-lobe compressors feature rotating lobes that have an intermeshing profile. Each stage consists of two rotors held within a figure eight-shaped cylinder. As the two rotors intermesh, compression takes place around the perimeter of the rotor as opposed to along the axis. In axial compressors, a series of axial blades draws in, compresses, and discharges air, continuing along the axis of the compressor. Stationary axial compressors are the type used in very large combustion gas turbines. Axial compressors typically start in capacity at several thousand

Fig. 30-18 Axial Flow Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Important compressor plant auxiliaries include air receivers, inlet air filters, intercoolers, aftercoolers, and air dryers designed to remove unwanted contaminants and moisture from the compressed air stream. An air receiver, typically used to reduce the impact of pulsations from reciprocating compressors, can also be used to provide storage. Storage capacity serves many functions. For example, it can limit distribution pressure swings and reduce problems associated with frequent compressor cycling or capacity modulation. Adequate storage allows compressor plants to respond to high

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

130 120 110 100 90 Compressor Pressure Rise, percent 80 70 Limit of 60 Stable 50 Operation 70% 40 30 20 10 0 Locus of Maximum 100 Efficiency 80 60 40 60% 50%

100% Speed



100% Speed 90% 20 80% 50% 70% 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100110 60% Compressor Inlet Capacity, percent Fig. 30-19 Typical Performance Curves for Axial Compressors. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

demand occurring over very short periods. Storage can allow on-line compressors to run closer to full load, improving energy efficiency. This is particularly beneficial with constant speed-operated screw and centrifugal compressors. The time interval during which a receiver can supply air without excessive drop in pressure is: t = V (p1 p2 ) qp0 (30-1)

Where: t = Time in minutes p1 = Initial receiver pressure p2 = Final receiver pressure p0 = Atmospheric pressure q = Air requirement (flow rate of free air per minute) V = Receiver capacity In most compressed air applications, the presence of oil or particles of grit or scale cannot be tolerated. Inlet air filters help prevent dirt or foreign matter from entering the compressor and possibly causing damage. Three basic

types of filters are used: Viscous-impingement or oil-wetted filters include layers of wire mesh, screen, or fibrous filter pads contained in a canister or panel. Debris in the air drawn through the filter medium is retained on the oil-wetted surface. These are relatively low-cost, inefficient filters that are not recommended for non-lubricated compressors or for duty where heavy atmospheric contamination exists. Oil bath filters first draw the unfiltered air through an oil reservoir; this is followed by a screen mesh or other medium that scrubs out the oil and dirt particles on the oiled element surfaces. These are more efficient than viscous-impingement types, but also have a higher pressure drop. Due to the oil entrainment in the filtered air, they are also not suitable for nonlubricated compressors. Dry-type filters, consisting of densely spaced material that block particle penetration, are usually the most efficient filter option and the best option for nonlubricated compressors. The finer the filter element, the greater the efficiency and the higher the pressure drop. Routine inspection is required to ensure that the filter does not become clogged, possibly allowing a rupture that releases retained debris into the air system. Some elements may be cleaned by blowing them out or scrubbing them. Other less expensive papertreated elements are disposable types. The oil bath and dry type are available as filter silencers that also provide sound suppressing characteristics. With viscous-impingement filters, an additional silencing device, such as a pulsation damper, is usually used. Air always contains some moisture in a vapor state. The maximum amount of moisture that a given volume of air can hold is dependent upon temperature and pressure. As temperature increases, the air is able to hold more moisture, and as pressure increases, the air is able to hold less moisture. For example, in English units, air at 70F, 50% RH, holds about 4 grains/cf of moisture (1 lbm of water is equal to 7,000 grains). At 100% RH, the air holds about 8 grains/cf. At that point, the air is said to be saturated, i.e., it cannot hold any more moisture. If the absolute pressure is doubled (at constant temperature), the volume is reduced and the air will retain 4 grains/cf in the form of vapor and drop out 4 grains/cf in the form of liquid. The dewpoint is the temperature at which condensate will begin to form if the air is cooled at constant pressure. Pressurized warm air typically leaves the compressor under

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

saturated conditions. As the air cools in the distribution system, water will begin to condense. Condensed water vapor can have a number of deleterious effects in compressed air systems: causing corrosion, promoting wear, washing out lubricants from pneumatic devices, causing control instruments to malfunction, and freezing in exposed lines during cold weather. Aftercoolers are air- or water-cooled tube bundles designed to cool the compressed air exiting the compressor. Separators then remove the condensed moisture from the air through mechanical or cyclonic action. The droplets are discharged from the system by a moisture trap. There are many types of traps available, such as float, inverted bucket, and solenoid valve with timer. Figure 3020 is a representative illustration of a compressor arrangement showing the piping to a receiver with an aftercooler. Air dryers are used to further reduce moisture. Representative flow diagrams for the following types of dryer are shown in Figure 30-21. Refrigerated air dryers chill the air to remove moisture by use of refrigerant-to-air heat exchangers. The air is then often reheated to near room temperature. These are relatively low cost, low maintenance units that provide constant dewpoint. The limitation is that very low dewpoints (below 32F, 0C) are not achievable, to avoid restriction in the dryer due to ice buildup. Deliquescent air dryers use a hygroscopic desiccant

material having a high affinity for water. Systems consist of a large vessel filled with a desiccant such as lithium chloride or calcium chloride. The desiccant removes and dissolves water vapor from the compressed air. A primary advantage of these systems is their low first cost. Disadvantages are limited suppression of dewpoint, the need to replace the desiccant a few times per year, the need for a downstream filtering system, and the tendency to cake and channel, thus reducing the effectiveness of the units. Regenerative desiccant air dryers consist of two or more towers. Dry desiccant absorbs moisture from the compressed air flowing through one of the towers, while the other tower is being regenerated (dried) using heat or purge air. After the desiccant in the operating tower becomes saturated, the compressed air is diverted to the second tower and the first one is regenerated. Advantages of regenerative desiccant systems are the ability to achieve extremely low dewpoints, moderate operating costs, and no requirement to drain water. Heat-driven systems may be direct-fired with natural gas, or use steam, hot air, or hot water. Recovered heat from prime mover cycles or other applications can be effectively utilized in these systems. Disadvantages include high first cost and the potential for oil aerosols to coat the desiccant materials, rendering them ineffective. Desiccant drying technology is discussed in detail in Chapter 39.
81% of the original water vapor or 2.88 gals. per hr. has been condensed by the aftercooler. Discharge air cooled to 80F, now contains only 5.67 lbs. (0.68 gals.) water vapor per hr. 80F air at the receiver and in the pipe lines contains 5.67 lbs. (0.68 gals.) water vapor per hr., but the temperature is normally below the pipe line temperature, therefore there is no further condensation

Air discharged from compressor at 360F contains 29.67 lbs. (3.56 gas.) of water vapor per hr. Pipe Line Aftercooler 450 cfm actual free air delivery at 100 lbs. per sq. in. pressure Cooling Cooling Water In Water Out

Condensate Trap

Receiver Only 19% of the original water vapor (0.68 gals. per hr.) remains in the air to pass into pipe lines and tools, with practically no further condensation

Compressor inlet air at 80F, 70% relative humidity. 27,000 cu. ft. per hr. carries 29.76 lbs. (3.56 gals.) of water vapor per hr.

Fig. 30-20 Representative Compressor Arrangement Showing Piping to Receiver with Aftercooler. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors



Receiver Separator Air Intake Compressor Air Intake Compressor

Separator Air Intake Compressor


Aftercooler Trap Trap To Drain

Aftercooler Trap Trap (Optional) Prefilter To Drain Dryer

Aftercooler Trap Trap To Drain

To Drain Dryer (Optional) Prefilter (Optional) Afterfilter Dry Air Discharge To Drain To Drain

To Drain

(Optional) Afterfilter Dry Air Discharge

To Drain Dryer (Optional) Prefilter (Optional) Afterfilter Dry Air Discharge

Air to Air Exchanger Separator Evaporator

To Drain To Drain To Drain Condenser Compressor (Refrigerant)

Compressed Air Drying System Deliquescent Dryer

Compressed Air Drying System Refrigeration Dryer

Compressed Air Drying System Desiccant Regenerating Dryer

Fig. 30-21 Typical Flow Diagrams for the Three Basic Types of Air Drying Systems. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Multi-staging, or the connection in series of two or more identical compressors, is often used to limit the pressure rise per stage based on the limitations of the machine type, i.e., axial thrust load in centrifugal compressors, piston rod stress in reciprocating compressors, and rotor deflection and thrust in rotary compressors. Intercooling is the removal of heat from the air between stages to maintain safe discharge temperatures and improve overall compression efficiency. Intercoolers are typically water-cooled tube bundles with an external means of heat rejection (e.g., cooling tower or once-through city water cooling). Ideal intercooling exists when the temperature of the air leaving the intercooler equals the temperature of the air at the intake of the first stage. In practice, the benefits of intercooling are also partially offset by the pressure drop across the cooler and by the mechanical losses consumed in driving the stages.


There are several commonly used standards in system engineering to define air. One definition for a standard cubic foot (scf ) of air is the quantity of dry air needed to fill a volume of 1 cf (0.03 m3) at 14.7 psia (101 kPa) pressure and 60F (15.55C) temperature. Another definition is based on air at 36% relative humidity (RH) filling the same volume at the same pressure, but at 68F (20C). In both cases, the air density has the value of 0.075 lbm/cf (1.2 kg/m3). Air services with atmospheric inlet should be specified for 100% RH. The water content must be added to the

net dry air requirement of the process. Note that saturated air at 90F (32.2C) contains about 3% water vapor by weight. In the United States, the Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI) has selected as standard conditions 1 bar (14.5 psia or 100 kPa), 20C (68F), and 0% RH. The most commonly used units of flow are cf per minute (cfm or ft3/m) or per hour (cfh or ft3/h) and m3 per minute (m3/m) or per hour (m3/h). Power is normally expressed as hp or kW. Work of compression may be expressed positively as work output or negatively as work input. Inlet pressure is generally defined as the absolute total pressure existing at the intake flange of a compressor. Inlet temperature is the initial temperature at the intake flange. Discharge pressure is generally defined as the absolute total pressure at the compressors discharge flange and is commonly referenced in psig. Discharge temperature is the total temperature at the discharge flange of the compressor. Typically, compressors are analyzed using ideal gas law with an assumed constant specific heat. A compressibility factor (Z) is used for real gas deviations. The isentropic work of compression for a real gas is expressed positively as: W = p1V1 k k1

Reactivation Components

[ r (k-1)/k


Z1+Z2 2 Z1


Where: W = Work done p = Pressure at inlet

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

V = Volume at inlet k = Ratio of specific heats r = Compression ratio (p2 /p1) Z = Compressibility factor = and subscripts: 1 = Inlet conditions 2 = Discharge conditions

( )

Compressibility factors become increasingly more critical for analysis of hydrocarbon gases and refrigerants (which generally deviate significantly from the ideal-gas laws) and for non-hydrocarbon gas at very high pressures (i.e., greater than 1,000 psig or 70 bar). Power (P) requirement is a function of the work done and the adiabatic efficiency of the compressor (c ). It can, therefore, be expressed as: P= W


or as: P= p1V1 k [ r (k-1)/k 1 ] 1c (k 1)

Z1+ Z2

2 Z1


When power is expressed in hp, pressure in psia, and capacity in cfm, power can be expressed, based on Equation 30-4, as: hp = 144 p1V1 k 33,000 (k 1)

[ r (k-1)/k





For a positive displacement compressor, at any given rate of flow, the ideal power is affected by the inlet pressure (p1), the ratio of specific heats (k), and the compression ratio (r). The actual power requirement is increased as a result of losses through the intake and discharge valves (or ports). Additional losses result from turbulence in and leakage from the compression chamber and preheating of the inlet gas. Figure 30-22 is a theoretical pressure-volume diagram of the helical screw-type compressor. The compression process approaches isothermal compression because of the cooling effect of the oil. The power and capacity loss can be represented by the shaded area, although leaking also occurs along the compression line. Isentropic equations are often used so that isentropic work can be determined from thermodynamic reference charts or tables. However, isentropic, or reversible adiabatic, compression is ideal compression in which there are no internal energy losses due to friction, windage, or throttling and no heat transfer takes place. When internal compressor losses due to friction, windage, and throttling are considered, the process is known as irreversible adiabatic. This represents the actual work required to compress the gas. When thermal losses through the compressor casing are accounted for, the process is known as polytropic. Polytropic compression, therefore, represents the actual compression process. For ideal gases with constant specific heats, the relationship of isentropic efficiency to polytropic efficiency can be expressed as:

With the volume capacity (V) expressed in m3/s and the pressure (p) in Pascal, Equation 30-4 yields actual power in watts.

(r (k-1)/k 1) (r (k-1)/(k p ) 1)


PV n = C

Where: c = Adiabatic efficiency p = Polytropic efficiency This relationship applies with reasonable accuracy to real gases that do not deviate greatly from ideal gases because the real-gas errors cancel. Adiabatic equations can be applied to a polytropic 1 process by multiplying k 1 by k p (n 1) This may be expressed as n , where n represents the polytropic coefficient, which can be determined if inlet and discharge temperature and pressures are known. For positive displacement compressors in which velocities, turbulence, and slip are relatively low, power requirements can be reasonably approximated on an

V Fig. 30-22 Theoretical Pressure-Volume Diagram of Helical ScrewType Compressor. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

isentropic basis. However, dynamic compressors are more typically evaluated on a polytropic basis. Power, often referred to as gas power, on a volumetric flow basis is expressed as: n Z1+Z2 (30-6) P = Q1 p1 [ r (n-1)/n 1 ] 2Z p (n 1)


Where: Q1 = Volumetric flow at inlet conditions When power (P) is expressed in hp, volumetric flow (Q1) in cfm, and inlet pressure (p) in psia, Equation 30-6 becomes: Z1+Z2 n hp = Q1 p1 [ r (n-1)/n 1 ] 229 p (n 1) 2Z1


With the volumetric flow (Q1) is expressed in m3/s and pressure (p) in Pascal, Equation 30-6 yields gas power in watts. As noted above, the calculated power is not the true power input to the compressor. A series of additional losses, such as bearing and seal losses, must be added into the gas power to determine the shaft power requirement. Driver efficiency losses, as discussed below, must also be considered in determining the total system energy input requirement.


Drivers produce the shaft rotational power required to operate the air compressor. Following is a discussion of the commonly used compressor drivers. Electric induction motors are by far the most common drivers selected for stationary air compressor applications. Motors are typically the lowest first-cost driver option and offer simplicity of operation and minimal maintenance requirements. Motor-driven air compressors are abundantly available in all required capacity ranges, often as part of pre-engineered packaged systems. Recently, variable frequency drives (VFDs) have begun to be applied to some larger systems to improve part-load efficiency. Synchronous motors are also occasionally used in larger applications. Reciprocating engines have a long history of driving air compressors. Screw compressors are somewhat commonly used with reciprocating engine drives due to their simplicity and durability under torsional stress. The typical control sequence for a reciprocating engine-driven rotary screw compressor is first to reduce speed, and then to use standard compressor part-load control mechanisms.

This is beneficial because both the engine and the compressor will operate more efficiently under most partialload conditions. Pre-engineered, packaged, reciprocating engine-driven modules are now available from several leading manufacturers as a response to the increasingly high operating costs of electric units. The new modules use high-quality, heavy-duty industrial engines, which are compact and offer good predictability of operation. They are designed using components from standard industrial product lines to simplify maintenance requirements and limit down-time. Off-the-shelf engine-driven screw compressors range in capacity between 50 hp (37 kW) and 500 hp (375 kW). Several manufacturers offer to package their units with reciprocating engines in capacities up to 1,000 hp (750 kW) or above. A typical packaged system will operate between 1,800 and 1,200 rpm in capacities above 200 hp (150 kW) and between 2,400 and 1,400 rpm in capacities below 200 hp (150 kW). Minimal constant efficiency idle speed will typically be reached at the 50 to 65% capacity range. Reciprocating engines are sometimes packaged with reciprocating compressors, depending on required outlet pressures. This includes the under 50 psig (4.5 bar) market, as well as the over 200 psig (14.8 bar) market. Packaging of compressors with piston engines requires delicate torsional balancing, making conversions of existing reciprocating compressors more difficult. Because centrifugal compressors operate at very high speed and have sleeve bearings, they are more sensitive to torsional vibrations than screw compressors. For this reason and due to the need for gearing, reciprocating engines are not as commonly used with centrifugal compressors. Useful system design options are available with current packaged units include: Heat recovery potential that may exceed 65% (LHV) by combining compressor heat rejection with engine heat rejection. An integral regenerative desiccant air dryer can be powered by engine exhaust. Compressors using half of the cylinders for power and half for air compression are available for applications ranging from about 20 to 375 hp (15 to 280 kW). The fuel consumption rate of a relatively small 130 cfm (3.7 m3/m) air compressor (e.g., 1,800 rpm with four power cylinders and a 36.75 hp rating) is about 9,500 Btu/hp-h (7,500 kJ/kWh) on an HHV basis. Figures 30-23 and 30-24 show different packaged air

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

compressors with reciprocating engine drivers. Figure 3023 shows a 5,500 cfm (156 m3/m) Ingersol-Rand centrifugal air compressor designed for 100 psig (7.9 bar) service. The unit is driven by a 1,500 hp (1,120 kW) Caterpillar gas-fired reciprocating engine. Figure 30-24 shows a 585 cfm (17 m3/m) packaged air-cooled screw compressor system. This unit requires 133 hp (99 kW) for full-load operation at 100 psig (7.9 bar), which is provided by a Hercules engine at a fuel consumption rate of 8,200 Btu/hp-h (6,450 kJ/kWh) on an HHV basis. Steam turbine drives are used for large screw and centrifugal compressors because of their mechanical compatibility, reliability, and precise control. They are more cost-effective in larger capacities. Some manufacturers offer packaged systems, although steam turbines are sometimes retrofitted to replace existing electric motor drives. A hybrid application can include a dual clutch on the same shaft as an electric motor. The benefits of turbine

variable speed control are not as pronounced as with reciprocating engines, because steam turbine mechanical efficiency is reduced at low speed. Microprocessor controls can be used to optimize performance. Back-pressure turbine-driven compressors have the potential to achieve extremely low operating costs often as low as $0.010/hp-h ($0.014/kWh). This is dependent, of course, on the availability of a concurrent low-pressure steam requirement, or heat sink. Condensing turbines can be cost-effective under certain conditions, including availability of low-cost fuel or heat-recovery generated steam, high cost electric rates, or avoidance of costly electric service upgrades. Figure 30-25 shows a mixed (hybrid) system featuring two steam turbine-driven centrifugal air compressors and one electric motor-driven unit. Each unit is equipped with external coolers shown in the foreground. Each air compressor system requires 800 hp (596 kW) to produce

Fig. 30-23 Reciprocating Engine-Driven Centrifugal Air Compressor. Source: Ingersol Rand and Caterpillar Engine Div.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

the facility. Gas turbine compressor drives are generally only used for large industrial operations and remote field applications of at least 5,000 cfm (142 m3/m), and more commonly at least 20,000 cfm (566 m3/m). These applications involve centrifugal and axial air compressors and have driver requirements that start at several thousand hp (or kW). They may be specified where there is a large, constant high-pressure steam requirement, where electric capacity is limited or very costly, or when independent operating reliability is essential. They are very common for pipeline gas compressors, since they have no cooling or water requirements.
TO DEMAND Basic compressor selection factors normally include capacity, operating pressure, first cost, energy efficiency and cost, air purity requirements, installation location, water availability and cost, noise constraints, and maintenance. Figure 30-26 shows the overlapping ranges of pressure and capacity typical of different types of compressors. Table


Fig. 30-24 585 cfm Packaged, Air-Cooled Reciprocating EngineDriven Screw Compressor. Source: Dearing Compressor and Pump Co.

3,500 cfm (99 m3/m) at 125 psig (9.6 bar). The steam turbine drivers are single-stage back-pressure machines that provide low-pressure steam to serve other processes at

Fig. 30-25 Mixed (Hybrid) Compressed Air System Featuring Steam Turbine- and Electric Motor-Driven Centrifugal Compressors. Source: Centrifugal Compressor Division, Ingersoll-Rand Company

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

100,000 (6,900 bars)




1,000 Axial (500)


Rotary Screw (60) Sliding Vane






100,000 1,000,000 (28,300 m3)

Inlet Capacity, acfm

Fig. 30-26 Pressure-Capacity Chart Showing the Effective Ranges of Most Compressors. Source: Compressed Air and Gas Institute

30-1 lists typical air compressor types and designs used in various capacity ranges for 100 psig (7.9 bar) air service. Under higher or lower operating pressures, selection criteria for each capacity range may differ. Ideally, the supply side or compressed air capacity should be selected and configured after the demand side is controlled and optimized. The primary components of compressed air demand are real production requirements,

Table 30-1 Typical Air Compressors Used in Various Capacity Ranges [Based on 100 psig (7.9 bar) Operation] Capacity range hp/cfm (kW/m3/m) 1-30/3-120 (0.75-22/0.1-3) 30-150/100-750 (22-112/3-21) 150-300/600-1,600 (112-224/17-45) 300-750/1,300-4,000 (224-559/37-113) >750/>3,400 (>559/>96) ----------Reciprocating--------Single acting Double acting Rotary positive displacement Dynamic

One & Two stage One & Two stage One & Two stage N/A N/A


Lobe (200)

artificial demand created by supply pressure that is greater than that required at the point of use, and air leaks. The lowest operating cost occurs when demand is minimized and precisely matched to supply. The demand side should be carefully audited, corrected, and optimized by minimizing leaks, providing manual controls, reducing distribution pressure, and making piping modifications to reduce pressure drop. A primary reason for excessive operating costs is that air compressors are typically sized to meet peak-load requirements. A unit or system that meets the peak-load demand with optimal efficiency does not necessarily efficiently meet the more common part-load demand. It is often convenient to break down the load into two components: baseload is the portion of the load that is constant and trim-load is the additional varying component. In multiple-compressor systems, baseload may be served by units best suited for continuous operation at or near full load. Cycling trim-load compressors and storage can be used to efficiently meet temporary demands. Trim-load units should, therefore, offer superior part-load performance, precise supply air modulation, and rapid response. In larger capacities, centrifugal compressors are often the baseload technology of choice. They offer good full-load efficiency in larger capacities and their reliability and low maintenance requirements are well suited for the long runhours required of a baseload unit. In somewhat smaller capacity applications, screw compressors are used in baseload service. Prime mover-driven systems are potentially competitive alternatives to electric motor-driven systems when there is also a concurrent baseload demand for thermal outputs in the form of recovered heat.

Discharge Pressure, psig

One stage Two stage Two stage Two stage* Two stage*

Rotary screw* Rotary screw Rotary screw Rotary Screw Rotary Screw*

N/A N/A Centrifugal* Centrifugal Centrifugal

*Not very common in capacity range due to relatively high capital cost and/or other logistical considerations.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

The classic trim-load unit is a reciprocating compressor. Whether operated at fixed or variable speed, reciprocating compressors offer rapid response, superior part-load efficiency, and precise modulation. Rotary screw compressors operated with variable speed drivers may be a cost-effective alternative in some cases. The electric motor-driven reciprocating compressor has one distinct advantage over prime mover-driven trim units reliable, fast response from a dead start. While some prime mover-driven units can provide quick start, this is not desirable on a regular basis. In addition, for reciprocating engine-driven systems, the combination of the rapid decline in engine performance and reduced compressor volumetric efficiency result in inefficient operation below 40% of full load. In many smaller facilities, particularly those with singleshift operations, only one air compressor is used. Since most facilities face varying loads, a unit with good trim characteristics is often the most attractive. Constant speed electric motor-driven compressors are most common for such applications, although variable speed electric units and packaged reciprocating engine units can also be used to enhance partload efficiency. In some cases, packaged reciprocating engine-driven units up to 400 hp (300 kW) can be costeffective even without heat recovery because of high-cost peak electric rates during single-shift weekday operation. In multiple compressor systems comprising similar units, it is common for both machines to share load equally, as demand requires each successive unit to be brought on line. Efficiency is often improved by using dissimilar units that feature required trim or baseload characteristics. Energy efficiency is optimized when all but one compressor is operating at full load and a relatively small trim unit is cycled or modulated as required. For example, given a baseload of 3,400 cfm (96 m3/m) and a peak load of 4,000 cfm (113 m3/m), the baseload units can be sized at 3,000 cfm (85 m3/m). A trim-load unit rated at 1,000 cfm (28 m3/m) would always be loaded to 400 cfm, or 40%, maintaining reasonable performance under the base condition. As the typical load on the trim unit is between 400 and 1,000 cfm (11 and 28 m3/m), the unit will operate at close to full-load efficiency all or most of the time, if operated at variable speed. Another alternative is to split the trim-load service into two components: a bottom end and a top end. The bottom end consists of demand that is variable, but almost always present and can be met by a screw or reciprocating compressor driven by a reciprocating engine. The top end, or intermittent demand, is met by a cycling electric-

driven reciprocating unit. This strategy provides for one quick-start unit, optimizes energy operating costs, and adds redundant capacity for increased reliability. Most large facilities with multiple-shift operations are on some type of time-of-use (TOU) differentiated electric rate. Most are fairly stratified with peak period (5 day, daytime) electricity being relatively costly and off-peak period electricity being relatively inexpensive. A disadvantage of electric motor-driven trim compressors is that electric demand charges will apply to the peak load met by the unit, whenever this coincides with the peak demand setting period of the facility. Energy charges incurred during more typical part-load operation may be only a fraction of trim compressor operating cost during the utility peak periods. TOU or the increasingly common real-time-pricing (RTP) electric rates may present opportunities for mixed, or hybrid, system configurations, featuring both electric and non-electric drivers. During peak periods, prime mover drivers may prove economical as baseloaded units, even without using recovered heat. One potentially cost-efficient strategy is to use a prime mover-driven screw or reciprocating compressor during peak and shoulder periods and an electric motor-driven unit during off-peak periods. Unless there is a concurrent load for the thermal output, a reciprocating engine-driven unit will generally not be as economical to operate as a baseloaded electric motor-driven unit during off-peak periods. Back-pressure turbine-driven units will almost always be economical (peak or off-peak), as long as there is full use of back-pressure steam. The operating cost advantage of a hybrid system is often significant enough to offset the incremental cost of the prime mover-driven unit. Consider the following simplified example of matching system configuration to load: Compressed air requirement during peak electric rate period: Baseload demand of 5,000 cfm (142 m3/m) Peak demand of 6,000 cfm (170 m3/m) Compressed air requirement during off-peak electric rate period: Baseload demand of 4,000 cfm (113 m3/m) Peak demand of 5,000 cfm (142 m3/m) Assume also a back-pressure steam turbine-driven centrifugal compressor can be designed to provide 4,000 cfm (113 m3/m) with a low-pressure steam output to match the facilitys minimum requirement. One useful configuration would consist of a 4,000 cfm (113 m3/m) back-pressure steam-driven centrifugal compressors and a

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

2,000 cfm (57 m3/m) electric motor-driven reciprocating compressor. The steam turbine-driven unit would be baseloaded, with the electric motor-driven unit serving remaining peak baseloads and meeting peak demands. A 2,000 cfm (57 m3/m) packaged reciprocating enginedriven screw compressor could be added to further reduce operating costs and provide some redundant capacity. It would replace the electric unit during peak periods and could be expected to operate efficiently at variable speed between 50 and 100% of full load. The electric unit would continue to operate and trim load off-peak. In the event that the largest unit, the steam turbine-driven machine, was out of service, the maximum capacity shortfall would be only 2,000 cfm (57 m3/m). If expected low-pressure steam load is reduced during the off-peak period, perhaps by half, alternative configurations would be considered. One option would be to install a 2,000 cfm (57m3/m) steam turbine-driven unit and a 2,000 cfm (57 m3/m) baseload electric motor-driven unit. With the addition of two trim units (one enginedriven and one electric motor-driven), the total system capacity would be 8,000 cfm (226 m3/m), providing 100% redundancy when any one unit is out of service. If in this example there was no steam demand, the following configuration might be selected: Baseload duty by a 4,000 cfm (113 m3/m) electric motor-driven centrifugal compressor; Peak trim by a 2,000 cfm (57 m3/m) reciprocating engine-driven screw compressor; and Off-peak trim by a 2,000 cfm (57 m3/m) electric motor-driven reciprocating compressor. Alternative configurations would be considered based on maintenance and reliability concerns, required redundancy, energy prices, and available thermal loads. Because the lifecycle operating costs associated with compressed air plants are generally so much higher than initial capital costs, hybrid configurations will often show a relatively short payback when compared with least capital-cost alternatives.

design rating of 1,537 cfm (44.6 m3/m) at 125 psi (9.9 bar) service. Electricity and gas use under varying load are based on manufacturers data. The examples consider: Simple payback on the incremental investment in a cycling control electric unit versus the lower cost modulation control electric unit. Simple payback on the incremental investment in the reciprocating engine unit, with variable speed and low-end modulation control. The examples include simplified screening tools that can be applied to economic analysis of air compressor system options. They show how part-load performance can be used as the basis of the analysis and demonstrate the potential benefits achieved with variable speed control. The examples also demonstrate how economic performance is highly dependent on energy cost. Section IX provides a discussion on performing more detailed technical and economic project feasibility analyses.

Example 1
This example is based on a relatively high-cost electric rate that is summarized in Figure 30-27.
Summer 4 Months Demand, $/kW/Month On-peak, $/kWh Shoulder, $/kWh Off-peak, $/kWh $ 18.00 $ 0.0900 $ 0.0750 $ 0.0500 Winter 8 Months $ 14.00 $ 0.0750 $ 0.0650 $ 0.0500 $ $ $ $ Annual Average 15.33 0.0800 0.0683 0.0500

Fig. 30-27 Electric Rate Summary for Example 1.




The following examples include simplified economic analyses of alternative air compressor systems that could be applied to an assumed load. Each example compares the application of a packaged variable-speed reciprocating engine-driven screw air compressor with electric motor-driven units that use inlet air throttling modulation or cycling control. The compressor systems under consideration have a

The first-cost premium for the electric unit with cycling control versus the base case electric unit with modulation control is $30,000. The first-cost premium for the gas-fired reciprocating engine unit is $130,000 versus the electric unit with modulation control and $160,000 versus the electric unit with cycling control. Figure 30-28 shows the assumed load during annual hours in each of the electric rate periods. Figure 30-29 shows the percent of full-load power required for operation of each of the electric units under varying load. Input power and annual hours of operation are used to determine annual energy use and demand, with costs calculated at the assumed billing rate. Figure 30-30 shows energy use and operating cost for the electric unit under modulation control. Energy use and operating cost for the electric unit under cycling control is shown in Figure 30-31. With an annual operating cost savings of $20,726, the incremental investment of

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

Load CFM 1,537 1,383 1,230 1,076 922 769 615 461 307 154 % Capacity 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% On-peak 125 300 450 426 400 235 100 50 2,086

Hours Shoulder 75 250 400 425 410 306 100 75 45 2,086 Off-peak 200 400 700 750 800 800 480 280 110 68 4,588 Total 400 950 1,550 1,601 1,610 1,341 680 405 155 68 8,760

Fig. 30-28 Loads by Hours and Electric Rate Periods.

Load % Capacity
100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

Electric Drive Modulation % Power consumed

100% 97% 92% 88% 84% 80% 76% 72% 68% 64%

Cycling % Power Consumed

100% 93% 85% 78% 70% 60% 52% 44% 36% 28%

range and modulation control under low load. The fuel required to drive the system is listed in the table and is supplied at a cost of $4.50/Mcf, independent of time of use. The total cubic feet (CF) of gas requirement is tabulated for each annual block of operating hours. Annual operating costs are determined using a gas cost equivalent to $4.50/Mcf. The annual O&M cost, based on $3.80 per equivalent full-load hour (EFLH), is calculated as $21,584. Figure 30-33 shows the simple payback on the incremental investment in the reciprocating engine system versus the two electric compressor system options. A comparison of the engine option with the cycling control option shows that the additional incremental investment in the engine-driven system of $130,000 versus the cycling control system is returned in 2.24 years.

Example 2
This example is based on a lower-cost electric rate, summarized in Figure 30-34. A first pass screening calculation revealed that under the lower electric rate, the reciprocating engine-driven air compressor could not be economically applied without benefit of heat recovery. Comparing Figure 30-35 (electric-driven unit with modulation) and Figure 30-36 (electric-driven unit with cycling control), the electric-driven unit featuring cycling control would be a likely choice. Figure 30-37 considers the reciprocating engine system with heat recovery. Listed natural gas consumption is based on the fuel-chargeable-to-power (FCP) as developed in Chapter 2, assuming heat recovery equivalent to 40% of engine fuel energy input. Displaced boiler efficiency is assumed to be 83% and gas cost is $4.50/Mcf. The O&M rate is increased to $4.20 per EFLH to reflect additional
Cost $/Year Total On-peak Shoulder Off-peak Total

Fig. 30-29 Percent Power vs. Percent Load for Electric Drive Options.

$30,000 for cycling control is recovered in 1.45 years. Figure 30-32 shows a similar analysis for the gas-fired reciprocating engine-driven system with the compressor operating in speed control through much of the operating
Consumption kWh/Year Modulation % Capacity % Power consumed Power kW On-peak Shoulder Off-peak

100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

100% 97% 92% 88% 84% 80% 76% 72% 68% 64%

300 291 276 264 252 240 228 216 204 192

37,500 87,300 124,200 112,464 100,800 56,400 22,800 10,800


22,500 72,750 110,400 112,200 103,320 73,440 22,800 16,200 9,180

542,790 Demand

60,000 116,400 193,200 198,000 201,600 192,000 109,440 60,480 22,440 13,056

120,000 276,450 427,800 422,664 405,720 321,840 155,040 87,480 31,620 13,056

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

3,000 6,984 9,936 8,997 8,064 4,512 1,824 864

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

1,537 4,969 7,540 7,663 7,057 5,016 1,557 1,106 627

$ 3,000 $ 5,820 $ 9,660 $ 9,900 $ 10,080 $ 9,600 $ 5,472 $ 3,024 $ 1,122 $ 653
$ 58,331

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

7,537 17,773 27,136 26,560 25,201 19,128 8,853 4,994 1,749 653

$ 44,181

$ 37,073 Total Cost

$ 139,584 $ 55,188 $ 194,772

300 kW x $15.33/kW/Month x 12 Month/Year

Fig. 30-30 Energy Usage and Cost for Modulation Control Unit.

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Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

Consumption kWh/Year Cycling % % Power Capacity Consumed

Cost $/Year

Power kW









100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%

100% 93% 85% 78% 70% 60% 52% 44% 36% 28%

300 279 255 234 210 180 156 132 108 84


37,500 83,700 114,750 99,684 84,000 42,300 15,600 6,600


22,500 69,750 102,000 99,450 86,100 55,080 15,600 9,900 4,860

465,240 Demand

60,000 111,600 178,500 175,500 168,000 144,000 74,880 36,960 11,880 5,712

120,000 265,050 395,250 374,634 338,100 241,380 106,080 53,460 16,740 5,712

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

3,000 6,696 9,180 7,975 6,720 3,384 1,248 528 -

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

1,537 4,764 6,967 6,792 5,881 3,762 1,065 676 332 -

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

3,000 5,580 8,925 8,775 8,400 7,200 3,744 1,848 594 286

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

7,537 17,040 25,072 23,542 21,001 14,346 6,057 3,052 926 286

$ 38,731

$ 31,776 Total Cost

$ 48,352

$ 118,858 $ 55,188 $ 174,046 $ 20,726 $ 30,000 1.45

300 kW x $15.33/kW/Month x 12 Month/Year

Reduction in Cost as Compared to Modulation Control, $/Year Incremental Capital Cost Over Modulation Control Simple Payback Over Modulation Control, Years

Fig. 30-31 Energy Usage and Cost for Cycling Control and Payback vs. Modulation Unit.

Fuel Req'd CFH 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 3,294 2,928 2,643 2,398 2,228 2,058 2,031 2,004 1,976 1,949

Operation Hours/Year 400 950 1,550 1,601 1,610 1,341 680 405 155 68 8,760

Fuel Use, CF/Year 1,317,428 2,781,239 4,097,115 3,839,678 3,587,708 2,760,422 1,381,107 811,454 306,302 132,512 21,014,964

Cost $/Year $ 5,928 $ 12,516 $ 18,437 $ 17,279 $ 16,145 $ 12,422 $ 6,215 $ 3,652 $ 1,378 $ 596 $ 94,567 5,680 $ 21,584

costs associated with the heat recovery system. The first-cost premium for the reciprocating engine cogeneration system is $155,000 as compared with cycling control unit and $185,000 as compared with the modulation control unit. Results shown in Figure 30-38 indicate that with heat recovery, the engine option would produce a simple payback of 4.48 years versus electric unit with modulation, and a payback of 5.49 years versus the electric unit with cycling control.

Summer 4 Months Demand, $/kW/Month On-peak, $/kWh Shoulder, $/kWh Off-peak, $/kWh
$ 9.00 $ 0.0490 $ 0.0440 $ 0.0330

Winter 8 Months
$ 7.00 $ 0.0440 $ 0.0410 $ 0.0330

Annual Average
$ 7.67 $ 0.0457 $ 0.0420 $ 0.0330

Equivalent Full Load Hours/Year O & M Cost @ $3.80/EFLH, /Year

Fig. 30-32 Operating Cost for Reciprocating Engine Unit.

Fig. 30-34 Electric Rate Summary for Example 2.

Reduction in Cost as Compared with Electric Modulation Control, Per Year Incremental Capital Cost Over Electric Modulation Control Simple Payback Over Electric Modulation Control, Years Reduction in Cost as Compared with Electric Cycling Control, Per Year Incremental Capital Cost over Electric Cycling Control Simple Payback Over Electric Cycling Control, Years,

$ 78,621 $ 160,000 2.03 $ 57,895 $ 130,000 2.24

Fig. 30-33 Payback for Reciprocating Engine Unit vs. Electric Unit Options.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Air Compressors

Consumption kWh/Year Modulation % % Power Capacity Consumed 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 100% 97% 92% 88% 84% 80% 76% 72% 68% 64% Power kW 300 291 276 264 252 240 228 216 204 192 Totals On-peak 37,500 87,300 124,200 112,464 100,800 56,400 22,800 10,800 552,264 Shoulder 22,500 72,750 110,400 112,200 103,320 73,440 22,800 16,200 9,180 542,790 Demand Off-peak 60,000 116,400 193,200 198,000 201,600 192,000 109,440 60,480 22,440 13,056 1,166,616 Total 120,000 276,450 427,800 422,664 405,720 321,840 155,040 87,480 31,620 13,056 2,261,670 On-peak $ 1,714 $ 3,990 $ 5,676 $ 5,140 $ 4,607 $ 2,577 $ 1,042 $ $ $ 494

Cost $/Year Shoulder $ 945 $ 3,056 $ 4,637 $ 4,712 $ 4,339 $ 3,084 $ $ $ $ 958 680 386 Off-peak $ 1,980 $ 3,841 $ 6,376 $ 6,534 $ 6,653 $ 6,336 $ 3,612 $ 1,996 $ $ 741 431 $ Total 4,639 $ 10,886 $ 16,688 $ 16,386 $ 15,599 $ 11,998 $ $ $ $ 5,611 3,170 1,126 431

$ 25,238

$ 22,797 Total Cost

$ 38,498

$ 86,534 $ 27,612 $ 114,146

300 kW x $7.67/kW/Month x 12 Month/Year

Fig. 30-35 Energy Usage and Cost for Modulation Control Unit.
Consumption kWh/Year Cycling % % Power Capacity Consumed 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 100% 93% 85% 78% 70% 60% 52% 44% 36% 28% Power kW 300 279 255 234 210 180 156 132 108 84 TOTALS On-peak 37,500 83,700 114,750 99,684 84,000 42,300 15,600 6,600 484,134 Shoulder 22,500 69,750 102,000 99,450 86,100 55,080 15,600 9,900 4,860 465,240 Demand Off-peak 60,000 111,600 178,500 175,500 168,000 144,000 74,880 36,960 11,880 5,712 967,032 Total 120,000 265,050 395,250 374,634 338,100 241,380 106,080 53,460 16,740 5,712 1,916,406 On-peak $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ 1,714 3,825 5,244 4,556 3,839 1,933 713 302 Cost $/Year Shoulder $ 945 $ 2,930 $ 4,284 $ 4,177 $ 3,616 $ 2,313 $ $ $ 655 416 204 Off-peak $ 1,980 $ 3,683 $ 5,891 $ 5,792 $ 5,544 $ 4,752 $ 2,471 $ 1,220 $ $ 392 188 $ Total 4,639 $ 10,437 $ 15,419 $ 14,524 $ 12,999 $ $ $ $ $ 8,998 3,839 1,937 596 188

$ 22,125

$ 19,540 Total Cost

$ 31,912 $ 73,577 $ 27,612 $ 101,189 $ 12,957 $ 30,000 2.31

300 kW x $7.67/kW/Month x 12 Month/Year

Reduction in Cost as Compared with Modulating Control, $/year Incremental Capital Cost Over Modulation Control Simple Payback Over Modulation Control, Years

Fig. 30-36 Energy Usage and Cost for Cycling Control and Payback vs. Modulation Unit.
% Capacity 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% Fuel Req'd CFH 3,294 2,928 2,643 2,398 2,228 2,058 2,031 2,004 1,976 1,949 Fuel Equivalent Recovered as Heat, CFH 1,587 1,411 1,274 1,156 1,074 992 979 966 952 939 Net Fuel Chargedto-Power (FCP), CFH 1,706 1,517 1,369 1,242 1,154 1,066 1,052 1,038 1,024 1,010 Operation Hours/Year 400 950 1,550 1,601 1,610 1,341 680 405 155 68 8,760 Equivalent Full Load Hours/Year O & M Cost @ $4.20/EFLH, /Year 5,680 $ 23,856 Fuel Use, CF/Year 682,523 1,440,883 2,122,602 1,989,231 1,858,692 1,430,098 715,513 420,392 158,686 68,651 10,887,271 Cost $/Year $ 3,071 $ 6,484 $ 9,552 $ 8,952 $ 8,364 $ 6,435 $ 3,220 $ 1,892 $ 714 $ 309

$ 48,993

Fig. 30-37 Energy Usage and Cost for Reciprocating Engine Cogeneration Option.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.

Combined Heating, Cooling & Power Handbook: Technologies & Applications

Reduction in Cost as Compared with Electric Modulating Control, $/year Incremental Capital Cost Over Electric Modulation Control Simple Payback Over Electric Modulation Control, Years Reduction in Cost as Compared with Electric Cycling Control, $/year Incremental Capital Cost Over Electric Cycling Control Simple Payback Over Electric Cycling Control, Years

41,298 4.48

$ 185,000

$ 28,341 $ 155,000 5.49

Fig. 30-38 Payback for Cogeneration Unit vs. Electric Unit Options.

Copyright 2003 by The Fairmont Press.