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# BULLETIN BCTB-302 GAS COMPRESSIBILITY

INTRODUCTION
Deviations from the Ideal Gas Laws are known as compressibility factors. These must be
accounted for at both suction and discharge conditions. This bulletin presents a brief
review of the ideal gas laws and the deviations which must be considered when dealing
with gas compression applications. The information presented herein is believed to be the
most accurate at the time of publication.
IDEAL GAS LAW
Pressure, temperature and volume are the three variables that influence the status of the
gas. A change in one variable affects either or both of the other two variables. Boyle
observed that a change in the absolute pressure of a gas resulted in an inverse change in
the volume when held at a constant temperature.Charles observed that when the volume
is held constant, the absolute pressure will vary in proportion to the change in absolute
temperature. The order of influence of these variables and the gas constant is established
in the so-called "Ideal Gas Law" or "Perfect Gas Law":
(P
1
V
1
) / T
1
= (P
2
V
2
) / T
2
= constant R, for each gas at standard conditions
The standard specific volume and specific weight of a pound mole of any gas can be
expressed as:
V
s
= cu.ft. / lb, or 379.5 cu.ft. / mole
= 0.002635m lb / cu.ft.
Boyle's law gives the change of state for the ideal condition where there is no change in
temperature and the PV relationship is equal to a constant:
P
1
V
1
= P
2
V
2
= constant
This is the theoretical supposition known as an isothermal change of state. Such a
phenomenon does not occur in nature or in fact. When a gas is compressed or expanded,
it has been established that the pressure will vary to an exponential power of the volume:
P
1
V
1

k
= P
2
V
2

k
= constant
This relationship for the ideal change of state, wherein no heat is lost or friction is incurred,
is known as the adiabatic state. When an adiabatic process is reversible, it is known as an
isentropic process. In as much as all adiabatic processes herein concerned are reversible,
the terms "adiabatic" and "isentropic" are considered synonymous.
True adiabatic compression can only be attained under ideal research conditions.
Industrial compressors reject heat, have valve leakage (ring leakage on piston
379.5
m
BCTB-302, GAS COMPRESSIBILITY
- 2 -
compressors), and generate frictional heat. The effect of these losses and the departure
from the ideal adiabatic slope illustrates the phenomenon known as a polytropic process.
It is defined as an internally reversible change of state where:
P
1
V
1

n
= P
2
V
2
n
= constant
A polytropic process differs from an adiabatic process in that the change of state does not
take place at constant entropy. Heat is either rejected from or added to the gas in a
polytropic process. The polytropic exponent n that governs the change of state becomes
a function of the compressor design. When heat is extracted from the gas by the cooling
media, and in the case of diaphragm compressors by both the cooling and hydraulic
media, the n value is less than the adiabatic k value. Values for n are determined from
actual performance data for each type of compressor.
VAN DER WAALS' GAS EQUATIONS
This is an equation of state that extends the application and accuracy of the ideal gas law
by including corrections for the volume occupied by the molecules at elevated pressures
and temperatures and for the mutual attraction that exists between the molecules. When
a gas is confined under elevated pressure and temperature, the molecular behavior
becomes abnormal and turbulent, requiring corrections to the ideal gas law condition of
state.
The van der Waals gas equations account for much of the extraordinary behavior of real
gas. The transitional processes indicated by van der Waals charts are comparable to the
process of evaporation and condensation of a real fluid. In environs where transition does
not occur, the gas characteristics correspond to the critical pressures and temperatures of
real gases. The behavior can be expressed in terms of reduced critical pressure and
reduced critical temperature, thereby establishing a common equation of state for most
gases. Commonly called Reduced Pressure-Reduced Temperature Charts or Generalized
Compressibility Charts, they are widely used to determine compressor performance.
Z = (PV)/(P
c
V
c
)
The compressibility factor Z is applied to the ideal gas law and produces what is commonly
called the real gas law:
(P
1
V
1
)/(Z
1
T
1
) = (P
2
V
2
)/(Z
2
T
2
) = constant
GAS PROPERTIES
On the following pages we have provided a table listing basic properties of selected gases,
vapor pressure curves, and compressibility curves for many of those gases. If a
compressibility curve does not exist for a specific gas, the use of the Generalized
Compressibility Curves is recommended. The compressibility curves presented have been
drawn from a collection of the best data available.
BCTB-302, GAS COMPRESSIBILITY
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CONTENTS OF DATA SECTION
TITLE Page No.(s)
Table 1, Properties of Selected Gases 4
Vapor Pressure Curves 5
Air 6
Ammonia 7
Butane (N-Butane) 8, 9
Carbon Dioxide 10, 11
Ethane 12, 13
Ethylene 14, 15
lsobutane 16, 17
Helium 18
Hydrogen 19
Methane 20
Nitrogen 21
Propane 22, 23
Propylene 24
Synthetic Ammonia Feed Gas (5 component) 25, 26
Synthetic Ammonia Mixture (76/24) 27, 28
Procedure for Using Generalized Curves 29, 30
Generalized Compressibility Curves:
Number 1 31
Number 2 32
Number 3 33
Number 4 34
Natural Gas Supercompressibility 35
Natural Gas Compressibility Curves:
0.60 Specific Gravity 36
0.65 Specific Gravity 37
0.70 Specific Gravity 38
0.75 Specific Gravity 39
0.80 Specific Gravity 40
0.90 Specific Gravity 41
1.0 Specific Gravity 42