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7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency?

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How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency?

In the November 2011 tip of the month (TOTM) we presented the compressor calculations of a case study.
We compared the rigorous method results with the values from the shortcut methods. The rigorous method
was based on an equation of state like the Soave-Redlich-Kwong (SRK) for calculating the required
enthalpies and entropies. The enthalpies and entropies are used to determine the power requirement and Search for:
the discharge temperatures. The results indicated that the accuracy of the shortcut method is sensitive to
the value of ideal gas state heat capacity ratio, k. Search
From a calculation viewpoint alone, the power calculation is particularly sensitive to the specification of mass
flow rate, suction temperature and pressure, and discharge temperature and pressure. A compressor is English TOTM Home
going to operate under varying values of the variables affecting its performance. Thus the most difficult part
of a compressor calculation is specification of a reasonable range for each variable and not the calculation Spanish TOTM Home
itself. Reference [1] emphasizes that using a single value for each variable is not the correct way to evaluate
a compression system.
Normally, the thermodynamic calculations are performed for an ideal (reversible) process. The results of a reversible
process are then adapted to the real world through the use of a thermodynamic efficiency. In the compression process
there are three ideal processes that can be visualized: 1) an isothermal process (PV1=C1), 2) an isentropic process July 2018
(PVk=C2) and 3) a polytropic process (PVn=C3). Any one of these processes can be used suitably as a basis for June 2018
evaluating compression power requirements by either hand or computer calculation. The isothermal process, however, is
seldom used as a basis because the normal industrial compression process is not even approximately carried out at May 2018
constant temperature.
April 2018
Note that Dresser Rand is doing quite a lot of work with “Near constant temperature” compression especially for CO2
March 2018
compression from vent stacks. For detail refere to:
February 2018
January 2018
In this TOTM, we will demonstrate how to determine the efficiency of a compressor from measured flow rate, composition,
suction and discharge temperatures and pressures. A rigorous calculation based on an equation of state and a shortcut December 2017
method are considered and the results are compared. November 2017
Compress Efficiency October 2017
Compressor efficiencies vary with compressor type, size, and throughput. They can only be determined (afterward) by a September 2017
compressor test, although compressor manufacturers can usually provide good estimates. For planning purposes,
reference [2] suggests the following values for the overall efficiencies: August 2017
Table 1. Overall Compressor Efficiencies [2] July 2017
June 2017
Compressor Type Efficiency, η May 2017
April 2017
Centrifugal 0.70 – 0.85
March 2017
High Speed Reciprocating0.72 – 0.85 February 2017
January 2017
Low Speed Reciprocating 0.75 – 0.90
December 2016
Rotary Screw 0.65 – 0.75 November 2016
October 2016
Reference [2] indicates that these overall efficiencies include gas friction within the compressor, the mechanical losses
(bearings, seals, gear-box, etc.), and gear-box losses. The mechanical efficiency varies with compressor size and type, September 2016
but 95% is a useful planning number. When calculating the compressor head and discharge temperature the efficiency August 2016
used will be isentropic or polytropic (isentropic efficiency is sometimes called adiabatic efficiency). Adding 3-4 % efficiency
(mechanical losses) to the overall efficiencies in Table 1 will generally give a good estimate of the thermodynamic July 2016
efficiency [2].
June 2016
To evaluate the performance of an existing compressor, the objective is to calculate the compressor efficiency (η) and
power requirement. May 2016
April 2016
Known and measured properties are:
March 2016
a. Standard condition gas volume flow rate (qS) or gas mass rate ()
February 2016
b. Gas composition (zi)
January 2016
c. Suction pressure (P1) and temperature (T1) December 2015
d. Discharge pressure (P2) and temperature (T2) November 2015
Estimating Efficiency – Rigorous Method October 2015
The heart of any commercial process flow simulation software is an equation of state. Due to their simplicity and relative September 2015
accuracy, a cubic EOS such as Soave Redlich-Kwong (SRK) [3] or Peng-Robinson [4] is used. These equations are used August 2015
to calculate Vapor-Liquid-Equilibria (VLE), enthalpy (h), and entropy (s). With proper binary interaction coefficients, the
process simulation results of these two equations are practically the same. Therefore, only the SRK is used in this work. July 2015
The isentropic efficiency is defined by June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015 1/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month

January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
ηIsen = Isentropic efficiency
May 2014
h1 = Suction enthalpy calculated at P1, T1, and composition (zi)
April 2014
h2 = Discharge enthalpy calculated at P2, T2, and composition (zi) March 2014
h2Isen = Isentropic discharge enthalpy at P2 (or T2), S2Isen =S1, and composition (zi) February 2014
January 2014
= Mass flow rate
December 2013
The computation compressor efficiency or power involves two steps
November 2013
1. Determination of the ideal or isentropic (reversible and adiabatic) enthalpy change (h2Isen-h1) of the compression
October 2013

2. Determination of the actual enthalpy change (h2-h1).

September 2013
August 2013
The step-by-step calculation based on an EOS:
July 2013
a. Assume steady state, i.e.
June 2013
b. Assume the feed composition remain unchanged
May 2013
c. Calculate suction enthalpy h1=f(P1, T1, and zi) and entropy s1=f(P1, T1, and zi) by EOS April 2013
d. Assume isentropic process and set s2Isen = f (P2, T2Isen, zi) = s1 = f (P1, T1, zi). March 2013
e. Calculate the ideal enthalpy (h2Isen) at discharge condition for known zi, T2 (or P2) and s2Isen. February 2013
f. Calculate the actual enthalpy (h2) at discharge condition for known zi, T2 and P2.
January 2013
December 2012
g. Calculate isentropic efficiency by Equation 1: µIsen = (h2Isen – h1)/(h2 – h1)
November 2012
h. Calculate power by Equation 2:
October 2012
September 2012
Estimating Efficiency – Shortcut Method
August 2012
The isentropic path exponent (k) or ideal gas heat capacity ratio (k=CP/CV) can be calculated by the correlation presented
in the May 2013 TOTM: July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
T = Temperature, K (°R)
February 2012
= Gas relative density; ratio of gas molecular weight to air molecular weight January 2012
A = 0.000272 (0.000151) December 2011
The actual discharge temperature based on an isentropic path can be estimated by November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
Solving for the isentropic efficiency,
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
Similarly, the actual discharge temperature based on a polytropic path can be estimated by
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010 2/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
Solving the above equation for the polytropic path coefficient (n): January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
Similarly, the actual discharge temperature based on a polytropic path can be estimated (ηPoly) by:
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
The isentropic head is calculated by
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
Similarly, the polytropic head is calculated by July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
For an isentropic (reversible and adiabatic) process the power is calculated by January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
Or for a polytropic process the power is calculated by July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
Alternatively: January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
Head = Compressor head, m (ft)
July 2006
Power = Compressor power, kW (HP) June 2006
R = Universal gas constant, 848 kg-m/(kmol-K) or (1545 ft-lbf/(lbmol-°R)) May 2006
PS = Standard condition pressure, kPa (psia) April 2006
P1 = Suction pressure, kPa (psia) March 2006
February 2006
P2 = Discharge pressure, kPa (psia)
January 2006
TS = Standard condition temperature, K (°R)
December 2005
T1 = Suction temperature, K (°R)
November 2005
T2 = Discharge temperature, K (°R) October 2005 3/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month
qS = Gas volumetric rate at the standard condition, Sm3/d (scf/day) September 2005
Za = Average gas compressibility factor = (Z1+Z2)/2 August 2005
Z1 = Gas compressibility factor at the suction condition July 2005
June 2005
Z2 = Gas compressibility factor at the discharge condition

MW = Gas molecular weight Complete Archives

The power calculation should be made per stage of compression and then summed for all stages connected to a single Free Subscription

The step-by-step calculation for shortcut method Topics

a. Calculate the isentropic exponent (k) by Equation 3 using the average temperature defined by T = (T1+3T2)/4.
This form of average temperature was defined to obtain better match between the rigorous and shortcut method Gas Processing
b. Calculate the isentropic efficiency (ηIsen) by Equation 5.
c. Calculate the polytropic coefficient (n) by Equation 7.
Process Facilities
d. Calculate the polytropic efficiency (ηPoly) by Equation 8. Process Safety
e. Calculate the isentropic and polytropic heads by Equations 9 and 10, respectively. Refining
f. Calculate the required power per stage by either Equation 11 or 12. Reliability Engineering
Case Study Supply Chain
A natural gas mixture is compressed using a three-stage centrifugal compressor. The process flow diagram is shown in
Figure 1. For each stage, the measured pressure, and temperature are presented in Table 1. The measured feed Uncategorized
composition, flowrates, and calculated molecular weight and relative density are presented in Table 2.
Water and Corrosion


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Figure 1. Process flow diagram for a 3-stage compression

Table 1. Measured temperature and pressure for the three stages of compression

Table 2. Gas analysis and flow rate for the three stages of compression 4/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month

* Calculated

Results and Discussions

The process flow diagram shown in Figure 1 was simulated by ProMax software [5] to perform the rigorous calculations
using the SRK EOS. The program calculated polytropic and isentropic efficiencies, heads, and compression power. The
program also calculated the isentropic path exponent (k), and polytropic path exponent (n). These calculated results are
presented in Table 2 for all three stages under SRK headingings. The calculations performed by ProMax are very similar
to the step-by-step of a through h described in the rigorous section. Table 2 also presents the shortcut caculation results
for the corresponding values under the shortcut heading. The shortcut calculations are based on the step-by-step of a
through f described in the shortcut method section. The error percent between the rigrous method and the shortcut
methods for each stage are presented in Table 2, too. Table 2 indicates that excellent agreements are obtained for stages
1 and 2. However, larger deviations are obseved for the isetropic and polytropic exponents of stage 3 due to high pressure
operation which deviated too far from ideal gas state conditions.

Table 3. Summary of the rigorous and shortcut calculated results


Table 2 indicates that there are good agreements between the shortcut and the rigorous results. The differences between
the rigorous and shortcut method results for facilities calculations and planning purposes are negligible. For stage 3, due
to high-pressure operation and deviating too far from the ideal gas state condition, a larger error is observed for the
isentropic exponent (k).

The calculated isentropic exponent (k) in the ProMax [5] is not the ideal gas state heat capacity (CP/CV) ratio. It is the
value of the isentropic exponent that is required to yield an isentropic path from inlet to outlet. Its value is calculated as an 5/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month
integration of that path. Thus it is somewhat of an “average” value representing the true isentropic path. For ideal gases,
the value would be equal (CP/CV) ratio.

This error in ‘k’ also illustrates the importance of specifying which correlation is to be used when ordering a performance
test (ie, refer to ASME PTC-10 for additional details), so that client and vendor are on the same agreement moving
forwards with regard to molecular weight (MW) and k for the test fluid. For further detail refer to reference [6] and August
and September 2010 TOTMs [7, 8].

It may also be worth noting that when trending ‘n’ and the polytropic efficiency to evaluate machine condition, the relative
accuracy of measurement instrument/equipment (temperature and pressure transducers) and mapping of compressor
performance to the original performance curve (actual gas volume flow rate vs speed), introduces many potential
erroneous sources into this daily evaluation.

Note that the accuracy of the shortcut methods is dependent on the values of k and n. The definition of average
temperature in the shortcut method was adjusted to obtain a better match between the isentropic path exponent (k)
calculated by rigorous method.

To learn more about similar cases and how to minimize operational problems, we suggest attending our G4 (Gas
Conditioning and Processing), PF4 (Oil Production and Processing Facilities), ME46 (Compressor Systems–
Mechanical Design and Specifications) and ME44 (Fundamentals of Pump and Compressors Systems), courses.

PetroSkills offers consulting expertise on this subject and many others. For more information about these services, visit
our website at, or email us at

Dr. Mahmood Moshfeghian


1. Maddox, R. N. and L. L. Lilly, “Gas conditioning and processing, Volume 3: Advanced Techniques and Applications,”
John M. Campbell and Company, 2nd Ed., Norman, Oklahoma, USA, 1990.

2. Campbell, J.M., Gas Conditioning and Processing, Volume 2: The Equipment Modules, 9th Edition, 2nd Printing, Editors
Hubbard, R. and Snow–McGregor, K., Campbell Petroleum Series, Norman, Oklahoma, 2014.

3. Soave, G., Chem. Eng. Sci., Vol. 27, pp. 1197-1203, 1972.

4. Peng, D. Y., and Robinson, D. B., Ind. Eng. Chem. Fundam., Vol. 15, p. 59, 1976.

5. ProMax 3.2, Bryan Research and Engineering, Inc, Bryan, Texas, 2014.

6. ASME PTC-10, “Performance test Code on Compressors and Exhausters”, 1997.

7. Honeywell, J. “Important Aspects of Centrifugal Compressor Testing-Part 1”, Tip of the Month, August 2010

8. Honeywell, J. “Important Aspects of Centrifugal Compressor Testing-Part 2”, Tip of the Month, September 2010

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Posted on July 1, 2015 at 12:00 am


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Written by Dr. Mahmood Moshfeghian

DR. MAHMOOD MOSHFEGHIAN is a Senior Technical Advisor and Senior Instructor. He is the author of most Tips of the
Month and develops technical software for PetroSkills. He has 40 years teaching experience in universities as well as for
oil and gas industries. Dr. Moshfeghian joined JMC in 1990 as a part time consultant and then as full time
instructor/consultant in 2005. Moshfeghian was Professor of Chemical Engineering at Shiraz University. Dr. Moshfeghian
is a senior member of AIChE and has published more than 125 technical papers on thermodynamic properties and
Process Engineering. Dr. Moshfeghian has presented invited papers in international conferences. He is a member of the
Editorial Board for the International Journal of Oil, Gas, and Coal Technology and a member of the GPSA Technical
Committee Group F. He holds B.S. (74), M.S. (75) and and PhD (78) degrees in Chemical Engineering, all from Oklahoma
State University.

View all posts by: Dr. Mahmood Moshfeghian

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23 responses to “How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency?”

1. Paul says:
August 31, 2015 at 7:11 am

thanks for the article,

I would also mention that rigorous methods (based on interpolated values such as ASME PTC-10 or numerical
integration pin->pout such as Huntington etc.) consider non-contant values for properties from pin->pout,
these variations may originate large errors (see the example provided in Huntington’s paper),
finally, a procedure can also consider phase equilibria, I know Prode Properties (see which includes both Huntington and a proprietary method for solving a
polytropic stage with phase equilibria,
when there is a change of phase it is difficult to evaluate and adopt a value for efficiency in different conditions…

2. Francis says: 6/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month
December 28, 2015 at 9:30 am

Please may I know the equation seven. I cannot find the formula for calculating the polytropic path exponent(n).
Please can u write the formula for calculating polytropic path exponent

Laurent says:
February 25, 2016 at 8:37 am

There is an obvious mistake in (7) when you inverse (6).

Dr. Mahmood Moshfeghian says:
February 27, 2016 at 9:54 am

You are correct, both temperature and pressure ratios should have been ln(T2/T1) and ln(P2/P1).

3. Daniel says:
April 22, 2016 at 3:51 am

Hello, used these equations with preos… did not work, gave me an efficiency of 4000…

4. Ray Fang says:
April 25, 2016 at 9:32 pm

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CAE350 compressor analyzing system is a low cost portable system to test the capacity,power efficiency and unit
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5. Panos says:
June 17, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Here is the link of a new article, which describes the rigorous calculation of the polytropic efficiency based on
thermodynamics of real gases. A comparison with data shown on this website (!) can also be found, under:

Arif says:
November 2, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Panos, the link does not work

Arif says:
November 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Panos, nothing works as the link

6. Norman Day says:
September 7, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Please calculate or estimate overall efficiency of the following

5.4 bore
6.5 stroke
1800-2400 RPM
mechanical valves
from a Caterpillar 3406 Diesel engine

7. Norman Day says:
September 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Please calculate or estimate overall efficiency of;

1800-2400 RPM
Mechanical valves
Caterpillar 3406 Diesel Engine
is 85% practical?

February 19, 2017 at 5:22 am

How to calculated throughput efficiency of a gas compressor?

February 19, 2017 at 5:23 am

How to calculate throughput efficiency of a gas compressor?

10. Rodney A. Olsen says:
April 21, 2017 at 5:15 am

Compressor efficiency is very important factor for any business. Thanks for sharing this detailed calculations. 7/9
7/31/2018 How to Estimate Compressor Efficiency? | Campbell Tip of the Month
11. Faisal says:
May 1, 2017 at 5:55 am

I built an air compressor with a quick return mechanism and a bike pump. So obviously it is a single stage
compressor. But for the calculation of efficiency should I follow these equations? If I want to neglect the
temperature change(too low) which equations should I follow?

M. Azarakhshi says:
July 1, 2017 at 8:30 am

dear Faisal, you want to neglect temperature change?

in other words you mean fixed temp., => isohermal? or P.v = const.

12. Greg Janse van Vuuren says:
May 17, 2017 at 1:32 pm

These “Tip of the month” pages are really insightful.

Would these equation work for an oil injected twin rotary screw compressor?

13. prathima says:
July 4, 2017 at 3:48 am

when I try to calculate the polytropic exponent with the T1 = 40.6, T2 = 129.4, P1 = 793.1, P2 = 2275.9 the n =
1.808666. but in the table the value is n = 1.3097. Please clarify me why i am getting wrong.

14. Ankit says:
August 17, 2017 at 2:27 am

I tried using the same formulas for calculating the compressor efficiency but results are good in one case but in
other cases error is more than 20 %.

Efficiency was calculated for high pressure compressor with suction pressure 60 kg/cm2.

Please suggest the reason for varying answers.

15. nurse says:
September 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

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16. M.Haris says:
December 1, 2017 at 11:59 pm

can anyone please help that how to calculate the efficiency of rotary screw air compressor..????

17. Martin says:
June 14, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Hi, The A in case of air, what is the value?

Dr. Mahmood Moshfeghian says:
June 18, 2018 at 9:38 am

The correlation of heat capacity ratio (Eq 3) is valid for light hydrocarbon mixtures. It is not valid for air. Air
heat capacity ratio is about 1.4 in the range of -40 deg F to 200 deg F.


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