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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Understand
Centrifugal Compressor
Equipment
INTERACTION
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
Understand Centrifugal Compressor, Equipment Interaction
System Curve
Compressor Curve Basics
Relationship Between Compressor and System Curves
Compressor Behavior in Common Applications
1. Single-Speed Compressor Drive with Suction/Discharge Pressure Control
Scenario 1.1 Incoming Flow to Compressor Decreases
Scenario 1.2 Incoming Flow Drops Below Surge Control Point
Scenario 1.3 Gas Demand Decreases at the Compressor End
2. Variable-Speed Compressor Drive with Speed Controller
Scenario 2.1 Incoming Flow to Compressor Decreases
Scenario 2.2 Incoming Flow Drops Below Surge Control Point
Scenario 2.3 Gas Demand Decreases at the Consumer End
Scenario 2.4 Compressor Delivers at a Fixed Pressure to Consumer;
Set Pressure Changed.
3. Gas Molecular Weight Changes
Scenario 3.1 MW Decreases
Scenario 3.2 MW increases
Impact of MW Variation on Compressor Stability
4. Compressor Flow Increases Beyond Rating
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Understand Centrifugal Compressor


Equipment Interaction
Compressor Operators find Difficulty
in Comprehending Compressor Behavior
with respect to System Changes, Particularly When
Coupled with Other Operational Changes.
Example is How to Predict possible Flow Increase
When there is still some room for a Speed Increase.
Where will New Operating Point be if Change is Made
Will it Shift: Along the Constant Pressure Line
to the Right, Along the System Curve
Or Along the Compressor Curve itself?
How are Power Consumption and Efficiency Predicted
in such cases?
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

For the Benefit of Operators,


Compressor Behavior with respect to
the Connected Systems and Related Problems
are Presented for Common Operating Scenarios.
Fig. 1 shows a Typical Arrangement
of a Compressor Operating in a Process System.
Compressor is taking Suction from Source, Point A
at Pressure p1, and Discharging at Pressure p2
at Point B into a Process System Consisting of
Pipelines, Valves and Equipment
Gas is transported through this System
to be Delivered to Point C at Pressure p3.
The Line Pressure Drop, (p2 - p3),
is usually denoted as ΔP of the System.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 1 Typical Process Compressor Arrangement


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

System
Curve
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

System Curve, Fig. 2a

Fig. 2a Total Pressure Drop has 2 Components.


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Plot of Pressure Drop versus Flow gives System Curve.

The Total Pressure Drop has 2 Components,


Superincumbent Pressure or
Static Pressure Difference between Points B & C,
and The Dynamic Pressure Drop,
i.e., The Drop due to Friction, Velocity Change, etc
Static Pressure Drop of Any System is Constant
and is Independent of the Flow through the System,
Dynamic Pressure Drop Varies Directly as
the Square of the Velocity or Flowrate.
System Curve is Independent of Gas Supply Source
or the Equipment that is Delivering Gas into System.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Curve Remains Unchanged Unless Any Component


of the System is Changed, Like
Opening a Manual or a Control Valve,
Pipe Size Change, etc
As a Valve in the System is Opened,
Flow Increases, i.e. the Pressure Drop Decreases,
Shifting the System Curve to Right (Curve b in Fig. 2a)
When the Valve is Throttled
The System Curve moves to the Left (Curve c)

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Compressor Curve

Basics
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Compressor Curve Basics


Flow, Q, Head (or differential Pressure, P) & Speed, N, Relationship
of A Centrifugal Compressor is very Similar to
That of A Centrifugal Pump (Fig. 2b).
The Major Difference is that a Pump Handles Liquid,
which is a Incompressible Fluid.
Hence, Density and Volumetric Flow remain Unchanged
throughout the Flow Process.
A Compressor Handles Only Gas, which is Compressible.
As Pressure of Gas Changes During Compression or Flow,
Density or Specific Volume Changes Correspondingly.
As shown in Fig. 2b, Centrifugal Compressors have
Continuously Falling Pressure-Flow Characteristics
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
A Family of Parallel Curves Represents
Compressor Operation at Different Speeds

Fig. 2b Compressor Operating Limits


Are Between Surge and Stonewall.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

For a Compressor Operating at a Constant Speed,


Pressure Increases as Flow Decreases and vice versa

If Reduction in Flow Continues,


at one point Compressor Operation Becomes Unstable
and a Momentary Flow Reversal takes place

This Leads to Very Rapid Pulsating Flow


Backward and Forward through Compressor Internals
resulting in Severe Vibration and Consequent Damage.

This Phenomenon is known as Surge and flow at which


Surge occurs is Surge Point for that particular speed.

The Surge Point Shifts to the Right


as Speed Increases (Fig. 2b)
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Line joining Surge Points of curves at Different Speeds


is The Compressor Surge Line

To Avoid Surge, Compressors are always operated at


Flows Greater than Surge Point, i.e., at
a reasonable Distance to the Right of the Surge Line.

As Flow Increases, Point reached at Right-Hand Extreme


of Compressor Curve after which Flow can Not Increase
No Matter what changes are made on the Outlet Side.

This Point is known as Stonewall for the Compressor


for that Particular Speed.

Like the Surge Point, the Stonewall Point


also Shifts to the Right as Speed Increases (Fig. 2b).
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

However, Unlike Surge, No Adverse Effect Occurs


to the Compressor at the Stonewall Point.

The Operating Regime of a Compressor is confined


Between these 2 Limits, i.e. Surge and Stonewalls.

The Set of Curves including the Limit Lines is also


known as The Compressor Operating Map

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Relationship
Between

Compressor and

System
Curves
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Relationship Between Compressor


and System Curves
When Compressor Connected to System, Operating Point
can be Obtained by Superimposing System Curve (Fig. 2a)
on Compressor Curve (Fig. 2b), Resulting in Fig. 2c.
Point at which Compressor Curve for Particular Speed
Meets the System Curve represents the Compressor
Operating Point,for that Speed.
That Means Compressor would Deliver Flow and Pressure
Corresponding to the Intersection Point in Fig. 2c.
Under No Circumstances can the Compressor Deliver
Any Other Flow or Pressure (at that Speed),
Unless a Change is Made in the System
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Only When Change is made in Connected System


(Say, Change in Valve Opening,
Pipe Size, Length, etc.)
does Operating Point shift along Compressor Curve.
Otherwise, the Compressor will continue to Operate at
that Fixed Flow and Pressure.
Note that although a System is quite Independent of
its Upstream Source Equipment,
In this case Compressor, Compressor Operation is
Dependent on its Downstream Connected System.

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 2c Operating Point is Obtained by Superimposing


The System and Compressor Curves
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

System Curve Compressor Curve

Operating Point
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Compressor Behavior
in
Common
Applications

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Compressor Behavior
in
Common Applications
The Figures shown Later are Only Schematics of
The Most Common Compressor Configurations

They are Neither Complete in All Details,


Nor do they Represent All Possible Configurations.

Variations and Different Control System Arrangements


are also Possible, although Not Shown here,

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

1
Single-Speed
Compressor
Drive

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

1. Single-Speed Compressor Drive


with
Suction/Discharge Pressure Control
Fig. 3 shows the Typical Arrangement of
A Single-Speed (Motor-Driven) Compressor

In this configuration, A Compressor Operates Similarly to


A Motor-Driven Pump
The Compressor takes Suction from the Suction Drum
and Discharge into the Piping System.
Main Objective of Any Compressor Control is to Maintain
a Balance between Discharge and Incoming Flows.
This is Done by Tracking Pressure in the Suction Drum by
A Pressure Controller, which Regulates a Control Valve
mounted either on the Suction or Discharge Line.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 3 In This Configuration, A Compressor Operates


Similarly to A Motor-Driven Pump
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

In Some Installations,
A Pressure Controller is Installed
on the Compressor Discharge Line, which Works
in conjunction with Suction Side Pressure Controller
through A Signal Selector
or A Microprocessor-Based Control Module.

In Case of Low Pressure Gas,


it is More Common to provide
the Control Valve on the Discharge Line

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 1.1
Incoming Flow to Compressor Decreases
Consider that Flow Coming into Drum Drops

Outgoing Flow being Higher than Incoming Flow,


Suction Drum Pressure Falls Momentarily

The Pressure Instrument Mounted on Suction Drum


Senses This Drop

The Pressure Controller takes Action by Control Valve


on Discharge Line (or Suction Line) to Reduce Flow.

As the Control Valve Closes,


The System Curve Shifts to the Left (Fig. 4a)
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 4a As Control Valve Closes, System Curve Shifts to Lift


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Consequently, Operating Point (a) also Shifts to


the Left Along the Compressor Curve to the Point
of intersection (b) with the Modified System Curve,
where the Compressor Flow Equals
the Reduced Incoming Flow.

So, In this Type of Arrangement,


Compressor Capacity Control is achieved by
Shifting the System Curve along the Compressor Curve
Backward and Forward,
as shown by Arrows in Fig. 4a.

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 1.2
Incoming Flow Drops Below Surge Control Point
.

As Incoming Flow Drops, Compressor Will Try to find


The Operating Point in way described in Scenario 1.1.
If, However, Flow Drops Below the Surge Control Point,
Compressor Surge Control System Signal to Recycle Valve
(Also called Anti-Surge Valve (ASV), Quick-Acting Control Valve)
to Open.
Part of Outlet Flow is Returned Back to Suction side
via the ASV.
Thus, Inlet Flow incoming Never Allowed to Fall Below
The Surge Control Point to Avoid Surge (Fig. 4b)
In this Case Both ASV and Pressure Control Valve
Mounted on Compressor Discharge Line Simultaneously,
i.e., The Former Opens and the Latter Closes
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 4b Inlet Flow is Never Allowed to Fall Below


the Surge Control Point
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 1.3
Gas Demand Decreases at Compressor End
In Most Cases, Online Valve at Compressor End is
Throttled, either Manually or through Process Control System,
To Achieve the Desired Flow Reduction
For Example,
In Case of Gas Supply to a Boiler Heater or Gas Turbine,
Valve at the Inlet of the Equipment is Throttled
Matching the Equipment Load
The Valve may Even Close if the Equipment Trips.
This Event in Effect Changes the System Curve,
Shifting the Operating Point to the Left
Until the Desired Lower Flow to Achieved
(Similar to Scenarios 1.1 and 1.2).
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 4c Online Valve at the Consumer End is Throttled


to Achieve the Desired Flow Reduction.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

The Control Valve on Compressor Outlet Line will, Open


instead of Closing, in Contrast with Scenarios 1.1 and 1.2.

Reverse Phenomenon Follows


When Gas Demand Increases.
The Same Control Sequence would also Follow When
Gas is delivered to Consumer at Constant Pressure.

In Summary
For All Single-Speed Compressor
Variation in Flow is achieved Only by
Varying System Curve Position Backward and Forward
Operating Point shifts along the Compressor Curve,
as shown in Figs. 4a to c.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

2
Variable-Speed
Compressor
Drive

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

2. Variable-Speed Compressor Drive


with
Speed Controller
Fig. 5 shows a General Arrangement of a Compressor
Driven by a Gas Turbine Driver.

Compressor Control Module Varies Gas Turbine Speed


through
Speed Control Module, Matching Process Requirement

As Explained Earlier, System Curve is Independent of


the Compressor Curve and the Points at which
System Curve Cuts the set of Compressor Curves are
The Corresponding Operating Points at Different Speeds.

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Speed is Changed by Variable-Speed Driver to achieve


Varying Flow-Pressure Requirements

The Driver is often a Gas or Steam Turbine,


Although Variable-Speed Electric Motors are also Used
in Certain Cases.

In this Type of Arrangement,


A Pressure Controller mounted on the Suction Line
Controls the Speed of the Variable-Speed Driver
In Some Installations, Pressure Controllers
mounted on Both Suction and Discharge Lines
Control the Driver Speed through a Signal Selector.
Microprocessor-Based Advanced Compressor Control
Systems are also Used instead of Simple PID Controller.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 5 Compressor Control Module Varies Gas Turbine Speed


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 2.1
Incoming Flow to Compressor Decreases
As in the Case of a Single-Speed Compressor, Here also
Compressor Suction and Discharge Controllers are Used
through Low-Signal Selector or Compressor Control Module
To Modulate the Driver Speed
As the Incoming Flow to the Suction Drum Decreases,
Compressor Suction Pressure Decreases.
Pressure Controller on suction side Detects Pressure Drop
and Sends a Signal to the Driver (Turbine) to Slow Down
Until new Operating Point is Reached where Discharge Flow
Equals the Reduced Incoming Flow (Point a to b in Fig. 6a).
In this Case the System Curve Remains Unchanged.
Only Operating Point Shifts Down Along System Curve,
Unlike in Similar Scenario Using Single-Speed Drive (1.1)
where Operating Point moves along Compressor Curve
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 6a Pressure Controller Sends a Signal to the Driver


to Slow Down.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 2.2 Incoming Flow


Drops Below Surge Control Point
In Case of a Variable Speed Compressor,
If Incoming Flow Decreases Below Surge Control Point,
Compressor First Slows Down Similarly to Scenario 2.1.
Operating Point starts to Shift Down along the System Curve
Until The Minimum Sustainable Speed is Reached (Fig. 6b).
If the Corresponding Flowrate is still Not Reached,
The Surge Control Valve begins to Open
Along the Minimum Speed Curve
Surge Control Valve continues to Open
until Sum of Forward and Recycle Flow is Equal to Flow
Corresponding to Intersection Point of System and
Compressor Curves (at Minimum Operating Speed).
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 6b Operating Point Starts to Shift Down


Along the System Curve
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

It should be noted that under certain circumstances like this,


ASV might Open even when the Discharge Flow is Higher
than the Surge Flow at the Minimum Speed.

However, this Sequence of Control takes place Only If


the Speed Controller and the Driver are Fast enough
to Respond and Rectify the Changing Condition.

If the Flow Change is very Rapid,


The Fast-Acting Anti-Surge Control System
Acts through the ASV ahead of the speed controller
to Save the Compressor from Surging.

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 2.3
Gas Demand Decreases
at Consumer End
As in the Case of a Single-Speed Compressor,
The System Curve also Moves to the Left, due to Throttling
of the Consumer Valve(s) to achieve Flow Reduction.
Suction Pressure Controller now starts Sending Signal
for the Driver to Slow Down.
The Operating Point Moves Horizontally from Point a to b
Along Fixed-Pressure Line until it meets Compressor Curve
at Speed that corresponds to the Reduced Flowrate, (Fig. 6c).

If the Flow Increases the Reverse Phenomenon takes place.


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 6c Operating Point Moves Horizontally From Point to Point.


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 2.4
Compressor Delivers
at a Fixed Pressure to Consumer;
Set Pressure Changed
When the Compressor is connected to a Piping System
to Deliver Gas at Constant Pressure to a Consumer,
Static Pressure Difference (P2-P3) in Figs. 1, 2a and 2c
Remains Constant.
In All the Scenarios Described,
This Difference is assumed to be Constant.
Now, if Pressure Setting at Consumer end is Lowered,
Static Pressure Curve in Fig. 2a Moves Down (Fig. 6d).
Correspondingly, System Curve Shifts Down to Right,
Although its Slope Remains Unchanged.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 6d If the Compressor Setting at the Consumer End


is Lowered The Static Pressure Curve Moves Down.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
Shifting System Curve now Meets the Compressor Curve
at New Location on Right-Hand Side of the Original Point.

This Means Flow Increases


as Discharge Pressure Decreases.
However, if Flow Coming to Compressor Suction Drum
is not increased at Same Rate (due to Nonavailability
of Excess Gas), Suction Pressure would Drop.
Lower Suction Pressure Triggers Pressure Controller
to take Effect through the Compressor Control System
to Slow Down the Compressor.
Thus, Operating Point shifts along New System Curve
to Meet the New Speed Curve at a Point where,
The Flow Equals the Incoming Flow.
The Reverse Happens when the Pressure is Increased.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

In Summary
When, a Compressor is Driven by a Variable-Speed Drive
(Gas Turbine, Steam Turbine, etc.),
The Operating Point may shift either along:
The Compressor Curve,
The System Curve,
The Fixed Pressure Line,
or A Combination of them
Depending on the Nature of Change as discussed.

This is Quite Different from a Compressor driven by


A Single-Speed Drive (Electric Motor) described earlier.

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

3
Gas
Molecular Weight
Changes
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

3. Gas Molecular Weight Changes


Scenario 3.1
MW Decreases
Change in Hydrocarbon Gas Composition,
Hence in Molecular Weight (MW), is Quite Common.

Lower MW leads to a Lower Discharge Pressure


from the Same Compressor at the Same Speed.

The Compressor Curve Shifts Down as shown in Fig. 7.

Compressor in This Case will Speed Up Automatically,


Through the Suction/Discharge Pressure Controller,
To Develop the Same Pressure (point b back to a).
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Fig. 7 Lower MW Leads to a Lower Discharge Pressure


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

If Compressor is at its Maximum Sustainable Speed


(say, at 105% of rated speed, API),
Compressor Flow drops to a value corresponding to
intersection Point of the System
and the New Compressor Curves (point b).
This Flow Reduction may eventually increases
the Suction Pressure, as the Compressor cannot
cope with All the Incoming Gas.
Excess Gas may start to escape to the Vent or Flare,
even though All Operating Conditions appear Unchanged.
This Phenomenon of Gas Escaping to Flare is often
experienced in Process Plants.
If Gas from Suction Drum is suddenly found going to Flare
when Compressor is running Normally at its Full Speed,
MW reduction is often the First Suspect.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

This Problem is also faced when a compressor rated


to handle heavy saturated gas is operated
in Recycle Mode for long period through After-Cooler
Gas continues to become Leaner due to
Cyclic Compression and Cooling,
resulting in Lower Discharge Pressure.
At this point, if the compressor has to feed forward,
it fails to develop the Required discharge pressure
the recycle valve still remains Partly Open,
Returning Some Gas to Suction Side.
Incoming gas starts to escape to flare from suction drum,
unless the Cycle is interrupted Manually.
Sometimes while Compressor running in Recycle Mode,
Light Seal gas leaks through Worn Out Seals into
Compressor Casing, which may result in Similar Problem.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Scenario 3.2
MW Increases
Conversely, an increase in MW results in
A Higher Discharge Pressure
The Compressor Curve Shifts Up for the Same Speed.
The Net Result is an Increase in Compressor Flow,
If Additional Gas is Available.
If not, the Compressor is Slowed Down by
The Suction/Discharge Pressure Controller
In Case of a Single-Speed Compressor,
Flow is Directly Reduced by
Throttling the Control Valve on the Discharge
(or Suction) Line.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Impact of MW Variation
on Compressor Stability
Unlike effects of Suction Pressure
and Temperature variations, MW Change Greater Effect
on Performance and, hence, Compressor Stability.

This Effect is More Visible on Multistage Compressors.

When MW increases, the Initial Stage(s) may be


Operating at the Rated (or Increased) Flow,
But Subsequent Stages may be Operating at lower Flow
Due to Higher Pressure from the Preceding Stage
Flow in some Stages may Drop Below the Surge Point
Even When the Inlet Flow to the Compressor is
Much Higher than the Surge Point.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

Incidentally, Reducing MW does Not have Reverse Effect


i.e., it does Not Enhance Compressor Stability.

Going to Extremes,
Change in MW may Decrease Compressor Stability
To such an extent that When Some Stages are at Surge,
Others in the Same Compressor may be at Stonewall.

Conventional Compressor Control and


Surge Protection Systems Fail to Detect such Instability.

Compressor Map Provided in Control System No Longer


Holds Good as the Flow-Pressure-Speed Relationship
is Altered by the Change in MW.

This, However, should Not give an impression that


Compressors can Operate Only at a Fixed (Rated) MW.
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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
Compressor Design Allows Operation over a MW Range
without Running into Surge in Any Stage
(Usually, there is Enough Distance between the Surge
and Normal Operating Points)

In Case of a Substantial Change in MW,


Compressor Performance and Stability
should be Reassessed Preferably with
the Assistance of the Compressor Vendor

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

4
Compressor
Flow Increases
Beyond Rating

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve

4. Compressor Flow
Increases Beyond Rating
If Driver (Motor, Steam or Gas Turbine) is Sufficiently Large
and Sufficient Inlet Gas is Available, it may be Possible to
Derive somewhat Higher Throughput from a Compressor
without being Unduly Overloaded.

Throughput is Increased Automatically by Control System


for Reasons described Earlier.

MW Change is One Main Reason; The Other being


Actual System Pressure Drop Lower than Estimates in Design

Lower Destination Pressure or Higher Suction Pressure


May also Cause Flow Increase, often to the Operators' Benefit

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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
In All these Cases, the System Curve Shifts to the Right
to Meet the Compressor Curve at a Higher Flowrate.

If All Other Compressor and Driver Operating Parameters


are within Acceptable Limits (Below Alarm and Trip Points)
and MW Variation is within the Specified Design Range,
Operation at Increased Flowrate is Not Expected to Cause
Any Instability or Mechanical Problem in the Compressor

The Operating Point in this case is well within


The Compressor Design Operating Regime

Centrifugal Compressor Operated Anywhere on its Curve


Between Surge Point (or Surge Control Line, SCL)
and Stonewall by Shifting the System Curve,
provided the Driver is Adequately Sized.

However, if the increase is due to a change in MW


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Centrifugal Compressor System Curve
where The Compressor Curve itself Shifts;
This should be Limited to the Specified MW Variation Range.

During Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), Compressors are


Operated at Varying Flowrates within Compressor Map Range
to Verify the Developed Pressure and Other Parameters.

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