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CHAPTER 11

GAS BOOSTERS
Karl-Heinz Bark
MaxPro Technologies

Gas boosters are an alternative to high pressure stationary-type compressors. These


boosters offer a compact, lightweight design that requires no electrical power or
lubrication, thereby providing a more flexible and efficient source for delivering
high presssure gas.
Gas boosters will compress gases such as nitrogen and argon up to 15,000 psi,
while oxygen can be compressed up to 5,000 psi using special seals and cleaning
procedures. A wide variety of other gases can be compressed including hydrogen,
natural gas, ethylene, nitrous oxide, neon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and
breathing air.
In applications where high output pressures are required and the gas supply
pressure is low, gas boosters can be operated in series. To achieve higher gas flows,
two or more boosters can work in parallel as a unit.

11.1 APPLICATIONS

• Low pressure gas reclaim from storage bottles


• Breathing gas systems for scuba and fire department tanks
• Gas pressure and leak testing
• Charging of accumulators and high pressure inflation bottles for helicopter pop
floats
• Boosting gas pressures from oxygen and nitrogen generators
• Nitrogen injection for molding machines
• Leak detection systems
• Low pressure autoclaving
• Cleaning petroleum tanks
• Glass blowing with oxygen

11.1
11.2 CHAPTER ELEVEN

• Typical gases—air, nitrogen, helium, oxygen, nitrous oxide, neon, argon, krypton,
carbon monoxide, methane, ethylene and natural gas

FIGURE 11.1 Gas booster cross section.

11.2 CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION

A gas booster consists of a large air driven piston directly connected to a smaller
area gas piston. The gas piston strokes in a high pressure gas section. The gas
section contains inlet and outlet check valves. The air drive section includes a spool
valve and pilot valves that cycle the pistons in both directions. Gas seal assemblies
in the high pressure section are vented on the back side to prevent gas from getting
into the air drive section. Cooling of the gas is provided by routing the cold ex-
hausted drive air over the gas barrel section.
GAS BOOSTERS 11.3

11.2.1 Air Drive Head

FIGURE 11.2 Air drive cross section.

11.2.2 Air Spool Valve


The air spool valve is a pilot operated spool that channels the compressed air to
either side of the air drive piston, depending on the position of the spool. In certain
operating conditions with high air consumption, it is possible that the regulated air
drive pressure drops in the back chamber. For this reason, it is important that full
air pressure is available to an unregulated air connection.

FIGURE 11.3 Spool value cross section.

11.2.3 Working Principle


After turning on the air drive, the spool moves to its upper position. Thereby the
control line (Sx1) is released. The drive air is now at the pilot value (Vp1) and at
the bottomside of the air piston which now makes a suction stroke.
11.4 CHAPTER ELEVEN

FIGURE 11.4 Air drive logic cross section.

Reaching its upper end position, the air piston switches the pilot valve (Vp1).
The spool moves to its start position and the control line (Sx2) is released. The air
piston switches the pilot valve (Vp2). By aid of a logical switching of the control
lines, the volume (x) can bleed into atmosphere and the cycle returns. The booster
will cycle as fast as it is able. To control cycle speed, an air speed valve may be
installed at the air exhaust connection.

FIGURE 11.5 Air drive logic cross section.

Low Pressure Check Valve Assembly (under 1,000 psi)

FIGURE 11.6 Low pressure check valve cross section.


GAS BOOSTERS 11.5

High Pressure Check Valve Assembly (above 1,000 psi)

FIGURE 11.7 High pressure check valve cross section.

FIGURE 11.8 High pressure piston seal assembly (30:1 booster).

The seal assembly is one of the booster wear parts. This seals the gas barrel
without letting any gas into the air drive section. The materials of some seals may
change, depending on the gas, the pressure, and the temperature.

11.2.4 Dead Volume

Dead volume is that which does not displace but which must be put under pressure
for the function of the compressor. This volume results, for instance, through bores,
tubes, or valve cross sections. The high pressure plunger can completely stroke (in
the pressure direction) and not eject the total gas volume. During suction stroke,
the gas expands into the gas barrel until the pressure is equal to or less than the
gas supply pressure (ps), at which point only new gas enters the booster.