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MSE (Consultants) Ltd

Compressor fouling and deterioration causes production losses on many major platforms and disrupts strategic supply sources for gas around the UK. Yet many other installations operate very successfully without suffering fouling. Up to today, expensive refurbishments have provided the only realistic way of countering fouling, but this frequently perpetuates problems, and recurrent production losses are experienced in subsequent operation. MSE are launching a JIP in 2002, in partnership with major oil and gas operators in the UKCS, to decipher the causes of compressor fouling in a wide population of compressors and to determine the causes of production losses. The outcome will be a blue-print for the optimum centrifugal compressor, resistant to fouling, and with maximum performance retention. Production losses

The onset of performance losses may be very rapid, commencing soon after first commissioning, and exhibiting up to 10% efficiency degradation after just one years service. A 10% efficiency loss is translated into a 10% increase in power demand in order to maintain production. For those platforms where equipment is constrained by power, the production falls, and a drop in production is a drop in revenue and profits.

Train A Efficiency Train B Production Flow Rate


Recovery of compressor efficiency may be achieved by refurbishment. The refurbishment includes cleaning of rotor and diffusers, replacement of labyrinth seals and balance piston seals, and replacement of bearings and gas seals. The refurbished compressor displays peak levels of efficiency again. However, when the compressor is reinstalled efficiency begins to decline and the sequence is repeated. A saw tooth behaviour is found, demanding constant maintenance attention and an increased operating budget. Performance Retention By contrast, some compressors operate for many years without degrading in performance by more than 2-3%. These compressors enjoy peak production conditions with a minimum of intrusive maintenance and allow operators to achieve very high levels of availability, and record levels of production for the asset. Missed Opportunities Centrifugal compressors for oil and gas production applications are designed by a small circle of major manufacturers. These manufacturers specialise in barrel type machines and horizontally split type designs. Each machine is engineered for the specific duty. The machines are normally tested to ASME PCT 10 Class III using simulated gas when they must meet performance specification to within 4% of guarantee. Operation in service reveals that performance degrades beyond 4% margin, but the manufacturer is often unconvinced of the deteriorated performance, and too far removed from the experience of operations to be able to determine the real cause of losses. The manufacturer frequently recommends refurbishment of the unit. In many cases, refurbishment does not address the mechanism which causes efficiency loss. Performance losses are perpetuated in subsequent operation. The opportunity to correct the causes of fouling is missed and the chance for a lasting improvement to the performance deterioration is lost.

MSE (Consultants) Ltd

Objectives of the JIP The objective of the JIP is to bring together the collective experience of major operators inside and outside the UKCS who have extensive experience of operation of machines, to establish a population of machines with experience of fouling, and a population of machines with extended experience of good performance retention. Analysis of the operation, processing characteristics and centrifugal designs of these units will be used to decipher the factors which cause fouling in compressors. The different behaviour of these groups of compressors leads to opposite production experiences and consequences. The new performance of the machines is often defined by the manufacturer to be very similar. Outwardly, their designs do not show the problems revealed when they are placed in the real operational situation in a production process. Their unique design features are often not apparent to the owners and users. The characteristics which lead to a problematic and interrupted operating history are never revealed. The JIP will: choose examples of compressors operated on major production platforms where performance loss in production is experienced, and quantify the efficiency losses choose examples of compressors with good performance retention in production applications and quantify their performance make an analysis of the population of compressors; isolate the effects of process conditions, operational usage characteristics, process system designs isolate the effects of seal wear, balance piston wear, diffuser fouling, blade fouling, internal recycle

analyse differences in centrifugal compressor design criteria and isolate connections to fouling effects The purpose of the JIP, to decipher the factors which characterise fouling in compressors, will be derived by the evidence provided by analysis of the combined experience of a wide population of compressors used in hydrocarbon gas compression service. Technology MSE has analysed compressors and compression systems for hydrocarbon gas service for over 13 years, including design, re-design, refurbishment, re-wheeling and de-bottlenecking. MSE have developed technologies and software tools to optimise compressor geometry and design, to analyse compressor test data, to investigate performance degradation, and to analyse operation of compressors in complex operating scenarios at offdesign conditions. MSE is supported by a permanent staff of engineers drawn from the centrifugal compressor and gas turbine manufacturing industry, and have worked for many oil companies including British

Overall leakage loss


Incidence Loss

Friction Loss

PINLET Impellers Shaft Seal B.P. Leak Increase in Power Demand Total Power Demand Due to Fouling Before Fouling



Power / Ideal

(Unit Mass)

(Pin, Tin)

MSE (Consultants) Ltd

Gas, Shell, BP, BHP, Lasmo, Statoil, Clyde in over 180 projects. Projects have included compression plant design for new applications, re-design for operation in later field life, rewheeling to optimise duty and increase production, and performance analysis to determine cause of bottlenecks in multi-casing compression trains. The outcome of the analysis of the compressor population will isolate the characteristics of robust centrifugal compressor design. The analysis will be based on the evidence of over 30 years operating experience in UKCS, and a scientific analysis of performance retention in compressors in hydrocarbon gas service. The resulting formula for robust centrifugal compressor design will offer methods for improving the performance of failing compressors and provide the industry with the knowledge it requires to make a step change in production profitability.

Compressor with fouling

Compressor with abrasion