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8/11/2016 Centrifugalvsreciprocatingcompressor|TurbomachineryMagazine

Centrifugalvsreciprocatingcompressor
ByTMIStaff&Contributors OnNovember4,2016

Choosingbetweenreciprocatingandcentrifugalcompressorforanapplicationdependsonahostofoperating
conditions.Theseconditionsrangefrommaximumdischargepressureandtemperaturetoefficiencyandcost.
Theoperatormustcarefullyevaluatesiteconditionsoftheapplicationbeforemakingachoice.

ExcerptsarefromthepaperWhatscorrectformyapplication:AcentrifugalorreciprocatingcompressorbyPaul
GallickofElliottCompanyandGregPhillippiandBenjaminWilliamsofArielCorporationpresentedatthe2005
TurbomachinerySymposiuminHouston,Texas.

Reciprocatingandcentrifugalcompressorsof
DresserRand

Thetypicalreciprocatingcompressorisusedfordischargepressuresupto12,000psi(828bar).Special
compressors(calledhypercompressors)areusedinlowdensitypolyethyleneproductionanddischargeat
pressuresupto50,000psi(3500bar).Dischargepressuresto1450psi(100bar)forhorizontallysplitcentrifugal
compressors.Dischargepressuresupto15,000psi(1034bar)forradiallysplit(barrel)compressors.

ReciprocatingCanbeappliedwithsuctionpressuresatatmosphericorevenaslightvacuum.Invacuum
applications,precautionsmustbetakentopreventatmosphericairfromleakingintothecylinderthroughthe
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8/11/2016 Centrifugalvsreciprocatingcompressor|TurbomachineryMagazine

pistonrodpacking.CentrifugalInletpressurestoatmosphericorbelow.Forsubatmosphericinletconditions,
specialsealandbufferingdesignsareemployedtokeepatmosphericairfrombeingdrawnintothecompressor.

MaximumFlowReciprocatingReciprocatingcompressorsarepositivedisplacementtypecompressors.
Capacityislimitedbycylindersize,thenumberofthrowsavailable,andtheavailabledriverspeeds.Athrowisa
locationonthecrankcasewhereacompressorcylindercanbeattached.CentrifugalCentrifugalcompressors
canbesizedforaninletflowof400,000acfm(680,000m3/hr)inasinglebody.Themaximumflowthrougha
centrifugalcompressorislimitedbythechokepoint,whichisthepointatwhichtheflowthroughsomepartofthe
compressornearsavelocityofMach1.

MinimumFlowReciprocatingSimilartothemaximumflow,theminimumflowinareciprocatingcompressoris
limitedbycylindersize,stroke,andspeed.Verysmallreciprocatingcompressorsareavailable.Centrifugal
Centrifugalcompressorscanbesizedforflowaslowasafewhundredacfm.Unlikeareciprocatingcompressor
whereminimumflowissolelyafunctionofcompressorgeometryandspeed,theminimumflowforacentrifugal
compressorislimitedbyanaerodynamicconditionknownassurge,whichisafunctionofcompressorgeometry,
speed,aerodynamicgasconditions,andsystemresistance.

FlowRangeReciprocatingReciprocatingcompressorshavetheabilitytochangeflow(throughput)through
speedcontrol,theadditionoffixedclearancetoacylinder(fixedorvariablevolumeclearancepockets),cylinder
enddeactivation,andsystemrecycle.Typicalflowrangemightbe100percentdowntoaslowas20percent,and
evenlower.

CompressedGasMolecularWeightReciprocatingAreciprocatingcompressorhasnolimitwithregardto
molecularweight.Verylightandveryheavygasesarecompressedequallywell.Overtherangeofmolecular
weightdifferentapplicationconfigurationsmayberequired.Forexample,verylowmolecularweightgasesmay
presentsomesealchallengesandveryhighmolecularweightgasesposeissueswithefficiency.Butnonetheless,
thereciphandlesthewholerangequitewell.CentrifugalCompressionratioishighlydependentonmolecular
weight.Headisdevelopedbyincreasinggasvelocitytocreatekineticenergyandthenconvertingthekinetic
energytopressureinthediffuser.Theamountofkineticenergyisafunctionofgasvelocityandmassor
molecularweight.Centrifugalcompressorsareusedforabroadrangeofmolecularweightincludinglowmolecular
weightapplicationssuchashydrogenrecycleandhighmolecularweightapplicationsusingrefrigerantgaseswith
molecularweightsover100.

CompressionRatioReciprocatingThemaximumcompressionratiothatareciprocatingcanhandleinone
stageislimitedmostlybycompressedgasdischargetemperature.Thepistonrodloadgeneratedbythe
compressionratiomayalsobealimit.Typicalcompressionratiosare1.2to4.0.CentrifugalCompressionratio
isafunctionofgasmolecularweight,compressibility,stagegeometry,compressorspeed,andthenumberof
compressorstages.Foraspecificgas,thelimitstocompressionratioarethemechanicalandrotordynamic
limitationsonspeedandthenumberofstagesthatcanbeaccommodatedinasinglebody.Discharge
temperaturesresultingfromhighcompressionratioscanusuallybecontrolledbyintercooling.

EfficiencyReciprocatingReciprocatingcompressorshaveaverycharacteristicadiabaticefficiencycurve
(Figure8).Ascompressionratiodrops,adiabaticefficiencydrops.Efficiencychangeswithmolecularweight.
Efficiencywillalsovarywithseveralotherfactors,mostsignificantlythecompressorcylindersratioofvalveflow
areatomainborediameterandpistonspeed.

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