Control, Operation and Design of Reciprocating Gas Compressors


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Intensive, two-day hands-on course using computer based training (CBT), 3D animations, and dynamic simulation models to examine the design, construction, control and operation of reciprocating compressors. Topics will include the principles of operation, how the design is adapted to a number of different configurations to meet various needs as well as strategies for providing a safe, efficient and effective means of boosting pressure of a gas stream in a number of applications.


Fundamental understanding of gas behaviour will be an asset but not mandatory.


Engineers, operations personnel who are either supervisors or are responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of reciprocating compressor installations. Other categories may consist of process operators, technicians and engineers.


At the end of the course delegates will:

  • Understand the thermodynamic principles of the compression process.
  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the principles involved in the operation of reciprocating compressors and identify the main process variables which affect compressor operations.
  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the terminology used to describe compressor performance and capacity.
  • Be able to identify the main components of the compressor and describe the variations in cylinder design for applications involving single, double-acting and multi-stage configurations.
  • Appreciate the importance of gas valves to the service life of the compressor and be able to identify the key issues related to the specification, operation and maintenance of its valves.
  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the monitoring requirements for the compressor, both for the mechanical integrity and performance of the machine.
  • Be able to carry out key performance and design calculations using a computer based training (CBT) package.
  • Be able to diagnose key fault conditions occurring on the reciprocating compressor.
  • Have gained an appreciation for the key issues associated with the used of the API RP618 in the specification of reciprocating compressors.


This course will cover compressor performance and selection, instrumentation and control, surge protection and compressor operation with the following sessions:

  1. Compression Selection:
  • Centrifugal versus reciprocating.
  • Efficiencies.
  • Speed.
  • Costs.
  1. Compression Principles:
  • Gas law relationships.
  • Compression processes.
  • Compressor action and the PV diagram.
  • Discharge temperatures and multi-staging.
  • Volumetric efficiencies and clearance.
  • Hands-on: using a CBT calculation package, delegates are able to determine the discharge temperature for any number of compressor applications including both single and multi-stage configurations.
  • Hands-on: using the same package, the effects of compression ratio and clearance volumes on volumetric efficiencies are demonstrated and calculated for the different configurations already identified in the previous exercises.
  • Hands-on: using dynamic simulation of a single stage, double-acting compressor, the principles of operation are explored based on variations in suction conditions of pressure, temperature and flow.
  1. Mechanical Design Features:
  • Hands-on: using a combination of video and 3D animations, the main mechanical features of the compressor are explored.
  1. Compressor Valves:
  • Operating principles and the PV diagram:
    • Idealised operation.
    • Real operations.
  • Valve attributes – the desirable.
  • Types of valves:
    • Selection criteria.
    • Materials of construction.
  1. Piston Rod Loading and Rod Reversal:
  • Rod loading on double acting cylinders:
    • Static gas loads.
    • Inertial loads.
    • Combined effects.
  • Frame loading and cylinder orientation.
  • Rod reversal:
    • The principle.
    • Rod loading effects.
    • Effects of gas valve operations.
  • Hands-on: using CBT and 3D animations, the principle of rod reversal is demonstrated. Using the calculations package, the rod loadings for the previously used configurations are calculated.
  1. Capacity Control:
  • The options.
  • Step control strategies.
  • Shut down protection.
  • Hands-on: using dynamic simulation for both single and multi-stage configurations, the capacity control strategies of speed variation, clearance pockets, valve unloading, and recycle are investigated.
  • Hands-on: using the specific case of the multi-stage dynamic model, delegates will explore a step control logic matrix.
  1. Performance Calculations:
  • Discharge temperature.
  • Multi-stage configuration and process conditions.
  • Volumetric efficiency.
  • Volumetric throughput.
  • Piston rod loading.
  • Absorbed power.
  • Hands-on: delegates will perform performance calculations on their own compressors using information from their plants.
  1. Compressor Start-up:
  • Hands-on: using the multi-stage dynamic model, delegates will practice a start-up of the compressor to arrive at the default condition.