As an essential part of the refinement and distillation industry, oil and gas are both keys in the development and production of a wide range of products. 

It takes time to mine locations with naturally occurring oil. One of the staples in expediting the process by making it more simplistic is oil and gas compressors. 

If you are familiar with the industry, you’re probably wondering what compressors are used for and how to ensure safety?

In this article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about an oil and gas compressor. You’ll have the necessary resources to make sure your workplace is safe while getting the job done.

What is an Oil and Gas Compressor?

Before we dive into the specifics of safety, what is an oil and gas compressor? 

Compressors are mechanical devices that increase the pressure of gas or oil by reducing its volume. This increases the flow rate in the application process by delivering the oil/gas at a specified pressure. 

These machines are relied upon before the product moves throughout the supply chain to the customers expecting it. 

Different Kinds of Compressors Employed in the Oil and Gas Sector

Different types of compressors are utilized in the oil and gas sector. There are two primary categories: rotary and reciprocating compressors.

Rotary compressors come in two main varieties: rotary blowers and centrifugal compressors. Typically, they feature either wet or dry seal configurations and consist of various components including:

  • Housing with integrated flow passages

  • A rotating shaft for impeller attachment

  • Seals and bearings to prevent gas leakage

Most components of rotary machines remain unchanged except for the impeller and shaft, making them less prone to mechanical inefficiencies compared to reciprocating compressors. In industrial rotary machines, components like incremental encoders can enhance positioning and motor speed feedback, thereby reducing the need for frequent lubrication and maintenance.

Rotary compressors operate by utilizing mechanical impellers or vanes to draw in low-pressure natural gas and expel it at high pressure, increasing overall pressure. The impeller’s circular motion or centrifugal force boosts gas velocity, which is then directed into a duct section for conversion of velocity energy into static pressure.

It’s important to note that rotary compressors maintain a fixed pressure ratio, resulting in consistent pressure output.

Reciprocating compressors exhibit linear motion during the process of increasing natural gas pressure and are commonly employed in the oil and gas industry due to their ability to handle various volume capacities and pressures. Unlike rotary compressors, reciprocating ones have a variable volumetric flow-rate output, albeit with potential limitations. They possess more moving parts, resulting in lower mechanical efficiencies and occasional lubrication requirements for components such as pistons, suction cylinders, cylinder heads, and discharge valves.

Reciprocating compressors can be driven using gas, electric motors, or steam turbine engines instead of the electric motors typically found in rotary machines. Additionally, they operate within specific compression ratio ranges, necessitating careful selection to ensure proper clearance volume and piston displacement within the cylinder.

Compressor Applications in the Oil and Gas Industry

Compressors play a vital role in both small and large-scale mining operations. Consequently, compressor equipment finds diverse applications in the oil and gas industry:

Petroleum Refining

Compressor equipment is essential for meeting governmental regulations mandating a 95 percent compression of natural gas in petroleum. This compression process is crucial before the transportation of petroleum via pipelines to elevate gas pressure levels, thereby initiating catalytic reactions.

Pipeline Transportation

In oilfield facilities, compressors are utilized to uphold or increase gas pressure during transportation through pipelines to suppliers and end consumers. Gas-driven reciprocating compressors are commonly deployed in this context, with operating discharge pressures ranging from 20 to 50 bar and power ratings between 150 to 3,500 kW. Additionally, this process facilitates the treatment of hydrocarbons for impurities like hydrogen sulfide, often reaching levels as high as 6 percent.

Gas Re-Injection

Compressors of oil and gas are employed to enhance pressure in oil reserves and well flow, particularly as they naturally decline over time. Gas lift production techniques utilize compressors to inject gas into oil layers, aiding in crude oil recovery. This re-injection process can utilize air or associated gas, with compressor working pressures typically ranging between 150 to 350 bar. Tandem compressor systems, utilizing both centrifugal and reciprocating compressors, are utilized for re-injection. Centrifugal compressors initially compress the gas, while reciprocating compressors provide further compression to achieve the desired pressure level. Generally, rotary compressors are preferred in large fields, whereas reciprocating compressor equipment is favored in small to medium-sized fields.

Petrochemical Synthesis

Compressor equipment is indispensable in petrochemical manufacturing processes requiring precise pressurization of air and gas for the synthesis of various compounds such as ammonia, methanol, urea, ethylene, and ethylene glycol. These compressors are instrumental in facilitating the production of these essential petrochemicals.

The Future of Compressors for the Oil and Gas Industry

Mining has evolved significantly from traditional methods involving shovels and manual extraction to employing sophisticated machinery for petroleum extraction in oil-rich regions. A burgeoning industry has emerged to provide companies with both new and used mining equipment, including compressor systems.

The ever-growing demand for fossil fuels, driven by consumer needs for powering vehicles, generators, and various mechanical devices, underscores the necessity for compressor equipment to regulate gas pressure in oil fields.

While alternative energy sources may see development, the majority of the population will continue to rely on fossil fuels and non-oil derivatives such as paraffin wax, petroleum jelly, refined bitumen, and microcrystalline wax. Consequently, there’s an anticipated increase in demand for compressor machinery in the coming years.

Intense competition among manufacturers of oil and gas compressors to enhance accessibility and maximize yields will drive the innovation of more advanced compressor systems, facilitating smoother operations and increased productivity in the industry.

Regulations in Place

An oil or gas compressor station provides safety precautions and regulations to avoid hazardous events. These stations have built-in shutoff valves to isolate and stop compressors in their tracks, conduct regular testing, and a variety of other checks and balances if something goes wrong. 

Monitoring compressors like a gas turbine compressor, electrical compressor, or other machines is crucial. On-site professionals will handle the ins and outs of safety at a gas compressor station. 

Over the years, regulations have been developed with environmental considerations in mind. Compressor stations must limit noise levels to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) guidelines. 

The FERC regulates noise at 55 decibels.

Because compressor stations use natural gas, emissions are clean. This makes working with oil and gas a lot more environmentally friendly than at first glance.

Understand the Risks

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, from the years 2013 to 2017, 489 oil and gas extraction workers died on the job. 

The health and safety concerns of oil and gas compressor jobs are serious. There’s a variety of concerns when it comes to the job:

  • Falls

  • Explosions and fires

  • Exposure to chemicals

  • Vehicle accidents

To eliminate these accidents, resources have been made available to combat hazards in the workplace. If you need assistance identifying, controlling, and limiting exposure to these hazards, read more here. 

This information can help save a life and provide additional clarification to the risks of employees involved in these workplaces. 

Specialization in Compressor Packages

Safety is important when it comes to oil and gas compressor stations. Once you’ve created a system that works, you need a company that capitalizes on the process.

Gaspro Compression Corp. specializes in low power compressor packages that comply with the current industry standards. Since 2004, Gaspro Compression has supplied the oil and gas industry with customized solutions to optimize business. 

Maximize your production by optimizing your process. There’s a wide range of products the company supplies to fit your needs. If you have any questions about compressors in the oil and gas industry about our company’s products, give us a call at 403-443-8886.