A good compressor is a valuable asset for a business. Many facilities depend upon compressors for the operation of their installation, making it important to monitor these machines closely and undertake regularly scheduled maintenance. An efficient compressor reduces energy wastage and improves performance. How do you know when your compressor needs service? 

What is a Compressor?

In the oil and gas industry, a compressor is a mechanical device that reduces the volume of a liquid or gas to increase its pressure. It’s used at processing plants, field nodes and inlets of the pipeline. Hydraulic compressors are powerful and lightweight deck-mounted compressors used for low-volume and high differential pressure applications such as vapour recovery, gas well boosting and casing gas. Reciprocating compressors are widely used in the chemical, oil, and gas industries for moving compressible fluids reliably. Rotary vane compressors serve in a variety of welding operations, in the use of air-operated metal and woodworking tools, in cylinders used in paper pressing, in many industrial cooling operations, in the agricultural industry, in material handling operations, in printing pumps/equipment and more.

Why service a compressor?

Compressors require regular maintenance to prevent microscopic problems from developing into the need for major repairs. Regular maintenance guarantees consistent performance, maintaining productivity. Service personnel inspect many parts and components. They check alignment, repair or replace seals, calibrate the levels and more. They fix minor problems that, if left unattended, cause long-term issues.

How often should you service a compressor?

A yearly machine inspection is crucial for all compressors that see regular operation. Compressors that achieve maximum performance every day have more wear and tear than others. In such cases, it’s critical to have semi-annual inspections to guarantee top-level performance. Older machines, with decades of daily high-performance operation, may have increased complications requiring more frequent servicing from a professional team of technicians. 

Signs it’s time to have your compressor serviced:

There are a number of indicators that your compressor unit is overdue for maintenance and repairs:

  • Abnormal noise is a sign that a compressor is not functioning properly and requires service. It’s often caused by aeration or cavitation. 
  • Aeration happens when air contaminates the hydraulic fluid causing a banging or knocking noise as it circulates. Aeration accelerates the degradation of the fluid and causes damage to system components through loss of lubrication, overheating and burning of seals.
  • Cavitation occurs when the volume of fluid demanded by any part of a hydraulic circuit exceeds the volume of fluid being supplied causing the absolute pressure in that part of the circuit to fall below the vapour pressure of the hydraulic fluid. This results in the formation of vapour cavities that implode when compressed, causing a characteristic knocking noise.
  • High fluid temperatures: Fluid temperatures above 82°C damage seals and accelerate the degradation of the fluid. Temperatures rise too high when viscosity falls below the optimum value for the system’s components. To prevent damage caused by high fluid temperature, a fluid temperature alarm should be installed in the system and all high-temperature indications investigated and rectified immediately.
  • Slow or erratic operation: Long cycle times or slow operation are an indication that a hydraulic compressor is failing and requires service. A loss of speed indicates a loss of flow, usually caused by internal leaks (pump, valves, actuators) and/or external leakage (burst hose). An infrared thermometer is a useful tool for identifying components with abnormal internal leakage, though a hydraulic flow-tester is often required. Your maintenance company has the tools to help determine and rectify the problem. 
  • Decreased efficiency: If your energy costs are rising and your compressor is less efficient, it’s time for maintenance services.
  • Shut-offs or pressure drops: Reliable and continuous operation of a compressor is important. If your compressor has erratic pressure and/or shuts off unexpectedly, you need to have it serviced.
  • Circuit breaker problems: A compressor that frequently trips the circuit breaker can be hazardous. This is a sign that the compressor is overheating and needs too much power to do the job. To prevent fires, have your compressor serviced.
  • Won’t start/won’t stop: A compressor that stops powering-on needs servicing. A compressor that never stops may have a faulty pressure switch or pressure release value that needs repair.
  • Moisture in or around your system: Compressor systems often have a small amount of condensation. If the condensation is excessive, the functioning and lifespan of the compressor may be compromised. Too much water introduces rust and/or contaminants. In this situation, call for repair and maintenance services.
  • Lags during use: If it feels like your compressor stutters and/or struggles to keep up, you may need a service team. 

How to avoid compressor problems:

A few simple steps can reduce compressor system issues and increase the longevity of your compressor. Prevent system failure by taking the following steps:

  • Follow specifications: The most common issues trace back to incompatible or improperly installed parts. It’s essential to double-check specifications to ensure purchased parts can work together seamlessly.
  • Consult with professionals: When purchasing new equipment, consult with industry peers and professionals. They can provide concrete examples of how well the equipment works for your industry.
  • Perform maintenance: Review your daily, monthly and annual maintenance procedures to ensure you are covering every aspect of your system according to best maintenance practices. Hire a competent company to provide qualified service technicians for the inspection and service of your compressor units.

To maximize operational effectiveness and energy efficiency while protecting your compressor from damage, have your compressor cleaned, checked and/or repaired on a regular schedule. With proper maintenance, compressors operate smoothly for years.

Gaspro Compression Corp. has qualified service technicians to inspect and service all compressor units. We rebuild many types of compressors, not limited to the oil and gas industry. Our fully stocked service trucks handle all our clients’ needs. We take pride in our work. We strive to provide dependable products and prompt service to all clients. We’re continually improving and innovating our products to meet changing industry demands and are a leading provider of compressor packages in Canada. Contact us to request a proposal.