Natural gas compressor stations
Compressor stations are a very important part of the natural gas pipeline network. This is the network that moves natural gas from the production unit to the end user. As the natural gas travels through the pipeline, different factors like distance, friction and elevation slow the movement of the gas and reduce the pressure.
To maintain the right pressure, and regulate the flow of gas, there are compressor stations that are placed within the pipeline network.
Natural gas enters the compressor station through a station yard piping. It is then passed through scrubbers and filters to extract liquids and remove solids and other particulate matter that is in the gas stream. First the natural gas stream is cleaned, and then passed through additional yard piping to different individual compressors. There are computers that control the flow of the gas.
When natural gas is compressed, there is a lot of heat that’s generated. This must be dissipated to cool the gas before it leaves the compressor facility. For every 100 psi pressure increase, the gas temperature increases by 7-8 degrees.
There is also an aerial cooler system that dissipates the excess heat. The heat generated by the individual compressor units are cooled down with the help of a sealed coolant system that works in a principal that is similar to an automobile radiator.
In some situations, the liquiids could drop out due to a change in pressure. This liquid that leaks out is collected in tanks and then transported elsewhere. The technical term for this is called drip gas, and it is used in motor gasoline.
So how are these compressor stations fueled? Most are through a portion of natural gas that flows through the station. Gas-powered compressors are run by conventional piston engines or gas turbine units.
There could be many compressor units at a single station. They could be inside a building or in the open. A single large building could easily accommodate multiple units as long as the building has insulated walls, shielded exhaust systems and advanced fan technology to lower the sound. Other requirements may include backup generators in spaces with frequent power supply issues, gas metering equipment, gas filtration systems and most importantly, the presence of stringent safety measures.
Speaking of safety, it is required by law that compressor stations have emergency shutdown systems that can immediately stop the functioning of compressor units and isolate and vent compressor station gas piping.
Natural gas is actually odorless in nature so an odorant called mercaptan is added to the gas to give it that distinct smell so that leaks can be easily detected.
Most compressor gas stations exhaust emissions into the air and so there are a comprehensive list of air emissions to ensure that industries are environmentally-compliant.
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