Benefits of Tackling Suboptimal Performance of Centrifugal Compressors
Although suboptimal performance of centrifugal compressors can cause serious damage to oil and gas production operations, there tends to be a slowness or hesitancy to proactively act to resolve performance issues. This is especially the case if the poor performance has not resulted in a failure that shuts down the production facility or in significant loss of production. There remains however many tangible benefits of tackling suboptimal performance of critical gas compression equipment. In my experience, some of the common benefits are: -
Reduced facility downtime and production deferment: Studies have shown that gas compression systems are the biggest causes of unplanned shutdowns and maintenance in the UK. It is estimated that around 40 million boe per year in hydrocarbon production losses are attributable to gas compression issues . A proactive strategy for avoiding and resolving performance issues of gas compression equipment will usually translate to significant gains with regards to the reduction of downtime and production losses.
Reduced operational and maintenance costs: Activities which lead to optimum performance of gas compression equipment will produce less likelihood of failure. This will inevitably lead to consequent reduction in operating expenditure.
Avoiding surging and failures of compression equipment: Continuous surging of compression equipment can lead to major failures and extended downtime. Surging of compressor equipment is usually caused by suboptimal or off-design operation. By optimising the operating points and envelope of the compressor, surge events can be minimised or avoided.
Improve reliability and availability of compression equipment: Poor reliability in compression systems is usually caused by suboptimal operation. This can lead to high vibrations and other undesirable phenomena. By optimising the design and operation of gas compression systems, their reliability and by extension their availability can be vastly improved. I have had project experiences in which availability of gas compression equipment have been demonstrated to improve from around 50% to around 95%.
Improved energy efficiency and fuel consumption: Poor performance of centrifugal compressors can lead to low efficiency or continuous operation in recycle. These in turn results in significant increases in fuel consumption and poor energy efficiency. By optimising the performance of gas compression systems, the fuel consumption of the compression system can be significantly reduced and the energy efficiency massively improved. This provides two main advantages of reducing operating costs and reducing the carbon footprint of the operation.
Improved compressor production: By optimising the design and operation of gas compression systems, more opportunities for increasing production arise. This is usually from (or a combination of) improved compressor efficiency, more driver power availability, or reduced fouling / performance degradations.
Optimised compressor design and selection for entire life of field: As operating companies consistently build up a culture of proactively tackling suboptimal performance of compressors, they are able to keep on top changes in process duties and their effect on the gas compression and wider process systems. The optimization of gas compression systems is a continuous one. This is because, what is considered optimum changes throughout the life of the field.
Life extension of compression equipment and production facilities: In the UK North Sea, like in many oil and gas regions around the world, dealing with life extension, ageing, asset integrity and obsolescence issues is a significant concern. A consistent culture of proactively tackling suboptimal performance of compression systems throughout the life of the field will go a long way to ensuring that the production systems are fit for service even beyond their initial design life.
Integration of satellite fields: One way in which the value of optimising compression systems can be increased is by combining this with integration of satellite fields. This is especially the case for significantly declined fields where the compression systems are operating suboptimally due to the decline in rates and pressures from original design values. In such situations, the integration of new satellite fields provides cost-effective opportunities for the compression systems to operate in a ‘happier’ place while the existing production asset is maximised.
Upcoming Training Courses
Sodi Toby CEng MIMechE
Sodi serves as our Managing Director and Projects Director. He has management and technical oversight across our offices. He is a well regarded professional adept at delivery of complex projects in the oil & gas & energy sectors.
Sodi is an expert with extensive experience in front-end studies, asset optimisation, integrated asset modelling, rotating equipment and field development planning. He has previously held senior roles including Head of Projects and Management Team Leader in a reputable engineering consulting firm from which he left to lead Eta Energy Solutions.
Sodi is a Chartered Engineer, professionally recognized by the Engineering Council (UK), the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (UK) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). He graduated from University of Sussex with a first class masters in Turbomachinery. He speaks regularly and presents technical papers at international oil and gas conferences across the world.