Compressors are vital for the functioning of mining operations. They play a role in aspects such as gas injection, petrochemical synthesis, petroleum refining, and other important applications. When a compressor fails, it can derail the entire day and reduce productivity significantly for oil and gas companies.
There are many parts working together inside a compressor that must function together, or else a shutdown or decreased performance may occur. Electrical problems and electrical failure can cause problems across all processes in the oil and natural gas industry.
Compressor issues can cause issues at any point of operations, including upstream, midstream, and downstream. Learning how to identify compressor issues, such as electrical issues, and diagnose the problem leads to quicker maintenance. Better and faster maintenance procedures can prevent the issue from causing further damage to the compressor and help oil company operations stay on track.
Signs of Compressor Malfunctions
There are various signs you may notice if there is a problem with your compressor. Excessive/irregular noises and vibrations, fluid leakage, and difficulty building pressure are major signs to look out for. Something a little more difficult to notice is corrosion or warped parts within the compressor. Of course, one of the biggest signs of compressor problems is an unexpected shutdown.
Common Causes of Compressor Failure and Other Issues
1.Worn Valve Assembly
Worn valve assembly will result in increased discharge temperature, and is typically caused by corrosion or warping of the material and/or incompatibility between the part and the internal fluid. When excessive discharge occurs, it is likely that the part will no longer perform the way it needs to and a replacement of the part will be required.
2. Valve Failure
Valve and valve plate issues can be caused by a variety of things, and are the culprit of many compressor problems.
The most alarming issue valve failure can cause is an unexpected shutdown. This is actually something that happens often as a result of wear and tear. Valve springs often handle a great deal of pressure, particularly in reciprocating compressors where accelerating and decelerating actions can cause frequent valve failure.
Another problem that can be caused by valve plates is slow pressure build-up. To identify this problem, checking the belts and gaskets should be the first step. If those seem to be operating correctly, then it may be the valve plate. This can cause inefficient functioning of the compressor, and the part most likely will need to be replaced.
Leaking fluid can also cause issues with valve plates. If you notice fluid leaking, this might mean the valves are not properly sealing. This should be looked at immediately; the compressor should be disassembled to inspect the plates.
3. Particulate Matter in the Internal Fluids
Corrosion and warping can be the result of exposure to hydrocarbons or chemicals that reside within the internal fluids. Various parts within the compressor, such as the valve plates, can be vulnerable to contaminated internal fluids, and some parts (or materials that make up the parts) are not appropriate to withstand such exposure.
Buildup of particulate matter can also cause issues between the piston and valve plate. Often, simply removing the part and cleaning it properly can remedy the issue.
4. Damper Plate Cracking
The purpose of a damper plate is to absorb vibrations and noise within the compressor. However, persistent vibration over a period of time can cause cracking. When this occurs, you may notice reduced productivity from the compressor. Ultimately, this problem requires replacement of the part.
Solutions for Compressor Issues in the Oil and Gas Industry
Compressor Preventive Maintenance
The best solution for compressor issues in the oil and gas industry is preventive maintenance. By continuously monitoring the compressor, timely wear and tear can be tracked and maintenance or part replacement can occur before the failure of internal components.
Even for parts that do not experience an “expected” time frame of wear, keeping an eye on their condition can help to make a judgment call on when action should be taken. It is ideal that parts be replaced before they reach the end of their expected life-span so that down time can be scheduled, and productivity is not disrupted.
Using the Appropriate Replacement Parts
Ensuring that replacement parts are compatible with your compressor can increase the lifespan of the machine. This includes verifying proper manufacturing, durability, and that the materials which make up the replacement parts can withstand things such as exposure to hydrocarbons within the internal fluid and high stress situations.
Proper Technical Training
Before a shutdown occurs or a piece of internal machinery goes down, there are warning signs or diagnostic signals that can be identified before an issue goes too far. Properly trained technicians should be able to spot these issues, and determine the cause by listening or visually inspecting the compressor. Particularly in the case of internal corrosion or warped parts, experienced and knowledgeable technicians are more likely to identify problems sooner and prevent further damages.