Smart Maintenance And More Robust Parts Boost Compressor Uptime

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By: Colter Cookson, Assistant Editor

For the natural gas compression industry, good is never good enough. Even when they benefit from compression equipment robust enough to support 99% uptime guarantees, operators continue to look for ways to reduce downtime, improve throughput and limit emissions.

Low-leak packing, longer-lasting materials and more informed component selection are helping compressor owners get more from their equipment. But even with the best components, keeping compressors running requires a strong maintenance program executed by skilled technicians.

Fugitive Emissions
Producers and midstream companies are becoming increasingly proactive about reducing emissions, assesses Ben Berwick, Product Manager at Cook Compression, a division of Dover Precision Components.

“Our engineers are getting requests from customers to highlight ways to reduce emissions,” he reports. “These customers want to get ahead of regulations and show the public they are strong environmental stewards.”

To address emissions, Berwick says Cook Compression is deploying sensors and cloud-based telemetry to monitor packing-associated leakage rates. “Our goal is to establish a baseline and improve the packing so we can reduce venting,” he relates.

Minimizing packing leaks and other emissions frequently boosts profits, notes Craig Martin, Cook’s Chief Engineer for Rings and Packing. “When packing fails, the compressor owner either needs to run it with a leak until it can be fixed or shut the compressor down. Either approach costs money,” he says.

“Proactive maintenance is one of the best ways to keep leaks from occurring, so we are encouraging customers to adopt maintenance plans that include periodically pulling the packing out and repairing or replacing it,” Martin reports. “In some applications, this maintenance can pay for itself within a few months.”

Based on laboratory tests and past experience, Berwick says, Cook often can estimate packing’s remaining useful life and recommend maintenance schedules that minimize unnecessary work. He cautions that packing and other components sometimes experience shocks that accelerate their degradation.

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