The pros and cons of axial compressors

What factors should you consider when selecting a compressor?

By Amin Almasi, rotating equipment consultant

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An axial compressor is a compact turbo-compressor that suits applications with a very large flow and a relatively small pressure difference (head). It probably is one of the most crucial and complex turbo-machines at many process plants. Achieving and maintaining desired performance depends upon properly addressing some complicated design and operational issues. These include fragile blades, manufacturing problems, surge, stall, noise-related concerns and many more.

An axial compressor offers higher efficiency, speed capability and capacity for a given size than a centrifugal compressor. However, it has a narrower recommended application range (Figure 2) and delicate components. Some compressors contain both axial and centrifugal stages.

Some operating companies will use whenever possible rugged, versatile and reliable centrifugal compressors instead of dedicated, efficient but fragile axial machines. Large horizontally split centrifugal compressors now are available in capacities up to ≈450,000 m3/h or even more. However, for very large capacities (say, >1,000,000 m3/h), an axial compressor may be the only option.

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