Reciprocating Compressors: Pulsation Dampening Paramount

When purchasing capital equipment it is wise to protect that investment through proper packaging and installation. Inlet and discharge receiver tanks are often overlooked, but make all the difference in protecting a compression system and providing consistent pressure to any air/gas boosting application.

Reciprocating compressors create pulses in the gas stream. This pulsation is inherent to reciprocating motion. To accommodate this force, a proper system design and installation must be utilized to prevent failure and promote peak performance.

Think of driving a car with square wheels, each forward rotation of those wheels would create a jump forward followed by a thud and an abrupt halt in motion. Gas flow enters the piston only during the suction portion of the compressor stroke and leaves only during the discharge portion. The flow is effectively stopped on first the inlet and then the outlet of the reciprocating piston. In a compressor running at 600 rpm, this can happen as often as 10 times a second. Compression creates pressure waves, or pulsations, that travel through the system. These pulsations occur in both directions and combine to create very high pressure fluctuations.

Piping systems are seldom designed to handle pulsation created by reciprocating compressors, especially at fittings or components. If pulsation is not controlled, components and compressors can experience many different failures, such as: pipe failure due to fatigue, reduction in efficiency of the compressor, ‘hammering’ of the compressor valves, check valve and safety valve failure, instrumentation failure and even errors in pressure measurement.

Receiver tanks act as buffers to the inlet and discharge of the compressor. Pressure waves are dissipated inside the tanks which provide increased system longevity while creating a consistent and reliable process pressure. To ensure properly sized receiver tanks are packaged with your air or gas booster compressor system, contact Hycomp for more information.