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In this episode of the TurboTime podcast, the Myth Busters break down the types of compressor drivers—their advantages and disadvantages, optimal applications, and more.
In our two-part podcast episode on compressor drivers, the Myth Busters give a detailed account of various drivers, including gas turbines, steam turbines, and electric motors. Klaus Brun and Rainer Kurz talk about the general features of each driver, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how to match a compressor with a driver when factoring in fuel sources, power, speed, the type of compressor, and other determining factors. They also dive a little into gearboxes and why they are, at times, needed.
“First, we need to look at what is the compressor?” Brun said. “A compressor is used to compress the gas; it is a machine that requires some kind of driver that puts energy into the compressor. So, you need a device that the compressor wants to run at a certain speed and certain power. There has to be some kind of input device that can be divided by application, fuel source, power source, and so on. So, let's say you have a centrifugal compressor—you probably want something that spins, right? An electric motor drive, a gas turbine, a steam turbine …if you're driving a reciprocating compressor, you would like something like an engine that also reciprocates because that tends to match a little better. But you can also use an electric motor.
“Then the question becomes—before you get into the technical stuff—what fuel is available? Let's say you are running a centrifugal compressor on a natural gas pipeline. Then the obvious choice is a device that can burn natural gas as a fuel, and that's typically a gas turbine. Similarly, if you're in a refinery or some kind of petrochemical application where you have a lot of steam available because you have boilers and other processes that require steam, then you would select a steam turbine as your driver. In many cases, because electricity is available or other restrictions keep you from running a gas or steam turbine, you would choose an electric motor drive, which presents advantages and disadvantages. But you have to remember that an electric motor drive does require quite a bit of electric power.”