Centrifugal compressors: Prediction of performance in off-design conditions


Centrifugal compressors are a vital component within process plants. Compression machines are widely used in upstream as well in middle stream plants, accomplishing – in almost cases – critical missions for overall production goals.

In these plants, compressors are often one of the most important assets, given their critical impact on output losses caused by (potential) temporary unavailability and related maintenance and repair costs. It is evident, therefore, how understanding if the machine is running and working properly assumes a primary role. The capability to detect early indicators of eventual malfunctioning, and timely identify and understand their causes and possible remedies, provides a valuable contribution to plant proficiency and allows users to minimise overall operational costs.

This trend is generally known as predictive maintenance. Today, a predictive approach is well presented across all the involved industries and applied over several kinds of machinery. For many and most common centrifugal machines, the predictive techniques commonly implemented are connected to the vibrational and structural dynamic aspects of the machine rotor operational conditions. This approach, being phenomenological, can be applied in the design stage where insight is given by OEMS to rotor dynamics – but often it assumes a more practical and empirical form at the operational floor, where basically the machine vibrational parameters are measured and compared to acceptable limits and used merely for alarm triggering.

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