July 31, 2007 — A long-life, semi-active plate valve for reciprocating compressors developed at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has received a 2007 R&D 100 Award. R&D Magazine selected SwRI's Semi-Active Compressor Valve as one of the 100 most significant technological achievements of the past year.
The single largest maintenance cost for a reciprocating compressor is compressor valves. Typically, reciprocating compressors use passive compressor valves. These valves experience high plate impact velocities that often result in fatigue failures and a short operating life, leading to frequent replacement. With more than 12,000 reciprocating compressors in use in the United States alone, valve repair or replacement and the downtime associated with this maintenance is a significant investment for the natural gas industry.
"The SwRI-developed Semi-Active Compressor Valve increases plate life by drastically reducing plate impact velocities," said Dr. Klaus Brun, manager of the Rotating Machinery and Measurement Technology Section in SwRI's Mechanical and Materials Engineering Division, and principal developer of the valve. "Rather than springs, the design uses electromagnets to actively control impact velocities. The valve plate starting motion (both opening and closing) is sensed using an electric inductive motion sensor controlled by the electromagnets, thus eliminating the need for pressure transducers or shaft encoders to control plate motion."
The Semi-Active Compressor Valve decreases valve replacement and associated costs by more than 90 percent over conventional valves. Because of the higher efficiency of the valve, additional fuel and process savings can be achieved, thereby helping the natural gas industry operate its compressors more efficiently, more reliably and more cost-effectively.
The valve was one of several technologies developed during the Advanced Reciprocating Compression Technology program, conducted at SwRI and jointly funded by the Gas Machinery Research Council, BP and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy–National Energy Testing Laboratory Delivery Reliability Program. Cook-Manley Co. will be manufacturing the valve for industrial oil and gas applications.
SwRI has won 32 R&D 100 Awards since 1971. This year's awards will be presented Oct. 18, 2007, in Chicago. For more information, contact SwRI Solutions.