Optimizing the Functionality of Natural Gas Compressor Stations

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With a significant rise in the demand for natural gas projects expected in the coming years, the success of these projects relies heavily on efficient compressor stations.

Regardless of the project’s size or location, compressor stations play a vital role in moving natural gas pipelines and ensuring optimal efficiency.

During long-distance transportation, natural gas faces pressure loss and exposure to impurities. Compressor stations act as guardians by measuring gas flow, increasing pipeline pressure, and enabling continuous gas movement.

Understanding the components and operations of these stations is crucial for optimizing functionality, enhancing efficiency, and ensuring a smooth gas flow through the pipeline.

Natural Gas Compressor Stations

What is a Compressor Station?

A natural gas compressor station is an industrial facility designed to regulate the pressure and flow of gas within the pipeline network, ensuring optimal levels. Its proper operation involves collecting, re-pressurizing, and directing natural gas efficiently to various industries and final processes.

Integral to the natural gas pipeline network, these stations play a crucial role in transporting gas from production wells to end users.

As natural gas travels through pipelines, it encounters factors like distance, friction, and elevation differences, leading to potential flow slowdowns and pressure drops.

Compressor stations strategically placed in the gathering pipeline network help maintain normal pressure and gas flow in the market.

Typically powered by compressed gas for high performance, some stations may also use electric power to adhere to environmental and safety standards.

These stations are strategically positioned along pipelines, with stations spaced every 60-100 kilometers. In the modern context, some compressor stations can be remotely operated, requiring minimal on-site staff or maintenance teams.

Functions of Natural Gas Compressor Stations

Natural gas compressor stations, beyond pressurization, play a crucial role in maintaining gas purity during pipeline transmission.

Contaminants like water molecules, clay, or soil particles are filtered out to ensure the delivery of clean gas to end users. Gas enters the station, undergoes scrubbing to remove impurities, and passes through filters to prevent condensation.

Simultaneously, the station collects by-products like natural gas liquids, stored and transported for off-site sale. These liquids can be used in automotive gasoline or other chemical mixtures.

After gas purification, it undergoes a compression process regulated by a computer to meet pressurization requirements.

For safety, some stations introduce mercaptans to the odorless gas, creating a distinct “rotten egg” smell. This odor serves as a vital safety alert, promptly notifying users of gas leaks without relying on routine inspections.

This simple yet effective safety measure ensures the stability of the gas supply chain and customer safety.

Functions of Natural Gas Compressor Stations

How does a natural gas compressor station work?

To sustain the flow of natural gas every 40-100 miles, compressor stations play a vital role in pressurizing the gas.

Powered by electric motors, gas engines, or turbines, these stations employ compressors to elevate gas pressure, facilitating its movement to subsequent stations. The station’s size and number vary based on gas volume and transportation distance.

Ensuring safety and reliability, natural gas compressor systems incorporate multiple safety systems, monitoring implementations, and backup measures.

Gas compression generates heat, necessitating cooling before reintroduction into the pipeline to prevent damage. Air cooler systems dissipate gas heat through sealed coolant systems, while muffler systems minimize noise, especially in residential areas.

Further noise reduction measures, including turbine insulation, shielded exhaust systems, advanced fan technology, weather stripping, and mufflers, are implemented. Backup generators and emergency shutdown systems maintain gas flow and redirect it if needed.

Compressor stations may facilitate PIGs (Pipeline Inspectors) transmission for pipeline inspection and cleaning without halting gas flow, utilizing gas pressure.

Standard metering systems monitor gas storage levels and flow, aiding compression assessment. Monitoring systems also identify the need to flare off excess gas, crucial for stations with internal combustion engines prone to methane emissions.

As many compressor stations are in remote areas, they are designed for remote operation, enabling real-time monitoring and control of multiple compressor units.

How does a natural gas compressor station work

Understanding Types of Compressor Stations

Most compressor stations operate independently of each other, but where very high pressurization is required, multiple high pressures can be achieved by connecting several compressor stations in series.

Typical pressures in working pipelines range from 200 to 1,500 psi, depending on the elevation, terrain and diameter of the pipeline. As a result, compressor units can compress gas at different levels.

Most high-pressure natural gas compressor stations use one of three compressor/engine systems to re-pressurize the gas.

  • Centrifugal compressors driven by gas turbines

Centrifugal compressors increase gas pressure by increasing the velocity of the gas as it flows through the impeller, forcing the stream to rotate faster. As the gas leaves the impeller, it travels at an accelerated rate.

Gas turbine compressor stations use a small amount of gas from a pipeline to fuel a gas turbine (called a mechanical drive). The compressor is usually centrifugal and can be a high-speed single or multi-stage compressor.

Gas turbine compressor stations typically have a starting power of about 4,000 horsepower or more. Kinetic energy increases the pressure of the gas by slowing the flow through the diffuser. Centrifugal compressors offer better isothermal efficiency than reciprocating compressors but are less flexible.

  • Electrically Driven Centrifugal or Reciprocating Compressors

Electric motor compressor stations use electricity generation to power an electric motor drive. The compressor can be a single or multi-stage centrifugal or reciprocating compressor. Electric motor drives typically require less maintenance than gas turbines.

  • Reciprocating Motor Drive Compressors

Reciprocating engine compressor stations use a small amount of gas from a pipeline to fuel a gas engine. The compressor is usually a reciprocating compressor, but it can also be a centrifugal compressor.

It is also fueled by natural gas from a pipeline and uses a large piston engine to turn a reciprocating piston located on the side of the unit. The movement of the pistons changes the pressure and then the reciprocating pistons compress the gas.

Reciprocating engine compressor stations typically produce up to 4,000 horsepower. However, because these reciprocating compressors have a large number of moving parts, they require increased lubrication of the cylinders and pistons.

Inlet gas filter

Inlet gas filter

The installation of an inlet gas filter has always been an overlooked point. Natural gas entering a compressor station usually contains traces of impurities.

As the first step in the compression process, the incoming gas undergoes a rigorous filtration process consisting of filters, gas scrubbers and gas dehydration units. The goal of this series of devices is to remove suspended water vapor, hydrocarbon liquids, dirt and other particulate contaminants.

In this process, filters serve to intercept tiny particles and solid contaminants, ensuring that the gas entering the compressor is relatively pure.

Often PES membranes or hydrophobic PTFE membrane gas scrubbers are used to further treat the gas, especially to remove residual water vapor and liquid hydrocarbons.

The task of the gas dehydration unit, on the other hand, is to remove water from the gas to prevent water vapor from causing undesirable effects in the subsequent compression process.

Once this process is complete, the compressor station is able to process relatively clean, dry gas. Any hydrocarbon liquids collected are skillfully re-injected into the piping downstream of the compressor station, ensuring efficient operation of the system.

This highlights the key role of the inlet gas filter in maintaining gas purity and protecting the compressor station from contaminants.


Natural gas compressor stations are essential and critical facilities in the natural gas industry. By providing efficient and safe gas transmission, these stations are vital in the entire process of moving natural gas from the production well to the end user.

From the basic components to the different types of compressor stations, this paper provides a thorough discussion of how they work.

The inlet gas filtration unit is equally important, but often overlooked, as a key component in ensuring gas purity and station protection.

If you have any further questions regarding the optimization of your compressor station, please feel free to contact us, as we offer a wide range of gas filtration devices and look forward to a more efficient and sustainable natural gas project in the future.

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