Case Study

Fog Cooling for Pipeline Compressors

Fog Provides Cooling for Natural Gas Pipeline Compressor Stations

High pressure fog enables pipelines to maintain production levels and stay online during hot weather conditions.

After new compressor units were installed at a North Carolina compression facility, the cooling systems began to reach capacity causing the compressor to overheat due to hot weather conditions. The plant compression engineer chose MicroCool fog systems to provide adjunct cooling capabilities. The MicroCool solution was installed without any production downtime and continues to be cost effective and easy to maintain.

Background

Most people use natural gas in some form on a daily basis but have little idea how it gets from inside the earth to inside their homes.

The production and distribution of natural gas starts with an infrastructure network of pipelines hidden beneath the earth’s surface. From the extraction point, it travels along a pipeline to either a point of production where it is treated, to a facility where it is stored, or the natural gas goes directly into usage in homes and businesses.

The gas is ‘pumped’ through this network by being pressurized. Pressure in this system is reduced by customer usage, natural cooling that takes place within the earth’s surface and by friction caused from hydrates that may form. To maintain this pressure, the gas must be periodically compressed along the way. These compressor stations are usually located about every 50-100 miles along the network of pipeline.

The Challenge

A natural gas distributor increased production by adding two new 4000+ hp compressor units, in addition to their three older units, at their station in North Carolina. Large coolers are used in conjunction with each compressor to reduce engine temperature. Given that the compression of natural gas creates heat, any additional heat sources must be taken into consideration as part of the overall calibrations to cool the compressor engine and for safety considerations.

The compression of natural gas creates heat. During hot weather conditions this heat is compounded which can strain the capacity of compressor cooling systems.

When these two newer compressors were installed, the engineering specs did not account for increases in higher ambient temperature and the additional temperature increase near the machinery site itself due to dark rock and pavement. As a result, the specified auxiliary coolers and accompanying jacket water units had insufficient cooling capacity at high temperatures causing the engines to overheat when operating at maximum capacity in hot weather conditions.

Solution

To keep plant capacity up and running and not taken offline for additional system installations, the compression engineer decided to utilize MicroCool’s IBEX system. Fog was created around the air intake area of the cooling system fans that are 11' in diameter to lower temperatures on the days of the year when the temperature reaches above 90° locally. This can translate to temperatures easily reaching 100° at the site’s microclimate. Under this condition, the system is automatically activated to produce fog, decreasing temperature by at least 10 to potentially 25 degrees depending on the evaporative conditions that day. An ancillary reverse osmosis system was installed to eliminate mineral dust and deposits from building up on the cooling system’s coils, fan or shroud in order to maximize cooling efficiency.

Result
  • The two newer compression engines run cooler than the older existing units with larger cooling unit capacity because of the efficiency of cooling the air before it reaches the intake point.
  • The configuration of the nozzle array ensures that the fog cools the air and has enough time to evaporate without settling on the coils.
  • The cool fog keeps machinery from overheating and assures production efficiency.
  • Maintenance is minimal due to the use of a reverse osmosis system.
  • The MicroCool IBEX system was easy to install and didn't require any production downtime.

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