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Natural Gas Compressor Stations Explained

Have you wondered what is a gas compressor station? With natural gas compressor stations operating across the USA, it’s worth understanding this integral part of the natural gas distribution infrastructure. In this article, we will explain what a gas compressor station is and how it works.  We will also consider where these natural gas compression stations are located, as well as compressor station construction services.

What is a Compressor Station?

Natural gas compressor stations, also known as natural gas compression stations, are facilities that take incoming gas and compress it to a higher pressure.  While there are LNG liquefaction plants that compress natural gas to high enough pressures to liquify it, this article is discussing gathering and transmission line compressor stations, that give the gas pressure a boost to keep it flowing where it needs to go. Just like any gas, natural gas will lose pressure over distance due to friction and changes in elevation and temperature. In order to keep good pressure and sufficient volume at the consumption points, pressure must be maintained throughout the pipeline run.

How a Natural Gas Compressor Station Works

There are basically three stages for a natural gas compressor station: scrubbing, compressing, and cooling.  The natural gas compressor station layout is fairly straightforward, as the gas compressor stations process is a continuous flow process.  Here is a natural gas compressor station process flow diagam, courtesy of Spectra Energy.  This diagram explains the process flow.  In the explanation below, the numbers included are relative to the numbers in the picture:

Natural gas enters the compressor station via the station yard piping (1).  It’s first process is the filter separators, or scrubbers (2). These filter separators remove all liquids and solids from the gas stream before the gas enters the compressor station. These natural gas liquids, or NGLs, are a fuel source in themselves and are pumped into trucks to be mixed with vehicle gasoline.

Once the natural gas has been scrubbed, a portion of the natural gas is piped to the fuel gas system (7), which provides the fuel necessary to run the compressors.  There are some natural gas compressor stations that run on electric motors instead of natural gas due to regulator reason per state, but most are gas powered.

At this point the natural gas travels to the compressor units where the gas is pressurized to the right pressure for it’s next leg of the journey.  Compressor stations have anywhere from 1 to 30 compressors.  Depending on the amount of pressure boost required and the volume of movement, compressors will pump in parallel or serial to balance volume requirements against pressure boost requirements.

Also entering the compressor units is the lubrication oil (5) to keep the compressors running smooth and cool.  Exhaust leaves the compressors and the noise is suppressed via exhaust silencers, or mufflers (6).

The process of compressing the natural gas raises the temperature 7-8 degrees Fahrenheit for every 100 psi of added pressure.  Hence the gas needs to be cooled to optimum temperature for the transmission efficiency as well as for protection of pipeline coatings.  The gas exits the compressor station to enter the gas cooling system (4), where it is cooled to optimum temperature.

Leaving the cooling system, the gas moves to the station yard piping (1) on the outbound side, where it exits the facility.

Natural Gas Compressor Station Map

This natural gas compressor station map provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shows all the natural gas compressor station locations across the continental United States:

As you can see from the map, pipeline Compressor Stations are typically located every 50 to 100 miles of pipeline run.  This keeps the pressure at the required level through the entirety of cross-country natural gas pipeline runs.  There are 1365 natural gas compressor stations operating across the continental United States.  Less compressor stations would result in insufficient pressure and potential flow issues.

Compressor Station Construction Services

As natural gas is continuing to grow to meet the growing energy demand, new stations and new pipelines are added to the natural gas pipeline system. Compressor station construction companies such as Hanging H Companies install these new compressors. We at Hanging H also provide other natural gas compressor station services, such as compressor station maintenance and compressor station repair.  Additionally, we install the pipeline for the compressor station yard and the natural gas gathering pipelines and transmission pipelines.  If you are looking for experienced and quality compressor station contractors, we invite you to call Hanging H and inquire about your needs.