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Novel design compresses cost

Published: 11 May 2018 - Sarah Mead

Steve Lindsey, CEO and founder of Lontra, explains how the innovative design of the company’s Blade Compressor offers benefits to the oil and gas industry, and beyond.

Compressor improvements have the potential to revolutionise the oil and gas industry in its drive to reduce energy costs, maximise profits and work towards improving environmental concerns. 

Widely used to help liquefy, harness and transport natural gas and oil from one location to another, compressors are ubiquitous across multiple processes in the oil and gas industry. Oil is in such high demand in today’s world, that it’s estimated that nearly 95 million barrels are used each day worldwide. It is thought that 4-6 kilowatts of energy is used to refine one gallon of crude oil – this equates to around 4kg of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon of oil. 

LNG is a particularly energy intensive process. As the global LNG market expands by 4-6% per year, so will the demand for the technology to reduce energy requirements.

The liquefaction process in the LNG industry uses up to 10% of the natural gas that enters the plant. This makes the energy efficiency of air compressors a key decision making factor for equipment purchasers, and is why the Lontra Blade Compressor plays a key role.

With a traditional piston and cylinder, as the piston drops down in the cylinder, it draws in gas above it and, as it goes up again, it compresses gas in front of it.

The Lontra Blade Compressor represents a step change in compressor technology and is best imagined as a piston and cylinder, but with the cylinder wrapped around inside. The design involves a constantly open intake port, without valves and as the piston rotates, it induces a volume of gas behind it in the same way as the piston dropping down in the cylinder.

As it gets back to the starting point, it has induced a complete volume behind it. But unlike the traditional piston and cylinder that has to stop and change direction, the blade passes through the disc with the volume that was trapped behind the piston now in front.

This means that it has an almost continuous cycle of inducing gas behind and compressing gas in front, greatly improving efficiency. In use it has delivered energy savings of over 21% with a potential 3% reduction in annual energy costs for the entire business.

The Blade Compressor also uses traditional manufacturing techniques, so there are no limits to it being used in the temperatures seen in the LNG industry. Its design means it doesn’t need to reciprocate and is oil free, energy efficient and reliable.

One of the first companies to trial the compressor was Severn Trent Water, where low pressure compressors work around the clock to aerate wastewater. The first trial showed that, if implemented across the whole Severn Trent network, the company could save more than £1.8 million in electricity costs per annum. Similar savings are expected in other industries, including the LNG industry.

Extending the trial demonstrated an improvement in reliability, as well as a reduction in the need for maintenance.

It is now time for the oil and gas industry to look seriously at the alternatives in compressor design. The energy efficiency of compressors such as the Lontra Blade Compressor, offers opportunities for cost and energy savings and the associated environmental gains.

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