Condition monitoring of reciprocating compressors in oil & gas

Amir Basyouni, Lead Machinery diagnostics Engineer, BHGE


The Oil & Gas industry has continuously increased its requirements, together with the high complexity of technological systems and the higher competitiveness of markets, it has compelled end-users to implement adequate maintenance strategies for these systems to improve plant availability and productivity to meet those more demanding criteria.

For many years since the 70s, many oil and gas plants have been built with a large fleet of reciprocating compressors installed. Reciprocating compressors did not get the high-priority monitoring given to centrifugal machines. The reasons why are partially based on the higher number of centrifugal and axial machines in comparison to reciprocating compressors, and operators just did not encounter severe damages due to the lower kinetic energy of these relatively slow-running machines. Recently however, reciprocating compressors are having more failures while being process-critical at the same time.

At all times, operators, engineering procurement and construction companies (EPCs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have followed the existing, applicable guidelines and standards during the final engineering stage. Those standards were effective at the time of construction, and to a large extent are still valid today. However, upon studying the age of the reciprocating compressor population, one will recognize that, in many cases, these large, critical machines have never been replaced and they have been in operation since their initial startup date many decades ago. In spite of the criticality and importance of the reciprocating compressors, they are sometimes unobserved by condition monitoring specialists. The PDM tool (FFT portable vibration analyzer) which is routinely used on rotating equipment is not well suited for reciprocating machines and has been unsuccessfully monitoring the reciprocating compressor for many years. Therefore, the overall machine health is frequently ignored and not diagnosed correctly until damage occurs and it becomes too late to save the machine from failure.


A professional Reliability and condition monitoring Expert, he has more than 14 years’ experience in Reliability solutions, condition monitoring ,Lubrication Program and Rotor dynamics for rotating equipment across a diverse range of industries ,Certified ISO CAT IV vibration Analyst from Mobius inst.,Certified reliability and maintenance professional CMRP from SMRP.