Washington, DC — An award-winning compressor design that decreases the energy required to compress and transport natural gas, lowers operating costs, improves efficiencies and reduces the environmental footprint of well site operations has been developed by a Massachusetts-based company with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
OsComp Systems designed and tested the novel compressor design with funding from the DOE-supported Stripper Well Consortium, an industry-driven organization whose members include natural gas and petroleum producers, service companies, industry consultants, universities, and industrial trade organizations.
Conventional compressors are not optimized to handle wet gas—natural gas that contains water vapor or hydrocarbon liquids. OsComp’s hybrid compressor uses an advanced rotary design, coupled with gas-cooling capabilities, that increases its efficiency and allows it to handle wet or dry gas.
Prototype testing showed the hybrid compressor’s efficiency is more than 30 percent higher than conventional compressor technology. It is also one-tenth the size, so it reduces the overall footprint of well site operations. By reducing the capital and operating costs of compression, natural gas producers can continue to operate stripper wells at very low flow rates and low natural gas prices.
Backed with more than $12 million in private funding, OsComp Systems is aggressively moving forward with commercial-scale prototype manufacturing and field testing of the hybrid rotor compression technology.
Natural gas stripper wells produce less than 60,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day. Despite their small output, stripper gas wells collectively make a significant contribution to our nation’s energy supply. Based on 2008 statistics, more than 322,000 stripper gas wells in the United States account for 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, enough to supply 16 million homes.
Operators of stripper wells face a variety of challenges when it comes to keeping them on line. Even a small drop in natural gas prices can make them uneconomical to operate, and the large volumes of water produced by these wells can reduce natural gas flow and increase operational costs. Development and deployment of technologies to improve the performance of stripper wells will extend the lifespan of these wells and contribute to U.S. energy security.
In addition to its use for stripper wells, the hybrid compressor may also aid the production of hydrocarbon-wet gas, such as the Utica and Eagle Ford shales. Other potential applications may include small-scale liquefied natural gas, enhanced oil recovery, mobile compression, sour gas, and the compressed natural gas refueling industry.
The Stripper Well Consortium is managed and administered by The Pennsylvania State University. Base funding and technical guidance to the consortium are provided by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.