September 2022, Vol. 249, No. 9

Guest Commentary

Natural Gas Compression Empowering Energy Evolution

By Suzanne Ogle, President, Gas Machinery Research Council (GMRC)

Natural gas plays a vital role in our society, both as a raw material for numerous industrial processes and as a source of energy that is fundamental to social progress.   

Energy and human development are inextricably linked. With the world’s energy consumption projected to rise by nearly 50% between now and 2050, natural gas and the compression required to produce, process, transport and store it will increase. Evolutionary fitness for natural gas compression and infrastructure will be its ability to effectively respond to market, social and environmental changes.  

Reconciling the concept of a decarbonized energy system with forecasts of natural gas consumption can be mindboggling. But that doesn’t impede forward-thinking leaders from coming together with a common goal to help power the world with net-zero energy.   

The Gas Machinery Research Council (GMRC) is supporting the industry on its sustainability journey and the required energy infrastructure to meet the demands of natural gas-fired electric generation; carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS); bioenergy; and hydrogen solutions.  

From the 1950s and throughout the years, GMRC has provided valuable research to improve natural gas compression’s efficacy and meet expanding infrastructure demands. Seven decades later, as 2023 marks GMRC’s 70th anniversary, we stand on the brink of an energy evolution that will fundamentally alter our world’s energy systems.   

While there are many moving pieces in decarbonization planning, there is one certainty; the energy evolution requires every available technology. On a system-wide level, as technologies, society’s needs and policies evolve, GMRC is helping operators capture the carbon value chain with world-class research that will enhance equipment and provide technology solutions to “green” existing infrastructure into a clean fuels network.  

The Gas Machinery Conference (GMC), scheduled for October 2, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas, brings together more than 1,000 industry professionals and academia to share research that will enable and modernize the energy system.   

The conference explores the many pathways that will meet the environmental imperative to reduce CO2 emissions and satisfy stakeholder expectations. Throughout the three-day event, presenters will share research, learnings and best practices on centrifugal and reciprocating compressors, reciprocating engines, auxiliary systems, reducing emissions, data analytics and the energy evolution. More than 100 papers and research were submitted for consideration for this year’s conference.   

The GMC Planning Committee, chaired by Dwayne Hickman of ACI Services, selected 69 of the submissions for presentation. Some of this year’s presentations in the Energy Transition category include using more biomethane from organic sources and blending hydrogen into existing natural gas networks. These two measures can offer decarbonization at scale while extending the use of existing natural gas grids into the future.  

Professionals in the natural gas industry have a deep knowledge of energy systems as well as the expertise needed to develop infrastructure that will comply with the evolving regulatory landscape and fulfill stakeholder expectations.   

Collaboration at events like GMC increases research impact and furthers process technologies that are essential to the energy evolution. For instance, hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy-duty transportation, aviation, marine and steel production require advancements in system architecture to permit capture of carbon emissions or the generation of negative emissions via direct air capture (DAC), a process whereby carbon is withdrawn from ambient air.  

Strategic Research  

The Project Supervisory Committee (PSC), under the leadership of Christine Scrivner of Kinder Morgan, is composed of 12 members, including eight gas operators and four associate members.   

The committee serves to advise and consult the GMRC Board of Directors concerning research proposals. Once selected and approved, the PSC becomes a champion for the projects, providing technical content and execution oversight. GMRC via the PSC monitors evolving emissions regulations and identifies strategic research priorities. The PSC continues to evaluate and leverage U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding when appropriate.  

2022 Funded Projects include:  

  • DGS Reliability – A Study of the Effects of Liquid Contamination  
  • Implementing the Virtual Orifice on High- and Low-Speed Compressors and Evaluating Performance   
  • Hydrogen Blending Impacts on Compressor Stations (in conjunction with PRCI)  
  • Reciprocating Compressor Lubrication Optimization  
  • Lube Oil Gas Entrainment  
  • Improvements to NIST-REFPROP and H2O HC VLE Prediction  

Balancing innovation and reliability are mission critical for energy infrastructure and the industry.   

Enhancing new infrastructure and opportunities while maximizing the foundation (the people) through collaboration and sharing is what GMRC does best.   

This tried-and-true recipe serves our members well so we can create a roadmap based on integrated system planning and realistic understanding of implications and opportunities, which will lead to system-wide improvements that enable a sustainable tomorrow.  

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