Function of Surge Control Systems

Surge is a relatively common yet costly phenomenon in centrifugal compressors. The surge control system is an important element in the compressor system because it protects the compressor from surge over the range of compressor operations. Protection of the compressor through the surge control system should be viewed as necessary cost expenditures, in order to avoid considerably more costly repairs or overhauls due to damaging surge conditions. Control systems may be implemented using a variety of methods and philosophies.

However, the primary objective of any surge control system should be to predict and prevent the occurrence of surge so as to reduce possible damage to the compressor and assure a safe working environment for all station personnel.

The principle of a centrifugal compressor surge control system is based on ensuring that the flow through the compressor is not reduced below a minimum flow limit at a specific head. The majority of surge control techniques restrict the operation of the compressor to flow rates above a defined surge control line based on the surge margin for a particular compressor. Restriction of the operating window of the compressor in order to avoid surge because of mistakes in the surge control system design should be avoided. A properly designed surge control system can allow the operational range of the compressor to be extended based on the response of the surge control system.

At a minimum, the control system should actively measure the compressor head and flow through the compressor system controls and determine the resulting operating point. The recycle valve should be opened in a specified time to a valve set point determined by the control system. This signal to the valve is based on the compressor operation, its proximity and its movement (rate) relevant to the surge control line. Opening of the recycle valve in the surge control system effectively avoids surge by providing more flow and reducing compressor head, to move the compressor away from its surge point.

What is Surge Control System ?