How to … adapt mobile compressors to work in ambient temperature of -50°C

In November 2017, a Siberian company with a production factory in the coldest part of Russia, needed up to 43.000m³/h of 100% oil-free air during the preventive maintenance of its turbo compressors. As it was an outdoor set-up in an environment with temperatures that regularly drop to -40°C, a tailored solution was designed and validated for these extreme cold temperatures. Exceptional conditions meaning a real challenge for engineers!


What happened?

  1. Technical adaptations were needed for cold temperatures:
    • All liquids needed to be reviewed and if necessary replaced, to avoid freezing:
      • The machines received arctic oil that is developed to grease in extreme cold conditions.
      • A heat tracing wiring set is installed on the water separators and drain lines to avoid freezing and blocking.
    • To avoid cold air entering the compressors, new doors were designed to replace the regular ‘open’ one and extra removable cover plates were used to cover both coolers.
    • A software update was carried out to make sure that during the stand-by modus the electrical heathers remained working.
    • In addition, the accessories and set-up needed rethinking: the cables could not be installed on the ground, as during heavy snowfall the site needed to remain safe. Therefore, customized cable railways were installed on the compressors.
  2. Secondly, the theoretical solution needed to be validated. An indoor cold weather test took place in a climate chamber in Antwerp, Belgium,.
    • The test chamber was cooled down to -50°C until stabilized temperatures were reached. Afterwards, the cold test start-up was performed
      • Two compressors were set up in the room next to each other. The first compressor was for validation at low temperatures and witnessed by DNV-GL. The second compressor was tested for product development.
      • The test was considered successful when standard compressed air delivery was reached.
    • The result? The compressors were fully functional 26 minutes after setting out the Cold Start procedure and no damage to or malfunctioning of the compressors were observed during this test procedure. Ready to go to Siberia!
  3. Safety first: although the test environment was cold enough to test these compressors to the fullest, our service engineers as well had to be prepared for unforeseen conditions. An adapted service level was applied: 6 technicians were trained to install and monitor everything on-site during the entire 20 days of the project.

The project itself was rolled-out in Russia beginning of November 2017. Following the successful test, everything went well, from the installation to the decommissioning. Stefaan Vertriest, General Manager Atlas Copco Rental: “The excellent product knowledge of our experienced engineers was the success factor to design a solution for this very specific project. The project ended up a success thanks to a thorough preparation and a good cooperation with the customer’s technical team on site.”