Natural gas is a booming industry in the US and represents a bridge energy solution to a renewable energy future. Unfortunately, the key piece of equipment, the compressor, that is being used to extract and process natural gas uses technology that has remained fundamentally unchanged in the last century.
OsComp Systems has developed a breakthrough natural gas compression technology that will revolutionize the industry. By combining a novel rotary geometry with an innovative method for extracting heat from the system, OsComp's compressor is 10% of the size of conventional machines and over 30% more efficient.
The basis of the efficiency gains are rooted in basic thermodynamics. As gas is compressed, it naturally heats up. Work that is put into the system that ends up as heat is work that is not being utilized to compress the gas. Conventional compression technologies are adiabatic, meaning all of this generated heat remains in the system. The holy grail of compression is an isothermal process, where the temperature of the gas remains unchanged such that all of the work goes into compression. OsComp has developed a system for injecting coolant into the compressor that quickly cools the gas and saves over 30% of the energy compared to an adiabatic process (see figures).
One example application for this technology is wet gas compression as shown in the attached figure. OsComp's compressor is able to dramatically simplify the process and necessary equipment at a wellhead site by pumping wet gas--natural gas with entrained liquids--directly into the pipeline to a central facility, where the processing can be handled more efficiently. Conventional compressors are unable to deal with entrained liquids and instead have to separate the gas and liquid at the wellhead, requiring significant infrastructure at sites that are often very remote.
Because of the complexity required to separate liquids and gases at the wellhead, many wellhead sites process the liquids but do not install the infrastructure to capture the gas, instead burning it off at the well site. By capturing the natural gas at just one of these sites and using it to produce power, OsComp's technology can eliminate as much CO2 from the environment as a 100MW solar farm.
Since the fundamental technology being developed is a compressor, further applications are abundant. For example, compressed air systems in manufacturing and industrial settings consume 10% of all industrial electricity usage in this country. OsComp's technology can save over 30% of that power usage and system level improvements can push those savings to over 50%. Additional applications include refrigeration and HVAC, compressed air energy storage, and carbon sequestration.
A full-scale prototype of the product has been built and is being tested in OsComp's lab facilities in Boston, MA. Manufacturing partners have been engaged and have confirmed that the product is easily manufacturable. Field trials are expected to start within 12 months and commercial sales within 2 years.