Valves for Reciprocating Compressors

By 27 April 2018

One feature of a reciprocating compressor, which is unique to it, is the provision of check valves in the cylinder head. The delivery pressure is determined by the spring force behind the delivery valve and the pressure in the delivery passage. This is in contrast to a rotary compressor where the shape of the rotor casing alone controls the pressure. Inlet valves open when the cylinder pressure is lower than ambient, delivery valves open when the pressure in the cylinder equals the set pressure. The convenience of this is that the delivery pressure can be changed by modifying the valves only, rather than replacing the compressor casing.

Compressor valves are mostly of the plate type of design as illustrated in Figure 8.

Detailed designs differ but they mostly consist of one or more flat ring-shaped plates backed by helical or flat springs. Valve design is a high art, and valves are best obtained from specialist manufacturers. Valves have to operate very quickly in response to the pressure difference, so the dynamic mass has to be kept low, there has to be a minimum of flow losses, and they must be capable of withstanding the impact forces at the end of the stroke.

Traditionally compressor valves have been made of steel or high grade iron, but there have recently been developed glass fibre reinforced plastics with a high degree of stability under the rapid impact conditions and high temperatures experienced in this duty. Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) has been successfully used for this purpose. This material retains good physical properties (strength and stability) up to 200 °C and has lower water absorption properties than other thermoplastics.