Electric Pipeline Compression

Electric Natural Gas Pipeline Compressors: The Cost Savings Are EPA Approved

May, 2018

Bud Clark
National Accounts Manager
American Electric Power

Gas-powered pipeline compressors are aging, technically challenged, increasingly expensive to maintain and operate, and under scrutiny from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The recommended alternative is converting to electric pipeline compressors. Once you do, the technical benefits and cost savings are realized throughout the line.

Sustained Pressure to Meet New Demands

To start, electric compressor technology generates more sustained pressure over greater distances, reducing the number of compressor stations. It’s not just a matter of miles between stations. Today’s pipelines and stations need to swerve around populated areas and overcome hills and terrain: high, sustained pressure handles the turns and hills. And, with higher throughput and productivity, you can reduce the number of compressors in a station and attain the same output and backups — a major capital savings.

A Smaller Footprint and Location Flexibility

With their smaller footprints, electric compressors and stations require less land and offer more location flexibility, letting you move stations away from population centers and near high-voltage power, enabling emission-free operation that means reduced regulation and permitting.

Environmental Impact and the EPA

In 2016, the EPA issued a strong recommendation that pipeline operators convert to electric compressors throughout their operations to reduce gas losses. The report cited gas compressors as epic producers of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, from leaks and lost gas — with a single compressor spewing out an average of 6,650 million cubic meters of greenhouse gases per year into the atmosphere.

Cost Advantages

Beyond the environmental concerns, the EPA’s report highlighted the cost advantages of converting from natural gas to electric compressors. A new compression station is a major investment, costing on average $2 million to be fully functional — not counting the maintenance and labor costs which will eventually come. Yet, on fuel savings alone, the conversion to electric compressors can have a payback period of one to three years.

Reduced Maintenance and Labor

Electric compressors have fewer parts, which means fewer maintenance needs and thus less downtime. The labor cost of a typical compression station using gas compressors is about $250,000 a year. With automatic backup switching, it’s possible to have unmanned stations — and virtually zero labor costs. When you combine lower capital and labor costs, electric compressors can cut the capital costs by up to 50 percent.

Efficient Power to Move America’s Top Energy Source

Today’s electrically driven compressors replace aging, problem-prone gas compressors with higher-pressure efficiency, more productivity with fewer compressors, little or no maintenance — and the emissions-free performance recommended by the EPA. Now that natural gas is the leading energy source in America (and growing), electric-driven compressors are the technically advanced, cost-saving pipeline technology to power the nation’s future.