December 2002

Engineering Case Histories

Case 12: A compressor rod failure

Sometimes a troubleshooter has to be a detective

Sofronas, A., Consulting Engineer

Troubleshooting technical problems can be much like investigating a mystery. This is why most engineers love a good failure, as long as it's not theirs. Facts have to be assembled, data has to be analyzed and possible causes have to be verified. This case involves the wreck of a gas engine compressor. This is a 2,000-hp unit operating at 300 rpm in an ethylene refrigeration circuit. The wreck occurred on one of the two high-pressure cylinders. All that was left in the "doghouse" section was a pile of cast-iron rubble. The 3-in. diameter compressor rod was broken in a low-stress area away from the end threaded into the

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