A compressor is a device used to increase the pressure of a compressible fluid. The inlet pressure level can be any value from a deep vacuum to a high positive pressure. The discharge pressure can range from sub-atmospheric levels to high values in the tens of thousands of pounds per square inch. The inlet and outlet pressure are related, corresponding with the type of compressor and its configuration. The fluid can be any compressible fluid, either gas or vapor, and can have a wide molecular weight range. Recorded molecular weights of compressed gases range from 2 for hydrogen to 352 for uranium hexafluoride. Applications of compressed gas vary from consumer products, such as the home refrigerator, to large complex petrochemical plant installations.

The compressors to be covered in this book are those using mechanical motion to effect the compression. These types of compressors are commonly used in the process and gas transport/distribution industries. A partial list of these industries includes chemical, petrochemical, refinery, pulp and paper, and utilities. A few typical applications are air separation, vapor extraction, refrigeration, steam recompression, process and plant air.

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