In those big honkin’ natural gas pipelines (or any gas pipe, I suppose) is it more efficient to run them really full or less full?
By efficient, I mean which method uses less energy to move one unit of volume a certain distance.
Really full argument:
As you put more gas in the pipe, it becomes more like a liquid and you have more inertia in the gas. You aren’t fighting surface friction as much (per unit of volume) and if you’re going to run a compressor, it’s best to fully utilize it, rather than run it at half power.
Half full argument:
When the pipe is half full, you need much less compression to make it move. You can basically let the gas flow at a leisurely pace and run the compressors at a very low power. You aren’t getting as much volume through per unit of time, but you’d be using much less power per unit of volume.
Anyone know the answer? Need some clarification?
Full disclosure - I’m wondering about the amount of carbon dioxide that would be released by compressor stations. Would a company that runs their pipes half full be in a better position regarding carbon trading or would a company with full pipes be doing better?