Working Worthington Gas Compressor Engines

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Bryan Cosby
A line of Worthington horizontal double-acting compressor engines at the Natural Gas Pipeline Co. pumping station in Balko, Oklahoma, in the 1980s.

Although modern turbines started to replace large gas engines as power units in natural gas pumping stations decades ago, the legacy of gas engines as motivators in industry continues to express itself.

In Flywheel Forum in the February/March 2019 issue, we published two photographs submitted by reader Bryan Cosby showing 1,750hp Worthington double-acting tandem twin gas compressor engines in a pumping station in Hooker, Oklahoma. Bryan worked at the station for five years in the 1980s, and during his employment he took photographs of many of the engines. As Bryan told us in the February/March issue, the station, which was operated by Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America, was sold to another company and shut down in the 1990s. This issue, Bryan sends in more photographs of the pumping stations (one in Hooker and a second some 50 miles southeast of Hooker in Balko, Oklahoma) showing the engines as installed.

Bryan doesn’t have the full history of the installations, but says the first engine compressor unit was set up around 1941. “The rated horsepower before they were shut down was 1,750hp at 125rpm,” Bryan says. “They were turbocharged sometime in the 1960s or ’70s, I’m not sure what the horsepower was before the turbos were added. They were 2-stage compressor units. I believe the right side (standing facing the flywheel on the compressor end of the unit) was the low stage, the left the high stage. One odd thing with the 2-stage setup on these was there was no cooler between the low to high stage. Every other multiple-stage compressor unit I’ve experienced cooled the gas between stages. These just had a large pulsation dampener. Suction pressure to the station was 150psi. Discharge ran around 750psi. We always ran two engines during the four or five years I worked there.”

From what Bryan tells us, both Station 101 and Station 102 were equipped with Worthington horizontals. There were also Cooper-Bessemer verticals installed as auxiliary units at Station 102 and several V-type engines at both stations, Bryan’s photos showing Ingersoll Rand V8s at Station 101 and a Clark V10 at Station 102. Another photo shows a series of what look to be Clark V12 engines, although it’s not clear where they were installed.

As Bryan told us, the engines were taken out of service at some point in the 1990s. Judging by a recent photograph of one of the sites, the stations have been abandoned, yet they appear undisturbed, suggesting the engines may possibly still be in place. If they’d been scrapped we’d expect to see evidence of that, as their removal would most certainly require removing sections of the buildings. It’s nice to think some of them might yet survive instead of having been scrapped, a fate suffered by most of these old leviathans from the early days of gas engine technology.

Special thanks to Bryan for sending these additional images in. The GPS coordinates for the installation are 36.8328211,-101.2618014.

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