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Plants that use a lot of pneumatic tools or automated product handling, likely use a substantial amount of compressed air.  There are natural gas engine drive air compressors available for this market.



If the plant has at least 100 hp of air compression capacity, running at least 7,000 hours per year and 70% capacity, then they are a candidate for natural gas engine drive.  Heat recovery is an option, but the need for heat must be balanced with the added cost of the heat recovery equipment.  With these parameters, payback can be in the 2-3 year range; larger sizes or increased run hours will payback quicker.  If demand charges are high, run hours can be less important.


Electric compressor drives can be a significant part of the electric demand and are very inefficient at part loads.  Studies have shown that air compressors typically run at 60% load factor. Conventional electric motors require 90% of the full load electricity at part load.  Gas engines running at reduced RPMs require only 62% of inlet gas. (With a rotary screw drive compressor and load control.)


Heat recovery of 30% of inlet gas BTU rating can be recovered as hot water. The heat must be usable at all times that the compressor is running, or a heat dump system must also be added.



How it Works

Most manufacturers of gas engine-driven air compressor packages, are primarily manufacturers of electric motor-driven packages.  Gas engine-driven lines were developed to meet the demands of a small number of their customers and sometimes with funding from the gas industry.  The engine units have remained a very small niche market.


Simply stated, take an electric package, remove the motor and add an engine, and you have an engine-driven package.  Of course it is not that simple to get the controls, cooling systems, and coupling devices to work properly, but essentially, that is what the engine packages are.


For details on air compressors and drives, see the Air Compressor Tutorial.




There are many custom packagers who will build custom systems, mostly in large horse power sizes (500 hp and up). This section will discuss pre-packaged systems that are built to a standard specification and are therefore consider ‘off-the-shelf’ technology.


It is CRITICAL that engine-driven air compressors be purchased from someone with LOCAL support where the unit will be installed. No matter how good the manufacturer’s claims may be, units that have been installed without local support have had nearly a 100% failure rate in the long run.  The vendors listed below do not support all geographic areas, and some use sub-dealers or distributors to support some areas. Often manufacturers will subcontract engine work to local engine service companies – such as an air compressor with a Caterpillar engine could be supported by the local Caterpillar dealer for the engine and the local air compressor dealer for the air end. This will work so long as there is ONE person with overall responsibility to get the service done.


Therefore, it is HIGHLY recommended that your select a manufacturer based on the level of local support available.



Dearing Compressor & Pump Company

Dearing Compressor packages range in sizes from 50 to 550 HP. They use engines from Ford, Crusader and Caterpillar, and air ends from Gardner-Denver and Ariel.  Dearing is one of the longest available packers of gas engine drive systems, and supports several installations in the mid-west, and certain other locations were they have support from other (typically) Gardner-Denver distributors.


Robin Wall

Dearing Compressor & Pump Co.

Mailing: P.O. Box 6044 Youngstown, OH 44501

Shipping: 3974 Simon Road Youngstown OH, 44501

Phone: (330) 783-2258 Fax: (330) 783-0762





Energen AircompressorEnergen Technologies, Inc.


Energen natural gas engine-driven air compressors are engineered for continuous operation, maximum efficiency, long service life, and simple maintenance. Standard units range from 75 – 2000 hp, or custom units can be designed to fit the specific needs and applications of our customers. The systems come pre-packaged on a skid and are easily installed by qualified personnel.


Energen Technologies, Inc.

1902 Ridge Rd, Suite 160

West Seneca, NY 14224

Phone: 716-674-4616




Hurricane Compressors / Grimmer-Schmidt

Hurricane was founded by the Grimmer-Schmidt Compressor company.  They are famous for their portable air compressors that run on diesel.  They have created a line of small horsepower natural gas compressors for stationary applications.  The same product line has been marketed as both Grimmer-Schmidt and Hurricane, apparently depending on their ownership structure at the time.


Hurricane Compressors

1015 N. Hurricane Rd.

Franklin, IN 46131

Phone: 1-800-428-9703

Fax: 317-736-3831






For More Information

For more information about engine-driven air compression, visit the web site created by the Energy Solutions Center Air Compressor Consortium located at

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