Air Compressors For Oil & Gas Service And Maintenance Work

December 28, 2021

As the oil and gas industry powers buildings and vehicles across the globe, there are thousands of workers who dedicate their lives to keeping oil and gas machinery in prime working condition. These dedicated service workers use a variety of tools and equipment to get this essential work done, including air compressors.

Mobile Air Compressors For Oilfield Work

Air compressors are one of the most important pieces of equipment in oil and gas service and maintenance work, but not all air compressors are created equal. First and foremost, air compressors used in oilfield service work need to be mobile. In addition, they must be capable of high duty cycles, and be able to work in extreme and harsh conditions.

Vehicle Integrated & Mounted Solutions

There are a few styles of mobile air compressors on the market today but the best options for mobile service work are vehicle integrated or vehicle mounted. While tow-behind air compressors are popular on urban job sites, they are far too bulky for the rugged terrain of remote sites. Instead, the ideal oil and gas air compressor is attached to the service truck, ensuring it can go anywhere the truck goes.

Vehicle Integrated

Vehicle integrated air compressors are intertwined with a service truck’s existing components and use the vehicle’s engine belt drive system or PTO as the power source for the compressor. There are various vehicle-integrated air compressors available, including UNDERHOOD® compressors that mount in the engine compartment and Direct-Transmission Mounted compressors that mount on the transmission block.

Vehicle Mounted

An alternative option to vehicle integrated compressors is vehicle-mounted or “above deck” air compressors. These air compressors have their own gas or diesel engine or utilize hydraulic power and mount onto the deck of the service vehicle. These solutions are often less expensive than vehicle integrated models but require separate engine maintenance.

Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Another important consideration for oil and gas work is the type of air compressor used. The two standard options are rotary screw and reciprocating, but only rotary screw is well equipped for the oil and gas industry due to its 100% duty cycle capabilities.

If there’s one industry that knows time is money, it’s the oil and gas industry, where every minute of downtime can equal significant revenue losses. Rotary screw air compressors operate continuously, ensuring that service and repair work is never interrupted waiting for air.

By contrast, reciprocating air compressors operate at as low as 20% duty cycle, almost guaranteeing that operators will have to wait around for their air supply to rebuild.

UNDERHOOD® Air Compressors

UNDERHOOD-On_EngineUNDERHOOD air compressors are highly innovative compressors made exclusively by VMAC. UNDERHOOD air compressors mount within the vehicle’s engine compartment and use belt drives to draw power from the engine. UNDERHOOD air compressors are an excellent choice for service trucks when space and weight are a concern, and these innovative systems are available in models that deliver up to 40, 70, or 140 CFM.

UNDERHOOD systems are engineered and designed for the specific vehicle models they will be installed on, and mounting kits are available for Ford, RAM, GMC/Chevrolet, International trucks, and Ford, GMC/Chevrolet, and Sprinter vans. To confirm vehicle compatibility, view the UNDERHOOD application list.

Direct-Transmission Mounted Air Compressors

DTM mounted on EngineAnother vehicle integrated option for oilfield service trucks is VMAC’s Direct-Transmission Mounted Air Compressor. These incredible innovative air compressors are mounted directly to the vehicle’s transmission block and are powered by a PTO.

The DTM70 provides up to 70 CFM of air at 100% duty cycle, making it a versatile and powerful option for oil and gas repair work. The DTM70 also comes in a model with hydraulics, called the DTM70-H, which allows operators to use their compressed air and hydraulic systems such as cranes, at the same time.

DTM air compressors are currently available for popular Ford and RAM diesel service vehicles. Check out the DTM application list for additional details.

Hydraulic Air Compressors

The hydraulic air compressor is one of the most popular vehicle mounted air options for oilfield service work. This is almost always the way to go for service vehicles that require a crane because hydraulic air compressors are reliable, powerful, and efficient.

Hydraulic air compressors integrate into the vehicle’s existing hydraulic system and use those hydraulics to power the air compressor. They are an excellent choice for service vehicles with limited available space.


VMAC currently has two hydraulic air compressors, the H40, and the H60, used by countless fleets across North America. The H40 provides 25 to 40 CFM of compressed air at 100% duty cycle, while the H60 provides the same duty cycle at 40 to 60 CFM.

Diesel Air Compressors & Multifunction Systems

Another solid option for air power in the oilfield is a diesel air compressor. However, most diesel air compressors cannot be used in the oil and gas industry because of the potential for engine runaway. Diesel engines can draw fuel from the surrounding environment, causing the engine to overspeed and run indefinitely.

At best, diesel engine runaway causes excessive wear on the compressor, resulting in mechanical failure and seizure. At worst, the engine can catch fire and possibly explode, creating a dangerous and unnecessary hazard for everyone in the vicinity.

Fortunately, diesel air compressors with a positive air shutoff system, such as ShockerPASS®, will prevent runaway from occurring. This technology detects when an engine is overspeeding and automatically shuts off the air supply valve, which starves the engine of fuel. In doing so, the diesel engine turns off, protecting itself and any property and personnel in the area.

Diesel Multifunction Systems For Oil & Gas Maintenance

While remote field workers require access to compressed air on demand, it isn’t the only piece of equipment necessary to complete their work. Innovative manufacturers like VMAC have combined diesel air compressors with several other useful components ideal for remote fieldwork, creating multipower systems that can tackle any job.

CAT-MF-MountedFor example, VMAC’s Oilman series 6-in-1 Multifunction includes:

  • 45 CFM Rotary Screw Air Compressor
  • 8 kW Continuous AC Generator
  • 250 A DC Welder (adjustable)
  • 12-24 V Battery Charger (adjustable)
  • 12-24 V Battery Booster (adjustable)
  • 2,800 RPM Power Take-Off Port
  • 10 GPM @ 2800psi (max) Hydraulic Pump
  • Factory-installed Cold Climate Kit – 120 V, tested to -40°F (-40°C)
  • ShockerPASS® Positive Air Shutoff System

stacked-G30 Air compressorGas Driven Air Compressors

Gas air compressors are another potential option for oil and gas service and maintenance work.

Gas engines can control the amount of air supplied to the engine, which means gas driven air compressors don’t have the same runaway concerns as diesel air compressors.

Therefore, oil and gas workers can choose a rotary screw gas air compressor that meets their CFM requirements, as well as any size and weight limitations. For those interested in gas air compressors, VMAC’s stacked G30 and standard G30 are great options to consider.

The Right Air Compressor For Oil & Gas Service Trucks

Choosing the right air compressor for oil and gas service trucks can be challenging. However, there is a short list: rotary screw air compressors that are vehicle integrated or vehicle mounted.

For workers who need every pound of their GVWR and every inch of deck space available, vehicle integration is the ideal option that leads to an UNDERHOOD or Direct-Transmission Mounted air compressor. If a few cubic feet and pounds can be spared, above deck hydraulic, diesel, or gas driven air compressors are often the way to go.

Last but certainly not least, a 6-in-1 Multifunction is an excellent option for oilfield maintenance workers who need to be prepared for anything. It’s the perfect go-to for remote oil and gas equipment servicing when you can’t go back to the shop.

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