Compressed air to run a turbine?

Compressed air to run a turbine
(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

Can compressed air drive a steam or gas turbine? What would be the amount of air required to be compressed to run a turbine that can generate 5KWh of electricity for a period of say, 6 hours? How large should the cylinder be, and what is the maximum PSI that this cylinder should have capability to hold? Further, what kind of an air compressor should I install to compress the air into the cylinder?

First question; can compressed air drive a turbine. No doubt that compressed air can, depending on the requirements of the turbine.

The real question is the price-competitive ability to generate that compressed air, in sufficient volume, to effectively run the turbine.

You will have to ask the turbine manufacturer what volume of gas (be it steam or other gas (compressed air) is required to drive their turbine, and at what pressure that flow is required.

Note that compressed air is one of the most expensive energy sources since compressing air in the first place has significant cost so there will have to be a good, economic or safety related reason for selecting compressed air over say, a steam driven turbine.

When you ask about the cylinder, are you speaking of the method of compressing the air? A reciprocating compressor will have one or more cylinders and those cylinder sizes will be predicated on the machine design and what it’s compressed air output capacity is.

Or, when you ask about cylinder, are you asking about a compressed air holding tank?

If the latter, you can get compressed air tanks that are rated in the 100’s of PSI and you can get others that are rated for thousands of PSI. The type of ¬†storage facility will be determined by the pressure and flow requirements of the turbine.

The type of compressor, assuming you have done the necessary investigation to see that it’s cost competitive to use compressed air, will be determined by the application. What compressed air flow do you need, at what pressure do you need it, what voltage of power supply do you have available, what is the expected¬† duty cycle is required…and so on?

If you haven’t the skills to determine the answers, I really think you need to be talking with an industrial engineer.

Hello, I am Bill, the Compressed-Air-Man. I have years of experience in industrial and residential compressed air applications, air compressors and general pneumatics. I created this site to help professionals, students, and DIYers understand and properly implement and maintain compress3ed air systems.


  1. What formulas are used to calculate psi?
    If compressed air is added to the atmospheric pressure already inside a compression cylinder, where compressed air is further compressed, what is the impact on the formulas needed to calculate psi, or volume or compressed air?
    Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.


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