Industrial gases, either delivered in bulk from an external source or manufactured on-site, are important parts of the manufacturing processes in many industries including oil refining, steelmaking, chemical processing and pharmaceuticals manufacturing, to name of few. If the supply of these vital resources is interrupted for more than a short time, these processes have to shut down — incurring substantial losses. Therefore, the reliability of the valves used in these processes is of the utmost importance.
For several decades, Metso has partnered with major industrial gas system developers and processors to devise comprehensive and systematic approaches to managing valve reliability. These approaches take into account unique requirements of the processing methods, gasses produced and geographic location of the plants. These partnerships involve all of the common industrial gas production processes including cryogenic separation, adsorption and membrane technologies. While reliability has been the primary goal of these programs, they also meet other essential considerations including safety, environmental compliance, process quality and profitability.
Toolbox of solutions
To help industrial gas manufacturers meet their contractual delivery obligations, the valve supplier must have access to a large toolbox of technologies. Having this ‘toolbox’ results in high levels of productivity and reliability at the outset, ensuring the processor meets increasingly higher plant and corporate-wide goals for continuous improvement.
Appropriate valve choices: Achieving uninterrupted uptime starts with selecting the best possible valve for the particular application – valves that have proven their merit both in extensive laboratory testing and field experience. Appropriate choices may include:
- V-port segment valves for high flow capacity applications
- RotaryGlobe valves with low flow or high pressure
- Eccentric rotary plug valves
- High-performance, triple eccentric disc valves for applications with a low-pressure differential or large pipe sizes
- Proprietary soft-seated butterfly valves for long lasting tight shut off in high cycle applications
- Cryogenic valves to meet ASU cold box extreme conditions
Expert sizing: To make sure the right valve has been selected for critical industrial gas applications, it is important to simulate the valve’s performance under actual line conditions. Expert sizing software does this by performing sophisticated calculations to reveal valve and actuator sizing problems that could lead to inadequate control or premature valve wear. This tool for valve sizing and selection has become more and more powerful ever since data collected from actual industrial gas installations has been used to further develop the software.
Application Specific Initiatives: Sometimes standard products are not enough to meet rigorous application requirements in the air separation industry. In these cases, the producer must have access to a valve partner who will undertake R&D special initiatives to further improve application specific valve packages. A notable example is the work Metso has done to develop extremely reliable, high-cycle butterfly valves for absorbent bed switching. These valves perform millions of cycles with reliable tight shutoff.
Another is in the field of cryogenics valve R&D, for which Metso has three research laboratories to support customers throughout the world. As a result of this laboratory work, valves for cryogenic use can take advantage of advanced materials that withstand extreme temperature cycles within a punishing oxygen-rich environment.
Intelligent Maintenance: No matter how robust the valve package, it will ultimately require maintenance. Pioneering work has been done in the field of intelligent valve controllers that collect and archive valve condition trend data. Because of high reliability requirements, industrial gas processors are among the most enthusiastic users of these devices. This information can be used to narrow down maintenance activities to a small population of critical valves that need maintenance immediately. This not only reduces maintenance costs but also shortens turnovers. Recently, a major air separation customer using this approach worked with Metso to develop a plan, including hardware and manpower requirements, for a turnover that was completed in just 24 hours – a corporate record.
No end in sight
Since so many industrial processes rely on industrial gasses, there will be even more initiatives to improve valve package reliability and uptime for the foreseeable future. This is particularly true in parts of the world where industry is growing rapidly and new plants and capacity expansions are underway. To meet the growing demand, industrial gas producers will be looking to partner with valve experts who have technology that can be extended to new and even greater challenges, as well as an international presence that will make it possible to replicate their solutions throughout the world.