Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Case Study From CSB: Industrial Plant Heat Exchanger Explosion

large shell and tube heat exchangers at industrial chemical plant
Primary and secondary heat exchangers, similar to the setup
in the re-enactment video
Industrial accidents, whether minor or catastrophic, can serve as sources of learning when analyzed and studied. Operators, owners, and technicians involved with industrial chemical operations have a degree of moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to conduct work in a reasonably and predictably safe manner without endangering personnel, property, or the environment. Part of a diligent safety culture should include reviewing industrial accidents at other facilities. There is much to learn from these unfortunate events, even when they happen in an industry that may seem somewhat removed from our own.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, or CSB, is an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents. Below, find one of their video reenactments and analysis of an explosion that occurred at a Louisiana chemical processing plant in 2013. A portion of the reenactment shows how a few seemingly innocuous oversights can combine with other unrecognized conditions that result in a major conflagration.

Check out the video and sharpen your senses to to be aware of potential trouble spots in your own operation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trunnion Mount Ball Valves

stainless steel trunnion mount ball valve flange connections
One example of many variants for
trunnion mount ball valves
Courtesy HS Valve
A ball valve is generally a well understood industrial valve design. Its simple quarter turn operation, bidirectional sealing, compact form factor, and tight shutoff capability make the ball valve a preferred choice for many applications. The many variants of industrial ball valves can be grouped into two categories, distinguished by a primary design feature, the mounting of the ball.

The two designs are known as floating ball and trunnion mounted ball. Floating ball valves use the seats and body to hold the ball in place within the fluid flow path, with the force of directional flow pushing the ball against the downstream seats. The floating nature of the ball limits the applicability of this design to smaller valve sizes and pressure ranges. A some point, the fluid pressure exerted on the ball surface can exceed the ability of the seats to hold the trim effectively in place.

Trunnion mount ball valves employ the stem shaft and, you guessed it, a trunnion to support the trim. The shaft and trunnion, connected to the top and bottom of the trim, establish a vertical axis of rotation for the ball and prevent it from shifting in response to flow pressure. A trunnion is a pin that protrudes from the bottom side of the ball. It sits within a bearing shape, generally cylindrical, in the base of the body.

Because of their structural design, trunnion mount ball valves are suitable for all pressure ranges and sizes.They are used by many manufacturers as a basis of design for their severe service ball valve offerings. A trunnion mount ball valve can also be advantageous for applications employing valve automation. Since the ball is not held in place by a tight fitting seal arrangement, operating torque tends to be lower for comparably sized trunnion mount valves, when compared to floating ball valves.

Whatever your valve application challenge, share it with an industrial valve expert. The combining of your process expertise and experience with their product application knowledge will yield an effective solution.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Floating Ball Valves

exploded view of floating ball valve
Exploded view of floating ball valve
Courtesy HS Valve
Ball valves are used throughout fluid based applications, from residential to heavy industrial. The compact and rugged design of this valve type provides superior service when properly applied. There are many variants of the basic design, with manufacturers providing builds that meet very specific and stringent requirements posed by certain types of industrial process control applications.

Ball valves are named for the spherically shaped element encased in the valve body directly in the fluid flow path. The ball has a hole, or port, through it’s center, permitting fluid to pass when the port is aligned with the direction of flow. A stem is attached to the ball and extends to the exterior of the valve body, providing a mechanical means of rotating the ball between open and closed positions. Ninety degrees of rotation moves the ball from the fully open to fully closed position. Ball valves are generally suitable for manual or automated operation.

In the basic design of ball valves, there are two groups which exhibit an essential structural difference that is worth mentioning. There are two ways in which the ball in a ball valve is held in place. A floating ball valve has its main trim element held in place by the shape of the valve body and the seats. It is essentially suspended in the flow path by its surrounding parts. A very small amount of lateral movement of the ball is imparted by the fluid flow, pushing the ball tightly against the seat on the downstream side. This attribute enables a floating ball valve to provide tight shutoff of bidirectional flow. The floating ball design proves less effective as the nominal bore size increases. The added weight of the larger ball, coupled with the larger surface area exposed to fluid forces, can overcome the ability of the seals to properly support the ball and maintain good performance. The maximum size can vary among manufacturers.

Enjoying all the benefits of ball valve design, plus being comparatively simple to disassemble and service, floating ball valves are a solid choice for many industrial applications. Selecting the right valve design or type is an important step toward effective control of fluid operations. Share your fluid process control challenges with a valve expert, combining your process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Rack and Pinion Style Pneumatic Actuator

pneumatic rack and pinion valve actuator
Pneumatic Rack and Pinion Valve Actuator
Courtesy Emerson - Hytork
Three primary kinds of valve actuators are commonly used: pneumatic, hydraulic, and electric.

Pneumatic actuators can be further categorized as scotch yoke design, vane design, and the subject of this post - rack and pinion actuators.

Rack and pinion actuators convert linear movement of a driving mechanism to provide a rotational movement designed to open and close quarter-turn valves such as ball, butterfly, or plug valves and also for operating industrial or commercial dampers.

Rack and Pinion Animation
Courtesy Wikipedia
The rotational movement of a rack and pinion actuator is accomplished via linear motion and two gears. A circular gear, known as a “pinion” engages the teeth of one or two linear gears, referred to as the “rack”.

Pneumatic actuators use pistons that are attached to the rack. As air or spring power is applied the to pistons, the rack changes position. This linear movement is transferred to the rotary pinion gear (in both directions) providing bi-directional rotation to open and close the connected valve.

Rack and pinion actuators pistons can be pressurized with air, gas, or oil to provide the linear the movement that drives the pinion gear. To rotate the pinion gear in the opposite direction, the air, gas, or oil must be redirected to the other side of the pistons, or use coil springs as the energy source for rotation. Rack and pinion actuators using springs are referred to as "spring-return actuators". Actuators that rely on opposite side pressurization of the rack are referred to as "direct acting".

Most actuators are designed for 100-degree travel with clockwise and counterclockwise travel adjustment for open and closed positions. World standard ISO mounting pad are commonly available to provide ease and flexibility in direct valve installation.

NAMUR mounting dimensions on actuator pneumatic port connections and on actuator accessory holes and drive shaft are also common design features to make adding pilot valves and accessories more convenient.

Pneumatic pneumatic rack and pinion actuators are compact and effective. They are reliable, durable and provide good service life. There are many brands of rack and pinion actuators on the market, all with subtle differences in piston seals, shaft seals, spring design and body designs. Some variants are specially designed for very specific operational environments or circumstances.

Share your process valve control and automation challenges with application experts, and combine your process experience and knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Appropriate Application for Pressure Regulator Valve and Back Pressure Regulator

back pressure regulator valve
One of many variants of back pressure
regulator valves
Courtesy Cash Valve
Fluids move throughout processes, driven by pressure produced with mechanical or naturally occurring means. In many cases the pressure generated by the driving source is substantially greater than what may be desired at particular process steps. In other cases, the operation may dictate that a minimum pressure be maintained within a portion of the process train. Both cases are handled by the appropriate valve type, designed specifically to regulate pressure.

A pressure regulating valve is a normally open valve that employs mechanical means, positioning itself to maintain the outlet pressure set on the valve. Generally, this type of valve has a spring that provides a countervailing force to the inlet pressure on the valve mechanism. An adjustment bolt regulates the force produced by the spring upon the mechanism, creating an equilibrium point that provides flow through the valve needed to produce the set outlet pressure. A typical application for a pressure regulator is to reduce upstream or inlet pressure to a level appropriate for downstream processing equipment.

Back pressure valves are normally closed, operating in a logically reversed fashion to pressure regulators. Where pressure regulators control outlet pressure, a back pressure valve is intended to maintain inlet pressure. Similar internals are present in the back pressure valve, with the valve action reversed when compared to a pressure regulator. An inlet pressure reduction in the back pressure valve will cause the valve to begin closing, restricting flow and increasing the inlet pressure. A representative application for a back pressure valve is a multi-port spray station. The back pressure valve will work to maintain a constant setpoint pressure to all the spray nozzles, regardless of how many may be open at a particular time.

Both of these valve types are available in an extensive array of sizes, capacities, pressure ranges, and materials of construction to accommodate every process requirement. Share your fluid control challenges with a process control specialist. Combining your process knowledge with their product application expertise will produce effective solutions.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mountain States Engineering and Controls Expands Product Offering

duplex condensate return pump with receiver tank and sight glass
Duplex condensate return pump
Courtesy Sterling Sterlco
Mountain States Engineering and Controls has added the Sterling Sterlco line of condensate pump, boiler feed pump, and temperature control valve products to round out its comprehensive offering of instruments and equipment for steam systems and process cooling.

The Sterlco condensate pumps are available in simplex or duplex configurations, with pump and receiver capacity ratings to accommodate a broad range of industrial and commercial applications. Option selections round out the flexible product specification.

Boiler feed pump units from Sterlco provide a similar extensive range of receiver and pump capacities, along with options to meet application specific requirements.

The Sterlco self powered modulating temperature control valves are available in eight sizes and provide regulation of coolant flow to a machine or process. Their simple design provides rugged temperature actuated performance in a wide array of cooling applications.

There is more to learn about Sterling Sterlco condensate pumps, temperature control valves, and boiler feed pumps. For the latest product information, or to work on a solution to your steam or cooling system challenges, reach out to an application expert and combine your facilities and process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Summary of Technologies Used For Continuous Liquid Level Measurement in Industrial Process Control

differential pressure transmitter with purge control for downpipe measurement
Differential pressure liquid level transmitter with
integrated downpipe purge control (bubbler method)
Courtesy King-Gage
Automated liquid processing operations in many fields have requirements for accurate and reliable level measurement. The variety of media and application criteria demand continuous improvement in the technology, while still retaining niches for older style units utilizing methods that, through their years of reliable service, inspire confidence in operators.

Here is a synopsis of the available technologies for instruments providing continuous liquid level measurement. All are generally available in the form of transmitters with 4-20 mA output signals, and most are provided with additional outputs and communications. What is notably not covered here are level switches or level gauges that do not deliver a continuous output signal corresponding to liquid level.

Whether considering a new installation or upgrading an existing one, it can be a good exercise to review several technologies as possible candidates for a project. None of the technologies would likely be considered the best choice for all applications. Evaluating and selecting the best fit for a project can be facilitated by reaching out to a product application specialist, sharing your applications challenges and combining your process knowledge with their product expertise to develop an effective solution.

Displacer – A displacer is essentially a float and a spring that are characterized for a particular liquid and range of surface level movement. The displacer moves in response to liquid level, changing the location of a core connected to the displacer by a stem. The core is within a linear variable differential transformer. The electrical output of the transformer changes as the core moves.

Guided Wave Radar – A radar based technology that uses a waveguide extending into the liquid. The radar signal travels through the waveguide, basically a tube. The liquid surface level creates a dielectric condition that generates a reflection. Calculations and processing of the emitted and returned signals provide a measure of distance to the liquid surface. No moving parts.

Magnetostrictive – A method employing measurement of the transit time of an electric pulse along a wire extending down an enclosed tube oriented vertically in the media. A magnetic float on the exterior of the tube moves with the liquid surface. The float’s magnetic field produces the return signal to the sensor. Processing the time from emission to return provides a measure of distance to the liquid surface.

Pulse Burst Radar - A radar based technology employing emissions in precisely timed bursts. The emission is reflectex from the liquid surface and transit time from emission to return is used to determine distance to media surface.  Not adversely impacted by changes in media conductivity, density, pressure, temperature. No moving parts.

Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave Radar – Another radar based technology that employs a radar signal that sweeps linearly across a range of frequencies. Signal processing determines distance to media surface.  Not adversely impacted by changes in media conductivity, density, pressure, temperature. No moving parts.

RF Capacitance - As media rises and falls in the tank, the amount of capacitance developed between the sensing probe and the ground reference (usually the side metal sidewall) also rises and falls. This change in capacitance is converted into a proportional 4-20 mA output signal. Requires contact between the media and the sensor, as well as a good ground reference. No moving parts.

Ultrasonic Non-Contact – Ultrasonic emission from above the liquid is reflected off the surface. The transit time between emission and return are used to calculate the distance to the liquid surface. No contact with media and no moving parts.

Differential Pressure – Pressure sensor at the bottom of a vessel measures the pressure developed by the height of the liquid in the tank. No moving parts. A variation of this method is often called a bubbler, which essentially measures hydrostatic pressure exerted on  the gas in a tube extending into the contained liquid. It has the advantage of avoiding contact between the measuring instrument parts, with the exception of the dip tube, and the subject liquid.

Laser - Probably one of the latest arrivals on the liquid level measurement scene, laser emission and return detection is used with time interval measuring to accurately determine the distance from the sensor source to the liquid surface.

Load Cell - A load cell or strain gauge can be incorporated into the support structure of the liquid containing vessel. Changes in the liquid level in the vessel are detected as distortions to the structure and converted, using tank geometry and specific gravity of the liquid.

All of these technologies have their own set of attributes which may make them more suitable to a particular range of applications. Consulting with a product specialist will help determine which technologies are the best fit for your application.