Twenty-five years ago, the member companies of the Valve Manufacturers Association of America (VMA) saw a need to promote both safety and quality in valve and actuator repair. As a result, the service operations of VMA members banded together to create the Valve Repair Council (VRC). As part of its mandate to educate manufacturers, rebuilders and customers on the importance of proper service and to provide a forum for an exchange of information, the VRC sponsors events such as this year’s meeting and exhibition in Houston, which was June 5-6.
Attendees from across the valve repair industry came together to hear a diverse array of topics on safety, repair trends, the latest revisions in standards for valve repair and more.
Rod Helm, EHS manager, basic rigging at Granite Services International, emphasized the importance of considering every aspect of rigging and hoisting valves under service.
“While this may seem obvious, you wouldn’t believe how often something critical is forgotten,” he said. “You have to consider everything that has an effect on the movement of equipment.”
Helm itemized variables that must be considered and explained how each could be handled. While weight, shape and size of the load seem like obvious factors to look at, the center of gravity is a bit more difficult to ascertain but just as critical, he pointed out.
Awareness of overhead hazards, the travel path and the footing of cranes is also essential—factors most operators already know. “But, do you know if the equipment has been inspected? Do you know that the crane you’re operating or the lift or hoist is in good shape? Did you inspect the slings and rigging hardware? If there is pilling or wear on a webbed strap, it could give way with weight,” Helm said.
Deductions for maximum load must always be taken when ropes or rigging have wear, he said, or if splices have occurred.
He also warned that softeners need to be used when rigging something over a sharp edge.
“You can’t believe how many people will stick a piece of cardboard between a sharp edge and a strap. Cardboard has zero protection ability for rigging,” Helm said. He recommended fire hoses as the best possible choice. Helm also pointed out the necessity of appointing a dedicated signal person for a crane operator. That should be the person’s only task, “No tag lines, no rigging, nothing else,” he said. He also warned that, while cranes often have computers in them, a computer in a mobile crane is to assist the operator—it is not a substitute for the heavy lifting. “Safety must be priority one,” he warned.
It’s clear from the recent VMA “Careers in the Valve Industry” survey, that manufacturers are having difficulty finding personnel to fill open positions (see page 27), with the hardest slots to fill coming from the sales end and the production line. The survey also showed that 29% of companies report it’s tough to get people who know repair, service and maintenance.
These statistics will only get worse as skilled workers retire. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, the nation can expect to see a 10% increase in valve maintenance employment by 2022.
In her presentation at the VRC meeting, Judi Camerano of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas said this new demand for skills has translated into a skyrocketing demand for thorough and responsive training programs. At the same time, the way valve technicians and other personnel in the oil and gas industry are trained are evolving partly because of generational and individual differences in the way people learn.
Camerano explained one way companies are meeting those needs is through blended learning.
Blended learning is “a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction,” she said, thereby giving that student some control over the timing, location and pace of his or her learning. Most blended programs are a hybrid of computer-based training such as e-learning, self-paced videos, online book programs with audio training, classroom training, webinars, seminars and performance-based, on-the-job-training.
The advantage of this type of learning is that it appeals to people no matter whether they are audio, visual or kinesthetic learners, Camerano said.
By using a blended learning approach, students see, hear and do, so everything they ingest through eyes and ears is reinforced by actually doing something with their hands. This also aids in long-term memory of the information, she added.
By combining self-paced instruction with instructor-directed and guided learning, trainees tend to be more proactive in their learning experience.
The down side of this method is that it is more expensive and takes longer than traditional training methods. However, with generations of video gamers coming into the workforce, the general consensus is that training will have to change, and blended learning is one solution, she concluded.
Whenever valve professionals get together, you can be sure some discussion will occur on the varied and numerous standards that affect every aspect of their work. The VRC meeting was no exception. Here is some of what was discussed:
According to Glenn Hamilton, engineering manager, and Kevin Gentry, business development manager of Gulf Coast Modification, in the distant past, valve shops were not considered a trusted part of the supply chain by manufacturers or end users. However, as user needs became more specific, manufacturers realized there was support for modification facilities. The first manufacturers to approve modification facilities were Kitz and Velan in the early 1980s.
Since then, many manufacturers have selected, audited and approved modification facilities throughout the country, and end users have accepted the modification shops as an extension of the manufacturers and a vital part of the supply chain.
To ensure the quality of these modifications, standards have been created. One of the first was Manufacturers Standardization Society (MSS) SP 141. This standard covers multi-turn and check valve modifications and establishes the minimum requirements for modification of new gate, globe and check valves that have been manufactured to industry guidelines, but require modification to meet end-user specifications.
“Every step of the modification process is covered, which gives the OEM confidence that a modified product meets codes and standards that customers expect,” Gentry said. The standard establishes a quality system based on ISO 9001 or API Q1 and specifies the documentation and design requirements. It also mandates that OEMs must authorize any modifications and that non-conformances are addressed in a timely and systematic manner.
SP 141 covers welding and joining, heat treatment, marking and traceability, and even the manner in which valves are disassembled and assembled.
Also addressed is non-destructive examination, which Hamilton said, “follows the American Society for Non-Destructive Testing’s recommended practice.” Hydrostatic pressure testing, dye penetrant of valve body and bonnet, magnetic particle examination of body bonnet and radiography of critical areas per ASME B16.34 are also addressed.
In addition, MSS SP 141 covers trim changes, bolting, hardness testing, packing and gasket replacement. It specifies that the maximum operating temperature on a valve tag must be changed if it is lowered by the gasket change.
In short, every possible scenario has been considered to ensure that an end user and OEM are confident that a modification will meet rigorous requirements, speakers said.
EPA Action and API 624/641
Scott Boyson of AW Chesterton Company reported at the meeting that: “Leaking equipment is still the largest source of hazardous air pollutant emission from petroleum refineries and chemical manufacturing facilities,” and the largest amounts of that emission are coming from valves.
Boyson pointed out that recent EPA monitoring during on-site audits showed three to five times more leaks than what was reported. Thanks largely to electronic monitoring, inspectors can sift through huge amounts of data and, if they find a problem, they issue consent decrees, which are essentially EPA lawsuits in which companies agree to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt.
“Part of a consent decree is punitive,” Boyson said, as in, ‘You harm the environment, you pay a penalty.’ But the real purpose is to get them [violators] to prevent the leaks. It saves money for the plant, and it’s less harmful to the environment.”
As of June, 2014 Boyson reported that over 90% of refineries are operating under a consent decree, and the EPA has been focusing recently on chemical plants. DuPont, Dow, Formosa, Sabic, Solutia and Ineos are now operating under consent decrees, and gas processing facilities are the next target for increased monitoring and audits.
“They’re trying to send warning shots to the refineries, chemical plants and gas processing plants,” Boyson said. “They want to see work practices that proactively reduce the likelihood of developing a leak. This can and does have a big effect on valve repair.”
Boyson said that standards for valves and packing currently are changing and being tightened. The recently published API 624 affects gate and globe valves while a standard being drafted, API 641, will affect quarter-turn valves such as ball, butterfly and plug valves. Meanwhile, the repair of valves for low emission performance is also addressed by API RP 621. (See Greg Johnson’s comments next page).
According to Rodney Roth, also of Chesterton, the changes being made impact design, tolerances, assembly, packing requirements and expertise. As a result, low-emission certified valves, packing and repair will become more important in the future.
“For valve people, this opens up opportunities,” Roth said. “Enforcement is going to continue, which will increase demand for technology and expertise offered by repair shops and suppliers.”
Meanwhile, “The old way is no longer the best way; plant personnel are relying on their suppliers to support them, and they say they want their suppliers to be proactive, not reactive,” he added.
Roth pointed out the situation will create a shift in market share, and repair shops will have different requirements as the standards continue to evolve.
“They will have to increase their knowledge and get more technical training and work with others like packing manufacturers and valve OEMs that can assist them,” Roth said.
Greg Johnson, president of United Valve, covered RP 621, which specifically addresses repairs for emissions.
Johnson stressed to the audience, “Once you take custody of a repair, you have to adhere to the new standards and you have responsibility, but you also have opportunity.”
As end users balance the concerns of their accountants and attorneys, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EPA, those concerns result in more detailed standards to reduce liability and improve safety. “Sometimes it’s almost easier to meet these requirements when you are repairing as opposed to bringing in new valves,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, RP 621 is a compilation of Exxon, Mobil, Dow, Shell and other user repair specifications. About 10 of these specifications were homogenized to put the original edition together, which came out in the spring of 2001.
RP 621 provides guidelines for reconditioning heavy wall (API 600 and API 594) carbon steel, ferritic alloy (up to 9% Cr), stainless steel, and nickel alloy gate, globe and check valves for ASME pressure classes 150, 300, 600, 900, 1500 and 2500. Guidelines in this RP apply to flanged and butt-weld cast or forged valves, but the standard does not cover quarter-turn valves. It also does not cover control or pressure relief valves.
Under the standard, when the owner (user) ships valves to the repair facility, they must provide a complete range of product or service information and the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product. All products must be drained, and the valves are to be sufficiently decontaminated and shipped in the open position.
Another essential component under RP 621 is that every valve undergoing repair must be traceable. Each valve must have a unique ID number. There must be a digital or hard copy shop traveler; all dimensional changes and weld repair information must be recorded; and a new stainless-steel tag with repair data has to be affixed to the valve.
The current economic and environmental climate has more standards and more detail in standards. As Johnson put it, “Nobody wants accidents. The ramifications for a plant manager or CEO in a plant are huge.”
They can be held criminally liable if they do anything to alter the chain on their process equipment or if they don’t keep it up with maintenance issues.
“Plant managers have gone to prison because they haven’t looked after things,” Johnson said, which is a significant incentive to be sure valves are repaired according to standards. VM