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VALVE Magazine’s Top Ten Stories: 2013

VALVE Magazines Top Ten Stories 2013At VALVE Magazine, we’re always looking for great articles that offer valuable information to our readers. As we plan for a new year, we look back at the previous year to see what most piqued your interest. In past years, articles strong on technical information have been favorites, and 2013 was no different. However, the top two spots were nabbed by quite different topics!

So…. Drum roll, please…. In reverse order, the top ten articles published online in 2013, as determined by you, our readers. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read them, take advantage of this list to find out what you’ve been missing! Just click on the title to get directly to the article at VALVEMagazine.com.

10. Valve Automation Solutions for Shale

With the shale gas and oil playing an increasingly important role in the energy mix throughout North America, it’s no surprise this was such a popular article!

The public is genuinely concerned about the safety of this unconventional technology, as well as water usage/disposal and how the drilling and production might impact the environment and their communities. Oil and gas producers are very aware of the need to avoid adverse events or activities that might result in an impact on regulations. They are also familiar with the consequences of bad press and negative public opinion that any production upset would incur. Frequently these producers are in the “crosshairs” of 24/7 media coverage that can be inaccurate, incomplete and prone to sensationalism.

This article discusses the applicability of existing and proposed regulations on these issues as well as the industry oversight that promises to have an enormous impact on onshore oil and gas wells and related activities. The article also identifies and addresses many of the current equipment technologies regarding valve automation solutions or final control elements.

9. Third Generation Valve Diagnostics

Every industry is seeking responsible ways to save time and money. This article did a great job of explaining how third generation valve diagnostics can help in that regard.

The ability to prevent unexpected shutdowns and maintain control valve performance is directly linked to profitability. However, when a so-called preventive or schedule-based maintenance strategy is followed, many valves are often needlessly maintained during shutdowns. One study found that, in process plants, 50% of maintenance work was not necessary and 10% was actually harmful.

With large numbers of experienced workers retiring and being replaced by a leaner and less experienced workforce, end users need access to a new generation of tools that allow them to interpret data and devise appropriate corrective strategies while avoiding the pitfalls outlined above. The third generation of diagnostics is now playing an important role by facilitating this transition from traditional corrective and schedule-based maintenance to predictive maintenance.

8. Noise from Cavitation

noise from cavitation 1A reminder that noise is not just hard on the humans in your facility; it can wreak havoc on your entire system.

Just as sound can have negative effects on the human body, certain frequencies can play havoc on industrial equipment. When control valves are not selected appropriately, there is an increased risk for cavitation which can lead to degraded control capability and rapid deterioration of the control valve itself. This in turn causes high noise and vibration levels, resulting in very rapid damage to downstream piping and other equipment.

Most of this damage is caused by vibrational noise energy, accelerated corrosion, and process contamination. Predicting cavitation and taking steps to eliminate it is the only way to avoid a costly and ongoing problem.

7. Greater Plant Efficiency Through Positioner Innovation

Valve Performance and FailureA common theme throughout these popular articles was how important it is to take advantage of technological advances. In this article, positioner innovations were considered.

Plant operators across the world are tasked with maximizing efficiency and output from existing facilities, which can be a major challenge when there are many valves and actuators. Plant management strategy to accomplish this task includes developing a better understanding of how valve and control assets perform in the field and to adopt preventative maintenance to minimize plant downtime. Valve positioner technology today has evolved to help plant managers with this major challenge, thanks in part to advancements in digital communications protocols. These and other innovations have led to digital valve positioners that operate as mini-steady-state controllers, enabling field level automatic controls.

6. Best Practices in Pressure-Relief Valve Maintenance and Repair

VMA meetings and education events are the source of a great wealth of information. This article is a summary of a presentation given at the Valve Repair Council Repair Meeting & Exhibition.

When sizing PRVs, it is essential to have comprehensive knowledge of valve theory and the applicable codes as they pertain to sizing and selection, as well as knowledge of the PRV types, capabilities and constraints. There must always be close communication between the PRV supplier, end-user and engineering firm, and it should only be done by experienced, well-trained, technical personnel. Understanding repair parts, managing them and having spare valve inventory is key to controlling costs. By understanding the typical repair issues and having an established asset management protocol, facilities can avoid repeat issues, reduce costs and improve safety.

5. Technical Challenges in Valves in Oil Sand Extraction

sagd-centre-330x330Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board has said it expects output from the province’s oil sands to double to 3.8 million barrels a day by 2022. No wonder this article on technical challenges in oil sands extraction garnered so much interest.

Recent developments in heavy oil extraction technology for the Canadian oil and gas industry have created a need for new flow control solutions in steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD). In this environment, all components including valves, pumps and production chokes must be able to handle the severe service of highly abrasive materials, high temperatures and a corrosive environment. Canada’s severe cold adds to the challenges for the materials and technology which must stand up to oil, gas and produced/brackish water and multiphase fluids with entrained sand. Working closely with a flow control partner that understands every stage of the process is essential, and has resulted in development of coatings and alloys that have insured the stability of many specially engineered valves.

4. The Mighty Steam Trap

The importance of choosing the right steam trap is reflected in the popularity of this article, which provided readers with a comprehensive checklist to match requirements of specific applications to the capabilities of different steam trap technologies.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s brought about widespread use of steam as a means of generating power, performing work and delivering heat to industrial process systems. While an effective and efficient means of providing heat and power, steam use brought several challenges. The steam trap was developed to meet the challenge of effectively removing condensate to ensure thermal efficiency and prevent mechanical damage inside of piping, turbines and process equipment. Effective use of these traps can ensure that maximum thermal efficiency is maintained at the same time that mechanical damage to equipment is avoided. Ineffective use of steam traps, however, can lead to accidents, reduced process capabilities and significant energy losses throughout a plant.

3. Trends in Independent Valve Pressure Testing

With climate change making environmental issues a greater part of the collective consciousness, this article was a great reminder of the value of non-destructive testing to ensure systems meet ever more stringent standards.

Before the industry slowdown of 2008, some end users performed third-party pressure testing of valves for use in critical service according to the acceptance criteria of ASME B16.34, API-598, API-6D and others. Since that time, the world has become more environmentally conscious and demand for additional valve NDE can be seen as a result of this. This increase has been noted on non-destructive evaluations (NDE) such as radiographic testing (RT), magnetic particle inspection, liquid penetrant inspection (Figure 1) and visual inspection of valve body castings to meet customer specific requirements or industry standards such as ASME B16.34 Section 8 for special class services. Performing NDE such as RT on a valve body/bonnet casting requires the full disassembly of the valve to gain unobstructed access to critical areas of the casting. Once an RT is complete and the castings verified as defect-free or the castings weld-repaired to meet industry codes, the valves can then be assembled, bolting torqued to OEM specification and the valve fully pressure-tested to ensure no seat or shell (atmospheric) leaks.

2. Ancient Roman Valves

Figure 1While current technology is always interesting, our readers obviously enjoyed the historical significance of this article on ancient valve technology.

The story of water supply in the ancient Roman Empire is grand. The transport and hydraulic control of large quantities of fresh water was one of the factors in the immense, unprecedented success of the Roman Empire. Several technological accomplishments by the Roman engineers made water available to the urban centers. Among these accomplishments were aqueduct design, surveying, tunneling construction, lead piping, inverted siphons, lead storage tanks and valves. The Romans used lead piping to distribute water to cities and towns throughout the Roman Empire. The use of valves to control the flow of water in these pipeline systems was also Empire wide. This universal use of valves and piping required a level of standardization that is familiar to modern engineers.

1. 2014 Market Outlook

It seems that everyone wants to know how to plan for the future, and this year’s VMA Market Outlook article reflected that in the large numbers of viewers, both online and in print, who spent time with this comprehensive report.

Attendees at VMA’s 2014 Market Outlook workshop received mostly positive reports from speakers who agreed that, while the nation is in recovery, the road forward is filled with more than a few bumps. While abundance and availability of natural gas is definitely a major influence, speakers said North America’s economic future will also be affected by the upswing in tight oil production. Those two factors could lead to energy self-sufficiency on the continent by the end of this decade and fuel a resurgence in the domestic petrochemical and manufacturing industries thanks to low feedstock prices and relatively inexpensive electricity.

While his talk was generally positive, popular speaker Alan Bealieu said that the economy in 2015 will heat up; there will be more demand for gas and oil and just about everything, but there will be inflationary pressures as well. Beaulieu predicted growth will continue from 2015 until the middle of 2018. Then in 2019, it all unravels—there are both high interest and high inflation rates ahead, and when that happens, the nation will know it’s getting close to the cliff that will lead into what he calls the great depression of 2030.

So those are the top ten stories of 2013. Is there a topic you would like to see covered in 2014? Or do you have an idea for an article? We’d love to hear from you.

Kate Kunkel is senior editor of VALVE Magazine. Contact her with your suggestions or comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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