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VALVE Magazine’s Top Ten Stories: 2014

valve padOur goal at VALVE Magazine is to publish great articles that offer valuable information to our readers. Part of that entails going back over the previous year to see what articles grabbed your attention, and which topics were of most concern to you. As has been the case in years past, articles covering technical issues, especially concerning safety, captivated you most. But concerns about security and questions about the economy are also on our readers’ radar.

So here, in reverse order, the top 10 articles published online in 2014, 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. Five Key Criteria for Selecting Low-Temperature Valves

Specifying and consulting engineers, engineering houses, original equipment manufacturers and end users depend on valves to control the flow of compressed air or other fluids and on cylinders to control motion. But the cold truth is that low temperatures can cause problems for these fluid automation devices all along the line—from selection and delivery to operation and maintenance.

This article outlined the five key qualities to consider when purchasing valves, cylinders and other fluid automation devices for application in low ambient temperatures: Reliability and reputation, certification and compliance, breadth and depth of offering, low temperature and low power capabilities, and service and support. By paying attention to these issues when choosing products, users, designers and other specifiers will experience reliable performance in cold conditions for many years.

9. Improving Valve Sealing Performance and Reliability

Approximately 300,000 tons of fugitive emissions are released each year in the United States, according to the Fluid Sealing Association, and regulations put in place to lower that number are being added every year. Combine that regulatory pressure and the stresses of today’s economic environment, and it is obvious that OEMs and end users are increasingly seeking solutions that not only reduce emissions but also result in a permanent and noticeable increase in the service life of their products and equipment. Performance, value, reliability, repeatability and safety are all factors that are taken into account when developing and purchasing products to perform in this environment.

Considering all plant equipment and applications, the greatest contributors to fugitive emissions are valves, and the author of this article discussed how a comprehensive valve enhancement program created to improve sealing considers the entirety of the valve and addresses performance and reliability issues to not only decrease leakage, but also to improve valve performance and efficiency.

8. Proactive Defect Detection with Simulation Software

Through-wall leakers in cast valve bodies often can be the end result of undetected defective areas created during the metal casting process. Such failures in service are extremely undesirable for valve manufacturers as well as end users, and in many cases such failures could pose significant health and safety concerns.

This article covers common casting defects and the limitations of common defect detection methods or non-destructive evaluation (NDE), along with enumeration of the challenging nature of defect detection. The author also presented a casting process simulation as a means of detecting and eliminating the casting defects that commonly lead to the failure of valve castings.

7. Improve Ethylene Conversion

Olefin production plants use a variety of feedstocks. The type of feedstock used will impact the type of recovery technology, but no matter the feedstock, control valve performance is an essential part of plant operations. In a series of three articles, critical control valve applications in the furnace, cracked gas processing and fractionation processing were covered, but our Number 7 most popular article dealt specifically with the furnace.

Control valve considerations related to furnace operation include noise abatement trim to reduce effects of noise and vibration, trim materials engineered for high-temperature service, sealing technologies to provide tight shutoff preventing valuable leakage and the accessories available to facilitate fast stroking requirements.

6. You Don’t Have a Malware Problem

Cybersecurity is of increasing concern around the world. Our sixth most popular article from 2014 presented a sobering look at the multiple ways in which attack groups can threaten your company’s data and its security. The author stated: “You don’t have a malware problem, you have an adversary problem. Whether it’s a common banking Trojan or a sophisticated cyber weapon, there is a human element at work, and it is this human element that is the real threat.”

The adversary can be any individual, group or nation-state. Some adversaries are tied directly to the governments of China, Iran, India, North Korea and Russia. Others are activist groups like the Syrian Electronic Army, while others are just plain old criminal groups tracked under the “Spider” cryptonym. These groups are diverse and difficult to track, but they all leave human tool marks; the task is to track them just as you would track evidence left at a physical crime scene.

5. Evaluating and Proving SIS Safety Levels

Because the equipment used in a safety instrumented system (SIS) application has a critical job, it must be carefully evaluated and justified. This justification must be based on information sufficient for giving those responsible adequate confidence that the equipment will perform as needed for the intended application.

This article stressed that, as safety instrumented systems are designed and implemented, manufacturers and end users must work together to achieve optimal functional safety. The manufacturer must specify the environmental and application limitations. The end user must design the product into an application that will not exceed the limitations of the instrument design.

4. From Coal to Combined Cycle

In the United States and around the world, industrial processers are striving to do more with less—to maximize efficiency, minimize costs and remain compliant with increasingly stringent regulations governing operations and output. The need for higher production at lower cost is especially pronounced within the power market. Producers must balance the growing demand for energy with the changing regulatory environment, while the traditional methods of power production, such as coal-fired power, face challenges that threaten their future viability.

One way power providers are adapting is to construct new power plants that use alternative fossil fuels, and our 2014’s fourth most popular article explored the cause for the conversion and explained how this change and the demand for increased efficiency has influenced the selection of valve equipment used in power generation.

3. Smarter Pump Operation

The author of our third most read article this year posed the question: “Have you ever experienced a sprained ankle that tweaked your hip joint and then resulted in a stiff back?”

You might wonder what this has to do with valves, but he pointed out that this is an illustration of how chain reactions can occur in complex systems. The body, like a highly engineered industrial process, can experience immobilization and downtime, i.e., each joint, bone and associated connective tissue inside works as part of a highly integrated system. When one subsystem fails, other issues may be the root cause. If a control valve is presenting problems, it may be a sign of a greater systemic issue, with other “bad actor” system components taking the blame.

2. Understanding and Selecting Valve Flanges, Pt. 1: Design and Standards

Because flanges allow the assembly and maintenance of system components without the need for cutting and welding pipe, they play an important role in piping systems. However, the structural integrity and leak tightness of waterworks piping systems are only as strong as the weakest element, which often is the flange connection between various valves and fittings. Yet because piping systems are subject to many types of loads and are constructed of a variety of materials, understanding and predicting the rating and performance of those flange connections is difficult.

In Part 1 of this article, originally published in the print version of VALVE Magazine, the effect of different sealing mechanisms such as gaskets, O-rings and mechanical seals on the performance of the connections was discussed. Part 2, published on VALVEMagazine.com, explained in detail the variables that affect flange ratings, and then describes how flanges are produced and the accepted methods for use and installation.

And... drum roll, please, VALVE Magazine’s Most Read Article of 2014:

1. Market Outlook 2015: Oil Joins Gas in the Spotlight

While some things change, others remain constant, and that is certainly the case when it comes to our readers’ interest in planning for the economic future. As was the case in 2013, coverage of 2014’s Market Outlook Workshop received the most viewers, both online and in print.

In the 2014 report, shale oil grabbed its share of the stage, along with last year’s star, natural gas. Speakers said these two commodities promise to alter the flow of trade around the world, and promise to help rebuild the North American economy which, they also claimed, has met its expectations for growth. However, even as predictions of a petrochemical industry rebound made glad the hearts of many attendees, problems such as unemployment and the skilled workers’ shortage were also at the forefront of many presentations.

When the last Market Outlook event was held, oil sat around $100 per barrel. As of this writing, oil prices are currently at around $57 per barrel. Consequently, 2015 could look very different economically than 2014, and there could be massive changes in the markets. What that means to valve, actuator and control manufacturers and their suppliers, distributors and customers remains to be seen.

Be sure to keep VALVEMagazine.com in your favorites tab, as we continue to keep you up to date on the latest technological, economic and regulatory changes that affect your business this year.

 Kate Kunkel is senior editor for VALVE Magazine. If you have information you’d like to share, an article idea, or wish to give feedback on what you’ve read in the past, please write to her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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