Refining Community Logo

Revolutionizing Refineries: How Valve Innovations are Optimizing Operations

By; Shanique Bramwell, Sales & Marketing Specialist with Armour Valve

Connect with Shanique on LinkedIn

Refineries serve as the vital engines that power our modern world, converting raw resources into valuable fuels and chemicals. Behind the scenes in these industrial powerhouses, a crucial component keeps operations running smoothly: valves. Unsung heroes of the refining industry, valves play a pivotal role in controlling the flow of liquids, gases, and vapors throughout the complex refining processes. 

The refining industry faces a myriad of challenges, including stringent safety regulations, energy consumption concerns, environmental sustainability targets, and the need for reliable asset management. Here are some technological innovations that are helping to meet the harsh operating conditions and demanding nature of the refining industry:

API 6D Fire Safe Valves 

Because leaks can cause fires and unplanned shutdowns can prove costly, ensuring tight and reliable sealing is critical in refinery operations. However, the high pressures and temperature differentials encountered in the process can lead to valve leakage, resulting in loss of product, safety hazards, and environmental concerns. Thus, investing in valve solutions that offer reliable sealing is paramount. Gases such as hydrogen can be challenging to seal. As a result, using an API 6D Fire Safe Valve can help to mitigate this concern by offering an effective sealing mechanism designed to address the challenge of thermal expansion. 

A lab test is performed to confirm that a valve meets API6D. The test valve is installed within a pipeline and pressurized at 75% of its rated pressure. It is then exposed to a high-temperature fire ranging from 1,400 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit for a duration of 30 minutes. Following the fire exposure, the valve is rapidly cooled by quenching it with water until it reaches the surrounding ambient temperature. To ensure its operability, the valve undergoes cycling tests. Additionally, it is subjected to further testing to verify its performance. Throughout the entire testing process, the valve is required to maintain strict leakage allowances, both during and after the burn, to meet regulatory standards. 

Figure 1 – API 6D Fire Safe Valve 

By choosing an in-line repairable API 6D Fire Safe Valve, operators are not only assured of a reliable seal, but maintenance time is greatly reduced as the valve can be quickly repaired in line without lengthy downtimes, thanks to its modular design. The pressure seal bonnet of the API 6D Fire Safe Valve provides easy access for servicing with no welds to cut or seal rings or gaskets to replace.

Twister Locking Quick Connect

Traditionally, cam and groove coupler fittings are used to connect two hoses together or two pipes during rail car loading/unloading or gas meter proving.  If disengaged, a locked coupler with active line pressure could cause serious injury or even death. In refineries where time, safety, and productivity are paramount, quick connect couplings serve as a convenient alternative solution for rapidly connecting and disconnecting hoses, avoiding costly spills and allowing for faster connection times. Locking Quick Connects are easy to operate regardless of the changes in ambient temperature. Should residual product or line pressure be present, the coupling will lock during uncoupling, protecting the operator. The disengagement of the connection occurs only when the pressure is fully released from the line. This important safety feature serves to shield the operator from any pressure discharge and potential exposure to the contents.

Figure 2 – Twister Locking Quick Connect

SaVD Series Safe Vent and Drain

Traditionally, high-pressure bull plugs are used in the venting and draining of heavy oil piping. However, corrosion and rust make traditional bull plugs difficult to handle and even potentially lethal when the thread encounters the media. It is also the sealing mechanism, so if the threads corrode or become worn, the plug could blow out which drastically reduces the plug’s life. A SaVD Series Safe Vent and Drain can be considered in place of bull plugs. Designed with operator safety in mind, the SaVD also has a tapered NPT thread that allows for more steam and heavy oil spraying out with each turn.  

The safety seal cap automatically locks when there is pressure remaining in the line. It can then be tightened again to ensure a secure seal. The outer seal and locking threads are positioned outside the areas that come into direct contact with liquids. Additionally, all caps are equipped with chains. The valve-mounted coupling halves can be safely cleaned with steam or pressure purged by using adapters that are both CRN registered and specifically designed for this purpose.

Figure 3 – SaVD Series Safe Vent Drain

Isolation Lift Plug Valve

Delayed Coking is one of the harshest environments within an upgrader. Valves in this process are required to be cycled more frequently compared to other areas of the refinery. Failure of these valves can result in the complete shutdown of a unit, causing significant process disruptions and financial losses, which is why it is so important to have valves that perform as intended. While ball valves are typically used, lift plug valves are proving to last longer before maintenance is required. 

With ball valves, media can get trapped between the ball and the seat creating friction, which wears away the surface of the seat. Most ball valves also have bellows at the seat area. If not purged properly, media can get in, eventually pushing the seat against the ball and possibly making the valve inoperable due to the increase in torque required to operate.

A lift plug valve has a crevice-free design. Regardless of its position, whether open or in a specific switching configuration, the plug and body of the valve form a smooth and continuous contour without any gaps or crevices. This eliminates the need for routine flushing during operation. 

Operating a lift plug valve involves slightly raising the plug from the body, allowing it to be easily turned without the torque typically associated with a ball valve. Once the plug is turned to the desired position, it is lowered back into place. 

During operation, the valve is flushed with steam to prevent any solid material from becoming trapped between the plug and body. However, once the plug is seated, the flushing process automatically ceases. While the initial upfront cost for lift plug valves is higher, ball valves incur significantly higher costs for flushing, maintenance, and repair in this application.

Figure 4 – Lift Plug Valve 

Revolutionizing Refineries

By adopting these advancements, refineries can enhance safety measures, improve operational efficiency, minimize disruptions, and achieve their production goals while adhering to environmental standards. As refineries strive to meet the ever-growing demands of our modern world, technological advancements in valve design and functionality offer transformative solutions. These innovations address key challenges such as sealing reliability, maintenance requirements, safety concerns, and operational disruptions. By adopting these leading-edge valve technologies, refineries can streamline their processes, minimize downtime, reduce costs, and enhance overall operational safety. As society’s demands for more sustainable solutions drive the emergence of new types of refineries and feedstocks, new challenges inevitably arise. 

Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the content above belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Refining Community or its parent company, CRU Group. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Posted by: The Refining Community

Refining Community