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Valve Techbook 2017

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12 | September 2017 | VALVE TECHBOOK: MIDSTREAM Multiple issues confront a busy midstream's need for valves. Midstream Faces Myriad Valve Challenges By Paul Hart Editor-In-Chief, Midstream Business T he old pipeliner took a long sip of coffee, leaned back in his chair, pushed his shop cap back and slowly smiled, thinking how his career—in what today we call the midstream—began long ago. The Korean War's fighting had ended and he was back home in Wyoming, job hunting, he told his listeners. The state's oil and gas industry was growing and that seemed to be the place to find work, so he hired on with a contractor building a natural gas processing plant. Once the plant was complete, the plant's owner asked him to stay on to help operate the new facility. His first job was to man—literally—one of many valve stations spread through the complex. A loud whistle behind the central control room across the way would blow coded, short and long blasts alerting him and co-workers at other stations when to open and close valves as the lean-oil opera- tion hummed along, he explained. Protection from the elements was minimal so, depending on the season, plant operators had to contend with hot, dusty wind or bitter snow squalls. Shortly after the plant started up, the pipeline company that had integrated the operation into its system installed an in-plant telephone network and the whistle went away, replaced by ever-ringing phones. "We thought we were really modern!" he added with a chuckle. How far we have come. Thank automation, the internet and now the Internet of Things (IoT) for replacing whistles, tele- phones and lonely outposts. But the midstream now, as then, relies on an assortment of valves to control product flows. A later job transfer later put the old pipeliner in a pickup, driving right-of-way across the Wyoming prairie for many years, where he was checking meter runs—and valves—manually until he retired. Current challenges Remote operation is but one of multiple valve-re- lated issues confronting midstream management today as the sector continues the buildout across North America. Sourcing, new applications, cost, delivery delays—even politics—enter into the decision of what to buy and how. "The main challenge today is lead times," said John Bowhay, senior vice president of supply chain management, valve and technical product sales, for MRC Global Inc., the largest distributor of pipe, valve and fitting products and related services in the energy industry. Consider just one type of valve, he said. "Lead times for pipeline ball valves are extended due to the upturn in demand in North America. Investments in transmission lines to transport gas and oil are extensive and therefore supply channels are challenged. Consumption is further compli- cated by our midstream customers not following any industry standard specification—they all have their own requirements." Further complicating all of these questions is the sometimes stunning number and variety of valves required to operate a sprawling gathering, process- ing, transportation and storage network. As one expert in gas processing plant valving observed following a discussion over a GPA Mid- stream Association technical paper, "Take a big LNG plant or a big gas processing plant, there are a quar- ter-million valves in there; that's a lot." Gate valves, check valves, pinch valves, specialty valves—and yes, ball valves—the variety and type seem end- less. All must work together to ensure safe and efficient operations. Clicking a mouse beside a keyboard in Houston may actuate a pipeline valve in Wyoming today, rather than someone standing on the gravel pad

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