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Valve Techbook 2017

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14 | September 2017 | VALVE TECHBOOK: MIDSTREAM For example, Emerson, a major player in IoT technology, recently unveiled its DeltaV Mobile, a software platform that leverages IoT technology to provide real-time data, trends and insight for designers and operators. The system removes "the confines of the control room and [will] enable the digital worker— manag- ers, engineers, operators and subject matter experts —to monitor operations and see critical operational data when, how and where they want, without wait- ing for regular business hours, manual reports, or being tied to a computer," the firm said in announc- ing the new system. Specialty valves are an important niche in the business and always will be. Consider just one exam- ple of a specialized critical application: molecular sieve dehydration processing valves, used to remove water from natural gas processing, ammonia and LNG liquefaction plants. Mass produced gate valves, check valves and such are very different from specialty isolation valves, control valves, switching valves, those types of applications. LNG's role And there's little in the midstream valve arena more specialized than gas liquefaction, requiring sophis- ticated engineering and materials. Gas liquefaction, which relies on several patented and competing processes, chills natural gas to -260 F, requiring 1/600th the space for storage and trans- port compared to gaseous methane. All of those processing techniques depend on specialized valves made of exotic alloys and seals that can function at temperatures so cold that rubber seals, stretchy and spongy at room temperature, turn as brittle as glass. Commercial-scale LNG has been around for some 50 years but research in how to make and handle the cold liquid continues. Last year, GE Oil & Gas and Technip signed a memorandum of understanding for a joint project to explore areas they could co-de- velop in the LNG industry, with a particular focus on the design-and-build phase of new LNG projects. Valves and the software that control are a part of that joint effort. Sandler mentioned another trend impacting gas transmission: the switch by electric utilities to gas- fired plants, replacing coal. "It's slow but it's there," he noted. The trend adds to the overall demand for midstream-related pipeline components. Going global Consider globalization: Common valves, where cost is the greater consideration, increasingly are made abroad, thanks to lower labor costs. But that may be changing, according to the VMA's Sandler. "People seem to be realizing that quality and timeliness are important factors," he said. "Obvi- ously, it's usually cheaper to buy overseas. But espe- cially in special operations where the quality of the product is important, I think we still make the best product here." Sandler noted a move back to domestic suppliers may be occurring, but added "no one's building new valve plants." Instead, the atomized valve design and manu- facturing industry—with scores of players—contin- ues to assimilate into fewer and bigger players. In a recent example, Denholm Valvecare, based in Aberdeen, Scotland, announced a strategic part- nership with Spain's IBOR Valves. Both are players in the international oil and gas valve business and their new agreement will allow them to focus on the specialized valves that are in greatest demand. "The deal between the two companies will see bespoke products and services offered in both direc- tions," Denholm said in announcing the agreement. Going abroad can complicate completion of a new gas plant or terminal due the distance—and shipping time—involved. Multiple valves make up a meter run connecting a Permian Basin well pad to a gathering system. (Photo courtesy of Navitas Midstream Partners LLC)

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