Kyle Daniels, CEO and Founder, Clarke Valve and inventor of the Dilating Disk™ Valve gives an insight into the technological shift and transition of valves manufacturing which is designed to regulate emissions and provide efficient processes in the oil & gas industry.
Future of oil & gas, chemical industry and its impact on valves industry.
The oil, gas, and chemical industries are at an inflection point in which there is a perfect synergy between technology and policy. The public perception seems to be that these industries generate a lot of greenhouse gases. However, many people may not realize that the technology to minimize or eliminate emissions from these industries already exist.
Currently, there is a lot of legacy equipment in use at these facilities that could be replaced with proven and mature technologies that are ready to be installed today. With this in mind, the United States Congress has created a new program that incentivizes the use of these technologies in an attempt to encourage organizations to deploy them in the field. The valve industry is directly impacted by this because legacy valves were not designed to regulate emissions, so we are going to see a technological shift in the industry.
More advanced, zero emission valves that were designed in the digital age, such as the Dilating Disk™ Valve, are going to be implemented on a wider basis, replacing legacy control valves. This will greatly reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from the oil, gas, and chemical industries, allowing organizations to upgrade their equipment and adhere to environmental regulations.
Global trends and development in the valves industry.
The oil, gas, and chemical industry processes require valves to produce most of the products they use every day. In order to control the refining processes and create high quality batches of these products, control valves are needed and are an absolutely essential part of that infrastructure. These products cannot be made without control valves.
Legacy control valves were sufficient to do the job decades ago, however, trends are moving towards higher efficiency plants and reduced emissions. Clarke Valve used a clean sheet design concept when creating the Dilating Disk™ control valve to improve efficiency in processes, while simultaneously eliminating fugitive emissions. When looking at methane in particular, one-third of global methane comes from gas that escapes unintentionally somewhere in an industrial process because of old equipment and leaky infrastructure.
Now more than ever, efficient and lower emissions valve technologies are going to become essential for a sustainable future. Utilizing higher efficiency and lower emissions equipment yields a more efficient process. It also lowers the cost to the consumer because it lowers the cost to produce the products. When you have less emissions, it’s better for the environment and there are less government fines or penalties related to that.
Emissions that escape the pipe on the production side are wasteful because you’re releasing something to the atmosphere that you intended to sell. The valve industry must look at control valves very carefully to make sure that they’re using the most efficient and lowest emission technologies available, like the Clarke Valve Dilating Disk™ Valve.
Growth potential for the valves industry in Asia Pacific & India.
Asia Pacific and India are sitting on tremendous reserves of oil & gas, where there are large state-owned and private companies that are in the exploration of the production side of the equation. This will continue to grow in the future as the demand for energy increases in those important regions, as well as globally.
The chemical industry is seeing an increase in projects in Asia Pacific and India because the policies and environmental regulations in traditional markets have become more stringent. This makes future investments a challenge for the chemical industry in North America and Europe.
This trend could be reversed by simply having more efficient equipment that creates far less greenhouse gas emissions. It also makes sense to produce the products that you consume as close to the point of consumption as possible. The regulatory environment must allow for that, and it is possible with the technologies that are mature and available today for oil, gas and chemical companies to achieve production with little to no emissions. If advanced technologies are adopted, then we could see more investment in oil, gas, and chemical coming back to North America and Europe.
Impact of the COVID 19 pandemic on valves manufacturers globally.
The pandemic has certainly lasted longer than any of us may have initially anticipated back in early 2020. I would say that since then, the market dynamics have been in a constant state of evolution. When the pandemic started, the production of valves almost came to a complete halt. Factories were closed and projects were put on hold.
As we started to reopen and allowed manufacturers to resume their projects, valve orders picked back up, but the workforce had been greatly reduced. This created a bottleneck in manufacturing, which drastically extended lead times. It also caused project delays and created a greater emphasis on companies that could produce and deliver their products on-time with shorter lead times.
The companies that were heavily dependent on overseas manufacturing were impacted the most because you also had an evolving situation in which there was a bottleneck in the global shipping industry. That means once you started producing valves again, even if you could get them on ships to send them to their final destinations, there were logjams at major shipping ports around the world.
Therefore, local manufacturing, whenever possible, should be a primary focus within the industry. We’re not saying to stop manufacturing valves overseas, but to manufacture valves overseas for overseas markets and to manufacture valves domestically for domestic markets.
Achieving this could get the industry growth momentum back up to speed and create a larger emphasis on improved technologies that increase efficiency and reduce emissions. Ultimately, we would also expect to see limited growth with the continued use of legacy products that don’t fit the current synergy that currently exists between policy and technology.
Incorporating automation and digitization in valves segment.
IIOT, automation, and digitization are all areas that are becoming increasingly relevant to control valves. This is a subset of the entire industrial valve market and something that Clarke Valve is focused on. When it comes to efficient processes and lower emissions, a lot of that relies on optimizing the performance and efficiency of a control valve with fine signals and commands that are received through digital infrastructure.
We see companies that are putting IIOT, automation, and digitization front and center as their core strategy, and they’re correct in doing so. The Dilating Disk™ Valve is compatible with the IIOT, automation, and digitization products that are being made by the industry leaders today. These products complement the precise control and high efficiency of the Clarke Valve Dilating Disk™.
Although control valves are highly engineered and highly specified products that are almost unique to every application, the integration of automation in digital technologies onto these products is greatly enhanced by the simplicity of the control valve itself. These valves are ready for the adoption of digitization and automation, making it much more feasible in the short term.
Insight into company’s business in Asia Pacific & India markets.
We now have valves installed in 5 continents around the world, including Asia Pacific. The strategy is to work with local partners who have specialized and detailed knowledge of their end-users in Asia Pacific & India. Rather than developing our strategies and plans in a vacuum, we develop these in cooperation with highly capable partners.
Our vetting process for selecting partners is very thorough, as it ensures that our interests, product market fit, and capabilities are clearly aligned and defined. This creates a relationship in which both Clarke Valve, and the companies we collaborate with, can thrive to their maximum potential.
Valve solutions that are seeing increased market demand.
We’re seeing increased demand for our next generation control valve technology, specifically in methane and high purity chemical applications. Both are natural product market fits, given the inherent benefits of the Dilating Disk™ Valve. With a more precise and efficient valve, you’re able to provide end-users in the high purity space with a product that helps precisely control batch quality.
When you have a zero emissions product like ours, that attracts the attention of end-users with methane applications given the current environmental policies that are being placed upon oil, gas and chemical producers.
Materials evolution in valve manufacturing.
Clarke Valve participates in, and is a member of, industrial committees that are responsible for creating the standards for valves. While materials have certainly been a topic of discussion with these committees, there are certain materials that must stay constant because of the compatibility of fluids. Carbon steel and stainless-steel variants will always be, by far, the primary materials used in valve construction.
However, when it comes to two of the most critical components that are inside of a valve, trim and seals, you start to see a variety of materials being used. As an aerospace engineer, I’m very familiar with super alloys, exotic alloys, and lightweight alloys; always being conscious and sensitive to cost. In recent years, 3D printed materials have greatly improved and have been gaining more traction.
Particularly for metals, you could see the use of 3D printed components being used more and more for trims and seals going forward. I would expect this to increase significantly within the next 10 years because there are many inherent advantages to 3D printing. You’re able to create more complex geometries at a lower cost and you can produce them very quickly.
In some cases, 3D printed components can be made in less than a day, whereas machining the same component may take several weeks. As a manufacturer of advanced control valve technology, we’re watching the evolution of 3D printing very carefully and are looking forward to incorporating that into our products.
Addressing customer issues and providing after sale services.
You always want to start with a tested, safe, and reliable product to minimize the amount of after sales service needed in the first place; this is one of Clarke Valve’s core values. While it may seem counterintuitive, we try to sell as few spare parts as possible. We want our valves to be reliable and we want that to be the focus for our customers. Control valves do, however, require routine maintenance and inspections. Aside from the need for valve packing to reduce fugitive emissions, which for Clarke Valve is maintenance-free, regular maintenance includes replacing seal materials and wear parts during plant turnarounds.
This requires a network of service providers that are local to our customers, which is a key part of our strategy to support our end-users. Clarke Valve has a unique approach to maintenance in that we provide spare parts kits for our valves that allow customers to perform their own maintenance if they so choose. We also maintain an inventory of spare parts at our local service partners.
From a service standpoint, other than a wrench, there are no tools required to fully overhaul a Dilating Disk™ Valve, which is a unique feature that is specific to our product line. This means that you can overhaul our valves on-site without sending it to a third party, resulting in quick turnaround for service and ensuring that maintenance doesn’t become the bottleneck for plants to get back to full production.
A full overhaul for a Dilating Disk™ Valve can take as little as an hour with a trained and experienced technician, and still even less than a day for those with less experience. It’s features like this that that maximize customer satisfaction and brand reputation.
Factors affecting the life cycle costs of valves and adopting smart electronics to address the issue.
The life cycle cost of a valve is highly dependent on the type of application that it’s in. Naturally, severe service, or high pressure drop type applications will reduce the life cycle of a valve and increase the overhaul frequency. When any product is deployed in a more severe environment, there is a general expectation that it will not last as long as it would if you were using it in a general service type application.
We were able to optimize the fluid dynamics of our valves to reduce turbulence and cavitation, which are the two root causes of the premature wear and tear of components in severe service applications. Our philosophy is to address these issues at the root of their cause, which is how it’s resolved at the component level. With my background in aerospace, I know that aircraft are highly-instrumented machines equipped with sensors on almost every component.
At the touch of a button, maintenance personnel and pilots can check the status or condition of this component to make sure that they’re functioning properly. Control valves are relatively simple mechanical devices and would not require a lot of instrumentation to utilize smart electronics for live condition monitoring.
Our product line is already compatible with all the available smart electronics and condition monitoring products that are available for control valves today and we highly encourage the use of them. Although there may be a higher initial cost to the customer, ultimately it will save them money in the long run by greatly reducing the amount of unplanned maintenance.
Challenges faced by valves manufacturers.
At Clarke Valve, we look at the challenges of valve manufacturers in these industries as opportunities. For example, one of the challenges in oil, gas, and chemical industries is that the population of valve subject matter experts is being reduced drastically every year. Many of these lifelong experts are retiring and this level of knowledge can be very difficult to replace. That’s why we focused on providing customers with a very mechanically simple design that doesn’t require any special tools to overhaul. Our valves can even be sized online through our website.
As a technical leader in the industry, we see that our customers are becoming more and more reliant on us to be their subject matter experts. Going forward, we are going to need to support their workforces with modern tools that help maximize their uptime, profitability, and production while simultaneously reducing life cycle cost and emissions of their operations.
The challenge that valve manufacturers face right now is that legacy products require constant attention and maintenance to prevent fugitive emissions from spiraling out of control. With these legacy products, we’ve seen fugitive emissions of 22 percent of the product in the pipe being lost to the atmosphere through the valve stem as a result of the valve packing nuts not being tightened.
With the Dilating Disk™ Valve, the emissions are always zero. There are no packing nuts to adjust, and no intervention required by maintenance personnel, because that was part of the intention behind our design process. Clarke Valve has turned challenges that the industry is facing into opportunities. In the form of the Dilating Disk™ Valve product line, we’re providing 21st century flow control solutions that are proven in the field, reliable and available today.