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Last updateWed, 21 Jun 2017 6pm
Why Air Valves are Needed in Water Applications

Why Air Valves are Needed in Water Applications

Air valves are hydromechanical devices d...

Achieving Profitability Through Maintenance Management

Achieving Profitability Through Maintenance Management

One of the distinctions between maintena...

Control Valve Positioner Performance Diagnostics

Control Valve Positioner Performance Diagnostics

There has been discussion for some years...

Are Your Safety Instrumented Systems Proof Tests Effective?

Are Your Safety Instrumented Systems Proof Tests Effective?

Many people assume that a proof test of ...

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Industry Headlines

Smart Technology Transforming Oil & Gas Industry

Wednesday, 21 June 2017  |  Chris Guy

“A new cadre of services companies, trying to sell the energy industry on the promise of a more efficient digital age, is fighting to get smart ...

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Industry Headlines

Chesterton Expands Environmental Consulting Expertise

1 DAY AGO

A.W. Chesterton Company  is expanding its global environmental solutions expertise with the addition of two highly experienced industrial emissions specialists, Bronson Pate and Beau Stander. Both will be joining FluidEfficiency, a Chesterton business group. Pate and Stander will serve in the ro...

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VMA Members Take Home 2016 Plant Engineering Awards

1 DAY AGO

Plant Engineering celebrated its 29th anniversary of the Product of the Year award program this year. The winners were honored at the annual Engineering Awards in Manufacturing dinner on April 3, 2017, in Chicago, hosted by CFE Media.

Emerson Automation Solutions took home a Bronze Award in the Asset Ma...

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Smart Technology Transforming Oil & Gas Industry

12 HOURS AGO

“A new cadre of services companies, trying to sell the energy industry on the promise of a more efficient digital age, is fighting to get smart technology onto pipes, tanks, platforms and drills, in some cases deeply discounting prices to gain market share,” the Houston Chronicle reports .

C...

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U.S. Refineries Running at Record-High Levels

1 DAY AGO

Gross inputs to U.S. petroleum refineries, also referred to as refinery runs, averaged a record high 17.7 million barrels per day (b/d) for the week ending May 26, before dropping slightly to 17.5 million b/d for the week ending June 2 and 17.6 million b/d for the week ending June 9. According to th...

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U.S. Economic Picture for First Half of 2017 Changes Little

15 HOURS AGO

Economic indicators released in May and June point to continued moderate growth and a mostly unchanged outlook for the U.S. The economy is approaching full employment, long-term inflation expectations remain anchored despite a recent dip in inflation, and real GDP is projected to grow at a moderate ra...

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Global Spending on Robots to Hit $87 Billion by 2025

16 HOURS AGO

The global market for robotics is growing far faster than expected and is projected to reach $87 billion by 2025, according to new research by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Updating its previous estimate of $67 billion from three years ago, the BCG recently revised its forecast sharply higher, mo...

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Solar-powered Valve Actuation: An Update

vmspr12_solar_actuators

The use of solar power in industrial and municipal valve actuator applications goes back several decades; however, technological advances in solar power efficiency and storage mean that today, it has become a practical, dependable alternative for many isolated locations.

In the early days, solar power was used in noncritical applications that required low power consumption, primarily to supply monitoring of valve-related and process data at remote locations. As solar power technology evolved, applications expanded along with the sophistication of the technology.

Today, the most extensive use of solar power in valve actuator applications is found in remote parts of the world that have vast stretches of jungle, desert or mountainous terrain—environments without reliable utility power. For example, South and Latin American oil-producing nations pioneered extensive use of solar and telemetry mostly for use on critical oil and gas pipelines.

In the U.S., fewer off-grid applications present themselves; however, recently some energy pipelines and governmental water agencies have come to rely on solar even for critical applications. The decision to go with solar in these cases is usually based on the comparative costs of bringing the grid to the job site or keeping the site off the grid. Furthermore, the current boom in unconventional extraction methods for oil and natural gas is driving more interest in solar power for valve-actuator applications.


ENERGY CONSUMPTION

A key factor of whether or not to consider solar power for an application relates to available energy and consumption. Two examples would be a 36-inch valve or gate operating at 1,000 psi on a crude oil pipeline and a 96-inch sluice gate in 25 feet of head water at a remote dam site. The two would require about the same force and amount of energy to operate. In both these cases, users would find bringing utility power to the sites cost prohibitive, which triggers the process to consider solar power.

In these scenarios, the pipeline company needs to be able to close the valve in an emergency in response to environmental and safety concerns. The water utility needs to maintain an appropriate level in its reservoir through the winter, which means changing the outlet gate position as the lake level rises or falls. Both applications need to sense process conditions, transmit information, move a load and do it all off grid. Solar power can be more cost effective in such cases and requires less maintenance than gas or diesel generation systems if the loads can be managed.


vmspr12_andes_solar_actuatorHigh in the Andes Mountains between Argentina and Chile, 14 valve sites are connected by fiber optic cable to the pipeline command center. Solar panels provide power for the station during the summer months and a turbine wind generator takes over during the winter. A control building houses the communication equipment and the hydraulic power unit (lower right). The 16-inch pipeline is buried, but the hydraulic actuator mounted on the valve extension can be seen above grade (lower left).POWER SUPPLY

One of the ways technology has improved in the solar industry is that, in the last 10 years, panels have become much more efficient and reliable. A case in point is an energy company in Wyoming that had a solar panel riddled with bullet holes. In earlier times, that panel would not have functioned. Yet, in this case, they did not need to replace the panel until a significant portion of its surface area was damaged because of the latest generation of solar panels, which employs self-healing technology.

Today, battery racks can be as simple as a pair of marine-grade gel cells wired to deliver 24 volts direct current (VDC), or racks of batteries wired to deliver 48, 96 or 110 VDC. A typical electric motor operator would reach the limits of battery storage and energy transfer capacity very quickly. But if speed is not an issue, then trading horsepower for gear reduction would allow some very large valves and gates to be operated this way.

Most importantly today, however, is that users don’t have to be in the sun-belt to make solar work. Canada has many successful remote solar sites.


HIGH SPEED AND FORCE, CRITICAL CONTROL

High speed, high force and critical control, which are all necessary requirements for dependable valve actuator operation, can be accomplished with an appropriate hydraulic operating system. By combining solar electric battery storage with hydraulic accumulator storage, very high operating forces and flexible speed control are possible. Full pipeline and station diagnostics are available as well.

Only a few years ago, communication options in remote areas were very limited. Satellite receivers were expensive and required a license; cellular towers had not yet spanned the country; and data capacity was limited. Radio systems were complicated and required intensive maintenance. Today, however, wireless technology covers even the most remote parts of the country, and most new pipelines are built with fiber-optics for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) along their full length. This allows the same level of data acquisition and control at remote sites as in a plant connected to the grid, including both power and control redundancies for critical operations.

In addition, significant improvements in energy efficiency of instrumentation have been made, so continuous load on the battery system is minimized.

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