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Industry Headlines

ExxonMobil, SABIC Plan $10B Petrochemical Plant Near Texas Coast

Thursday, 20 April 2017  |  Chris Guy

ExxonMobil Chemical Company and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) have selected a site in San Patricio County, TX for potential development ...

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Industry Headlines

VanAire Names Steven Soderman CEO, Quality Manager

4 DAYS AGO

Steven Soderman has joined the leadership team of VanAire, Incorporated as CEO and quality manager. Bill VanDeVusse will continue in his role as president having previously filled the positions of both president and CEO.

Soderman has held key quality positions throughout his career most recently fillin...

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Chromatic Industries Adds Two Former Cameron Executives

4 DAYS AGO

Mark Gamber has joined Chromatic Industries as CEO effective April 10, 2017. Wayne Hall will continue in his role as president. Gamber most recently served as vice president of operations at Cameron in its Distributed Valves Group.

Additionally, Mark Cordell has joined Chromatic as a senior advisor. Be...

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ExxonMobil, SABIC Plan $10B Petrochemical Plant Near Texas Coast

3 DAYS AGO

ExxonMobil Chemical Company and Saudi Arabia Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) have selected a site in San Patricio County, TX for potential development of a jointly owned petrochemical complex on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The proposed project is one of 11 ExxonMobil announced as part of its 10-year, $20 bill...

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Visibility Clears on 2nd Wave of U.S Petrochemical Projects

5 DAYS AGO

The visibility into the second leg of U.S. petrochemical expansions is getting clearer, according to ICIS Chemical Business. While many projects were shelved or in doubt amid the crude oil price decline in 2014-2015, the recent relative stability in oil coupled with a renewed sense of optimism on lo...

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Fed Beige Book Showing Continued Economic Expansion

3 DAYS AGO

Economic activity increased in each of the twelve Federal Reserve Districts between mid-February and the end of March, with the pace of expansion equally split between modest and moderate . In addition, the pickup was evident to varying degrees across economic sectors.

Manufacturing continued to expand...

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IMF Raises Global Growth Forecast to 3.5% This Year

4 DAYS AGO

Global economic activity is picking up with a long-awaited cyclical recovery in investment, manufacturing and trade, according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook. World growth is expected to rise from 3.1% in 2016 to 3.5% in 2017 and 3.6% in 2018. Stronger activity, expectations of more robust ...

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Pneumatic Valve Actuators in Sub-Arctic Climates

arctic_oil_platform

Sub-arctic climates experience temperatures from 100° F (38° C) in the summer to –60° F (–51° C) in the winter (Figure 1). While there is nothing spectacular about the high end of the range, the low end impacts the functionality of pneumatic actuators.

 


WHAT CAN HAPPEN

There is never a good time for an actuator to fail, but a failure when the temperature is at 60 below or when a blizzard limits capacity for transporting repair parts could be especially troublesome. Careful selection of valve actuation is critical.

vmsum12_actuators_fig1Figure 1. High Level, Alberta, CanadaWhen considering safety integrity, one assesses what might cause failure in a product. To illustrate, let’s begin with an off-the-shelf pneumatic actuator intended for normal service and then consider what may fail if applied at –60° F (–51° C). Our basic parameters are as follows:

  • The actuator housing is steel.
  • The drive shaft is a precipitation-hardened stainless steel.
  • The seals are buna.
  • The shaft bushings are Nylon 6.

With these parameters in mind, at –60° F (–51° C):

The steel housing has become brittle. It is not necessarily weaker, but a sudden impact or an imperfection that would have no effect on the metal when ductile, could result in a sudden fracture at these sub-zero temperatures because the temperature is below the brittle transition temperature of steel. The question “will it fail at –60° F?” cannot be answered without knowing if there will be sudden impact loading, but possibility of failure has increased there.

vmsum12_actuators_fig2Figure 2. Demonstrating bar failure in tension for different ductilityA normally ductile metal will yield before fracture while a brittle metal will fracture without yield (Figure 2).

The precipitation-hardened shaft material has also become brittle and may fracture given an impact load. If, for example, the driven valve resists opening and then breaks free, the resulting sudden impact may cause the actuator shaft to fail.

The shaft material will have contracted at a rate of 9.4 by 10–6 per inch of diameter per degree F, while the Nylon 6 bushings will contract at a rate of 44.2 x 10–6 per inch per degree F. If the original gap between the bushing bore and the shaft surface was .002 inches and if the shaft diameter was 3 inches, then 130° F (54° C) temperature change from 70° F (21° C) to –60° F (–51° C) would contract the shaft diameter to 2.996 inches and the 3.002 inches diameter bushing bore to 2.985 inches, causing binding and ­failure.

The buna seals have turned to stone. Their normal resiliency, which allows flowing into and sealing leak paths, is gone. The seals cannot flex and leakage will occur at all seal points resulting again in actuator failure.


THE SOLUTION

Failure of the example standard actuator is a certainty in this case. While there is nothing in the above example that is not obvious to every designer and user, the solution to avoid failure is to apply what we know.

vmsum12_actuators_fig6Figure 6. Test specimen No. 2 after hammer blowvmsum12_actuators_fig5Figure 5. Test specimen No. 2 at –60⁰ F (–51⁰ C)vmsum12_actuators_fig4Figure 4. Test specimen No. 1 after hammer blow

vmsum12_actuators_fig3Figure 3. Test specimen No. 1 at room temperature

 

 

 

 

Metals

For example, metals that have a brittle transition temperature that falls within the range of possible application temperatures should not be used unless absolutely no impact loads can occur. Examples of suitable metals are 300 series stainless steel and aluminum—neither has brittle transition temperature. Because of its greater strength, stainless steel may be the best choice for larger actuators.

Figures 3 and 4 show a simplistic representative impact test performed on a notched steel bar. One end was locked in a vice, and a hammer blow served to provide an impact. At room temperature, the hammer blow bent the specimen, but there was no fracture.

Figures 5 and 6 show an identical specimen that was brought to a temperature of –60° F. (An interesting side note is that the air cans used to clean a keyboard, when turned over, emit a liquid that has a measured temperature of –60° F, which proved convenient for testing.)


vmsum12_actuators_fig7Material Compatibilities

If at all possible, where there is close fit between moving parts, select materials having the same coefficients of thermal expansion/contraction (Figure 7).


Seals

vmsum12_actuators_fig8Select seal materials that retain adequate resiliency at the lowest temperatures to be encountered. Additionally, eliminate every possible seal via basic design. A seal that is removed by design cannot fail. Figure 8 shows a simple drop test where a bar is dropped against an O-ring at both room temperature and at –60° F. Basic buna, ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM), Viton and silicone O-rings were tested. All except Viton showed excellent “bounce” at room temperature but only silicone retained resiliency and bounce at –60° F. Suppliers show low-temperature options for each of these elastomers, but in-house testing is recommended.

Designers and users who read this may respond: “We’ve used essentially standard actuators and all we did was select a seal material that remained resilient at the low temperatures.” This article is not stating such a combination will fail, only that it may fail—the steel plates of the Titanic may not have fractured if it had not hit the iceberg, and not all World War II Liberty ships cracked in half. But by considering the above suggestions, the supplier can greatly reduce the risk of failure.


USERS

Users, as well as designers, have responsibilities regarding pneumatic actuators under extreme cold conditions.

First, and most obvious, users should shelter the actuator from weather extremes where possible. ­Second, users must assure a dry air supply, at least 15° F (–9° C) below the lowest temperature that may be ­experienced since ice plays havoc with air flow and mechanical motion. ­Finally, users should assess the recommended actuator and whether all possible precautions have been incorp­orated by the supplier.

Clearly, pneumatic actuators can perform their intended functions despite having to operate in extreme temperatures. However, they need to be designed and manufactured ­properly, and users need to take ­responsibility to keep them functioning correctly.


Ed Holtgraver is designer, founder and CEO of QTRCO, Inc. (www.qtrco.com), Tomball, TX. He holds numerous valve and actuator patents with more in the application stage. Holtgraver is a member of the VMA Board of Directors, Education and Training Committee, and Valve Magazine’s editorial review board. Reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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