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Properly Size Control Valves


Oversizingafflictsmanyplantsbutisavoidable
ByMichaelMcCarty,EmersonProcessManagement
Dec16,2014
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Asurveyofmorethan500individualsinvolvedinprocessengineering,procurement,operationsand
maintenanceatover200plantsworldwideidentifiedoversizingasthenumberonecontrolvalve
problem.Inafewinstances,oversizingisintentional(e.g.,toprepareforfutureproductionrate
increases).However,inmostcases,oversizingresultsfromwellmeaningbutmisguideddecisions
duringthevalveselectionprocess.Unfortunately,anoversizedvalvecanincurasizableeconomic
penaltyandcausesignificantoperatingproblems.So,letslookathowtoavoidoversizing.
REASONSFORCONCERN
Atfulloperatingconditions,controlloopsoperateoveraverynarrow,essentiallysteadystatethrottling
rangewheresmallinputsignalchangestothecontrolvalveresultinsmallvalvestemorshaft
movements.Asyoumightexpect,asmallpositionchangebyavalvethatsoversizedgivesalarger
thandesiredchangeinflow.Dependingupontheaccuracyoftheelementsintheloop,thecontrol
systemthenrespondstocorrectthesituation,whichcanresultinathrottlingsequencethatoscillates
backandforth,causingcontinuousvariationinprocessconditions.
Whileahigherperformancedigitalvalvecontrollercanmaskthisditheringbythecontrolvalvetogive
theappearanceofacceptableloopperformance,oversizingproblemsremain.Infact,anincorrectly
sizedcontrolvalvecanresultinproblemseventhoughtheplantappearstoberunningsmoothly.

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FLOW COEFFICIENT VERSUS TRAVEL


Figure1.Oversizedvalve(NPS4)cantprovideadequateperformance.

Duringasystemstartuporaturndownto25%maximumcontinuousrating(MCR),operatingconditions
willfalloutsideoftheoversizedvalvesabilitytoadequatelycontrolbecauseoftheneedforextremely
smallvalvemovements.Processcontrolinthisrangemaybenearimpossibledependinguponthe
inherentflowcharacteristicofthevalve.Highgaincharacteristics(i.e.,theamountofchangedividedby
theamountofinput)canresultininstability,againcausingthevalvetocycle.
Inaddition,theseoffcase,lowflowconditionscanleadtovalvethrottlingoccurringessentiallyrightat
theseatorseal.Theresultanthighvelocityflowacrossthenarrowopeningcauseswearanderosion.
Impingementoftheacceleratedprocessmediacancutlinesintosealingsurfaces,aneffectthat
reducesthecontrolelementsabilitytopreventorminimizeleakagewhenthevalvecloses.Erosionto
thecontourofthevalvesflowcontrolelementaltersitsflowcharacteristicandabilitytocontrolas
intended.Moreseverecasescanpromptvibrationthatcausesadditionaldamageand,ultimately,
equipmentfailure.
Avalvegivesthebestcontrolwhenitssizedtooperatearound60%80%openatmaximumrequired
flowandnotlessthan20%openatminimumrequiredflow.Usingalargerthannecessaryvalve
compromisesperformance,asindicatedinFigure1,whichcomparesflowcoefficient,Cv,versustravel
forNominalPipeSize(NPS)4andNPS3valvesforaserviceneedinganNPS3valve.
Becauseoftheircompromisedrangeability,improperlysizedcontrolvalvesalsocancauseproblems
duringprocesstransients.Atypicalcontrolvalvewithanequalpercentageflowcharacteristichas
abouta30:1turndownratio(i.e.,theratioofmaximumCvtominimumCv).However,whenthevalveis
oversizedandthrottlingatthelowend,itsturndownratiofallsto3:1orless.
Also,installingtoolargeavalveamplifiesmechanicalproblemssuchasstictionandhysteresis,making
thesystemdifficulttocontrolandpotentiallycausingprocessupsets.

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IMPACT ON HORSEPOWER
Figure2.Anoversizedvalverequiresadramaticincreasein
compressororpumphorsepower.
Oversizingofcontrolvalveshasadominoeffect.Safetyreliefvalvesmustbesizedtomatchthe
capacityofthecontrolvalve.Withinabypassconfiguration,isolationvalves,bypassvalvesanddrain
valvesallmustbelarger,whichcanimpactthesizeofpipingandstructuralpipelinesupports.
Consideralsothattoachieveormaintainflowvelocityinaloopequippedwithanoversizedvalve
requiresadramaticincreaseincompressororpumphorsepower(Figure2).Sizingissuescan
propagatebeyonderectioncostsintoperpetualoperationalcostincreasesaspumpinghorsepower
increasesbyapowerofthreetomaintainthedesiredfluidvelocitywithinthepiping.
SOLVINGTHEVALVESIZINGPUZZLE
Whentryingtoavoidorcorrectvalvesizingproblems,itsimportanttounderstandthecausesof
valvesizingerrors.Emersonresearchhasidentifiedseveralmajorcontributors:multiplesafetyfactors,
selectinglinesizevalves,andoutofdateprocessdataresultingfromchangesinprocessconditionsor
conditionsthatdifferfromtheoriginaldesign.
Tocorrectsystemswithimproperlysizedequipment,itsvitaltoobtainaccurateprocessdataatall
expectedoperatingconditions.Then,sizethevalvetoperformoptimallyattheseconditions.
Multipleengineeringdisciplinesimpactvalvesizing,witheachcontributingtheirspecializedflowcontrol
knowhowtovalveselection.
Forexample,processengineersdeterminethefluidflowrates,temperaturesandpressuresthatmust
beestablishedandthenmaintainedbasedonthefeedstockbeinghandledandthedesiredsystem
output.
Theirgoalistomaximizeoutputwithminimuminputand,todoso,theydesigntheprocessfora100%
MCR.
Theyalsodevelopcontrolstrategiesforprocessturndownandturnupscenariosaswellasthosetobe
encounteredatstartupandshutdown,takingintoconsiderationfluidflowratesandprocessconditions.

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COST IMPLICATIONS
Figure3.Adecisiontoaddalittlemoremarginoftenwillhit
equipmentlimits,forcingastepchangeinsizeandcost.

Pipingengineersdeterminesystemlayoutsandequipmentsupportsnecessarytomeetstructuraland
mechanicalneeds.Theysizepipingforappropriatefluidvelocitiesandlinelossesat100%MCR.
Theseengineersalsoconsiderthepotentialimpactofcorrosiveorfoulingfluidsupondesignmargins.
Theultimategoalistobalanceenergycosts(i.e.,pressurelosses)andpiping/equipmentcosts(driven
bysize).Asvalvesizeincreases,sodoesweight(Table1),whichcandramaticallyaffectassociated
pipingarrangementandsupportsso,oversizinginthisphaseofsystemdesignimpactscost
considerably.
Instrumentengineerssizecontrolvalvestopasstherequiredflowratesyetmaintainappropriateloop
controllability.Theunderlyinggoalistomakeeconomicyetappropriateequipmentspecifications.

GLOBE VALVE SIZE VERSUS WEIGHT


Table1.Goingupavalvesizeincursa
substantialpenaltyinweight.

Theinstrumentengineersnotonlyestablishequipmentrequirementsandspecificationsfornormal
systemoperationbutalsosizeequipmentforworstcasescenarios.Theymayaddextrasafetyfactors
atthispointsoyoucanbegintoseehowflowcontrolandmeasuringequipmentstartstobecome
oversizeforthetaskathand.
Itscriticalthatinstrumentengineerscommunicatewithprocessandpipingengineerstoensurethat
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valves,metersandcontrollersnotonlymeetbutalso,importantly,dontexceedsystemflowand
pressuredroprequirements.
Valvesupplierapplicationengineersconvertprocesscontrolrequirementsintodetailedequipment
specificationsthatleadtodeterminingtherightvalveforthejob.Theapplicationengineermustensure
thevalveoperateswithinreasonablethrottlinglimits,beingabletopasstherequiredflowrates.
Borderlineapplicationsalmostalwaysarepushedintothenextlargersize,resultinginasignificant
stepchangeinequipmentcost(Figure3).
Forexample,whenanNPS6valvecanmeetadesignsexpectedprocessflowrequirementsbut
oversizingbytheplantsengineerspushtheparameterspastthatvalvescapacity,forcingamoveto
anNPS8,thencosttakesasignificantjumpupward(Table2).

FINANCIAL IMPACT OF GOING FROM NPS 6 TO NPS 8


Table2.Increasingthecontrolvalvesizeleadstoanumberofother
changesthatraisetotalcost.

Itsappropriateandnecessaryfortheapplicationengineertoquestionanapparentoversizingof
acontrolvalve.Areviewofvalverequirementsbeforethepurchaseorderisplacedsavesbothcost
andtimeforallinvolved.
Dontignorecontrolvalvesalreadyinstalled.Youoftencanidentifyapoorlysizedcontrolvalvebyits
discorplugposition.Duringnormaloperations,avalvethrottlingatlessthan10%openorgreaterthan
90%ofvalvetravelisinappropriatelysized.Anotherindicatorofavalvebeingoversizediswhena1%
changeincontrolleroutputcausesagreaterthan3%changeintheprocess.
Globevalveshaveanumberofavailableportsizesforagivenbodysize.So,changingthetrimmay
alterthethrottlingpositionoftheflowelementintoamoreoptimalrange.Othercontrolvalves,suchas
rotaryones,dontoffersuchflexibilityandmustbechangedoutforaproperlysizedversion.

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THE RIGHT APPROACH


Figure4.Closecollaborationamongthedesigngroupsand
thesupplierisneededtooptimizesystemcomponentsand
minimizeunintentionalequipmentoverspecification.

ADDRESSOVERSIZING
Theuseofmultiplesafetyfactorssomeinherent,somediscretionarybydifferentdesignfunctions
canleadtospecifyinganoversizedcontrolvalve.Itsimportanttoknowthataseeminglysmallamount
ofaddedcapacitydoesntresultinaproportionallysmallincreaseinequipmentcost.Mechanicalpiping
componentshavediscretesizes.Adecisiontoaddalittlemoremarginoftenwillhitequipmentlimits,
forcingastepchangeinsizeandcost.Eventheoversizingofasmallvalvecansignificantlyimpact
systemcost,performanceand,ultimately,maintenance.
Avoidingoratleastalleviatingoversizingrequiresclosecollaborationamongtheengineeringgroups
andtheirequipmentsuppliersaseachappliesbestpracticesinprocesssystemdesign(Figure4).
MICHAELMCCARTYisvicepresidentoftheFisherSlidingStemandBaumannValvesBusinessUnitof
EmersonProcessManagement,Marshalltown,Iowa.EmailhimatMichael.McCarty@emerson.com.

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