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Isolation valves are a key component in any fluid system as they are used to stop the flow of fluid

into a particular
area of the system. They are also sometimes used to manually control the flow of the fluid. The European standard
EN 736-1:1995 distinguishes between isolating, regulating and control valves as follows:

Isolating valve - A valve intended for use only in the closed or fully open position.

Regulating valve - A valve intended for use in any position between closed and fully open.

Control valve - A power-operated device which changes the fluid flowrate in a process control system.

Isolation valves are used in a wide variety of different applications where on/off type control is required, these include:

Diverting process media.

Flow isolation to:

- Facilitate maintenance
- Allow the removal of equipment
- Allow the shut down of plant

A multitude of different types and designs of isolation valve have been developed in order to meet this range of
applications and the diverse operating conditions in which they are used. Valves are commonly classified into two
groups (see Table 12.1.1), according to the operating motion of the closure device (or obturator):

Linear movement valves - The obturator moves in a straight line. Included in this category are gate valves,
globe valves, diaphragm valves and pinch valves. These valves are covered in greater depth within this

Rotary movement valves - The obturator rotates about an axis at right angles to the direction of flow. Ball
valves and butterfly valves are the two most important rotary valves associated with steam applications and
are covered in greater depth in Tutorial 12.2, Isolation Valves - Rotary Movement.

12.1.1 Obturator motion in the basic valve types

Linear movement valves

Linear movement valves have been developed from the early forms of sluice gates used to control the flow of water
in irrigation channels. Since then, a large number of different designs and types have been developed for use in
almost every type of flow application. Although linear movement valves are characterised by straight-line obturator

movement, the flow of the fluid may be at right angles to this movement (as in the case of gate valves), or in the
same direction, as with globe valves. The main feature of the linear movement valve is that tight shut-off may be
achieved by tightening down the obturator on a threaded stem.

Gate valves
Gate valves are probably the most common valves in use today due to their widespread use in domestic water
systems, but it should be noted that their popularity in industry has declined in recent years. However, they are still
used where an uninterrupted flow is required, because the gate fully retracts into the bonnet, creating a minimal
pressure drop, when the valve is in an open position. Gate valves are specifically intended for use in isolation
A gate valve consists of four main components, the body, bonnet (or cover), gate and stem. A typical gate valve is
shown in Figure 12.1.1.

Fig. 12.1.1 Typical wedge gate valve

The gate, which slides between the seats, is lifted in a direction at right angles to the flow until clear of the flow path.
The fact that the gate fully retracts into the bonnet ensures that the pressure drop across the valve is low.
Gate valves are divided into a number of different classes, depending on the design of the gate and its seating faces.

Solid wedge gate valve

The gate is wedge shaped and it seats on corresponding faces in the valve body. The mechanical advantage of the
activating thread, together with the wedge angle, enables adequate seating forces to be applied against the fluid
pressure without excessive handwheel effort. The seat can sometimes be coated with PTFE to assist a high integrity
shut-off. A typical solid wedge gate valve is shown in Figure 12.1.1.

Flexible wedge gate valve

Although there are several types of flexible wedge gate valves, they all make use of a flexible two-part disc, which is
shaped like two wheels on a very short axle. The flexibility of the disc ensures tight seating over a wide range of
The most common type of flexible wedge gate valve used in steam applications is the parallel slide valve. The two
plates that constitute the gate are held against the seat by a spring, encased between them. The fluid pressure

moves the upstream disc off its seat, and the force is transferred onto the downstream disc, thereby ensuring a tight
shut-off. The high degree of flexibility in the gate allows for expansion and contraction when subjected to temperature
variations, making it suitable for use in steam systems.

Globe valves
Globe valves constitute a major class of linear movement valves; they have become more popular than gate valves
as there is a wide variety of configurations available to suit most applications. The movement of fluid through the
valve seat is longitudinal to the operating motion of the obturator; this means that for a valve in which the inlet and
outlet are horizontally opposed, the fluid must follow a changing course. The main advantage of this arrangement is
that a globe valve opens more rapidly than a gate valve as the disc only needs to move a small distance from its seat
to allow full flow. This is an advantage when there is frequent operation of the valve. The disadvantage is that the fluid
has to change course, increasing the resistance to flow and generating turbulence. This results in a higher pressure
drop across a globe valve than a gate valve.

Fig. 12.1.2 A conventional

globe valve
Globe valves are less likely to leak than gate valves, which means that they can be used for higher pressure or higher
volume applications, for example in steam systems, or where fluid loss can be hazardous or costly. The increased
cost of globe valves over gate valves is therefore offset by the additional safety they provide, and a reduced chance
The pressure of the fluid acting over the area of the disc generates an axial load on the stem. This makes closing the
valve difficult, so much so, that it limits the size of a standard globe valve to DN250. On high differential pressure
closed systems, balancing plugs can be used to overcome this effect, allowing valves with a nominal diameter of up
to 500 mm to be used (Figure 12.1.3(a)). The balancing plug contains a pre-lifting plug that acts as a pilot valve.
When the valve is opened, the pre-lifting plug opens first, allowing the medium to pass through it at a controlled rate
(Figure 12.1.3(b)). This reduces the differential pressure across the valve, enabling the disc to be easily lifted off its
seat (Figure 12.1.3(c)). To assist closing of the valve, isolation valves fitted with a balancing plug have to be fitted in
reverse so that the top of the plug is acted on by the upstream pressure.

12.1.3 Schematic of a typical balancing plug valve

Piston valves
One of the main disadvantages of linear movement valves is the fact that their seats are prone to damage from dirt
and wiredrawing, and therefore, depending on the application may require regular maintenance. Although these seats
are replaceable in theory, it usually involves significant time and cost, and it is often more advantageous to replace
The piston valve is a variant of the conventional globe valve, with the traditional seat and cone replaced by a piston
and lantern bush. The piston is connected to the valve stem and handwheel, and passes through two sealing rings
that are separated by a lantern bush. When assembled, the two sets of sealing rings are compressed around the
piston by the load exerted along the stem. The upper set of sealing rings acts as conventional gland packing, and the
lower set acts as the seat. Furthermore, the large sealing area between the piston and rings assures a high level of
The piston valve is not designed for throttling duties and must be used in the fully open or closed positions. When the

valve is fully opened, only the bottom face of the piston is exposed to the fluid as the rest of the body is protected by
the upper sealing rings. This means that the sealing surfaces (the sides of the piston) are protected from erosion by
the fluid flow.

Fig. 12.1.4 A
piston valve
If the valve requires maintenance, all the internals can be easily removed by undoing the cover nuts and withdrawing
the piston. The rings and the lantern bush can then be removed using an extractor tool. This operation is simple and
can be undertaken without having to remove the valve from the pipeline. In general, the piston should never have to
be replaced, but the sealing rings may wear over a long period with frequent operation.

Diaphragm valves
Diaphragm valves constitute the third major type of linear movement valves. The stem of the valve is used to push
down a flexible diaphragm, which in turn blocks the path of the fluid. There are two different classifications of
diaphragm valve based on the geometry of the valve body:

Weir type - A weir is cast into the body, and when closed, the diaphragm rests on the weir, restricting the
flow (see Figure 12.1.5 (a)).

Straight-through type - The bore runs laterally through the body and a wedge shaped diaphragm is used to
make the closure (see Figure 12.1.5 (b)).

Fig. 12.1.5 The weir type (a) and

straight-through type (b) diaphragm valves
The main advantage of a diaphragm valve is the fact that the diaphragm isolates the moving parts of the valve from
the process fluid. They are therefore suitable for handling aggressive fluids and for those containing suspended
solids. In addition, as the bonnet assembly is not exposed to the fluid, it can be made from inexpensive materials
such as cast iron, thereby reducing the overall cost. The development of new diaphragm materials enables
diaphragms to be used on most fluids. Their application is however limited by the temperature that the diaphragm can
withstand - typically less than 175C. Diaphragm valves are generally used on process fluid applications.

Linear movement valve stem options

Linear movement valves are available with a number of different stem arrangements:

Rising/non-rising stems - If the stem is rising, it will move vertically upwards when the
valve is opened, as opposed to only rotating, as with a non-rising stem. The rising stem indicates the
degreee of valve opening, which in turn roughly reflects the amount of flow through the valve. Valves with

rising stems do however require more space above the bonnet to accommodate the stem in the fully open
position. The use of non-rising stems is recommended on gland packed valves, as they reduce the wear on
the packing.

Fig. 12.1.6 Rising (a)

and non-rising (b) stem valves

Inside/outside stem screws - On a stem with an outside screw, the actuating threads on the stem are
situated outside the valve body and are not exposed to the process fluid. As screw threads are particularly
susceptible to corrosion, outside screws should always be used on fluids with corrosive or erosive
properties. They are also beneficial where the valve is frequently exposed to large temperature variations,
as the expansion and contraction of the stem may cause binding of the threads inside the body.

Fig. 12.1.7
Outside (a) and inside (b) stem valves

Stem sealing
In order to prevent leakage of the process media from around the stem of a valve, a barrier must be placed between
the fluid and the environment. Stem sealing is usually achieved by one of two methods, namely gland packing and
bellows sealing. Gland packing consists of a polymeric material, typically PTFE, packed tightly between the stem and
the bonnet of the valve, thereby preventing any process media escaping.

Fig. 12.1.8 Bellows sealed

In bellows sealed valves, a flexible metallic bellows is used. It is connected on one end to the stem and the other end
is connected to the bonnet, effectively producing a barrier between the fluid and the environment. This bellows
extends and contracts as the stem moves up and down. The bellows is so effective, it produces a 'zero emissions'
seal. Fitted to the bellows is an anti-torsion device, which prevents the bellows from rotating with the stem. Such a
device is essential, otherwise the repeated twisting of the bellows would lead to the failure of the seal.
Although less costly than the bellows sealed valves, the gland packed valve does not produce such a tight seal as the
bellows. If a gland packed valve is not used for a significant period, the gland packing can stiffen, and leakage will
occur the next time the valve is used. The bellows sealed valve does not suffer from this problem. Furthermore, gland
packed valves require regular re-packing of the gland, whereas a typical bellows requires no maintenance for over 10
000 cycles.