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Feature Report Part 1

Percent of rated flow coefficient

Using Installed Gain




To Improve

Valve Selection
0 100
Percent of rated travel

Figure 1. The inherent flow charac-

teristics most commonly seen are equal
percentage, linear and quick opening or
modified versions of these
Among other things, this analysis is helpful in
tation cannot be reached at any travel.
comparing one valve candidate with another and in When the incompressible fluid starts
to vaporize, the flowrate at a pres-
exposing over- and under-sized valves sure differential is no longer predicted
solely by the Cv value. The liquid pres-
Melissa Niesen, Emerson Process Management sure recovery factor, FL, must be used
along with Cv when the liquid flow is

he perfect valve to control your later. However, for now, let’s discuss choked. It is also assumed that the
process has been selected. The what installed gain is and how it relates liquid density is constant over the full
valve will pass your maximum to the inherent flow characteristic. range of operation.
flow. Everything is great, right? For a compressible process fluid,
In some cases digging a little deeper Inherent flow characteristic in order for the inherent character-
might help. The control valve usually In order to understand installed gain, istic to match the flow characteristic
should not be the most restrictive ele- it is helpful to start by looking at the at constant pressure conditions, the
ment of the process, but it also should inherent flow characteristic of the inlet temperature must be constant
not be oversized or have performance control valve. The inherent flow char- and the pressure-drop ratio factor (xT)
issues that do not mesh well with the acteristic has the same shape as what value of the valve must stay constant
process characteristics. many people might know as a Cv curve. for all travels.
Typically when a valve is selected, This is what is seen when the valve- The full story, however, reveals that
attention is paid to whether the valve flow-coefficient (Cv) value of a valve is in reality, pressure conditions across
is the correct size by determining the plotted versus its travel. The inherent the control valve are not constant. The
travel of the valve (openness) at sev- flow characteristics most commonly xT and FL values of control valves vary
eral operating points. Often these are seen are equal percentage, linear and with respect to control valve travel.
labeled minimum, normal and maxi- quick opening or modified versions of The liquid density and inlet tempera-
mum. From these conditions, suitabil- these (Figure 1). The definition of these tures may also fluctuate.
ity can be judged by seeing that cer- curves can be found in ISA standard
tain rules of thumb are followed. For ANSI/ISA–75.11.01–1985 (R2002). Installed gain
example, guidelines may dictate that These curves show how the capacity The benefit of predicting installed gain
the travel at the maximum case is not of the control valve changes with re- is that it allows the process and the
higher than 90% and the minimum spect to travel. However, they do not tell valve to be analyzed together over the
case is not lower than, say 15% for a the whole story. Under certain circum- full range of operation. Installed gain
given control valve. Of course, there are stances, inherent flow characteristics marries the control-valve flow char-
also many other factors that are con- show you how the flowrate of the pro- acteristics to the process-system pres-
sidered, such as cost, pressure class, cess fluid would change with respect to sure-and-flow characteristics. In order
flowing temperature, fluid behavior, valve travel if the pressure conditions to control whatever process variable
presence of particulate in the fluid, across the valve were held constant as is important to the system, the control
shutoff needs, and the list goes on and the travel changed. There are also hid- system will call on the control valve to
on (see Part 2 of this report, pp. 38–41, den assumptions in these cases. adjust its position accordingly. If you dig
for practical tips on material selection). For incompressible fluids, in order past the controllers, transmitters, actu-
Yet another measure of the valve suit- for the inherent flow characteristic ators, and other equipment, ultimately
ability can aid in optimization of the to match the actual flow characteris- the valve is seeing the fluid part of the
valve selection: installed gain. tic under these conditions (constant process as a desired flowrate versus up-
There are times when examining in- pressure and changing travel) the flow stream and downstream pressures.
stalled gain is not as helpful as other through the control valve cannot be The other parts of the system may
times. These situations will be discussed choked and the point of incipient cavi- express this desired flowrate as an-
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System pressure characteristic Installed flow characteristic
225 3,000

200 Maximum 2,500 Maximum

175 Normal Normal


Flow, gpm (US)

Pressure, psia

Minimum Minimum
150 1,500

125 P1 for valve

P2 for valve
100 500

75 0
100 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,500 4,000 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Flow, gpm (US) Valve travel, %

Figure 2. This illustrates a system characteristic that might be Figure 3. Developing an installed flow characteristic is the
found in conjunction with a pump. Assuming the control valve is first step in creating an installed gain graph
not undersized, it will have one position that can fulfill both the
flowrate and the pressure conditions that the system requires

other variable, say a level or a pressure tic in terms of percent process vari- as dividing each flowrate by the span of
elsewhere in the process, but the inter- able (%PV) versus percent travel the flow meter. If the actual span of the
nals of the control valve that touch the (%Travel) flow transmitter is unknown, the shape
fluid deal with the flowrate. No matter 3. Find the slope of the %PV versus of the installed gain curves will be in-
what the process variable is, the control %Travel graph at each travel structive, but the numerical values will
valve is ultimately controlling the flow- This method is outlined in Ref. [1]. be of less use. As will be discussed later,
rate of the process fluid by introduc- Step 1: Developing the installed- the numerical values from the installed
ing a variable restriction and, hence, flow-characteristic graph. In order gain graph are useful when compared
changing the pressure of the fluid. to evaluate the installed gain over to suggested limits.
The system as seen by the valve in- the full system operation, the system Step 3: Developing the installed
ternals can be plotted using curves of characteristic graph should be known. gain graph. Find the slope of the
upstream and downstream pressure Three points are not enough to develop graph from Step 2 at each travel. The
versus the required flowrate. Assum- a meaningful installed-gain graph. graph of ∆%PV/∆%Travel for each per-
ing the control valve is not undersized, Luckily, if the system configuration is cent travel increment is the installed
it will have one position that can ful- held constant (for instance, the num- gain graph.
fill both the flowrate and the pressure ber of pumps used is constant and the It is this installed gain that the rest
conditions that the system requires. system restrictions do not vary), this of the control components have to deal
Figure 2 shows a system characteris- curve should be easy to approximate. with in order to control the process. Fig-
tic that might be found in conjunction For several increments of valve ure 4 shows the results of a valve in-
with a pump. travel, find out where on the system stalled in the system from Figure 2 with
Note that the differential pressure curve the process will be operated and, a flowmeter span of 2,800 gal/min.
the valve sees in Figure 2 decreases as therefore, what the flowrate will be.
the flowrate increases. This decrease in The location on the system curve can Interpreting graph results
differential pressure is due to a combi- be determined by using the equations Although installed gain has an im-
nation of the pump curve and the sys- in the ISA/IEC valve sizing standard portant effect on the dynamics of the
tem losses up and downstream of the ANSI/ISA-75.01.01 (IEC 60534-2-1 interaction between the control valve
control valve. Assuming the flow is tur- Mod)-2007 along with the valve coeffi- and the system, many more factors
bulent, the system losses upstream and cients (Cv and FL or xT ) at that travel. would have to be investigated in order
downstream of the valve will increase Alternatively, computer software that to predict the dynamic behavior. For
as the square of the flowrate. This implements the ISA/IEC sizing equa- example, actuator dynamics, control-
square relationship causes some of the tions may be used. ler tuning, packing friction, and piping
behavior in the system characteristic. This process is iterative and can be configuration are some of the factors
time consuming if done by hand. The that also affect the dynamics.
Creating installed gain graphs result is an installed characteristic Although the full dynamic interac-
The installed gain graph can be de- graph similar to Figure 3. Note that in tion of the system and the valve will
veloped with knowledge of the system the terminology of the EnTech Speci- not be illustrated by developing an in-
characteristic and the inherent flow fication, this graph is called the Flow stalled gain graph, there are several
characteristic of the control valve (de- Gain (Kf). useful things the graph can achieve:
fined by Cv and FL or xT coefficients Step 2: Expressing the flowrate in • Reveal the appropriateness of the
versus travel). terms of %PV. Use the span of the pro- valve’s inherent gain characteristic
One way to develop the installed cess variable measurement device and to the system characteristic
gain graph is as follows: its relation to the flowrate to determine • Show where in the valve’s travel the
1. Develop an installed flow charac- the %PV for the installed-characteris- gain might impede controllability
teristic (Figure 3) tic graph points. If the process variable • Show the control range of the valve
2. Express the installed characteris- is flowrate, this procedure is as simple for the system, such as the travels
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Feature Report

Installed valve gain

Installed gain Valve 1: Equal percentage characteristic, Valve 2: Linear characteristic
2.2 2.2
2.0 2.0
1.8 Maximum 1.8
gain Maximum
1.6 1.6 gain
1.4 1.4
Minimum Minimum

1.2 1.2 gain
1.0 1.0
0.8 0.8
Valve 1
0.6 0.6
0.4 0.4 Valve 2
0.2 0.2
0 0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Valve travel, % Valve travel, %
Figure 4. The installed gain graph helps illustrate the rela- Figure 5. Here, behavior is compared for two valves with two,
tionship between the control valve and the system different inherent characteristics applied to the same system

for which the control valve will be travels. The equal-percentage inher- within the recommended limits of 0.5
able to perform optimally ent characteristic in this case provides to 2.0. Choosing a valve with a con-
• Expose oversized or undersized an installed gain that stays within the trol range that spans over more of the
valves limits for a significantly larger portion valve travel and more of the expected
• Determine which of two candidate of the valve travel. operating range can help optimize the
valves is better suited to provide op- Potential controllability problems. controllability of the system.
timal controllability For both of the valves, the gain drops In the previous example, the linear
When using the installed gain graph below the recommended 0.5 lower valve has a control range of 22 to 65%,
to analyze the inherent characteristic limit at higher travels. In these cases, while the equal percent valve has a
suitability, it is helpful to refer to es- it is not troublesome because the low control range of 14 to 88% when used
tablished guidelines. If the installed gain occurs at travels higher than with the system in Figure 2.
gain turned out to be equal to one for where the maximum flow is expected Oversized valves. Control valves are
the entire valve travel, the rest of the and where the flowmeter would have often sized larger than is optimal for
control system would not have to com- pegged (exceeded) its full scale value. process control. One area where this
pensate for the installed valve gain. Note, however, that the maximum flow practice is particularly egregious is
The tuning parameters used at one for the linear trim is experienced at a with line-sized butterfly valves. When
travel would deliver equally accept- lower travel than for the equal per- a valve is oversized, it must operate
able controllability at other travels. centage trim. The linear trim is less at lower travels and with a severely
Since the installed gain will not usu- restrictive, so its maximum capacity is reduced control range. Often, a better
ally be equal to one throughout the valve moderately higher. choice is to install a butterfly valve that
travel, guidelines have been developed. At the lower travels, the performance is smaller than the line size or to choose
According to Ref. [1], installed gains of difference between these two valves is a butterfly valve that has better con-
0.5 to 2.0 are desirable. If the installed more apparent. The installed gain of trol characteristics, including a lower
gain value wanders outside of these the linear valve increases rapidly at capacity. Figure 6 shows the difference
limits for travels that are expected to be lower travels and even crosses slightly between using a standard line-sized
used during the control of the process, above the recommended upper limit of butterfly valve and a reduced-size but-
the controllability may suffer. Control- 2.0. If a constant controller gain is used terfly valve in the system from Figure
ler tuning that works well at a travel and is optimized at the maximum case, 2. These two high-capacity valves have
with a low gain, for example, may cause the process may be difficult to control similar geometry, but one is smaller.
an unstable system when used at travel at these lower travels. The controller The reduced-size valve will be operat-
with a high installed gain. gain will be too high, possibly leading ing from 31 to 80%, however, the line-
to cycling and increased variability. sized valve will be operating only from
Using inherent characteristics Some controllers have the capability 18 to 46%. This result would be appar-
Figure 5 shows an example of valves to vary their gain depending on valve ent without analyzing the installed gain.
with two, different inherent charac- travel. However, this practice requires However, the installed gain graph gives
teristics applied to the same system in careful consideration. A discussion of us information in addition to the travels
Figure 2. These two valves are iden- the issues associated with the charac- used. The control range of the reduced-
tical with the exception of the valve terization of controller gain is beyond size valve is 10 to 90% while the control
trim used to characterize the flow. The the scope of this article. range of the line-sized valve is only 40 to
valve trim with the linear characteris- Control range. The control range of 58%. The installed gain at lower travels
tic results in installed gains that are an installed valve is the range of trav- is so high for the line-sized valve that
high at low travels and low at higher els for which the installed gain stays stable control could be difficult.
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Installed gain
Valve 1: Reduced-size, Valve 2: Line-sized

2.0 Maximum
1.5 Minimum


Valve 1

0.5 Valve 2

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Valve travel, %
Figure 6. This installed gain graph compares line-sized ver-
sus reduced-size valves in the system defined in Figure 2

As often is the case when predictive analyses are made,
many assumptions are necessary. Installed gain analysis
is not an exception. Below is a brief discussion of the as-
sumptions upon which this particular article are based:
• The gain value between the control signal and the valve Pneumatic Products Doesn’t Play
position is one. Depending on what equipment is used, Games with the Quality of Your
there may be opportunities to characterize this gain in Compressed Air or Gas!
the valve controller, positioner or actuator. Using these
methods to alter the installed gain also exposes other is- Engineers inherit air systems where reliability, integrity
sues that are beyond the scope of this article and countless devices determine the fate of productivity.
• The valve positioning and controlling equipment is quick
enough to fully respond to changes in the set point. The wrong moves can result in product rejects or
Complicating factors such as packing friction and shaft costly downtime. The right moves keep production,
windup are not taken into consideration, but can be im- profit and your career advancing. Since 1946,
portant factors in selecting a control valve assembly generations of engineers have avoided checkmate by
• There are some systems for which this method does
not correctly predict the installed gain, for example insisting upon legendary Pneumatic Products brand air
systems with a very large volume. The frequency at- and gas treatment systems for their toughest
tributes are such that the installed gain predicted here applications in the nastiest of environments —
(which is a static gain) may no longer be valid, and an
because, there’s no substitute
inherent characteristic other than that predicted here
may be appropriate for the right strategy.
• The fluid is well-behaved. Complicated fluids may re-
• Flows to 20,000 scfm
quire alternate sizing methods beyond what is covered
in the ISA/IEC sizing standard. Examples of fluids that • Pressures to 5,000 psig
may need special consideration are non-Newtonian flu- • Dew Points to -100°F
ids, fluids with entrained gases or solids, and fluids at • Specialty Metals
supercritical conditions ■
Edited by Rebekkah Marshall • Standard Designs or
Built to Specifications
1. EnTech, “Control Valve Dynamic Specification”, Version 3.0, Nov. 1998.

Melissa Niesen is a senior research engineer with Em-
erson Process Management (301 S. 1st Ave., Marshall-
town, IA 50158; Phone: 641-754-2392; Email: melissa. She spent several years in the
valve test and evaluation group performing flow and life
cycle testing on Fisher products before joining the flow
sciences group. She holds a B.S.M.E. and M.S.M.E. from
Iowa State University and is a licensed professional en-
gineer in the state of Iowa. She is a member of ISA and Email: • Phone: 352-873-5793
is active in the society’s SP75 subcommittees.

Circle 28 on p. 78 or go to
Chemical Engineering October 2008 37

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Feature Report Part 2

Valves & Specialty

Metal Materials
Advances in material science
are minimizing the tradeoffs we face
Dean Gambale in material selection for valves

he role of valves in a process is sion-resistance, reliability, availability make an informed decision on the best
far from insignificant. These and material cost perspectives, while material of construction for valves
components enable engineers to illustrating the advantages, shortcom- that will ensure a high performing,
control the vitals of a process: ings, and potential possibilities of each safe and economical process. Mean-
temperature, pressure, concentration, material option. while, if those conditions are at all
and flow. In some cases, the failure of The CPI continue to push their pro- demanding, an understanding of the
a valve could be catastrophic and in cesses harder in an effort to be as ef- specialty-material options that are
other cases just a headache, but what- ficient as possible in a very competi- available — both traditional and cut-
ever your situation, your material se- tive global market. Running a process ting edge — will also be required.
lection will surely be one of the most harder usually means an increase in
important elements in determining temperature, pressure, concentration Specialty metals: The basics
the reliability of a valve. and flowrate. As a result, even more Specialty-metal materials are gener-
In corrosion applications where a demands are placed on equipment, ally considered to be titanium, nickel
typical valve material, such as stain- especially valves, which are critical to alloys, zirconium and tantalum. Al-
less steel, doesn’t offer the corrosion the control, reliability and safety of a though tantalum is an exotic metal,
protection that is needed, and polymer process. In these demanding applica- this article includes tantalum when
coatings are not feasible due to vari- tions, engineers are faced with critical referring to specialty metals.
ous processing conditions, specialty- decisions to specify valves that meet These specialty metal solutions are
metal materials should be considered. their organization’s targets of perfor- considered for applications where
Specialty-metal valve solutions serve mance, safety and costs while also tak- typical stainless-steel or polymeric
a niche in the industry, delivering cor- ing into account a plethora of process solutions do not offer a level of perfor-
rosion resistance and mechanical sta- related variables and application spe- mance that is acceptable. In the case
bility where other materials can fail. cific criteria. To make good decisions, of stainless steels, they are mechani-
Although usually found in the most engineers must evaluate numerous cally excellent, but their corrosion
severe applications, these materials factors that include the following: resistance is limited, especially in
have specific appeal throughout the • Corrosion resistance that is needed concentrated acids at elevated tem-
chemical process industries (CPI) in- for given processing conditions peratures. Polymer coatings however
cluding the chemical, oil and gas, spe- • Corrosion rates and how they will have come a long a way. For example,
cialty chemical, pharmaceutical and affect the valves’ performance and flouropolymer coatings have been
food sectors. useful life over time able to combine the great corrosion
This article provides a broad look at • Effects that combinations of pres- resistance of PTFE and the mechani-
the specialty metal solutions that are sures, temperature, concentration cal strength of steel in one product.
currently available, including titanium, and flow will have on the valves and These polymeric coatings have been
nickel alloys, zirconium, and the exotic corrosion rates able to satisfy a large need in the cor-
metal tantalum. (Part 1 of this report, • Abrasiveness of the processing rosion industry; however as with any
pp. 34–37, covers the roll of installed fluid or slurry to combat erosion material, they are not the solution
gain in valve selection.) In addition, and abrasion for every application. Polymeric solu-
this article discusses new commercially • Need to accommodate process tions struggle at elevated tempera-
available technologies that relate to swings and variability tures (greater than 200°C or 390°F),
material selection. Different material Only when these basic conditions are and aggressive process conditions can
options are compared from the corro- considered can an engineer begin to push the temperature limitations of
38 Chemical Engineering October 2008

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metals are mechanically rugged, offer
H2SO4 Corrosion resistance by metal good to superb corrosion resistance,
5 mpy (0.13 mm/yr)
300 and are robust in a large range of pro-
cessing conditions. Depending on the
conditions and severity of the appli-
250 cation, there most likely exists a spe-
Tantalum cialty metal solution. Some things for
200 the engineer to consider when select-
Temperature, °C

Zirconium ing materials include the following:

• Estimated service life of material
150 • Reliability (safety and economic con-
Boiling point curve sequences of failure)
Hastelloy B-3
100 Niobium • Availability and delivery time
• Material costs
Hastelloy C
Hastelloy B Estimated service life
Titanium The most important thing to consider
when evaluating a specialty metal is
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 the corrosion resistance or corrosion
H2SO4 concentration, wt% rate of the metal in the target media,
as this directly impacts the estimated
Figure 1. Here, the relative corrosion rates of various specialty metals in sulfuric service life of the valve. Each specialty
acid are shown. As is typical, corrosion rates are shown in 5 mills (0.005 in.) per year metal has its own niche, and depend-
(mpy), which, for a valve, would cause problems relatively quickly in creating tight
seals and preventing leaks ing on the processing environment
and the needs of the application, the
metal’s strengths and weaknesses
HCl Corrosion resistance by metal may or may not be suitable. To get a
5 mpy (0.13 mm/yr) better idea about how these materi-
250 als compare, consider Figure 1, which
represents the relative corrosion re-
Tantalum sistances of various specialty metals
200 Zirconium
in sulfuric acid (H2SO4), and Figure
2, which compares those metals in the
Temperature, °C

presence of hydrochloric acid (HCl).

150 Niobium Typically, corrosion rates are shown in
Boiling point curve 5 mills (0.005 in.) per year, which for a
valve would cause problems relatively
100 quickly in creating tight seals and pre-
Hastelloy B-3 venting leaks.
As can be seen in these charts, tan-
50 talum’s corrosion resistance is second
to none, followed by zirconium, nickel
Hastelloy B alloys (Hastelloy is the common trade
0 name produced by Haynes Interna-
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
tional) and titanium in both solutions.
HCl concentration, wt%
Tantalum. From a corrosion perspec-
tive, tantalum is the most corrosion-
Figure 2. The most important thing to consider when evaluating a specialty metal resistant metal that is in common use
is the corrosion resistance or corrosion rate of the metal in the target media. Here,
that measure is compared for specialty metals in hydrochloric acid and gets its corrosion resistance from
a tenacious oxide layer. Tantalum’s
polymer solutions significantly lower. plications, the porous nature of the superb corrosion resistance is compa-
As the temperature increases, the polymers will allow corrosive gases rable to glass and is practically inert
polymer softens, thereby compromis- to diffuse through the coatings, which to most oxidizing and reducing acids,
ing the mechanical integrity of the then corrode the base steel valve. except fuming sulfuric acid, hot alka-
coating and the performance of the In other cases, the porous nature of lis and hydrofluoric acid. Taking no
valve. This is especially true if the the polymer lining could be contami- other factors into consideration, tan-
combination of high temperature and nated, which is especially detrimental talum metal is an ideal choice from
pressures, high flowrate, or mildly in pharmaceutical batch processing. the corrosion-resistance point of view
abrasive particles exist. In some ap- In general, valves utilizing specialty giving the engineer the best chances
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Feature Report

for success. However, tantalum metal is much more robust than titanium Approximate Nickel-Alloy
is also a very expensive material and in withstanding organic acids, such Concentrations
is typically cost prohibitive even when as acetic, citric, and formic acids at
  Cr Mo
cladded. Only in process conditions various concentrations and elevated
where no other material will perform temperatures. For all of zirconium’s C-22 22% 13%
adequately has tantalum been the ma- attributes it still can be corrosively at- C-276 16% 16%
terial of choice for valves — at least in tacked by fluoride ions, wet chlorine,
B-2 1% 28%
its traditional forms. aqua regia, concentrated sulfuric acid
Typically, tantalum could be found (above 80%), and ferric or cupric chlo-
in a variety applications and indus- rides [1]. Zirconium has found its way of acid, salt and alkali applications.
tries that deal with hot concentrated into many types of applications and The addition of chromium (15–30%)
acids such as sulfuric acid, hydrochlo- industries including hydrogen perox- improves the corrosion resistance to
ric acid, and nitric acid in polymer ide production, rayon manufacture, oxidizing solutions, while the addi-
production, metal pickling, acid pro- and the handling of phosphoric acid, tion of molybdenum (up to 28%) sig-
duction, and specialty chemical pro- sulfuric acid and ethyl benzene. nificantly improves the resistance to
duction. Due to its negligible corrosion Titanium. Titanium is an established nonoxidizing acids.
rate, tantalum also finds use in the metal when dealing with corrosive ap- Focusing on some of the more cor-
pharmaceutical and food manufactur- plications. Titanium is available in rosion-resistant nickel alloys, C-22,
ing industries where even the smallest a range of different alloys with the C-276, and B-2 all have good corro-
amount of metallic impurity cannot be most-corrosion-resistant grades being sion resistance in a variety of media.
tolerated in many products [2]. titanium 7, 11 (containing 0.15% pal- In the case of HCl, the corrosion resis-
Recently, however, there have been ladium), and 12 (containing 0.3% Mo tance of these alloys depends greatly
developments in processing tanta- and 0.8% Ni). In the CPI, titanium on the Mo content. The alloy with the
lum metal to create a surface alloy on and its alloys offer good corrosion re- highest concentration of Mo, B-2, ex-
valves and other fittings, instrumen- sistance in many process solutions hibits the best corrosion resistance.
tation, and equipment. This surface and owe their corrosion resistance to In other solutions such as nitric
treatment is based on a chemical-va- the strong oxide film. The oxide film acid (HNO3), chromium is an essen-
por-deposition process that grows tan- formed on titanium is more protective tial alloying element responsible for
talum metal onto a base substrate, like than on stainless steel, and it often providing the corrosion resistance in
stainless steel, until a thin, uniform, performs well in media such as sea- this environment. Nickel alloys’ weak-
rugged surface of pure tantalum metal water, wet chlorine and organic chlo- nesses revolve around their interac-
is created. This relatively new material rides. While titanium offers good cor- tion with the media and their environ-
option exhibits all the chemical prop- rosion resistance to these solutions, it ment in the form of impurities. Under
erties of tantalum, and is an excellent certainly is not immune to them, espe- ideal testing conditions these allos
choice if the engineer desires the corro- cially at elevated temperatures, such , for example B-2, work well in pure
sion resistance of tantalum but cannot as seawater at temperatures greater de-aerated H2SO4 and HCl, but dete-
afford high costs. However, this option than 110°C [1]. riorate rapidly when oxidizing impuri-
should be avoided with slurries or so- Titanium solutions can be found ties, such as oxygen and ferric ions are
lutions that contain abrasive particles in a variety of industries, including present. Another important consider-
that could lead to mechanical erosion chemical processing, pulp and paper, ation is the presence of chlorides (Cl–).
and abrasion of the surface. and marine applications. A major use Chlorides generally accelerate the cor-
Zirconium alloys. Zirconium alloys for titanium is in seawater or brackish rosion attack, but the degree of accel-
exhibit excellent resistance to corrosive water applications. It is also used ex- eration differs for various alloys [1].
attack and work well in many organic tensively in the production of chlorine. Having a wide range of applicability
and inorganic acids, salt solutions, Nickel alloys. Nickel alloys are com- in acids, salt solutions, and caustic en-
strong alkalies, and some molten salts. monly used when typical steel ma- vironments, nickel alloys have found
Zirconium owes its corrosion resistance terials don’t offer the corrosion per- their way into a variety of industries
to the natural formation of a dense, formance that is needed. To enhance such as chemical, petrochemical, oil
stable, self-healing oxide film on its the performance of nickel materials and gas, nuclear, conventional power
surface. Unalloyed zirconium has ex- in aqueous-solution service, the most generating and paper.
cellent resistance to sulfuric acid up to important alloying elements are Fe,
60% concentration at the boiling point, Cu, Si, Cr, and Mo; with Cr and Mo Reliability
and has excellent corrosion resistance playing a major role in nickel’s cor- The true cost of replacing a valve is
in hydrochloric acid. Zirconium is also rosion resistance (Table). By varying not simply the cost of the part itself.
highly resistant to most alkali solu- the concentrations of Cr and Mo in Engineers must also consider prod-
tions up to their boiling point. the nickel alloys, the corrosive envi- uct contamination, lost of production,
Zirconium’s corrosion resistance ronments in which nickel alloys can safety and the high maintenance costs
could be compared with titanium be successfully applied are varied; but associated with premature failures.
in many ways, however zirconium they typically are found in a range In many processing environments,
40 Chemical Engineering October 2008

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Specialty materials cost comparison cialty metal valves being metal is used very efficiently, the costs
versus stainless steel manufactured on an as- are actually less than other special
Tantalum order basis. The result metal solutions.
of this market dynamic
Zirconium is that it is common to Conclusions
Titanium see delivery times rang- When considering valves and specialty
ing from 12 to 24 weeks. materials for your operation, there
In many manufacturing are always tradeoffs. Historically, the
Tantalum surface
treatment on stainless
environments, this is optimal properties of value, life, reli-
undesirable because the ability, availability, and material costs
316 SS
inventory burden is high are rarely realized in one single mate-
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 for the end user. rial set. More often than not, in harsh
316 stainless-steel cost factor
If lead times are a environments the best corrosion resis-
Figure 3. While metals prices are continuously fluc- concern and a specialty tant materials are the most expensive
tuating, the latest estimates for a solid specialty metal metal solution is desired, and the most difficult to procure. In
is anywhere from 4.5 to 10 times the cost of 316 stain-
one option might be to addition to the process requirements,
less steel with the exception of solid tantalum valves,
which could be more than 50 times that of 316 stainless consider specialty-metal organizational goals may influence
surface treatments. For your valve material selection by more
the additional cost usually associated instance, commercial processes exist strongly emphasizing different aspects
with materials that are more corrosion that take standard, stainless-steel such as safety, process reliability, and
resistant is invariably less than the valves and treat them with a tanta- cost reduction strategies. In any case,
disruptions and distractions caused lum metal vapor. This process creates compromises need to be made and it
by failed valves. This is especially true a valve with the corrosion performance ultimately comes down to corrosion
for large processing plants with sev- of tantalum and takes advantage of the protection versus costs.
eral dependent operations. However, availability of standard stainless steel Fortunately, advances in the mate-
this may not be the case for pilot scale materials. The lead times for these rial science are opening up new pos-
production or laboratory settings. In valves ranges from 3 to 6 weeks. sibilities in specialty valve materials.
these situations, it may very well be Through material developments, com-
more cost efficient to replace cheaper Material and product costs binations of materials are being engi-
valves more often. In other settings, When looking at material costs it is far neered to minimize the tradeoffs we
where the scope and specifications of more advantageous to look at the cost face in material selection for valves. ■
a project are not certain and are sub- of ownership versus the initial out-of- Edited by Rebekkah Marshall
ject to change, investing in the more pocket costs. In most cases it is more
robust solutions could provide the en- cost effective to specify materials that References
gineer with greater flexibility and ro- will provide an extended valve life, and 1. Roberge, P. R., “Handbook of Corrosion Engi-
neering”, McGraw Hill, New York, 2000.
bustness of design. this is especially true in areas that are
2. Burstein, G. T., others, “Corrosion Volume 1 &
difficult to replace or are critical to the 2”, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 1994.
Availability and delivery time safety and performance of the opera- 3. Asphahani, A.I., Corrosion of Nickel-Base Alloys
in “Metals Handbook: Corrosion”, Metals Park,
Unfortunately, the availability and de- tion. Usually the increased costs of a Ohio, ASM International, 1987, pp. 641–657.
livery time for many specialty metal specialty metal valve are insignificant
valves is suboptimal. There are several compared to the costs associated with Author
conditions in today’s market that have loss of production time, out of specifi- Dean Gambale is chief ex-
ecutive officer, Americas, of
contributed to this problem. First, spe- cation products and maintenance. Tantaline Inc. (1050 Winter
St, Suite 1000, Waltham MA
cialty metal prices are relatively high Compared to 316 stainless steel or 02541; Phone: 888-268-2586
and fluctuating. Because of this con- even polymers, specialty metals are or +45-7020-0679; Fax:
888-292-9243; Email: dgam-
dition, most manufacturers and dis- relatively expensive and are therefore; Website:
tributors are not willing to stock these reserved for applications that require Tanta-
line’s technology focuses on
materials in any significant quantities. specialty metal properties and charac- the creation of rugged, durable
Therefore, much of the supply chain teristics (Figure 3). While metals prices and extremely corrosion-resis-
tant tantalum metal surface alloys for use in the
is worried about getting caught with are continuously fluctuating, the latest chemical-process, oil-and-gas and pharmaceutical
industries. Gambale has spent 13 years of his pro-
inventories that don’t have the value estimates for a solid specialty metals is fessional career focusing on cutting edge materi-
they once did at the date of acquisition. anywhere from 4.5 to 10 times the cost als and creating useful products that solve real
problems and bring value to the customers. Prior
Hence, materials are typically pur- of 316 stainless steel with the exception to his tenure at Tantaline, he worked at W.L. Gore
chased on an as-ordered basis. of solid tantalum-lined valves, which & Associates for 10 years in product development
and product management, focusing on materials
Second, since valves come in such could be more than 50 times that of 316 utilizing PTFE composites and surfaces. He also
a wide range of size, type, and style, stainless steel. As a cladding, tantalum spent three years at H.C. Starck as business de-
velopment manager focusing on tantalum metal
stocking all these combinations in the is still significantly more expensive than products and technologies. He holds a B.S.Ch.E
from Penn State University and an M.B.A from
various specialty metals is cost prohibi- any of the specialty alloys; however as a the University of Delaware. He currently is an of-
tive. This reinforces the practice of spe- surface treatment, since the tantalum ficer of his local Boston AIChE chapter.

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