^ Quickly zooming in on the typical valve requirements of new-build plants for speciality chemicals.
Article by David Sear
Mr. Das is a busy man. A very busy man. When VWIME caught up with him, for example, it was already late in the evening in Gujarat yet he had only just checked into his hotel. By way of explanation, he says he would be visiting a project site on the following day – just one of three projects he is currently running as Senior Vice President with his new company, Dorf Ketal.
Quickly zooming in on the typical valve requirements of new-build plants for speciality chemicals, Mr. Das indicates that his organisation makes full use of a wide range of categories, such as manual and actuated onoff valves, control valves and pressure relief valves. “Globe valves, check valves, quarterturn models like ball and butterfly valves, you name it, and we will have it at our plants.”
Asked about his main valve challenges as regards project activities, Mr. Das noted that good quality standard valves are readily available. Nevertheless, challenges can crop up. “One hurdle for example is finding items such as bellow seal valves, ethylene oxide valves, cryogenic valves, etc, in the right quality. Next challenge is in ensuring long-lead items such as engineered valves but also heat exchangers, reactors, pumps, etc, all reach the project site at the arranged time. This takes thorough advance preparation as nowadays projects are almost invariably run on a short timescale.”
Interestingly, the ongoing Covid situation has also thrown up some unexpected issues for Mr. Das to deal with. “The general expectation was that the pandemic would cause the economy to shrink, but in many sectors, such as specialty chemicals, business really is booming. Hence it is hard to find skilled people which is a major challenge for new projects. And whilst we have all adapted to virtual meetings, some issues – especially technical matters – are much easier to resolve face-to-face.”
Today, most of the company’s valve requirements can be readily sourced from within India, indicates Mr. Das. “We are quite familiar with the leading Indian valve makers, for example, who can meet our standard needs. However, for more exotic items, such as bellow seal valves, piston valves, or valves for hydrogen applications, we may have to turn to a foreign company. High pressure rating valves like 900#, 1500# and 2500# in exotic materials like Monel, SS347, SS321, duplex, Hastelloy, etc. are still to be imported in quite a few applications. Fortunately, the leading global players now also have local representation or even manufacturing facilities right here in India.”
Asked about the local supply chain, Mr. Das indicates that there can be subtle differences between India and other countries. “In Europe, for example, the stockists seem to take a much more central role, even for projects. Here in India we do use stockists and traders, but only for valves for basic applications or use in utilities. In other words, areas where the risk is not so great. For process valves we typically go direct to the manufacturer as they are critical for plant operations and safety integrity. We often place orders for thousands of valves at a time, which means that manufacturers are always interested in our custom.”
His organisation certainly maintains an approved vendor list (AVL), adds Mr. Das. “Our AVL is a living document as we are constantly reviewing manufacturer performance, adding new suppliers and removing others as needed. Before a new supplier is included we of course do due diligence, check the product quality, review the company’s experience, evaluate the reference list, etc. This is actually one of my tasks as head of procurement and I am all in favour of giving opportunities to new manufacturers.”
Subject Matter Experts
Once valves have been procured and installed, maintenance technicians will take primary responsibility for maintenance. “Our company has properly trained staff who can perform standard maintenance. For more advanced techniques such as asset integrity management, reviewing valve performance online, etc, we call in third-party specialists or even the original manufacturer for assistance.”
Speaking of valve maintenance, Mr. Das quietly but firmly raises the topic of perception. “Many people see valves as basic items that are easy to specify and simple to replace should things go wrong. But really valves should be held in the same high esteem as all other items of equipment. After all, think of the expense and inconvenience of shutting down a facility to replace a faulty valve! Paying proper attention when specifying and procuring valves will save money in the long run. Or consider a humble needle valve on a sampling line. If it fails and you are unable to check samples then you may not be allowed to sell your product. Just stop for a moment and reflect on the potential loss in revenues. That is why I say that all process valves are important, whether they are expensive or not.”
Indeed, Mr. Das uses every opportunity to ‘spread the word’ about the critical function valves fulfil in process facilities. “I stress just how important valves can be at face-to-face meetings and online forums. If a check valve fails you may not be able to start your pump.
And if you want to comply with the latest emission regulations then you absolutely need to understand how and why valves are classified.”
Mr. Das concludes by saying that an awareness campaign is required to ensure people whose work involves valves better understand issues associated with specification, selection, installation, use and maintenance. “Flow control is a very rewarding career path and absolutely right forum for young engineers and entrepreneurs, but I would encourage them to continue learning as much as they can. If they read codes, standards, technical magazines, visit conferences and talk to seasoned colleagues and peers, then they can develop into real subject matter experts. They will then have excellent career prospects as they will have all the necessary skills to keep our process facilities running smoothly and safely.”