A company at the forefront of leakless valve science, Curtiss-Wright Flow Control continues to up the ante as it drives home its non-traditional brand of technology. Lorie Russo reports.
Curtiss-Wright Flow Con-trol’s (CWFC) brand of creative science, which improves upon the function of control valves by promoting zero stem leakage and inherent hydraulic stabilization, has been a constant in helping nuclear customers control plant emissions.
So it seemed natural, in the early 1990s, to adapt the technology for new markets, including chemical and petrochemical industries. But, as with any revolutionary idea, a change in customers’ attitudes has been slow to come. As CWFC has learned, people accustomed to old methods are generally reluctant to sail uncharted technological waters, especially when cost efficiency looms in front as the No. 1 concern.
But cost efficiency is what the game is all about, and it’s why CWFC has made such a push into new markets for its control valves. As industries continue to demand better inventions at cost savings, CWFC is one manufacturer that has heeded the call.
Says the company president, Joseph Napoleon, “Our goals are supported by expanded product lines and services as we continue to be full-service supplier to industries such as engineering services, hardware, testing, manufacturing and test facilities. We are committed to providing the best engineering solutions to our customers.”
Better Valves, Smarter Valves
A wholly owned subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, Farmingdale, N.Y.- based CWFC has for 50 years served an array of industries, including aerospace, automotive, shipbuilding, oil, petrochemical, agricultural equipment, power generation, metal working, fire and rescue. Major products and services have included shot peening, a metal process that improves the durability of metals and helps prevent metal fatigue; control components and systems for aerospace; component overhaul and repair services; rescue tools used by fire and emergency response teams; and leakless valves for both nuclear and non-nuclear applications.
It is in the production of solenoid and isolation/control valves where CWFC has shifted its focus, according to James White, vice president of commercial business, introducing them to both the chemical and petrochemical markets, where industries often need products to help monitor and control emissions.
For just such functions, CWFC has developed the right product: a valve in which stem and bellows are replaced with an energy coil and magnetic attraction that supplies the energy, resulting in a primary benefit of no friction in the valve. This makes the function “more accurate and repeatable,” says White. “It makes the valve very accurate, which is important in the chemical process in controlling the mix, to get the desired result.” In the petrochemical and chemical refining industries, the function allows plants to increase output “by three to four percentage points,” he adds.
The valves operate this way: A magnetic force is generated between the movable core and the fixed core, proportional to the electric current supplied to the coil. As the current and resulting magnetic force is increased, the movable core, attached to the pilot disc, moves upward toward the fixed core. This action compresses the return spring and opens a vent port in the main disc. As the vent port opens, the control pressure above the main disc decreases, causing the main disc to lift, opening the valve. To close the valve, the current is decreased, allowing the return spring to move the movable core and pilot disc downward, closing the vent port in the main disc. As the vent port closes, the control pressure above the main disc increases, causing the main disc to move downward, closing the valve.
All CWFC control valves are sealless, magnetically actuated and meet all requirements of ANSI B31.1 and ANSI B16.34. Design features and rugged construction make them an ideal selection for lethal, toxic, noxious and hazardous services. They are available in one-half-inch to one-eighth-inch sizes in a variety of materials construction. An additional benefit, White explains, concerns the valve’s static seal captured between bonnet and body. “It’s not subject to degradation and doesn’t wear out,” he says.
While their form and function both provide benefits to industries, the valves also help manufacturers attain the anti-pollution mandates of the Clean Air Act. “Traditionally, the valve has a stem that travels through the body and comes through the actuator through the bonnet and the packing, then connects to the main disk,” White says. “The packing often loosens, wears and leaks, resulting in fugitive emissions.” Probably 75 to 90 percent of a plant’s fugitive emissions comes from leaky control valves, he explains.
CWFC’s valves were tested by the California Air Resources Board and received two certifications in 1998, proof of their viability as alternatives to traditional technologies. But getting the word out has been a slow effort. While widely accepted in the nuclear arena in the early 1990s, and even with a nod from Processing magazine as one of the best breakthrough products of 1998, potential users are still skeptical, White maintains.
“This is a different technology,” he says. “Non-users feel it would be more expensive; but while it used to be, the product is now competitively priced. Also, they’re so used to seeing packing, they can’t conceive of an instrument without it. Historically, at the plant level, people have used certain valves for many years. General management wants something new but doesn’t want to exceed its budgets. But we know they’d be saving money in the long run.”
But CWFC’s valves work and what’s more, they are diligent workers that need little maintenance. “We have such valves installed successfully in a gasoline pipeline in California,” White says. “The valves can be digitally controlled because the electricity comes from a control room in Texas.” More such valves installed in a Louisiana chemical plant have been running without problems or maintenance since 1995, White says. The valves, he adds, are ideal for light operations, as porting often has to be cleared of large particles in heavy-volume operations.
CWFC also sees itself at the forefront of embedding so-called “smart” technology into its valves. “With an all-electric valve, it’s easy to embed intelligence,” White maintains. The valve’s self-diagnostics can help the operator monitor changes in function, such as a pressure drop or a drop
Passing the Tests
The company, which employees 600 people, tests its products at a large facility called Target Rock, also located in Farmingdale. Its state-of-the-art capabilities include high-pressure steam, high-pressure air, pressurized high-temperature water testing and cold-water flow facilities.“We use this facility to expand our product line and to upgrade existing products,” White says. “It gives us the capability to test upgrades and new designs without subjecting the end user’s facility to any problems. We have worked with end users that have provided us procedures that we duplicate here to test the upgrade. We have test cells that we regularly modify to simulate an end user’s facility.” With a planned annual growth rate of 15 percent and a $20 million commercial business, CWFC has wisely and strategically targeted acquisitions to complement is existing full range of capabilities. Recent purchases have included Farris Engineering and Enertech. On the international front, its valves currently service petroleum plants in Taiwan, China and Asia.“We have an aggressive program to grow and expand both internally and through acquisitions,” Napoleon says. “Everything we do must be strategic and must equal
a good fit for our organization.”