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Managing Current Requirements For Oil & Gas Valve Sector: Why Reliable Seals Make THE Difference in Cost & Performance

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Since 2014, the global oil and gas industry has been hit by downturns, leading to profound changes in the value chain for parts in oil and gas exploration—from end users, EPCs, service companies to OEMs, and finally components suppliers. Rystad Energy projects that about 800 of the 3,000 oil fields sanctioned from 2010 through 2014 have not been able to generate much value for E&P companies, due to large expenditures on large-scale, multi-year projects before gas and oil prices decreased. With the pivot to lower development costs from 2015 onwards, it forecasts that projects sanctioned over the last four years are in a much better financial state. With a key component in valve performance being seals, selecting a supplier with cost-effective and reliable sealing solutions is crucial to guaranteeing valve performance.

Today, the fundamentals of the industry are better oriented but are still fragile. A positive outlook is vulnerable to any significant decline in oil prices over the next few years. The ability to ensure lower oil prices continues to be an important consideration before investing in and sanctioning new projects.

Many valve manufacturers have adapted quickly to meet the requirement of this new business context. Strong efforts were made to streamline product mix to be faster in project execution and achieve drastic cost reduction objectives. At the same time, these changes needed to be in place without losing sight of increasingly stringent performance and reliability requirements dictated by a strong normative environment (API, ISO, IOGP).

How To Optimize Valve Performance

Finding components such as seals that can help with cost-savings is the first step. Finding a supplier who can provide not only cost-effective but also reliable sealing solutions is the next step and crucial to a valve’s performance not only for deepwater, HPHT (high pressure and high temperature), or sour gas reservoirs but also for cryogenic liquefied gas and low greenhouse gas emissions.

In such demanding applications, it is also crucial to identify the critical parameters affecting sealing performance such as operating conditions relating to pressure and temperature as well as seal material and design. In parallel, the hardware configuration and deformations, surface finish and installation protocol can affect the sealing capability of the complete arrangement. All of these influencing factors need to be fully understood in order to design a reliable sealing solution.

What Type Of Seal Should You Choose

The choice of the ad hoc solution is made all the more difficult as there are a wide range of choices from elastomer O-rings, graphite gaskets, metallic resilient seals and PTFE seals. Not only is the seal important, but the supplier’s capability to thoroughly understand the application conditions to provide a precise fit solution is also critical.

OmniSeal® PTFE seals are part of Saint-Gobain Seals’ family of spring-actuated, pressure-assisted seals. First used to address extreme wear, cryogenic, and high temperatures in space in the late 1950s, they consist of a polymer jacket encapsulating a corrosion-resistant metal spring energizer.

Through interviews with major valve producers and piping and valve experts at end users, Saint-Gobain Seals identified several demanding valve applications with a need for enhanced OmniSeal® sealing solutions. These include:

  • Low emission stem seals
  • Global seat sealing solutions for cryogenic ball valves
  • HPHT (30kpsi/250°C) stem and seat seals

In such demanding applications, it is crucial to identify the critical parameters affecting sealing performance such as operating conditions relating to pressure and temperature as well as seal material and seal design. In parallel, the hardware configuration and deformations, surface finish and installation protocol can affect the sealing capability of the complete arrangement. All these influencing factors need to be fully understood in order to design a reliable sealing solution.

Why Pre-Validation & Proven Design Are Critical

Today, Saint-Gobain Seals partners with many major valve manufacturers on numerous greenfield projects worldwide where new generation OmniSeal® PTFE seals and resilient metal seals are being adopted.

The business leverages strong technical platforms, participation from R&D, Design Engineering, Quality and Production to work closely with customers to determine the best seal to address extreme applications in oil and gas and anticipate future sealing challenges.

With reliability of seals paramount in oil and gas, designs need to be validated to work in real-world conditions. Saint-Gobain Seals has invested heavily in in-house testing. Their pre-validation process leverages mechanical and tribological testing to help select the precise fit material for an application with a specific speed and load. Finite element analysis (FEA) and 3D modeling simulation tools pre-validate new generation sealing solutions on mock-ups, as well as on actual valves, at third-party laboratories. They have also built a comprehensive range of test rigs that allow us to pre-validate sealing solutions in full compliance with industry standards for cryogenic temperatures, up to 30,000 psi and fugitive emissions. This collaboration helps them to develop the best polymer and metal sealing solutions that exceed customers’ unmet needs.

Could our OmniSeal® polymer or resilient metal seals be a good fit for your oil and gas application? Contact one of our experts to learn more about our engineer-to-engineer process and how we can customize a sealing solution for you!

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