"Final control is the muscle to change what physically flows through the pipes in users' applications, helps operators perform efficiently and effectively, and keeps them out of trouble," said Terry Buzbee, group president, final control, Emerson Automation Solutions. "Final control helps users achieve business impacts. The right valve is foundational to our Operational Certainty efforts."
During his keynote address on Oct. 2, the opening day of the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Minneapolis, Buzbee added that final control's mission is to reliably and safely protect people, assets, surrounding communities and local environments, but these attributes can aid performance as well. "The first step in protection is containment, but beyond that, its intelligence can help improve performance and product quality," explained Buzbee. "A leaky valve can cause off-spec product, decrease throughput and increase costs. You can't do advanced control without tight regulatory control. So, final control product choice will affect users' product quality and costs."
Wider, comprehensive capabilities
Buzbee reported that Emerson added a significant piece to its final control portfolio puzzle when it completed its $3 billion acquisition of Pentair’s valve control technologies and brands in May 2017. "Our existing final control division consisted of Fisher control valves and regulators and the Bettis actuators we've had for 20 years," said Buzbee. "Three years ago, we acquired Virgo, which gave us ball valves for the oil and gas industries. With Pentair, we took on the rest of the pressure management area, including its Anderson Greenwood and Crosby pressure-relief valves for all industries, including heavy power and refining. We also took on its isolation solutions, including KTM ball valves and Keystone devices. "
Consequently, Emerson's final control portfolio and brands now consists of:
- Control—Fisher and Sempell;
- Actuation—Bettis and Biffi;
- Isolation—Clarkson, Keystone, KTM, Vanessa and Virgo;
- Pressure management—Anderson Greenwood, Crosby, Enardo, Fisher, Kunkle and Yarway.
"Emerson has always been strong in control valves and digital instrumentation, but combining isolation valves with actuators and digital valves lets us provide our customers with the whole package," added Buzbee. "We all know how critical safety systems are in any plant, but they're often bundles of components that aren't certified as a whole. Our portfolio enables us to deliver complete solutions that are fully certified."
Deeper, more varied solutions
Beyond its expansion into new technical realms, Emerson is developing a variety of other enhanced capabilities in its final control products, such as a test protocol for it pressure-relief valves and feedback functions to aid maintenance. "For example, our new Walkdown app runs on tablet PCs, which makes maintenance turnarounds much easier, saves a lot of time, and gives us great equipment accuracy," said Buzbee.
In one notable case, Emerson recently combined a Roxar multi-phase flowmeter with a Fisher multi-port valve on a test-separation skid for an oil and gas application. "This solution allows us to put multiple pipes together, which reduced the piping needed overall, and made the whole system much smaller and lighter," added Buzbee. "This saved the customer 60% on piping, improved engineering, and saved about $3.5 million."
Buzbee added that an external set of technical advances emerging to help the final control field is additive manufacturing—or industrial 3D printing—which is enabling suppliers to produce stronger, less costly components, and deliver them much faster. "Traditionally, parts are cast and machined or welded, but it's costly, uses a ton of energy, and it's time-consuming," he added. "Additive manufacturing lets us print with powdered metal right from a CAD file, which eliminates waste, saves energy, and produce products that are laser perfect and have better material characteristics. In fact, we can print a ball valve for a 1,000-psi application that's stronger than the cast version.”
In addition, the company's new Cavitrol Hex cavitation-reducing flow conditioner is totally 3D printed. Its six-sided tubes are more durable than the welded Cavitrol it replaces. "The old welded Cavitrol took months to build and was less durable,” Buzbee said. “The new one takes one day or one week to build, depending on size, and it's more durable. In the future, users are going to see more 3D printing facilities nearer to their sites for easier response and quicker deliveries.”