David W. Douglas

David W. Douglas (pictured here) is the president of Paradigm Services LP and CPL Control Products of Louisiana, with over 25 years experience in global manufacturing and services for all phases of the oil and gas industry. Paradigm Services is engaged in aftermarket service, repair, and remanufacturing of valves and actuators installed in refineries, petrochemical plants, power generation facilities, and pipelines and oil and gas production facilities. Prior to Paradigm Services, Mr. Douglas was President and CEO of ENERPRO International, Inc., and he held various management positions within Baker Oil Tools, Baker Hughes Tubular Services, and Reed Tubular. He can be reached at 281 478-5200 or ddouglas@paradigmserviceslp.com.

Brian L. Autin also contributed to the answers provided in the following Q&A. Mr. Autin is the operations manager for Paradigm Services LP, with over 25 years experience in all shop and field service operations throughout Louisiana. His experience includes valve instrumentation and control valve diagnostics with Black Diamond/Benchmark, implementing computer database to print out necessary parts for services that improved efficiency, and providing in-plant training to various customers on control valves. Mr. Autin has previously held several machinist, senior valve technician leaderman, and foreman positions with Desselle Maggard Services, and Cor-Val, Inc. Mr. Autin can be reached at 225 752-5600 or at bautin@paradigmserviceslp.com.

Q: How has valve diagnostic technology changed over the last 5-10 years, specifically with regard to the ability to help users ensure the wellness of their valve & actuator systems?

A: Control valve diagnostics are no longer an enigmatic procedure rarely used in the industry. Diagnostics are now a highly leveraged, integral part of installing, monitoring, and maintaining modern control valves. Diagnostics increase plant up-time and lower production costs, especially compared to the traditional method of pulling and inspecting valves.

A valve and actuator wellness program can help users avoid downtime, lower cost, streamline repairs, and improve the overall health of a production facility. A critical diagnostics program can transition a plant into its own preventative care specialist and can help a plant root out causes of valve and actuator failure and systemic maintenance issues that ebb at profits, functionality, and efficiency.

Q: Why is valve prediagnosis important? From a technology perspective, what kind of systems should users be considering for prediagnosis?

A: More product is generated from a higher percentage of unit uptime as a result of properly maintained valves. Properly operating valves not only throttle better, but they are also less prone to hunting-type instability. Their improved control creates better yields and higher efficiencies. By carefully using diagnostic equipment, actual dynamic response and control capabilities can be clearly defined, leading to the establishment of appropriate control strategies.

Recently, an on-site prediagnostic run on 160 control valves for a major oil company revealed that only 15 percent of the valves needed to be pulled. As a result of the prediagnosis, the company estimates it saved approximately half a million dollars.

Q: How can valve users best ensure the preventive and predictive maintenance systems they employ are both affordable and effective?

A: Test data can come from a variety of sources depending on a plant’s needs and maintenance decisions. Stand-alone systems can provide a wealth of information, but so can integrated online self-diagnosing smart control valves. The key to getting the most out of the available technology is interpreting the data in a quick and accurate way. Increased engineering participation in these areas benefits all interested parties, from end-users to valve service providers.

Implementing a sustainable and effective control valve program is as easy as putting in place a few common sense solutions and sticking to them. Such a program is affordable, tested, and competitive. The results speak for themselves, and the alternatives are not only costly, but could also be dangerous.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see valve users making in regard to diagnostic and testing strategy?

A: The biggest problem most plant operators find when dealing with diagnostics is managing the vast amounts of information. The reams of test reports that manifest during an outage can be overwhelming and begs the question of whether or not a plant is equipped to handle such an overload of information. Outsourcing the management of this data is often the best solution for plants.

Because of this latent power, digital formatting is the answer. Time-based comparisons in the form of trending or the consolidation and comparison of groups of valves sharing certain select characteristics, can lead to massive improvements and an overall improvement in risk management. Sharing this data with other affiliated plants can provide considerable insight, revealing performance or reliability trends not easily seen within a small population of valves.

Q: What is the first step valve users should take to ensure they are building a solid wellness strategy that will ultimately increase the reliability of their valve and actuator systems?

A: Valves returned from repair should be tested to meet OEM requirements. Additionally, prior to installation, every new valve from the manufacturer should be tested on the bench. That way deficient valves can be returned without wasting installation or setup time. When healthy valves are placed back in-line, the setup and documentation of properly installed parts function more smoothly.

Maintenance labor is used efficiently if problems and performance expectations are established as soon as the valve arrives. It is the rework and fault-finding later on that makes the job difficult. And post-repair testing is absolutely necessary to ensure proper valve function and to establish a documentation trail for later reference. More subtle procedures, such as adjusting packing pre-load and checking actuator leaks are therefore simplified, standardized, and documented. With preparation, valve data can be consolidated into one easily accessible database.