Robert E. Gooch, P.E.

Robert E. Gooch, P.E., is director of technology for Flowserve’s Flow Control Division. Mr. Gooch has worked for 25 years in various positions in engineering, R&D, and marketing at Flowserve Valtek. He is currently involved with the ISA 100 family of industrial wireless standards, as well as with WirelessHART.

Q: How has valve automation technology changed over the past 10 to 15 years? What new capabilities can users leverage with today’s valve automation technologies that they couldn’t employ with the valve technologies of yesteryear?

A: The biggest development in valve automation in the past 10 to 15 years has been the increasing use of digital valve positioners. Digital technology is being used in almost all grassroots process plants, as well as in many existing plants.

The immediate benefits available to the customer are the auto-calibration capabilities and the ability to capture data through the microprocessor. This basic data includes the valve odometer, the ambient temperature, the histogram, and the operating pressures. Although this data has been available with analog products, the move to digital has increased the emphasis on position feedback.

Several options are available for the operator interface with the valve package. These include the local keypad, the HART protocol, and the bus systems. All of these enable the operator to make quick changes to parameters such as open time, close time, dead band, and flow characteristics.

Although bus system technology is more advanced, HART technology has a large install base and offers users significant advantages in handheld devices, such as simplicity, robust design, and device portability.

Q: What role do industrial communications protocols, such as DeviceNet,
PROFIBUS, FOUNDATION fieldbus, AS-interface, and HART, play in overall valve automation strategy?

A: The protocols play a significant role in determining plant strategy and plan for:
• Safety
• Process Control
• Overall Maintenance

Q: What is your opinion of the recent release of HART 7 with WirelessHART and wireless valve in general?

A: WirelessHART for valve automation provides diagnostic access to information inside of HART positioners that are not currently networked. This will allow proactive diagnostic programs to be used without changing the control structure. Output control devices will most likely continue to be hard wired to address speed and security concerns.

Q: Does Flowserve support the HART protocol, and will it be offering WirelessHART support going forward?

A: Flowserve has supported the HART protocol in its product line for many years now. We are also currently monitoring the availability of wireless host systems to determine when there will be sufficient support to warrant a WirelessHART-enabled product offering.

Q: What are some best practices users can employ to ensure effective application of their valve automation strategy?

A: Do not be afraid to do a head-to-head comparison using your own equipment to get a realistic picture of what will work in your environment. Carefully evaluate and buy a positioner with the capabilities you’ll need in the future built in now — even if you are not going to use them right away. The advantage of this approach is that you will be able to avoid paying more for certification and labeling when you implement these features in the future.

Q: What are some of the common pitfalls users need to be aware of when developing a valve automation strategy?

A: Buying solely on initial price. Make sure you explore the cost to commission and maintain the positioner as well. Cherry picking low-cost components from different suppliers and assembling them together can make troubleshooting difficult.

Q: How do you see valve automation technology evolving going forward? What new capabilities can users expect to see in the next five to 10 years?

A: Secure wireless protocols will be commercially accepted. From a capital standpoint, this will lead to economical installations — justifiable by wiring savings alone. As a progression of today’s bus networks, future wireless will allow more components and more features to interact seamlessly. Networks will be safer, more efficient, and address plant economics on previously un-addressed levels, such as inventory control or synchronizing processes at separate locations.