Friday, January 19, 2018

Measurement and Control Products for the Shale Gas Industry

steel shale gas pipeline with valve
M.S. Jacobs provides measurement and control solutions
to the shale gas production and processing sectors.
Several areas of North America are involved with the extraction of shale gas resources. The Marcellus Formation, one of the largest shale gas production areas, is located beneath much of the coverage area of M.S. Jacobs & Associates. A substantial portion of the company's product lines have application potential throughout the layers of the industry.

The Gentherm Global Power Technologies TEG (thermo-electric generator) is a product M.S. Jacobs provides for “upstream” use on the production well pad. It provides a reliable source of electric power at off-grid locations and is preferred because of its reliability and operating principle. A TEG has no moving parts and requires little maintenance. A thermoelectric generator converts heat directly into electricity. As heat moves from a gas burner through a thermoelectric module, it causes an electrical current to flow. Thermoelectric generators are a preferred source of power in areas without reliable and abundant sunshine for photovoltaic production of electricity.

Another source of remote power are the Stirling Engine driven generators from Qnergy. Operating on any combustible fuel, these systems deliver electric power efficiently and require no maintenance. The Qnergy power units are fuel agnostic and insensitive to gas content, able to run on gas with variable caloric content.

M.S. Jacobs is also involved with solutions for midstream operations. Flexim ultrasonic clamp-on flowmeters serve as check meters at midstream processing facilities and compressor stations to measure large volumes of gas. They are also being used to help balance the load to the compressors. Other applications are on gas storage wells that are filled in the summer and pumped out in the fall-winter, taking advantage of the bi-directional measurement capability of the meter.

M.S. Jacobs also provides Magnetrol level controls and Orion visual level indicators for various level applications as well as valves and controls on other midstream and downstream applications. A primary partner to many processing companies, M.S. Jacobs provides experience, application expertise, local inventory, and ongoing support.

Share your process measurement and control challenges with application specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Expansion Joints in Process Piping Systems

Expansion joints relieve stress on process piping
Expansion joints accommodate the movement in piping systems
due to a number of real world factors.
Image courtesy General Rubber Corp.
Piping systems of any size require consideration of stresses placed upon the system by movement resulting from a number of possible factors. In some cases, the movement is vibratory and related to the operation of connected machinery. Another common case is the expansion and contraction of piping sections due to thermal effects.

Process piping can have substantial stress applied due to thermal expansion of the piping material itself. This is especially evident when portions of the process piping are fixed in position by their mounting method. Allowances must be made for expansion of the piping material in the installed location. The design criteria will include factors that impact the expansion of the piping components, as well as the relationships between the piping and elements of their supporting structures. Expansion can produce substantial movement of pipe sections which must be accommodated by the supports and the piping itself.


One manufacturer, General Rubber Corp., manufactures a wide range of expansion joints for process piping systems of almost any size. Their expertise, acquired over many years in the field, is reflected in the numerous product variants available to meet every application condition.

Share your process piping challenges with product specialsts, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.


Friday, January 5, 2018

One, Two, or Three Piece Ball Valve?

one piece, two piece, and three piece ball valves
Examples of one, two, and three piece ball valves.
Image courtesy Duravalve
Ball valves are employed throughout many commercial, institutional, and industrial venues where the need to isolate part of a system is necessary, or even just to regulate the on/off condition of system fluid flow. The product variants are almost uncountable, with a version to accommodate almost any application.

When selecting a ball valve, one facet of construction will be evident in your research. There are three common types of ball valve construction; one piece, two piece, and three piece. Here are some general considerations and differences among the three types.

  • A one piece ball valve has a body and end connections formed from a single piece of material. This construction presents a comparatively reduced number of opportunities for leakage. The valve trim and seals are inserted through one of the end connections. This type of valve will not have a port size equal to the line size. The simplicity of the one piece body design tends to make their cost lower than the other versions. Once the valve is in place, it cannot be serviced without removing the entire valve assembly from the piping system.
  • Two piece ball valves generally have one piece that includes an end connection and the body, plus a second piece that fits into the first that will hold the trim in place and provide the second end connection. The construction presents an additional leak potential where the two pieces are joined, but also allows disassembly of the valve for replacement of the internals. These valves can provide full port service and bidirectional flow shutoff.
  • A three piece ball valve essentially separates the connection portions of the valve assembly from the body of the valve. These will be more expensive than either of the other two types, but their allowance for removing the valve body and trim from the piping system while leaving the connections in place may prove valuable for many applications. Full port and bidirectional shutoff can be provided by this construction.
Properly applied, all these valves will provide good service. Your selection depends on the demands of the application. Share your fluid measurement and control requirements and challenges with process control specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Blowdown Tanks in Steam Systems

schematic of boiler blowdown tank with thermostatic cooling valve
Schematic for applying blowdown tank in steam system.
Image courtesy Colton Industries
Blowdown, in a steam system, serves as a means to remove condensate or reduce the accumulation of minerals and contaminants in a boiler. The temperature and pressure of the effluent precludes its discharge into most municipal sewers, requiring a means to collect the discharge and reduce its temperature prior to final disposal.

A blowdown tank is designed as a receiver which vents flash steam to atmosphere and provides for cooling of the condensate prior to final discharge. A vent connection at the top of the tank is normally routed to a safe discharge location outdoors. In some cases, a condenser may be applied to the vented steam. The condensate collects in the tank and cools as heat is radiated from the tank walls, generally steel or stainless steel. Faster cooling can be accomplished with the incorporation of a thermostatic cooling valve that mixes cold water with the condensate.

The blowdown tanks have no moving parts and few requirements for maintenance. Good practice calls for periodic inspection for wall erosion and corrosion. An inspection hatch provides access to the tank interior.

Share your steam system requirements and challenges with specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Storage and Process Tanks

industrial sanitary stainless steel process tanks
Industrial process tanks use measurement instruments
to reveal the nature of their contents.
Storage and process tanks are employed throughout a broad range of industrial, research, and commercial applications. The design and construction of the vessels varies widely, but there are a few measurement and control functions common to almost all applications. Whether general purpose or very specialized, a process or facility operator with a tank will need to know…
  • Nature of the contents. What is in the tank.
  • Quantity of material in the tank. This can be expressed as weight, mass, level or volume.
  • Condition of the material in the tank. This can include temperature, pressure, or a range of other specific attributes which may have a bearing on the process or operation for which the material is to be used or applied.
Instrumentation and fixtures of varying styles and types are used to provide information relating to the three areas noted above. A broad range of tank level measurement techniques and instruments are employed to quantify tank contents. Specialized sensors can be used to measure conductivity, pH, and a host of other material aspects.

Industrial storage tanks are used as containers for everything from water to fuels to chemicals. Contents may be pressurized or blanketed with ignition suppressing gases, such as nitrogen. The construction of a process tank must meet requirements for safety and functionality related to its specific use. Well known commercial applications include those in food, beverage, and dairy sectors. Every industrial or commercial use will have standards for physical safety, product safety and quality, as well as requirements for effective integration into whatever system the application presents.

Mixing tanks perform a different function in the control process as opposed to storage tanks. Mix tanks are involved in batching and blending processes. Made of glass, plastic, sturdy rubber, or stainless steel, mixing tanks blend different substances together to create materials for production. The refined mixing process occurs as certain amounts of liquids are funneled into the tank from lines leading to the tank. The tanks may be provided with specialized fixtures or apparatus to facilitate the combining of constituent substances. Depending upon the application, the components may not all be liquid.

The term “tanks”, per se, encompasses practically an entire industry in itself. The variety of sizes, forms, materials, and accessory features is enormous. Share your tank instrumentation and measurement challenges with process measurement specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Comprehensive Planning for Heat Trace and Surface Heating Challenges

refinery with workers
Applications for process heating are numerous and varied,
found throughout industrial and commercial settings. 
Keeping process or inventory liquids from freezing, or becoming extremely viscous, can be an important part of a commercial or industrial operation. Freeze damage to equipment, piping, containers or their contents can result in a wide array of consequences, all of them likely to be negative.

Developing an overall plan for freeze protection can be advantageous to attacking each application on an independent basis.
  • Having a common vendor for all freeze protection equipment and supplies can help designers develop a knowledge base about how to meet application challenges with specific products, speeding implementation time. Service techs become familiar with applied products and methods, building their skills and efficiency at installing and maintaining applications throughout the facility.
  • Identify all locations where freeze protection is needed. Develop a baseline of the methods employed and equipment installed to meet the needs of each location. Good records form the basis for good maintenance and the ability to make decisions regarding the operation and performance of each system.
  • When selecting the products or methods to employ for freeze protection, consider the environment in which the hardware will be installed. Will it require protection from physical damage, chemical attack, or extreme weather. Is the installation space considered a hazardous zone, requiring special certifications for the heating equipment?
  • The availability and control of applied heat can also be important. Is there a need for the heating system to deliver highly variable amounts of heat across the range of possible operating scenarios, in order to avoid overheating the process or stored materials? How quickly will the system need to ramp up to the desired operating temperature or respond to changes in an operating process?
These questions, and probably others specifically related to your application, should be part of the consideration for freeze protection applications. Enlisting the cooperation of a process heat specialist can apply leverage to your own process knowledge and experience to develop an effective solution to each challenge.

Check this link and request a copy of the Freeze Protection Planning Guide.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Possible vs. The Probable

Overhead view of the Arkema plant in Corsby, Texas.
Image from United States Chemcial Safety Board 
Process stakeholders have concerns and responsibilities regarding operational safety, environmental impact, profitability, and more. At almost every level, the risk of loss, damage, or disaster is scrutinized and evaluated. Steps may be taken to prevent or reduce the impact of some negative event. Other risk reduction methods might be put into play to provide relief from losses suffered. Whatever the case, it is safe to say that much industrial effort is invested in predicting a broad range of "what if" scenarios.

The recent events at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas bring to light the limitations we, as process operators of any type, may put on our own thinking and actions. Though investment was made, and was ongoing, to improve aspects of the plant, the operation was still brought to a standstill and a fire ensued that brought the involvement of the US Chemical Safety Board. This resulted because natural events that were likely deemed impossible became reality, with insufficient contingency operations in place to handle the situation.

What is important about the event is what we can all learn from it, what we can use to modify and improve our own methods of evaluating risk and implementing protections to prevent loss and damage. Essentially, the plant was overwhelmed by storm induced flooding that was unprecedented. Grid and backup power sources were rendered inoperable and material that required refrigeration to maintain a safe condition no longer was provided with the needed cold storage environment.

arkema chemical plant timeline hurricane harvey US chemical safety board
Timeline of events related to a fire at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, TX
Image is from US Chemical Safety Board 
The relationships between an operation and its surrounding environment are not static. The probability of any event occurring is never zero. When probabilities are perceived as being very small, they might be ignored, but low probability events can and do eventually become part of the plant environment. Developing strong contingency plans and incorporating design elements into an operation that account for events that seem impossible, but are actually of very low probability, is a good industrial practice that hardens the process or facility against disaster.

Share and discuss your concerns and plans with process instrumentation and control specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their resources to develop a better solution.