Monday, October 16, 2017

Solving Humidification Problems in Campus Science Lab

HumidiClean humidifier

Armstrong International’s representative affiliate, Mead O’Brien, visited Columbia College along with a local specifying engineer to determine a solution to the customer’s humidification problems in campus science labs.

The site was experiencing fluctuations in relative humidity levels due to having only one Dri-Steam GTS-600 (450lbs/hr.) installed. Because the unit was oversized for application, the swings in humidity were causing the relative humidity to exceed the spec.

Scope of Work

To meet the customer’s demand for a larger capacity, Armstrong International supplied two (2) Gas-Fired HumidiCleanTM humidifiers at 310lbs/hr. and header the units together to feed the AHU. The GFH-300s provided accuracy and turndown required to remain in spec.


Columbia College recognized the real benefits of supplying two appropriately sized units to accomplish reliable and accurate levels of humidity in the science labs. The customer also has enjoyed the 82% efficiency rating of the GFH-300 as well as the modulated control of steam output. Because of Armstrong’s ionic bed technology, both units have required minimal cleaning and maintenance. Since installation, Columbia College has not experienced any issues with both units.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How to Use the Ashcroft 1305 Deadweight Tester

Ashcroft 1305 deadweight tester
The Ashcroft 1305 deadweight tester provide a precise means for generating pressure with high accuracy that can be used as a primary calibration standard. The unit's built-in shuttle valve provides the means to control the rate of pressure increase, while precision adjustment is accomplished with an integral micro vernier displacement valve. 

This video below provides an overview of how to use the the Ashcroft 1305.

For more information on Ashcroft products, contact Mead O'Brien at (800) 892-2769 or visit

Friday, September 8, 2017

Voltage Ranging Solenoid Valve Coils are Rewriting Industry Standards

Voltage Ranging Valves
Voltage Ranging Solenoid Valves (ASCO)
New power management technology is rewriting industry standards for reliability and power consumption of solenoid valve coils. The new technology solenoid valves accepts both AC and DC voltages while improving performance. Available in 2-way, 3-way and 4-way, these solenoid valves are designed to handle most fluid control applications.

The enhanced valves are designed to be drop in replacements for existing valves. There is no change to functional attributes such as flow, pressure, ambient & fluid temperatures or physical attributes such as envelope size and face-to-face dimensions. If you're looking to just switch out a coil, enhanced coil kits are direct replacements for the old coil kits.

Here are the benefits to end customers:

Lower Power Consumption
  • 1.0 watt (DC version) & 1.5 watts (AC/DC versions)
  • Lowers energy cost up to 80% compared to standard solenoid valves 
RoHS 2 Compliant
  • Satisfies CE Directives 2002/95/EC and 2001/65/EU (RoHS 2) for the restriction of hazardous substances 
Supervisory Current Compatible
  • Suitable for systems employing supervisory currents not exceeding the following drop-out currents:
    • 20mA (12-24V DC), 15mA (24-120V AC/DC) and 7mA (100-240V AC/DC) 
  • Also suitable with devices having leakage currents not exceeding the drop-out currents noted above. 
Broad Voltage Ranges Reduce Inventory
  • Available in 24-120V AC/DC, 100-240V AC/DC & 12-24V DC 
  • Covers hundreds of global voltage requirements
  • Simplifies product selection and reduces complexity
  • Lowers inventory cost by eliminating need to stock both AC & DC products
  • Includes 125VDC battery (AC/DC versions) & 24VDC battery (DC version) 
DC Performance Increased Up to 500% To Match AC Ratings 
  • Transition from AC to DC without sacrificing performance
  • Eliminates the need for separate AC & DC output cards
  • Simplifies control schemes 
Integrated Surge Suppression
  • Prolongs the life of the coil by suppressing external voltage spikes
  • Lowers system cost by eliminating the need for additional surge protection 
Fit For Use In Rugged and Demanding Environments
  • Wide ambient temperature range for hot and cold environments
  • Enclosure Types 1 through 4X for indoor and outdoor applications o Optional Class 1, Division 2 coils available for hazardous locations 
No AC Hum
  • Ideal for applications requiring quiet operation
Contact Mead O'Brien at (800) 892-2769 or visit for more information.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Direct Steam Injection Humidifier Replacement in Large Hospital

Direct Steam Injection Humidifier Replacement in Large Hospital
Direct Steam Injection Humidifier Replacement
at St. Louis Children's Hospital
The St. Louis Children’s Hospital is one of the premier children’s hospitals in the United States. It serves not just the children of St. Louis, but children and their families from across the world. The hospital provides a full range of pediatric services to the St. Louis metropolitan area and primary service region covering six states. As the pediatric teaching hospital for Washington University School of Medicine, the hospital offers nationally recognized programs for physician training and research. The hospital employees 3,000 people as well as 800 medical staff members. There are also 1,300 auxiliary members and volunteers on-site.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital was undergoing a significant renovation and determined that the original direct steam injection humidifiers that were installed over 30 years ago needed to be replaced. Within 30 years, they had only experienced minor issues due to the age and use of the humidifiers. Most issues were labeled as manifold o-ring leaks or actuator leakage (either seal kits or diaphragms).

St. Louis Children’s Hospital consulted with their local Armstrong representative, Mead O’Brien, and looked at using direct steam injection humidifiers with electric actuators versus the atmospheric steam generating humidifier. Due to the maintenance, space concerns, and, most importantly, the controllability, Mead O’Brien suggested direct steam injection humidifiers.

When replacing humidifiers during a renovation it is important to analyze the absorption distance. There are many different variables that can affect the absorption distance and, in this case, guidelines and regulations have changed over 30 years since original installation. The amount of outside air brought into the space directly affects the RH levels, and in the healthcare industry, the minimum requirement of fresh air has changed multiple times in the past 30 years. Because of this, some installations required the use of multiple manifolds to shorten the absorption distance.

During this first phase of the renovation, thirty-nine (39) new steam humidifiers were installed. Thirty-four more we supplied the following year..

In addition, the following Armstrong products were also installed:
  • Six Pressure Reducing Valves 
  • Three Electric Condensate Pumps 
  • One Armstrong Flo-Rite
  • Five VERIS Flow Meters
Because of the customer’s relationship with their local Armstrong representative, St. Louis Children’s Hospital received a quality solution that was designed to meet all of their needs and will be supported by Armstrong for many years to come.

Click this link to download the PDF version of this steam injection humidifier application note.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hygienic Sight Flow Indicators for Pharmaceutical, Bio-pharmaceutical, and Food Processing

Hygienic Sight Flow Indicator
Hygienic Sight Flow Indicator
Jacoby-Tarbox, a division of Clark Reliance, manufactures a complete line of tubular and bulls-eye sight flow indicators manufactured specifically for pharmaceutical, bio-pharmaceutical, food, and other processing systems demanding cleanliness and maximum hygienic conditions.

Their tubular glass design allows full 360° view of the cylinder and they achieve controlled intrusion meeting ASME-BPE’s strictest requirements by employing:
  • ASME BPE dimensions and Design Principles
  • Precision-Bore borosilicate glass 
  • Tightly tolerance EHEDG inspired O-ring capture
Watch the video below for a more detailed understanding. You can download a brochure about these hygienic sight flow indicators here.

For more information, contact Mead O'Brien at or call (800) 892-2769.

Monday, August 21, 2017

HART Communication Protocol - Process Instrumentation

HART process instruments
Process instrument with HART protocol (Foxboro)
The Highway Addressable Remote Transducer Protocol, also known as HART, is a communications protocol which ranks high in popularity among industry standards for process measurement and control connectivity. HART combines analog and digital technology to function as an automation protocol. A primary reason for the primacy of HART in the process control industry is the fact that it functions in tandem with the long standing and ubiquitous process industry standard 4-20 mA current loops. The 4-20 mA loops are simple in both construction and functionality, and the HART protocol couples with their technology to maintain communication between controllers and industry devices. PID controllers, SCADA systems, and programmable logic controllers all utilize HART in conjunction with 4-20 mA loops.

HART instruments have the capacity to perform in two main modes of operation: point to point, also known as analog/digital mode, and multi-drop mode. The point to point mode joins digital signals with the aforementioned 4-20 mA current loop in order to serve as signal protocols between the controller and a specific measuring instrument. The polling address of the instrument in question is designated with the number "0". A signal specified by the user is designated as the 4-20 mA signal, and then other signals are overlaid on the 4-20 mA signal. A common example is an indication of pressure being sent as a 4-20 mA signal to represent a range of pressures; temperature, another common process control variable, can also be sent digitally using the same wires. In point to point, HART’s digital instrumentation functions as a sort of digital current loop interface, allowing for use over moderate distances.

HART in multi-drop mode differs from point to point. In multi-drop mode, the analog loop current is given a fixed designation of 4 mA and multiple instruments can participate in a single signal loop. Each one of the instruments participating in the signal loop need to have their own unique address.

Since the HART protocol is a standardized process control industry technology, each specific manufacturer using HART is assigned a unique identification number. This allows for devices participating in the HART protocol to be easily identified upon first interaction with the protocol. Thanks to the open protocol nature, HART has experienced successive revisions in order to enhance the performance and capabilities of the system relating to process control. The standardization of “smart” implementation, along with the ability to function with the legacy 4-20 mA technology and consistent development, has made HART a useful and popular component of the process measurement and control industry framework.

Have a question about HART? Contact Mead O'Brien by visiting this link, or call
(800) 892-2769.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Basics of Process Control Instrument Calibration

Process Control Instrument CalibrationCalibration is an essential part of keeping process measurement instrumentation delivering reliable and actionable information. All instruments utilized in process control are dependent on variables which translate from input to output. Calibration ensures the instrument is properly detecting and processing the input so that the output accurately represents a process condition. Typically, calibration involves the technician simulating an environmental condition and applying it to the measurement instrument. An input with a known quantity is introduced to the instrument, at which point the technician observes how the instrument responds, comparing instrument output to the known input signal.

Even if instruments are designed to withstand harsh physical conditions and last for long periods of
time, routine calibration as defined by manufacturer, industry, and operator standards is necessary to periodically validate measurement performance. Information provided by measurement instruments is used for process control and decision making, so a difference between an instruments output signal and the actual process condition can impact process output or facility overall performance and safety.

Instrument Calibration LabIn all cases, the operation of a measurement instrument should be referenced, or traceable, to a universally recognized and verified measurement standard. Maintaining the reference path between a field instrument and a recognized physical standard requires careful attention to detail and uncompromising adherence to procedure.

Instrument ranging is where a certain range of simulated input conditions are applied to an instrument and verifying that the relationship between input and output stays within a specified tolerance across the entire range of input values. Calibration and ranging differ in that calibration focuses more on whether or not the instrument is sensing the input variable accurately, whereas ranging focuses more on the instruments input and output. The difference is important to note because re-ranging and re-calibration are distinct procedures.

In order to calibrate an instrument correctly, a reference point is necessary. In some cases, the reference point can be produced by a portable instrument, allowing in-place calibration of a transmitter or sensor. In other cases, precisely manufactured or engineered standards exist that can be used for bench calibration. Documentation of each operation, verifying that proper procedure was followed and calibration values recorded, should be maintained on file for inspection.

As measurement instruments age, they are more susceptible to declination in stability. Any time maintenance is performed, calibration should be a required step since the calibration parameters are sourced from pre-set calibration data which allows for all the instruments in a system to function as a process control unit.

Typical calibration timetables vary depending on specifics related to equipment and use. Generally, calibration is performed at predetermined time intervals, with notable changes in instrument performance also being a reliable indicator for when an instrument may need a tune-up. A typical type of recalibration regarding the use of analog and smart instruments is the zero and span adjustment, where the zero and span values define the instruments specific range. Accuracy at specific input value points may also be included, if deemed significant.

The management of calibration and maintenance operations for process measurement instrumentation is a significant factor in facility and process operation. It can be performed with properly trained and equipped in-house personnel, or with the engagement of highly qualified subcontractors. Calibration operations can be a significant cost center, with benefits accruing from increases in efficiency gained through the use of better calibration instrumentation that reduces task time.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Very Unique "No Straight Run Required" Flowmeter

VERIS Accelabar
VERIS Accelabar Detail
The VERIS Accelabar® is a unique flow meter that combines two differential pressure technologies to produce performance never before attainable in a single flow meter.

The VERIS Accelabar® is capable of measuring gases, liquids, and steam at previously unattainable flow rate turndowns—with no straight run requirements.

No Straight Run Required

The VERIS Accelabar® can be used in extremely limited straight run piping configurations. All necessary straight run is integral to the meter. The stabilization and linearization of the velocity profile within the throat of the nozzle eliminates the need for any upstream or downstream pipe runs.

Read the document below for more information or download the VERIS Accelabar® PDF from Mead O'Brien's website here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mead O'Brien: Experts in Valves, Valve Automation, Steam & Hot Water Systems, Process Instruments

Mead O’Brien specializes in valves & valve automation, steam & hot water products and systems, instrumentation products, skid designs, field services, surveys, assessments, and consulting.

Product Focus:
  • Valves, valve automation and control
  • Steam and hot water products and systems
  • Instrumentation and controls
For more information, visit or call  (800) 892-2769.

Please pardon our little shameless self-promotion. Thanks for watching this short video highlighting Mead O'Brien products.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Industrial Valve Actuator Basics

Electric actuator
Electric actuator (Limitorque)
Actuators are devices which supply the force and motion to open and close valves. They can be manually, pneumatically, hydraulically, or electrically operated. In common industrial usage, the term actuator generally refers to a device which employs a non-human power source and can respond to a controlling signal. Handles and wheels, technically manual actuators, are not usually referred to as actuators. They do not provide the automation component characteristic of powered units.

The primary function of a valve actuator is to set and hold the valve position in response to a process control signal. Actuator operation is related to the valve on which it is installed, not the process regulated by the valve. Thus a general purpose actuator may be used across a broad range of applications.
Pneumatic actuator
Pneumatic actuator (Metso Neles)

In a control loop, the controller has an input signal parameter, registered from the process, and compares it to a desired setpoint parameter. The controller adjusts its output to eliminate the difference between the process setpoint and process measured condition. The output signal then drives some control element, in this case the actuator, so that the error between setpoint and actual conditions is reduced. The output signal from the controller serves as the input signal to the actuator, resulting in a repositioning of the valve trim to increase or decrease the fluid flow through the valve.

An actuator must provide sufficient force to open and close its companion valve. The size or power of the actuator must match the operating and torque requirements of the companion valve. After an evaluation is done for the specific application, it may be found that other things must be accommodated by the actuator, such as dynamic fluid properties of the process or the seating and unseating properties of the valve. It is important that each specific application be evaluated to develop a carefully matched valve and actuator for the process.

Hydraulic and electric actuators are readily available in multi-turn and quarter-turn configurations. Pneumatic actuators are generally one of two types applied to quarter-turn valves: scotch-yoke and rack and pinion. A third type of pneumatic actuator, the vane actuator, is also available.

For converting input power into torque, electric actuators use motors and gear boxes while pneumatic actuators use air cylinders. Depending on torque and force required by the valve, the motor horsepower, gearing, and size of pneumatic cylinder may change.
Linear pneumatic actuator
Linear pneumatic actuator (Neles)

There are almost countless valve actuator variants available in the industrial marketplace. Many are tailored for very narrow application ranges, while others are more generally applied. Special designs can offer more complex operating characteristics. Ultimately, when applying actuators to any type of device, consultation with an application specialist is recommended to help establish and attain proper performance, safety and cost goals, as well as evaluation and matching of the proper actuator to the valve operation requirements. Share your fluid process control requirements with a specialist in valve automation, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Segmented or V Ported Ball Valves

Metso Neles segment ball valve
Metso Neles segment ball valve
Ball, plug and butterfly valves all belong to a class of valves commonly referred to as "quarter-turn" valves. This refers the 90 deg (angular) rotation required to go from full closed, to full open position.

In most cases standard ball, plug, or butterfly valves are not the best choice as control valves (where the process media has to be modulated or throttled). Standard ball, plug and butterfly valves usually introduce very non-linear, dynamic flow coefficients. Furthermore, they can introduce undesirable turbulence to your piping system.

As a means to linearize flow coefficients and reduce turbulent flow, the machining, or characterization, of the valve disk is done so that the machined shape allows for more optimized flow.

For ball valves in particular, machining the ball's flow port with a "V", or even by machining the ball more radically, can deliver excellent flow curves. A term for a more radically machined ball is the "segment ball" (sometimes called "segmented").  In the following video you can see how a Metso Neles segment ball valve is designed to provide excellent control.

For more information about Metso Neles valves, contact Mead O'Brien at  (800) 892-2769 or visit

Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy Fourth of July from Mead O'Brien

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Declaration of Independence

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Common Ways to Measure Steam Flow

Steam Measurement
For steam, energy is primarily contained in the latent heat and, to a lesser extent, the sensible heat of the fluid. The latent heat energy is released as the steam condenses to water. Additional sensible heat energy may be released if the condensate is further lowered in temperature. In steam measuring, the energy content of the steam is a function of the steam mass, temperature and pressure. Even after the steam releases its latent energy, the hot condensate still retains considerable heat energy, which may or may not be recovered (and used) in a constructive manner. The energy manager should become familiar with the entire steam cycle, including both the steam supply and the condensate return.

When compared to other liquid flow measuring, the measuring of steam flow presents one of the most challenging measuring scenarios. Most steam flowmeters measure a velocity or volumetric flow of the steam and, unless this is done carefully, the physical properties of steam will impair the ability to measure and define a mass flow rate accurately.

Steam is a compressible fluid; therefore, a reduction in pressure results in a reduction in density. Temperature and pressure in steam lines are dynamic. Changes in the system’s dynamics, control system operation and instrument calibration can result in considerable differences between actual pressure/temperature and a meter’s design parameters. Accurate steam flow measurement generally requires the measurement of the fluid’s temperature, pressure, and flow. This information is transmitted to an electronic device or flow computer (either internal or external to the flow meter electronics) and the flow rate is corrected (or compensated) based on actual fluid conditions.

The temperatures associated with steam flow measurement are often quite high. These temperatures can affect the accuracy and longevity of measuring electronics. Some measuring technologies use close-tolerance moving parts that can be affected by moisture or impurities in the steam. Improperly designed or installed components can result in steam system leakage and impact plant safety. The erosive nature of poor-quality steam can damage steam flow sensing elements and lead to inaccuracies and/or device failure.

The challenges of measuring steam can be simplified measuring the condensed steam, or condensate. The measuring of condensate (i.e., high-temperature hot water) is an accepted practice, often less expensive and more reliable than steam measuring. Depending on the application, inherent inaccuracies in condensate measuring stem from unaccounted for system steam losses. These losses are often difficult to find and quantify and thus affect condensate measurement accuracy.

Volumetric measuring approaches used in steam measuring can be broken down into two operating designs:
  1. Differential pressure
  2. Velocity measuring technologies.


For steam three differential pressure flowmeters are highlighted: orifice flow meter, annubar flow meter, and spring-loaded variable area flow meter. All differential pressure flowmeters rely on the velocity-pressure relationship of flowing fluids for operation.

Orifice Flow Meter
Orifice Flow Meter
(courtesy of Foxboro)

Differential Pressure – Orifice Flow Meter

Historically, the orifice flow meter is one of the most commonly used flowmeters to measure steam flow. The orifice flow meter for steam functions identically to that for natural gas flow. For steam measuring, orifice flow flowmeters are commonly used to monitor boiler steam production, amounts of steam delivered to a process or tenant, or in mass balance activities for efficiency calculation or trending.

Differential Pressure – Annubar Flow Meter

The annubar flow meter (a variation of the simple pitot tube) also takes advantage of the velocity-pressure relationship of flowing fluids. The device causing the change in pressure is a pipe inserted into the steam flow.

Differential Pressure – Spring-Loaded Variable Area Flow Meter

The spring-loaded variable area flow meter is a variation of the rotameter. There are alternative configurations but in general, the flow acts against a spring-mounted float or plug. The float can be shaped to give a linear relationship between differential pressure and flow rate. Another variation of the spring-loaded variable area flow meter is the direct in-line variable area flow meter, which uses a strain gage sensor on the spring rather than using a differential pressure sensor.


The two main type of velocity flowmeters for steam flow, turbine and vortex shedding, both sense some flow characteristic directly proportional to the fluid’s velocity.

Velocity –  Turbine Flow Meter

A multi-blade impellor-like device is located in, and horizontal to, the fluid stream in a turbine flow meter. As the fluid passes through the turbine blades, the impellor rotates at a speed related to the fluid’s velocity. Blade speed can be sensed by a number of techniques including magnetic pick-up, mechanical gears, and photocell. The pulses generated as a result of blade rotation are directly proportional to fluid velocity, and hence flow rate.
Vortex Flowmeter
Vortex Flowmeter
(courtesy of Foxboro)

Velocity – Vortex-Shedding Flow Meter

A vortex-shedding flow meter senses flow disturbances around a stationary body (called a bluff body) positioned in the middle of the fluid stream. As fluid flows around the bluff body, eddies or vortices are created downstream; the frequencies of these vortices are directly proportional to the fluid velocity.

For more information on process steam management, contact Mead O'Brien by visiting or call (800) 892-2769,

Monday, June 19, 2017

Limitorque QX Electronic Actuator User Instructions

Limitorque QX
Limitorque QX
The Flowserve Limitorque QX quarter-turn smart electronic valve actuator continues the legacy of the industry’s state-of-the-art, non-intrusive, multi-turn MX actuator by including an absolute encoder for tracking position without the use of troublesome batteries. The QX design provides enhanced safety and reduced downtime through improved diagnostics, built-in self-test (BIST) features and LimiGard™ fault protection.

The QX design builds on more than 10 years of experience with proven Limitorque MX technology - the first generation double-sealed electronic valve actuator from Flowserve designed to provide control, ease of use and  accuracy. The QX includes all the user-preferred features of the MX in a quarter-turn smart actuator package. It is the only non-intrusive, double-sealed quarter-turn actuator to display the Limitorque brand.

For more information on any Limitorque actuator, visit Mead O'Brien at or call (800) 892-2769.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Common Industrial and Commercial Process Heating Methodologies

Gas Steam Boiler
Fuel boiler producing steam.
Process heating methodologies can be grouped into four general categories based on the type of fuel consumed:
  1. Steam
  2. Fuel
  3. Electric
  4. Hybrid systems
These technologies are based upon conduction, convection, or radiative heat transfer mechanisms - or some combination of these. In practice, lower-temperature processes tend to use conduction or convection, whereas high-temperature processes rely primarily on radiative heat transfer. Systems using each of the four energy types can be characterized as follows:


Heat Exchanger
Tube heat exchanger.
Steam-based process heating systems introduce steam to the process either directly (e.g., steam sparging) or indirectly through a heat transfer mechanism. Large quantities of latent heat from steam can be transferred efficiently at a constant temperature, useful for many process heating applications. Steam-based systems are predominantly used by industries that have a heat supply at or below about 400°F and access to low-cost fuel or byproducts for use in generating the steam. Cogeneration (simultaneous production of steam and electrical power) systems also commonly use steam-based heating systems. Examples of steam-based process heating technologies include boilers, steam spargers, steam-heated dryers, water or slurry heaters, and fluid heating systems.


Fuel-based process heating systems generate heat by combusting solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels, then transferring the heat directly or indirectly to the material. Hot combustion gases are either placed in direct contact with the material (i.e., direct heating via convection) or routed through radiant burner tubes or panels that rely on radiant heat transfer to keep the gases separate from the material (i.e., indirect heating).  Examples of fuel-based process heating equipment include furnaces, ovens, red heaters, kilns, melters, and high-temperature generators.


Electricity-based process heating systems also transform materials through direct and indirect processes. For example, electric current is applied directly to suitable materials to achieve direct resistance heating; alternatively, high-frequency energy can be inductively coupled to suitable materials to achieve indirect heating. Electricity-based process heating systems are used for heating, drying, curing, melting, and forming. Examples of electricity-based process heating technologies include electric arc furnace technology, infrared radiation, induction heating, radio frequency drying, laser heating, and microwave processing.


Hybrid process heating systems utilize a combination of process heating technologies based on different energy sources and/or heating principles to optimize energy performance and increase overall thermal efficiency. For example, a hybrid boiler system may combine a fuel-based boiler with an electric boiler to take advantage of access to lower off-peak electricity prices. In an example of a hybrid drying system, electromagnetic energy (e.g., microwave or radio frequency) may be combined with convective hot air to accelerate drying processes; selectively targeting moisture with the penetrating electromagnetic energy can improve the speed, efficiency, and product quality as compared to a drying process based solely on convection, which can be rate-limited by the thermal conductivity of the material. Optimizing the heat transfer mechanisms in hybrid systems offers a significant opportunity to reduce energy consumption, increase speed/throughput, and improve product quality.

The experts at Mead O'Brien are always available to assist you with any process heating application. Visit or call (800) 892-2769 for more information.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Basics of a Fieldbus Control Network

Fieldbus diagram
Computer systems used within the industrial sector are connected by networks known generally as Fieldbus. Fieldbus systems are a way to connect computers and instruments to a single network in a manufacturing plant and allow for real-time control and monitoring. Fieldbus industrial networks can be broken down into four levels each with increasing levels of complexity.

The most basic level is the sensor bus networks. Sensor bus networks are the least complex of networks developed for industrial application. In these networks, multiple basic field devices like limits witches or level optical sensors are connected to one network cable. The sensor bus network is also capable of transmitting output signals from the controller over one cable to indicator lamps, alarms, or other actuator devices.

The next increasingly complex level of industrial Fieldbus networking is the device bus network. The device bus network is similar in function to the sensor bus network but works on a larger scale connecting many sensors and actuators together. The device bus network also connects equipment to variable speed drives and motor control centers that allow for control of individual elements in the network.

Moving up the pyramid, the next increasing complex level of Fieldbus networking is the control bus network. Control bus networks are the most advanced networks used on the factory floor and data communication happens at a high level. PLC's, or programmable logic controllers, are connected to each other alongside HMI's or human machine interface panels to allow for complete configuration and control of every instrument on the network. Smart instruments, capable of performing complex operations, can also be connected at this network level. For instance, there might be a smart instrument that measures wear and tear on a valve. When the wear reaches a dangerous level it will signal the controller that the valve needs to be replaced.

The enterprise or information level network in a company connects all computers and departments together it is the most overarching and complex of all the various network levels. This level of networking is primarily computer driven which allows for data collection, data monitoring, file transfers, and email exchange on a large scale. The various levels of interconnected Fieldbus networking help to keep industry functioning smoothly and successfully.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Process Instrument Calibration and Repair

The Mead O’Brien Instrument Shop is fully equipped to handle your instrument calibration and repair needs. Whether its repair, calibration or certification services, Mead O’Brien can handle the job. Our technicians are factory trained and certified and can repair and re-calibrate virtually any pressure and temperature transmitter, pressure gauge, pressure switch, thermometer, RTD, or thermocouple.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Industrial Pressure Switches

Industrial Pressure Switch
Industrial Pressure Switch (Ashcroft)
A pressure switch is a device that detects the presence of fluid pressure. Pressure switches use a variety of sensing elements such as diaphragms, bellows, bourdon tubes, or pistons. The movement of these sensors, caused by pressure fluctuation, is transferred to a set of electrical contacts to open or close a circuit.

Normal status of a switch is the resting state with stimulation. A pressure switch will be in its “normal” status when it senses low or minimum pressure. For a pressure switch, “normal” status is any fluid pressure below the trip threshold of the switch.

One of the earliest and most common designs of pressure switch was the bourdon tube pressure sensor with mercury switch. When pressure is applied, the bourdon tube flex's enough to tilt the glass bulb of the mercury switch so that the mercury flows over the electrical contacts, thus completing the circuit. the glass bulb tilts far enough to cause the mercury to fall against a pair of electrodes, thus completing an electrical circuit. Many of these pressure switches were sold on steam boilers. While they became a de facto standard, they were sensitive to vibration and breakage of the mercury bulb.
Pressure Switch Symbols
Pressure Switch Symbols

Pressure switches using micro type electrical switches and force-balanced pressure sensors is another common design.  The force provided by the pressure-sensing element against a mechanical spring is balanced until one overcomes the other. The tension on the spring may be adjusted to set the tripping point, thus providing an adjustable setpoint.

One of the criteria of any pressure switch is the deadband or (reset pressure differential). This setting determines the amount of pressure change required to re-set the switch to its normal state after it has tripped.  The “differential” pressure of a pressure switch should not to be confused with differential pressure switch, which actually measures the difference in pressure between two separate pressure ports.

When selecting pressure switches you must consider the electrical requirements (volts, amps, AC or DC), the area classification (hazardous, non-hazardous, general purpose, water-tight), pressure sensing range, body materials that will be exposed to ambient contaminants, and wetted materials (parts that are exposed to the process media).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage

Any company that is energy conscious is also environmentally conscious. Less energy consumed means less waste, fewer emissions and a healthier environment.

In short, bringing energy and environment together lowers the cost industry must pay for both. By helping companies manage energy, Armstrong and Mead O'Brien products and services are also help protect the environment.

Steam is an invisible gas generated by adding heat energy to water in a boiler. Enough energy must be added to raise the temperature of the water to the boiling point. Then additional energy—without any further increase in temperature—changes the water to steam.

Steam is a very efficient and easily controlled heat transfer medium. It is most often used for transporting energy from a central location (the boiler) to any number of locations in the plant where it is used to heat air, water or process applications.

As noted, additional Btu are required to make boiling water change to steam. These Btu are not lost but stored in the steam ready to be released to heat air, cook tomatoes, press pants or dry a roll of paper.

The heat required to change boiling water into steam is called the heat of vaporization or latent heat. The quantity is different for every pressure/temperature combination, as shown in the steam tables.

Heat flows from a higher temperature level to a lower temperature level in a process known as heat transfer. Starting in the combustion chamber of the boiler, heat flows through the boiler tubes to the water. When the higher pressure in the boiler pushes steam out, it heats the pipes of the distribution system. Heat flows from the steam through the walls of the pipes into the cooler surrounding air. This heat transfer changes some of the steam back into water. That’s why distribution lines are usually insulated to minimize this wasteful and undesirable heat transfer.

When steam reaches the heat exchangers in the system, the story is different. Here the transfer of heat from the steam is desirable. Heat flows to the air in an air heater, to the water in a water heater or to food in a cooking kettle. Nothing should interfere with this heat transfer.

Condensate Drainage - Why It’s Necessary

Condensate is the by-product of heat transfer in a steam system. It forms in the distribution system due to unavoidable radiation. It also forms in heating and process equipment as a result of desirable heat transfer from the steam to the substance heated. Once the steam has condensed and given up its valuable latent heat, the hot condensate must be removed immediately. Although the available heat in a pound of condensate is negligible as compared to a pound of steam, condensate is still valuable hot water and should be returned to the boiler.

The document below provides and excellent reference for understanding the properties of steam and the importance of condensate drainage for an efficient system. You may also download your own copy of the Steam Conservation Guidelines for Condensate Drainage here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Condensate Drainage ... Why It’s Necessary in Industrial Steam Systems

condensate drain
Condensate drain
Abstracted with permission from Armstrong International

Condensate is the by-product of heat transfer in a steam system. It forms in the distribution system due to unavoidable radiation. It also forms in heating and process equipment as a result of desirable heat transfer from the steam to the substance heated. Once the steam has condensed and given up its valuable latent heat, the hot condensate must be removed immediately. Although the available heat in a pound of condensate is negligible as compared to a pound of steam, condensate is still valuable hot water and should be returned to the boiler.

The need to drain the distribution system.
Condensate Drainage
Figure 1: Condensate allowed to collect in pipes or tubes
is blown into waves by steam passing over it until it blocks
steam flow at point A. Condensate in area B causes a pressure
differential that allows steam pressure to push the slug
of condensate along like a battering ram.

Condensate lying in the bottom of steam lines can be the cause of one kind of water hammer. Steam traveling at up to 100 miles per hour makes “waves” as it passes over this condensate (Fig. 1). If enough condensate forms, high-speed steam pushes it along, creating a dangerous slug that grows larger and larger as it picks up liquid in front of it. Anything that changes the direction—pipe fittings, regulating valves, tees, elbows, blind flanges—can be destroyed. In addition to damage from this “battering ram,” high-velocity water may erode fittings by chipping away at metal surfaces.

The need to drain the heat transfer unit. 

Condensate Drainage
Figure 2: Coil half full of condensate can’t
work at full capacity.
When steam comes in contact with condensate cooled below the temperature of steam, it can produce another kind of water hammer known as thermal shock. Steam occupies a much greater volume than condensate, and when it collapses suddenly, it can send shock waves throughout the system. This form of water hammer can damage equipment, and it signals that condensate is not being drained from the system. Obviously, condensate in the heat transfer unit takes up space and reduces the physical size and capacity of the equipment. Removing it quickly keeps the unit full of steam (Fig. 2). As steam condenses, it forms a film of water on the inside of the heat exchanger. Non-condensable gases do not change into liquid and flow away by gravity. Instead, they accumulate as a thin film on the surface of the heat exchanger—along with dirt and scale. All are potential barriers to heat transfer (Fig. 3).

The need to remove air and CO2. 

Air is always present during equipment start-up and in the boiler feedwater. Feedwater may also contain dissolved carbonates, which release carbon dioxide gas. The steam velocity pushes the gases to the walls of the heat exchangers, where they may block heat transfer. This compounds the condensate drainage problem, because these gases must be removed along with the condensate.

Fig 3: Potential barriers to heat transfer: steam heat and temperature
 must penetrate these potential barriers to do their work.

For more information about any industrial steam or hot water system, contact Mead O'Brien by visiting or call (800) 892-2769.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Industrial Valve Automation, Service and Repair

From quarter-turn ball, butterfly, or plug valves, to linear gate and globe valves, Mead O'Brien can handle the most challenging actuation design. Options and accessories such as valve communications, limit switches, fail-safe devices, and solenoid valves are no problem.

With decades of expertise in rack and pinion and scotch-yoke actuators, as well as electric quarter-turn and linear actuators, Mead O'Brien has the experience and facilities to deliver a well engineered automated valve package. Visit

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Understanding Industrial Valve Actuators

Automated Pneumatic Ball Valve
Automated Pneumatic
Ball Valve (Jamesbury)
Valves are essential to industries which constitute the backbone of the modern world. The prevalence of valves in engineering, mechanics, and science demands that each individual valve performs to a certain standard. Just as the valve itself is a key component of a larger system, the valve actuator is as important to the valve as the valve is to the industry in which it functions. Actuators are powered mechanisms that position valves between open and closed states; the actuators are controllable either by manual control or as part of an automated control loop, where the actuator responds to a remote control signal. Depending on the valve and actuator combination, valves of different types can be closed, fully open, or somewhere in-between. Current actuation technology allows for remote indication of valve position, as well as other diagnostic and operational information. Regardless of its source of power, be it electric, hydraulic, pneumatic, or another, all actuators produce either linear or rotary motion under the command of a control source.

Thanks to actuators, multiple valves can be controlled in a process system in a coordinated fashion; imagine if, in a large industrial environment, engineers had to physically adjust every valve via a hand wheel or lever! While that manual arrangement may create jobs, it is, unfortunately, completely impractical from a logistical and economic perspective. Actuators enable automation to be applied to valve operation.
Pneumatic actuator
Pneumatic actuator
(Jamesbury Quadra-Powr

Pneumatic actuators utilize air pressure as the motive force which changes the position of a valve. Pressurized-liquid reliant devices are known as hydraulic actuators. Electric actuators, either motor driven or solenoid operated, rely on electric power to drive the valve trim into position. With controllers constantly monitoring a process, evaluating inputs, changes in valve position can be remotely controlled to provide the needed response to maintain the desired process condition.

Manual operation and regulation of valves is becoming less prevalent as automation continues to gain traction throughout every industry. Valve actuators serve as the interface between the control intelligence and the physical movement of the valve. The timeliness and automation advantages of the valve actuators also serve as an immense help in risk mitigation, where, as long as the system is functioning correctly, critical calamities in either environmental conditions or to a facility can be pre-empted and quickly prevented. Generally speaking, manual actuators rely on hand operation of levers, gears, or wheels, but valves which are frequently changed (or which exist in remote areas) benefit from an automatic actuator with an external power source for a myriad of practical reasons, most pressingly being located in an area mostly impractical for manual operation or complicated by hazardous conditions.
Electric Actuator
Electric Actuator

Thanks to their versatility and stratified uses, actuators serve as industrial keystones to, arguably, one of the most important control elements of industries around the world. Just as industries are the backbones of societies, valves are key building blocks to industrial processes, with actuators as an invaluable device ensuring both safe and precise operation.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Intelligent Transmitters Help Coal Plant Reduce Costs and Improve Performance

Power Plant
Effective, profitable power plant operation requires managing capital-expense turbine, boiler, and combustion equipment, along with many other assets that must be precisely balanced. Reliable readings of pressure, temperature, and other process variables are critical to success.

While analog transmitters are known for accuracy and reliability, maintenance costs increase with age, and flexibility for performance improvement is limited. To reduce long-term operating costs and maintain quality service to more than 300,000 customers, a Michigan power utility launched a program to replace its aging analog transmitters with modern digital models.

The utility uses transmitters for draft indications on the boiler and pulverized mill area. They read pressure on the boiler and the turbine as well as combustion and steam heating equipment. Some of the instruments send data to a centralized distributed control system (DCS), which manages the set points that control the sensitive interactions. Other instruments simply indicate various pressure states to operators and maintenance technicians.

When this power utility implemented its first DCS, all transmitters were analog. At the time, mixing and matching multiple brands of analog sensors was difficult, and in some cases impossible, due to proprietary mounting configurations. Managers at this Michigan power plant wanted to be certain that they selected a digital sensor that would not lock them into a single vendor.

To learn how this power company came up with a the solution and to learn the results, read the complete document below. For any process instrument requirement, visit Mead O'Brien at or call (800) 892-2769.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Selecting the Right Valve Automation Partner for the Power Industry

power industry valve automation
Electrically automated gate valve
in generating facility.
Having knowledgeable, experienced and skilled vendor-partners is crucial in mitigating safety, environmental, and health risks, as well as meeting power generation facility construction and production goals. Partnering with the right valve automation company means that you will have industry experts there to ensure the success of your project, meeting your budgetary and performance goals, and passing critical know-how along to your staff.

But what should you look for in a valve automation partner?

Understanding and Meeting Expectations
Your valve automation partner needs to understand your industry, the application, and the upstream and downstream processes affected by the automated system being installed. Your partner must have a full understanding of all types of valve automation, including pneumatic, hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, and electric actuation. A full understanding of the morass of technical and administrative requirements is critical. These include a knowledge of applicable codes, industry standards, environmental concerns, maintenance requirements, back-up systems, and emergency processes. A strong candidate will consider all of these factors for every power plant valve automation job.

Engineering, Experience, and Precision
Qualified engineering staff and experience are critically important factors in selecting your valve automation partner. A qualified partner should have engineering staff with decades, not just years, of experience in applying, specifying, designing, and fabricating automated valve systems for the power industry. Additional experience in other industry segments is a plus, but a working history and a proven, successful track record in power plant automation is mandatory. All production technicians should be factory trained with valid certification. Whether a 1/2” ball valve with simple electric actuator, or 48” valve gate with extensive controls, your valve automation partner needs to reliably and consistently ensure conformance to specifications.


Your valve automation partner needs to remain involved in every step of the process - from specifying, quoting, fabrication, delivery, installation, and training. The best valve automators stand by the customer after the automated valve systems are shipped. They see the project through to completion, paying great attention to detail. They generally obsess over the smallest details. For instance, a critical area is actuator-to-valve adaption design and configuration and a good candidate will pay very close attention to that piece. Good valve automation partners create and provision high quality drawings and wiring diagrams. They carefully ensure all requested settings and configuration meets specification and is completed. Finally, they maniacally Q.C. the completed automated valve though in-depth cycle testing before shipping. A good valve automation partner truly understands that this investment in detail upfront, eliminates costly downstream errors and mistakes.

Documentation and Tagging

Your partner should provide very detailed documentation for each automated package. Documentation packages should be very detailed and include valve Cv, actuator sizing calculations, material selection criterion, ISA data-sheets, dimensional drawings, operational testing data, seat leak test data, packing leakage data, and switch setting verification. Your valve automation partner should standardly provide valve packages tagged with stainless steel stamped serial numbers that provide traceability back to original components, fabrication, and testing.


Your valve automation partner should have in-house capabilities for lifting, moving, testing, and storing large valve assemblies. The facility needs adequate pneumatic and electrical service to power any system they build. The space and ability to move large valves with lifts, hoists, and jacks is important. Storage space for sub-assemblies and finished goods, high pressure leak testing stations, seat leak testing stations. In-house CAD systems and on-premise machine shops provide an environment for better quality control and communication. Close proximity between engineers, designers, and technicians supports efficient communication and full understanding of customer needs. An on-site training room, with all required electrical and pneumatic testing rigs should be available. Finally, large docking facilities and easy access to major highways minimizes transportation issues and lowers cost.

valve automation training facility
Valve automation training facility
(courtesy of Mead O'Brien)
Your plant maintenance crews must have 100% familiarity with the operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of your new valve systems. Your valve automation partner must have the capability to provide practical, and hands-on, training on all facets of valve automation. Programs must be customizable to customer needs and special situations.

By doing your due diligence, and thoroughly evaluating a prospective valve automation partner, you are establishing a framework of confidence and trust that minimizes risk and provides peace of mind that your critically important power plant valve systems will provide safe, efficient, and reliable performance for years to come.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Train Your People for Better Plant Steam and Hot Water Systems

Do the people who maintain your plant’s steam system really understand how to save you money?

It's probably a good idea to have them attend a professional steam and hot water training seminar. These programs provide a window into elements of the plant steam cycle as they observe live steam and condensate behavior in glass piping and glass-bodied steam traps under differing conditions. They gain very useful knowledge regarding:
  • Steam generation 
  • Distribution 
  • Control & Heat transfer 
  • Heat Recovery opportunities 
  • Condensate removal & return
Mead O'Brien, a company with decades of experience in industrial and commercial steam and hot water systems provides such training. See their video below:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Application of Heat in Industrial Applications

Heat exchanger
Heat exchanger (courtesy of Armstrong)
The measurement and control of heat related to fluid processing is a vital industrial function, and relies on regulating the heat content of a fluid to achieve a desired temperature and outcome.

The manipulation of a substance's heat content is based on the central principle of specific heat, which is a measure of heat energy content per unit of mass. Heat is a quantified expression of a systems internal energy. Though heat is not considered a fluid, it behaves, and can be manipulated, in some similar respects. Heat flows from points of higher temperature to those of lower temperature, just as a fluid will flow from a point of higher pressure to one of lower pressure. 

A heat exchanger provides an example of how the temperature of two fluids can be manipulated to regulate the flow or transfer of heat. Despite the design differences in heat exchanger types, the basic rules and objectives are the same. Heat energy from one fluid is passed to another across a barrier that prevents contact and mixing of the two fluids. By regulating temperature and flow of one stream, an operator can exert control over the heat content, or temperature, of another. These flows can either be gases or liquids. Heat exchangers raise or lower the temperature of these streams by transferring heat between them. 

Recognizing the heat content of a fluid as a representation of energy helps with understanding how the moderation of energy content can be vital to process control. Controlling temperature in a process can also provide control of reactions among process components, or physical properties of fluids that can lead to desired or improved outcomes.
Heat can be added to a system in a number of familiar ways. Heat exchangers enable the use of steam, gas, hot water, oil, and other fluids to deliver heat energy. Other methods may employ direct contact between a heated object (such as an electric heating element) or medium and the process fluid. While these means sound different, they all achieve heat transfer by applying at least one of three core transfer mechanisms: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction involves the transfer of heat energy through physical contact among materials. Shell and tube heat exchangers rely on the conduction of heat by the tube walls to transfer energy between the fluid inside the tube and the fluid contained within the shell. Convection relates to heat transfer due to the movement of fluids, the mixing of fluids with differing temperature. Radiant heat transfer relies on electromagnetic waves and does not require a transfer medium, such as air or liquid. These central explanations are the foundation for the various processes used to regulate systems in industrial control environments.

The manner in which heat is to be applied or removed is an important consideration in the design of a process system. The ability to control temperature and rate at which heat is transferred in a process depends in large part on the methods, materials, and media used to accomplish the task.