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. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Don’t Overlook the Value of Valve Automation Professionals on Your Next Valve Project

Sales and Engineering Professionals
Sales and Engineering Professionals are there to assist
and save you time and money.
Local distributors and representatives who sell industrial valves, actuators and controls also provide services and equipment that will save you time, money, and help you achieve a better outcome for the entire project.

Projects requiring engineered valve systems are best completed and accomplished through the proper selection and application of the valves, actuators, positioners, limit switches and other associated components. A great resource exists, ready to provide a high level of technical knowledge and assistance, that can be easily tapped to help you with your project - the valve automation sales professional.

Consider a few elements the valve automation professional brings to your project:

Product Knowledge: Valve automation professionals are current on product offerings, proper application technique, and product capabilities. They also posses  information on future product obsolescence and upcoming new designs. This type of information is not generally accessible to the public via the Internet.

Experience: As a project engineer, you may be treading on new ground regarding some aspects of your current valve system design assignment. There can be real benefit in connecting to an experienced and highly knowledgable source, with past exposure to your current challenges.

Access: Through a valve automation professional, you may be able to establish a connection to “behind the scenes” manufacturer contacts with essential information not publicly available. The rep knows people at the factories, a well as at other valve related companies, who can provide quick and accurate answers to your valve automation related questions.

Of course, any valve actuation or automation solution proposed are likely to be based upon the products sold by the representative. That is where considering and evaluating the benefits of any solution becomes part of achieving the best project outcome.

Develop a professional, mutually beneficial relationship with a local valve automation professional to make your design job go after, more efficiently, and more cost effective. Their success is tied to your success, and they are eager to help you.

For assistance with any industrial valve automation requirement, contact Mead O'Brien at (800) 892-2769 or visit

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pressure Reducing Valves and Temperature Regulators

Pressure reducing valves
Pressure reducing valves
(courtesy of Armstrong)
Pressure reducing valves (PRVs) and temperature regulators help you manage steam, air and liquid systems safely and efficiently. And they ensure uninterrupted productivity by maintaining constant pressure or temperature for process control.

Steam, liquids and gases usually flow at high pressure to the points of use. At these points, a pressure reducing valve lowers the pressure for safety and efficiency, and to match the requirements of the application. There are three types of PRVs.

  1. Direct-Acting. The simplest of PRVs, the direct-acting type, operates with either a flat diaphragm or convoluted bellows. Since it is self-contained, it does not need an external sensing line downstream to operate. It is the smallest and most economical of the three types and is designed for low to moderate flows. Accuracy of direct-acting PRVs is typically +/- 10% of the downstream set point.
  2. Internally Piloted Piston-Operated. This type of PRV incorporates two valves-a pilot and main valve-in one unit. The pilot valve has a design similar to that of the direct-acting valve. The discharge from the pilot valve acts on top of a piston, which opens the main valve. This design makes use of inlet pressure in opening a large main valve than could otherwise be opened directly. As a result, there is greater capacity per line size and greater accuracy (+/- 5%) than with the direct-acting valve. As with direct-acting valves, the pressure is sensed internally, eliminating the need for an external sensing line.
  3. Externally Piloted. In this type, double diaphragms replace the piston operator of the internally piloted design. This increased diaphragm area can open a large main valve, allowing a greater capacity per line size than the internally piloted valve. In addition, the diaphragms are more sensitive to pressure changes, and that means accuracy of +/- 1%. This greater accuracy is due to the location, external to the valve, of the sensing line, where there is less turbulence. This valve also offers the flexibility to use different types of pilot valves (i.e., pressure, temperature, air- loaded, solenoid or combinations).
Designed for steam, water and non-corrosive liquid service, self-actuated temperature regulators are compact, high-performance units. They operate simply and are therefore suitable for a wide variety of applications. Flexible mounting positions for the sensor, interchangeable capillaries and varied temperature ranges make installation, adjustment and maintenance quick and easy.

For more information on pressure reducing valves, contact Mead O'Brien at (800) 892-2769 or visit

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Valve Controller Designed to Operate on All Control Valve Actuators in All Industries

Neles ND9000
Neles ND9000

Metso's Neles ND9000 is a top class intelligent valve controller designed to operate on all control valve actuators and in all industry areas. It guarantees end product quality in all operating conditions with unique diagnostics and incomparable performance features. ND9000 is a reliable and future-proof investment with Metso FieldCareTM life-time support.

  • Benchmark control performance on rotary and linear valves
  • Superior diagnostics and data storage capabilities
  • Local and remote configuration
  • Easy interpretation of diagnostics data
  • Efficient mounting program for all types of actuators
  • Low power consumption
  • Available for HART, PROFIBUS-PA and FOUNDATION Fieldbus networks
  • Reliable and robust design
  • Device self diagnostics
  • On-line, performance and communication diagnostics
  • Hot swap support: possibility to install also on valves that are in process with 1-point calibration feature
  • SIL 2 approved device
  • Minimize variability
  • Open solution based on FDT technology
  • Supports Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) technology
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Easy to use
  • Open solution
  • Product relibilty
  • Prevention and prediction
  • ND9000 can be integrated with all major DCS systems
  • Mounting kits for any 3rd party actuators
  • Remote mounting
  • SIL 2 approved
  • Marine approved

Friday, February 10, 2017

What are Magnetic Flowmeters and How Do They Work?

Magnetic Flowmeter
Magnetic Flowmeter
(courtesy of Foxboro Schneider Electric)
Crucial aspects of process control include the ability to accurately determine qualities and quantities of materials. In terms of appraising and working with fluids (such as liquids, steam, and gases) the flowmeter is a staple tool, with the simple goal of expressing the delivery of a subject fluid in a quantified manner. Measurement of media flow velocity can be used, along with other conditions, to determine volumetric or mass flow. The magnetic flowmeter, also called a magmeter, is one of several technologies used to measure fluid flow.

In general, magnetic flowmeters are sturdy, reliable devices able to withstand hazardous environments while returning precise measurements to operators of a wide variety of processes. The magnetic flowmeter has no moving parts. The operational principle of the device is powered by Faraday's Law, a fundamental scientific understanding which states that a voltage will be induced across any conductor moving at a right angle through a magnetic field, with the voltage being proportional to the velocity of the conductor. The principle allows for an inherently hard-to-measure quality of a substance to be expressed via the magmeter. In a magmeter application, the meter produces the magnetic field referred to in Faraday's Law. The conductor is the fluid. The actual measurement of a magnetic flowmeter is the induced voltage corresponding to fluid velocity. This can be used to determine volumetric flow and mass flow when combined with other measurements.  

The magnetic flowmeter technology is not impacted by temperature, pressure, or density of the subject fluid. It is however, necessary to fill the entire cross section of the pipe in order to derive useful volumetric flow measurements. Faraday's Law relies on conductivity, so the fluid being measured has to be electrically conductive. Many hydrocarbons are not sufficiently conductive for a flow measurement using this method, nor are gases.

Magnetic Flowmeter and transmitter
Magnetic Flowmeter and controller.
(courtesy of Foxboro Schneider Electric)
Magmeters apply Faraday's law by using two charged magnetic coils; fluid passes through the magnetic field produced by the coils. A precise measurement of the voltage generated in the fluid will be proportional to fluid velocity. The relationship between voltage and flow is theoretically a linear expression, yet some outside factors may present barriers and complications in the interaction of the instrument with the subject fluid. These complications include a higher amount of voltage in the liquid being processed, and coupling issues between the signal circuit, power source, and/or connective leads of both an inductive and capacitive nature.

In addition to salient factors such as price, accuracy, ease of use, and the size-scale of the flowmeter in relation to the fluid system, there are multiple reasons why magmeters are the unit of choice for certain applications. They are resistant to corrosion, and can provide accurate measurement of dirty fluids ñ making them suitable for wastewater measurement. As mentioned, there are no moving parts in a magmeter, keeping maintenance to a minimum. Power requirements are also low. Instruments are available in a wide range of configurations, sizes, and construction materials to accommodate various process installation requirements. 

As with all process measurement instruments, proper selection, configuration, and installation are the real keys to a successful project. Share your flow measurement challenges of all types with a process measurement specialist, combining your process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Vent Management on Large Cavity Steam Heat Exchange Equipment Commonly Found in the Brewing Industries: Thermostatic Air Vents (TAV) and Vacuum Breakers (VB)

The following represents a primer on vent management devices on steam heat exchange equipment: TAVs, VBs, and the combination device, model TAVB-3. In order to do that, we will review the purpose and proper application of the devices to establish clarity.

What are Vacuum Breakers and why do we need them?

Vacuum breakers are spring-loaded valve and seat devices that are mounted on or near the steam space of a heat exchanger allowing steam pressurization of the space, but during throttling down or shut off of steam supply also allow the valve to overcome the spring force and open when vacuum is present. The vacuum is formed when steam, with its much higher specific volume than water, condenses to water with heat exchange and is not replaced in the heat exchange space with an equivalent volume of steam, i.e. when the control valve is throttling down from its process design maximum flow, or when steam is being shut off after completion of the process step. By “breaking” the sub-atmospheric condition which occurs in those situations by allowing air into what was the steam space through the open vacuum breaker device; condensate drainage from the heat exchanger by gravity is enabled. This prevents water hammer, internal corrosion, gasket or joint leakage, and potential damage to the heat exchanger and other equipment. Without this device, a reverse pressure differential is formed in the steam space due to vacuum which will suck available condensate from the return system into the calandria, coil, or other large cavity heat exchanger.
Thermostatic  Air Vent/Vacuum Breaker
Stainless Steel Thermostatic
Air Vent/Vacuum
Breaker (TAVB)

What are Thermostatic Air Vents and why do we need them?

Thermostatic air vents (TAV) are also valve and seat devices that are actuated by temperature, typically a “balanced” bellows. The bellows has an alcohol and water charge inside that evaporates and expands on temperature increase approaching the steam saturation curve for the particular steam pressure. The expanding bellows drives the valve into the seat and closes the device. On steam start-up of the heat exchanger, cool air is expelled quickly by using this device until steam reaches it which quickly closes the valve. Similarly, on decreasing temperature, at some point a few degrees lower than the steam saturation curve, the mixture in the bellows condenses and contracts the bellows which pulls the valve plug away from the seat and thus opens the vent. This signifies that non-condensable gases have accumulated and the temperature has depressed enough to allow the valve to open and expel them from the steam space. Pressure is inconsequential up to the TAV design pressure since the alcohol charge is designed to follow the steam saturation curve, offset but parallel, always activating a few degrees below saturation temperature for any given pressure (including vacuum).

Doesn’t the Steam Trap do this as one of its functions?

It is true that one of the three primary functions of the steam trap is to remove non-condensable gases. By virtue of the modularization of steam supply and condensate removal equipment at some distance away from the internal heat exchangers of kettles and cookers for example due to floor space restrictions in the brew house, size, configuration, and internal area of heat transfer equipment in modern breweries and the demands of production, it is imperative that these supplemental devices be used to remove these gases as close and as quickly as possible to the area where they would be entrapped: opposite the steam supply connection of the exchanger.

Why is it so important that air be removed?

There are several reasons, but most importantly, air is an excellent insulator and, without removal, serves to insulate internal heat transfer surfaces from the steam trying to transfer its latent heat. Surface temperature drops of 20-30% are not uncommon with systems unable to effectively remove non-condensable gases. From a secondary standpoint, air and other gases create internal oxidation and corrosion that corrode the system from the inside out. As we already know, a major source of air in the system comes from the vacuum breakers which contribute to piping oxidation if the air is not removed. CO2 entrained in steam turn condensate into carbonic acid (H2CO3) when turned into solution if not removed.

These two devices, TAVs and VBs, are frequently confused as to their function. Remember that TAVs primarily expel non-condensable gases and air on startup; and VBs primarily allow air in on shutdown. Their mounting is critical to their successful operation. Observe the following rules for mounting:
  • As close to the exchanger as possible on a line with a vertical accumulator, if not on the exchanger itself, opposite the steam supply. 
  • Condensate line must be large enough to allow disengagement if horizontal or a vertical accumulator will be needed. If not, the TAV will discharge condensate which means it is not discharging air. The vacuum breaker will spit and leak over time as well. 
  • The vertical accumulator is used to provide an accumulation area for non-condensables. It is typically 2” or larger pipe, approximately 2 ft. high if space allows. An isolation valve should be used between the accumulator and the TAV to isolate for maintenance or system air testing. Note that these devices should be excluded from any air test boundaries since the bellows is “balanced,” meaning that steam pressure has a corresponding saturation temperature to “balance” internal pressure of the bellows against external pressure caused by the steam pressure. Air would not allow this balance to take place and would either not close the valve on the air test, or would rupture the bellows if the isolation valve were downstream. 
Since mounting preferences are similar for both vacuum breakers and air vents, a new device has been developed which accomplishes both functions in one device. This is the TAVB-3 which has become standard at a large brewing company.

Article written by Steve Huffman, Mead O'Brien, Inc.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Look Inside the Neles NDX Intelligent Valve Controller

intelligent valve controller
Neles intelligent valve controller 
Metso’s Neles NDX is the next generation intelligent valve controller working on all single acting control valves and in all industry areas. It guarantees end product quality in all operating conditions with incomparable performance, unique diagnostics, and years of reliable service.

Operating Principle:

The NDX is a 4–20 mA powered micro-controller based intelligent valve controller. The device contains a local user interface enabling configuration and operation without opening the device cover. Configuration and operation can also be made remotely by PC with asset management software connected to the control loop.

After connections of electric signal and pneumatic supply, the micro-controller (μC) continuously reads measurements:
Neles NDX
Click for larger view
  • Input signal 
  • Valve position with contactless sensor (α), 
  • Actuator pressure (I) 
  • Supply pressure (S) 
  • Device temperature
Advanced self­-diagnostics guarantee that all measurements operate correctly.

Powerful micro-controller calculates a control signal for I/P converter (prestage). I/P converter controls the operating pressure to the pneumatic relay (output stage). Pneumatic relay moves and actuator pressure changes accordingly. The changing actuator pressure moves the control valve. The position sensor measures the valve movement. The control algorithm modulates the I/P converter control signal until the control valve position matches the input signal.

The video below demonstrates the NDX's operation. Below the video is the complete installation, maintenance and operation manual for your convenience.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dampening the Effects of Vibration on Industrial Pressure Gauges

Pressure gauge
Vibration must be considered
when applying pressure gauges.
Pressure gauges rely on precise and responsive mechanisms to display changes in system pressure as rotational needle movement. By their very nature, these mechanisms are responsive to pulsations within the pressurized system and vibrations that may be evident in the connected piping and structures. The effect of vibration and pulsation is seen as an indicating pointer oscillating rapidly, making a definitive or even useful reading impossible. One solution, applied traditionally, was to fill the gauge with a viscous liquid that would dampen the rapid oscillation of the indicating needle.

While a liquid filled gauge does solve the oscillation problem, it does have a drawback. The liquid in the gauge presents its own set of operational issues requiring consideration in any application.

Provision should be made to check and maintain the liquid level in the gauge
A liquid filled gauge is an additional source of potential leakage in a facility

Ashcroft, a globally recognized manufacturer of gauges for commercial, industrial, and laboratory use, offers a different solution that provides the deflection dampening of a liquid gauge without liquid fill. Available on many of their gauges, the "Plus" option enables stable gauge face display in a dry gauge.

The video below provides a side by side demonstration of a liquid filled and a Plus gauge, so you can see the performance of both types. Share your process gauge requirements and challenges with instrumentation experts, combining your process knowledge with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Boiler Safety in Brewing: Mead O'Brien's Steve Huffman Podcast with Master Brewers Association

Boiler Safety in Brewing
Boiler Safety in Brewing
From sanitization to pasteurization, steam heating is critical in the brewing process and steam boilers are one of the most important investments a brewery will ever make. Understanding boiler components and safe boiler operation is crucial to ensuring the protection of people and property, as well as for maximum operating efficiency and optimal energy savings.

This video contains The Master Brewers Association of the Americas ( recent podcast with Mead O'Brien's Steve Huffman about steam boiler safety, operation, and performance.

Mead O’Brien is recognized as leading experts the industrial and commercial use of steam including industrial and commercial boilers, traps, condensate pumps, temperature and pressure controls, heating coils, and heat exchangers.

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

Listen to the discussion below: