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.