Are your Control Valves Gold Plated? How to Avoid Over-Specifying Control Valves

Emerson Control ValvesA review of valve specifications followed by users typically reveals instances where cost-saving products and options are overlooked, along with inclusion of unnecessary items and procedures. Janelle Prusha, product marketing manager for Fisher Engineered Products, explains in her article,

How to Avoid Over-Specifying Control Valves, that these mistakes drive up cost and lead time because users often up specify “gold-plated” control valves in applications where less expensive options would work just as well. 

These over-specified valves not only cost more up front, but can also be harder to maintain and require more spare parts. The preferred alternative is to specify just the valve needed, saving time and money. 

Janelle describes issues often seen when reviewing end user technical specifications and shows how process engineers can specify just what they need – and no more – when ordering valves, actuators, positioners and related accessories.

 The biggest challenge facing most capital projects is cost justification. All too often, a valve upgrade or new valve project is based on what has been done traditionally. Unfortunately, this often includes the use of outdated technology, unnecessary options and overly stringent specifications and standards, which can add layers of avoidable costs.

 Janelle recommends that when specifying valves, the end user, control valve vendor and perhaps a systems integrator or EPC firm should evaluate the company’s valve requirements early in the process. All parties involved should discuss how each party can help optimize the specifications and eliminate excessive requirements. These areas include optimizing the control valve, welding and nondestructive evaluation (NDE) specifications.

While reviewing multiple technical specifications from customers just this past year, areas were often discovered where products and technology would be excluded for reasons that may have been true years ago, but no longer apply. Some unnecessary specifications include: Provide throttling ball valve for pulp mill applications; provide globe valves for hot gas recycle applications; and cage-guided valves should not be used with high-viscosity fluids, fluids that contain solids or in slurries.

Such requirements often deny a plant the chance to use new or different proven technologies. For example, a high-performance butterfly valve works just as well as a ball valve in most pulp mill applications, and it costs less. Angle valves can handle hot gas recycle applications just as well as globe valves in many instances, saving weight, and often cost and lead time.

It is difficult to capture all the options offered by valve manufacturers, and it is hard to know if something put into a specification will eliminate an option that could bring the overall project cost down. This is why early review and optimization of specifications and requirements is critical. If valve vendor technical personnel can review specs before the project is bid, they can walk users through the specs and identify problematic areas.

Working with outdated and unnecessary valve, actuator, positioner and accessory specifications results in increased project costs and lead time by denying access to the latest technology and better solutions. Reviewing valve specifications to identify unnecessary specifications is a necessary first step to cut costs and lead times, and this must be done early in the project.