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Article: Valve World magazine interviewed Chris Hammond, an engineer in Emerson’s Severe Service valve group in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Meet Chris Hammond, an engineer who lives and breathes severe service control valves. In this interview with Valve World, he explains how he got into this niche market early in his career, and he touches on some of the challenges in his work.

 With hindsight, it seems almost inevitable that Chris Hammond ended up handling some of the most challenging control valve applications on the planet. After all, he was born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, birthplace of the Fisher Control Valve. He joined the company in the late 1980s immediately after earning his engineering degree. 

Chris recalls: “I started out in order entry before moving to large special contracts and the nuclear power team. I then joined the special products group where we were challenged to develop unique control valve solutions for demanding customer applications. I found that very interesting and hugely rewarding as the team comprised people from all disciplines who were not afraid to speak up and take on difficult applications.” 

Born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, Chris Hammond has amassed thirty years of experience working with control valves. A proud member of Emerson’s severe-service group, Chris enjoys working with customers to solve challenging applications.

Preventing Problems

As Chris notes, some of those unique solutions have since become mainstream offerings within Emerson. “One example would be our dirty service, anti-cavitation trim. We came up with a design based on multiple small holes, which are an ideal way to minimize mass flow and hence to prevent vibration and all sorts of nasty problems associated with pressure drops. So, the dirty service trim came about as a way to have large throttling orifices that would not plug while still accommodating a large pressure drop in a liquid but without the likelihood of cavitation,” explains Chris.

 

Anti-cavitation trim, like the Fisher DST, has specially designed holes to help avoid plugging 

A Question of Definition

 At this stage, Valve World decided to ask a rather obvious question: what exactly is a severe service valve? By way of answer, Chris replies, “That very much depends on the customer’s perspective. Typically, most people think in terms of process conditions, such as high pressures and high temperatures, cavitation, flashing, aerodynamic noise, erosion, corrosion, vibration, etc. But you can also define a severe service valve in terms of financial implications if the valve should fail, or even in terms of a hazard review.”

 Wide Variety of Applications

The severe service team has a track record of providing solutions to all the industries that Emerson regularly serves with standard control valves. These include the chemical, power generation, oil & gas (upstream, midstream and downstream), pulp & paper, metals, mining and other industries. Each industry can have some rather unique applications, notes Chris. “For example, in the power industry you have the boiler feedwater recirculation valves and also the BW-207 secondary superheater by-pass valves which initially start up with cold water that is prone to cavitation.

 

Boiler feedwater recirculation is commonly considered to be a severe service application 

Moreover, once the water heats up it can start to flash and finally turn to steam during the final phase of operation. So, finding a control valve to handle such a mixed bag of requirements can be a challenge. Then in the hydrocarbon industry there are high pressure separators, gas scrubbers and let-down valves, as well as processes with entrained gases.”

 Multidisciplinary Approach

That Chris thoroughly enjoys his job is evident from the enthusiasm in his voice. “I definitely have a fun job as I like a challenge and I enjoy coming up with a solution to a problem. There is no better reward than hearing a customer say ‘your valve is working very well, so we want to order some more’.” However, Chris is the first to admit that developing a proper solution requires perseverance and teamwork in equal measure.

 “What we are doing here cannot be learnt from a book. It involves pulling together insights from multiple disciplines to find a solution to a very complex set of problems. Fortunately, I realized a long time ago that you don’t need to know all the answers; you just need to know where to go to find them! And here at Emerson we have top engineers – many of whom hold patents – and who are always willing to help me find the solution. We can narrow down possible solutions before needing to conduct actual tests in a flow lab.”

 Impressive Lab Facilities

The flow lab that Chris is referring to was built about ten years ago by Emerson in Marshalltown at a cost of USD 30 million. Understood to be the world’s largest control valve flow lab, this impressive facility can be used for valves from 1” up to a massive 36“, and it can test using both air and water at various pressures. Despite all the thought and engineering that goes into each and every severe service valve, a small number may not work as expected once installed. In such cases, Chris and his colleagues will pull out all the stops to find a satisfactory remedy.

 

The Emerson Innovation Center boasts an NPS 36“flow line used for a wide gamut of valve testing 

“We will work closely with the customer, and if necessary bring the valve back for further testing in the flow lab to understand why it is not behaving as it should. Whatever it is, we will not leave the customer in the lurch. The reason we have been in business for something like 135 years is precisely because we have taken care of the customer. And that’s a reputation my colleagues and I in the severe service team are determined to maintain!”