Valve expertise is a journey, not a destination. The journey is spiced with new talents acquired and knowledge learned throughout the trip. But to put these informational destination stickers on a suitcase of valve knowledge and be labeled an “expert,” a person must begin with the desire to take the trip in the first place, then build on that desire.
The key is to develop and feed a passion for information, and the best way to accomplish that is one step at a time and one subject at a time.
Reading and learning to understand valve standards and specifications can be a huge help on the road to valve knowledge. The information they contain can unlock mysteries in valve design and operation that make understanding valve functions much easier. (For a good summary of some current standards turn to page 32 of this issue.)
The refining, petrochemical and chemical industries rely on a multitude of American Petroleum Institute (API) valve standards and recommended practices. The best way to gain access to API standards (aside from buying the current finished documents) is to locate an API committee member and ask that person to send copies of any current working drafts. Superseded documents can also provide a wealth of basic information and are often available cheap via eBay or other online sources. Those with contacts at end-user or engineering companies can ask them for outdated versions of valve specifications, since they are often discarded anyway.
Other sources of valuable information are end-user or engineering-contractor specifications. These company or project-specific specs often contain application information not found in other places. Don’t worry if some of the information appears to be above current valve knowledge level. The information provided in these standards and specifications will help fill in some knowledge gaps down the road.
Here are some valve API standards and the valve types they pertain to:
If the oil and gas industry is not your bailiwick, there are informative standards for other industries. The waterworks industry has standards for a variety of valve types, as well as actuators. People in the water/wastewater field should be aware of the standards put out by the American Water Works Association. For those in the control valve industry, the International Society of Automation (ISA) has standards for final control elements.