Alternative to Globe Valves in Your Pharmaceutical Plant

Alternative to Globe Valves in Your Pharmaceutical Plant

A biopharmaceutical plant in the U. S. was operating a cold/chilled glycol (CG) system to cool approximately 50 process vessels, mainly jacketed tanks (250 – 3500 L), and several heat exchangers to produce its products. The plant was approximately 18 years old and circulated propylene glycol (40%) and water (60%) as the heat transfer medium. Chillers in the basement generated 28°F (-2°C)cold glycol which was then circulated by three constant-speed centrifugal pumps to the distribution network. System differential pressure control was achieved with a bypass valve that short-circuited the CG supply to the return side during periods of low demand.

A biopharmaceutical plant in the U. S. was operating a cold/chilled glycol (CG) system to cool approximately 50 process vessels, mainly jacketed tanks (250 – 3500 L), and several heat exchangers to produce its products. The plant was approximately 18 years old and circulated propylene glycol (40%) and water (60%) as the heat transfer medium. Chillers in the basement generated 28°F (-2°C)cold glycol which was then circulated by three constant-speed centrifugal pumps to the distribution network. System differential pressure control was achieved with a bypass valve that short-circuited the CG supply to the return side during periods of low demand.

Globe-style control valves, located in the mechanical rooms, provided temperature control of the process vessels. The valves were automated (PID control) through the plant’s distributed control system (DCS).

However, being 18 years old, the original valves were providing inadequate positive shut-off as required for their application. Specifically, the plant experienced a temperature excursion in one of the tanks, because cooling fluid passed through a closed control valve, resulting in over-cooling of the tank and product. In addition, many of the valves were leaking externally through their (re-built) packing, causing accelerated corrosion of the carbon steel valves. Obsolete and non-maintainable, the original valves had become a real liability.

Selection Criteria

The biopharmaceutical company in question hired RPA Engineering to evaluate the existing process conditions and provide a solution for the passing control valves. The criteria was to maintain the existing temperature control scheme, provide tight shutoff (Class VI or better), and match the existing flow capability (flow coefficient, Cv), all with a standard platform and manufacturer that would be fully supported for the foreseeable future (10-20 years).

Valve Assessment

Because the original globe valves were outdated and were in a supporting utility system — as opposed to being directly involved a product processing train — it was feasible to replace them with functionally “like-for-like” valves in lieu of an exact match. For this application and under the circumstances RPA engineers evaluated the functionality of ball valves with a “V” cut, otherwise known as V-ball valves. Capable of both modulating control and positive shut-off, V-ball style control valves met the functionality requirements that would be provided by any “like-for-like” replacements of the failing, end-of-service-life control valves.

V-Ball Benefits

For this biopharmaceutical processor V-ball valves offered additional operational benefits including high turndown capability and longevity of service: The rotary motion of the V-ball valves swipes the seats clean with every stroke, which serves to help maintain a tighter seal. Due to its rising and falling action, globe valves are more susceptible to accumulating material on plug/seat surfaces and wire-drawing, thereby reducing sealing capability. Functionally, V-ball valves offer an appealing alternative especially since they are established in the market and have excellent performance records.

Globe valve packing is more susceptible to leaks due to the linear up/down action of the valve shaft versus the rotary action of the V-ball valves. As the globe valve shaft rise up, the cold, exposed shaft can sweat, and consequently this condensation drips down on to the carbon steel valve body and insulation. In addition, as the packing deteriorates, some of the glycol/water remains on the shaft. As the glycol/water mixture evaporates, crusty deposits form on the shaft. On the next down stroke, these deposits often enter the packing further impairing the valve’s ability to seal. As the cycle continues to expose the carbon steel valve body to water, corrosion accelerates. Because of its design, the rotating action of V-ball valve shaft mitigates these problems.

Historically, it’s been easier to establish control loop position feedback with globe style valves as compared to rotary valves due to the type’s linear, rising stem action. However, recent advances in electronics have increased the control capabilities of rotary (i.e., ball) valves while simultaneously reducing the cost of rotary valve positioners, which helps make them cost-competitive with traditional globe style control valves. Lastly, the ball valve’s assembly (valve, actuator and positioner) is smaller than that of the globe valve and can easily replace valves in circumstances where space and size limitations are a critical factor.

Pilot Study 

A pilot study on one of the process jacketed tanks was performed with the new V-Ball valve to prove the concept.

After the valve was installed, RPA performed operational and performance testing with very positive results, as summarized below:

  • - Cool-down capability was actually slightly better than the globe valves due to slightly higher Cv rating at full open.
  • - The replacement valves have equal percentage characteristic flow curves. This provides similarity with the equal percentage characteristic flow curves of the original globe valves. The new valves were essentially tracking on the same control curve as the originals, allowing for only a minor, but acceptable, offset due to their higher Cv.
  • - The above control was achieved without changing the PID loop constants – the valves were essentially a drop-in, “plug-n-play” replacement.
  • - After the successful completion of the pilot testing, all of the temperature control valves plus a few steam and hot glycol valves as well, were replaced with the new standard.

Installation and Testing

Installation of the valves included minor pipe re-configurations to allow for improved maintenance and troubleshooting. RPA developed testing plans and executed them for each valve type prior to being placed back into full production. In total, 49 CG control valves for tanks and heat exchangers were replaced under the program, as well as four steam (15 psig) valves and four hot glycol (80°C) valves.

*Adapted from PharmaManufacturing.com – “Control Valve Replacement – Alternative to Globe Valves”

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