Sep 2, 2021

What’s driving sustainable development in valve technologies?

Jukka Borgman
Jukka Borgman
Director, Technology Development

When we look at valves from the sustainability point of view, three key aspects stand out clearly in the forefront: Emissions, internal tightness and a lifecycle view. In all three cases industry standards and regulations play an important role in driving development and ensuring the environmental performance of industrial processes.

Neles modular butterfly valves

When talking about sustainability in process industry valves, emissions is often the first thing we think about. By eliminating fugitive emissions into the atmosphere, we are reducing both local health and safety risks on-site, but also the environmental impact of the process on our climate at large. But leakages within the valve and pipeline also play a role in terms of sustainability. Ensuring internal tightness helps us eliminate the waste of everything from valuable flow media to energy consumed by pumps in the process. Also, in flaring processes used to release pipeline pressure, ensuring that we are not releasing anything extra into the atmosphere is crucial.

Customers are demanding sustainability

While regulations dictated by governing bodies continue to set strict parameters, there has been a strong shift towards the customers themselves setting tight demands on valves in industrial processes. The shift in emphasis has been from factory acceptance testing (FAT) towards type testing where valves similar in type to those ordered are put through rigorous testing, ensuring up to a hundred thousand of cycles under simulated conditions. This is a testament to the third factor we mentioned, a more lifecycle-focused view on sustainability, where products not only need to pass pressure testing prior to being installed, but the valve design and manufacturing quality must be proven to perform over time. There is a clear trend, which shows that emission standards are required more and more often, even by customers in rapidly developing and industrializing countries. And more often the reason for modern emissions requirements can be found in environmental concerns rather than just the elimination of local risks and hazards.

Unified standards are drivers for change

Seeing the attitude change on both the government and heavy industry levels over the past decades has been highly encouraging. The importance of the Paris Climate Agreement, which came into force in 2016, cannot be underestimated. We are seeing the environmental conversation gaining more and more momentum across the world. Many of our customers already play an active role in the development of unified standards and regulations. This of course means that new standards often reflect our customers’ targets and ambitions in terms of sustainability.

We are happy to see the work towards a brighter tomorrow being carried forward hand-in-hand by responsible industrial parties and world governments.

We are happy to see the work towards a brighter tomorrow being carried forward hand-in-hand by responsible industrial parties and world governments. Emissions standards have obviously been around for years, and there have been very little radical changes in standardization over time, but there has been plenty of incremental development. For example, one key development that we have seen in America has been the bundling together of valve design standards and emission type testing (Ball valves API608 now also require API641 standardization).

The role of technology providers like us

So how do these growing sustainability considerations affect valve design and manufacturing? As a responsible and proactive partner for increasingly efficient, reliable and responsible industrial processes, we take all of this on board already when it comes to the development and design of every valve product. We are constantly improving our emissions capabilities and for example, considering, simulating and thoroughly testing internal tightness during product development. And as mentioned before, the lifecycle view for our valves is a consideration early on. In our modular butterfly valves for example, we have optimized the design for long-lasting tightness in metal-to-metal contact, which is helping reduce wear, energy consumption and the torque requirement for efficient performance. They have also been designed to enable longer service intervals and an extended overall lifecycle. We are running longer tests on all our valves to ensure lifecycle performance in terms of sustained tightness and durability of wear parts. We are also driving the development of valve materials and coatings to help cope with the demands of a wider range of feedstock being refined in new and promising biofuel production processes.

We must also remember that not every sustainability action needs to be complicated and grand. We at Neles also want to make sure we do the simpler things that can improve environmental performance right.

We must also remember that not every sustainability action needs to be complicated and grand. We at Neles also want to make sure we do the simpler things that can improve environmental performance right. This means things like ensuring the responsibility of our supply chain through regular supplier audits as well as using predominantly recycled metal in valve production and ensuring the correct recycling markings and instructions can always be found on all our products. I am happy to say that little by little, as a society at large, we are discovering and adopting the ways we can continue to grow and develop while protecting the natural world that helps sustain life on this planet.

Read more about sustainability and our latest valve innovations