In this respect, the transfer of knowledge and sharing of information is pertinent to developing professional valve engineers. The Valve World Americas team brings together the best and brightest valve experts to collaborate and exchange ideas on a wide variety of actuation, valve, and valve-related topics. Steering committee members like Foster Voelker, Director of Engineering at Williams Valve, make the event possible, offering the technical expertise and know-how to encourage and guide attendees on how to make the most of this impressive event and networking opportunity. We were pleased to speak with Voelker on his experience working with valves from an end user, distributor, and manufacturer perspective, what the Valve World Americas Expo & Conference offers to the industry, and why you should attend.

By Stephanie Matas

Right out of college Voelker was embraced by the valve industry, beginning his career at Neway Valve, a globally recognized valve manufacturer. At Neway, he was responsible for the fugitive emission compliance of valves, which included liaising with various packing and gasket suppliers to uphold mandatory requirements of API. Voelker was later recruited by A.W. Chesterton, a packing and gasket manufacturer. Here he further advanced his knowledge of valve sealing technologies and applications, as well as heat exchange units, bolting and joint integrity. Now the Director of Engineering for Williams Valve, a valve manufacturer and distributor, Voelker’s career trajectory showcases that having a diverse range of expertise on all things valve, is an excellent strategy for success in the industry.

Foster Voelker.

Working with Valves

Voelker has worked with many types of valves throughout his career – gate, globe, check, pipeline, marine, emergency shutoff, and the like. Gate valves are generally used for isolation. Isolation, or shut-off, valves completely stop fluid flow when closed or, in the fully open position, allow max flow in a pipeline. This valve consists mainly of a body, seat and disc, a stem, gland, and a handwheel for operating the valve. Globe valves are primarily designed to regulate flow in a partially open position, while gate valves in contrast are designed to be in a fully open or closed position. Check valves are self acting, depending on system pressure and, in some cases, springs to achieve an effective seal. “Emergency shut-off check valves are essentially swing check valves that stay open during normal operation and have a fusible link that melts at a specific given temperature, typically 165 degrees Fahrenheit or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. When that fusible link melts, the valve will close,” said Voelker. As the close operation is self acting, just like a standard check valve, it would remain in the open position until the event of a fire. Each of these valves is subject to related fugitive emission testing and standards under API.

Fugitive Emission Testing

Fugitive emission tests for valves are used to evaluate the integrity of the stem seals and body joints of isolation and control valves that are intended for applications where hydrocarbons and hazardous fluids exist. All valve manufacturers whose products conform to the downstream API specifications must use an API 622 compliant packing and subject the design to the applicable fugitive emission type test. “All packing sets are tested and qualified per API 622,” said Voelker. “API, unlike ISO, requires qualification of the packing independently then the complete assembly, valve and packing, is tested. The applicable valve test is dependent on how the valve functions, API 624 for rising stem designs utilizing graphite packing or API 641 for quarter turn designs with varying stem seals. There are also designs not governed by the refining sector of API, such as pipelines valves designed to API 6D used in the midstream market where there are no mandatory emissions requirement in the design specification, so the testing for that particular valve would vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.”

It is part of Voelker’s primary responsibilities to remain informed and up to date on any valve regulation updates, hence his active participation on standard committees such as API and MSS. An example of a significant change can be found in the recently published new edition of API 623. According to the scope, this API standard specifies the requirements for a heavy-duty series of bolted bonnet steel globe valves for petroleum refining and similar applications. 

Importance of Networking

In the valve industry, everyone knows everyone. Attending industry events like Valve World Americas Expo & Conference is important as it brings all sectors of the valve industry together, in a non-competitive, casual, and learning-oriented environment. “I have been attending Valve World Americas since I entered the industry. As ours is a close-knit world, I like to take advantage of every networking opportunity I have, to have discussions with people I do not routinely run into. I think it is a huge benefit,” said Voelker.

Voelker transitioned from simply participating and networking, to offering lectures and speeches, and progressed into working on the steering committee for the event throughout his career. “What you gain from these events is knowledge and personal connections. It is a great opportunity for people in the industry, of all experience levels, to share valuable information, and have conversations with experts. The people giving presentations are often readily available throughout the conference, walking around, and are happy to be approached.”

At the steering committee meeting, held July 16th in Houston, TX, members were able to have a productive conversation about the workshops and presentations that will be a part of the conference program. “There are a few new members on the steering committee that are bringing some new insights, which is very beneficial.” The program for 2021 will be divided into three sections: upstream, midstream, and downstream, and includes topics such as: Valve Selection, Environment, Social & Governance (ESG), Fugitive Emissions Monitoring & Testing, Pipeline Valves & Components, IOGP, Valve Failure Mitigation, Actuation & Automation, and Emerging Technologies. “Dividing the conference workshops by process line segment will allow end users to get the most valuable tips and tools related to their specific job or application.” The event’s continued focus on fugitive emission abatement and control in the valve industry is prompted by both companies and consumers’ invigorated interest in sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. Voelker and the Valve World Americas team look forward to welcoming thousands of attendees to the George R. Brown Convention Center to revitalize conversations on this important topic.

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