Valve World Americas was thrilled to meet with Kerry Millen, a Lead Piping Engineer for a Fortune 500 EPC company, to learn more about her experiences and the diverse range of materials that she is working with on her current project. She also discusses her role on the steering committee for the Valve World Americas Conference & Expo that took place on June 20th-21st, 2017 and the significance of these conferences for the growth of the industry.

By Candace Allison, Sarah Bradley & Deirdre Morgan

A typical working day
As her father owned an engineering company, Kerry was introduced to the engineering world from a young age and it is no wonder then that she enjoys every aspect of her job, including working with her clients, her coworkers and her overall daily tasks. Her day is routinely similar, beginning at 6am when she is given a set of piping engineering deliverables. With a few junior engineers working with her, Kerry is very much in a leader position. She elaborates that working with junior engineers is refreshing, as they are very enthusiastic and she enjoys mentoring and training people.

Kerry says that they are doing a lot of work share, with the project being split between four offices; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Mumbai, India; Vadodara, India; and the Houston, Texas office. “It is being divided by area. We are doing stress analysis and that is being done in our Indian office and the design is also being done in our Indian office. The key to success is working as a team; working together; checking each other’s work; and supporting each other. It does take a little longer because you have to consult and get everyone’s opinion. That is the hard part. Also, I find it challenging because there are different cultures and language differences.”

Kerry Millen

Ms. Kerry Millen, a Lead Piping Engineer and Executive Director for the Society of Piping Engineers and Designers (SPED).

Working with valves

To add to this, Kerry explains that the valves she uses are also very specialized, such as lip seal valves, triple offset butter y valves and even quadruple offset valves. Kerry further explains that because the materials she is working with are so expensive, she has been looking at purchasing in a cost effective manner. This is to ensure the quotes she is given meet the requirements. She adds that while researching more affordable methods, her team has discovered that with C22 alloys it is more economical to get a casting than a forging. “Forgings take longer than castings do. However, with castings you have additional testing to do because castings are prone to cracking. Therefore, we have to watch them carefully, especially in highly corrosive environments.”

Similarly, she explains that they have worked with one specific valve that is over 12 inches in size and costs USD$5 million. Due to this high expense, Kerry’s team cannot afford to make any errors. In addition, not only are the exotic metals expensive to buy, there are also longer lead times associated with them. “It can actually be difficult to get some of the materials, therefore we had looked at cladding and lining. We have found that in Europe no one clads anything from four inches and down, but four inches and above you can find people to clad for you. We looked at taking stainless steel and titanium and cladding them.”

Chemical applications

When asked about chemical applications versus oil and gas applications, Kerry discusses the effects of the market. She explains that due to the fact that the oil and gas industry is so non-buoyant at the moment, the chemical market is picking up. A lot of people in the chemical industry are investing while the prices are low. Kerry finds it is a big difference jumping from oil and gas offshore to chemical, even though the principles are the same. “The materials and services are a lot different but I find it very interesting to be able to better understand the soft seated materials. For instance, methanol does not work with certain materials, and vice versa on the chemical side.” Adding to this, Kerry states that it is very important to have a paper trail. It does not matter if it is offshore or chemical as she believes nowadays everybody is safety conscious. “Some things are more stringent offshore, but then some things are more stringent on the chemical side of things,” she says.
It is clear that Kerry has a vast amount of experience in her field and this is exemplified even more when she discusses her knowledge of, and dealings with, fugitive emissions, a very significant topic in the industry right now. Not only do fugitive emissions damage the environment, when gases and other vapors leak, they are also costing the company money. Hence, preventing fugitive emissions is a key aspect of Kerry’s job. Due to the corrosiveness of the chemicals she deals with, her valves need to meet the standards to ensure leaks do not occur. To combat this, she has been looking at flange guards, as well as a new Norwegian gasket that she has used offshore in another project. The gasket has an indicator, which will alert personnel if a leak is going to occur. “In general, we will follow the ISO set of standards because it is a big group of standards compiled into one, and it is especially good with fugitive emissions,” says Kerry. “We tend to insist that our valves have perhaps a ‘C’ marking on it. We then know that fugitive emissions have been addressed in some form or another, and we know we meet the PED (Pressure Equipment Directive). Of course, people are becoming a lot wiser to fugitive emissions now.”

Further expanding on the topic of fugitive emissions, Kerry talks about imports and having to be careful when sourcing from abroad. While she will get a couple of valves from overseas for the project she is currently working on, she has to be certain they have the ISO 9001 accreditation. “We tend to stick with the manufacturers that have the accreditation. You know they are following the required processes to ensure the quality is coming out perfect.”

Training the next generation
To wrap up the interview, Kerry talks about her involvement with the Valve World Americas Conference and Expo steering committee, and explains the significance of attending industry events. She believes that if you do not attend conferences you will not move with the changing times. “I am a big fan of conferences and training the youngsters,” she says. “You will find nowadays that young engineers are extremely good using computer soft- ware but when it comes to the technical knowledge, the information is not being passed on quick enough.” To conclude, Kerry gives an insightful view on the future of the industry, believing that it often goes through a difficult time but will pick up again. She sees it as a continuous fluctuation from high to low; an optimistic attitude to have during the current industry downturn.

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