Control valves are critical assets, providing Industrial plants with the ability to control process cycles. Malfunctioning valves can cause failure leading to unexpected downtime, fatalities, and environmental disasters costing businesses billions and taking years to clean up.
Gigantic accidents caused by valve failures
Many disastrous accidents and oil spills happened due to malfunctioning valves.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico claimed 11 lives and cost BP and the US government dozens of billions of dollars in losses and damages.
1998 Piper Alpha rig explosion in 1988 claimed 167 lives! 2007 Kab Field accident in the Bay of Campeche killed 22 of the rig crew members and resulted in a spill of thousands of oil barrels.
The list of these incidents is long, and the valve failure pain is old, just like the diagnostics and maintenance methods used in the process industries to prevent the failures.
Traditional control valve maintenance
It is estimated that the annual spending on control valve maintenance amounts to 75% of the control valve market size. Billions of dollars are spent every year on servicing of control valves, and despite this hefty investment, incidents involving control valves keep happening, often leading to catastrophic consequences.
A valve is a heavy-duty asset. Due to its unique mechanical anatomy and long lifecycle, the current valve testing methods make it virtually impossible to know when each valve will malfunction.
Plants perform periodic tests to diagnose the valves’ health or apply the failure strategy allowing the valves to malfunction, calculating in the potential risks and costs in advance.
However, with thousands of valves installed at an average processing plant, not all the valves are checked. Periodic testing is prone to missing the potential failure indications on time. Plant managers are forced balance control valve maintenance frequency and the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), taking a calculated risk and hoping for the best.
Enter Industry 4.0
According to Boston Consulting Group, there are nine technologies transforming the manufacturing industry:
- Big data
- The Cloud
- Cyber Security
- Additive Manufacturing
- Augmented Reality
In their various combinations, these technologies form the new generation of solutions that can help the manufacturing industry solve old and painful challenges that it has been dealing with for the last few decades.
In the context of the flow control industry, McKinsey’s report “Flow control— Sector at a crossroads?” predicts that disruptive technologies will help companies stand out from the competition, driving higher value generation. Recent developments make the adoption of such technologies more accessible to the industry:
- Increasing adoption of emerging technologies – (IIoT, AI, ML, AR, VR) as they enable new applications
- Reduction in sensor/platform costs and a strong ecosystem of vendors and platforms
- The explosion of internet connectivity
The report urges flow control companies to keep pace with Industry 4.0, the IIoT, and machine learning, and robustly engage with the global market’s changing demands.
The researchers conclude that as innovation disrupts the sector, the old playbook will not suffice. Flow control companies that make the right moves stand to gain a significant advantage in an exciting period of growth and disruption. Others might get left behind.
AI-Based Predictive Maintenance and Analytics of Control Valves
IoT links various technologies, comprising a diversity of Industry 4.0 solutions that cater to the manufacturing industry’s evolving needs. Predictive Maintenance brings IIoT, AI, cloud, and sensing technologies together to monitor and analyze anomalies in the plant machinery.
PhononIA was launched in April 2020, with a pre-seed investment from the Ham-Let group and a grant from Israel Innovation Authority. As a company affiliated with Ham-Let, a leading global supplier of industrial fittings and valves, we are focused on solving the control valve’s biggest maintenance challenges and while transforming the flow control into Industry 4.0. future of industry 4.0.
PhononIA is developing a state-of-the-art AI-based acoustic sensing system designed to continuously monitor, test, and predict failure in control valves.
Valve health issues vs. valve failures
A lot can go wrong in a single valve. We differentiate between valve health issues that typically happen over a period of time as a result of use and parts wear – a deterioration process; and a valve failure – malfunctions that happen suddenly – like external or internal leakages, inability to open or shut down. It is important to analyze the deterioration process of the valve to predict and avoid its failure by scheduling a timely maintenance.
While traditional valve maintenance testing period varies from a few months to a few years, PhononIA’s valve-centric systems monitors the asset health 24/7, providing a high-resolution view of the valve health and a high testing integrity.
Unlike standard NDT testing, PhononIA is a fully automated solution that does not rely on highly-skilled field technicians, providing a plant manager with a real-time snapshot of all the plant’s valves’ health, allowing for significant operational cost savings.
Our prediction is that in ten years from now, most of the control valves will be IIoT-enabled. We are here to jump start the digital transformation of a flow control industry, one valve at a time.