A valve is a mechanical device used to control the flow of fluids and pressure in a piping system. Valves are used extensively in the oil & gas industry, across the entire value chain. Major functions of the valve are:
- Starting / stopping flow
- Regulating flow volume
- Controlling flow direction & preventing reverse flow
- Controlling pressure
The working principle of the valve is based on adjusting the position of the closure member inside the body of the valve. This adjustment may be done manually or automatically, depending on the application and valve design. Valve body is a major component of the valve, as it holds all the parts together. Valve bodies could be made of various grades of materials and can be cast or forged, largely driven by application requirements. Other parts include: valve bonnet, trim, disk, seat and stem.
Valves come in a wide variety of designs for different applications. Some examples of valve types are: Ball, Gate, Choke, Butterfly, Check, Globe, Plug and Needle valves. Valves could also be manual and automatic. Manual Valves are operated by means of a manually controlled hand wheel/wrench or an on/off actuator. Ball, Gate, Globe, Butterfly and Plug valves are all examples of manual valves. Automatic Valves are operated automatically by means of the valve design and fluid conditions. An example is a Check Valve that opens with forward flow and close with reverse flow.
In upstream segment, valves are used to control the flow of oil, gas and water in a piping system. Blow-out preventers and Xmass trees include valves as well. In downstream applications, valves are used for distillation, hydro treating, catalytic reforming, fluidized catalytic cracking and gas plants.
Valves are typically classified based on their mechanical design. Some common valve designs:
- Ball Valve: A valve with a ball-shaped disk with a hole through it, which controls the flow. Ball valves are extensively used in pipelines and as shutoff valves in refineries and petrochemical plants.
- Gate Valve: A valve that opens and closes by means of a wedge or parallel sided slab situated between two fixed seating surfaces. Gate valves are often used when straight-line flow with minimum restriction is desired. Generally, when in use, gate valves are either fully closed or fully open.
- Butterfly Valve: A valve consisting of a disc which is positioned in the center of the pipe. Rotating the disc by 90° opens and closes the valve. Butterfly valves have an additional mechanism whereby the hand-wheel is connected to the rotating disc via gears, using the principle of a gearbox.
- Globe Valve: A valve consisting of a flat disc or conical plug sealing on a seat which is usually parallel to the flow axis. Due to their flow profile, globe valves are often used for applications in refineries and petrochemical plants requiring to start, stop and regulate flow.
- Plug Valve: A valve with cylindrical or conically-tapered "plugs" which can be rotated 90Â° to turn the Valve on or off. Plug valves are mostly used for on / off cases, such as shutoff valves. Plug valves are similar to Ball valves in the way it operates.
- Needle Valve: A valve having a small port and a tapered, needle point plug. These type of valves allow precise and accurate regulation of flow and typically used in flow metering applications.
Check Valve: A valve that allows fluid to flow through it in one direction only. Check valves are typically used in applications requiring prevention of backflow and mainly used in refineries and petrochemical plants.
Among the various types of valves, ball valves are the most widely used. The oil & gas sector remains a major user of ball, gate, globe and check valves, which are utilised in most refineries and pipelines.
Risks & Opportunities
Test manufacturers lead times to gauge their price flexibility. If a manufacturer is quoting a short lead time, they are likely to have enough spare capacity and to be keen to fill it, and with a large order, be willing to offer discounts. Lead times are dependent upon the size of the project and its complexity.
Supply & Demand Dynamics
Worldwide market for industrial valves is anticipated to reach US$ 78b by 2020, primarily driven by Asia Pacific region followed by Middle East / Africa and Latin America (Global Industry Analysts, Inc.). Major demand drivers for valves are:
- Oil & gas pipelines & transmission infrastructure
- Demand for petrochemical products in Africa (paints, polymers, plastics additives)
- Municipal, chemical and mining industries in Asia Pacific
- New and more rigorous emission regulations
Asia Pacific, Europe and North America are the largest market by size (MarketsandMarkets).
In the Middle East the drive to become a provider of final products and extract the maximum value from the hydrocarbon cycle, should result in the increased demand for valves, as more refineries, pipelines and process facilities are required. In addition, manufacturing, process industries and desalination plants would provide a boost to the demand for valves in the Middle East.
Suppliers from Europe and the United States are the major players, with growing competition emerging from markets such as India and China. The market is fragmented with the top 10 manufacturers accounting for around 50% of the cumulative market share. Major suppliers operating on a global scale are Pentait, Flowserve, Emerson, FMC, Crane Co, Cameroon, Kitz, AVK Group and ITT Industries.
Italy is known as as a global hub of valve manufacturing with a number of family owned manufacturers, such as Galperti, Dafram, ZaVeRo, Erreesse, Della Foglia. Boney Forge and many more.
Cost & Price Analysis
Prices for valves have witnessed a consistent increase over the last 10 years. Post 2009 prices showed a significantly higher increase, than the prices from 2012 onwards. Partly, the reason is a direct result of long-term raw material orders made by manufacturers, during the high times (2007/2008), with a pressure being released post 2009/2010, when the steel industry went through a significant downturn.
Industry net margins average at around 20% in high times and circa 4% during lower oil price environment of 2015, 2016. As raw materials prices decline, margins witnessed a noticeable recovery.
Major cost drivers are:
- Steel and metal prices directly impacts the cost basis. In particular, carbon steel, stainless steel, corrosion resistance alloys ( CRA) and nickel.
- Manufacturing process robust manufacturing processes and forging is a significant cost driver, in particular for higher-end equipment, HP/HT and sour applications.
- Capacity utilization this element, being a variable cost, is a significant cost contributor.
- Painting and Coating - Painting and Coating materials could be a significant cost contributor and heavily driven by commodity prices.
Total Cost of Ownership
Procurement of valves is always driven by technical requirements that are regulated by common standards. All manufactures are obliged to comply with the standard. Hence, the manufacturing process is very prescriptive. What that means is most of the valves could be treated as commodities, unless special applications and engineered valves are required.
By large, valves are procured as part of bigger projects, which are delivered by an EPC company on a turnkey / lump sum basis. Yet, with more mature assets a larger number of valves is bought directly by an oil company. Although valves are classified by standards, many operators tend to go beyond the industry standards and over-specify the requirements, which is not always justifiable and add necessary costs that could have been avoided.
Important factors to consider when looking at total cost of ownership:
- Suppliers track record and traceability of materials, equipment and manufacturing process is of utmost importance
- Evaluate your existing stock of what could be refurbished and reused
- Access to local manufacturing facility to reduce shipping costs, which are significant due to weight of the valves.