Category description

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:

Manual Valves

  • 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 a 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 90° 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, needlepoint plug. These type of valves allow precise and accurate regulation of flow and typically used in flow metering applications. 
  • Double-block-and-bleed (DBB) Valve: According to API 6D the meaning of double block-and-bleed valve is defined as “single valve with two seating surfaces that, in the closed position, provides a seal against pressure from both ends of the valve, with a means of venting/bleeding the cavity between the seating surfaces.”

Automatic Valves
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.

Shutdown Valve (ESDV or SDV) : Sometimes referred as ESDV( emergency shutdown valve), is a ball valve with actuation mechanism that stops the liquids flow in the piping system. The actuation mechanism could be hydraulic, electric, pneumatic or a combination thereof

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.
  • On average, it takes 4 weeks for testing and packaging, 4 weeks for machining, 8-10 weeks for raw materials and 2-4 weeks for engineering making a minimum lead time of 18 - 20 weeks of lead time, given there are no backlogs. Shall you see lead times faster than 18 - 20 weeks for made-to-order valves, you should raise a red flag and question  how this is achieved. 

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 markets 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, as well. 


Suppliers from Europe and the United States are the major players, with growing competition emerging 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 and France are known as-as a global hub of valve manufacturing with a number of family-owned and smaller-sized manufacturers, such as Galperti, Dafram, ZaVeRo, Erreesse, Della Foglia, Boney Forge, SRI 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 and 2016. As raw materials prices decline, margins witnessed a noticeable recovery in 2017.  Going forward, in 2018 prices for valves are expected to continue an upward trend as a result of 1) increased  cost of raw materials and 2) increase in demand for valves ( to a lesser extent)


Major cost drivers are as below. The direct cost of materials constitute up to 50% of the cost of valves, on average. 

  • Steel and metal prices directly impact 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 ( the most important 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 manufacturers are obliged to comply with the standards. 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 oil companies.  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 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 the local manufacturing facility to reduce shipping costs, which are significant due to the weight of the valves