American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 75

pages 75-77_Layout 1 9/21/2020 9:43 AM Page 75

SpecialReport: Permian Powerhouse

Ubiquitous Metering Improves Profits
By Colter Cookson
With West Texas Intermediate crude
oil prices hovering around $40 a barrel,
producers are focusing on controlling
costs. For many of them, this means finding
ways to improve the efficiency of the treatment systems, gathering lines and processing facilities that help move oil and
gas from the wellhead to the sales point.
Automation is playing a key role in
those optimization efforts, but for automated
decisions to make sense, they need to be
based on accurate and timely data. To get
that data, equipment suppliers say, operators
are paying for more instrumentation.
"For most of my career, surface facility
engineers have been told to spend as
little as possible," says Larry Richards,
chief executive officer of VanZandt Controls LLC. "During the past five years,
we have seen more operators willing to
make upfront investments in automated
valves, flowmeters and other instrumentation that can give them feedback on
pressures, temperatures and levels, because
they can use that information to look at
the entire system and drive efficiency.
"This holistic approach can unlock
dramatic reductions in downtime and
overall costs," Richards reports. "As a
result, we have seen automation spread
from skid-mounted equipment to surface
facilities such as tank batteries and compression stations."
As automation expands, Richards says
electrically actuated valves are replacing
pneumatic ones because the electric versions offer greater control and reliability.
"There is an environmental component as well," Richards mentions. "Most
pneumatic devices run on field gas and
bleed to the atmosphere. By replacing
them with electric actuators, operators
are reducing their methane emissions.
The reduction from individual valves is
small, but across an entire facility, it's
significant."
Although the electricity that electric
valves require can be challenging to provide at remote sites, Richards says, rapid
improvements to the cost and reliability
of small solar packages have made the
valves a viable option at many locations.
Emergency Shutdowns
Richards says the shift to automated
electric valves is particularly important

for wellhead emergency shutdown devices.
"The wellhead gas generally used to pressurize pneumatic valves has liquid that
can drop out in the line and freeze, blocking the line and keeping the gas from
reaching the valve when it needs to close,"
he explains.
Because of the serious risks associated
with such failures, the industry is racing
to adopt electric valves for ESDs,
Richards reports. He adds that newer
ESD designs are replacing slab gate
valves with alternatives.
"A slab gate valve resembles a gate
that slides down and connects to a slotted
base. Sand can build up in the slots and
prevent the gate from creating a complete
seal when it closes," Richards warns.
"Since new wells have such high sand
volumes during flowback, this can make
slab gate valves unreliable."
In response, VanZandt turned to a ball
valve originally used in offshore projects
and adapted it for onshore applications.
"The valve saw use off shore because it
can contain high pressures with low torque
and has a superior close ratio," Richards
relates. "It also handles high sand volumes
without washing and closes completely
even in the presence of sand. Pair it with
an electric actuator, and it provides a reliable seal."

Controlling Backpressure
According to Richards, automated
electric valves excel at holding backpressure on pumps, including ones used to
move produced water and oil. "Maintaining the correct backpressure helps
pumps stay on their efficiency curve and
reduces cavitation and knocking, allowing
the pumps to move more volume and extending their life," he says.
Although water transfer pumps are
becoming more sophisticated, many companies still use manual ball or butterfly
valves on the pump's discharge. "Physically opening the valve to bring the pumps
on line can be labor-intensive and creates
safety risks," Richards says. "Instead, we
are putting in automated V-ball valves,
which offer much tighter control over
back pressure, eliminate extra work and
often cost less.
"Our clients are getting similar safety
and efficiency gains by automating wellhead choke and in-line choke valves for
high-pressure/high-sand applications," he
reports. "In many applications, automating
these valves reduces sand problems and
flaring volumes."
As operators and service companies
look for ways to reduce costs, Richards
encourages them to re-evaluate their automation technology. "In many cases,

Because they offer more precise control and greater reliability, oil field companies increasingly favor electrically actuated valves over pneumatic ones, VanZandt Controls LLC
reports. On this pump and variable frequency drive application, a Valvcon® electric actuator is paired with a V-ball valve to maximize efficiency.

SEPTEMBER 2020 75



American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020

Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - Intro
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 1
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 2
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 3
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 4
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 6
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 7
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 8
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 9
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 10
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2020 - 11
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https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/aogr/202009
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