Top five tips on buying valves
A guide to finding the best quality valves available on the market
Valves are an integral part of a project, yet a poor quality valve can result in disaster. UME finds out how to source the best on the market
Shopping for valves is not what most people would describe as a great day out. But valves are crucial to the utility sector and a huge number of companies work with them, and purchase them, regularly. A poor valve will very quickly make a mockery of your finely developed project plans, particularly in a climate as unforgiving as the Middle East’s. So when you’re going through the valve procurement process, it can help to follow certain protocols before taking the plunge.
1. Know your specs
A valve specification from one utility company is likely to be different from another, which means in some emirates and countries it is necessary for valves to meet several different standards.
“On the valve side of the utility business, all of the utilities providers in the region have slight variations in their specifications. So the DEWA standard is not the same as the ADWEA specification and not the same as the Riyadh Water,” Pipeworks managing director Gary Brodie stresses.
“They are all different and it’s those little differences between them that make it difficult for suppliers. It’s not something that is likely to change, I doubt very much that they are all going to get together and say ‘lets standardise a specification to make it easier for ourselves’.”
A lack of standardisation in specifications is a familiar problem for the Middle East. Aeon general manager Jason Thomas echoes the frustration of this issue:
“One of the biggest challenges here is keeping up with the different specifications that each market requires. In Europe it’s a couple of standards, in the Middle East every country you go to, every department you go to, has its own unique requirements.
“You’ve got influences of American, European and British specifications, so it can be very difficult to come up with a product range for every single market.”
The suppliers and the manufacturers are frustrated by this lack of standardisation and it is only making matters more confusing for those selecting the perfect valve for their project.
2. Check the market
The valve market is like any other, in the midst of an economic crisis. But, with all the construction still underway in the Middle East, it is not in as much trouble as other sectors.
“The market has been growing in the last few years, particularly in infrastructure, water and irrigation. Obviously over the last six months or so we’ve seen a drop off in projects and requirements, enquiries have slowed down slightly but it’s still a booming market,” says Thomas.
Hydrolink, a firm which outsources its valves, while still working directly with them, is bullish about the future of the market. Eugenio, pump sales engineer at Hydrolink comments: “We do not market the valves as the primary product. A valve is only an accessory to the equipment we supply. Whatever equipment we assemble, if one is needed then we put it in there.”
“In our market, we have our own niche market for our product. We deal with hydraulics and our equipment is very good and I don’t see any problem in the future,” he said.
Brodie also reveals the market is not as badly affected by the current climate. “DEWA, ADWEA and these people are still continuing with infrastructure projects and it’s the same throughout the region.”
“Projects are still going ahead, there are still tenders coming from the utilities companies, so I wouldn’t say it’s buoyant, but I think they have said that they will spend more than they did last year, and I think they will.”
3. Get quality assurance
Quality in valves is imperative. In the Middle East, the climatic conditions increase the risk of corrosion greatly. Therefore, if the product isn’t up to scratch, then the overall project will suffer.
“It’s a growing problem anywhere, you are treating a lot of water and you are losing a sizeable percentage of it,” says Aeon chief executive officer Derek Watson. “Obviously in the Middle East, where water is a critical resource, if you can control that and guarantee that the valve will not leak, it is a big advantage.”
Companies manufacturing valves need to get approval for their products from utilities firms. This should theoretically reduce the number of poor-quality valves available, but Brodie thinks the system may be preventing some high-quality valves entering the market for the first time.
“Getting new companies approved by the utilities companies is a very difficult and lengthy process and they are not doing themselves any favours, because they are excluding a number of good quality manufacturers,” he said.
“They do add new vendors to their vendor lists but it’s a long hard process and they specifically, most of the specifications from the utilities companies, they state valves should come from Western Europe, North America or Japan. As soon as you mention the word China to the utility companies, they almost throw you out of the office.”
Brodie adds that companies from places such as China are sometimes not given approval, despite the fact that some European firms, which are approved, have factories based there.
Watson believes it is a case of choosing a manufacturer to work with carefully.
“The design on our product gives it basically a 20 year life and the whole process of a painting system, give you more protection,” he says. “Basically the valves should last indefinitely. It’s built and made for long life and really can’t be compared with some inferior products that come from China. There tends to be two types, one that is up to specification and one that is totally on a price.”
4. Select the right valve for the right job
After establishing the quality of a product range, it is important to ensure that the right type of valve is being used for the job.
“For the equipment that we use, the specification of the valve is already in there, such as the ratio, what the flow is, if it is electric operated, or if it is a manual operation,” says Eugenio. “We don’t prefer any brand as long as it fits the equipment that we manufacture. But we are always looking for the best quality valves.
“In the equipment that we assemble here we use the valves to control the flow, to divert the flow and to stop the flow. That is our use of the valves.”
Manufacturers of valves are also keen to talk to clients about producing a product that can meet all their needs. “Basically our valve was designed and developed at the close discussions with all of our major customers in the UK,” says Thomas. “We went to them and asked them what do you like about valves, what do you like to see on them and this is how [our product] was designed about eight or nine years ago.”
5. Weigh it all up
A valve is something which should go unnoticed, unfortunately when it is noticed it is not doing its job. The valve sector in the Middle East is offering a number of high quality products, what could really help this sector now is the standardisation of specifications from each utility provider.
However, as Brodie explains, this seems unlikely. The main issue that will dictate the future of the valve market is how strict the utility companies will remain on giving firms approval to distribute their particular products.
If a more open minded approach is taken, then more competition can enter the market. Henry Ford once said: “Competition is the keen cutting edge of business, always shaving away at costs.” If you are in the market for a valve, shaved costs is what you want to hear.
Valves, although not the most glamorous of components, can be environmentally friendly. This is according to Dresser Masoneilan, a firm which has just released the Camflex II valve, intended to help reduce emissions.
The Camflex II features an emission-free seal, among other characteristics that give it the ability to seal completely tight. Global product manager for rotary products, John De Veau explains: “Emissions compliance is a critical issue for many companies that use control valves in their facilities. Fortunately, environmental responsibility does not have to be complex or expensive. It can be as simple as employing high quality products that are engineered to comply with regulations.”
The valve combines a double O-ring sealed packing follower with low friction tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) based packing materials. This is said to provide long term service as well as compliance with low emission standards.
The valve can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius due to an integrated extension bonnet. The small range rotary motion of the valve shaft also provides benefits such as prevention of contaminants entering the packing system and protection of the stem from atmospheric exposure.