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Valve Automation Solutions for Emergency Shutdown in Shale Applications

13 sum shale 1Figure 1. Remote Christmas tree equipped with ESDIn many regions of the U.S., the proliferation of gas and liquids discovered and extracted from shale formations has created a need for rapid infrastructure development. Valves and their automation play key roles at every stage of processing and transporting the gas and fluids—from the well to the storage facilities and distribution systems. This means they are vital in providing safety to personnel, process control for operations and protection for valuable assets as well as prevention or mitigation in the case of environmental events.

Because of the new technologies driving this unprecedented shale growth, operators have an increasing number of federal, state, local and industry regulations, standards and permitting requirements to deal with, many of which are in flux and not yet clearly defined. Also, states and municipalities not traditionally challenged with the growth of rapid infrastructure or new industry are scrambling to enact their own restrictions as a reaction to pressure from the public. That public is genuinely concerned about the safety of this unconventional technology, as well as water usage/disposal and how the drilling and production might impact the environment and their communities.

Oil and gas producers are inherently safety conscious, as well as aware of the need to avoid adverse events or activities that might result in an impact on regulations. They are also familiar with the consequences of bad press and negative public opinion that any production upset would incur. Frequently these producers are in the “crosshairs” of 24/7 media coverage that can be inaccurate, incomplete and prone to sensationalism. They know their wells and the supporting equipment are often in remote areas that can’t be readily or continually monitored by field personnel. Yet these locations need to be shut-in immediately in case of an anomaly in the processes, an emergency or a spill. Often, the answer to well and process safety is an automated emergency shutdown (ESD) solution (Figure 1).

This article discusses applicability of existing and proposed regulations on these issues as well as the industry oversight that promises to have an enormous impact on onshore oil and gas wells and related activities. The article also identifies and addresses many of the current equipment technologies regarding valve automation solutions or final control elements (which are automated shutdown valves). These final control elements are an integral part of many ESDs as well as process shutdown (PSD) solutions used at wells and flow lines. Note that this article begins discussion at the automated production or flow wing valve and is not intended to address offshore well equipment (API 17D), subsea, downhole safety valves and master valves, nor should it be considered all inclusive.

- See more at: http://www.valvemagazine.com/

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