Streamline Plant Maintenance With Tubing
by Jeff Hopkins, on 12/18/19 9:00 AM
Save time and enhance system performance compared to hard pipe systems
"Swagelok tubing meets or exceeds industry standards in a wide range of sizes, forms, and alloys. Ultrahigh and high-purity stainless steel tubing preserves the cleanliness of your system."
Downtime is lost revenue. So when you need to service your steam turbine throttling valves or change out pilot solenoid valves in your electrohydraulic controls, you want to get in and out of the system quickly.
Unfortunately, you can't move quickly with hard pipe. Cutting, welding, and threading require a lot of time and labor. A better alternative may be stainless steel tubing.
Most control systems in a plant depend on fluid delivery of one kind or another – steam, condensate, hydraulic fluid, chemicals, pressurized air, etc. And these fluids are delivered through piping systems, many of which are 2 inches in diameter or less. For these fluid systems, stainless steel tubing, instead of hard pipe, can greatly simplify installation and plant maintenance.
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Imagine two teams of technicians building any typical configuration involving 90-degree turns and other complexities. One team works with stainless steel tubing, the other with hard pipe. The stainless steel tubing team probably would finish way ahead of the piping team, maybe even by hours. The tubing team won't even need to bring special contractors or welders to the plant floor. Your own technicians can be trained to manage the bending and assembly.
When it comes to fluid power efficiency, tubing wins again. Your electrohydraulic controls must be quick and responsive. But hard piping systems are inefficient by their very nature. Their 90-degree elbows create pressure drop. Each connection is a potential leak point. And threaded pipe fittings are likely to leak, especially if your system generates vibration or thermal expansion and contraction.
By contrast, stainless steel tubing is bendable to precise radiuses. You can create gradual sweeps, which minimize pressure drop. Swagelok tube fittings will not back off with thermal cycling or high vibration. You can further eliminate leak points with automated orbital welding. Orbital welds are just as strong as tube fitting connections, and you don't even need to own an orbital welder. They are available for rental through from Swagelok Northern California.
You can assemble permanent, welded connections in the instrument and control shop, then move the assembly to the plant floor and connect it with tube fittings. If the tube fitting connections are strategically located, then the system becomes modular.
Even if your plant produces severe vibration, you can bend the tubing into a hairpin or pigtail configuration, which can help to absorb the vibration. These solutions also work well in places where there is substantial thermal expansion and contraction.
Almost as soon as the last tube fitting is assembled, a tubing system is ready for service. There is no need to flush the system because assembly does not produce filings and chips like a hard pipe system does. These filings and chips from hard pipe can potentially clog the transducers on the pilot solenoid valves or otherwise undermine the performance of valves.
Many systems in a plant can be made more efficient by switching from pipe to stainless steel tubing, including the chemical feed system, water sampling system, duel fuel systems, generator and lube oil systems, and hydrogen cooling for the generator.
Ask yourself, how critical is the efficiency of this system? If it were faster, more accurate or consumed less power, how significantly would that affect overall plant efficiency and revenue? How frequently is maintenance required on the system? If maintenance could be performed more quickly and easily, how significant would that benefit be to your plant?
Swagelok Northern California has a great deal of exposure to all aspects of fluid system design and engineering. Whether you have a simple question or a complex challenge, we're glad to hear from you.
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