This blog is the third in a series that addresses the five main technologies for manifold operation and control. Read below for a brief write-up on pneumatically-operated high-pressure manifolds.
Compared to manually-operated and hydraulically-operated high pressure manifolds, pneumatically-operated manifolds are less common. Manually-operated manifolds require little to no “technology” to operate are very cost-effective. Hydraulically-operated manifolds have been in use in oil & gas applications for decades. Additionally, hydraulic fluid power is a field-proven technology that is well understood amongst technicians and operators. However, while one is less likely to see pneumatically-operated manifolds in use today, there are a few advantages they have over their technological counterparts. Like hydraulically-operated manifolds that incorporate the use of a hydraulic power unit (HPU), pneumatically-operated manifolds utilize a control panel with pneumatic directional control valves that direct air flow to the desired valve-actuator assembly. These panels can be located away from the high pressure, high velocity manifolds; therefore, they create a safer work environment for the technicians and operators. In addition, they significantly reduce the manpower requirements needed to operate the manifold. More specifically, they are less labor-intensive due to the elimination of handwheels and gear operators on the plug and choke valves.
- Hazardous Certification: system incorporates low-cost components that do not require electricity; therefore, chances of auto-ignition of nearby gases or dusts from the panel is eliminated
- Environment: very “green” in terms of harm to the environment; the only emissions originate from powering the air compressor
- User-friendly Operation: individual valve functions are easily controlled with manual handles/levers or push buttons
- Operational Costs: pneumatic automation reduces labor costs needed to operate the manifold
- Maintenance: low maintenance requirements reduce total cost of ownership and extend service life of the control panel (replacement of regulator, filter, lubricator assemblies (RFL))
- Low Power Density: pneumatic pressures from compression systems average 80 to 120 PSI; therefore, pneumatic actuators are much larger to meet the high torque requirements of the plug valves (10,000 or 15,000 PSI line pressure)
- Operator Mobility: while they may be located some distance from the manifold, the control panels are still tethered to the manifold thus leaving no room for operator mobility on site
- Footprint: pneumatic equipment such as the control panel, compressor, and fluid conductors increase size, space, and weight consumption on work site; actuator assemblies are two to three times larger to meet plug valve torque requirements
- Startup: additional time to connect manifold with the tethered pneumatic control panel and numerous conductors
- Installed Cost: the additional equipment and maintenance requires a greater capital expenditure compared to manually-operated manifolds
Pneumatically-operated manifolds are a cost-effective, environmentally-considerate technology that is well-suited for sites with explosive or potentially-explosive conditions. Pneumatic fluid power is reliable, user-friendly, and allows for ease of automation for the manifold’s high pressure plug valves. While reducing manpower is a strong benefit for manifold operators, one must also consider the low power density and increased footprint of the actuators and added pneumatic equipment. However, these items can be remotely placed such that a technician or operator can control the manifold from a safe distance (like remote HPUs).
The following blogs in this series will cover the two remaining operating technologies (electric and wireless).
Jacob Shoesmith | Account Manager – Integrated Systems