This blog is the fourth in a series that addresses the five main technologies for manifold operation and control. Read below for a brief write-up on electrically-operated high-pressure manifolds.
There is a significant drive by energy consumers worldwide to utilize greener and cleaner operating technologies. Electrically-operated manifolds require no compressed air or hydraulic fluid which significantly reduces their carbon footprint and risk to the environment. While electric actuators are relatively new in the high-pressure manifold market compared to their hydraulic and pneumatic alternatives, they have proven to be easier to automate, especially when used with programmable logic controllers (PLC), more efficient in their operation. Although the electric solution offers some advantages, they also consume a much larger footprint and add significant weight to a system. Electric actuators are not the most torque dense technology in the market. The good news is that in most outdoor environments space and weight restrictions are normally not a concern. However, extra consideration must be given to their use offshore where the availability of real estate is very limited. While electrics consume more space at the valve, and require battery backup for fail-safe operation, the ancillary equipment may be less cumbersome than the other technologies. Hydraulic manifolds require a centralized hydraulic power unit (HPU), tethered control panel and accumulator backup. Electric actuators require an incoming power source, electronic control panel and a battery enclosure for fail-safe or emergency operation.
- Automation: electronics have significantly evolved in previous decades, thus improving control and monitoring options of the system.
- Environment: very “green” in terms of harm to the environment at the manifold; the only emissions originate from generation of the electrical power (natural gas, crude, hydroelectric; note: “green” does not always equal “net” or “zero” emissions).
- User-friendly Operation: individual valve functions are easily controlled with push buttons, touch screens, or control panels.
- Operational Costs: high efficiency of electrical motors reduces energy costs and impact on the environment.
- Maintenance: low maintenance requirements reduce total cost of ownership and extend service life of the actuators.
- Fail-safe operation when using an electric solution requires a battery backup. An integral fail-safe component (spring return) when power is lost to an electric actuator is not readily available in the market. A battery backup is typically sized to provide emergency power to fail all valves on the manifold in the safest position. Battery backup adds additional and significant cost and weight to the manifold.
- Weight and Size: high torque requirements result in larger actuators, sometimes two to four times the size of hydraulic and pneumatic actuators.
- Explosion-proof Options: as of this writing, a limited number of options exist in the market for hazardous area electric actuators with high torque output.
- Startup: additional time to connect manifold with the tethered pneumatic control panel and numerous conductors.
- Installed Cost: depending on the complexity of the system and programming required, automation costs can be expensive (these costs can be recognized over multiple systems to reduce the “production price” of engineering).
Electric actuators are a great choice for reducing carbon footprint and protecting the environment; however, options are limited that meet explosion-proof criteria at the higher torque requirements and provide for an integral fail-safe solution. The world’s mandate for industry to reduce carbon emissions and build environmentally considerate equipment will help propel electrically operated manifolds to the top of the technologies list.
The final blog in this series will cover the last remaining operating technology (wireless).
Jacob Shoesmith | Account Manager – Integrated Systems