Control valves under control - Valve World

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Control valves under control An interview with Mr. Frans Martens from Shell

Establishing a relationship of trust between supplier and end-user has become a topic of high importance within the process industry. In terms of control valves, the need for a safe and reliable product requires a common understanding of standards and quality from each party involved in the process. The end-user requirements regarding a safe and reliable valve have to be transmitted through various layers to manufacturers. Valve World met Frans Martens, Principal Engineer Process Control and Automation of Shell Global Solutions Projects and Technology, to have a closer look at the challenges of obtaining control over control valves by having a common understanding of standards and quality.

By Stephanie Gorgs & Christian Borrmann


rust your valve.This is the aim endusers want to achieve: Receiving the ordered valve that complies with the requirements, without having to witness the final testing and inspection of every valve. Frans Martens, Principal Engineer Process Control and Automation, who has worked for Shell for over thirty years, knows


May 2013

that this is generally not the case.Testing remains necessary because often the valves do not comply with the requirements. “The right way is usually not the easy way,” is one of the essential points the Subject Matter Expert (SME) has drawn from his work experience. During his eight year stay in Oman, Middle East, which started in 1993,

he has learned a lot about why procedures fail and why it is easy to do things wrong. He was able to “face the technical challenge in the field.” Today he works for Shell Global Solutions International B.V. in Rijswijk, the Netherlands, where, as technical advisor, he is part of a group which works in process automation and control optimization.

E N D -U S E R R E P O RT important for the manufacturers and contractors to meet.” In this regard, the Valve World Conference, as Mr. Martens mentioned, offers a helpful discussion platform for manufacturers and suppliers. His expertise role within this dynamic field supports the way in which those standards are about to change. Mr. Martens also gives advice to clients or end-users and provides training to employees of Shell as well as to third parties. His role is to act as an interface between Shell and the manufacturers of equipment. In 1982, he started his career at Shell in Moerdijk, the Netherlands, in a chemical plant. Field maintenance and trouble shooting support belonged to his range of responsibilities back then. The daily involvement in plant operation was one of the main aspects he experienced during this practical work. Being close to the plant and having an insight into the application should eventually result in overcoming the boundary between different parties involved within a process. Dealing with only one supplier and creating a “one-to-onerelationship supports the building of trust, as suppliers and end-users are involved in every feedback.” Trust is based on confidence. Confidence, in turn, arises when “the end-user takes the valve, puts it in the plant and it runs without the necessity of witnessing the final testing and inspection of the valve,” Mr. Martens defined. “The application engineer has to understand what we need and what we want.”

Defining standards by means of trust relationships

Lost in translation

Standardization is part of Mr. Martens’ job. “When standards cause problems we will have to re-write them in a way they will be understood by everyone involved in the process,” he explains one of his tasks. “In my role as Subject Matter Expert I get a lot of questions about the interpretation of a standard.” Answers to these questions can be provided “only when you know where the standard is causing problems in terms of interpretation or implementation.” Due to the development of standards that Shell applies, disputes between end-users and contractors are avoided by writing the standard in a way that is clear for all parties involved. He mentions a further advantage of the standards’ customization and optimization by stating that “it is also

Interfaces between different parties are likely to cause confusion and misunderstandings. “What we try to achieve in terms of work process and quality of control valves is often lost in translation between those different parties,” Mr. Martens says regrettably. He knows that the “driving force from the EPC-contractors is totally different from ours, providing input to the project, and is again different from the driving force of the end-users. Creating so many interfaces causes a lot of confusion. Questions like ‘What do we actually want?’ and ‘Why do we want it?’ have to be understood from each party involved in the process, because often you see that every interface may cause misunderstandings. It is the

complexity of doing projects which leads to problems.” During his stay in Oman he has experienced that “some engineers are very far away from the technical reality of what they build.” This is due to the different layers of contractors and manufacturers before something is built, as Mr. Martens points out. In this case, it might happen that during factory acceptance the customer finds out that the equipment “is built differently than what you have asked for. And that happens in translation.” In his role as Subject Matter Expert Mr. Martens is involved in the improvement of this process. What is needed is one single ‘translation’ providing manufacturers with the end-users’ perspective, and vice versa, to understand their specific needs and requirements. They have to meet at the same point without confusion caused by translation.

Reliability of a valve Control valves are an important factor in making a plant economic. “If they fail, we have a problem,” states Mr. Martens. The focus of availability is shifted more to control valves, and that puts a larger focus on the control valve as a source of potential problems. In this case, reliability of control valves becomes even more relevant. He characterized reliability in terms of achieving what the operator / end-user wants to do with it, but also in a sense that the valves do not fail. “If they fail, the unit has to be taken out of operation and you need to fix the valve, which will be enormously costly.” The

Mr. Frans Martens, Principal Engineer Process Control and Automation at the Shell facilities in Rijswijk, The Netherlands.

May 2013



Shell employee knows that a lot of the facility’s performance specifications deal with design characteristics of the plant. “The capacity of a refinery is 100 percent. By being able to control accurately you can run on maybe 95 or 98 percent of that capacity,” he explains. If the control valve is not able to control properly, for safety reasons you will need to run at 80 percent, reducing the plant productivity. “Being able to have steadier control will make you get closer to your specification and make the plant work more economically by performing better and producing more,” Mr. Martens points out. Even between end-users and control valves a relationship of trust is necessary. The enduser should be able to rely on the control valve’s performance and trust his valve.

Mr. Martens in his temporary office during his trip to Qatar this year.


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Safety versus economy He is convinced that the industry as a whole is getting more and more complex. “The requirements that we need to meet in terms of availability, in terms of safety and economics are getting tighter,” says the SME and he continues: “As a consequence, the role of technical experts is becoming more difficult because of the opposing forces of being economic and being safe.” In addition, he points out the difference between those two areas. “Plant design is a balance between safety, reliability and economics. Achieving the required plant safety is the key and must not be compromised for reasons of cost,” is the advice Mr. Martens gives to manufacturers and contractors as well as fellow end-users. The contractor might accept something that is simpler, whereas the Subject Matter Expert would advise against this as it could be less safe. But there are requirements that need to be met. “It is often challenging to convince the contractor and end-user to choose the safer option instead of trying to save money in order to be more economic,” Mr. Martens states. “Shell is often being accused of gold-plating,” he said, “but we feel that by being strict in terms of safety we know that in the end we will become a better company as we will be

more reliable.” Again, the ‘one’ solution of the correct plant design seems to get lost in translation between the different parties or layers involved in the process.

Process control for quality Shell has already proved that a good standard can be developed when manufacturers and end-users work together. The company’s involvement in projects dealing with information security has led to the publication of an International Standard IEC 62443-2-4 about industrial communication networks and system security. “This was the result of cooperation between some oil majors and manufacturers of control systems,” explains Mr. Martens. Control is necessary in order to achieve the required quality. “Quality, for Shell as an end-user, means achieving what the customer expects,” Mr. Martens states. “One of the quality requirements is that the control valve is fit for purpose in terms of material, design and behavior. Quality, in my opinion, is affected by every layer of the process. If all steps are done correctly, at the end we have quality. If you can trust every layer you finally achieve the aim of having control over your control valve.”