Water Hydraulics Converts Simple Valves into Smart Control Valves

HYDRACT’ was a recent EU funded project with the aim of developing more energyefficient actuators for the sanitary valve industry. A significant side benefit of this work was the vastly increased capabilities of the retrofit valves with the new water hydraulic actuators. In fact, the production benefits of using smart valves overshadowed the original energy savings objectives in many cases.

The sanitary valve industry (brewery, dairy and pharmaceutical industries) has historically used pneumatic actuators as they can meet the required cleanliness standards at an affordable price. The problem with pneumatics is that the energy consumption is relatively high and they struggle to provide the level control needed for all but the simplest of tasks.

Enter water hydraulics. Tap water can meet the cleanliness levels required by the sanitary valve industry and as an essentially incompressible fluid, offer significant energy savings. Water hydraulics can also potentially provide even better motion control than oil hydraulics, but the cost of equipment is usually much higher. BHR Group was responsible for the product development and testing of a new breed of water hydraulic actuator that could be retrofit to mix-proof valves used throughout the brewery industry. The project necessitated the development of a miniature water hydraulic control valve and extensive laboratory testing on full scale rigs at BHR’s base in Cranfield, UK.

The ‘smart’ part of the actuator comes from wireless communication with the main plant controller and closed loop control of valve position combined with other process parameters such as flow, pressure or temperature. During extensive ‘demonstration’ trials within a large brewery, the water hydraulic actuator increased reliability of the plant by minimising pipework pressure transients and reducing damage to vulnerable valve seals. The ability to take an existing mix-proof valve and turn it into a control valve also considerably increased the versatility of the plant without the expense of switching to variable speed motors and controllers or changes to existing pipework. When considered at the design stage, the water hydraulic valve actuator can provide the sanitary valve industry with solutions that it has been waiting to adopt for years.

The miniature water hydraulic control valve which is the heart of the actuator is currently being assessed for other industrial, energy & power, and domestic applications. BHR Group has an extensive fluid engineering laboratory at their Cranfield site and their valve testing capabilities will be of particular interest to BVAA members.

For more information, contact the BHR Group via the below contact details.

Tel: +44 (0)1234 750422
Email: info@bhrgroup.co.uk
Web: www.bhrgroup.com

Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 39

Summer 2020 // Issue 53
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