Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Valve Failure Modes

failsafe spring
Failsafe spring lever on ball valve.
(Kinetrol)
An important design parameter of a control valve is the position it will “fail” to if it loses motive power. For electrically actuated valves, this is typically the last position the valve was in before loss of electric power. For pneumatic and hydraulic actuated valves, the option exists of having a large spring provide a known “fail-safe” position (either open or closed) in the event of fluid pressure (pneumatic air pressure or hydraulic oil pressure) loss.

Available Failure Modes

Valve fail mode may be shown in instrument diagrams by either an arrow pointing in the direction of failure (assuming a direct-acting valve body where stem motion toward the body closes and stem motion away from the body opens the valve trim) and/or the abbreviations “FC” (fail closed) and “FO” (fail open). Other failure modes are possible, as indicated by this set of valve symbols:


In order for a pneumatic or hydraulic valve to fail in the locked state, an external device must trap fluid pressure in the actuator’s diaphragm or piston chamber in the event of supply pressure loss.
Valves that fail in place and drift in a particular direction are usually actuated by double-acting pneumatic piston actuators. These actuators do not use a spring to provide a definite fail mode, but rather use air pressure both to open and to close the valve. In the event of an air pressure loss, the actuator will neither be able to open nor close the valve, and so it will tend to remain in position. If the valve is of the globe design with unbalanced trim, forces exerted on the valve plug will move it in one direction (causing drift).


Reprinted from "Lessons In Industrial Instrumentation" by Tony R. Kuphaldt – under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.