In 2019, the global industrial valves market had an estimated value of $87.23 billion. Come 2027, experts believe this will skyrocket to more than $110 billion. North America, which includes the US and Canada, accounts for the biggest market share.
You may not always notice them, but valves are everywhere in your house, too. You’ll find them in your water supply lines, gas valves, and in your tank water heater. Without these devices, water and gas will flow freely into your home.
Just like any device with moving parts, though, valves also need routine maintenance. This includes lubrication, which is what allows valves to move in the first place. Lubricants also help ensure valve safety and efficiency.
We’ll go through all these roles and benefits of valve lubrication below, so be sure to read on.
Necessary for Optimal Valve Movement
Valves, being mechanical devices, come with moving parts that are subject to friction. In most cases, the valve stem and stem packing are the two components that receive the most friction.
Now, keep in mind that friction is the force that makes objects resist motion. As such, too much friction can make mechanical valve parts “stick.” This can then result in the valves being difficult to open or close.
Lubricants, which consist mostly of oil-based materials, give valve parts that crucial “slick.” Their “slippery” nature reduces the amount of friction between two moving objects. It’s in this way that lubricating valves help ensure optimal operation of valves.
Less Friction Leads to Reduced Wear and Tear
Since friction opposes movement, forcing an object to go against it can lead to surface wear and tear. A perfect example, in this case, is how the soles of shoes wear away with use over time. The contact between the soles and the ground creates friction, thinning out the soles.
Friction does the same thing in the balls, joints, and other moving valve parts. Every time you open or close a valve, the interlocking or moving parts rub against each other. Without lubricants, the surface of these components will shear away at each other.
Give it enough time, and these valve parts will wear down so much they will become “loose.” When this happens, the valves may cease to work, or worse, allow fluids or gas to leak.
That should be enough reason to give your valves sufficient lubrication.
Helps Lower Risks of Leaks
Properly-functioning valves are efficient in starting and stopping the flow of matter. When closed, they should completely seal fluids or gases within containers or pipes. So, once the “sealing” components within the valve wear down, leaks will occur.
Aside from reducing valve wear, lubricants also act as an extra sealing material.
According to this company, some lubricants are fully resistant to aggressive chemicals. Specialized lubricants also endure hydrocarbons, the elements found in petroleum and natural gas. They serve as a barrier against these substances, helping keep them contained.
So, without lubricants, liquids and gases can seep through worn valve components. They can also leak through the tiniest cracks or gaps of non-lubricated valve parts.
Protection Against Hazardous Leaks
Did you know that more than 5,500 pipeline incidents occurred from 2010 to 2018 in the US alone? These resulted in 800 fires, 300 explosions, almost 600 injuries, and over $4 billion in damages. Worse, they claimed the lives of more than 120 people.
Malfunctioning valves, which can spring leaks, contribute to these dangerous events. For example, in oil and gas facilities, faulty valves can leak toxic fluids or gases. From there, high temperatures can trigger the combustion of the leaking substances.
In wastewater treatment facilities, problematic valves can leach sewage. Now, keep in mind that raw sewage contains at least 100 types of viruses alone. It’s also a breeding ground for other pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and worms.
This is why valve lubrication is such a crucial part of valve maintenance. By lubricating valves, you reduce wear and tear, which then helps keep leaks at bay.
Prevents Corrosion or Oxidation
Many lubricants come with additives that help prevent corrosion and oxidation. These “extras” can form chemical bonds with various surfaces or make them moisture-resistant. Since they prevent contact between surfaces, they also help avoid wear-induced corrosion.
Now, keep in mind that rust “eats” away at iron or steel, so it thins out such materials. As such, rusty valve parts can also spring leaks. At the very least, rusting can cause valves to stick and become inoperable.
So, to prevent this “red” dust from degrading your valves, keep them well lubricated.
Can Work as an Emergency Sealant
Lubricants can also work as an emergency sealant for leaking valves. These are the injectable types of lubricating materials. They form a seal between the valve seat and the disc or ball.
Emergency valve sealing with specialized lubricants aren’t a permanent solution, though. However, they are useful in preventing hazardous toxic waste or gas leaks.
Key to Reduced Operating Costs
Motorized valves can last for an average of 12 years, while boiler room valves can last up to 15 years. However, this still depends on their uses, installation location, and how you use them. Valves used in extreme conditions, for instance, may only last for a year or two.
A lack of valve maintenance, such as cleaning and lubrication, also leads to early failure. When this happens, you can expect the need for a complete valve replacement to arise. It could be much worse if the dangers mentioned above occur.
So, for continued ease of operation and safety, make sure you routinely lube all those valves.
Keep Your Valves Healthy and Long-Lasting With Lubrication
As you can see, lubricating valves ensure that valve stems and valve packing don’t stick. Lubricants also protect valve components from friction, corrosion, and early wear. All that should be enough reason for you to invest in these slick and slippery substances.
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