Podcast: What Exactly Does a Gas Pressure Regulator Do? Episode #4

In this episode, Kyle Andrews, Product Applications Trainer at Kimray, explains what a gas pressure regulator does.

Topics for Gas Pressure Regulator

  • What’s the difference between a gas pressure regulator and valve?
  • What does a gas back pressure regulator do?
  • How is a production separator like a water gun?
  • What would happen in a separator if there were no back pressure held on it?
  • What are some common problems operators encounter with a back pressure regulator?

Resources mentioned in this episode:


back pressure regulator podcastpodcast back pressure regulator



Curtis: I’m here with Kyle Andrews product and applications trainer. How are you, Kyle?

Kyle: I’m doing well on these strange times. Curtis. How are you?

Curtis: I’m doing all right. So I know you’re a football fan. Are you a OU fan or just generally football or football?

Kyle: Yeah, football’s my favorite sport, but I follow all OU athletics.

Curtis: So are you, are you missing it right now?

Kyle:  Yes, I’m missing even basketball season, watching the Thunder play, you know, all that got cut short.

Curtis: Me too. Our podcast today is not about sports but about the back pressure regulator.

This is the kind of the mother of all Kimray products. On campus, we’ve got pictures of this thing everywhere.

It really is a product that has changed the industry for the good and brought producers a lot value and efficiencies over the years. It’s one of our most popular blogs as well, so we want to talk about some of the ins and outs of how it works. Kyle, I’ll throw this one at you, just big picture: What does it do?

Kyle: Back pressure regulators are used to keep pressure on production vessels like separators.

Curtis: And why is it so important to keep that pressure on separators?

Kyle: Well, you want to hold pressure, on these separators so that you can move fluids from one separator to the next process. Without pressure on these vessels, you would not be able to move the liquids where you needed them to be.

Curtis: You use the metaphor of a water gun sometimes when you explain this.

Kyle: Yeah so think of an air-pumped water gun. When you put water in the tank, if you were just to immediately squeeze the trigger, nothing would happen. There’s no pressure. You have to pressurize the tank. So that way when you open the trigger up, that that pressure inside of the tank forces that liquid out of the gun.

So  a separator acts basically the same way—without any pressure on that separator, when a dump valve opens up, it’s not going to be able to force that liquid out. That’s why you have to hold pressure on that vessel to move the liquids from one place to another.

Curtis: Yeah, that’s a great mental image and easy way to explain what’s going on there. It’s counterintuitive to open a valve on a vessel of liquid and have nothing come out, but it’s got to have that pressure on it.

So why is it such a popular product? Why does so many people use it?

Kyle: It’s a staple really in our industry. And, you know, since 1948, our founding, it’s been the standard. There have been different variations of it come out through the years, but it’s been basically the same product since 1948. And it works perfectly for the applications that you want to use it in.

And everybody knows it. I mean, that’s, you know, like you were saying, that’s what we’re known for. It’s everywhere. Rarely do you walk on an oil and gas location and not see some Kimray, but especially the back pressure valve.

Curtis: Yeah. I’ve heard that when a customer says something like, “I need a Kimray,” or “It’s a Kimray,” just no specifics, that’s what they’re talking about, right?

Kyle: Yeah. If they call and said, “I have a red Kimray,” or “I need a red Kimray,” or something like that, that’s usually a pretty good chance that you’re talking about the back pressure regulator. We do offer several other products though!

Curtis: We call this an integrated valve, which makes it a regulator. Can you talk about that? What does that mean?

Kyle: Integrated just means that the pilot and the valve body are integrated into one. So our back pressure regulator, the top portion of that valve is the pilot. And then the lower half is the valve body, which has the seat in it.

A control valve needs a pilot to operate, or it needs something telling it what to do, and that’s external of the valve. They’re two separate pieces, and the integrated valve just puts the pilot and the valve together and makes it into one piece.

Curtis: Then there’s this really sensitive, small piece that’s so, so important—the pilot plug, that kinda makes it what it is.

Kyle: Yeah. So in the top half of that, in the pilot portion of the valve, the pilot plug is what makes the whole thing work.

You kind of think of it as the brain of the valve. Some of the problems that people have with that pilot plug are because of its very small seating surface. Keep in mind, this is a gas pressure regulator. So if you have any kind of liquids or any, you know, trash or dirt or debris, it can get in there and cause that pilot plug to not function properly.

Think of the pilot plug as a three-way valve. When you’re over set point or you’re over the pressure limit that you want to be at, it’s going to relieve pressure that’s holding the valve closed. And then whenever that pressure is released, it’s going to then move the other direction and put pressure back on the diaphragm that holds the valve closed again.

Curtis:  So you mentioned wet gas and getting trash in your production that can kind of mess with this valve. What are some other things that you see go wrong sometimes?

Kyle: A common one is that people leave the red stopper in the breather plug that’s in the oil bowl. During transport we have to plug that hole because there’s oil in the oil bowl that keeps the stem lubricated. But when we box up the valves, they lay on their sides. So to keep the oil from spilling out of the valve, we have to plug that hole.

Now, when you install this valve and you get ready to operate it, you want to make sure you take that plug out.

We have tags on the valve giving you warnings, “Hey, pull this out before you operate!” Sometimes that gets overlooked though. You know, people will just rip off the tags and throw away the instructions like we all do with things.

But if you do not remove that stopper, it will air lock the valve and it won’t be able to move. So a lot of the times if you’re having issues right off the bat and it’s right out of the box, check for that red stopper and make sure that it’s pulled out.

Curtis:  And and these work at pressures up to about 300 pounds?

Kyle: Yes. Our gas back pressure regulators have a set point range of 10-300 pounds. If you’re going to be operating above 300 pounds, you would want to use a high pressure control valve package. So that’s a control valve with an external pilot and a few other components.

Curtis: So it performs the same function as the back pressure regulator just at above 300 PSI.

Kyle: Yep.

Curtis: Very good. All right, well, appreciate your time, Kyle, and we’ll, we’ll catch you next time on the Stuff You Should Know About Oil and Gas podcast.

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