The Overlooked Importance of a Control Valve | Q&A with Bill Diokanos

“The control valve is a vital part of a production system, but it’s often overlooked until there is an issue with it.”

Bill Diokanos is an engineer and consultant with over 35 years of experience in upstream oil and gas production and pipeline operations.  Over the past 10 years he has consulted ExxonMobil, Shell Exploration and Production, Sandridge Energy, Repsol and Chevron. 

Bill now teaches oil and gas processing and process safety for PetroskillsHe recently brought some new students in for a day of training on Kimray products, and was nice enough to sit down for an interview about the control valve.

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Thanks for talking with us, Bill. First, tell us about your field experience.  

I spent the early part of my career offshore in the Gulf, but for the majority of it I’ve been involved in onshore production operations in West Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

From your perspective, how does a control valve fit into the larger ecosystem of oil and gas production?  

A control valve is a vital part of production system, but it’s often overlooked until there is an issue with it.

For example, we’re now running long lateral fracs. This process creates a heck of a lot more sand than we’ve ever had before from traditional drilling. This sand is causing producers to run through valves at a high rate.

Many other companies aren’t aware of this. It’s just noise in a bigger system. But for you guys it’s critical information cause this is your world. You either live or die by that valve working in an onshore environment in this application, and those sands are not going away.

In fact Kimray is on the leading edge of realizing there are needs to address these evolving conditions. You are using different materials and coatings, adapting your product to meet that specific challenge.Kimray control valve on a heater treater in Texas

What are producers looking for from their control valve?

On the production side, the companies I work with have field workers who are not specialists. They have to cover all the bases on a site. That means the control valve we put in the field has to be:

  1. Robust—meaning it can’t be delicate or break easily
  2. Easy to operate—meaning once you set it up, you don’t have to go back often to “goof around with it” so to speak.

In the onshore Lower 48, we’re most often wanting to operate in unattended, low-maintenance, low-human-capital environments. So what you put out has to be simple. With your products, a guy who can run a downhole application is also the same guy who can understand how to adjust the treater system.

Where have you used/seen Kimray products?

I’ve used all the products in various applications, including heater treaters, separator controls, burner controls, back pressure, burner control, level control, heater dump, hammer dumps, and treater controls. When I was with Shell we used the Kimray Glycol Pump for dehydration.

What’s been your experience with those glycol pumps and control valves?

I’ve never had significant issues with the products, but the service is what has been most helpful to me. In fact, quick story, a few weeks ago we had a frustrating issue. We’d put a larger Kimray mechanical dump than was needed on a separator because it was mis-sized. We didn’t have the closing torque to make that valve function correctly.

Kimray control valve in Texas

I’m driving back from Andrews, Texas, scratching my head, and I called [Kimray Product Manager] Mark Anderson. After three minutes of explaining our issue, Mark he says “Holy cow, we have the wrong flow.” He diagnosed it and had the solution that quickly.

I’ll note two things from this experience—first off, Mark picked up the phone, which in my experience is too often not the case when you call a manufacturer. And second, the knowledge base is there. When I talk to Mark or I talk Aaron Alaniz or when I talk to Jason Andrews, it’s clear that Kimray people really know and understand the product line and they know how it’s being applied.

What would you say to someone considering purchasing a Kimray control valve?

The reason we’re talking today is because Mark Anderson and Jason Andrews answer the phone when I need them.

In my experience, you’re a company that is industry focused, meaning you are right there with the guys in the field who are adjusting a choke or having to set the dump valve. You’re with those people and it shows.

I really appreciate that availability and the knowledge base at Kimray. My belief is smart people solve problems. So if you as a producer are able to communicate the problem on the process level to these guys, Kimray can do it on the equipment level, and they can resolve whatever issues you are facing and get you a solution that works.