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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
MODULAR VALVE PACK
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/189610
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to a modular valve pack, in particular a modular valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves. One modular valve pack (10) disclosed in this document comprises a valve module (24) containing valve bodies (26) of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves (12), each valve having a valve element (28) which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device (14); and a coil module (30) carrying solenoid coils (32) of the solenoid actuated valves, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves. The valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves extend from the valve module for cooperating with the solenoid coils carried by the coil module. At least part of the coil module is releasably couplable to the valve module, said part of the coil module carrying the solenoid coils so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module.

Inventors:
WILKIE ALEXANDER (GB)
TAYLOR MATTHEW (GB)
BRODIE CHARLES (GB)
BAMFORD BENJAMIN ANTONY ST JOHN (GB)
Application Number:
GB2015/051701
Publication Date:
December 17, 2015
Filing Date:
June 10, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
GEOPROBER LTD (GB)
International Classes:
F15B13/08; E21B34/06
Foreign References:
US5452948A1995-09-26
JP2004090847A2004-03-25
US6786466B12004-09-07
EP1528695A22005-05-04
US20020100589A12002-08-01
GB1490034A1977-10-26
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ORR, Robert (Tower North CentralMerrion Way, Leeds West Yorkshire LS2 8PA, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A modular valve pack comprising:

a valve module containing valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; and

a coil module carrying solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves;

in which the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves extend from the valve module for cooperating with the solenoid coils carried by the coil module;

and in which at least part of the coil module is releasably couplable to the valve module, said part of the coil module carrying the solenoid coils so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module.

2. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 1 , comprising a power and control assembly coupled to the solenoid coils, for controlling operation of the solenoid coils and thus actuation of the associated valves, in which the power and control assembly is remotely actuable.

3. A modular valve pack as claimed in either of claims 1 or 2, comprising a power and control assembly coupled to the solenoid coils, for controlling operation of the solenoid coils and thus actuation of the associated valves, the power and control assembly comprising inductive power couplings for providing power to the assembly and thus the solenoid coils.

4. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the coil module comprises a plurality of coil mountings, each mounting receiving at least one solenoid coil, the one coil mountings being shaped to receive the at least one coil so that, when said part of the coil module is released from the valve module, the coil is removed from the valve pack.

5. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising a plurality of coil modules, each coil module comprising at least one solenoid coil. 6. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 5, in which at least part of each coil module is separately reieasably couplable to the valve module.

7. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising a plurality of groups of valves, each group comprising at least one valve.

8. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 7, when dependent on claim 5, in which the valve module defines a plurality of groups of valve bodies, each coil module carrying solenoid coils which are operable to move valve elements of one of the group of valves, and so to control the operation of one of said groups.

9. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the entire coil module is reieasably couplable to the valve module so that releasing the coil module from the valve module removes the solenoid coils from the valve pack. 10. A modular valve pack as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 8, in which the coil module is arranged so that a part of the coil module, carrying the solenoid coils, is reieasably couplable to the valve module.

1 1. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the coil module comprises a coil module housing which is reieasably couplable to the valve module, the housing comprising at least one part which is reieasably couplable to the valve module and which part carries the coils.

12. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the coil module is at least partly of a magnetically transparent material.

13. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 12, in which the solenoid coils are mounted on a part of the coil module, and said part of the coil module is of the

magnetically transparent material. 14. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the valve module comprises a housing defining the valve bodies, the valve elements extending from the valve bodies through a wall of the housing, for cooperating with the coils.

15. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 14, in which the solenoid coils are mountable around the valve elements.

16. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising at least one sensor, for measuring the pressure of a fluid in a conduit associated with a valve of the valve pack.

17. A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 16, comprising a plurality of sensors, for measuring the pressure of a fluid in a plurality of conduits associated with valves of the valve pack. 18. A modular valve pack as claimed in either of claims 16 or 17, in which each sensor is arranged to measure the pressure of the fluid in a respective one of the conduits.

19. A modular valve pack as claimed in either of claims 16 or 17, in which two or more sensors are arranged to measure the pressure of the fluid in a particular conduit.

20. A modular valve pack as claimed in any one of claims 16 to 19, in which the at least one sensor comprises:

a sensor portion; and

a power and communication portion for:

a) providing power to operate the sensor;

b) transmitting data to the sensor portion; and/or

c) receiving data from the sensor portion.

21 . A modular valve pack as claimed in claim 20, in which the power and

communication portion is releasably coupled to the sensor portion so that it can be removed for leaving the sensor portion in place.

22. A modular valve pack as claimed in either of claims 20 or 21 , when dependent on claim 3, in which the power and communication portion of the at least one sensor is inductively coupled to the power and control assembly for powering and/or controlling operation of the sensor portion and/or receiving date from the sensor portion.

23. A modular valve pack as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising at least one battery for operating the solenoid coils, in which the valve pack is arranged to trickle charge said battery. 24. A subsea assembly comprising a valve pack according to any one of claims 1 to 23.

25. A subsea assembly as claimed in claim 24, in which the valves of the valve pack are arranged to control the operation of a fluid operated device of the subsea assembly which is coupled to the valve pack.

26. A subsea assembly as claimed in claim 25, in which the valves are each arranged to control a different device. 27. A subsea assembly as claimed in claim 25, in which the valves are each arranged to control different functions of at least one device.

28. A subsea assembly as claimed in claim 25, in which the valve module comprises a plurality of coil modules and associated valves, and in which one or more of the valves associated with each of the coil modules is arranged to control the same device, or the same function of a device or devices.

29. A method of assembling a valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, the method comprising the steps of:

mounting valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves in a valve module, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; mounting solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves on a coil module, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves;

arranging the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves so that they extend from the valve module and cooperate with the solenoid coils of the coil module; and

releasably coupling at least part of the coil module to the valve module, said part of the coil module having the solenoid coils mounted thereto, so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module.

30. A method of carrying out maintenance on a valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, the method comprising the steps of:

mounting valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves in a valve module, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; mounting solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves on a coil module, the solenoid coils being operable to move the vah'e elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves;

arranging the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves so that they extend from the valve module and cooperate with the solenoid coils of the coil module; and

in the event of maintenance on one or more of the solenoid coils being required: releasing at least part of the coil module from the valve module, said part of the coil module having the solenoid coils mounted thereto; and

removing the solenoid coils from the valve pack as a unit.

3 1. A method as claimed in claim 20, comprising the further steps of: providing a replacement for said part of the coupling module, said replacement fresh solenoid coils mounted thereto; and

coupling the replacement to the valve module.

Description:
MODULAR VALVE PACK

The present invention relates to a modular valve pack. In particular, but not exclusively, the present invention relates to a modular valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves.

In the field of flow control (including hydraulics and pneumatics), it is common to provide a valve pack comprising a plurality of valves, each valve being operable to control the flow of fluid to a fluid operated device. The valves may each be coupled to a respective fluid operated device, for controlling the operation of that device, or two or more valves may be coupled to a single fluid operated device, for controlling various different functions of the device.

The valves can be actuated in many different ways, but one particular way of actuating the valves is via a solenoid. A solenoid valve comprises a valve body having inlet and outlet ports which communicate with respective inlet and outlet flow-lines; a valve element in the form of a stem or plunger which can be operated to move between open and closed positions, to control the flow of fluid through the valve body between the inlet and the outlet; a solenoid coil positioned around the valve stem; and a biasing element such as a spring, for urging the valve stem towards either the closed or the open position. The valve can be arranged so that it is normally closed or normally open, by appropriate biasing of the valve stem using the spring.

When it is desired to operate the valve, an electrical circuit associated with the solenoid coil is closed, to pass a current through windings of the coil. This generates a magnetic field which acts to move the valve stem away from its closed or open position, as appropriate, against the biasing force of the spring. When the circuit is opened the current ceases to pass through the coil windings, and the valve stem returns to its initial position, under the biasing force of the spring. The valve can be arranged to operate in the opposite fashion, so that the electrical circuit is normally closed, holding the valve stem in a particular position against the biasing force of the spring. However, this is generally undesirable as it requires a current to be maintained in the coil windings for much of the time, with an associated power drain.

In a valve pack comprising a plurality of such solenoid actuated valves, the solenoid coils are conventionally mounted around their respective valve stems, and individually wired to a power and control assembly, which typically comprises a printed circuit board (PCB). Failure of any one of the solenoid coils requires that the entire valve pack be taken out of service, so that the failed solenoid coil can be disconnected from the valve stem and replaced. This is a time-consuming procedure, and impacts upon operation of all the devices (or device functions), since the entire valve pack remains out of service until the coil which has failed has been replaced.

This can be particularly problematic where the valve pack is located in a challenging environment and/or in a location which is not easily accessible. For example, valve packs of this type are provided on flow control equipment employed in the oil and gas exploration and production industry, such as on subsea trees and blow out preventers (BOPs). These are located on equipment provided on the seabed, which is difficult to access, requiring a diver and/or remotely operated vehicle (ROV). It will be appreciated, however, that the valve packs may be employed in a wide range of other industries.

It is amongst the objects of the present invention to obviate or mitigate at least one of the foregoing disadvantages.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a modular valve pack comprising:

a valve module containing valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; and

a coil module carrying solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves; in which the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves extend from the valve module for cooperating with the solenoid coils carried by the coil module;

and in which at least part of the coil module is releasably couplable to the valve module, said part of the coil module carrying the solenoid coils so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module.

The provision of a valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, in which the solenoid coils of the valves can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, provides significant advantages over prior valve packs. In particular, in the event of failure of one or more of the solenoid coils, the invention provides the ability to quickly and easily remove all of the coils, by releasing said part of the coil module (carrying the coils) from the valve module. Said part of the coil module can thus be replaced by one carrying fresh coils, and any maintenance or replacement of damaged coils can then be carried out offline, without requiring the valve pack to be taken out of service.

Reference is made herein to the removal of the solenoid coils 'as a unit'. It will be understood that this should be taken to mean that, when said part of the coil module (carrying the coils) is released from the valve module, all of the solenoid coils are removed together or simultaneously.

The coil module may comprise a power and control assembly coupled to the solenoid coils, for controlling operation of the solenoid coils and thus actuation of the associated valves. The assembly may comprise power and control circuitry. The circuitry may be provided on or as part of a printed circuit board (PCB), which may be flexible. The circuitry may comprise or form a processor for controlling operation of the solenoid coils. The power and control assembly may be remotely actuable, such as via a wireless system (e.g. via radio or microwave frequency signals, or via acoustic signals). The power and control assembly may comprise power couplings for providing power to the assembly and thus the solenoid coils. The power couplings may be inductive couplings. One or more of the solenoid coils may be coupled to the power and control assembly via a releasable electrical connector, which may comprise a male component associated with one of the coil(s) and the assembly, and a female component associated with the other one of the coil(s) and the assembly. The male component may be a plug and the female component may be a socket. All of the solenoid coils carried by the coil module may be coupled to the power and control assembly via a single connector. There may be a plurality of connectors, each connector associated with at least one coil.

The coil module may comprise at least one coil mounting, the mounting receiving at least one solenoid coil. The coil module may comprise a plurality of coil mountings. A coil mounting may be provided for each coil. At least one coil mounting may receive two or more coils. The at least one coil mounting may be shaped to receive the at least one coil so that, when said part of the coil module is released from the valve module, the coil is removed from the valve pack. The at least one coil module mounting may have a wall defining a chamber or recess which receives the coil.

The valve pack may comprise a plurality of coil modules, each coil module comprising at least one solenoid coil. Each coil module may be separately releasably couplable to the valve module. The provision of such coil modules may be advantageous in that, in the event of repair or maintenance of a particular solenoid coil being required, the coil module carrying the solenoid coil can be removed for repair or maintenance of the coil in question without impacting upon continued operation of the valve pack.

The valve pack may comprise a plurality of groups of valves, each group comprising at least one valve and preferably a plurality of valves. The valve module may comprise a plurality of groups of valve bodies, each coil module carrying solenoid coils which are operable to move valve elements of one of the group of valves, and so to control the operation of one of said groups. The coil module may comprise a plurality of solenoid coil groups or packages, each group comprising at least one coil. Each group may be separately releasably couplable to the valve module. The groups may be provided on separate parts of the coil module, which are separately releasably couplable to the valve module. Advantageously, this may provide the ability to remove only a selected coil or coils from the valve pack in the event of failure.

The valve module may contain a first group of solenoid valve bodies, the coils associated with the valve bodies being carried by the coil module; and a second group comprising at least one solenoid valve body, a coil associated with said valve body of the second group being mounted on the valve module (and so not carried by the coil module). Accordingly, the valve pack may be arranged so that the coil of at least one valve is not carried by the coil module, and so remains in cooperation with the respective valve element even after removal of said part of the coil module from the valve module. This may be desirable in certain circumstances. For example, the valve (or valves) whose coil is not carried by the coil module may be one which is less likely to suffer failure during use, which might be for reasons of reduced coil actuation activity compared to other coils or due to it having a higher coil specification/rating/operating parameters.

The entire coil module may be releasably couplable to the valve module so that releasing the coil module from the valve module removes the solenoid coils from the valve pack. The coil module may be arranged so that a part or parts of the coil module, carrying the solenoid coils, are releasably couplable to the valve module. In this way, the coils can be removed from the valve pack by releasing said part or parts, without requiring that the entire coil module be released from the valve module. The coil module may comprise a coil module housing. The housing may be releasably couplable to the valve module. The housing may comprise at least one part which is releasably couplable to the valve module and which part carries the coils. Said part may be releasably couplable to a remainder of the housing.

The coil module may be at least partly of a magnetically transparent material. This may facilitate the transmission of magnetic flux generated by the solenoid coils to the valve module, to control movement of the associated valve elements and so operation of the valves. The coil module may be at least partly of a non-ferrous material. Suitable materials may be metals and metal alloys, such as stainless steel, and plastics materials. The solenoid coils may be mounted on a part of the coil module, for example part of a housing of the coil module, and said part of the coil module may be of the magnetically transparent material.

The valve module may comprise a housing containing the valve bodies. The valve elements may be or may comprise valve stems or plungers. The valve elements may extend from the valve bodies through a wall of the housing, for cooperating with the coils. The solenoid coils may be mounted around the valve elements, and/or may be shaped to receive the valve elements. It will be understood that the valves may be of any suitable structure including (but not restricted to) gate, plate, flapper and ball type valves with appropriately shaped valve elements.

The coil and valve module housings may be shaped to facilitate coupling of the modules. The valve module housing may comprise at least one inclined wall which is shaped to cooperate with a corresponding inclined walls of the coil module housing. The walls may be shaped so that, when the coil module housing is lowered on the valve module housing (or vice-versa), the coils are automatically aligned with their respective valve elements. This may ensure correct coupling of the coils to their valve elements.

The valve pack may comprise a connecting arrangement for coupling said part of the coil module to the valve module. The connecting arrangement may be a quick-release arrangement. The connecting arrangement may be a push-fit connecting arrangement. The connecting arrangement may comprise a male connecting component provided on one of the coil module and the valve module, and a female connecting component provided on the other one of the coil module and the valve module, the male and female connecting components cooperating for coupling the coil module to the valve module. There may be a plurality of such male/female connecting components. The connecting arrangement may be arranged so that a determined mating force is required to be applied to the arrangement to couple the coil module to the valve module, which force may be greater than that resulting from the self-weight of the coil and/or valve module (depending on which module is being mated to the other). This may advantageously provide a positive indication of coupling, and so that the solenoid coils have been correctly brought into cooperation with the valve elements. The connecting arrangement may comprise at least one sprung element or member which is deflected when the modules are coupled. The connecting arrangement may comprise a collet defining the at least one sprung element or member. The valve pack may comprise at least one sensor, for measuring the pressure of a fluid in a conduit associated with a valve of the valve pack. The valve pack may comprise a plurality of sensors, for measuring the pressure of a fluid in a plurality of conduits associated with valves of the valve pack. Each sensor may be arranged to measure the pressure of the fluid in a respective one of the conduits. Two or more sensors may be arranged to measure the pressure of the fluid in a conduit. This may provide a degree of redundancy. The at least one sensor may comprise: a sensor portion; and a power and communication portion for: a) providing power to operate the sensor; b) transmitting data to the sensor portion (such as transmitting operating commands to the sensor portion); and/or c) receiving data from the sensor portion (such as receiving pressure data from the sensor portion). The power and communication portion may be releasably coupled to the sensor portion so that it can be removed for maintenance/replacement leaving the sensor portion in place. The power and communication portion may be inductively coupled to the power and control assembly for powering and/or controlling operation of the sensor portion and/or receiving date from the sensor portion.

The valve pack may include one or more battery for operating the solenoid coils. Said battery may provide a buffer so that, where induction couplings are used, they are not required to handle sufficient power to switch all of the valves at once, which may be required under certain operating conditions. The valve pack may be arranged to trickle charge the at least one battery, optionally via the inductive couplings.

According to a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided a modular valve pack comprising:

a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, each valve being operable to control the flow of a fluid to a fluid operated device and comprising:

• a valve body; • a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; and

• a solenoid coil which is operable to move the valve element, to control operation of the valve;

a valve module containing the valve bodies of the solenoid actuated valves; and a coil module carrying the solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves;

in which the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves extend from the valve module for cooperating with the solenoid coils carried by the coil module;

and in which at least part of the coil module is releasably couplable to the valve module, said part of the coil module carrying the solenoid coils so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module. Further features of the valve pack of the second aspect of the invention may be derived from the text set out above relating to the first aspect of the invention.

According to a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided a subsea assembly comprising a valve pack according to either of the first or second aspects of the present invention.

The valves of the valve pack may be arranged to control the operation of a fluid operated device of the subsea assembly which is coupled to the valve pack. The valves may each be arranged to control a different device. The valves may each be arranged to control different functions of a device or devices. Where there are a plurality of coil modules and associated valves, one or more of the valves associated with each of the coil modules may be arranged to control the same device, or the same function of a device or devices. This may provide a degree of redundancy in the operation of the valve pack. Further features of the valve pack of the subsea assembly may be derived from the text set out above relating to the first or second aspect of the invention. According to a fourth aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of assembling a valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, the method comprising the steps of:

mounting valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves in a valve module, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; mounting solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves on a coil module, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves;

arranging the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves so that they extend from the valve module and cooperate with the solenoid coils of the coil module; and

releasably coupling at least part of the coil module to the valve module, said part of the coil module having the solenoid coils mounted thereto, so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack as a unit by releasing said part of the coil module from the valve module.

According to a fifth aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of carrying out maintenance on a valve pack comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves, the method comprising the steps of:

mounting valve bodies of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves in a valve module, each valve having a valve element which is movable relative to the valve body to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device; mounting solenoid coils of the solenoid actuated valves on a coil module, the solenoid coils being operable to move the valve elements of the respective valves and so to control operation of the valves;

arranging the valve elements of the solenoid actuated valves so that they extend from the valve module and cooperate with the solenoid coils of the coil module; and

in the event of maintenance on one or more of the solenoid coils being required: releasing at least part of the coil module from the valve module, said part of the coil module having the solenoid coils mounted thereto; and

removing the solenoid coils from the valve pack as a unit. Further features of the methods of the fourth and fifth aspects of the invention may be derived from the text set out above relating to any one of the first to third aspects of the invention. The method of the fourth aspect of the invention may comprise the further steps of:

providing a replacement for said part of the coupling module, said replacement having fresh solenoid coils mounted thereto; and

coupling the replacement to the valve module. Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a modular valve pack in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the drawing showing certain features of the valve pack which are normally hidden from view;

Fig. 2 is a schematic side view of one of a plurality of valves provided in the valve pack of Fig. 1 ; Fig. 3 is a schematic side view of subsea flow control equipment incorporating the valve pack of Fig. 1 , the equipment taking the form of a subsea tree;

Fig. 4 is a perspective view of a coil module forming part of the valve pack shown in Fig. 1 , shown separately from a valve module of the valve pack;

Fig. 5 is an enlarged, exploded perspective of the coil module of Fig. 4;

Fig. 6 is a perspective view of the valve pack taken from a different angle to Fig. 1 , and showing certain further features of the valve pack which are normally hidden from view;

Figs. 7 and 8 are enlarged views of components of the valve pack shown in Fig. 6; Fig. 9 is a view of the valve module forming part of the valve pack of Fig. 1 , shown separately from the coil module;

Fig. 10 is a perspective view of a modular valve pack in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

Figs. 1 1 , 12, 13 and 14 are plan, front, bottom and end views (taken in the direction of the arrow A of Fig. 10), respectively, of the valve pack of Fig. 10; Fig. 15 is a perspective view of a valve module of the valve pack of Fig. 10, viewed from the other end to Fig. 10;

Fig. 16 is a longitudinal sectional view of the valve pack of Fig. 10, taken along the line B- B of Fig. 1 1 ;

Fig. 17 is a cross-sectional view of the valve pack of Fig. 10, taken along the line C-C of Fig. 12; and

Fig. 18 is a cross-sectional view of the valve pack of Fig. 10, taken along the line D-D of Fig. 12.

Turning firstly to Fig. 1 , there is shown a perspective view of a modular valve pack in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the valve pack indicated generally by reference numeral 10. Fig. 1 shows certain features of the valve pack 10 which are normally hidden from view. As will be described in more detail below, the valve pack 10 comprises a plurality of valves in the form of solenoid actuated valves, one of which is shown in the schematic side view of Fig. 2, and which is given the reference numeral 12. It will be understood that the solenoid actuated valve 12 is exemplary, and that the valve pack 10 may comprise solenoid actuated valves of a number of different types, including but not limited to gate, flapper, plate and ball-type solenoid valves. The valve pack 10 of the present invention may have a utility in a wide range of different industries, and generally has a use in any situation in which flow control is required. The valve pack 10 has a use in controlling the flow of fluid to one or more fluid operated devices, and/or for controlling various different functions of a particular fluid operated device.

However, the valve pack 10 has a particular use in the oil and gas exploration and production industry, for example in controlling the operation of flow control equipment. Fig. 3 is a schematic side view of subsea flow control equipment incorporating the valve pack 10, the equipment taking the form of a subsea tree 14 of a type which is well-known in the industry. The subsea tree 14 provides pressure and flow control for a subsea well 15, and includes a number of valves 16, 18, 20 and 22 for controlling various flow operations. The valve pack 10 can be provided on the subsea tree 14, for controlling the operation of the various valves 16 to 22.

The valve pack 10 generally comprises a valve module 24 containing valve bodies 26 (Fig. 2) of a plurality of solenoid actuated valves 12, each valve having a valve element 28 which is movable relative to the valve body 12 to control the flow of fluid through the valve body to an associated fluid operated device. The valve pack 10 also comprises a coil module 30 carrying solenoid coils 32 of the solenoid actuated valves 12, the solenoid coils being 32 operable to move the valve elements 28 of the respective valves, and so to control operation of the valves.

In the illustrated valve 12, the valve element 28 takes the form of a valve stem or plunger, which is translatable within a passage 29 within the coil 32 against the biasing action of a spring 31 . The spring 31 biases the stem 28 to a closed position, shown in Fig. 2, where it acts to close a flow passage 33 extending through the valve body 26. When it is desired to operate the valve 12 to open fluid communication along the flow passage 33, an electrical circuit associated with the solenoid coil 32 is closed, to pass a current through windings of the coil. This generates a magnetic field which acts to move the valve stem 28 away from its closed position, against the biasing force of the spring 31. When the circuit is opened the current ceases to pass through the coil 32 windings, and the valve stem 28 returns to its initial position, under the biasing force of the spring. It will be understood, however, that the valve 12 may be arranged in the opposite fashion, so that it is normally biased open and closed by passing a current through the coil 32 windings. The coil module 30 is shown separately from the valve module 24 in the perspective view of Fig. 4, and also in the enlarged, exploded perspective view of Fig. 5. Fig. 6 is a perspective view of the valve pack 10 taken from a different angle to Fig. 1 , and showing certain features of the valve pack which are normally hidden from view. Figs. 7 and 8 are enlarged views of components of the valve pack 10 shown in Fig. 6. Fig. 9 is a view of the valve module 24 shown separately from the coil module 30, and also shows further components of the valve pack 10, which will be discussed below.

As best shown in Fig. 9, the valve elements 28 of the solenoid actuated valves 12 extend from the valve module 24, for cooperating with the solenoid coils 32 carried by the coil module 30. At least part of the coil module 30 is releasably couplable to the valve module 24, said part of the coil module carrying the solenoid coils 28 so that the solenoid coils can be removed from the valve pack 10 as a unit, by releasing said part of the coil module 30 from the valve module 24. In the illustrated embodiment, the entire coil module 30 is releasably couplable to the valve module 24. However and as will be described below, the valve pack 10 may comprise a coil module having sections or parts carrying solenoid coils 32, and which part or parts can be released from a remainder of the coil module so that the coils 32 can be removed from the valve pack 10.

The provision of a valve pack 10 comprising a plurality of solenoid actuated valves 12, in which the solenoid coils 32 of the valves can be removed from the valve pack as a unit, provides significant advantages over prior valve packs. In particular, in the event of failure of one or more of the solenoid coils 32, the invention provides the ability to quickly and easily remove all of the coils, by releasing said part of the coil module 30 (carrying the coils 32) from the valve module 24. Said part of the coil module 30 can thus be replaced by one carrying fresh coils 32, and any maintenance or replacement of damaged coils can then be carried out offline, without requiring the valve pack 10 to be taken out of service. The valve pack 10, and its method of operation, will now be described in more detail.

The coil module 30 comprises a power and control assembly, indicated generally by reference numeral 34. The power and control assembly 34 is coupled to the solenoid coils 32, for controlling operation of the solenoid coils and thus actuation of the associated valves 12. The assembly 34 comprises power and control circuitry which, in the illustrated embodiment, is provided on a PCB 36. Typically, the PCB 36 is flexible to accommodate any reaction loads which result from coupling of the coil module 30 to the valve module 24. The PCB 36 incorporates a processor, indicated schematically at 38 in Fig. 5, for controlling operation of the solenoid coils 32. The power and control assembly 34 is remotely actuable, such as via a wireless system (not shown), particularly when the valve pack 10 is provided on a subsea tree 14 or other subsea equipment. The wireless system may, for example, be arranged to emit radio or microwave frequency signals, or acoustic signals for operating the valve pack 10.

The power and control assembly 34 also comprises power couplings for providing power to the assembly and thus the solenoid coils 32, two such couplings being shown in the drawings and indicated by numeral 40. In the illustrated embodiment, the power couplings 40 are inductive couplings located within the coil module 30, and cooperate with corresponding inductive couplings 42 provided externally of the valve pack 10. Inductive couplings may be preferred in many environments, particularly subsea, but it will be understood that other couplings may be employed, e.g. conventional plug and socket couplings, or a suitable hard-wired arrangement. One or more of the solenoid coils 32 are coupled to the power and control assembly 34 via a releasable electrical connector, which is indicated schematically and in broken outline in Fig. 6, by the numeral 44. In the illustrated embodiment, all of the coils 32 are coupled to the power and control assembly 34 via a single such connector 44. However, it will be understood that the valve pack 10 may alternatively comprise a plurality of such connectors 44, each connector associated with at least one coil 32. The connector 44 comprises a male component 46 associated with one of the arrangement of coils 32 and the assembly 34, and a female component 48 associated with the other one of the arrangement of coils 32 and the assembly 34. The male and female components are typically a plug 46 and socket 48, and serve for coupling the coils 32 to the PCB 36. To this end, the plug 46 is electrically connected to all of the coils 32 via an arrangement of connectors 50 (on each coil) and electrical conduits 52, and mates with the socket 48, which is provided on the PCB 36 (or vice-versa).

The coil module 30 comprise at least one coil mounting which receives at least one solenoid coil 32 and, in the illustrated embodiment, comprises a mounting 54 for each coil. However, it will be understood that at least one coil mounting may be provided which is arranged to receive two or more coils 32. As best shown in Fig. 5, the coil mountings 54 are shaped to receive the coils 32 so that, when the coil module 30 is released from the valve module 24, the coils 32 are removed from the valve pack 10. The coil mountings 54 each have a wall 56 defining a chamber or recess 58 which receives the coil 32. This provides a secure engagement of the coil 32 so that it can be removed when the coil module 30 is released.

Whilst, in the illustrated embodiment, all of the coils 32 are provided as a single group which are removed as a unit when the coil module 30 is released from the valve module 24, the coil module 30 may comprise a plurality of solenoid coil groups or packages, each group comprising at least one coil. For example and referring to Fig. 6, the coil module 30 may comprise a first group 60 of coils 32, and a second group 62 of coils 32. Each group may comprise any desired number of coils 32 but, by way of example, the groups 60 and 62 may each comprise nine coils. Each group of coils 60 and 62 may be separately releasably couplable to the valve module 24, and may be provided on separate parts of the coil module 30, which are separately releasably couplable to the valve module 24.

Advantageously, this may provide the ability to remove only a selected coil or coils 32 from the valve pack 10 in the event of coil failure.

In the illustrated valve pack 10, the coil module 30 carries the solenoid coils 32 for all of the solenoid valves 12 provided in the pack. However, in a variation, the valve pack 10 can optionally comprise a first group of solenoid valves 12 whose coils 32 are carried by the coil module 30, and a second group comprising at least one solenoid valve 12 whose coil 32 is mounted on the valve module 24 (or otherwise mounted), so that the coil 32 is not carried by the coil module 30. The valve pack 10 may therefore be arranged so that the coil 32 of at least one valve 12 is not carried by the coil module 30, and so remains in cooperation with the respective valve stem 28 even after removal of the coil module 30 from the valve module 24.

This may be desirable in certain circumstances. For example, the valve (or valves) 12 whose coil is not carried by the coil module 30 may be one which is less likely to suffer failure during use, which might be for reasons of reduced coil actuation activity compared to other coils or due to it having a higher coil specification/rating/operating parameters.

The coil module 30 comprises a housing 64, and the valve module 24 comprises a housing 66. The housings 64 and 66 are arranged so that they can be coupled together so as to bring the coils 32 into cooperation with the valve stems 28. The coil module housing 64 defines the various coil mountings 54 so that, when the coil module housing 64 is released from the valve module housing 24, all of the coils 32 are removed from the valve pack 10. Typically, the housings 64 and 66 will be waterproof, particularly where the valve pack 10 is to be deployed subsea.

The valve module housing 66, in particular a housing portion 71 , is arranged to contain the valve bodies 26 of the valves 12, with suitable inlet and outlet conduits 68 and 70 being routed into the valve module 24, for coupling to each valve housing 26. The conduits 68 and 70 serve for directing hydraulic fluid to/from the fluid operated device in question, in this case, the various valves 16 to 22 of the subsea tree 14. The valve stems 28 each extend from the valve bodies 26 through a wall 72 of the valve module housing 66, for cooperating with the coils 32. The solenoid coils 32 are mounted around the valve stems 28, by virtue of the mountings 54 defined by the coupling module 30.

The coil and valve module housings 64 and 66 are shaped to facilitate coupling of the modules 24, 30. In particular, and as best shown in Figs. 5 and 9, the valve module housing 66 comprises a base 67 forming a shoulder 69 on which the coil module housing 64 is mounted, and the valve housing portion 71 . The valve housing portion 71 comprises inclined side and end walls 73 and 75, which are shaped to cooperate with corresponding inclined walls 77 and 79 of the coil module housing 64. The walls 73, 77 and 75, 79 are each shaped so that, when the coil module housing 64 is lowered on the valve module housing 66, the coils 32 are automatically aligned with their respective valve stems 28, to ensure correct coupling of the coils to their stems.

In a variation on the illustrated embodiment, the coil module 30 may be arranged so that only a part or parts of the coil module, carrying the solenoid coils 32, is releasably couplable to the valve module 24. In particular, a section or sections (not shown) of the coil module housing 64 carrying coils 32 may be releasable from a remainder of the housing. In this way, the coils 32 can be removed from the valve pack 10 by releasing said section(s), without requiring that the entire coil module 30 be released from the valve module 24.

The valve pack 10 also comprises a connecting arrangement for coupling the coil module 30 to the valve module 24. The connecting arrangement is a quick-release, push-fit connecting arrangement comprising male connecting components 74 and female connecting components 76. In the illustrated embodiment, the male components take the form of pins 74 provided on the valve module housing 66, whilst the female components take the form of sockets 76 in the coil module housing 64. The male and female connecting components 74 and 76 is arranged so that a determined mating force is required to be applied to couple the coil module 30 to the valve module 24. This force will typically be greater than that resulting from the self-weight of the coil and/or valve module 30, 24 (depending on which module is being mated to the other). This may

advantageously provide a positive indication of coupling, and so that the solenoid coils 32 have been correctly brought into cooperation with the valve stems 28. To this end, the connecting arrangement can comprise at least one sprung element or member (not shown) which is deflected when the modules 24 and 30 are coupled. The connecting arrangement, in particular the female sockets 76 may form a collet defining the at least one sprung element. The pins 74 have enlarged heads 78 which are shaped to cooperate with the collet.

The valve pack 10 can optionally include one or more battery, to provide a buffer so the induction couplings 40 and 42 are not required to handle sufficient power to switch all the valves 12 at once, which may be required under certain operating conditions (e.g. an emergency closing of all of the subsea tree valves 16 to 22). A number of such batteries 80 are provided in the coil module housing 64, and are arranged to be 'trickle charged' by the inductive couplings 40 and 42 over time, so that the batteries can provide power to switch the valves 12 when required.

Turning now to Fig. 10, there is shown a valve pack in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the valve pack indicated generally by reference numeral 100. Like components of the valve pack 100 with the valve pack 10 of Figs. 1 to 9 share the same reference numerals, incremented by 100. The valve pack 100 is also shown in the plan, front, bottom and end views of Figs. 1 1 to 14, respectively, the end view taken in the direction of the arrow A in Fig. 10.

The valve pack 100 comprises a valve module 124 and a plurality of solenoid coil modules 130a, 130b and 130c. Each coil module 130a to c is of like construction and operation. Only one of the coil modules 130a to c will be described in detail herein.

The valve module 124 is shown separately in Fig. 15, which is a perspective view taken from the other end to that of Fig. 10. The valve pack 100 comprises a number of separate groups of valves 82a, 82b and 82c. The valve module 124 provides the valve body 126 for each of the valves in the groups 82a to c, and valve elements 128a, 128b and 128c extend from the valve body 126 for cooperating with solenoid coils 132a, 132b and 132c carried by the respective coil modules 130a, 130b and 130c. Effectively therefore, each coil module 130a, 130b and 130c carries respective solenoid coils 132a, 132b and 132c which serve for controlling the operation of the valves in the respective valve groups 82a, 82b and 82c, by controlling movement of the valve stems, 128a, 128b and 128c. The provision of such separate coil modules 130a to c provides the advantage that, in the event of failure of a particular solenoid coil 132a, 132b or 1 32c, the corresponding coil module can simply be released from the valve module 124 and a replacement coil module coupled to the valve module so that operation can continue. The solenoid coil 132a, 132b or 132c which has failed can then be replaced offline.

The valve pack 100 is shown in more detail in the longitudinal sectional view of Fig. 16, taken along the line B-B of Fig. 1 1 ; the cross-sectional view of Fig. 17, taken along the line C-C of Fig. 12; and the cross-sectional view of Fig. 1 8, taken along the line D-D of Fig. 12.

The coil module 130b is shown in the longitudinal sectional view of Fig. 16. The coil module 130b comprises a housing 164b having a base 84b which is shaped to define mountings 154b for the solenoid coils 132b. Part of the coil module 130b, in particular the base 84b of the housing 164b, is of a magnetically transparent material. Suitable materials include non-ferrous materials. Metals and metal alloys, such as stainless steel may be employed, as well as plastics materials. The use of a magnetically transparent material facilitates magnetic flux transmission from the solenoid coils 132b to the valve stems 128b of the valves in the valve group 82b.

Referring particularly to Fig. 17, the coil modules 130a, 130b and 130c are arranged so to provide redundancy in the operation of a fluid actuated device (such as valves 16 to 22 of the subsea tree 14 shown in Fig. 3). Specifically, a pair 86a of valves 12a, 12a' in the valve group 82a both serve for controlling flow of hydraulic fluid to a fluid operated device, such as one of the valves 16 to 22. The valve 12a communicates with a supply line 88a, whilst the valve 12a' communicates with a supply line 90a.

Similarly, a pair 86b of valves 12b and 12b' in the valve group 82b communicates with respective supply lines 88b and 90b. A pair 86c of valves 12c and 12c' in the valve group 82c communicate with respective supply lines 88c and 90c. Operation of the valves in any one of the pairs 86a, 86b or 86c opens communication between the respective supply line 88a to c or 90a to c with a chamber 91 that

communications with an outlet conduit 92a, which leads to the fluid operated device. This provides multiple redundancy for operation of the device, by the actuation of any one of the valves in the valve pairs 86a, 86b and 86c. The drawing shows a further outlet conduit 92b which communications with successive pairs of valves 12 in the valve groups 82a, 82b and 82c. The outlet conduits are best shown in Figs. 10 and 12 and are numbered from 92 through to 92m, respectively. Each of the conduits 92 to 92m controls the operation of a respective fluid operated device, different functions of one or more such devices, or combinations of the two.

In a similar fashion to the valve pack 10, power for the operation of the valve pack 100 is provided via external inductive couplings 142a, 142b and 142c (one for each of the coil modules 130a to 130c), which cooperate with inductive couplings 140a, 140b and 140c of the coil modules 130a to c. This is best shown in Fig. 18. A similar such arrangement is provided at the opposite end of the valve pack 100, to provide sufficient power to operate all of the valve groups 82a to c. Operation of the valves 12 in the valve groups 82a to c is controlled by respective processors 138a, 138b and 138c mounted on PCBs 136a, 136b and 136c of power and control assemblies 134a, 134b and 134c.

The valve pack 100 also comprises pressure sensors for measuring the pressure of fluid in a conduit associated with valves of the valve pack, and in the illustrated embodiment comprises a sensor 93 for each outlet conduit 92 to 92m. The sensors are given the reference numeral 93, and a sensor is associated with each of the valve or valves in the respective valve groups 82a, 82b and 82c that communicate with the fluid operated device through the respective outlet conduits 92 to 92m. The pressure sensors each open onto the respective chambers 91 that communicate with the outlet conduits 92 to 92m.

The sensors 93 each comprise a sensor portion 94 which communicates with the chamber 91 for measuring pressure, and a power and communication portion 95 which provides power to operate the sensor 93, and serves for transmitting data to and/or receiving data from the sensor portion 94 (for example, transmitting operating commands to the sensor portion and receiving pressure data from the sensor portion). The power and

communication portion 95 is releasably coupled to the sensor portion 94, so that it can be removed for maintenance/replacement, leaving the sensor portion 94 in place. The power and communication portion 95 is inductively coupled to the power and control assembly 134, which provides power to operate the sensors 93, and controlled by the respective processors 138a to c.

Various modifications may be made to the foregoing without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention.

The feature of any one of the embodiments shown and described herein may share the features of any other embodiment.




 
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