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Title:
TORQUE OPERATOR FOR VALVES WITH A RISING VALVE STEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/143356
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Disclosed is a valve (100) that includes a valve stem (112) adapted for longitudinal movement along a first axis (113), a housing (114) that is operatively coupled to the valve (100) and a torque operator (102) that comprises a linkage assembly (107) that is operatively coupled to the valve stem (112) and the housing (114) and a drive train (105) that comprises a threaded drive rod (130) that is operatively coupled to the linkage assembly (107). The axis of rotation (131) of the drive rod (130) is positioned transverse to the first axis (113). Rotation of the drive rod (130) causes movement of at least one component of the torque operator (102) and the valve stem (112) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113). The valve also comprises a position indicator (118) that correlates movement of the at least one component of the torque operator (102) with a fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100).

Inventors:
LERCHE, Andrew H. (18327 Forest Elms Dr, Spring, Texas, 77388, US)
THOMAS, William James (4002 Perry Knoll Ct, Sugar Land, Texas, 77479, US)
SANDERS, Jeffrey M. (4810 Big Falls Drive, Kingwood, Texas, 77345, US)
WITKOWSKI, Keith Anthony (19134 Hikers Trail, Humble, Texas, 77346, US)
MANN, Michael L. (9308 Vogue Lane, Houston, Texas, 77080, US)
Application Number:
US2018/014473
Publication Date:
July 25, 2019
Filing Date:
January 19, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
FMC TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (1803 Gears Road, Houston, Texas, 77067, US)
International Classes:
F16K31/50; E21B34/02; F16H21/00; F16K1/02; F16K31/52; F16K31/53; F16K31/60; F16K37/00
Foreign References:
DE2027748A11971-12-09
US20060017032A12006-01-26
US4285493A1981-08-25
BE483585A
EP2267346A12010-12-29
US4533113A1985-08-06
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
AMERSON, J. Mike et al. (Amerson Law Firm, PLLC2500 Fondren Rd., Suite 22, Houston Texas, 77063, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CT ATMS

1. A valve (100), comprising:

a valve stem (112) adapted for longitudinal movement along a first axis (113) within a valve body (104);

a housing (114) operatively coupled to the valve (100);

a torque operator (102) that is at least partially positioned within the housing (114), the torque operator (102) comprising:

a linkage assembly (107) that is operatively coupled to the valve stem (112) and the housing (114); and

a drive train (105) comprising a threaded drive rod (130) that is operatively coupled to the linkage assembly (107), wherein an axis of rotation (131) of the threaded drive rod (130) is positioned transverse to the first axis (113) and wherein rotation of the threaded drive rod (130) causes movement of at least one component of the torque operator (102) and the valve stem (112) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113); and

a position indicator (118) that correlates movement of the at least one component of the torque operator (102) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113) with a fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100).

2. The valve of claim 1, wherein the at least one component of the torque operator (102) is the threaded drive rod (130).

3. The valve of claim 2, wherein the valve further comprises at least one opening (136) in the housing (114) and wherein a portion of the rotating threaded drive rod (130) extends through the opening (136) and the position indicator (118) is located adjacent the opening (136).

4. The valve of claim 1, wherein the valve (100) is a choke valve and the valve further comprises a plug (110) that is coupled to the stem (112) and wherein the housing (114) is a non-pressure containing component.

5. The valve of claim 1, wherein the housing (114) is operatively coupled to a bonnet (120) of the valve (100) and wherein the first axis (113) is a vertically oriented axis and the axis of rotation (131) of the threaded drive rod (130) is a horizontally oriented axis.

6. The valve of claim 1, wherein the fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100) is at least one of a fluid flow rate of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a pressure drop experienced by a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a flow coefficient (Cv) of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), an amount of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a size of a fluid flow opening in the valve (100) or a degree of restriction of fluid flow opening in the valve (100) or a degree of openness of fluid flow opening in the valve (100).

7. The valve of claim 1, wherein the threaded drive rod (130) is operatively coupled to a handle (116).

8. The valve of claim 1, wherein one end of the threaded drive rod (130) comprises an interface that is adapted to be grasped by an ROV.

9. The valve of claim 1, wherein the linkage assembly (107) of the torque operator (102) comprises:

a first saddle member (138) that is coupled to the housing (114);

a second saddle member (140) that is coupled to the valve stem (112);

a first linkage sub-assembly (127 A); and

a second linkage sub-assembly (127B), wherein each of the first and second linkage sub-assemblies are pivotally coupled to the first and second saddle members (138, 140) and wherein the drive train (105) further comprises: a threaded drive nut (150) that is operatively coupled to the first linkage sub- assembly (127A); and

a non-threaded reaction nut (158) that is operatively coupled to the second linkage sub-assembly (127B), wherein the threaded drive rod (130) extends through and threadingly engages the threaded drive nut (150) and extends through the non-threaded reaction nut (158).

10. The valve of claim 9, wherein each of the first and second linkage sub assemblies (127 A, 127B) further comprise:

a first plurality of teeth (146) that are positioned proximate the first saddle (146), wherein the first teeth (148) on the first and second linkage sub-assemblies (127 A, 127B) are adapted to engage one another; and

a second plurality of teeth (148) positioned proximate the second saddle (140), wherein the second teeth (148) on the first and second linkage sub-assemblies (127 A, 127B) are adapted to engage one another. 11. The valve of claim 9, wherein the drive train (105) further comprises a threaded sleeve (154) positioned on the threaded drive rod (130) and a pin (156) that pins the threaded sleeve (154) to the threaded drive rod (130) so as to prevent relative rotation between the threaded sleeve (154) and the threaded drive rod (130), wherein the threaded sleeve (154) is positioned between the threaded drive nut (150) and the non-threaded reaction nut (158) along the axis of rotation (131) of the threaded drive rod (130).

12. The valve of claim 1, wherein the linkage assembly (107) is operatively coupled to the housing (114) by a plurality of threaded fasteners (128) and the linkage assembly (107) is operatively coupled to the valve stem (112) by a threaded fastener (132).

13. The valve of claim 5, wherein the housing (114) is operatively coupled to the bonnet (120) by at least one of a threaded connection, a pinned connection, a welded connection or a bolted connection. 14. A method of operating a valve (100) comprising a valve stem (112) that is adapted for longitudinal movement along a first axis (113) within a valve body (104) and a torque operator (102) that is at least partially positioned within a housing (114) that is coupled to the valve (100), the torque operator (102) comprising a linkage assembly (107) that is operatively coupled to the valve stem (112) and the housing (114) and a drive train (105) comprising a threaded drive rod (130) that is operatively coupled to the linkage assembly (107), wherein the method comprises:

rotating the threaded drive rod (130) about its axis of rotation (131) so as to cause movement of at least one component of the torque operator (102) and the valve stem (112) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113), wherein the axis of rotation (131) is transverse to the first axis (113); and determining a fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100) by observing a position of the at least one component of the torque operator (102) relative to a position indicator (118) that correlates movement of the at least one component of the torque operator (102) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113) with the fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100).

15. The method of claim 14, wherein the at least one component of the torque operator (102) comprises a component of the drive train (105) and wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) causes the component of the drive train (105) to move in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113).

16. The method of claim 14, wherein the at least one component of the torque operator (102) is the threaded drive rod (130) and wherein rotating the threaded drive rod

(130) causes the threaded drive rod (130) to move in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113).

17. The method of claim 14, wherein the at least one component of the torque operator (102) comprises a component of the linkage assembly (107) and wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) causes the component of the linkage assembly (107) to move in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113).

18. The method of claim 14, wherein the at least one component of the torque operator (102) comprises a component of the drive train (105) and wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) causes the valve stem (112) to move a first distance (112X) along the first axis (113) and causes the threaded drive rod (130) to move a second distance (130X) in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113), wherein the first distance is at least twice as large as the second distance.

19. The method of claim 14, wherein the fluid flow characteristic of the valve (100) is at least one of a fluid flow rate of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a pressure drop experienced by a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a flow coefficient (Cv) of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), an amount of a fluid flowing through the valve (100), a size of a fluid flow opening in the valve (100) or a degree of restriction of fluid flow opening in the valve (100) or a degree of openness of fluid flow opening in the valve (100).

20. The method of claim 14, wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) comprises rotating a handle (116) that is operatively coupled to the threaded drive rod (130).

21. The method of claim 14, wherein one end of the threaded drive rod (130) comprises an interface that is adapted to be grasped by an ROV and wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) comprises actuating an ROV so as to grasp and rotate the threaded drive rod (130).

22. The method of claim 14, wherein rotating the threaded drive rod (130) causes the drive train (105), the linkage assembly (107) and the valve stem (112) to all move in a direction corresponding to the first axis (113) at the same time.

Description:
TORQUE OPERATOR FOR VALVES WITH A RISING VALVE STEM

TECHNICAL FIFED

The present disclosed subject mater generally relates to a valve apparatus for controlling the flow of fluids and more specifically to a torque operator for valves with a rising valve stem, such as, for example, choke valves.

BACKGROUND

In the oil and gas industry, various types of valves or flow control devices are used both during drilling and production operations. One control device used in drilling is the “drilling choke.” The drilling choke is one of several well control devices used to control the fluid pressures and volumes encountered during drilling to prevent potential loss of control of the well. Choke valves are also used in the production of oil and/or gas. These choke valves are usually referred to as“production chokes.” A production choke valve may be used to throttle pressure and control the rate of production of petroleum fluids from a well. Production chokes may also be used to control and throttle the flow of fluids being injected into a well, such as is done in enhanced oil recovery operations.

Figure 1 is a cross-sectional view of portions of an illustrative prior art choke valve 10. In general, the valve 10 comprises a bonnet 12 that is coupled to the body 14 of the valve by a plurality of bolts 13. The valve body 14 comprises a valve chamber (not shown) and a fluid inlet (not shown) and a fluid outlet (not shown). A valve seat is positioned in the valve chamber. A valve element or restricting element 16 (e.g., a valve plug) is coupled to the end of a non-rotating valve stem 18. The valve stem 18 extends through an anti-rotation mechanism 20 that is prevented from rotating by a plurality of dowel pins 22 that are engaged with the bonnet 12. A plurality of keys 24 prevent the stem 18 from rotating relative to the anti-rotation mechanism 20. The keys 24 are positioned in pockets or slots (not shown) defined in the valve stem 18. The keys 24 are positioned in through slots (not shown) in the anti -rotation mechanism 20. The valve 10 also comprises a drive train 26 that is operatively coupled to a handle 28 by a key 30. Portions of the drive train 26 and the anti-rotation mechanism 20 are positioned within an actuator housing 27 that is coupled to the valve bonnet 12. A plurality of bearings 29 permit the drive train 26 to rotate within the actuator housing 27. At least a portion of the drive train 26 comprises internally threaded sections (not shown), sometimes in the form of a threaded nut that is prevented from rotating within the drive train 26, that is adapted to engage external threads (not shown) formed on the portion of the valve stem 18 that is engaged with the drive train 26.

In operation, rotation of the handle 28 causes rotation of the drive train 26. Since the valve stem 18 is prevented from rotating by the anti -rotation mechanism 20, and there is a threaded interaction between the drive train 26 and the stem 18, rotation of the drive train 26 causes the valve stem 18 (and the valve element 16 coupled thereto) to move axially, i.e., up or down depending upon the direction of rotation of the handle 28. The valve element 16 is adapted to be axially moved such that it may engage the valve seat in the valve body and regulate the flow of fluids through the valve 10. More specifically, the valve element 16 may be moved to a fully closed position, wherein flow of fluid through the valve 10 is prevented, to a fully open position, wherein maximum fluid flow through the valve 10 is permitted. The valve element 16 may also be positioned in several partially-open positions whereby, in conjunction with the valve seat, predetermined fluid flow areas are opened so as to regulate and control the amount of fluid flowing through the valve 10 and to regulate the pressure of the fluid. Also depicted in Figure 1 is an illustrative position indicator 32 that is operatively coupled to the valve stem 18. The position indicator 32 indicates the amount of fluid flow through the valve 10, e.g., valve 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%, etc., based up the vertical position of the valve element 16 relative to the valve seat. In the example depicted in Figure 1, the valve stem 18 is in its fully retracted position and the valve is fully open. Note that the position indicator 32 in the illustrative prior art valve is a component that is separate from the drive components of the valve 10, which adds to manufacturing costs and complexities.

It is very important to be able to accurately determine the position of the valve element 16 within the valve 10 for several reasons. First, such a choke valve may be used to regulate the pressure seen by various components positioned downstream of the choke valve 10. The position of the valve element 18 ultimately determines how much pressure drop the fluid experiences as the fluid flows through the valve 10. If the position indicator 32 does not accurately reflect the position of the valve element 16, then the downstream pressure of the fluid may be less than or greater than anticipated by the design process, which could lead to operational problems. Additionally, the flow rate of the fluid flowing through the choke valve 10 is also based upon the position of the valve element 16 relative to the valve seat. Operators may use such a choke valve 10 to determine the total amount of production fluid flowing through the valve 10 over a given period of time for a variety of reasons, e.g., to supply an agreed-upon quantity of the production fluid to a client. In addition to indicators like the indicator 32 shown in Figure 1, some valves employ relatively complex external sensors that are adapted to sense a location of the valve element (or a related connected structure) of the valve 10 in an effort to determine the actual position of the valve element 16 so as to determine the flow rate (and/or pressure drop) through the valve 10. Yet another problem associated with such choke valves is the force required for operation thereof. In general, it is desirable that the force required to actuate the choke valve be as small as possible. In the case where the valve is actuated by a human, this will obviously make the valve easier to open and close. In the case where an electro-mechanical valve actuator or an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) is employed, the size and expense of such actuator devices generally increases the actuation force needed to actuate the valve.

The present application is directed to a unique torque operator for valves with a rising valve stem that may eliminate or at least minimize some of the problems noted above.

SUMMARY

The following presents a simplified summary of the subject matter disclosed herein in order to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the information set forth herein. This summary is not an exhaustive overview of the disclosed subject matter. It is not intended to identify key or critical elements of the disclosed subject matter or to delineate the scope of various embodiments disclosed herein. Its sole purpose is to present some concepts in a simplified form as a prelude to the more detailed description that is discussed later.

The present application is generally directed to a unique torque operator for valves with a rising valve stem. In one example, the valve includes a valve stem that is adapted for longitudinal movement along a first axis and a housing that is operatively coupled to the valve. The valve also includes a torque operator that comprises a drive train and a linkage assembly that is operatively coupled to the valve stem and the housing. In this example, the drive train comprises a threaded drive rod that is operatively coupled to the linkage assembly. The axis of rotation of the threaded drive rod is positioned transverse to the first axis. Rotation of the threaded drive rod causes movement of at least one component of the torque operator and the valve stem in a direction corresponding to the first axis. In this example, the valve also comprises a position indicator that correlates movement of the at least one component of the torque operator with a fluid flow characteristic of the valve. One illustrative method disclosed herein includes rotating a threaded drive rod of the drive train of the valve about its axis of rotation so as to cause movement of at least one component of a torque operator of the valve and the valve stem in a direction corresponding to the first axis, wherein the axis of rotation is transverse to the first axis. The method also includes determining a fluid flow characteristic of the valve by observing a position of the at least one component of the torque operator relative to a position indicator that correlates movement of the at least one component of the torque operator in a direction corresponding to the first axis with the fluid flow characteristic of the valve.

BRTFF DFSCRTPTTON OF THF DRAWINGS

Certain aspects of the presently disclosed subject matter will be described with reference to the accompanying drawings, which are representative and schematic in nature and are not be considered to be limiting in any respect as it relates to the scope of the subject matter disclosed herein:

Figure 1 is a cross-sectional view of one illustrative example of a prior art choke valve;

Figure 2 is a perspective view of one illustrative embodiment of a valve with one illustrative embodiment of a novel torque operator disclosed herein;

Figure 3 is a perspective, cross-sectional, exploded view' of one illustrative embodiment of a valve with one illustrative embodiment of a novel torque operator disclosed herein;

Figure 4 is a cross-sectional side view of one illustrative embodiment of a novel torque operator disclosed herein;

Figure 5 is a side view' of one illustrative embodiment of a novel torque operator disclosed herein;

Figures 6 and 7 are cross-sectional side view's of a valve with one illustrative example of a novel torque operator disclosed herein, wherein Figure 6 depicts the valve stem of the valve in its fully extended position and Figure 7 depicts the valve stem of the valve in its fully retracted position;

Figure 8 is a perspective, partial cross-sectional; exploded view of one illustrative embodiment of a valve with one illustrative embodiment of a novel torque operator disclosed herein that includes an ROV interface wherein the valve is adapted for use in subsea applications;

Figure 9 is a cross-sectional side view of one illustrative embodiment of a threaded drive nut that may be employed with the novel torque operator disclosed herein; and

Figure 10 is a cross-sectional side view of one illustrative embodiment of a non- threaded reaction nut that may be employed with the novel torque operator disclosed herein.

While the subject matter disclosed herein is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the description herein of specific embodiments is not intended to limit the disclosed subject matter to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the disclosed subject matter as defined by the appended claims.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

Various illustrative embodiments of the disclosed subject matter are described below. In the interest of clarity, not all features of an actual implementation are described in this specification. It will of course be appreciated that in the development of any such actual embodiment, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developers’ specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints, which will vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure. The present subject matter will now be described with reference to the attached figures. Various structures, systems and devices are schematically depicted in the drawings for purposes of explanation only and so as to not obscure the present disclosure with details that are well known to those skilled in the art. Nevertheless, the attached drawings are included to describe and explain illustrative examples of the present disclosure. The words and phrases used herein should be understood and interpreted to have a meaning consistent with the understanding of those words and phrases by those skilled in the relevant art. No special definition of a term or phrase, /. e.. a definition that is different from the ordinary and customary meaning as understood by those skilled in the art, is intended to be implied by consistent usage of the term or phrase herein. To the extent that a term or phrase is intended to have a special meaning, i.e., a meaning other than that understood by skilled artisans, such a special definition will be expressly set forth in the specification in a definitional manner that directly and unequivocally provides the special definition for the term or phrase.

One illustrative example of a novel torque operator 102 for a valve 100 with a rising valve stem will be described with reference to the attached drawings. With reference to Figures 2-5, in one illustrative embodiment, the valve 100 comprises a torque operator 102 and a valve body 104. The valve 100 generally comprises a fluid inlet 106, a fluid outlet 108, a restricting valve element 110 (e.g. , a plug), a valve stem 112 and a bonnet 120. The bonnet 120 is coupled to the valve body 104 by a plurality of threaded fasteners 122. The valve stem 112 and the valve element 110 are adapted to move in both directions (e.g., up and down) along a first axis 113.

The torque operator 102 generally comprises a drive train 105 and a linkage assembly 107 that are at least partially positioned within the housing 114. in the depicted example, the drive train 105 comprises a handle 116 and a threaded drive rod 130. Also depicted in the drawings is a visual position indicator 1 18 that, in the example depicted herein, is positioned on the outside of the housing 114. Of course, the position indicator 118 may be positioned at other locations on the torque operator 102 or valve 100. The drive rod 130 has an axis of rotation 131 (see Figure 5) that is positioned transverse to the first axis 1 13. The drive rod 130 rotates in the directions indicated by the double arrowed line 133, as shown in Figure 5.

Figures 3 and 4 are views that depict various aspects of illustrative embodiments of the drive train 105 and the linkage assembly 107 disclosed herein. Also depicted in Figures 3 and 4 are additional components of the drive train 105 of the torque operator 102: a threaded drive nut 150, a threaded sleeve 154, a dowel pin 156, a non-threaded reaction nut 158, a thrust bearing 160, a spacer 162, a dowel pin 164 and a handle adapter 166 As used herein and in the attached claims, the term“drive train” should be understood to mean any component (other than the linkage assembly 107) that is physically attached in some manner to the drive rod 130. ' The threaded sleeve 154 is pinned to the drive rod 130 by the dowel pin 156 so as to prevent relative rotation between the threaded sleeve 154 and the drive rod 130. The spacer 162 is pinned to the drive rod 130 by the dowel pin 164. The spacer 162 is sized and configured such that it may pass laterally through one of the openings 136 in the housing 1 14 in one illustrative embodiment, the linkage assembly 107 is a six-bar linkage system that comprises an upper saddle 138. a lower saddle 140, a plurality of upper links 142 (four in total), a plurality of lower links 144 (four in total), a plurality of structural members 143 and a plurality of structural members 145. The four upper links 142 are generally positioned vertically above the drive rod 130, while the four lower links 144 are positioned vertically below the drive rod 130. The drive rod 130 extends through the middle of the linkage assembly 107. The upper end of the torque operator 102 is coupled to the housing 114 by a plurality of threaded fasteners 128, while the lower end of the torque operator 102 is coupled to the valve stem 1 12 by a threaded fastener 132. More specifically, the upper end of the linkage assembly 107 is coupled to the housing 114 by the fasteners 128, while the lower end of the linkage assembly 107 is coupled to the valve stem 112 by the fastener 132.

In general, the linkage assembly 107 comprises a first linkage sub-assembly 127 A (on the left in Figure 4) and a second linkage sub-assembly 127B (on the right in Figure 4) (the linkage sub-assemblies 127 A, 127B will be collectively referenced using the numeral 127). Each of the linkage sub-assemblies 127 comprises two of the upper links 142 and two of the lower links 144. The two upper links 142 are coupled (e.g., welded) to a structural member 143, while the two lower links 144 are coupled (e.g., welded) to a structural member 145. in the examples depicted herein, the upper links 142 comprise a plurality' of teeth 146 while the lower links 144 comprise a plurality' of teeth 148. Of course, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the teeth 146 and 148 are interacting structures that force the linkage sub-assemblies to move together in response to rotation of the drive rod 130, as described more fully below. Thus, in some applications, the interacting teeth 146 and 148 could be replaced with other forms of interacting structures that allow' rotational motion but constrain the assembly to only move axially (up or down as shown in the view depicted in Figure 4), i.e., the interacting structures prevent side-to-side movement. The upper links 142 are pivotally coupled to the upper saddle 138 by a plurality of threaded fasteners 152 (e.g., a shoulder screw', washer and nut), while the lower links 144 are pivotally coupled to the low er saddle 140 by a plurality of threaded fasteners 153 (e.g. , a shoulder screw, washer and nut).

The drive rod 130 is operatively coupled to and extends through the linkage assembly 107. The handle 116 is operatively coupled to the drive rod 130. The housing 114 is fixedly coupled to the bonnet 120 such that the housing 114 may serve as a reaction member with respect to various forces generated by actuation of the torque operator 102. The housing 1 14 may be fixedly coupled to the bonnet 120 by a variety of different means. For example, the housing 114 may be threaded, welded, bolted or pinned to the bonnet 120. in one illustrative embodiment, both ends of the drive rod 130 extend through the openings 136 defined in the housing 114 on opposite sides of the housing 1 14. In some embodiments, flexible bellows (not shown) may be positioned in the openings 136 that allow the drive rod 130 to pass therethrough in die depicted example, the housing 114 is a non-pressure containing structure.

Figure 9 is a cross-sectional side view of one illustrative embodiment of a threaded drive nut 150 that may be employed with the novel torque operator 102 disclosed herein. As depicted, in one illustrative embodiment, the threaded drive nut 150 has a relatively elongated body 150A with a flange 150B on one end of the body 150A. The threaded drive nut 150 also includes a threaded opening 150C (e.g. , a standard power screw thread) that is adapted to threading!} ' engage the drive rod 130. The threaded drive nut 150 also includes an opening 150D that is adapted to receive a retaining pin (not shown). The threaded drive nut 150 has a sufficient axial length 150E such that it may extend through aligned openings in the upper links 142 and the lower links 144 of the linkage sub-assembly 127A and be pinned in position. The upper links 142 and the lower links 144 of the linkage sub-assembly 127 A may rotate around the body 150A of the threaded drive nut 150.

Figure 10 is a cross-sectional side view of one illustrative embodiment of a non- threaded reaction nut 158 that may be employed with the novel torque operator 102 disclosed herein. The non-threaded reaction nut 158 has essentially the same configuration as that of the threaded drive nut 150 except that the opening through the non-threaded reaction nut 158 is not threaded. As depicted, in one illustrative embodiment, the non-threaded reaction nut 158 has a relatively elongated body 158 A with a flange 158B on one end of the body 158 A. The non-threaded reaction nut 158 also includes a non-threaded opening 158C (e.g., a through hole) that is adapted to allow the drive rod 130 to pass therethrough. The non- threaded reaction nut 158 also includes an opening 158D that is adapted to receive a retaining pin (not shown). The non-threaded reaction nut 158 has a sufficient axial length 158E such that it may extend through aligned openings in the upper links 142 and the lower links 144 of the linkage sub-assembly 127B and be pinned in position. The upper links 142 and the lower links 144 of the linkage sub-assembly 127B may rotate around the body 158A of the non- threaded reaction nut 158. in operation, actuation of the drive train 105 causes movement of one or more components of the torque operator 102 in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113. More specifically, in the depicted embodiment, rotation of the drive rod 130 (via rotation of the handle 116) causes the linkage assembly 107 to expand laterally within the housing 1 14, the threaded drive nut 150 on the left in Figure 4 moves laterally to the left, while the non-threaded reaction nut 158 moves laterally to the right in Figure 4. In effect, the rotation of the drive rod 130 causes the spacer 162 to move to the right in Figure 4 and outward through the opening 136 in the housing 1 14. Since the linkage assembly 107 is fixed to the housing 114 via the coupling of the upper saddle 138 to the housing 1 14, and the housing 1 14 is fixedly coupled to the valve 100, lateral expansion of the linkage assembly 107 causes the lower saddle 140 to move vertically upwards within the housing 114 (in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113) and causes vertical movement of the valve stern 1 12 and the valve element 110 (in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113). Tire vertical movement of the valve element 110 regulates a flow characteristic of the valve 100, such as the flow rate of fluid through the valve 100 and/or the pressure drop of the fluid as it flows through the valve 100. In one illustrative embodiment, counter-clockwise rotation of the drive rod 130 cause the linkage assembly 107 to expand (and thereby raise the valve element 110 within the valve), while clockwise rotation of the drive rod 130 causes the linkage assembly 107 to contract (and thereby force the valve element 110 to a lower position within the valve). However, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the novel torque operator 102 disclosed herein is not dependent on the rotation of the drive rod 130 in any particular direction, as the torque operator 102 may be designed using either right-hand or left-hand threads. The axis of rotation 131 (see Figure 5) of the drive rod 130 is positioned transverse to the first axis 113, which is the axis of movement of the stem 112 and the valve element 110.

The illustrative six-bar linkage assembly 107 disclosed herein provides a mechanical advantage relative to traditional manual operators, e.g. , in some applications, the torque operator 102 disclosed herein may provide a mechanical advantage that is about 2-3 times greater than traditional manual operators. The sets of engaging teeth 146 (for the upper links 142) and 148 (for the lower links 144) are involute gears that reduce the degrees of freedom of the linkage assembly 107 to a single axis, thereby increasing the stability" of the torque operator 102 to eccentric loads while reducing friction loads. The position indicator 118 that, in the depicted example, is positioned adjacent the outer surface of the housing 114 adjacent the opening 136 correlates movement of a component of the torque operator 102, such as the threaded drive rod 130 (in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113), with a fluid flow characteristic of the valve 100, such as, for example, a fluid flow rate or a pressure drop experienced by fluid flowing through the valve 100.

As shown in Figure 5, in one illustrative embodiment, the visual position indicator 118 comprises a plurality of indicator lines 137 that indicates the operational position of the valve element 110 based upon the movement of any portion of the torque operator 102 (e.g , movement of any portion of the drive train 105 (such as the drive rod 130) in a direction corresponding to the first axis 1 13 or the movement of any portion of the linkage assembly 107 in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113. That is, based upon the geometry of the components of the torque operator 102, the movement of any component of the torque operator 102, e.g., the drive rod 130 or any other component of the drive train 105 (such as the spacer 162) or any component of the linkage assembly 107 (other than the upper saddle 138 which remains stationary), in a direction corresponding to the first axis 113, can be correlated with a corresponding movement of the valve element 110 within the valve body 104 and the position of the valve element 1 10 relative to the valve seat or cage within the valve body 104. That is, the movement of any component of the torque operator 102 (e.g. , any component of the drive tram 105 or any component of the linkage assembly 107) may be used to determine or infer the position of the valve element 110 within the valve 100 and the associated fluid flow' characteristic of the valve 100 such as, for example, a fluid flow rate, a pressure drop of fluid flowing through the valve, etc., as a result of the valve element 100 being in the determined position.

The visual position indicator 118 may reflect any of a variety of different characteristics of the valve, such as flow coefficient (Cv) and bean size (in, for example, l/64 th inch increments), or in terms of the size of the flow opening through the valve 100 based upon the position of the valve element as reflected by the visual position indicator 118, or a degree of openness or restriction of fluid flow in the valve 100. In one illustrative embodiment, the visual position indicator 1 18 may reflect the monitored flow' characteristic of the valve 100 (such as the fluid flow rate allowed through the valve 100 or the pressure drop experienced by the fluid flowing through the valve, etc.) in percentage terms (e.g., 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%, etc.). The gradations indicated by the lines 137 may vary depending upon the particular application. In the depicted example, the visual position indicator 118 is positioned adjacent the opening 136 that is located nearest to the handle 116. If desired, a similar visual position indicator 118 could be positioned adjacent the opening 136 on the side opposite the handle 1 16, or two such visual position indicators 1 18 could be positioned on the valve 100. Of course, if desired, the handle 116 could be replaced with an electro-mechanical actuator (such as a motor driven actuator) to rotate the drive rod 130. The size, thread type and thread pitch of the drive rod 130 may vary depending upon the particular application. Thus, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the visual position indicator 118 reflects any characteristic of the valve that may be used to correlate or determine a characteristic of the fluid flowing through the valve and/or the amount of fluid flowing through the valve.

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the torque operator 102 - i.e., the combination of the linkage assembly 107 and the drive train 105 - is operatively coupled to the valve stem 112. The torque operator 102 and the valve stem 112 all move vertically (up and down) as a single unit when the drive rod 130 is rotated. Thus, vertical movement of any component of the torque operator 102, such as the drive rod 130, can be used to determine or infer the position of the valve element 1 10 within the valve 100. That is, using the torque operator 102 disclosed herein, there is no need for a separate indicator structure or device (like the position indicator 32 in the illustrative prior art valve shown in the background section of this application) to indicate the position of the valve element 110. This feature of the valve 100 disclosed herein reduces manufacturing costs and simplifies the overall construction of the valve 100.

Figure 6 depicts the valve 100 with the linkage assembly 107 in its fully retracted (non -expanded) position wherein the valve stem 112 is in its fully extended position such that the valve element 110 is fully seated in the valve seat (or cage) in the valve body 104 and the valve 100 is completely closed.

Figure 7 depicts the valve 100 with the linkage assembly 107 in its fully expanded position wherein the valve stem 1 12 is in its fully retracted position such that the valve element 110 is completely disengaged from the valve seat (or cage) in the valve body 104 and the valve 100 is fully open.

With reference to Figures 6 and 7, the geometric relationship between the linkage assembly 107 and components of the drive train 105, e.g., the drive rod 130, may be set such that there may be a difference in the vertical movement of the linkage assembly 107 as compared to the vertical movement of the drive rod 130. For example, in one embodiment, the geometry of the torque operator 102 may be designed such that there is approximately a 2: 1 ratio between the vertical movement of the drive rod 130 (e.g., a component of the drive train 105) and the vertical movement of the bottom saddle 140 of the linkage assembly 107 and thus the valve element 110. That is, comparing Figures 6 and 7, the drive rod 130 has moved vertically a distance 130X while the valve stem 112 (and the valve element 110) has moved a vertical distance 112X, wherein the distance 112X is about twice as large as the distance 130X. This permits the torque operator 102 to be physically smaller in size as compared to valve designs that do not exhibit this differential in the vertical movement of the drive tram 105 versus the linkage assembly 107 (and the valve stem 112).

Figure 8 depicts one illustrative embodiment of a valve 100 with one illustrative embodiment of a torque operator 102 that is adapted for use in subsea applications. In this particular example, the valve 100 comprises a plurality of spring-loaded latches 172 and an ROV interface 170. The ROY interface 170 comprises an opening 174 that is adapted to receive an operating arm (not shown) of an ROV (not shown). In this embodiment, the end of the dnve rod 130 that extends into the opening 174 comprises a hex nut (or the like) that may be grasped and rotated by the operating arm of the ROY so as to rotate the drive rod 130 and thereby actuate the linkage assembly 107.

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the valve 100 with the novel torque operator 102 disclosed herein may provide several useful benefits and advantages relative to prior art devices, like the one described in the background section of this application. First, the axis of rotation 131 of the drive rod 130 of the torque operator 102 is positioned horizontally (or transverse) to the axis 1 13 and direction of travel of the stem 112. The geometric relationship between the drive train 105 and the linkage assembly 107 of the torque operator 102 provides a mechanical advantage that reduces the magnitude of the torque that needs to be applied by rotating the handle 1 16 to move the valve element 110 to a desired position within the valve 100. The reduction in magnitude of the torque needed to move the valve element 1 10 (and thereby control the flow of fluid through the valve) may be particularly helpful as it relates to overcoming relatively high end loads exerted on the stem 112 when the valve 100 is used in a high-pressure (e.g., 20,000 psi) application. Additionally, since the axis of rotation 131 of the drive rod 130 is positioned horizontally relative to the axis 1 13 {i.e., the direction of movement) of the valve stem 112 and the valve element 110, the linkage assembly 107 is self-locking in nature once the input torque from the drive rod 130 is relieved. Thus, unlike the prior art. valve disclosed in the background section of this application, there is no need for an anti -rotation mechanism on the stem 112 of the valve disclosed herein, as there is no tendency for the drive rod 130 to experience“back-drive.” This is the case because the loads applied to the stem 112 of the valve disclosed herein act in a direction that is transverse to the axis of rotati on 131 of the drive rod 130.

In the example depicted herein, the valve 100 has been discussed in the context where the drive rod 130 is oriented horizontally and the valve element 110 is moved vertically by actuation of the drive train 105 of the torque operator 102. However, such an illustrative example should not be considered to be a limitation of the present subject matter. That is, the torque operator 102 disclosed herein may be employed to drive a valve element 110 of any type of valve in any desired direction. For example, the torque operator 102 disclosed herein may be used in the case where the valve 100 is a gate valve, and the gate of the gate valve is moved back and forth horizontally, e.g., to open or close a vertically oriented bore (not shown) of a pipe or a vertically oriented bore in an item of subsea equipment (e.g., a Christmas tree). As another point, since the handle 116 is not positioned vertically above the linkage assembly 107 or the valve stem 1 12, the handle 1 16 may be positioned at any desired location around the perimeter of the housing 114. This feature provides system designers with more options and flexibility as it relates to spatial optimization of various components of a system (such as skids, manifolds, subsea trees, etc.) that employ valves using the novel torque operator 102 disclosed herein. The use of the threaded drive rod 130 also permits ver ' precise control of the valve 100. For example, in one illustrative embodiment, by varying the pitch of the thread on the drive rod 130 and the geometry' of die linkage assembly 107, movement of the valve element 110 may be adjusted in increments of up to about fifteen- thousandths of an inch.

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the illustrative housing 1 14 provides some significant benefits and may serve a variety of functions. For example, the housing 114 constitutes a reaction member that transfers the loads seen by the drive tram 105 to the body /bonnet of the valve 100. The housing 114 also serves to protect the drive train 105 from exposure to environmental conditions and, to at least some degree, from mechanical damage due to outside forces. The housing 114 may also serve as a location where the position indicators 118 may be positioned.

The particular embodiments disclosed above are illustrative only, as the disclosed subject matter may be modified and practiced in different but equivalent manners apparent to those skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings herein. For example, the process steps set forth above may be performed in a different order. Furthermore, no limitations are intended to the details of construction or design herein shown, other than as described in the claims below. It is therefore evident that the particular embodiments disclosed above may be altered or modified and all such variations are considered within the scope and spirit of the claimed subject matter. Note that the use of terms, such as“first,”“second,”“third” or “fourth” to describe various processes or structures in this specification and in the attached claims is only used as a shorthand reference to such steps/structures and does not necessarily imply that such steps/structures are performed/formed in that ordered sequence. Of course, depending upon the exact claim language, an ordered sequence of such processes may or may not be required. Accordingly, the protection sought herein is as set forth in the claims below.




 
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