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MistakesandMisconceptionsinValveLeakTesting

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MistakesandMisconceptionsinValveLeakTesting(/magazine/sections/features/7388mistakesandmisconceptions
invalveleaktesting.html)
02Mar2016 WrittenbyDavidBayreuther

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Normally,valvesarepressuretestedbythefactorytocheckforleaksbeforetheyreshipped.Thetypeandmethodoftestingconformstooneormoreofmanydifferentstandards.Thepurposeofthesetests
andtheexpectedresultsareoftenmisunderstoodandmisapplied,resultinginunnecessarydelaysandunanticipatedcosts.
Thisarticleidentifiesthemostcommonmistakes.Itsprimarypurposeistoinformandguideendusersandengineersthatwritevalvespecificationssothosepartiescanavoidsomeofthemistakes.

THE STANDARDS
Numerousvalvestandardsdefineleaktestingrequirements.Often,thedifferencebetweenthemisunclear,whichleadstoconfusionoverwhichonetouseandwhy.Theplacetobeginistounderstandthe
twotypesofleaksundergoingtests:
Externalisleakagefrompressureinsidethevalveouttotheatmosphere.Thisisverifiedbytheshelltest,andnoleakageisallowedatpressureequaltoorgreaterthanthevalverating.
Internalisleakagearoundthevalveseatorthroughtheclosurememberwhenthevalveisclosed.Internalleakageisnormallycontainedwithinthepipingsystem.Suchleakagecanbeexternalwhen
avalveisusedtodeadendapipe.Internalleakageischeckedwithaseatleakageoraclosuretest.Theallowableleakageratedependsonthevalveteststandard.
Externalandinternalleaktestmethodsaredefinedinthenumerousstandards,andtherearetoomanytocoverinasinglearticle.Below,however,isabriefexplanationofsomeofthemorecommon
standards:
AmericanSocietyofMechanicalEngineers(ASME)B16.34,ValvesFlanged,ThreadedandWeldingEnd:Thisisthemostwidelyusedvalvedesignstandard.Itcontainschartsthatidentifythe
workingpressuresusedinconjunctionwithotherteststandards,suchasAPI598.ASMEB16.34containstestmethods,butdoesnotdefineallowableseatleakage.
AmericanPetroleumInstitute(API)598,ValveInspectionandTest:Thisisthemostwidelyusedtestspecificationintheworld.Itcoversmanytypesofvalves,butwasdevelopedprimarilyfor
considerationofisolationvalves.Thestandardincludesleakageratesandtestingcriteriaforbothmetalseatedandresilientseatedvalves.

ManufacturersStandardizationSociety(MSS)SP61,HydrostaticTestingofSteelValves:ThisissimilartoAPI598,buthassubtledifferencesintestholdingtimesandleakagerates.Itwasoneof
thefirstvalveteststandards,butisnolongerwidelyused.However,italsowasthebasisforthemorerecentstandards.
InternationalStandardsOrganization(ISO)5208,IndustrialValves,PressureTestingofValves:ThisisISOsprimaryvalveteststandard,andcoversmanytypesofvalves.Ithas10levelsof

allowableinternalleakage,andtheacceptancecriteriaistobenegotiatedbetweenthepurchaserandmanufacturer.

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AmericanNationalStandardsInstitute(ASNI)FCI702,ControlValveSeatLeakage:Thiscontainsdetailedtestproceduresandleakagerateclassesforcontrolvalves.Theleakageclassesarealso
occasionallyreferencedbyotherdocumentsandusedasacceptancecriteria.IthassixdifferentleakagelevelsfromClassIuptoClassVI.AnimportantnotehereisthatANSIFCI702isforinternal
testingonly.Itdoesnotdefineexternaltesting,anditrefersuserstoAPI598fortestingisolationvalves.
InternationalSocietyofAutomation(ISA)S75,HydrostaticTestingofControlValves:Thisprovidesaprocedureforexternaltestingofcontrolvalves.Closuretestingandacceptancecriteriaareout
ofthescopeofthisdocumentandusuallyarecoveredbyreferencingANSIFCI702.

SHELL TESTING
Usually,thefirststopintheproductionprocessforanassembledvalveistheexternaltest,knownasahydrostaticshelltest.Thistestvalidatesthesoundnessand
strengthofthevalvebody.Italsoprestressesthevalvebody,whichaidsinavoidingfatiguewithcyclicpressure.Forsafety,thistestisnormallydonewithwaterat
oneandahalftimesthevalvebodypressurerating.Italsoistypicallydonewiththevalvefullyassembledandinthepartiallyopenposition.
Forshelltesting,API598referstoASMEB16.34forbodypressurerating,whichvariesbybodymaterial.Forexample,aClass150valveincarbonsteel(e.g.,WCB)is
testedat31bars.Thesamevalveinstainlesssteel(e.g.,CF8M)istestedat29bars.EN(EuropeanCommitteeforStandardization)andDIN(GermanInstitutefor
Standardization)standardsconsiderthebodypressureratingonly.Forallbodymaterials,aPN10valveistestedat15barsandaPN40istestedat60bars.Itisnot
uncommonforcustomersconductingbusinessinternationallyandusedtoworkingwithENandDINstandardstoclaimthewrongtestpressurewasappliedwhena
valveisshelltestedperAPIorASME.
Inaddition,evenatestassimpleastheshelltesthasissuesincluding:
Sensitivity:Insomecases,valvebodycastingshaveporositytoosmallforwatertoleakthrough,whichiscommonlycalledmicroporosity.Thisismostlikelyto
occurinMonelandbronzecastings.Todetectthistypeofcastingdefect,thevalvemustbetestedwithairfirst,andthevalveimmersedinwaterortheexterior

Alargeballvalveintheteststand.The
torquewrenchontheendofstem
measurestorquerequiredtoturnthe
valve.

coveredwithsoapsolution.Suchporositycanbeblocked,inwhichcaseitwillnotbedetectedifthevalveispressurizedwithwaterfirstsincethewateris
sufficienttoblocktheleakpath.Valvestandardsdonotmentionthisadditionaltest,butitiswisetousesuchtestswithhigherriskcastmaterialsgoingintohazardousandlethalgasservice.
Clampingforces:Splitbodyvalvesaretypicallycompressedinahydraulicpresstosealofftheendsforpressuretesting.Ifnotcarefullycontrolled,theclampingforcecaneasilyexceedthebodyjoint
gasketloadgeneratedbytheboltedbodyjoint.Whenthishappens,thebodyjointgasketcanbeovercompressed,leadingtoloosebodyjointboltsandpossiblyexternalleakage.
Specialcleanvalves:Valvesforuseinservicessuchasoxygen,chlorineandhydrogenperoxiderequireanextralevelofcleaningandinspectiontoensuretheirsafeuse.Waterinsidethefully
assembledvalvecanintroduceundesirableandunsafecontaminates,andanyresidualwaterremainingafterthetestcanbehazardouswheninstalledintoservice.Forexample,residualwater
remaininginvalvesforcryogenicservicecanfreezeandpreventvalveoperation.Insuchcases,itisbesttotestthevalvebodypriortovalveassembly.
Corrosion:Residualwaterinsidecarbonsteelvalvescanleadtocrevicecorrosion,aparticularlyaggressivetypeofcorrosionthatcandamagecriticalsealingsurfacesandresultinbothinternaland
externalleakage.Attemptstoremovethewaterthroughbakingorheatingthevalveatelevatedtemperaturesaregenerallyineffective.
Chloridecontent:Concernsregardingstresscorrosioncrackingofstainlesssteelhasresultedinrestrictionsinthechloridecontentoftestwater,definedinseveralstandards.Typically,thelimitis
around50partspermillion(ppm),andsomestandardsgoaslowas30ppmorlower.Lowchloridelevelsareparticularlydifficulttoconsistentlyachieveifthefactoryisusingapublicorcitywater
supply.
Safety:Whenconsideringtheproblemsoftestingwithwaterinspecialcleanvalvesaswellastheriskofcorrosion,itistemptingtobelievetestingwithairisabetterchoice.Sometimesthisistrue.
However,sinceairiscompressible,thevolumeofaircontainedthatiscompressedwithinthetestvalvecanbeveryhazardousifsomethingrupturesandtheenergyissuddenlyreleased.Accordingto
theAmericanSocietyforNondestructiveTestingsNondestructiveTestingHandbook,exposuretoarelativelysmallshockwaveofairpressurecanleadtothefollowinginjuries:
Servicerepairs:Aquestionexistsofwhetherornot,afteravalvehasbeenrepaired,theshelltestmustberepeated.Iftheoriginalpressurecontainingshellhasnot
beenalteredduringmaintenance,itisnotnecessarytorepeattheshelltestsincethesoundnessandstrengthofthevalvebodyremainsunchanged.Thesewere
alreadyverifiedintheoriginalfactorytest.However,ifseverecorrosionhasoccurredorifweldrepairshavebeenperformed,thenashelltestisneeded.

INTERNAL TESTING
Whiletheargumentsregardingexternalleakageorshelltestingappeartobesignificant,theyarelesscomplexthandiscussionsover
internalleakage.Withinternalleakage,itisimperativetounderstandthattermssuchaszeroleakageandbubbletightareoften
misinterpretedcreatingcommonmistakeNumber1.Theexpressionsbubbletightandzeroleakshouldbefurthervetted.Table2
definesmeasurableleakratesandexplainsthemineverydayterms.
Mostvalveinternalleaktestingisdonewithairforarelativelyshortduration,fromafewsecondstoafewminutes.Thisissufficienttimeto
allowquickvisualobservationofasignificantleakwithoutbeingoverlyburdensomeandimpairingthefactoryscapacitytobuildandship
valves.
Whileitispossibletoobservebubblesrisinginwaterwithaleakrateof1x104standardcubiccentimeters(cc)persecond,factorytests
areshortindurationsothesensitivityoftypicalfactoryleaktestsisaround1x103standardccpersecond.Thisisroughlyequivalentto
fourcc(fourgamediceormarbles)ofleakageperhour.Generally,thisamountofleakageisinsignificantbecauseitwouldtakeyearsfor
thegastosimplyfillthevolumeofpipedownstreamfromthevalve.
Extendingthedurationfromafewminutestoanhourbringsthesensitivityofthetestintothe1x104standardccpersecondrange.This
isequivalenttoonegamediceormarblevolumeofleakageinthreehours,whichisnotasignificantdecreaseinleakageconsideringthe
additionaltimeitwouldtaketotestthevalve.
Frequently,aninexperiencedtechnicianwillapplyasoapsolutiontotheclosureelementandwaitanhourormorebeforeobservingsomefoamdeveloping.Thistestmethodisachieving1x105levelof
sensitivity,equivalenttoonegamediceormarbleofleakageinoneday.Consideringsomeofthehazardousgassesthevalvemayberequiredtocontain,itisreasonabletoexpectbodyjointsandother
staticsealsinthevalvetobeleakfreewhentestedusingthismethod.However,itisnotreasonabletoexpectclosureelements,whicharedynamicseals,toachievethisleveloftightness.
Therearemanydifferentvalvetypesandtypesofclosuredesign,withequallyvaryingmaterialsofconstruction.Thus,manyteststandardsexisttoaddresstheuniquebehaviorsofeach.

THE WHYS
Failuretoreadandunderstandthereasoningbehindthetestmethodsleadstothesecondmostcommonmistake,whichisbelievingthefactorytestisdonetoprovethevalvewillworkatitsratedpressure.
APIandISOstandardsdoathoroughjobofidentifyingtheriskofthiswayofthinking.Eachcontainsanimportantnotewarningthathighpressuretestingofresilientseatvalvescandegradeperformancein
lowpressureservice.Therealpurposeofthefactoryinternalleaktestistoverifythequalityoftheproductitisnottovalidatethestrengthofthedesign.Theinternalleaktestshouldbeappropriateforthe
typeofvalve,anditshouldbethemostdiscerninganddifficulttestthatvalvemustpass.Resilientseatedvalvescanhavepressureenergizedseals,meaninghigherpressureincreasingthesealingforces,
potentiallymaskinganydimensionalorsurfacefinishflaws.Forsuchvalvetypes,alowpressuretestismoredifficulttopassandisabetterindicationofqualitybuild.
Forisolationvalves,ASME,APIandISOstandardsaresuitablewhenthevalvesareusedinon/offservice.Theycanalsobetheappropriatechoiceforcontrolvalvesthatareexpectedtoprovideisolationin
service.Forexample,butterflyvalvesarefrequentlyusedforbothcontrolandisolation.IfthestandardfactorytestisbasedonAPIorISO,thereisnoneedtoconductanadditionaltestperANSIFCI702
becausethequalityofthevalveassemblyhasalreadybeenverified.

IN THE FIELD

Thethirdcommonmistakeisbelievingthefactoryproductiontestisanindicationofhowthevalvewill
performinservice.Often,enduserswillspecifythatthevalvebetestedundertheirprocessdesignpressures
andtemperatures.Whilethisisnotaprobleminalaboratoryequippedtoconductsuchtests,itisnotpractical
todothisinatypicalfactoryenvironment.Suchtestsareavalidationofthevalvedesign,notofthebuild

quality.

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Lifewouldbesimpleifallvalveswerelimitedtonoleakageforthedurationofatest.Butthisisnottechnically
possible.Forvalvepressuretesting,itiswisetousethestandardpracticeemployedbythemanufacturer.
Themanufacturerdoesnotwanttoshipdefectiveproductandisnaturallymotivatedtousethemost
discerningtestmethodswiththeleastriskofdamagetothevalve.

DavidBayreutherisvicepresidentofEngineeringforMetso.Heisa30yearveteranofthevalveindustryandhasbeen

Thecontrolboardinthisimageisusedtooperatethetest
stand.

activeinstandardsdevelopmentorganizations,currentlyasamemberofASME,API,ISO,andMSS.Reachhimat
david.bayreuther@metso.com(mailto:david.bayreuther@metso.com).
Aballvalvebeingtested.Notetheleak
offlinefromthetopofthevalve,which
isusedtomeasuretheleakrateduring
theinternaltest.Thestopwatchisused
tomeasurethetesttime.

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