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The Importance of Preserving Knowledge Through Mentorship

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Dan DeVine began his career in 1987 working for the Union Carbide Corporation after graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. He joined The Dow Chemical Company in 2001 through the acquisition of Union Carbide. Dan is now working in a valve and piping consulting engineer role as an independent contractor through Midland Engineering, Ltd. for Corteva AgriscienceTM.
 
By Sarah Bradley


Having worked in multiple chemical manufacturing industry roles including production and chemical distribution, Dan spent the majority of his time in engineering design and project functions dealing with valve, piping, and pressure vessel technology. In his current role, Dan’s focus remains the same, but he is gaining experience in the agricultural sector.

“Part of the company is seeds which is heritage Dupont and what they call Crop Protection, came from Dow. I work with that section producing herbicides and insecticides,” explained Dan. “I am working as an independent contractor, which I really enjoy. It is valve and piping focused mainly and some pressure vessel work, but we are a smaller engineering team than what I was used to previously at Dow, which means I get to be more hands-on and you have to be adaptable.” 

Corteva, Inc. (also known as Corteva Agriscience) is a major American agricultural chemical and seed company that was the agricultural unit of DowDuPont prior to being spun off as an independent public company on June 1st, 2019. It is the biggest standalone agricultural organization in the world. DowDuPont unveiled the Corteva name in February 2018, saying that it was “derived from a combination of words meaning ‘heart’ and ‘nature.’” By combining the strengths of DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection and Dow Agro-Sciences, the company has harnessed expertise gained over two centuries of scientific achievement.

Dan spends a significant portion of his time attending to larger capital projects, as well as working on improvement teams to solve any failure issues they encounter with valves and piping. “A typical day would consist of attending to a couple of different big capital projects that we are designing and installing. The company is making an organic pesticide. It is a natural fermentation, so it is a different kind of product compared to what they usually make, and there is an important market for it. I am also working on a couple of quality improvement teams,” said Dan. “I am leading the manual valve team where we need to increase performance reliability. I am working on some supply chain issues and addressing factors that cause valve failures. We have very aggressive chemistry at Corteva and we have seen valve failures, which can be due to a quality issue with the valves. We find areas where we need to make improvements and work with the valve manufacturers, because we put some of these valves in some pretty severe services – thermal cycling, aggressive chemistry and plastic lined valves can have issues with permeation. So we work with them to solve our problems, I am directly involved with the manufacturers, coming up with solutions.”

Dan explained that due to the nature of the chemistry used at Corteva, plastic-lined valves are quite commonly used due to the corrosive nature of the applications. “I spend a lot of time making sure the correct valve is installed in the correct application. For example, with plastic lined valves if it is placed into a service which experiences thermal cycling it can cause cracking and shorten the life of the plastic. So, you need to analyze different material options, and cost trade-offs. If a crack gets through the liner the material can attack the valve body and cause a release.” He explained. “I work to make sure all the scenarios are considered and reviewed, for example does the chemistry vary, and what are the service conditions. This ensures we have the right materials for each application.”

Dan is now having the opportunity to collaborate more on the supply chain and working more closely with suppliers to problem-solve. “We have a small engineering team so we are able to be more nimble and make decisions and move on them,” said Dan. “The best suppliers and manufacturers are those that want you both to be successful. They do not just want to sell you a valve. They should sell you a solution and if you are having issues, they should collaborate with you on troubleshooting. You do not want to play the blame game. You want to try and figure out what to do to make it work and make it reliable.”


Expertise in Fugitive Emissions

In his time at The Dow Chemical Company, Dan was the Valve and Sealing (Packing) Technical Resource Leader, where he successfully implemented a low emission valve and packing program for an Enhanced Leak Program (ELP) at the Midland Michigan Operations Site.

Dan’s experience with an ELP included the negotiation phase. Fortunately, this helped clarify where he should be focusing his efforts, determining what low emission products were available, what would qualify as “low-e” and what would not qualify.

“I worked on writing pipe specifications and writing new valve codes. I also identified qualified packing and valve manufacturers that were acceptable for that chemical service, for all the functions we needed that valve to do and whether they were low E or not. It was a very labor-intensive effort. At first it was difficult to find the products commercially available, but that has definitely changed over time and now we have more options available. We were able to comply with the technology changes required in the ELP and meet and exceed the intent of the consent decree. It was terminated after 5 years.”

The applications that Dan is currently working with are quite a bit different than he was accustomed to working with in his previous roles and emissions are less of a focus. “We do not have so many of the volatile organic compounds or hazardous air pollutants that I had to deal with on the consent decree, such as hydrocarbons with high vapor pressure that want to escape and pollute. Now I deal more with chlorine-based chemicals or acids that attack the metallurgy of the valve rather than fugitive emissions around stem leaks. I do not deal with near as many flammable and volatile chemistries, now it is more corrosive aggressive contents that like to eat metal.”


Spreading the Word through Education

Dan believes that involvement in networking events within the industry are an important part of the product development. From broad, more commodity type solutions to specialty products for tough situations, the variety of options being offered has greatly improved in recent years. “It is important to see what other valve end users need and find common ground to work on together. When we come together it makes our voices heard, helps valve and packing manufacturers understand the importance of investing in these products, because these changes do not come to them for free. We understand that they need to invest in these innovations, so when they hear from the people buying the valves, it helps drive progress, and from an end user stand point this makes compliance easier.”

Having retired a few years ago and transitioning to independent consulting, Dan expresses excitement over the fact that his career is still evolving, and he is still learning new things. “I am still learning, and it is still exciting. When I retired from Dow I figured that might be it, but I did not want to just sit at home. I wanted to try this independent consulting role and expand my experience again and get a wider variety of work. It has been rewarding,” he said.

Recognizing the immense gap in the industry, he is continuing to find ways to mentor and educate young engineers and help mitigate the “brain drain” that often accompanies such a large talent gap. Dan continues to present at events and be involved with the industry so that he can continue to mentor and share his knowledge, and also pick up a few things along the way. “I still find myself learning from less experienced and more experienced people than me, I appreciate the questions they ask and the different viewpoint everyone has to offer. I hear people talk about the differences in the younger generation, I do not see them being any different. The ones I work with are not any different than I was when I started in this industry or my parents’ generation. If you really want to do the technology right, you really want it to be safe and effective, if you want to be proactive and learn, you will find a way. And if you have someone making an impact, introducing you to a community that feels like a family, it is hard not to develop a passion and care about your field of interest. Do not be surprised if you find the people who have mentored you, and the ones you have had the privilege of mentoring, become a very close friend.”

Dan is proud to say that he is passionate about what he does, and his passion also applies to mentorship. He attributes his own mentors early in his career for helping to foster, nurture and explore this passion. 

“It is critical that the industry find ways to preserve knowledge and bring in new talent. It puts a smile on my face. I have so much gratitude for the people that invested that time in me when I was learning what path I wanted to take in the industry. I had influential mentors, people who appreciated the technology, they wanted to share their knowledge and I make an effort to pay it forward,” said Dan. “I am grateful for what they gave me, so a big part of my career was and still is mentoring young engineers. I like being a resource for people because expertise and experience is something you earn, you do not get it from somebody else appointing you a title. You have to earn it one valve question or one piping question at a time and it is really rewarding to be able to put that knowledge to use in a meaningful manner by helping new people in the industry.”

One of the ways he is continuing to share his expertise and knowledge in the industry is by taking on the role of Chairman for the 2021 Valve World Americas Conference to be held on June 22nd -23rd, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. Dan has been heavily involved with the conference for several years and is looking forward to helping put together an interesting and informative conference program this year.

“As an end user I have found that attending Valve World has been really important to getting in front of the right people and realizing you can make changes in the industry and that you can have influence with suppliers and learn so many new things from each other. Especially through presenting at the conference, it is a great opportunity to discuss challenges you have faced and get input from other peers in the industry that may have similar experiences or solutions to share. You can learn so much in two days and have access to the presentations after the event. I have found myself referencing old presentations when coming across problems at work and remembering that someone may have touched on it during a conference presentation,” said Dan. “The networking aspect is also very important. It is a tight-knit industry with so much knowledge and the relationships you can build through the event have proven to be so important in my career. I am definitely honored and humbled to serve as Chairman for 2021.” 



SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE

The Valve World Americas team and Chairman encourage presentations to be made at the event on a wide variety of topics related to valves, actuators and the flow control industry. Workshops will be centered around one theme or topic with speakers giving presentations related to that theme, sharing their knowledge and expertise with conference attendees. Following the presentations, attendees will be invited to ask questions and audience interaction is always encouraged to help spark debate, discussions and the free exchange of ideas and experiences, which are all integral components of the conference experience.

If you would like to make a presentation during the conference, please submit a 300-500 word abstract outlining the material you would like to cover to Sarah Bradley (s.bradley@kci-world.com) and Catarina Muia (c.muia@kci-world.com) by December 1st, 2021 to be reviewed by the Chairman and Steering Committee.


A MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN

I am honored and excited to be the Chairman of Valve World Americas Expo & Conference 2021, and look forward to another fantastic event, where attendees can enjoy the networking, camaraderie, and outstanding technical presentations that accompany Valve World. This is a wonderful event for the valve industry, showcasing new inventions, practical solutions, productivity enhancements, and potential cost savings opportunities.

The first time I attended the Valve World Americas event was in 2013. I was introduced to the complexity of this technology through regulatory compliance for Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) of fugitive emissions. Getting involved and participating in these conferences has been a very rewarding experience.

Witnessing the transformation of packing products and changing stem sealing performance, seeing the creation of new testing standards, along with other improvements, which were often at the forefront of discussions in previous years at Valve World, are some of my favorite career highlights.

Certainly, there are other equally important aspects too: seat sealing capabilities, operability, long term reliability and integrity, availability of cost-effective valves to meet a variety of pressure-temperature conditions, to name a few, that are vital to successful production. I cannot think of a better place to learn for the first time or to continue increasing your technical depth than Valve World. Either through attending a multitude of technical presentations, or meeting with the valve and packing manufacturers, or companies that provide supply chain, automation, repair and reconditioning, drill and tap services, and various other vendors. This event has something to offer to everyone, no matter what industry you work in, including utilities, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, commodity and specialty chemicals, and agriculture. I am confident that all attendees will discover areas of improvement and learn about new innovations that are beneficial.

Whether it is savings on valve costs, improving delivery times, proper valve maintenance, or partnering with other manufacturers and end users, I think you will find your attendance will be time well spent, personally satisfying, and can bring profitability to your company or business.
I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Regards,
Dan DeVine


SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACT TODAY

When submitting an abstract remember to:
  • Include your name
  • Include your job function/title
  • Include your company name
  • Include full contact information & email address
  • Include title of the paper
  • Indicate a general topic/theme that you believe would best relate to your presentation

The following selection criteria will apply:
  • Quality of the content
  • Focus on technical/non-commercial content
  • Informative to a wide audience
  • Relevance to conference subject matter

 

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