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A.W. Chesterton Company: Rising to Sealing Challenges

After almost 138 years in business, A.W. Chesterton Company’s roots in quality and value have allowed it to thrive and has given it the tools to provide customers with reliable, efficient, and innovative solutions. Founded in 1884 as a purveyor of steamboat and engineering supplies, Chesterton quickly expanded and rapidly grew to be a provider of sealing solutions, packing and gasketing, as well as a testing experts and innovators.
Valve World Americas was pleased to speak with Raman Hanjra, Director of Global Product Line Management, and Phil Mahoney, Director of Engineering Services for Stationary Equipment, to gain more insight on how Chesterton is meeting challenges with fugitive emissions head on, and to discuss how its pioneering nature has led to innovation and a strong presence in the market.

By Sara Mathov and Angelica Pajkovic

A.W. Chesterton Company evolved from a manufacturer of sealing devices to a comprehensive solutions provider for plant equipment reliability, improved plant maintenance, and the reduced use of natural resources. Bench-mark products for advanced fugitive emission control, such as the award-winning 1622 Low-E Packing, 4400 gas seals, and polymer seals for pipeline valves, have laid the foundation of Chesterton’s success. To meet the ever-evolving need of the market, the company continues to expand its complete and effective low emission sealing solutions.

Industry Challenges

According to Hanjra, one of the biggest challenges the industry is currently facing is keeping up with Low-E standards; the Low-E sealing market is very dynamic. Some of the primary challenges seen in the market today include:

Higher Expectations for Leakage Control

Since the introduction of the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970, the requirements for stem sealing in the U.S. has continued to become more stringent. “We have gone from a level where 10,000 ppm was acceptable to having most customers aim for 50ppm. These requirements have been complemented by the latest valve standards and packing standards that are revised every few years,” Mahoney said. “Leakage requirements and emission standards are kind of like a boa constrictor – once it gets its victim it squeezes, and it never lets go,” he laughed. “Right now, API packing standards are typically 100 ppm, and in some cases only 50 ppm.” To ensure that these stringent parameters are met For new product development projects, Chsesterton currently define Low-E leakage requirements as less than 50 ppm; this allows room for modification should the standards be tightened further.

Increased Durability of Sealing Products

“A standard one-year warranty is often not adequate for the Low-E market. A Certified Low Leak Technology (CLLT) such as our 1622 packing, comes with a 5-year Low-E performance guarantee which is standard for this market,” said Hanjra.

Ease of Installation and Maintenance of Low-E Products

“When talking with our valve OEM customers, one of the things that comes up is the time it takes to install Low-E products and the resultant reduction in productivity. Most of the time these Low-E solutions require multiple rings to be installed in a precise orientation, and/or order, to provide the extremely high sealing performance that is required of these solutions. In the U.S. and other parts of the world, Low-E sealing products are generally installed in areas that are associated with a high level of compliance requirement. Maintenance needs of these Low E sealing products are always high on the list of priority for the end-users,” Hanjra explained.

Stringent Product Qualification and Testing Requirements

Along with market needs, the field of Low-E qualification is evolving continuously. “API 622 test standard for the Low-E packing and API 624 standard for Low-E certified rising and rotating stem valves were released a few years ago. Already, they have both gone through a couple of revisions. New standards such as, API 641 fugitive emissions testing standard for quarter-turn valves are also continuously being released. One must keep abreast with all the latest standards, and upcoming changes to these qualification requirements, to ensure regulatory compliance,” continued Hanjra.

High-Temperature Sealing

Sealing at high temperatures to low leakage rates in VOCs is not an easy problem to solve. There are a relatively small group of materials that have the properties needed to effectively seal in a valve stuffing box. The materials need to be chemically inert to handle man different fluid streams. They need to be stable at elevated temperatures and capable of handling thermal cycling. The seal needs to have minimal porosity to ensure low leakage rates, yet it needs to be physically strong enough to minimize extrusion through clearances in a normal valve stuffing box. The materials need to be wear resistant to with-stand high cycling environments, and preferably low friction to ensure maximum operability of the valve.

Overall, there are many questions the industry is trying to answer about high temperature sealing. What is the highest temperature in low emission applications? How do the valves behave in those types of applications? What temperature does the packing reach when the application sees those higher temperatures? High-temperature Low-E sealing is even a bigger challenge in the case of Control Valves where the cycle count can run in tens of thousands of cycles, as compared to few hundreds in an isolation valve.

API standards such as API 622 for packings, 624 for rising stem valves, and 641 for quarter-turn valves specify testing is to be done up to 500°F in methane. “Current test standards are limited to 500°F; the challenge is how to test using relevant test methods for temperatures higher than that. Using methane as a test gas is a key component of these test protocols as this is a media that is representative of what the valves in a refinery are sealing. But using methane at temperatures above this poses a significant safety risk. Other test gases are used in other standards, such as helium in ISO 15848-1, but there are significant issues with correlating leakage between the different media and measurement methods,” explained Mahoney.

“Sealing is a balancing game. No one magic bullet material meets all the requirements for Low-E sealing by itself. All packings are made of a combination of materials, each with their limitations and advantages,” said Mahoney. “The challenge is to find the right balance of materials and best construction techniques to solve as many of these challenges simultaneously as possible.”
Rising to Sealing Challenges

Chesterton has been active in Low Emissions sealing since the 1990s; before there were standardized test methods to verify the capability of compression packing sets to meet specific VOC leakage rates. “We worked with end users to develop those test methods and implement them into our development process. Those early test methods were used to validate new products for our customers to meet these increasingly stringent regulatory requirements,” said Hanjra. Chesterton’s 1600 packing was one of the first Low-E compression packings developed that met the limits required and was vetted using those initial test protocols.

As time went on, industry standards were developed to establish common test methods that could be used to validate capabilities of compression packings (ISO 15848-1, API 622, etc.); these standards consolidated methodologies and techniques initially developed by end users individually. These industry standards are constantly being revis-ited and updated. Part of Chesterton’s product development philosophy is to closely monitor and participate in these standard groups to stay abreast of de-velopments and new requirements.

As standardized testing methods are an essential part of validating new products, Chesterton has invested significantly to develop in-house test lab capacity. This is necessary to ensure that product capabilities are verified and repeatable before submitting to a third party test laboratory for certification. “This also allows us to conduct unique tests for customers looking at new sealing challenges. Currently our test lab is capable of running emissions tests with either methane or helium, both of which are fitted with the latest safety and data acquisition systems,” reflected Mahoney.

At Chesterton, all product-related actions are driven by the five-year Product Line Strategic Plan that is in turn driven by market needs or challenges. “We are continually monitoring the challenges that are faced by this market by listening to our customers, regulatory bodies, and making sure we incorporate those in our new product development projects,” said Hanjra.

Innovative Products

Product development at Chesterton begins in one of two phases – MVP (Minimal Viable Product Development) or NPI (New Product Introduction). “MVP is essentially concept development, it might not be a product yet, just an idea that is brought forth to a group of engineering experts, scholars, and fellow employees. They weigh in on experiments that test the validity of the material and determine if it shows promise before proceeding to invest the resources to develop it,” said Mahoney. “At this stage, we talk about new technologies, for example, sensors, special coatings, etc. – these ideas are not necessarily linked to one product but may have a broader application and have to be explored further.” Hanjra continued, “Once these ideas are determined as viable, we explore these as business opportunities.”

An MVP project can then be incorporated into a formal NPI project. “Once you get to the NPI process, it is structured from start to finish,” Mahoney said. Chesterton uses a five-step NPI process for product development.

1. Ideation: Discuss the viability of the NPI project. Does it look like we can do it?
2. Planning: Business development and initial research on prototypes.
3. Verification & Validation: Testing & specification provision. Is everything that was asked for included in the product?4. Commercialization: Setting up inventory, developing item numbers, finalizing machining, equipment verification.
5. Launch & Post Launch: Products are launched to the target market and then monitored closely for three years after release for quality & consistency. Training of the sales team and target distribution or product is part of this stage.

Customer-Oriented Values

Chesterton’s vision is to be at the top of its customers’ minds for innovation and excellence. Its mission is to provide industrial equipment to customers with innovative and tailored fluid sealing, protective coating, and lubrication solutions that exceed expectations. Chesterton also hopes to enable customers to perform better, compete harder, and make the world a cleaner place through the implementation and use of its products. This is executed by their core values, which include:

• Customer-Focused Service: to create value for Chesterton’s customers by anticipating their needs and responding quickly.
• Respect: to mutually appreciate one another’s ideas and opinions, and show this consideration at all levels of Chesterton’s organization.
• Responsibility: to be held accountable to our customers, the company, each other, our community, and the environment.
• Development: to encourage personal and professional growth through skills improvement to enable success in any endeavor Chesterton pursues.
• Innovation: to foster individual creativity in a progressive work environment to turn new ideas into actions that attain proven results.
• Teamwork: knowing that strength comes from the dedication to cooperate with each other in achieving our common goals.
• Pride and Passion: Chesterton is passionate about work and proud of itsachievements —individually, collectively, internally, and externally—and it is this pride and enthusiasm that drives it to improve.Compliance and Sustainability: to maintain a strong focus on environmental stewardship in Chesterton’s internal operations, as well as support for customers, and work to balance social equity and wellbeing along with economic viability in the organization.

Forward Looking

When asked what the future holds for the industry, Chesterton believes that cleaner, more sustainable practices are in the works. “I think the regulations in the future will be more stringent if the past is an indicator of the future. Today, more than ever, our Customer Service Teams and our Field Sales specialists are assisting customers with maintenance, efficiency, and effectiveness that can be realized through the use of our products,” said Hanjra. “If a user is new to Chesterton, our commitment is 100% satisfaction, whatever the needs are for virtual or in person training. We want our customers to be successful.”

In 2022 A.W. Chesterton will release new products. All of these products will inevitably solve a myriad of additional industry roadblocks and challenges. “Everything we are doing today brings us closer to the customer,” said Hanjra. This attitude will continue into the future. “We are listening carefully to their needs and adjusting quickly.”

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