Pumps & Systems, April 2013

Editor’s note: The editors of Pumps & Systems were happy to receive insight from the Fluid Sealing Association’s (FSA) President Greg Raty, Vice President Henri Azibert and Technical Director Pete Petrunich about FSA’s role in standards development, how they affect the pump and seal industries and the growth of the organization.

What are the latest developments in standards for the sealing industry?
Pete Petrunich: Participation in a broad range of sealing-system-related standards remains a focus of FSA. Recently, the standards responsible for improving the energy efficiency of pumping systems have been high priorities. There has been greater recognition of the importance of proper selection and the application of sealing systems. The FSA educational initiative, Sealing Systems Matter, demonstrates that importance and has led to the inclusion of sealing systems in ASME Energy Assessment for Pumping Systems Standard EA-2-2009 and its related 2010 Guidance Document, EA-2G-2010. In collaboration with our colleagues from the European Sealing Association (ESA), sealing systems are being included in the ISO-14414 Standard for assessment of pump energy efficiency.

The importance sealing systems play in energy and water conservation has been defined in the draft ISO Standard, which now has been released for DIS review. FSA supports inclusion of sealing systems into a Hydraulic Institute (HI) standard being developed by its Pump Energy Efficiency Optimization (PSEO) Committee. While the initial focus is clean water service, potential exists for expansion to a broader base of applications. Recent FSA engagement in sealing-system-related standards is not restricted to those related to pump energy efficiency. Long-standing support of the development of what will be an ANSI-accredited 3A Standard for mechanical seals employed in food service is in the final ballot. The same is true for the imminent publication of the fourth edition of API 682, the iconic standard for mechanical seals in the petroleum industry. Development of valve emission Standard API 624 continues to be supported by FSA and the recently initiated Standard API 687 specific to the maintenance of mechanical seals. FSA will continue to support the development of standards as an underpinning of its mission and as a stakeholder to demonstrate the important role of sealing systems in sustainability.

What has happened in the sealing industry in the past year that would affect our readers?
Henri Azibert: Certain trends have become more prevalent this past year. The first one would be the availability of high-performance sealing solutions. Many manufacturers can provide data on test results and field experience about high performance products that increase the level of sealing effectiveness and reliability. More attention is given to containing emission levels. International manufacturers are trying to implement worldwide standards. Therefore, the strictest standards are used and implemented in all facilities rather than just attempting to meet local regulations.

As the environmental impact of processes is being evaluated and scrutinized to a much higher level, certain solutions are becoming more common. For example, the use of water in sealing systems is being reduced. Many systems that used water injection to protect sealing devices from the abrasive or high temperature effect of the process fluid are being phased out. Shaft sealing without the use of a flush in slurries is becoming more common. This process uses seals that have been specifically designed to operate in a high-solid-content environment.

Cooling systems are downsized because they adversely affect the overall thermal efficiency of a system. Equipment is being operated at higher temperatures, and seals must also operate in the harsher environment.

What are FSA’s major accomplishments from 2013?
Henri Azibert & Greg Raty: Members have worked diligently to prepare and distribute information in the form of handbooks, webinars, and life-cycle cost and energy usage calculators. They have also sponsored in-class training courses at different venues. This educational goal has been driven to fill needs of the industry. Dialogue within users groups has increased, which helps us understand and respond to their requirements. An emphasis is now placed on the availability of documents in an electronic format. Downloadable information is now free, while printed versions can be obtained for a nominal fee.

Because of the global nature of the industry, cooperation with ESA continues to strengthen. Joint research projects have been subsidized by the members of both organizations to develop fundamental understanding of specific sealing mechanisms. A task force actively manages contact with regulatory and legislative bodies as energy conservation and protection of the environment remain a concern. Contact with members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), representatives and senators has been initiated in support of regulation and legislation where the use of improved sealing systems contributes to the goals of increasing public welfare and industry competitiveness.

What are the positive impacts of those efforts?
Henri Azibert & Greg Raty: Activity to reshape the organization will increase the value proposition to our members and increase our presence in the markets we service. We have experienced an increase in participation from younger individuals who are playing vital roles in the implementation of completed and ongoing projects. This fresh energy affects other areas of FSA and its member companies and enhances the value we ultimately bring to the market through our individual companies and the geographic areas we service.

What are the biggest challenges for the sealing industry right now?
Henri Azibert: In line with the requirements for increased containment of emissions and reduction of energy and water consumption, most plants are required to do more with less. The increase of plant outputs well beyond their original design is common. This stresses the equipment and the personnel who maintain that equipment. Levels of pressure, speed, temperature and vibration all increase. Equipment upgrades are required to maintain the expected level of reliability, especially with shaft seals that tend to be the most highly-stressed components in the system. Much emphasis is placed on low equipment acquisition cost at the expense of long-term effectiveness or life-cycle costs. Proper application and operation of equipment have become more essential. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when experienced personnel are disappearing and manufacturers are focusing on their core competency of producing certain goods, as opposed to having expert knowledge of the equipment used to make the product. FSA can help by being an effective knowledge resource with regard to how to select and apply the proper seal type or design.

One trend is the lack of qualified personnel in some industries. An experienced generation is leaving the workforce through retirement. Less experienced professionals are replacing these positions and taking on greater responsibilities. Qualified individuals are essential to safely operate any large industrial complex, making the transition a challenge.

What are FSA’s goals for the remainder of 2013?
Greg Raty: Through our newly established Standards Coordinating Committee, FSA has set in motion a systematic and consistent review of published materials (articles, reports, tables, charts, guidelines, standard, etc.) to regularly ensure that all content is current and accurate. This ensures reliability and brings clarity to our evaluation process and gives more recognition to our members and the markets we service.

Our Marketing Committee has coordinated webinars, news clips, videos and social media interaction. We continue to work as an association to achieve our goals. The efforts of our Government Affairs Committee, along with the ongoing initiatives to increase end-user interaction with the FSA will remain our primary objectives.