Kyle Daniels is the president and CEO of Clarke Valve, an industrial control-valve manufacturer headquartered in North Kingstown. The company has created a valve that reduces fugitive methane emissions at oil and gas refineries by 95% when compared to traditional globe valves. Last year, the company reported a $5.5 million capital infusion from OGCI Climate Investments in London, a venture fund financed by 13 of the largest oil and gas producers in the world.
PBN: How has the manufacturing of valves changed over the past few decades?
DANIELS: While we all use the basic manufacturing principles of stainless-steel or carbon-steel products, which includes casting, machining and forging, there have not been any other new platform designs in roughly 50 years. The top global manufacturers of dependable, high-quality valves have done a great job of trying to squeeze more performance from the same general designs that have been in use for 50 to 100 years, or even longer … the net gains have been minimal.
Our product, the Shutter Valve, starts with a new valve geometry. … Think of an LED light versus a filament light or a flat-screen TV versus a tube TV. It’s more compact, uses less material, is cheaper to produce and its design reduces leakage of gases [such as] methane into the air.
PBN: How has this impacted the company’s equipment investments?
DANIELS: Clarke Valve has focused most of its investment in the establishment of a top-notch engineering team and making sure they have the best possible tools and technology for prototyping, testing and quality assurance. We use computerized and automated machining centers, castings that are made from 3D-printed sand and the best computers and software available.
Clarke Valve also has a very sophisticated “flow loop” for testing of the Shutter Valve and comparative testing of competitor valves. The flow loop circulates up to 400 gallons of water per minute through a piping system, into which a valve can be fitted and tested at varying pressures, flow rates and temperatures. Every valve we produce is also pressure-tested and leak-tested on a hydrostatic test pump to ensure that the body of the valve can withstand pressure up to 4,000 pounds per square-inch.
The company also uses … computational-fluid-dynamics software to create a digital twin of the process conditions and performance of each Shutter Valve in the field. This helps us to anticipate how a valve will perform … and serves as a quality checkpoint.
PBN: Do new valve applications keep emerging with shifts in global demand?
DANIELS: While the Shutter Valve can address new and emerging applications, the greatest opportunity exists for it to meet 21st-century emissions targets, far better than legacy platforms can, at a reduced size, weight and cost. The scope of this problem – valve leakage of fugitive emissions, such as methane – is enormous. Consider that a single refinery has hundreds or even thousands of valves installed, often running 24 hours per day.
PBN: Clarke Valves says it uses aerospace design principles in its manufacturing process. How so?
DANIELS: Before founding Clarke Valve, I worked for a number of years as an aerospace engineer for GE, Pratt & Whitney, and Embraer Executive Jets. During my career, the idea for the Shutter Valve began to take shape and was inspired by the design and materials employed by very sophisticated, highly reliable and lightweight aircraft components.
We have also developed very unique asymmetrical flange connections … following the same design equations of rocket engine converging-diverging nozzles to maximize performance. Finally, our valve components are machined to very precise aerospace-grade tolerances, and our design utilizes aerospace principles for pressure retention.
PBN: What do you think is most misunderstood about your sector of the manufacturing industry?
DANIELS: Valves are one of the most ubiquitous, but overlooked, components in the value chain. Consumers rarely think about how the gasoline got to the fuel tank of their car, or how their household cleaning products, pharmaceuticals, or food and beverages were produced. The critical function performed by valves in a diverse spectrum of applications has created a total annual market worth $80 billion. The global market for control valves alone … was worth more than $7 billion in 2017.
At the same time, you rarely hear the words “industrial manufacturing” and “startup” in the same sentence. Most of the business media and the investment community gravitate toward sectors [such as] websites, software and biotech when it comes to expectations of growth, profitability and [return on investment]. But, Clarke Valve has secured venture capital from some of the largest and most profitable businesses on the planet, and those same companies are also purchasing our valves for use in applications that are vital to their bottom line.
Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.