Sub-zero quality control – Metso Automation Oy

Tomi Junnila from Metso Automation Oy and Pekka Jaakola from Insinööritoimisto Comatec Oy show with pride the cryogenic test laboratory at Metso’s new technology centre. The whole factory is new. Metso Automation’s move from Roihupelto to the site by the Vanha Porvoontie Road in Vantaa was completed in autumn 2011. The new premises have a floor area of 23, 000 square metres. Pekka Jaakola headed up the Comatec team that designed the instrumentation, the Siemens S7 automation system and the Intouch operating system for the low temperature test laboratory, and the hatches for the low temperature test tanks. Comatec’s work also included preparation of procurement, supervision of installation, and commissioning.

Even a 100-inch valve fits in the 4-metre deep, 55 cubic metre tank. Comatec has designed the hatches on top of the test tanks.

Valves must work – and keep working

The Vantaa factory manufactures process valves for the oil and gas, pulp and paper, refining, energy and chemical industries. Valves come in so many different types, sizes, materials and pressure classes that most of them are tailored to customer requirements.

“Customer needs determine the requirements for the valves,” states Junnila.

Metso Automation also makes the regulators and positioners for adjusting the valves.

The testing is part of the quality control chain. Pressure testing in accordance with the standards is carried out internally on all products. On some of them NDT or other additional tests are carried out in accordance with customer requirements.

The surface of a valve tested at -196 degrees centigrade is so cold that the moisture in the air freezes before it touches the surface. On a hot summer day the moisture turns to snow.

Tests ensure quality

The low temperature testing area is totally isolated from the rest of the factory. Liquid nitrogen is used to cool the valves and this must not vaporize in other parts of the factory.

Metso Automation tests valves at the temperatures laid down in the customer’s requirements.

The lowest test temperature is -196 degrees centigrade, which is the boiling point of liquid nitrogen. Metal contracts in the cold. Valves have to close absolutely tightly even in the toughest conditions. The testing is part of quality assurance, as are the pressure tests.

Test tanks in the rock

The valve is submerged in a four-metre deep, 55 cubic metre tank made of stainless steel that has been sunk into the floor. The rock has been excavated to a depth of five metres for the tanks.

“In the larger tank we can, for example, test 100 inch butterfly valves,” explains Junnila.

The oxygen balance in the test chamber is monitored carefully. If there is too much nitrogen in the air, the door to the factory closes automatically, the outside door is opened and the area is ventilated. Comatec has designed the automated systems so that they take into account the movement of the gantry crane.

As well carrying out low temperature testing, the test chamber can be used for cold treating large items.

“When we are not carrying out our own low temperature testing, we could well take on the cold treating of large items under contract. I know that it is hard to find such big tanks for cold treating,” says Junnila. “We have excellent facilities for that here.”

Pekka Jaakola, Tomi Junnila and Timo Brinck examining a 20-inch valve that has passed the low temperature test.

Effective cooperation

Metso Automation is very happy to work in partnership with Comatec. Encouraging experience of Comatec’s expertise and reliability over a long period has made a positive impression on project manager Tomi Junnila.

“We have worked together with Comatec for a long time. Our experiences have been very positive.”

Size gives credibility

Junnila thinks that Comatec is a sufficiently large and credible supplier.

“Comatec has been flexible and provided us with the experts we have needed in each situation.”

In a large company, nothing depends completely on one person, which creates credibility. Two experts at Comatec worked on the cold laboratory project for 1.5 years. Metso would not have been able to allocate personnel itself for the design work.

“Indepth Siemens knowhow was another factor,” explains Junnila.

“This was a really challenging project because of the extremely low temperatures used in the tanks,” says Pekka Jaakola, department manager, electricity and automation at Comatec.

Low temperature testing process

  • Equipment is tested at room temperature
  • Equipment is cooled (may take one day)
  • Equipment is pressurized with helium and checked for leaks
  • Equipment is operated, repeating input and checking
  • The equipment is lifted up and the valve casing is checked on the outside to ensure that the helium does not leak out

Metso Automation Oy

Metso is a global supplier of technology and services in the process industries, including mining, construction, recycling, pulp and paper, power and oil and gas. Its 29,000 professionals in over 50 countries deliver sustainability and profitability to customers worldwide.

Metso’s automation product line develops and supplies valve solutions for the process industries, process automation and information management systems and application networks, maintenance monitoring systems, and expert and life cycle services.

Metso manufactures each year thousands of process valves for the oil and gas, paper and pulp, refining, energy and chemical industries. The Neles product brand has a history going back more than 50 years. About 800 people work at the new valve technology centre in Vantaa.