Regulators

January 1, 2006 By    

Corrosion consistently puts a crimp on regulators – it causes moving parts to hold fast, creates safety hazards and prompts inopportune service calls.

 It may look the same as it always has, but today's regulators are made with new coatings and materials that better guard against corrosion and impurities. The result is improved performance and longer life in the field.
It may look the same as it always has, but today’s regulators are made with new coatings and materials that better guard against corrosion and impurities. The result is improved performance and longer life in the field.

Industry innovation, however, is applying the latest technology and materials to overcome oxidation and the abuse it dishes out to the equipment.

Regulators that previously had an optimum lifespan of 15 years can now last for 20, according to Ken Schimnowski, design engineering manager for LP gas equipment at Fisher Controls.

In 2005 the company rolled out a space-saving, first-stage regulator with improved resistance to the ravages of corrosion.

“It gives the design a more robust operation,” says marketing director Curtis Bagby. “We’re addressing the contaminants and corrosion issues with new coatings and materials.”

The new integral two-stage regulator utilizes a lever-and-stem functionality adapted to improve the product’s performance under harsh conditions.

“The lever-and-stem has been around forever, but you didn’t have it in a smaller regulator,” says Bagby. “It has the durability of a full-sized unit in a more compact offering.”

The device is suitable for above-ground and below-ground residential tanks, plus recreational vehicle applications.

One of the new materials is a new formulation of a rubber compound that’s just now being used in propane regulators. A fluoroelastomer – called FKM – is used for the disc material in the first-stage regulator along with resins and chromate conversion coatings aimed at repelling moisture and propane impurities.

“It’s not a huge issue, but we’re trying to stay ahead of the game,” Bagby explains.

A regulator’s enemies include not only unwanted water and contaminants in the gas due to the refining process, but also environmental invaders such as salt-heavy air, atmospheric chemicals and rain-and snow-induced moisture infusions.

Coastal regions are especially susceptible to salt spray delivered by ocean breezes.

It’s recommended that regulators on tanks in corrosive atmospheres of salty air or chemical pollution be inspected more frequently. For underground installations subject to submersion, the regulator should also be inspected more often.

If a regulator does not operate because of impurities in the gas, moisture in the regulator or corrosion, the following can result:

  • High pressure gas in the downstream system
  • Gas leaks from the regulator
  • Loss of pressure due to a “freeze-up” in the orifice

Freeze-ups due to excess moisture can happen when the temperature is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit; kinked or bent pigtails that restrict the propane’s flow also cause the condition.

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