Ask the Expert: Richard Smith
API standards come under the microscope with AESSEAL's Richard Smith
Question: What developments in API standards for pumps and seals should I be aware of?
Expert: Richard Smith, director, oil and gas development, AESSEAL, met Oil & Gas Middle East in Abu Dhabi.
What does the API 682 standard involve?
The American Petroleum Institute issues standards for all aspects of oil and gas production and has a number of standards relating to equipment, of which API 682 is the standard for our product range, which is mechanical seals. It is an important standard because it allows purchasers to get a degree of confidence that a product is of a certain quality and the standard provides certain criteria for performance standardisation. And the standard is primarily aimed at improving reliability of plants and reduction in fugitive emissions.
What new ground does it cover?
The standard is currently on its third edition, while the fourth edition is being worked on.
It is offering improvements primarily in the comprehension of the standard, which is quite complicated to follow. The work that is being done by the taskforce on the new standard is added comprehension, which should make it easier to read. There are no substantial changes, only ones intended to make the standard a little more comprehensible.
What makes these types of standard important?
I think the major importance of it, is that if you apply these standards when you are specifying equipment, you know that you are guaranteed to get equipment that is safe and reliable, particularly when the equipment is going to be used for hazardous and possibly toxic type services.
What’s topical in the pumps and seals business?
I think pump vendors and users need to look at the total cost of ownership, obviously there is the initial costs involved in purchasing seals, but over the lifetime of the plant, selection of the seals can impact on maintenance costs considerably and energy costs can be impacted as well. Consideration should be given for these long term costs at the design stage.
The seals project market is suppressed to what it was a few years ago for equipment. However I believe that is a short term situation and when the global economy picks up, the demand for new plant equipment will probably outstrip supply. So I am very optimistic that it is going to be extremely busy in a few years time. I think the Middle East has been largely unaffected. The global slowdown has affected the developed nations such as the US, Western Europe and the Far East. The Middle East has probably benefited from investing at this time because the costs are lower. AESSEAL as a business is still showing strong growth throughout this period.
What challenges are you facing?
Our business is not typical to other businesses. Finding good people is always a challenge and fortunately we have been able to assemble a very good team. I think one of my challenges is trying to get people to understand the total costs of ownerships and for that you need to look a little bit further than just pure equipment costs. You also need to consider the periphery equipment associated with seals and pumps, and their lifetime costs.
What developments should readers be aware of?
There are a number of breakthroughs currently taking place in the seals market. One of the things that has happened in recent times is that machine tool technology has moved forwards, allowing us to offer more elegant designs that provide better performance and improve reliability. That is a manufacturing breakthrough that has opened up the scope of designs. We have also had breakthroughs in technology associated with cooling seals, which offer improved methods.
What are your hopes for the next six months?
My hope for the business is that the brand grows and gets recognition throughout the globe and in particular the Middle East market, I’m hoping that we will have more market awareness of our brand.