There is a general assumption among customers that electric actuators cannot meet the demands of oil and gas applications. While they are considered useful for valve actuation applications, electric actuators are not considered appropriate for modular control. However, this perception is slowly being changed. Electric actuators are being designed and manufactured with features that surpass conventional actuators for use in oil and gas applications.
Why Conventional Actuators Fall Short in Oil and Gas Applications
Traditional electric actuators are dependent on gear trains to produce a certain level of torque output. Continuous operation is not possible as the heat buildup in the motor can become excessive. To ensure the actuator’s operation is ideal, it is designed with a duty cycle rating. This allows the actuator to be used for short periods of time, and then allowed to rest.
However, this type of operation provides more disadvantages than benefits. Operation speeds become slow. The actuator’s position has to be set by switching the motor on and off. Such aspects add to the overall costs of the system.
How Electric Actuators can Benefit the Oil and Gas Industry
Electric actuators provide certain differentiating benefits, which make them ideal solutions for oil and gas applications.
- Speed and Efficiency:
Electric actuators are designed with precision screws such as ball or acme screws. The movement of the screw allows for efficient actuator motion. The use of a screw mechanism also enhances control over speed. The screw is integrated into the motor of the equipment, which gives the screw the capability to rotate up to the motor’s full RPM. Electric actuators can provide cycles with speeds of up to 2m/s. An electric linear actuator is easily programmable, and can provide precision in terms of motion, torque, and acceleration control.
Electric actuators comprise PLC or motion controllers. These provide closed loop feedback, which eliminates mechanical feedback devices, such as shaft encoders. They can also be designed with diagnostic equipment, which allows the user to check and maintain the efficiency of the actuator as well as the oil and gas equipment.
- Easy Mounting and Installation:
For mounting, these actuators are generally designed with clevis mounting options. This makes the mounting process easy and convenient. Compared to other actuators, electric actuators are inexpensive when it comes to installation.
- Ancillary Power Options:
If there is a situation involving a power outage, the actuators can continue their work. This can be accomplished with the help of an ancillary motor, or a battery powered emergency power supply.
Electric actuators are reducing limitations in terms of dead time, duty cycles, and stroke time. They are proving to be optimal solutions for oil and gas applications such as drilling choke valves, pipe crawlers, and injection pumps.