A D V A N C E D M A T E R I A L S & P R O C E S S E S | M A R C H 2 0 2 3 3 4 FEATURE SHAPEMEMORY ALLOY ACTUATOR PERFORMANCE INAN INDUSTRIAL CONTROL VALVE Laboratory tests conducted on SMA valve actuators show them to be a viable green alternative for oil and gas applications. Adam Nguyen, Ryan Gibson, and Dean Pick* Kinitics Automation, Vancouver, British Columbia Nicole Calma, Yi Su, Ran Luo, Jingyi Wang, and Ian Gates University of Calgary, Alberta Industrial control valve actuators based on shape memory alloy (SMA) technology are currently being tested in the oil and gas industry. These valve actuators were developed as a clean technology solution in response to the industry’s need to abate methane emissions[1]. A common practice within North America’s oil and gas industry is the use of pneumatic equipment driven by high pressure natural gas directly from the production well. Consequently, the operation of this equipment vents natural gas directly to the atmosphere and is a significant source of methane and greenhouse gas emissions[2]. To address this issue, new emissions regulations and mandates have been introduced to compel industry to move away from methane-venting equipment and toward non-emitting, electric alternatives[3,4]. In response to the industry need for emissions-free solutions, Kinitics Automation produced a valve actuator based on SMA. These actuators are assembled with SMA wires arranged in a bundled wire assembly that provides a counteractive force against a compression spring[5]. In the idle position, the spring applies a force that holds the valve plug against the valve seat to prevent flow[5]. SMAs possess inherent properties that allow generation of large forces relative to size, enabling forces large enough to overcome that of the spring[6]. A rod extends out of the actuator that connects to the valve stem. By applying joule heating to the SMA wire bundle, valve position can be controlled (Fig. 1). This design configuration allows the actuator to revert to the closed position in the event of electrical power loss or control signal error. To validate the SMA actuator for an industrial valve control application, the positioning and thrust performance of an SMA-based Kinitics valve actuator (KVA) was evaluated at the Natural Gas Innovation Fund’s Emissions Testing Center (ETC) laboratory at the University of Calgary. The experiments demonstrated that the actuator was successful in keeping an industrial globe valve in the closed position when tested at a pressure differential of 4000 kPa. The positional performance of the actuator was also found to have a high degree of accuracy: Fig. 1 — Applying joule heating to the SMA wire bundle produces a compressive force on the spring and allows the valve to open. Fig. 2 — Kinitics valve actuator testing at the University of Calgary. *Member of ASM International 8