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Case Study Regarding the Behaviour of the Structural Gradient from Various Composite

Materials (WC-Co/WC-Ni), Used to Manufacture Ball Valves for the Oil Extraction Industry

I. Popescu2, R.M. Negriu1, S.G. Badea1, C. Besleaga1

Econet Prod Bucharest, Pades street no. 16, Bucharest, Romania
Industrial Biogas Solution, Rokura Group, Bucharest, Romania

Abstract: Valves (ball and seat) equip pumps for extracting petroleum. The balls have to withstand
complex erosive-abrasive wear in corrosive environments, combined with micro cutting and micro
fatigue. The effect of high temperatures will also occur in the extraction through underground
combustion. Experimental batches of balls with structural gradient were made using virgin and
recovered materials and PM technologies. The experiments followed the recovery of material from
worn-out balls, by removing the worn-out layer and completion with virgin material, and also making
balls with structural gradient from dust with various qualities. We analyzed using the finite element the
tension states and the life span of the balls was estimated. We present an analysis of the ways of
deterioration, the used technologies, the control technologies, the experimental results, the behavior of
these balls and new research paths, to optimize the process of producing balls with gradient.
Keywords: petroleum pumps, valves, balls, wear, recovered materials, PM technologies, C.A.D
1. Introduction
Piston pumps used for the extraction of oil contain closing/ opening valves to allow bringing
the oil to the surface. Basically a pump has two valves, each comprising of a locking ball and valve
seat respectively. In Fig. 1 such an extraction pump is shown.

Figure 1: Piston pumps used for the extraction of oil

These elements are mainly stressed by wear, corrosion caused by abrasives powder content
and the substances contained in oil (eg. hydrogen sulfide) at the temperature from the oil layer, layer
pressure and the column of oil to the surface, the thermo-mechanical stresses induced by the pumping
conditions, the shocks produced by opening and closing valves etc.
The materials used to manufacture these components are steels with high mechanical and
wear resistance and high alloys materials based on tungsten carbide with cobalt or nickel binder. The
problem of increasing the life span of these components is important because, besides the cost of the
components themselves, their replacement requires removing the pump from service during the entire
operation and thus losing the production of corresponding quantities of oil.
The analysis of the causes of deterioration of the balls and seal seats revealed that wear by
abrasion caused by solid grains (sand) in an aggressive environment is the main reason for removing
these components from service. A series of presented articles from the specialized literature [14] on
the realization of objects with material gradient, using layers of 2 or more types of materials with
different properties, have shown the efficiency of using sintering technologies of objects with a
gradient of properties induced by the different composition and the related diffusion phenomena. The
authors have aimed to make these balls from the valve of the pump used in oil extraction using a core
of a CW-Co alloy (12% Co) and an outer layer of a CW-Ni alloy (12% Ni). The outer layer of WC-Ni
was proposed because of the good properties of this material to the wear of abrasive particles , the
temperature of the deposit and other aggressive substances present in the extracted oil. Engqvist and

co. have shown [5] that cobalt used as a binder in sintered carbides dissolves in low pH solutions. To
counteract this phenomenon, it should be mixed with Ni or completely replaced by it. On the other
hand, carbides with very little binder (almost only WC content) dissolve in solutions with high pH. The
rate of wear is dependent on the ligament of CO (mean free patf, which is a measure of the thickness
of the Co between the WC grains) and grain size of WC. Large sizes lead to a reduced wear
resistance [68]. Simple WC-Co alloys have a corrosion resistance to a medium with pH around 7.
Because of this, the binder will be attacked from the surface leaving a skeletal structure that contains
unsupported WC grains. These particles will be removed by the abrasive environment and will enable
the emergence of a new binding surface to be corroded. When the area of the component is subjected
to strong stress from corrosion/ wear, WC-Ni alloys are the most recommended to an environment of
pH 2-3 and even, for some solutions, under this value. The choice through which the inner part is
made of WC-Co and the outside, subject to corrosion/ wear is made of WC-Ni is recommended
because Co and Ni are metals with similar characteristics and therefore the mechanical and thermal
properties of the WC-Ni alloy are similar to those of the WC-Co alloy [9].
The authors have made a review of the phenomena of deterioration of the valves components
from the piston pumps used in oil extraction [10]. Following this analysis, the authors concluded that
there are two main types of deterioration: internal manufacturing defects that lead to breakage /
separation of smaller or larger pieces and accelerated wear of the balls and seats resulting in the loss
of sealing of the pumping chamber, thus resulting the inefficiency of the pump (there is the possibility
that a piece of metal gets caught in the flow of oil and produces other collateral damage).
2. Experimental tests
First tests have demonstrated the need to develop a process to ensure concentricity of the two
layers (core and outer) and to prepare proper pressing and sintering of the second layer. In the first
experiments, the concentricity of the two layers, symmetric pressing and proper degassing could not
be achieved. The temperature of the sintering and the sintering diagram was not adequate to achieve
a sintering, an adherence to the base layer and a corresponding diffusion of the two addition materials
(Co and Ni). Early results have led to the appearance of a detachment of the layer during the sintering
operation, as seen in Figure 2. In this figure we can also observe the uneven thickness of the outer

Figure 2: Defect of the ball: the uneven thickness of the outer layer
Another major defect in the first experiments was the pores occurring in large numbers at the
interface of the two layers, as seen in Figure 3. In this figure we can see that, although the outer layer
thickness was approximately constant, inappropriate technology has led to the appearance of large
pores and to the lack of adhesion between layers. Pores have also occurred in the interior of the outer

Fig. 3. Defect of the ball: the pores occurring in large numbers at the interface of the two layers
Theoretical and experimental analyses [10] showed that, for such parts, rapid deterioration
problems occur even more strongly when the physical and mechanical properties of the layers
materials are more different. Problems caused by different thermal deformations, by the difference in
elasticity modules and, respectively, of the Poisson coefficient, and the different variation of these
coefficients according to temperature, were analyzed and a technological process that minimizes the
negative effects was proposed.
Through the verification of the used solutions, we proposed a new technology, in course of
patenting [11], which is based on a special technological procedure that has the following features:
a. The making of the mold filling in which is placed the ball forming the base material with
powder (virgin or recovered) is done in two stages by means of devices which are presented
schematically in Figure 4. The preparation of the interface of the two semi-spherical calottes is
important to eliminate cracks (lack of adherence) in this area;
b. The parameters that describe the filling and the compaction through vibrations are controlled
carefully so as not to exceed the experimentally determined parameters;
c. The roughness and the cleaning of the ball forming the sintering base of the outer layer are
strictly controlled. The roughness is correspondent to the granulation of the powder that fills
the molds;
d. The rubber molds were made so that the pressing of the powder is closer to hydrostaticity;
e. Hot isostatic pressing parameters, the final operation aimed at eliminating internal stress, pore
and micro-cracks reduction between the layers and from the material of the base ball.

Figure 4: Device for filling matrix from isoprene rubber

Devices the making of the mold filling in which is placed the ball forming the base material with powder
(virgin or recovered): 1- ball; 2- pad; 3- vibrating plate; 4- filler (CW powder, virgin or recovered); 5rubber sleeve; 6- stopper for filling hole; 7- shoulder for fastening of coating rubber; 8- conic shape; 9separation surfaces prepared for bonding; 10- mounting ring; 11- pad; 12- rubber sleeve; 13- stopper;
14- filler (CW powder, virgin or recovered).
In Figure 5 we can see a coating of rubber sleeve with a ball of recovered material
(disassembled and ready for isostatic pressing).

Figure 5: Coating of rubber sleeve with a ball of recovered material (disassembled and ready for
isostatic pressing)
In Figure 6 the hardness measured on the section of a reconditioned ball is presented.
Reconditioning is done on our own developed technology, the basis ball being recovered from balls
made of a single layer of WC-Co and that were discarded due to advanced wear which no longer
allowed the maintaining of the working pressure. The balls were grinded to a size where all visible
traces of damage were removed and this was determined by visual inspection and by penetrant liquid

Figure 6: The hardness measured on the section of a reconditioned ball

The technological process imposed choice of WC-Co compositions and WC-Ni which satisfy
the following conditions: a) the inner layer must ensure good mechanical resistance; b) the outer layer
must provide good resistance to abrasion and corrosive environment; c) physical- mechanical
properties of both materials must be similar so the tension produced in termobaric stresses due to
differences of mechanical properties be minimal.
3. The simulation of stresses on the ball made with gradient of properties of material
The ball from the valve was modeled with the valve seat. The ball is modeled as consisting of
two layers of material, the base material being WC-Co with 12% Co and the outer layer material
consists of WC-Ni with 12% Ni. Because it is assumed that during sintering and then during hot

isostatic pressing all internal tensions are eliminated, they are not taken into account. It is also
assumed that the manufacturing process is perfect and no defects of any kind arise. In order to
simulate the material properties of the contact area between the two types of carbide is considered
that these properties are uniform and are the average of the mechanical properties of the carbides
We made a complex simulation in which we took into consideration both the solicitations due
of pressure and those produced by the temperature from deposit. In figure no. 7 is presented the
meshing of model in finite elements. It can observe that the layers of WC-Ni and the diffusion layer
were much finer mesh than other bodies to obtain more accurate results.

Figure 7: Meshing of the model in finite elements

In figure no. 8 is presented the main maximum stress in the assembly at temobaric stress. It
can be observe that arent values of main maximum stresses which exceed the allowable values in
compression or stretching.

Figure 8: The stresses state and the main maximum stresses in the assembly

4. Conclusion
Experiments and simulations have shown that the lifetime of the valve components is
determined mainly by internal defects produced by a non-optimized technology, the wear caused by
the pumped oil and the stress to fatigue of the ball and valve seat. The state of tensions produced by
thermo-mechanical stresses for balls made of two layers may have a degree of hazard imposed by the
different physical and mechanical characteristics of the layers materials and by the uneven thickness
of the outer layer.
The strains state produced by the thermo mechanic stresses for the balls made from two
layers can present a degree of danger imposed, on the one hand by the different physic and mechanic
parameters of the materials of the layer and uneven thickness of the outer layer and on the other hand
by the structural defects from contact zones between layers.
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