US 3779270 A
This invention describes an improved method of launching spheres into a flowing fluid pipeline and for receiving spheres that have been traveling with the fluid in the pipeline. It comprises in general a barrel which is attached at one end to an opening into the flow line of the pipeline and is closed at the other end by a removable closure. Inside the flow line is a piston means which is adapted to close and seal across the end of the barrel near the point of attachment to the flow line. This piston is normally withdrawn so that spheres which are carried to this point by the moving fluid will enter and accumulate in the barrel. When the piston is moved to close off the first end of the barrel, the fluid can be drained, the removable closure can be opened, and the spheres removed from the barrel. After the spheres are removed, the barrel is repressured and the piston is withdrawn, opening the input end of the barrel so that spheres can continue to be received therein.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent [191 Davis Dec. 18, 1973 SPHERE LAUNCHER AND RECEIVER  Inventor: Billy E. Davis, Tulsa, Okla.
 Assignee: Signet Controls, Inc., Tulsa, Okla.
 Filed: May 26, 1972  Appl. No.: 257,144
Primary Examiner-Henry T. Klinksiek Assistant Examiner-Robert J. Miller Attorney.lames R. Head et al.
[5 7] ABSTRACT This invention describes an improved method of launching spheres into a flowing fluid pipeline and for receiving spheres that have been traveling with the fluid in the pipeline. It comprises in general abarrel which is attached at one end to an opening into the flow line of the pipeline and is closed at the other end by a removable closure. Inside the flow line is a piston means which is adapted to close and seal across the end of the barrel near the point of attachment to the flow line. This piston is normally withdrawn so that spheres which are carried to this point by the moving fluid will enter and accumulate in the barrel. When the piston is moved to close off the first end of the barrel, the fluid can be drained, the removable closure can be opened, and the spheres removed from the barrel. After the spheres are removed, the barrel is repressured and the piston is withdrawn, opening the input end of the barrel so that spheres can continue to be received therein.
The launcher is a similar type of barrel with a piston closure at the end where it is attached to the flow line. While the receiver is tilted downward from the point of attachment, the launcher is tilted upward, so that after spheres are put into the barrel, they can be launched by being droppeddown into the flow line. Hydraulically operated plungers are provided which move through the wall of the barrel at its lower end and serve to restrain the downward movement of the spheres. Simply withdrawing the lower of the two plungers will cause one of the spheres to be launched into the flow line.
7 Claims, 3 Drawing Figures PATENIED DEC 18 1973 3.779270 SHEET 10F 2 SPHERE LAUNCHER AND RECEIVER BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention is in the field of the pipelining of fluids. More particularly, it concerns apparatus for handling spherical pigs which are frequently used in the pipelining of fluids to separate batches of fluid of different properties. These are launched at the sending terminal after a first batch is completed and before the second batch has been inserted into the pipeline. At the receiving end they are removed from the flow line automatically and the fluid flow is switched from one receiving tank to a second receiving tank in synchronism with the arrival of the sphere. These spheres must be launched and received under remote control. So the capacity of these devices are such as to handle a plurality of spheres and they are made to automatically receive the spheres as they arrive and are adapted under remote control to insert a single sphere into the flow line on signal.
It is an object of this invention to provide a means for launching and receiving spheres into and from the pipeline.
Another important object of this invention is to provide a means for the remote controlled launching and receiving of spheres into and from a pipeline.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION These and other objects of the invention are realized and limitations of the prior art are overcome by the present invention, which involves a tilted barrel, for storing the spheres which are attached at its first end to the flow line, and has a removable closure at its second end. The first end has an opening which is large enough to pass the spheres into and out of the barrel. This opening can be closed by means of a piston driven plate which can be pressed against and sealed over the opening. The sphere launcher is tilted upward from the point of attachment while the sphere receiver is tilted downward. During operation the piston is withdrawn so that the opening from the barrel to the flow line is clear. At the receiver, spheres which arrive through the flow line are prevented, by a grating, from passing along the flow line and are diverted into the downwardly depending barrel where the spheres are caught and stored.
At the launcher the spheres are inserted through the removable closure where they are held in the barrel by means of a pair of plungers which are adapted to be moved radially inward, through the wall of the barrel, and act as a removable stop to the passage of the spheres down the barrel and out of its bottom end. Means are provided to utilize the piston to close off the first end of the barrel sealing it against the pressure of the flow line so that the barrel can be drained and the removable closure opened for the removal or insertion of spheres from or into the barrel. After the closure is sealed, the barrel is repressured and the piston is withdrawn and the device is ready for operation.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS These and other objects of this invention and a better understanding of the principles and details of the invention will be evident from the following description taken in conjunction with the appended drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 illustrates a sphere receiver, and
FIG. 2 illustrates a sphere launcher. FIG. 3 illustrates a detail of the hydraulic system of FIG. 2.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now to the drawings, the numeral 10 indicates generally the barrel which is used as a receiver or a launcher. The numeral 12 indicates the operating mechanism of the piston-controlled closure means between the barrel and the flow line. Numeral 14 indicates generally a portion of the flow line, and numeral 16 indicates generally the hydraulic control system for remote operation of the device.
Referring to FIG. 1, the portion of the flow line 14 is made up of a pipe 18 into which the balls 28 form a snug fit so that they are carried along in a sealing manner with the fluid in the pipeline. An expander section extends from the pipe 18 into a tee joint 25. The fluid flows downward from the tee in accordance with the arrow 17 and down the pipe 20. Any of the spheres which are arriving through pipe 18 in accordance with the arrow 15 are prevented from going down the pipe 20 by means of a screen or grating 22 inside of the tee 25. Any sphere that arrives through the pipe 18 then goes by way of dashed arrow 19 through the open seat of a closure valve 24 having a central opening 26 large enough to pass the spheres, which then go by way of arrow 21 down to the bottom end of the barrel 10. The barrel consists of a cylindrical portion 30 attached by means of an ell to the flow line. The important thing is that the barrel 30 depends downwardly from the point of attachment to the flow line so that spheres arriving from the line will fall into and be carried downward to the bottom end of the receiving barrel. The lower end of the barrel is closed off by a hinged closure or gate 32. A pipe 34 extends from the pipe 20 of the flow line through valve 35 and pipe 36 into the bottom end of the receiving barrel so that when valve 35 is open the barrel 10 will be full of the same fluid as in the pipeline.
Fastened to the tee 45 at the top of the barrel where it joins the flow line is a flange 37, by means of which a closure disc 40 can be pressed downward against the apertured seat 24 to seal the opening 26 therethrough. The disc 40 has an O-ring 42 in its face which is adapted to provide a fluid-tight seal. The disc is carried by a piston rod 44 which is attached to a piston (not shown) inside the cylinder 46. As is well known, hydraulic fluid can be introduced into the cylinder 46 through means 47 and 48 on one end or the other of the cylinder. Fluid pressure at 48 will cause the piston to be moved downwardly carrying the disc 40 to close off the apertures 26. Pressure at the point 47 will cause the piston to be lifted and to open the aperture 26. When the piston has been pressed downwardly against the plate 24 closing off the aperture and sealing the barrel at that point, it is possible then to close the valve 35, open the valve 38 and permit the fluid to drain out of the barrel 10. It may be convenient to have a valve 41 at the upper end of the barrel which will permit the fluid to drain out of the valve 38, which might not otherwise be possible, in particular if the fluid is viscous in nature. When the fluid has been drained out of the barrel through valve 38 and the pressure shown on gauge reads zero, then the closure 32 is opened and the spheres can be unloaded from the receiving barrel. The closure is then closed and sealed, the valves 38 and 41 are closed, and valve 35 is opened, allowing fluid pressure from the flow line to pass by way of pipe 34 and 36 to repressure the barrel 10. When the pressure above and below the sealed-off aperture 26 is approximately the same, hydraulic pressure 47 will cause the plate 40 to be lifted and the sphere catcher is then in receiving condition any spheres that arrive by way of pipe 18 will be deposited into the receiving or catching barrel 10.
Referring now to FIG. 2 most of the parts shown are identical with those of FIG. 1 except, as will be noted, in the receiving barrel the barrel extends downwardly from the point of attachment to the flow line since spheres arriving at that point on the line are expected to enter and to roll into the receiving barrel. On the other hand at the launch position spheres are loaded into the barrel through the end closure 32 from which they can drop into the flow line to be carried by the fluid flow to the next receiving station. The details of the plate 24 and aperture 26 and the sealing plate 40 (not shown) and the cylinder 46 with hydraulic input points 47 and 48 are identical with those of FIG. 1. Furthermore, the pipe 34 is shown in FIG. 2, the valve 35 and the pipe 36 and the valve 38 by means of which I fluid can be drained from the barrel 10. At the upper end of the barrel is a pressure gauge 80 and a valve 41 by means of which air can be bled into the barrel to permit the drainage of the fluid through the valve 38.
There are two additional elements in the sphere launching barrel. These are plungers 62 and 64, which can be operated, preferably by means of hydraulic cylinders 58 and 60, so as to be inserted through the wall of the barrel 30, more or less radially inwardly, so as to close off the cross section of the pipe to the point where a sphere 28 will be prevented from moving downwardly through the pipe 30 through the apertures 26 and following dashed arrows 19 and 21 into the flow line. The two plungers 62 and 64 may be operated by electric solenoid means, or motor means, or by hydraulic cylinder means. Hydraulic means are shown as operating cylinders 58 and 60 with pairs of hydraulic fluid inputs at either end of the cylinder so as to drive a piston rod which can be the plungers 62 and 64 respectively.
The control box 52A is a valving system into which are provided two pipes. One pipe 53 carries hydraulic fluid at high pressure, and the second pipe 54 carries hydraulic fluid at low pressure, back to a sump 59 from which it is pumped through pipe 60 and pump 61 to high pressure, and stored in receiver 62. The pipe 53 carries high pressure hydraulic fluid from a receiver 62.
The control for the cylinder 12 is very simple. The high pressure line 53 is connected to the terminal 48 of the cylinder 46, which forces the closure disc to a sealed position. Applying high pressure fluid to the terminal 47 opens the seal. The control of the plungers 58 and 60 is a little bit more particular. These comprise two piston-cylinder arrangements. The plunger 62 having two fluid pressure inputs 66 and 67 operating to withdraw and to insert respectively the plunger into the barrel. The second hydraulic operating means has a cylinder 60 with two points of entry of high pressure fluid 68 and 69 which respectively causes withdrawal or insertion of the plunger 64.
In order to prevent the entry of more than one sphere at a time there must always be one plunger 62 or 64 extended at all times. For example, as shown, plunger 64 is withdrawn and has no way of intercepting the passage of spheres 28 down the barrel. If plunger 62 were to be withdrawn, all the spheres would drop out of the barrel. Before plunger 62 can operate, therefore, it is necessary to ensure that the plunger 64 has been extended inwardly and is in a position (such as 62) to prevent the entry of any sphere, other than the lowest one in the barrel into the flow line. When plunger 64 is extended, then plunger 62 can be withdrawn permitting the bottom sphere to roll into the flow line.
One way of controlling the plungers is by means of a valve system as shown in FIG. 3. Here a sliding valve 70 is shown schematically having two pressure inputs 71 and 72 provided with high pressure fluid by line 53. There are four outlet connections 66, 67, 68 and 69 which go to the terminals of corresponding number on the two operating cylinders 58 and 60. In the present position of the valve it is supplying high pressure fluid to both lines 67 and 69 which indicates that both plungers are extended into the cylinder 30 and in position to stop the release of a sphere. As the valve 70 is pushed to the left in the direction of arrow 73 the high pressure fluid is taken off of line 67 and goes onto line 66 causing withdrawal of the plunger 62. The high pressure through line 72 is still on line 69 indicating that the second plunger upstream is still extended. The pressure on 66 causes plunger 62 to be withdrawn and permits the first sphere 28A to drop into the flow line by way of arrows 19 and 21. As the valve slider moves back in the direction of arrow 74 pressure on line 67 causes the first plunger to be extended into the cylinder and as it is moved further, line 72 disconnects from line 69 and connects to 68 causing the second plunger to be withdrawn. This permits all of the spheres to drop so that the first sphere now is in contact with the plunger 62, and the situation is as shown in the drawing of FIG. 2.
It has been shown how the receiving and launching barrels when attached to a flow line of a pipeline can be used automatically to receive and to launch or inject spheres into the flow line for various purposes in the operation of the pipelines.
While the invention has been described with a certain degree of particularity it is manifest that many changes may be made in the details of construction and the arrangement of components. It is understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments set forth herein by way of exemplifying the invention, but the invention is to be limited only by the scope of the attached claim or claims, including the full range of equivalency to which each element or step thereof is entitled.
What is claimed is:
1. Apparatus for inserting a sphere into or removing a sphere from a fluid pipeline comprising:
a. a barrel for holding said sphere attached at its first end to the flow line of the pipeline, said barrel positioned at an acute angle to the horizontal, removable closure means at the second end of said barrel;
b. piston driven closure means inside said flow line to seal across the opening of said barrel near the point of attachment to the flow line;
c. means connected between said flow line and said barrel including first valve means to pass fluid under pressure into said barrel; and
d. drain means including second valve means to remove fluid from said barrel.
2. The apparatus as in claim 1 including pressure indicating means attached to said barrel.
3. The apparatus as in claim 1 in which said means to pass fluid to and said means to drain fluid from are at the lowest end of said barrel, and including third valve means at the highest end of said barrel.
4. The apparatus as in claim 1 in which said barrel is a sphere receiver, and said barrel tilts downwardly from the point of attachment to said flow line.
5. The apparatus as in claim 1 in which said barrel is a sphere launcher, and said barrel tilts upwardly from the point of attachment to said flow line, and including at least one remotely controlled plunger inserted into said barrel at all times.