Process piping converts chemicals, fuels, liquids, and other raw materials into different usable products. Pipelines and process piping may be of various materials, such as cast iron, steel, copper, plastic, PVC, or specialty materials.
The process is helpful in various industrial settings like:
- Aerospace Manufacturing Plants
- Chemical Processing
- COGEN Plants
- Food and Beverage
- Oil and Gas Refineries
- Paper Mills
- Power Plants
- Waste Water Treatment Plants
Typically, process piping includes the following steps:
- Installation and Welding
- Selecting Appropriate Materials
- Routing Design and Implementation
- Support Design and Installation
- Manual and Control Valves
- Piping and Instrumentation Drawings, Development, and Implementation
- Painting and Labeling
- Insulation and Heat Tracing
- Pressurized and Vacuum Testing
What are the Different Types of Process Piping Materials?
Engineers can manufacture process piping systems from a limitless selection of metallic, non-metallic, and nonmetallic-lined metallic materials. The main focus of the material selection process is that the system remains safe under varying pressure, temperature, corrosion, and erosion conditions. Typically, engineers use the following materials to manufacture power plant piping:
- Steel- The most frequently used piping material, forged material is ideal for fittings, whereas cast steel is perfect for special applications
- Cast Iron- Its high resistance to corrosion and abrasion makes it ideal for ash handling systems, underground water lines, and sewage lines. However, its brittle nature makes it an impractical solution for power plants
- Brass and Copper- Copper and its various alloys are helpful in instrumentation and water services
What are the Different Piping Sizes?
Pipe manufacturers and engineers select suitable materials based on standard piping codes. According to these codes, manufacturers not only have to focus on choosing the ideal material but also specify the following:
- System Components
What are Pipe Fittings?
Fittings in a pipe system help connect pipe sections, adapt to varying shapes, and regulate fluid flow. Let’s discuss the primary uses of pipe fittings:
- Bushings- To connect pipes of varying sizes
- Couplings- To join two pieces in a straight line
- Elbows- To create angle turns in piping systems
- Nipples- To make close connections
- Plugs and Caps- To close off open pipe ends and fittings
- Reducers- To reduce the pipe size
- Return Bends- To change the direction of pipe run
- Tees and Crosses- To make branch line connections at 90o
- Unions- To offer a straightforward method of dismantling a pipe
- Y-Bends- To make branch line connections at an angle of 45o
What are Welded Connections in Process Piping System?
Welded connections involve welding one pipe length directly over a fitting or valve. Engineers prefer welded joints over screwed and flanged connections because of the following reasons:
- Users don’t have to worry about potential leakage or spills by removing screwed or flanged joints
- Eliminating flanges and fittings reduces the weight of the piping system
- Engineers can enjoy decreased costs and maintenance by choosing welded connections
- The piping system looks neater and easier-to-insulate by removing bulky fittings and flanges
- Welded joints offer excellent flexibility and versatility to the piping design
Process Piping vs. Plumbing
Process piping and plumbing are similar processes, but one glaring difference between the two is their purpose:
- Plumbing System- Responsible for bringing water into a facility and providing safe drainage
- Process Piping- Helps move liquids, gases, chemicals, and other fluids within an internal manufacturing process
Plumbing systems must adhere to different industry codes, regulations, and standards. Moreover, engineers who install and maintain plumbing systems require particular permits, fees, and inspections. The stringent industry regulations of a plumbing system result in limited material options: copper and plastic. Plumbing is an integral part of mechanical systems, and its common uses include:
- Distribution Potable Water
- Waste Removal
Process Piping Systems
Process piping systems must comply with regulations different from plumbing systems or power piping. It is because process piping does not need to fulfill building services. Engineers must follow ASCME guidelines and OSHA standards to create process piping systems. Plus, users enjoy a broader selection of materials when making process piping systems. Process piping systems support various industrial and manufacturing functions, including:
- Fluid Mixing and Separating
- Pressurization and Depressurization
Benefits and Risks of Process Piping Materials
Process piping enables engineers to choose from an endless collection of high-quality materials. But each piping material poses various benefits and risks, such as:
Copper is a common material used in process piping and plumbing pipes in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. It is because copper is strong, ductile, durable, and resistant to corrosion. A significant drawback of copper pipes is that they may freeze and burst at extremely freezing temperatures. Moreover, the material may corrode or bend at particular temperatures.
Iron is a historic yet famous construction material used in piping and plumbing. Galvanized iron boasts a robust coating of zinc onto the surface of iron to prevent corrosion and rust. Thus, galvanized iron is ideal for outdoor pipes that experience varying temperature conditions.
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC, is a common industrial piping material. Their rigid form is best for constructing pipes and window frames. Moreover, its strong and flexible texture is ideal for different water pressure levels. On the contrary, it is toxic and leaches dangerous chemicals in drinking water and food.
PEX is more substantial and safer than PVC. It became a common material for piping after its popularity increased in 1980. Since then, it has become a standard for construction. It is resistant to cracking and scratching, and it is a better choice than PVC. However, these pipes are best for indoor use. The material may still break in extreme weather conditions. Moreover, rodents may gnaw on the lines, resulting in leakages.
Plastic pipes are lighter than other materials making them easier to handle and install. Designed with specific technical characteristics makes it highly adaptable and versatile to cater to different requirements. Alternatively, many studies revealed that they leach harmful chemicals and heavy metals such as lead. Moreover, specific contaminants from pipes may contaminate water.
Why is CPVC the Best Material for Process Piping?
Among various industrial pipes, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is ideal for industrial process water applications due to its superior strength, safety, and performance. Earlier, engineers and procurement professionals depended on steel and other alloys for industrial piping. However, extensive research revealed that CPVC outperforms metallic piping systems and is more cost-effective than other industrial piping systems. Following are some of the reasons industries worldwide have preferred using CPVC for piping systems.
Corrosion is a constant problem in the industrial environment. CPVC pipes are resistant to external corrosion and eliminate leakage, flow restrictions, making them the best choice for piping systems. Moreover, the material used to design these pipes are resistant to aggressive chemicals and lasts in extreme temperatures. CPVC pips will never scale because they are inert to most mineral acids, bases, and salts.
CPVC pipes involve two simple steps to install. After proper installation, solvent cement joins them in a stronger bond, making them more reliable and durable for piping systems. They are lighter in weight compared to steel pipes. The installation process requires fewer tools and reduces labor time. Moreover, the installation process of CPVC pipes does not require electricity, which saves costs making them a perfect pick for industrial piping.
Once the installation process is complete, industry owners worry about maintaining pipes. CPVC pipes are easy to maintain because of little to no maintenance costs. Since the external pip coatings are unnecessary, it saves them the costs and maintenance required for durability. Since they are resistant to extreme temperatures, leakage chances are less, making them easy to maintain. Moreover, you can easily replace the damaged part of the pipe without a welder or lifting device.
CPVC is safer to install and operate compared to steel pipes. Since CPVC pipes have lower thermal conductivity, they reduce heat loss and keep the pipe’s surface temperatures lower, reducing the chances of unfortunate accidents to maintain or operate them.
Long Service Life
Since CPVC pipes are resistant to corrosion and leakages, it extends their life, making it easier for industries to use and maintain them. Low chances of breakdown lead to greater efficiency and reduced costs to facilities because industries could use less energy to move fluids from smaller pumps and smaller pipes.
Step-by-Step Guide to Designing a Process Piping System
Process piping systems vary based on their functionalities. The number and placement, and material of pipes also differ. Designing a process piping system involves certain essential elements for a durable and safer water piping system. One must consider the following critical factors before creating a process piping system.
Selecting the Right Material
An essential element for a durable process piping system includes the material of pipes. Before choosing any material, make sure the material is resistant to leakage, temperature changes, and a high-pressure level.
Following straighter routes for piping systems will make the installation process simpler and easy to maintain. Even if your system is complex, pick up routes that are easy to access and fix. Make sure you consider all the factors in the surroundings before starting the installation process. At times, the plan designed on paper may not be applicable. Create an installation plan that is easy to install and does not cost a hefty amount to maintain.
Every installation plan requires maintenance, repair costs, and cleaning. Consider shorter pipes and more accessible installation routes to keep your maintenance costs within the set budget. It will make disassembling the system easy and reduce repair costs.
Proper functioning of the process piping system is the crucial element of the entire process. Instead of testing the variables involved in the procedures separately, consider how they will function as a unit. Design a plan that facilitates its functioning without causing any hindrances during the entire process. Consider situations where one part of the system fails and plan accordingly.
Which Industries Benefit from Process Piping?
Process piping systems are precise and complex systems. Even though the process may seem similar to pluming, they are different. Generally, the system changes chemicals, liquids, and gases into usable substances. Following are the industries that use process-piping systems.
Food and Beverage
Process piping systems are common in food and beverage industries because it effectively keeps oils, sauces, syrups, and other liquids from mixing. It helps food and beverage industries from cross-contamination of ingredients. Moreover, these systems undergo a thorough assessment to meet FDA requirements.
Gas and oil refineries commonly use process-piping systems. The process of making oils is time-consuming. Industries cannot afford to remake products if damaged. These industries require accuracy and efficiency to avoid any damage. Process piping systems help oil and gas industries by preventing different oils from mixing and packing them separately without combining different types of oils.
Like gas refineries, aerospace manufacturers require fuel and lubricant to remain separate. Aerospace industries install process-piping systems to store supplies and reduce manufacturing time. The aerospace industry uses process-piping systems to keep water and fuel from mixing because it could severely damage the engine of helicopters, airplanes, or spacecraft.
The Bottom Line
Every type of industry prefers stable piping systems. Homes and buildings prefer safer piping materials to avoid corrosion and reduce maintenance costs. With a wide range of piping materials available, choosing the suitable material that caters to the requirements has become difficult. Each material has its pros and cons. It is essential to consider the benefits and risks involved in installing them. For installation, industries must seek professionals’ help and not perform the installation process themselves. Since process piping is a complex system, it requires expert assistance to install and avoid mishaps.
Read more about MWM’s process piping expertise and services. We have a vetted group of sub-contractors and partnerships with various engineering and architectural firms for complete design-build applications.