Selecting the Right Pipe Material

how to select right pipe material

How to Select the Right Pipe Material for Fluid Handling Operations

At manufacturing plants and other industrial locations, many parts are involved in the success of the entire operation. One of those components is the fluid handling system throughout the building — the piping that runs along the walls, ceiling and potentially underground to provide the facility with water, oil and other fluids that are necessary to complete certain processes.

Like any system, the pipe and fittings involved in your fluid handling operations will eventually need to be replaced. If you’re building a new facility, you get to start from scratch and choose the best piping material for your needs. Whether you’re replacing your fluid handling system or installing one at a brand-new building, there are several factors you should consider before starting, as well as multiple pipe material options to choose from.

When implementing or constructing a fluid handling system in your plant or warehouse, you will have to make several decisions based on your industry, handled materials and objective. One of the most important decisions you will make during this process is the type of pipe material you need to transport your liquids, gases, chemicals and other fluids. This is not a decision to make lightly — the wrong pipe material could jeopardize the quality of your product, as well as the safety of you and your employees.

Here are seven factors to consider when choosing the best pipe material for your fluid handling system.

Fluid Handling Pipe Material 7 factors to Consider

8 Elements to Consider When Selecting Pipe Material

The material of the pipes in your fluid handling system has a direct impact on the overall success of the system, as well as your facility’s overall mission or goal. It’s critical to weigh all your options and account for the multiple factors that will affect the oil and water pipe material selection process. Here are eight things to consider before you choose your fluid handling pipe material.

The Type of Gas or Liquid the Pipes Will Be Transporting

1. Material Being Transported

What type of liquid are your pipes transporting? More specifically, is the liquid corrosive or non-corrosive? Corrosive liquids include substances such as crude oil, ammonia, seawater and other acidic liquids that have a heavy chemical makeup. These liquids require a corrosion-resistant pipe material such as a plastic CPVC pipe or lined pipe. Since most liquids are at least slightly corrosive, you will need a corrosion-resistant material for the pipes that will transport it. Meanwhile, non-corrosive fluids or gases like lube oil, air and nitrogen are safe to transport via carbon steel or metal pipelining.

The type of liquid or gas your pipe system transports plays a significant role in choosing fluid handling pipe material. Some pipe materials are better suited for non-corrosive liquids, like oils or standard wastewater. More corrosive liquids, like acid or peroxide, require a pipe with an interior that can hold up to the abrasiveness of these corrosive materials. Corrosive materials are common in many industrial cleaning solutions, as well as in chemical manufacturing and handling. Remember, despite a plastic or metal pipe material’s durability and corrosion resistance, chemicals, acids and saltwater are much more abrasive than standard water or oil. Always keep the liquid you are transporting in mind when selecting a pipe material.

Take a look at how the following popular pipe and pipe lining materials stand up to corrosion:

2. Temperature of Liquid Passing Through

The next thing to consider is the temperature of the liquid in your fluid handling system. If you’re transporting high-temperature liquids, you’ll need to be sure your system consists of high-temperature pipe materials. Certain types of plastic piping may not be ideal for handling high temperatures, while others may be designed to handle fluids no matter how hot they are. Metal pipe materials are typically wise choices for high-temperature liquids, although some types may become too hot to the touch.

If you are handling extremely high or low-temperature fluid — including cryogenic liquids— make sur

high-temperature pipe materials

e your pipe consists of material intended for extreme temperatures. Otherwise, you risk damaging or corroding your pipes and contaminating the liquids inside of them. In some cases, extreme temperatures can break your piping entirely, resulting in expensive repairs, damaged product and hazardous workplace conditions. Metal pipe material is usually suitable for extremely hot liquids, although you and your employees should exercise caution when working with them. Depending on the temperature, aluminum is often used to transport cryogenic liquids.

Your piping material must support these temperatures as well as maintain them throughout the liquid transfer process. In many applications — including laboratories, food processing, medical facilities and plants that work with hazardous chemicals — precise temperatures are required for all liquids and vapors used.

Some pipe materials that can be suitable for high temperatures include carbon steel, as well as PTFE, PVDF, ATL PTFE and PP pipe linings. For extremely low temperatures, copper, some aluminum alloys and high-alloy austenitic stainless steel are least likely to become brittle and break.

3. The Pressure of the Liquid Handling Process

What is the pressure of the fluids your system is handling? If the pressure of these service fluids is very high, you will need piping material that is either high-strength, higher thickness or designed to resist high-pressure fluids. The average pressure that most manufacturing facilities’ piping must be able to handle is around 150 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). If your facility is working with liquids of higher pressures than this, you may have to request a piping material that is specially designed to handle high-pressure fluids.

Various liquids and gases create different pressures inside of your fluid handling pipes. For example, cryogenic fluids are known for creating very high-pressure environments during the transfer process. Many external factors can impact this pressure, too, including the temperature and elevation of your piping.

Some liquids and gases that might require pressure-specific pipe materials include:

Make sure you choose a pipe material that is rated for high-pressure or low-pressure substances and conditions. If you use a high-pressure liquid or gas in a pipe that is not suited for high-pressure handling, you risk leaks, pipe bursts, flooding, fire, explosion and injury to property and personnel.

Never assume your fluid handling system is adequate for high-pressure substances. Always ask your pipe provider if your fluid handling system is designed to handle high-pressure fluids and vapors before use.

The Service Life of the System

4. Service Life of the Fluid Handling System

You need reliable and durable piping, but how long do you need your fluid handling system to last? A major component of effective piping design and material selection is asking how long you expect your fluid handling system to last. If you know you’ll likely have to replace the system in five to 10 years due to another reason, such as relocation, you don’t need to invest in a very long-lasting piping material. This may also affect how much money you’re willing to spend on the system, which will, in turn, impact the type of material you should choose.

If, on the other hand, you expect this system to last for 10 or more years, you should invest in the most durable type of piping material.

For example, temporary worksites or processing plants that do not typically deal in fluid handling may not need as intricate or durable a system as a permanent plant that transfers fluids daily. You should also factor in how often your business will use your fluid handling system. Of course, there are some conditions — such as extremely corrosive chemicals, hazardous materials or fluids that need temperature regulation — that will require certain pipe materials, regardless of the desired service life of your system. If no special circumstances apply to your business, use this information to help you gauge the amount you should invest in your pipes, as well as that type and quality of material used.

5. Ease of Maintenance

Just like flooring, countertops and other solid surfaces, certain types of piping material are easier to clean than others. Ask yourself how often you can clean your fluid handling system. Be realistic about the frequency, as it is can become a very time-consuming task depending on the size and intricacy of your system. If you won’t be able to clean it very often, having a low-maintenance piping material should be a priority for your facility.

ease of maintenance for pipes

Make sure the material you choose for your fluid handling pipes is maintainable under your current circumstances. There are three main types of maintenance that all fluid handling systems should consider:

During each of these maintenance scenarios, your pipes must be accessible. Always have a professional technician install your fluid handling system. Professional system technicians are trained to consider your system as a whole, rather than focus on singular parts or pieces of equipment. They will make sure your pipes are large enough for your space and business needs, but not oversized. Oversized pipe systems result in unnecessary maintenance and take up a lot of otherwise usable space.

If your business does not have the time, available workforce or budget for regular and frequent maintenance, choosing a low-maintenance pipe material should be your top priority.

Exposure to External Elements

6. Exposure to External Elements

External elements exist indoors and outdoors. Indoors, external corrosion and other issues can arise from corrosive fumes in the air, humid conditions and mold. Outside poses several threats for external corrosion and damage, including the salt in seawater, inclement weather, microorganisms, plant overgrowth and more.

If any part of your fluid handling system is exposed outdoors, you need piping material that can withstand environmental elements. External elements that could lead to the deterioration or corrosion of your fluid handling piping include UV light, corrosive soil, precipitation and other atmospheric conditions.

Examples of external elements to be cautious of include the following:

7. Valve and Fitting Sizes

Certain piping materials will only have a few valve and fitting sizes to choose from, so you may need to eliminate some options based on this factor. Some of the valve and fitting types you can choose from include:

The types of valve and fittings you choose will depend upon the types of connections you’ll need to make from pipe to pipe, as well as to connect the pipes to other features of the fluid handling system.

8. The Cost of the Material

Cost is a significant factor in any business decision. As you consider different pipe materials, keep in mind the cost of:

As with any expense, always consider the return on investment when comparing different costs. For example, if a pipe material is best suited for your industry due to its thermal regulation and durability, but it is more expensive, keep in mind the potential loss you might face if choosing a cheaper, less viable option. For many industries, not investing in the right pipe materials can lead to much more costly issues down the road. Always keep your industry’s non-negotiable needs in mind when examining costs.

Types of Piping Material Available

Now that you know what factors will affect the piping material you should choose, let’s talk about six of the most popular piping materials, as well as the conditions that each of them would work best for.

1. Cast Iron

cast iron pipes

Cast iron was one of the earliest materials used for piping, and it’s most commonly found in underground applications. Piping that carries materials like water, gas and sewage underground must be incredibly durable, pressure-resistant and long-lasting since these pipes must last for several decades without having to be replaced. Soil pipes are also commonly made using cast iron due to its excellent corrosion-resisting properties. Cast iron pipes are more popular in apartment buildings rather than private dwellings due to its fire resistance and noise-dampening qualities.

If you need underground piping at your facility that will last as long as possible, cast iron may be the best material for your fluid handling system.

2. Steel and Steel Alloys

Carbon steel pipes and steel alloys are created using different manufacturing methods to provide multiple piping material options all made from steel. Steel is a desirable piping material because of its thickness and ability to contain highly pressurized fluids. Two common types of steel piping materials for manufacturing facilities are:

3. Nonferrous

The category of nonferrous pipe materials refers to any piping material that is a metal other than steel. Popular options for nonferrous metals include:

4. Concrete

The most typical application for concrete pipes is in large-scale engineering projects such as water resource management and stormwater control. Depending on the diameter of the pipe, concrete pipes are typically reinforced with another layer or durable wire to allow it to maintain its strength underground. Concrete pipes used for civil purposes must pass several destructive tests to ensure they can withstand any potentially disastrous occurrences.

These pipes must also be regularly maintained, as dirt and debris can easily stick to the insides of concrete pipes and cause a backup. Depending on the type of material the pipes are carrying, a sewage or stormwater backup could be very hazardous to the surrounding areas. Most manufacturing facilities would not benefit from using concrete piping for their fluid handling systems.

5. Plastic

Plastic pipes are an option you may seriously consider for your facility’s fluid handling system. Options for plastic pipes include:

6. Lined Pipe

We saved the best type of pipe for most industrial and manufacturing systems for last — lined pipe and fittings are recommended for fluid handling systems in most facilities. Plastic-lined steel pipe is essentially the “best of both worlds,” combining the corrosion-resisting qualities of plastic with the durability of metal materials. You can choose which type of plastic material you want your steel pipes to be lined with. Popular choices for plastic-lined pipe and fittings include:

Benefits of Adding Thermoplastic-Lined Pipe to Your Operation

benefits of thermoplastic-lined pipe

For most standard manufacturing facilities and other industrial applications, there are several benefits of plastic-lined pipe and fittings. Some of the most notable advantages of this type of pipe material include:

Which Pipe Material Is Best for Fluid Handling Operations?

To find the best pipe material for fluid handling operations, you must consider several factors about your facility and your fluid handling system. Every manufacturing facility is unique and requires pipe material and fittings for differing applications. When it comes time for you to replace your fluid handling system, be sure to consider each choice carefully and not just do what everyone else may be doing. Just because metal pipe liners work for one facility, for example, does not mean they are also the best choice for yours.

That being said, lined pipe material is often the best solution for most average-sized manufacturing facilities, as it combines the best features of the two most popular small-scale choices — plastic and metal.

Contact SEMCOR for Your Fluid Handling Needs

Get Custom Pipe and Fittings From SEMCOR

Once you’ve decided which pipe material and fittings might be best for your operation, contact the experts at SEMCOR to start the process of getting them into your building or buildings. We offer the best products for custom fluid handling, including pipe and fittings, valves, hoses and other custom solutions. Plus, all our products are designed with durability in mind, minimizing the need for future maintenance or an early replacement. We can also provide assistance in choosing the right materials based on your facility’s system and needs.

SEMCOR offers a wide range of fluid handling solutions and customizations, including:

Since 1907, SEMCOR has remained committed to answering your questions and delivering nothing but top quality fabrications for your business. To learn more about SEMCOR fluid handling products and services, or to request a quote, reach out to us online or at (314) 300-0432.

Both our service and sales teams are available 24/7 to assist you and answer any questions you may have. Get in touch with us today, or keep browsing our site to learn more about our fluid handling solutions, including our high-quality lined pipe and fittings.