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.
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 seven things to consider before you choose your fluid handling pipe material.
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.
2. Temperature of Liquid
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.
3. Pressure of Fluids Being Handled
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.
4. Service Life of the Fluid Handling System
Another 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.
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.
6. 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:
- Butterfly valves
- Ball valves
- Check valves
- Diaphragm valves
- Rupture pin safety valves
- Knife gate valves
- Solenoid valves
- Slurry valves
- Severe service valves
- Sanitary valves
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.
7. Exposure to External Elements
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.
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 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:
- Carbon steel pipes: Carbon steel pipes are available in several different grades depending on the amount of carbon the pipe contains. This type of steel piping is more subject to corrosion than other varieties, making it ideal for indoor systems transporting non-corrosive materials.
- Galvanized steel: The second option for steel piping is galvanized steel, which is better equipped to handle corrosive fluids, as well as high-temperature materials. However, it is not as ideal for high-pressure substances, as it is rated only for pressures of up to 250 psi.
The category of nonferrous pipe materials refers to any piping material that is a metal other than steel. Popular options for nonferrous metals include:
- Brass: Brass piping is popular for the transportation of corrosive materials, and the most common type is red brass.
- Aluminum: Several varieties of aluminum piping exist based on the type and amount of alloy added to the aluminum. The level of aluminum pipe you choose will be dependent on whether you’re transporting highly corrosive or high-pressure materials.
- Copper: Copper piping is standard for both commercial and residential water applications, such as plumbing and other waterlines. You can choose between several types of copper piping based on thickness.
- Copper-nickel: Copper-nickel piping is most commonly used in marine and offshore applications for its excellent ability to transport seawater effectively and with minimal corrosion. As a durable pipe material option, copper-nickel can also handle materials of high temperatures.
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.
Plastic pipes are an option you may seriously consider for your facility’s fluid handling system. Options for plastic pipes include:
- PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes are the most widely used type of plastic piping, ideal for both structural and electrical applications.
- Polypropylene: Polypropylene pipes are most effective and appropriate for transporting chemical waste and other highly corrosive materials.
- Polyethylene: Polyethylene is a flexible but strong material that is best for piping in irrigation, sprinkler and other water-related applications.
- PEX: PEX pipes are essentially polyethylene pipes that have been processed to be both stronger and more resistant to hot and cold temperature changes. This material is becoming a significant alternative to traditional copper pipes.
- ABS: You’ll find ABS pipes in sewer, waste, drain and vent applications.
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:
- Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF): When you’re transporting high-strength acids and other corrosive liquids, opting for PVDF-lined pipe and fittings is a durable choice. These pipes are designed to withstand the corrosive properties of fluids involved with chemical processing and electronics manufacturing.
- Fluoropolymer (PTFE): PTFE-lined pipe and fittings are known for their ability to transport fluids at high temperatures and pressures. Its strength and corrosion-resistance make it a popular piping material for many industrial applications.
- Polypropylene (PP): PP-lined pipe is the best choice for handling basic fluids with low chemical makeup and low to no corrosive qualities. It’s the most economical option for small-scale operations and transporting liquids at an average temperature.
Benefits of Adding Thermoplastic-Lined Pipe to Your Operation
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:
- Affordability: By combining the excellent resistance properties of plastic lining to the low cost of steel and other metallic materials, thermoplastic-lined pipe and fittings are one of the most affordable piping options for many manufacturing facilities.
- Customization: By adjusting the amount of each material used, you can customize the properties of your lined pipe while still benefiting from each material’s most desirable characteristics.
- Safety: Plastic-lined pipes lead to improved product quality thanks to the lack of contamination from the liquid touching metallic materials. They are also less likely to result in the fouling of materials and the costly downtime that comes along with the cleanup and repair process.
- Lower maintenance: Thermoplastic-lined pipe is resistant to corrosion and chemicals, and it also does not require frequent maintenance or cleaning.
- Simple installation: When installation technicians have been trained properly, lined pipe installation is much simpler, faster and affordable than installing metal pipes.
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.
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.
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.