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.

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

high-temperature pipe materials

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

ease of maintenance for pipes

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:

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 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.

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.