How do I decide what piping system to use for my chemical processing system? There is surprisingly little information out there to assist in determining what piping material is best suited for different chemical process applications. At the same time, various sources will give you differing answers. For example, a project manager may prefer a certain material due to past use, while a manufacturer may push the material on which he can charge the highest premium. Add suppliers into the mix and determining what piping system you use becomes a very large decision, one that will affect multiple aspects of your business. There are more than likely a number of codes and regulations that will partially dictate what type of piping system you can use for your application. Researching and understanding these regulations should be your first step in determining what system is best for your company. Aside from that though, there are other aspects to take into account. Here we’ll discuss some of those and take a look a few of the most commonly used materials.
There are a number of factors you will want to consider when choosing a type of pipe. Some of these include cost-effectiveness, safety, range of use, and environmental factors. You will want to weigh the importance of each of these factors to you and your company before you begin shopping around. As always, safety should be at the forefront of any decision you make, especially when it involves potentially hazardous media. Environmental factors have become increasingly important as well. This is especially vital if your company is in the public eye, as transparency in environmental practices has become the standard in most westernized industries.
Once you’ve weighed your factors, consider the type of chemical media you will be handling. Have your plant inspected to determine the precise conditions your pipe and media will be exposed to. There are a number of different pipe materials, and some are not appropriate for certain chemicals. Similarly, you may find that for your application there are four or five different piping materials that could be suitable. Let’s look at two of the most commonly used piping materials today:
Stainless Steel – Stainless Steel is an iron-based metal group that is used in countless applications across the world. It gets its name and most famous property from the chromium oxide barrier that protects against corrosion from oxygen and moisture. This thin barrier makes stainless steel resistant to sulfurs, salts, chloride compounds, and a number of other chemicals. This highly resistant metal comes at a premium, though, and installation is more involved than plastics like PVC. Stainless steel is highly recyclable and its refinement is generally non-hazardous. There are over 100 different grades of stainless steel, each with its own unique composition and recommended application.
PVC/CPVC – Polyvinyl chloride and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride have burst forth onto the chemical scene since their fairly recent entrance into the piping market. These thermoplastics vary slightly in property, though they possess many of the same desired qualities: durable, lightweight, and cost effective. CPVC in particular is a widely used material for chemical waste and drainage. Its ability to resist corrosion and other degradation, combined with its convenient installation make it an attractive alternative to materials like polypropylene, lined steel, or polyvinylidene fluoride. CPVC is suitable for handling a variety of chemical media including acids, bases and salts. PVC is also resistant to a number of chemicals, particularly dilute acids and alkalies and aliphatic hydrocarbons. Drawbacks include increased environmental strain due to the plastic manufacturing process, and limits on chemical and thermal resistance.
As you can see, even when taking two different materials into consideration, there are countless factors that may make or break your decision. Even beyond the installation of your piping system, you will need to consider maintenance and upkeep. Do you have dedicated staff that can be responsible for repairs, or will you need to find an outside company to assist you? By having an idea of what factors are most important to your company before you are bombarded with these smaller issues, you will be better equipped to make the best all-around decision. Equally as important, is employing the proper experts and inspectors to be sure your piping system is safe and up to any industry codes that may apply. Having properly trained experts involved in each step of the process will save you time and money in the long run and give you peace of mind knowing you made a sound decision.