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What is Process Piping?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Process piping is a form of pipework used to transport materials used in industrial processes and manufacturing. It is specially designed for particular applications to ensure that it will meet health and safety standards, in addition to suiting the needs of a given manufacturing process. Process piping can be installed by plumbers, as well as contractors who specialize in installing factory components, and like other fixed elements of a manufacturing facility, it is subject to inspection and approval by government regulators.

This type of piping can be used in a wide variety of ways. In food manufacturing, for example, process piping can be used to transport food ingredients to various points on the assembly line. Chemical manufacturing facilities use this type of piping to transport components of their products along with materials like natural gas used in manufacturing. Refineries and similar facilities also utilize it to move chemical compounds.

Many different materials can be used to make process piping. An important consideration is the types of materials that will be transported, as there may be special needs like inert glass or ceramic piping, corrosion-resistant stainless steel that can be sterilized in a food manufacturing facility, or inexpensive plastics for transporting materials like water. The designer of the piping also has to consider issues like the amount of pressure the piping will be subjected to and the width of the piping when selecting an appropriate construction material.

The process piping connects with reservoirs, holding tanks, and other containers designed to release or retain the materials transported in the piping. For safety, valves and shutoffs are installed along the line to release pressure, close off pipes, and isolate leaks. Some of these devices are designed to trigger automatically during an emergency, usually while sending an alarm so that a technician can address the problem. The piping can also be controlled electronically using central control panels in many facilities.

Process piping is laid out in schematic diagrams at the time that a facility is designed. Some designers use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to lay out piping and print schematics while others may work by hand, depending on preference. In addition to being used as guides during construction, these schematics are also used in the future as people maintain piping, address problems that arise, and respond to emergency situations. Schematics must be updated to reflect changes made in the piping over time so that the information they contain is current.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon964176 — On Aug 02, 2014

@JessicaLynn: Piping engineers usually develop it. For long pipelines, pipeline engineers are used.

By JessicaLynn — On Jul 13, 2011

@KaBoom - You're right, I don't think about pipes very often. But I sure am glad to know someone out there considered the importance of clean pipes in food manufacturing.

On a different note, I wonder who actually designs pipes? I bet you would probably need a background in something like industrial design or engineering but also some understanding of how plumbing works.

By KaBoom — On Jul 12, 2011

My grandfather was a plumber so I've heard a little bit about different kinds of pipes. You'd be amazed at how many there are! Most people don't think about this kind of stuff every day but you definitely need different pipes in a manufacturing plant than say, your bathroom at home.

And different types of manufacturing necessitate different types of pipes. As the article pointed out, in food manufacturing it's very important to have pipes that can be sterilized. The food manufacturing process is designed to limit harmful bacteria in the food supply, but all that planning would be for nothing if the pipes were harboring a ton of germs!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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