Introduction to Piping Design


Piping systems are like arteries and veins. They carry the lifeblood of modern civilization. In a modern city, they transport water from the sources of water supply to the points of distribution; convey waste from residential and commercial buildings and other civic facilities to the treatment facility or the point of discharge. Similarly, pipelines carry crude oil from oil wells to tank farms for storage or to refineries for processing. The natural gas transportation and distribution lines convey natural gas from the source and storage tank forms to points of utilization, such as power plants, industrial facilities, and commercial and residential communities. In chemical plants, paper mills, food processing plants, and other similar industrial establishments, the piping systems are utilized to carry liquids, chemicals, mixtures, gases, vapors, and solids from one location to another.

The fire protection piping networks in residential, commercial, industrial, and other buildings carry fire suppression fluids, such as water, gases, and chemicals to provide protection of life and property. The piping systems in thermal power plants convey high-pressure and high-temperature steam to generate electricity. Other piping systems in a power plant transport high- and low-pressure water, chemicals, low-pressure steam, and condensate. Sophisticated piping systems are used to process and carry hazardous and toxic substances. The storm and wastewater piping systems transport large quantities of water away from towns, cities, and industrial and similar establishments to safeguard life, property, and essential facilities.

In health facilities, piping systems are used to transport gases and fluids for medical purposes. The piping systems in laboratories carry gases, chemicals, vapors, and other fluids that are critical for conducting research and development. In short, the piping systems are an essential and integral part of our modern civilization just as arteries and veins are essential to the human body.

The piping design, construction, operation, and maintenance of various piping systems involve understanding of piping fundamentals, materials, generic and specific design considerations, fabrication and installation, examinations, and testing and inspection requirements, in addition to the local, state and federal regulations.

Piping includes pipe, flanges, fittings, bolting, gaskets, valves, and the pressure containing portions of other piping components. It also includes pipe hangers and supports and other items necessary to prevent over pressurization and over stressing of the pressure-containing components. It is evident that pipe is one element or a part of piping. Therefore, pipe sections when joined with fittings, valves, and other mechanical equipment and properly supported by hangers and supports, are called piping.


Pipe is a tube with round cross section conforming to the dimensional requirements of

  • ASME B36.10M Welded and Seamless Wrought Steel Pipe

  • ASME B36.19M Stainless Steel Pipe

Pipe Size

Initially a system known as iron pipe size (IPS) was established to designate the pipe size. The size represented the approximate inside diameter of the pipe in inches. An IPS 6 pipe is one whose inside diameter is approximately 6 inches (in). Users started to call the pipe as 2-in, 4-in, 6-in pipe and so on. To begin, each pipe size was produced to have one thickness, which later was termed as standard (STD) or standard weight (STD.WT.). The outside diameter of the pipe was standardized.

As the industrial requirements demanded the handling of higher-pressure fluids, pipes were produced having thicker walls, which came to be known as extra strong (XS) or extra heavy (XH). The higher-pressure requirements increased further, requiring thicker wall pipes. Accordingly, pipes were manufactured with double extra strong (XXS) or double extra heavy (XXH) walls while the standardized

outside diameters are unchanged.

With the development of stronger and corrosion-resistant piping materials, the need for thinner wall pipe resulted in a new method of specifying pipe size and wall thickness. The designation known as nominal pipe size (NPS) replaced IPS, and the term schedule (SCH) was invented to specify the nominal wall thickness of pipe.

Nominal pipe size (NPS) is a dimensionless designator of pipe size. It indicates standard pipe size when followed by the specific size designation number without an inch symbol. For example, NPS 2 indicates a pipe whose outside diameter is 2.375 in. The NPS 12 and smaller pipe has outside diameter greater than the size designator (say, 2, 4, 6, . . .). However, the outside diameter of NPS 14 and larger pipe is the same as the size designator in inches. For example, NPS 14 pipe has an outside diameter equal to 14 in. The inside diameter will depend upon the pipe wall thickness specified by the schedule number. Refer to ASME B36.10M or ASME B36.19M. Refer to App. E2 or E2M. Diameter nominal (DN) is also a dimensionless designator of pipe size in the metric unit system, developed by the International Standards Organization (ISO). It indicates standard pipe size when followed by the specific size designation number without a millimeter symbol. For example, DN 50 is the equivalent designation of NPS 2.

Pipe Wall Thickness

Schedule is expressed in numbers (5, 5S, 10, 10S, 20, 20S, 30, 40, 40S, 60, 80, 80S, 100, 120, 140, 160). A schedule number indicates the approximate value of the expression 1000 P/S, where P is the service pressure and S is the allowable stress, both expressed in pounds per square inch (psi). The higher the schedule number, the thicker the pipe is. The outside diameter of each pipe size is standardized.

Therefore, a nominal pipe size will have a different inside diameter depending upon the schedule number specified.

Note that the original pipe wall thickness designations of STD, XS, and XXS have been retained; however, they correspond to a certain schedule number depending upon the nominal pipe size. The nominal wall thickness of NPS 10 and smaller schedule 40 pipe is same as that of STD.WT. pipe. Also, NPS 8 and smaller schedule 80 pipe has the same wall thickness as XS pipe.

The schedule numbers followed by the letter S are per ASME B36.19M, and they are primarily intended for use with stainless steel pipe. The pipe wall thickness specified by a schedule number followed by the letter S may or may not be the same as that specified by a schedule number without the letter S. Refer to ASME B36.19M and ASME B36.10M.

ASME B36.19M does not cover all pipe sizes. Therefore, the dimensional requirements of ASME B36.10M apply to stainless steel pipe of the sizes and schedules not covered by ASME B36.19M. #little_PEng

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