When we talk about gases, water, chemicals and other liquids passing through pipework and components, we usually refer to that pipework as plumbing. Yet in many instances in the manufacturing world, the pipes that are used in the transmission of fluids and gases may actually be considered process piping instead.
What is Process Piping?
Simply put, process piping is used to convert liquids, chemicals, fuels, gases or other raw materials into a usable product. Pipes directing water through an industrial factory to cool processes wouldn’t be considered process piping, but if the piping moves the water into processes to be converted into cleaning chemicals, soft drinks, or combined with other materials to make an end product, they would then be process piping.
So, technically, process piping is any pipes and components that are not part of the building’s mechanical systems. Pipe systems for liquids and gases used for heating and cooling processes, or pipework that leads to plumbing fixtures or waste-water systems, would not be considered process piping systems. Instead, these are considered part of plumbing systems. Process piping is also not used for power processing systems.
Process piping can consist of interconnected piping systems such as tubing, pipes, pressure hoses, valves, separators, traps, flanges, fittings, gaskets, strainers and other components. These piping components can be placed together to move, mix, separate, stop, distribute or control the flow of fluids. Process piping is commonly used in the semiconductor, chemical, paper processing, petroleum refinery, pharmaceutical and textile industries.
Why is This Different from Plumbing?
One of the reasons why process piping is differentiated from plumbing is that process piping doesn’t fall under the same plumbing codes and regulations. In certain processes and industries, only specific materials may be used for plumbing operations, such as copper pipes. In process piping, manufacturers have more leeway regarding the types of materials that can be used, as engineers can ensure that the materials for the pipes do not negatively impact the manufacturing of the end product.
In addition, plumbing must be inspected to see if it is in compliance with all codes, especially if there is a backflow preventer. A manufacturer is also required to get a permit to install plumbing. This factor is also similar for process piping. You will need a permit and an inspection for the backflow preventer on process piping systems. Yet the rest of the components will not need to be permitted. Thus, manufacturers can avoid extra fees for installing process piping vs. plumbing.