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.