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# Pressure Drop Theory

This page describes in detail which factors need to be considered when calculating
pressure drops through pipe systems, their effects on fluid flow and conditions at
the pump inlet, and how Pipe Flow 3D can help with the calculations.
Resistance to fluid flow
Fluids in motion are subjected to various resistances, which are due to friction.
Friction may occur between the fluid & the pipe work, but friction also occurs within
the fluid as sliding between adjacent layers of fluid takes place. The friction within
the fluid is due to the fluid’s viscosity.

When fluids have a high viscosity, the speed of flow tends to be low, and resistance to flow
becomes almost totally dependant on the viscosity of the fluid, this condition is known as
‘Laminar flow’.
How do you establish the pipework resistance losses?
Before the pipework losses can be established, the friction factor must be calculated. The friction
factor will be dependant on the pipe size, inner roughness of the pipe, flow velocity and fluid
viscosity. The flow condition, whether ‘Turbulent’ or not, will determine the method used to
calculate the friction factor. The starting point must be to find the fluid’s viscosity. This will be
the factor that has most effect on the pipework losses.

Understanding viscosity units (dynamic viscosity)
Many terms can be used to describe a fluid's viscosity (its resistance to flow): Centipoise, Poise,
Saybolt Universal (SSU), Saybolt Furol, Ford Cup No. 3, Ford Cup No.4, Redwood No.1,
Degrees Engler, Zahn No.1, Zahn No.2 and Zahn No. 3 are some of the scales that have been

one Centistoke = 1 mm²/s or 0. Some references may be found in text books which attempt to list equivalent values for these different methods of measuring viscosity. All of these scales have differing upper and lower values and are usually not directly related to each other. This increases the friction between the pipe wall and the fluid. The relative roughness of the inside of the pipe is used in determining the friction factor to be used.000001 m²/s The units of centistokes are: Length² Time Kinematic viscosity is simply: Dynamic viscosity Mass density Reynold’s numbers Reynold’s numbers (Re) describe the relationship between a fluid’s velocity.001 (kg/m) x s The units of centipoise are: Force per unit area x Time It is very common today to express kinematic viscosity in centistokes. Kinematic viscosity and Reynold’s numbers Dynamic viscosity must be converted to its Kinematic viscosity equivalent before the viscosity value can be used to calculate Reynold’s numbers and hence friction factors.s or 0. the pipe size and the fluid’s kinematic viscosity. . Pipe Flow 3D provides a means of calculating the equivalent centistokes viscosity from some other known viscosity scales. one Centipoise = 1 mPa. It is very common today to express dynamic viscosity in centipoise.used in the immediate past. Reynold’s number = Fluid velocity x Internal pipe diameter Kinematic viscosity Effect of the inner roughness of the pipe The inner roughness of the pipe can create eddy currents.

2000 mm 0.V.0015 mm 0. when Re number is >2300 the fluid flow is Turbulent.0460 mm 0.0050 mm 0. .C.0001 mm 0.V.0010 mm 0.2600 mm 2. For Re numbers <2300 the fluid flow is Laminar.C. Calculation of friction factors is dependant on the type of flow that will be encountered.Relative roughness = Inside pipe roughness Inside pipe diameter The average inner roughness of commercial pipes: Steel tube Copper tubing Glass tubing Polythene Flexible P. Cast iron tube Concrete tube 0. Rigid P.0000 mm Friction factor chart The chart above shows the relationship between Reynold’s number and pipe friction.

Manufacturers of pipe work fittings & valves publish 'K' factors for their products. The Relative roughness is the inner roughness divided by the internal diameter of the pipe work.7)^1. and reading the friction factor on the left hand axis of the chart. The Pressure drop in pipe work can be calculated from fluid head loss. therefore this computer program tends to use average 'K' factor values.Laminar flow (Re < 2300) f = 64/Re Turbulent flow (Re > 2300) 1/sqrt(f) = -1. Calculating the fluid head resistance Fluid head resistance can be calculated from h = f (L/d) x (v ²/2g) where h = head loss (m) f = friction factor L = length of pipe work (m) d = inner dia of pipe work (m) v = velocity of fluid (m/s) g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s ²) Calculating the losses through pipe work fittings The fluid head resistance through various pipe work fittings can be calculated when the 'K' factor of the fitting is known.9/Re) + ((k/3. The Fluid head loss can be calculated once the friction factor is known. The Friction factor is found by plotting the intersection of Re and Relative roughness. the density of fluid and the acceleration due to gravity. Usually a particular type of fitting from various manufacturers have similar 'K' factors. Fluid head loss of these fitting can be calculated from h = total 'K' x v ² / 2g where h = head loss (m) total 'K' = total of 'K' factors for each fitting v = velocity of fluid (m/s) g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s ²) .8 log [ (6. In these cases the inner roughness of the pipework can have a significant effect on the Friction factor.11 ] (where k = inner pipe roughness / inner pipe diameter) Most commercial applications involve Turbulent flow.

density. and velocity of the fluid.0 respectively to calculate the head loss attributable to these features. the internal roughness of the pipe.  The position of the supply and discharge containers relative to the pump position.8 and 1. using the appropriate velocity within that pipe section. the fluid is most likely to exit into atmospheric pressure. inner diameter. The difference between the pressure on the fluid surface during storage & the atmospheric pressure must be taken into account in determining the pressure drop to be overcome by the pump. . Calculating the total pressure drop The total fluid head resistance may be used to calculate the pressure required to overcome the resistance to fluid flow.Note: If the pipework involves different pipe sizes. This difference in pressure may be positive (assisting fluid flow) or negative (resisting fluid flow). Pd = h x p x g / 100000 where Pd = pressure drop (bar) h = head loss (m) p = fluid density (kg/m3) g = acceleration due to gravity (m/s ²) Finally. and in the case of turbulent flow.  The addition of rises & falls within the pipe layout.  The length. The 'K' value of entry & exit points can be taken as 0. Summarising the steps to be considered Factors that affect fluid flow Fluid flow in pipes is affected by many different factors:  The viscosity. this calculation must be carried out separately for each pipe size.  The number & types of bends in the pipe layout.  Changes in the fluid temperature will change the viscosity & density of the fluid.

in the pipe layout. & other fittings. The number & types of valves. . the following steps must be carried out to determine the fluid head necessary to overcome the flow of the fluid through the pipe work layout:  Calculate the Reynolds number  Determine if the flow is Laminar or Turbulent  Calculate the friction factor for either Laminar flow or Turbulent flow  Calculate the fluid head resistance to overcome the flow through the pipe work  Determine the ‘K’ factors for the fittings within the pipe work layout  Calculate the fluid head resistance to overcome the flow through the fittings  Determine which lengths & components within the pipe work layout are significant in establishing the maximum fluid head to be considered (branch lines may be important). Calculating the fluid head When all of the above information is known.  Entrance & exit conditions of the pipe work. The effect of fluid density & gravity must be applied to the maximum fluid head to calculate the pressure required to overcome the resistance to fluid flow.