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Valve Sizing

Te chnic al Bulletin

Scope

Valve size often is described by the nominal size of the end connections, but a more important measure is the flow that the valve can provide. And determining flow through a valve can be simple. This technical bulletin shows how flow can be estimated well enough to select a valve size—easily, and without complicated calculations. Included are the principles of flow calculations, some basic formulas, and the effects of specific gravity and temperature. Also given are six simple graphs for estimating the flow of water or air through valves and other components and examples of how to use them.

**Flow Calculation Principles
**

The principles of flow calculations are illustrated by the common orifice flow meter (Fig. 1). We need to know only the size and shape of the orifice, the diameter of the pipe, and the fluid density. With that information, we can calculate the flow rate for any value of pressure drop across the orifice (the difference between inlet and outlet pressures). For a valve, we also need to know the pressure drop and the fluid density. But in addition to the dimensions of pipe diameter and orifice size, we need to know all the valve passage dimensions and all the changes in size and direction of flow through the valve. However, rather than doing complex calculations, we use the valve flow coefficient, which combines the effects of all the flow restrictions in the valve into a single number (Fig. 2).

Sizing Valves

The graphs cover most ordinary industrial applications—from the smallest metering valves to large ball valves, at system pressures up to 10 000 psig and 1000 bar. The water formulas and graphs apply to ordinary liquids—and not to liquids that are boiling or flashing into vapors, to slurries (mixtures of solids and liquids), or to very viscous liquids. The air formulas and graphs apply to gases that closely follow the ideal gas laws, in which pressure, temperature, and volume are proportional. They do not apply to gases or vapors that are near the pressure and temperature at which they liquefy, such as a cryogenic nitrogen or oxygen. For convenience, the air flow graphs show gauge pressures, whereas the formulas use absolute pressure (gauge pressure plus one atmosphere). All the graphs are based on formulas adapted from ISA S75.01, Flow Equations for Sizing Control Valves.1

Pressure drop Pipe diameter Oriﬁce diameter Orifice shape Fluid density

Fig. 1. The flow rate through a fixed orifice can be calculated from the meter dimensions of pipe diameter and orifice size and shape.

Pressure drop

**Safe Product Selection
**

When selecting a product, the total system design must be considered to ensure safe, trouble-free performance. Function, material compatibility, adequate ratings, proper installation, operation, and maintenance are the responsibilities of the system designer and user.

Pipe diameter Size changes Valve passage size Fluid density Direction changes

Fig. 2. Calculating the flow rate through a valve is much more complex. The valve flow coefficient (Cv) takes into account all the dimensions and other factors—including size and direction changes—that affect fluid flow.

pressure drop). . 3). Valve manufacturers determine flow coefficients by testing the valve with water using a standard ISA test method. using a standard test method2 developed by the Instrument Society of America for control valves and now used widely for all valves. N2 = constants for units T1 = absolute upstream temperature: K = °C + 273 °R = °F + 460 Note: p1 and p2 are absolute pressures for gas flow. because gases are compressible fluids whose density changes with pressure. Liquid Flow Because liquids are incompressible fluids. so that the effects of fittings and piping size changes are not included (Fig. p1 �p p2 Flow meter Test valv e Flow control valve Flow control valve Standard distances from test valve Minimum lengths of straight pipe Valve manufacturers determine the valve flow coefficient by testing the valve with water at several flow rates. so long as the difference between the inlet and outlet pressures is the same. In addition. �p Gf Gf p2 q �p = p1 – p2 p1 Cv The water flow graphs (pages 6 and 7) show water flow as a function of pressure drop for a range of Cv values. The flow is the same whether the system pressure is low or high. Gas Flow Gas flow calculations are slightly more complex. their flow rate depends only on the difference between the inlet and outlet pressures (Dp. This equation shows the relationship: q = N1Cv Symbols Used in Flow Equations Cv = flow coefficient q = flow rate p1 = inlet pressure p2 = outlet pressure Dp = pressure drop (p1 – p2) Gf = liquid specific gravity (water = 1. there are two conditions that must be considered—low pressure drop flow and high pressure drop flow.2 Valve Sizing Fig. 3.0) N1. Flow tests are done in a straight piping system of the same size as the valve.0) Gg = gas specific gravity (air = 1.

the gas leaves the orifice at the velocity of sound. In low pressure drop flow—when outlet pressure (p2) is greater than half of inlet pressure (p1)—outlet pressure restricts flow through the orifice: as outlet pressure decreases. When outlet pressure decreases to half of inlet pressure.” The equation for high pressure drop flow is simpler because it depends only on inlet pressure and temperature. Consequently. given as a function of inlet pressure (p1) for a range of pressure drop (Dp) values. The maximum flow rate is also known as choked flow or critical flow. and it cannot break that “sound barrier. valve flow coefficient. and so does the velocity of the gas leaving the orifice. flow increases. even if the outlet pressure is reduced to zero. high pressure drop flow only depends on inlet pressure and not outlet pressure. and specific gravity of the gas: 2�p q = N2Cv p1 1 – 3p1 ( ) �p p1GgT 1 p2 > 1/2p1 q = 0.Valve Sizing 3 Low and High Pressure Drop Gas Flow The basic orifice meter illustrates the difference between high and low pressure drop flow conditions. When outlet pressure (p2) is less than half of inlet pressure (p1)—high pressure drop—any further decrease in outlet The high pressure drop air flow graphs (pages 10 and 11) show high pressure drop air flow as a function of inlet pressure for a range of flow coefficients.0.471 N2Cv p1 1 GgT 1 p2 < 1/2p1 Gg T 1 p1 Cv p2 q Gg T 1 p1 Cv p2 q The low pressure drop air flow graphs (pages 8 and 9) show low pressure drop air flow for a valve with a Cv of 1. Low pressure drop p1 p2 p2 > 1/2p1 q Maximum ﬂow p1 p2 p2 = 1/2p1 q Sonic ow High pressure drop p1 p2 p2 < 1/2p1 q This equation applies when there is low pressure drop flow—outlet pressure (p2) is greater than one half of inlet pressure (p1): pressure does not increase the flow because the gas has reached sonic velocity at the orifice. . The gas cannot exceed the velocity of sound and—therefore—this becomes the maximum flow rate. Any further decrease in outlet pressure does not increase flow.

most high-density liquids such as concentrated acids and bases usually are diluted in water and— consequently—the specific gravity of the mixtures is much closer to that of water than to that of the pure liquid. so that the specific gravity of the mixture is close to that of air. Taking the square root reduces the effect and brings the value much closer to that of water or air. the specific gravity of sulfuric acid is 80 % higher than that of water. Carbon dioxide has a specific gravity 53 % higher than that of air. Only if the specific gravity of the liquid is very low or very high will the flow change by more than 10 % from that of water. Change in speciﬁc gravity +60 Change in ﬂow rate +40 +20 0 –20 –40 Ether Alcohol Oils Nitric acid Sulfuric acid +80 Fig. The effect of specific gravity on gases is similar. Figure 5 shows how the effect of specific gravity on gas flow is reduced by use of the square root. The specific gravity of ether is 26 % lower than that of water. yet it changes flow by just 34 %. And just as with liquids. For example. Figure 4 shows how the significance of specific gravity on liquid flow is diminished by taking its square root. gases with exceptionally high or low densities often are mixed with a carrier gas such as nitrogen. However. specific gravity is not accounted for in the graphs.4 Valve Sizing +80 Percent change Fig. 5. Only gases with very low or very high specific gravity change the flow by more than 10 % from that of air. Effects of Temperature Temperature usually is ignored in liquid flow calculations because its effect is too small. Also. which includes the square root of G. 4. 1. +40 Percent change 0 –40 Change in speciﬁc gravity –80 Change in ﬂow rate –120 Hydrogen Natural gas Oxygen Argon Carbon dioxide Effects of Specific Gravity The flow equations include the variables Gf and Gg—liquid specific gravity and gas specific gravity—which are the density of the fluid compared to the density of water (for liquids) or air (for gases).0. because gas volume expands with higher temperature and . yet it changes flow by only 24 %. so a correction factor must be applied. For common gases. Temperature has a greater effect on gas flow calculations. the specific gravity of the gas changes flow by less than 10-% from that of air. the specific gravity of hydrogen is 93 % lower than that of air. but it changes flow by just 74 %. the effect of specific gravity on flow is less than 10 %. For most common liquids. For example. yet it changes flow by only 14 %.

ISA. Theodore Baumeister and Lionel S. Robert H. as well. 10th ed. Control Valve Capacity Test Procedure. Cecil H. Ed.. ISA.. McGraw-Hill. 1989. McGraw-Hill. Vol... Ed. the correction factor is only +12 to –11 %. Other Services As noted above. and liquefied gases are used? How are valves sized for these other services? . but the ISA standards S75. . revised ed. Reno C. 7th ed. Béla G.01 and S75. F Numerical Constants for Flow Equations Constant N N1 . and Sidney D.833 14.W. 1.. 4th ed.Valve Sizing Temperature. slurries. this technical bulletin covers valve sizing for many common applications and services. The plus-or-minus 10 % range covers the usual operating temperatures of most common applications. . 1983. along with a description of flow capacity test principles and procedures. steam. Piping Handbook. 6.28 N2 .02 contain a complete set of formulas for sizing valves that will be used in a variety of special services. Cited References 1. Also. Driskell. Flow Equations for Sizing Control Valves. King.02. ISA Handbook of Control Valves. . Kirkpatrick. . Figure 6 shows the effect of temperature on volumetric flow over a broad range of temperatures. Control-Valve Selection and Sizing. Ed. New York. 2nd ed. . PA. New York. gal/min Imperial gal/min L/min L/min std ft3/min std L/min std L/min p psia psia bar kg/cm2 psia bar kg/cm2 T1 — — — — °R K K Such applications are beyond the scope of this document. temperature changes affect flow by little more than 10-%. What about viscous liquids. These and other ISA publications are listed in the references. J. 10th ed. 2. For systems that operate between –40°F (–40°C) and +212°F (+100°C).. Within this range.67 6950 6816 Units Used in Equations q U. . ISA S75. 5th ed.42 14. 2.S. Hutchinson... But—similar to specific gravity—temperature affects flow by only a square-root factor.. Chilton. Standards and Recommended Practices for Instrumentation and Control. Standards and Recommended Practices for Instrumentation and Control. ISA S75. Ed. 22..01. Other References L. 1976. . Chilton. Several of these are given in the references. Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers. contracts with lower temperature. Perry. 2. most standard engineering handbooks have sections on fluid mechanics. Instrument Engineers’ Handbook.. McGraw-Hill. C –40 +20 0 +40 +80 +120 +160 +200 5 +10 Change in ﬂow rate Percent change 0 –10 Fig. Chemical Engineers’ Handbook. Marks. Many systems operate in the range –40°F (–40°C) to +212°F (+100°C).0 0. Vol. 1989. New York. –20 –30 –40 0 +100 +200 +300 +400 Temperature. or boiling and flashing liquids? Suppose vapors. Lipták and Kriszta Venczel. Radnor.

8 1.25 0. gallons per minute Water Flow—U.10 0. Units 10 000 8000 6000 4000 3000 2000 1000 800 600 400 300 200 Cv Cv = 0.25 100 80 60 40 30 20 Pressure Drop. U.006 0.02 0.S.4 0.04 0.0 1000 800 600 400 300 200 0.0025 0.001 0. psi 10 0.S.50).06 0.003 0.6 Valve Sizing Water ow.6 0.025 0. .0 2.0050 0.50 1.050 0.0 2. gal/min).2 0.3 0.002 0. ■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0.08 0. U.0010 0.S.0005 0.010 0.0 10 25 100 80 60 40 30 20 10 8 6 4 3 2 50 100 250 1 1 2 3 4 6 8 10 20 30 40 60 80 100 200 300 400 600 800 1000 Flow.1 0. gal/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 60 psi).5 5.03 0.10 0.01 0. ■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 4 U.S.

.1 4 6 8 10 20 30 40 60 80 100 200 300 400 600 800 1000 2000 3000 4000 Flow.3 0.0025 0.06 0.0 0.8 1.2 L/min).25 10 8 6 4 3 2 Pressure Drop.2 50 100 250 0.50 1.10 0. liters per minute Valve Sizing 7 100 80 60 40 30 20 Cv = 0.01 0.3 0. ■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 0.0 4.0 2.025 0.10 0.5 5.0025).0 100 80 60 40 30 20 0.004 0.010 0.0010 0. L/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 30 bar).25 0.0 10 25 10 8 6 4 3 2 1.4 0.04 0.006 0.0050 0.02 0.0005 0.4 0.03 0.01 0.2 0. bar 1 0.0 6.0 2.Water Flow—Metric Units 1000 800 600 400 300 200 Water flow.6 0.050 0.6 0.8 0.0 3. ■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0.

S.0 (q = 65 std ft3/min). Units 3000 Low pressure air drop ow. psig 10 psi 300 �p = 5 psi 200 High pressure drop ﬂow 100 80 60 40 30 20 10 20 30 40 50 60 80 100 200 300 400 500 600 800 1000 Flow. . standard cubic feet per minute 2000 250 psi 500 psi 100 psi 1000 800 50 psi 600 25 psi 400 Inlet Pressure. std ft3/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 200 psig).8 Valve Sizing Low Pressure Drop Air Flow—U. ■ Read across to the diagonal line for the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 25 psi). ■ Read down to the horizontal scale for the flow rate through a valve with a Cv of 1. ■ Multiply that flow rate by the valve Cv to determine the actual flow rate.

■ Read down to the horizontal scale for the flow rate through a valve with a Cv of 1. ■ Multiply that flow rate by the valve Cv to determine the actual flow rate.25 bar 20 High pressure drop ﬂow 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 300 400 600 800 1000 2000 3000 4000 6000 8000 10 000 20 000 30 000 Flow. std L/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 100 bar).Low Pressure Drop Air Flow—Metric Units 200 Low pressure air drop flow. .0 (q = 4000 std L/min).50 bar Inlet Pressure. ■ Read across to the diagonal line for the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 1 bar).0 bar 30 0.5 bar 60 50 40 1. bar �p = 0. standard liters per minute Valve Sizing 9 25 bar 10 bar 100 5 bar 80 2.

standard cubic feet per minute 1000 800 600 500 400 300 200 CvCv 0.0005 = 0.10).10 0.04 0.10 Valve Sizing High Pressure Drop Air Flow—U.50 1. Units 3000 2000 High pressure drop air flow.2 0.0 6.02 0.08 0.25 0.3 0.0 2.06 0.25 0.0 10 20 1000 800 0.0050 0.0 8.010 0.8 1.0 4.6 0. std ft3/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 200 psig).50 Inlet Pressure.10 600 500 400 300 0.050 0.01 0.0 2.0 10 200 100 80 60 50 40 30 25 50 100 250 20 10 20 30 40 60 80 100 200 300 400 600 800 1000 2000 3000 4000 6000 10 000 Flow.03 0.S.025 100 80 60 50 40 30 0.0025 0. ■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0. ■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 10 std ft3/min). .5 5.1 0. psig 20 0.0 3.4 0.0010 0.

25 0.0).50 20 1.10 0. ■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 1. bar 2 0. standard liters per minute Flow—Metric Units 200 100 80 60 50 40 30 20 Cv = 0.0025 0.025 0.0050 0.010 10 8 6 5 4 3 0.25 Inlet Pressure.5 10 8 6 5 4 3 5.050 0. .10 0.0010 0.6 0. std L/min Example: ■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 20 bar). ■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 4000 std L/min).0 10 25 50 100 250 2 200 300 400 600 800 1000 2000 3000 4000 6000 10 000 20 000 40 000 60 000 100 000 200 000 Flow.050 0.0005 0.4 0.0 2.3 0.8 1.Valve Sizing 11 High Pressure Drop Air High pressure drop air flow.0 2 3 4 6 8 10 20 30 40 60 80 100 200 300 80 60 50 40 30 0.

material compatibility. proper installation. Swagelok—TM Swagelok Company © 1994. operation. Function. 2000. 2002 Swagelok Company December 2007. the total system design must be considered to ensure safe. and maintenance are the responsibilities of the system designer and user. 1995. trouble-free performance. R4 MS-06-84-E . adequate ratings.Safe Product Selection When selecting a product.

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