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Abstract

An investigation was carried out to determine the effects of pipe materials and fittings on
piping system, particularly pressure drops (energy losses). This was accomplished by a setup
that included 3 pipe material types (glass, plastic, and steel) some with same diameter and
some with bends fitted flow pathway. A comparison was done on pipes with same diameter
but different material (roughness test), pipes with same material but different diameters (size
effect), pipes with same diameter but different bends fittings (bend effect).
It was found that pipes with rougher materials, smaller sized diameters, and bigger degree of
bend generally give rise to larger pressure drops in pipe systems. Assumptions that had to be
made in carrying out the experiment included constant density, viscosity and average
temperature of the working fluid (water) and elevation changes can be neglected in applying
appropriate equations. Limitations encountered included the control of water temperature
since it was rising due to increase in internal energy and therefore had to be replaced often to
maintain same temperature to make our comparisons meaningful. Some pipes could not
register pressure drops at low and high rotameter height which means a bigger rotameter was
necessary to ensure pressure measurements that had statistical averages that were
representative.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction

2. Literature Review and Theory

2.1 Fundamentals of pressure drop in pipes2


2.2 Pipe material selection

2.3. Pipe size selection 5


3. Experiment setup 6
4. Results

4.1 Rotameter calibration curve


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4.2 Theoretical and Experimental comparison
..7
4.3 Effect of pipe diameter on Pressure drop with PVC pipes
.8
4.4 Effect of pipe material on pressure drop
8
4.5 Effect of bends on pressure
drop.9
4.6 Effect of diameter on Pressure Drop with galvanic pipes
..9

5. Discussion of results
6. Conclusions

10

11

7. Recommendations 12
8. References 13
9. Appendices 14
Appendix A (Calibration data)

14

Appendix B (Experimental data)

16

Appendix C (Moody Chart) 19


10. Nomenclature (Symbols and constants) 20

1. Introduction
Pressure drop
Material transportation can be achieved in many ways, for example conveyor belts and pipes.
The sole objective of a pipe designer is to transport fluids in the safest and most economical
way while ensuring high quality of material. In the process industries (on plants such as water
treatment, petroleum) pipes have found more use than their counter-parts due to their ability
to accommodate all kinds of fluids for continuous transportation of products and raw
materials( feed fluids) over long distances from storage tanks to operating units such as
reactors, distillation columns, mixer and others (Coulson & Richardson, 1977).
Pipes can be made from a variety of materials such as steel, poly vinyl chloride (plastic),
glass, iron, wood, concrete and others for different purposes depending on operating
conditions (temperatures and pressures-susceptibility to corrosion and wear), strength
requirement, type of fluid, ease of maintenance if required, and costs. Usually energy is
supplied to the fluid by the use of a pump. According to Coulson and Richardson (1977)
when a fluid is flowing through a pipe, the configuration of flow will vary with the type of
materials used to manufacture the pipe, flow rate, and the shapes present on the pipe (bends,
corners). Sudden changes in the cross-sectional area and the shape of flow path affect the
pattern of fluid flow and result in pressure losses within the pipes. Since magnitude of flow is
depended on pressure on the fluid, pressure losses present a problem for the pipe designers
because more pressure losses mean more energy supply is needed from the pump to overcome the losses (to reach a final destination) which implies more costs (electrical energy in
running the pump).
A fluid flows from a region of high pressure to a region of low pressure. An input of energy is
required to make the fluid flow through the pipe. When a fluid flows, there is a loss of
energy due to multiple factors; resistance to flow (viscosity), roughness of the pipe (the
friction between the pipe wall and the fluid) , pipe diameter, pipe fittings (bends, valves etc.)
on the pipe system. For inviscid fluids, the loss of energy is usually quantified by considering
minor losses (due to fittings) and major losses (due to friction in straight pipes) and
measuring the pressure drop between two points of interest on a pipe indicates the effect of
bends and pipe material on fluid flow. This information can then be analysed and used to
make appropriate changes to the pipe system to reduce costs of transporting process fluids.
Pressure is one of the most important parameters that are measured to provide information on
the operating conditions and safety of the plant (Coulson & Richardson, 1977). Knowing
pressure losses is important in terms of; knowing how much energy is required and finding
ways to reduce energy usage, it helps in plant design and control, it also helps companies to
price their products appropriately and set standards.

2. Literature review and theory


2.1 Fundamentals of pressure drop in pipes
Movement of fluids within pipes is one of the most important studies of a process because it
is also an essential tool for the control of the entire process. From theories of fluid mechanics,
fluid flow in process units such as pipe can be caused many different driving forces e.g.
pressure gradient (pressure drop), gravity, shear stresses, etc. (Fox & McDonald, 1985). The
phenomenon where the movement of the fluid is solely governed by the pressure drop
throughout the length of a pipe will be studied in greater detail within this experiment, with
the fluid being represented by water.
According to Sinnot and Towler (2009, p. 239), the pressure drop caused by friction is a
function of the fluid flowrate, fluid density, and viscosity,, pipe diameter, pipe surface
roughness and the length of the pipe. This can be illustrated mathematically by the following
expression:
v2
Pf =8 f ( L/ Di)

2
(2.1)
Where:
Pf = pressure drop due friction , N .m

-2

f =friction factor
L= pipelength , m
D i=internal diameter of the pipe , m
=density of the fluid , kg .m
v =fluid velocity , m. s

-3

-1

The friction factor of a particular pipe (f, dimensionless quantity) is obtained from theoretical
data such as plots and tables (see Figure C1). A friction factor is a function of the pipes
material (different materials have different absolute roughness, associated with them)
and the Reynolds number (Skogestad, 2009)
The mathematical expression to calculate the Reynolds number is given as:
=

v Di
.

(2.2)
Where:
3

=Reynolds number ,a dimensionless quantity


=density of the fluid , kg .m
v =fluid velocity , m. s

-3

-1

D i=internal diameter of the pipe , m


=fluid viscosity , kg . m

.s

-1

-1

The Reynolds number of the fluid will determine the nature of the fluid flow i.e. if the flow is
laminar or turbulent. According to Skogestad, (2009, p. 243), the fluid flow pattern changes
from laminar to turbulent flow when the Reynolds number exceeds approximately 2300.
The pressure drop equation (2.1) represents the pressure gradient in horizontal, straight pipes.
As process designer always investigates ways of reducing operation costs, some might think
of using bent or curved pipes which occupy less surface area than straight pipes thus reducing
space costs. The process of manufacturing pipes which are curved (pipes in which direction
of flow is at an angle neither 0 0 nor 1800) is called pipe fittings. The pressure drop
calculations (also called miscellaneous losses) for pipe fittings are performed differently
compared to those for straight pipes.
According to Sinnott (2005, p.204), approximation of miscellaneous losses can be made
through two ways:
(a) Finding the total number of velocity heads (K, in units of length) lost due to all
the fittings (bends, joints and tees) and valves.
K can be calculated using the following expression:
K=v 2 /2 g .....
(2.3)
Where:

K=number of velocity heads lost at each fitting , m


v =fluid velocity , m. s

-1

g=gravitational accelaration=9.81 m. s

-2

NB. If there are n number of bends on the same pipe the total velocity head loss
is given by n multiplied by velocity head loss at each bend (nK )
The total velocity head loss is then converted to pressure loss by the expression:
P=(total K ) g ..
(2.4)
Where:
P= pressure drop , N . m
4

-2

total K =total value for the pipe ' s velocity head lost , m
=density of the fluid , kg .m

-3

g=gravitational accelaration=9.81 m. s

-2

The total pressure drop for the pipe of this nature (with bends) is obtained by adding
the pressure drop obtained from equations (2.1) {this is the part of the pipe where
there are no bends} and the one obtained from equation (2.4) {the section of the pipe
with bends}
(b) The equivalent pipe diameter method. With this approach, there are values
readily tabulated in literature for various pipe fittings e.g. for a 90 0 standard long
elbow the number of equivalent pipe diameters is 23(NB: This is for just one
bend). To calculate the pressure drop along the pipe with bends using this
method, the total value for the equivalent pipe diameters (dimensionless) is
obtained and multiplied by the pipes internal diameter, the resulting value is
then added to the length of the pipe; this will give the new length to be used on
the pressure drop equation (2.1) to get the pressure drop.

The other mathematical expression which is used to calculate the friction factor within a pipe
(pipe with an undefined pressure drop length) is called the Colebrooks equation, which is as
follows:
1.325
f=
2

5.74
ln
+
3.74 D 0.9

[(

)]

. (2.5)
Where:
f =friction factor , a dimensionlessquantity
D=internal diameter of the pipe, m
=Reynolds number ,a dimensionlessquantity
=absolute roughness of the pipe, m
In almost all industrial processes which involve the transportation of fluids in pipes, the
process designer has to conduct a pipe-selection procedure. Selection of pipes involves
making informed decisions on what type of pipes (material selection), sizes of their internal
area (pipe size selection), what types of connections are needed between the pipes and also
other process units (pipe fittings), etc. in order to achieve an effective fluid transportation
(Sinnott, 2005) . The procedure is mainly dependant on the type and/or properties of the fluid

concerned; and also the external factors such as the average ambient temperature, the
economic constraints (costs during pipe purchase and maintenance).
2.2 Pipe material selection
The material of which the pipe is made up of will have a very significant effect on the
transportation of the fluid. This is a result because different materials have different
roughness values associated with them.
Since it was established that pipes can be made out of many materials (plastics, glass, pure
metals, metal alloys, etc.), a process designer should make all the necessary comparisons and
determine the pipe material (pipe type) which will be suitable for their process. A few types
of pipes made up of different materials are discussed below.
2.2.1 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes: These are the pipes which are made up of a
combination of plastic and vinyl polymer called polyvinyl chloride (Holtshousen & Last,
1998).

Advantages of using the PVC pipes


Plastic pipes are more corrosion resistant than metallic ones.
PVC pipes are durable i.e. they last longer when correctly manufactured and
installed
Like all other plastic pipes, PVC pipes are light in weight and are very tough
The costs of transportation and handling are reduced greatly due to their lightweight
property
Friction within the plastic pipe (e.g. PVC pipes ) is less than that of a metal pipe thus
plastic pipes are more efficient than metallic ones
Plastic pipes have superior elastic properties over the glass and metallic ones
Disadvantages of using the PVC pipes

Plastic pipes are not suitable for transportation of fluid at very high temperatures.
Their strength reduce greatly at high temperatures
Plastic pipes can crack and crumble easily under stress

2.2.2 Metallic pipes: These are the one made up of metals such as stainless steel, cast iron,
galvanised steel and other alloys
Advantages of using metallic pipes for fluid transport

Their stress tolerance is much higher than plastic and glass pipes
They can be used for fluid transportation even at high temperatures
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Disadvantages of using metallic pipes for fluid transport

Metallic pipes are more susceptible to corrosion those made up of plastic and glass
They are very heavy in weight thus their will result in high handling and
transportation costs
Metallic pipes have a very high rate of energy consumption during fluid transportation
than any other pipe type (Holtshousen & Last, 1998)

2.2.3 Glass pipes: the main advantage of using glass pipes is that they are very smooth and
thus they produce the least friction compared to both the plastic and metallic pipes.
Limitations associated with the glass pipes are that they are expensive to purchase; they are
brittle and can easily get broken.
2.3. Pipe size selection
Pipe size selection is governed by the driving force which transports the fluid through the
pipe e.g. if the fluid is primarily driven by gravity (free driving force), the smallest pipe
diameter that gives the required flow-rate is suitable. When the driving force is not free i.e. if
energy is required for the transportation of the fluid through the pipe (e.g. when the fluid is
being pumped through the pipe), a size of the pipe should be selected in such a way to keep
the operating costs as low as possible (Sinnott, 2005)

3. Experimental Setup
Pipe

Pipe outlet

Pipe
6(PVC)

Pipe

Pressure
Gauge

Pipe 4(Galvanic
Pipe 3(galvanic
Iron)

Pipe inlet
valve

Pipe
Rotamete
r
Pipe
1(PVC)

Centrifugal Pump
Figure 3.1 Experimental setup

Pressure
tappings

Experimental Procedure
1. Calibration
All valves except the inlet and outlet valves of pipe 1 were closed; the
rotameter was set at different heights using the gate valve. The rotameter
was calibrated using a graduated cylinder and stopwatch, the volume of
water collected in the cylinder was measured after 10 seconds for low flow
rates and 5 seconds for high flow rates. The volumetric flow rate was
plotted against the float height in a calibration curve.
2. Main Experiment
The temperature of water was measured after each run using a
thermometer and was limited to between 18-20 degrees by replacing
water over 20 degrees with cooler tap water.
Air was cleared in all pipes by filling each pipe with water while closing all
other pipes, after this the experiment was begun.
The following was done for each pipe: The inlet and outlet valves of the
pipe were fully opened, all other pipe valves were fully closed, the float
was set to a certain height using the main gate valve the pressure drop
across the pipe was measured using the pressure gauge and recorded.
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4. Results

ROTAMETER CALIBRATION CURVE


80
70

f(x) = 87.12x + 6.46


R = 0.96

60
50
ROTAMETER HEIGHT (cm)

40
30
20
10
0
0.00 0.10 0.20 0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70 0.80 0.90
Volumetric flowrate (l.s-1)

Figure 4.1: Rotameter Calibration curve

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8
7
6
5
Pressure Drop (kPa)

Experimental

Polynomial (Experimental)

Theoretical

Polynomial (Theoretical)

1
0
1

1.5

2.5

Velocity (m.s-1)

Figure 4.2: Theoretical vs Experimental Pressure Drops for PVC pipe (D=0.02)

25
20
15
Pressure Drop (kPa)

10
PVC(D=0.018m)

PVC (D=0.02m)

5
0
1

1.5

2.5

3.5

Velocity (m.s-1)

Figure 4.3: Effect of pipe diameter on Pressure drop with PVC pipes

50
45
40
35
30
Pressure Drop (kPa)

25
Galvanised Steel

20

PVC

15
10
5
0
1.5

2.5

3.5

4.5

Velocity (m.s-1)

Figure 4.4: Effect of pipe material on pressure drop by comparing PVC with Stainless
steel of the same diameter over a range of equal velocities (Reynolds number)

10

250

200

150
Minor Losses (kPa)

90 Degree Bend

100

135 degree bend

50

0
0.5

1.5

2.5

3.5

Velocity (m.s-1)

Figure 4.5: Effect of bends on pressure drop-[Minor losses encountered for different
bends (90 vs. 45 degree)]

50
45
40
35
30
Pressure Drop (kPa)

25
GS pipe (D=0.03m)

20

GS pipe (D=0.016m)

15
10
5
0
0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5
Velocity (m.s-1)

11

Figure 4.6: Effect of diameter on Pressure Drop with same material of constructiongalvanic steel

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5. Discussion of Results
Data for Graphs can be retrieved in the appendix section from Table B 2
through.
Comparison of pipe diameters of the same pipe material From (Figure
4.3 and Figure 4.6), it apparent that pipes with smaller diameters ,regardless of
type of material tend to give high pressure losses and the difference gets bigger
as velocity (Reynolds number) gets large. It should be emphasized that it is
difficult to measure pressure drop across a stainless steel pipe with a bigger
diameter using a small rotameter because it only starts registering a pressure
drop when the rotameter reaches its maximum height. This can be seen on
figure 4; data had to be taken for a very short range of rotameter height close to
the maximum and this makes results look rather absurd.
Effect of pipe material due to roughness of each pipe material- by inspection
of Figure 4.4, one can make 2 observations:

PVC is almost frictionless compared to Stainless Steel since a plot of


velocity vs. pressure drop produces approximately a flat graph.
At very high velocities, stainless steel results in extremely abnormal
pressure losses.

With the information above stated, it looks like PVC pipes are a better option
over stainless steel. But this could be misleading for cases of hot fluids, or where
pipes have to be laid underground. In essence, though having small losses, the
use of PVC is restricted and that of stainless steel is inevitable in most cases
regardless of the losses encountered. These are just some of the thermodynamic
limitations which are yet to be prevailed.
3. Effect of pipe bends (elbows)-Just like a rolled hose pipe, a bend in a pipe
system reduces the flow efficiency. That is simply to say there are energy losses
(aside from frictional) that arise in certain pipe fittings (valves, sudden
enlargement/contraction etc.) Demonstrated by Figure 4.5 are pressure losses
resulting in two different setups- one with 4 (90 o bends) and another with 4 (135o
bends). The degree of turn around an elbow has a significantly & direct influence
on pressure (energy losses).
4. For Glass pipe, difficulties were encountered in obtaining any pressure drop
readings.

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5. Conclusion
The experiment was compared with the existing theory for validation; it is evident that our
experiment collaborated with the theory. The comparison is shown in Figure 4.2. The
pressure drop increases with increasing velocity forming a linear and quadratic relationship
when the flow is laminar and turbulent respectively. Our experiment mostly covered turbulent
flow and it revealed that in turbulent flow, the pressure drop is directly proportional to
velocity.
Pipes with bigger diameter have less pressure drop compared with the ones with smaller
diameter regardless of the type materials used. However, the smaller diameter pipes have the
capability of delivering a fluid at a very high velocity compared to the one with bigger
diameter. The high velocity is often followed by an increased friction and resistant to flow
that results in a high pressure drop. The conclusion is based on the observation on the
stainless steel and Polyvinyl chloride pipes shown on Figure 4.3 and 4.6 respectively.
The type of material used has an impact on pressure drop, according to Figure 4.4 galvanised
steel has more pressure drop compared to PVC pipe. This is due to the fact that galvanised
steel has a more relative roughness, hence it experience more friction.
The bends with a higher angle have less pressure drop compared to the one with a less angle
(comparing 135 with 90) as shown in Figure 4.5.
It was observed that as the Reynolds number increases the relative error between the
theoretical and the experimental pressure decreased.

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6. Recommendations
To minimise pressure loses along the pipes, pipes with smooth interior walls (less surface
rough) must be used. Increased roughness increase the wall shear stress which is one the
factors contributing to pressure drop within pipes. In the experiment pipes made from glass
and Polyvinyl chloride are smoother compared to other pipes.
Pipes that are relatively less rough (smooth) have less pressure difference; I recommend the
use of a pressure gauge with a lesser scale as opposed to using the one measuring the pressure
in kilo Pascal. The pressure difference that was recorded on the glass pipe is very small and
few measurements were possible.
More research is required on finding possible better materials to use to make pipes and
improvement of current materials in order to minimise or reduce the loss of energy
encountered in fluid flow in terms of pressure drop.
Bends should be avoided in the piping system, as they significantly increase pressure drop.

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7. References
1. Coulson, J.M., & Richardson, J.F. (1977).Chemical engineering (Vol 1), (3rd ed.).
Oxford: Pergamon Press
2. Fox, R.W., & McDonald, A.T. (1985).Introduction to fluid mechanics (3rd ed.).New
York: Wiley & Sons
3. Holtshousen, P. & Last, J. (1998). Pipes & Pipelines: Principles & Practice (2nd ed.).
Northcliff: K. Myles and Associates cc
4. Sinnott, R.K. (2005). Chemical Engineering Design (Vol.6), (4th ed.). London:
Elsevier Ltd
5. Sinnott, R., & Towler, G. (2009). Chemical Engineering Design (5th ed.).
London: Elsevier Ltd
6. Skogestad, S., (2009).Chemical and Energy Process Engineering. New York: CRC
PRESS
7. Retrieved from
http://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/fileexchange/screenshots/796/original.jpg

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8. Appendices
Appendix A
Table A1: Data for calibration of rotameter

Rotameter
Height(cm)

Volume
(measuring
Cylinder)
(ml)

Volume
(measuring
Cylinder)
(ml)

Volume
(measuring
Cylinder)
(ml)

average
Volume

10

800

825

783

14

1225

1130

18

1600

22

Time

Volumetric
Flow
rate(l/s)

Flow
rate(m^3/s
)

802.67

10

0.08

8.03E-05

1150

1168.33

10

0.12

1.17E-04

1560

1520

1560.00

10

0.16

1.56E-04

1880

1870

1875.00

10

0.19

1.88E-04

26

2360

2280

2320.00

10

0.23

2.32E-04

30

2720

2600

2660.00

10

0.27

2.66E-04

34

3060

2980

3020.00

10

0.30

3.02E-04

38

3360

3470

3415.00

10

0.34

3.42E-04

42

3800

3770

3785.00

10

0.38

3.79E-04

54

4340

4340

4340.00

10

0.43

4.34E-04

66

3360

3500

3430.00

0.69

6.86E-04

74

4160

4260

4210.00

0.84

8.42E-04

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Appendix B
Table B1: Data for PVC pipes with (4X90) bends

18

Table B2: Data for PVC with no bends pipe D= 0.01628 m

Table B3 Data for PVC pipe D= 0.0183 m

19

Table B4 Data for PVC pipe D= 0.0201 m

Table B5 Data for GS pipe D= 0.029 m

20

Table B6 Data for GS pipe D= 0.016 m

21

Table B 1 Data for PVC pipes with (4X135) bends

22

Appendix C

Figure C2: Moody chart

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9. Nomenclature
Symbols and constants
A -Area (m2)
D -Diameter (m)
e Relative Roughness (dimensionless)
f - Darcy-Weisbach friction factor (dimensionless)
v Velocity (m.s-1)
Viscosity (kg.m-1.s-1)
-Density (kg.m-3)
P Pressure (kPa)
L Length (m)
K- Velocity Head loss (m)
Re Reynolds Number (dimensionless)
g Gravitational acceleration (m.s-2)

- Absolute Roughness (m)

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