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Fluids Engineering

Gas Pipeline Hydraulics: Pressure Drop

Course teacher
Dr. M. Mahbubur Razzaque
Department of Mechanical Engineering


Several equations are available that relate the gas flow rate with gas
properties, pipe diameter and length, and upstream and downstream
pressures. These equations are listed as follows:
1. General Flow equation
2. Colebrook-White equation
3. Modified Colebrook-White equation
4 AGA equation
4. ti
5. Weymouth equation
6. Panhandle A equation
7 Panhandle B equation
8. IGT equation
9. Spitzglass equation
10. Mueller equation
11. Fritzsche equation

A comparison
p of these equations
q will also be discussed using
g an example

The General Flow equation, also called the Fundamental Flow equation, for
the steady-state isothermal flow in a gas pipeline is the basic equation for
relating the pressure drop with flow rate. The most common form of this
equation in the U.S. Customary System (USCS) of units is given in terms of
the pipe diameter, gas properties, pressures, temperatures, and flow rate as
f ll
follows. It mustt be
b noted
t d that
th t for
f the
th pipe
i segmentt from
f section
ti 1 to
t section
2, the gas temperature Tf is assumed to be constant (isothermal flow).

In SI units, the General Flow equation is stated as follows:

Sometimes the General Flow equation is represented in terms of the
transmission factor F instead of the friction factor f.
f This form of the
equation is as follows.

where the transmission factor F and friction factor f are related by

and in SI units

When there is elevation difference between the ends of a pipe segment, the
General Flow equation needs further modification.


In the General Flow equation, the compressibility factor Z is used. This
mustt be
b calculated
l l t d att the
th gas flowing
fl i temperature
t t andd average pressure in
the pipe segment. Therefore, it is important to first calculate the average
pressure in a pipe segment.

Consider a pipe segment with upstream pressure P1 and downstream

pressure P2. An average pressure for this segment must be used to calculate
the compressibility factor of gas at the average gas temperature Tf. As a first
approximation, we may use an arithmetic average of (P1 + P2)/2. However,
it has been found that a more accurate value of the average gas pressure in a
p p segment
g is

Another form of the average pressure in a pipe segment is

Unlike a liquid pipeline, due to compressibility, the gas velocity depends
upon the pressure and,
and hence,
hence will vary along the pipeline even if the pipe
diameter is constant. The highest velocity will be at the downstream end,
where the pressure is the least. Correspondingly, the least velocity will be at
the upstream end,
end where the pressure is higher.

Consider a pipe transporting gas from point A to point B. Under steady state
flow,, at A,, the mass flow rate of g
gas is designated
g as M and will be the same
as the mass flow rate at point B, if between A and B there is no injection or
delivery of gas. We can write the following relationship for point A:

The volume rate Q can be expressed in terms of the flow velocity u and
pipe cross sectional area A as follows:

Th f combining
bi i Equation
E ti 2.16 2 16 and
d Equation
E ti 2.172 17 and
d applying
l i the
conservation of mass to points A and B, we get

If the pipe is of uniform cross section between A and B,

B the velocities at
A and B are related by the following equation:
Since the flow of gas in a pipe can result in variation of temperature from
point A to point B, the gas density will also vary with temperature and
pressure. If the density and velocity at one point are known, the
corresponding velocity at the other point can be calculated using Equation

If inlet conditions are represented by point A and the volume flow rate Q at
standard conditions (60°F and 14.7 psia) are known, we can calculate the
velocity at any point along the pipeline at which the pressure and
temperature of the gas are P and T, respectively.

The mass flow rate M at section 1 and 2 is the same for steady
state flow.

where Qb is the g gas flow rate at standard conditions and ρb is the

corresponding gas density. Therefore, simplifying Equation 2.20,

Applying the gas law, we get

where P1 and T1 are the pressure and temperature at pipe section 1.
Similarly, at standard conditions,


As flow rate increases, so does the gas velocity. How high can the gas velocity be in
a pipeline? As the velocity increases, vibration and noise are evident. In addition,
higher velocities will cause erosion of the pipe interior over a long period of time.
The upper limit of the gas velocity is usually calculated approximately from the
following equation:

In the preceding Examples 1 and 2, we have assumed the value of
ibilit factor
f t Z to t the
th constant.
t t A more accurate
t solution
l ti will
ill be
b tto
calculate the value of Z using CNGA or Standing-Katz method.

The inlet and outlet gas velocities then will be modified.


The Reynolds number is a function of the gas flow rate, pipe inside
t and
d the
th gas density
d it andd viscosity
i it and
d iis calculated
l l t d from
f th
following equation:

In gas pipeline hydraulics, using customary units, a more suitable equation

for the Reynolds number is as follows:

In SI units, the Reynolds number is


IIn Figure
Fi 2 5 we consider
2.5, id a pipeline
i li 100 mile il long,
l NPS 16 with
ith 0.250
0 250 in.
wall thickness, operating at a flow rate of 100 MMSCFD. The gas flowing
temperature is 80°F. With the upstream pressure fixed at 1400 psig, the
downstream pressure was calculated using the different flow equations.
equations By
examining Figure 2.5, it is clear that the highest pressure drop is predicted
by the Weymouth equation and the lowest pressure drop is predicted by the
Panhandle B equation. It must be noted that we used a pipe roughness of 700
µin. for both the AGA and Colebrook equations, whereas a pipeline
efficiency of 0.95 was used in the Panhandle and Weymouth equations.

Figure 2.6 shows a comparison of the flow equations from a different
perspective. In this case, we calculated the upstream pressure required for an
NPS 30 pipeline,
i li 100 miles
il long,
l h ldi the
holding th delivery
d li pressure constant
t t att
800 psig. The upstream pressure required for various flow rates, ranging
from 200 to 600 MMSCFD, was calculated using the five flow equations.
Again it can be seen that the Weymouth equation predicts the highest
upstream pressure at any flow rate, whereas the Panhandle A equation
calculates the least pressure. We therefore conclude that the most
conservative flow equation that predicts the highest pressure drop is the
Weymouth equation and the least conservative flow equation is Panhandle

The wall thickness required for this pipe diameter and pressure will be dictated 
by the pipe material 25

The equivalent
Th l l
h method
h d can beb applied
l d when
h theh same uniform
f fl
exists throughout the pipeline consisting of pipe segments of different
diameter, with no intermediate deliveries or injections.

Consider the same flow rate Q through all pipe segments. The first pipe
segment has an inside diameter D1 and length L1, followed by the second
segment of inside diameter D2 and length L2 and so on. on We calculate the
equivalent length of the second pipe segment based on the diameter D1
such that the pressure drop in the equivalent length matches that in the
g pipe
p p segment
g of diameter D2. The p pressure drop
p in diameter D2
and length L2 equals the pressure drop in diameter D1 and equivalent length
Le2. Thus, the second segment can be replaced with a piece of pipe of
length Le2 and diameter D1. Similarly, the third pipe segment with diameter
D3 and length L3 will be replaced with a piece of pipe of Le3 and diameter
D1. Thus, we have converted the three segments of pipe in terms of
diameter D1 as follows:

We now have the series piping system reduced to one constant-diameter
(D1) pipe of total equivalent length given by

For the same flow rate and gas properties, neglecting elevation effects, the
pressure difference (P12 – P22) is inversely proportional to the fifth power of
the pipe diameter and directly proportional to the pipe length.
length Therefore,
we can state that, approximately,

From Equation 3.2 we conclude that the equivalent length for the same
pressure drop is proportional to the fifth power of the diameter. Therefore,
in the series piping discussed in the foregoing, the equivalent length of the
second pipe segment of diameter D2 and length L2 is

Similarly, for the third pipe segment of diameter D3 and length L3, the
equivalent length is

Therefore, the total equivalent length Le for all three pipe segments in
terms of diameter D1 is

It can be seen from Equation 3.6 that if D1 = D2 = D3, the total equivalent
length reduces to (L1 + L2 + L3), as expected.


Sometimes two or more pipes are connected such that the gas flow splits
among the branch pipes and eventually combines downstream into a single
pipe, as illustrated in Figure 3.7. The reason for installing parallel pipes or
loops i to reduce
is d pressure drop
d i a certain
in i section
i off theh pipeline
i li due d to
pipe pressure limitation or for increasing the flow rate in a bottleneck

By installing a pipe loop from B to E, in Figure 3.7 we are effectively

reducing the overall pressure drop in the pipeline from A to F, since
between B and E the flow is split
p through
g two ppipes.

Applying the principle of flow conservation, at junction B, the incoming

flow into B must exactly equal the total outflow at B through the parallel
pipes. Therefore, at junction B,

Where, Q = inlet flow at A, Q1 = flow through pipe branch BCE and Q2 =
flow through pipe branch BDE.

Both pipe branches have a common starting point (B) and common ending
point (E). Therefore, the pressure drop in the branch pipe BCE and branch
i BDE are each h equall to (PB – PE),
) where
h PB and
d PE are the
h pressures at
junctions B and E, respectively. Therefore, we can write

The pressure drop due to friction in branch BCE can be calculated from

Where, K1 = a parameter that depends on gas properties, gas temperature,

etc., L1 = length of pipe branch BCE, D1 = inside diameter of pipe branch
BCE and Q1 = flow rate through pipe branch BCE.

Similarly, the pressure drop due to friction in branch BDE is calculated from

In Eq. 3.10 and Eq. 3.11, the constants K1 and K2 are equal, since they do
not depend on the diameter or length of the branch pipes BCE and BDE.
Combining both equations, we can state the following for common pressure
drop through each branch:

Simplifying further, we get the following relationship between the two flow
rates Q1 andd Q2:

In equivalent diameter method, we replace the pipe loops BCE and BDE
with a certain length of an equivalent diameter pipe that has the same
pressure drop as one of the branch pipes.
pipes Since the pressure drop in the
equivalent diameter pipe, which flows the full volume Q, is the same as that
in any of the branch pipes, from Eq. 3.10, we can state the following:

where Q = Q1 + Q2 from Equation 3.7 and Ke represents the constant for

the equivalent diameter pipe of length Le flowing the full volume Q. We get,
using Eq. 3.10, Eq. 3.11, and Eq. 3.14:
Setting K1 = K2 = Ke and Le = L1, we simplify Equation 3.15 as follows:

Using Equation 3.16 in conjunction with Equation 3.7, we solve for the
equivalent diameter De as


and the individual flow rates Q1 and Q2 are calculated from


Solving for the outlet pressure at E, we get P2 = 1145.60 psia, which is almost
the same as what we calculated before.

Therefore, using the equivalent diameter method, the parallel pipes BCE and
BDE can be replaced with a single pipe 24 mi long, having an inside diameter
of 17.67 in. 43

How do we determine where a loop should be placed for optimum results?

Should it be located upstream, downstream, or in a midsection of the pipe?
Three looping scenarios are presented in Figure 3.8.

In case (a), a pipeline of length L is shown looped with X miles of pipe,

beginning at the upstream end A. A In case (b),
(b) the same length X of pipe is
looped, but it is located on the downstream end B. Case (c) shows the
midsection of the pipeline being looped.
For most practical purposes, we can say that the cost of all three loops will
be the same as long as the loop length is the same.

Which of these cases is optimum,? It is found that if the gas temperature is

constant throughout, at locations near the upstream end, the pressure
drops at a slower rate than at the downstream end. end Therefore,
Therefore there is
more pressure drop in the downstream section compared to that in the
upstream section. Hence, to reduce the overall pressure drop, the loop
must be installed toward the downstream end of the pipe. This argument is
valid only if the gas temperature is constant throughout the pipeline.

In reality, due to heat transfer between the flowing gas and the surrounding
soil (buried pipe) or the outside air (above-ground pipe), the gas
temperature will change along the length of the pipeline. If the gas
temperature at the pipe inlet is higher than that of the surrounding soil
(buried pipe), the gas will lose heat to the soil and the temperature will
drop from the pipe inlet to the pipe outlet.

If the gas
as is compressed
c m ressed at the inlet using
sin a compressor,
c m ress r then the gas as
temperature will be much higher than that of the soil immediately
downstream of the compressor.The hotter gas will cause higher pressure 45
drops. Hence, in this case the upstream segment will have a larger pressure
drop compared to the downstream segment. Therefore, considering heat
transfer effects,
effects the pipe loop should be installed in the upstream portion
for maximum benefit.

The installation of the pipe loop in the midsection of the pipeline, as in case
(c) in Figure 3.8, will not be the optimum location, based on the preceding
discussion. It can therefore be concluded that if the gas temperature is
fairlyy constant alongg the p
p the loop
p should be installed toward the
downstream end, as in case (b). If heat transfer is taken into account and
the gas temperature varies along the pipeline, with the hotter gas being
upstream, the better location for the pipe loop will be on the upstream end,
as in case (a).


Since pressure in a gas pipeline is nonlinear compared to liquid pipelines,

the hydraulic gradient for a gas pipeline appears to be a slightly curved line
instead of a straight line.
line The slope of the hydraulic gradient at any point
represents the pressure loss due to friction per unit length of pipe. This
slope is more pronounced as we move toward the downstream end of the
pipeline, since the pressure drop is larger toward the end of the pipeline. If
there are intermediate deliveries or injections along the pipeline, the
hydraulic gradient will be a series of broken lines,
lines as indicated in Figure 3.10.
3 10

A similar broken hydraulic gradient can also be seen in the case of a

pipeline with variable pipe diameters and wall thicknesses, even if the flow
rate is constant. Unlike liquid pipelines, the breaks in hydraulic pressure
gradient are not as conspicuous in gas pipelines. In a long-distance gas
pipeline, due to limitations of pipe pressure, intermediate compressor
i will
ill be
b installed
i ll d to boost
b the
h gas pressure to the
h required
i d value
l so
the gas can be delivered at the contract delivery pressure at the end of the
pipeline. 47

In a long-distance
long distance gas pipeline with intermediate delivery points,
points there may
be a need to regulate the gas pressure at certain delivery points in order to
satisfy the customer requirements. Suppose the pressure at a delivery point
is 800 psig, whereas the customer requirement is only 500 psig. Obviously,
some means of reducing the gas pressure must be provided so that the
customer can utilize the gas for his or her requirements at the correct
ppressure. This is achieved byy means of a p
pressure regulator
g that will ensure
a constant pressure downstream of the delivery point, regardless of the
pressure on the upstream side of the pressure regulator.

This concept is further illustrated using the above example. The main
pipeline from A to C has a branch pipe BE.
BE The flowrate from A to B is 100
MMSCFD, with an inlet pressure of 1200 psig at A. At B, gas is delivered
into a branch line BE at the rate of 30 MMSCFD.
The remaining volume of 70 MMSCFD is delivered to
the pipeline terminus C at a delivery pressure of 600
psig Based on the delivery pressure requirement of 600
psig at C and a takeoff of 30 MMSCFD at point B, the
calculated pressure at B is 900 psig. Starting with 900
psig on the branch line at B, at 30 MMSCFD, gas is
delivered to point E at 600 psig. If the actual
requirement at E is only 400 psig, a pressure regulator
will be installed at E to reduce the deliveryy p
pressure byy
200 psig.


The qquantityy of ggas contained within the p

p under p
pressure,, measured
at standard conditions (generally 14.7 psia and 60°F), is termed the line
pack volume.

Consider a segment of pipe, of length L, with upstream pressure and

temperature of P1 and T1 and downstream values of P2 and T2, respectively.
Suppose the inside diameter of the pipe is D; then the physical volume of
h pipe section is

This volume is the gas volume at pressures and temperatures ranging from
P1 T1 at the upstream end to P2,
P1, P2 T2 at the downstream end of the pipe
length L. In order to convert this volume to standard conditions of
pressure, Pb, and temperature,Tb, we apply the gas law Equation as follows:

From Equation 3.31, solving for line pack Vb at standard conditions, we get

Substituting the value of Vp from Equation 3.30 and simplifying, we get

Equation 3.33 is modified in terms of commonly used units as follows:

Where, Vb is in standard ft3, D in inch and L in mi. The corresponding

equation in SI units is

Where, Vb is in standard m3, D in mm and L in km. 55