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Flexibility in Piping Design
Doc. No. IND-TM-L-008 Rev.0
Date : Aug. 25, 2008

A rigid piping system experiences stresses during

operation at high temperatures
Providing sufficient flexibility in routing is critical
to ensure stresses in the piping system is within
acceptable limits
Be focused on providing flexible routing for large
bore and temperature critical piping
Flexibility in piping connected to strain sensitive
equipments like pumps, compressors, columns,
turbines, plate heat exchangers, etc. is a must
What it means!!!

The piping designer should be aware of the stress and

support concepts in piping layout which are the
guiding principles behind flexible pipe routing

The piping designer should be aware of what pipe

expansion means, how rigid piping induces stress and
how to provide minimum expansion length using
guided cantilever tables
What it means!!!

Stress engineer is always there to review flexibility but

piping designer uses best judgment and coordinates
with stress engineer as needed to design a flexible
and stable pipe route upfront
How does it help!

Understanding stress and flexibility concepts will help

designer in reducing cycle time for the preparation of
an effective layout which is acceptable to the stress
Increases the technical expertise of the designer in
piping layout and design and also gives a good
understanding of pipe supporting norms
Will lead to better design, more effective and accurate
material take-off & shorter schedule
Some Critical Equipments & Systems

Pump suction and discharge piping (High temp and

sizes 12 more critical)
Furnace and Reactor piping
Column and Air Cooler piping
Column and Reboiler piping Two phase flow
Compressor piping
Turbine piping
Examples of Flexible Piping

Pump Piping (Column/Vessel to Pump)

- Provide sufficient pipe leg perpendicular to
pump suction axis so as to absorb suction line
- Case 1 piping is more flexible as column
nozzle is perpendicular to pump axis and
pumps set equidistant from column centerline
helps minimize differential thermal growth
across pump axis
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- Case 2 has column nozzle parallel to pump

axis and this layout is less flexible because
thermal growth along pump axis has to be
absorbed by offset loop
- Cases 3, 4 & 5 are preferred arrangements for
higher temps and higher suction/discharge
pipe sizes
- Provide min 5D straight run from first elbow to
pump suction
- First base support shall be adjustable
- Consider low friction slide plate where required
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Furnace/Reactor layout and flexibility in piping design

when interspaced with a pipe rack

- (Case 1) Common practice is to locate both

Furnace & Reactor on same side of pipe rack so
that connected line on rack moves away from the
equipments during thermal expansion
- (Case 2) In alternate layout mid section of line
on rack acts as pivot allowing pipe on either
side to move away from equipment due to
thermal expansion (more loads on nozzles)
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Tall Column Piping (Large bore 8 NB)

- Considering column expansion is very critical to
effective and efficient piping design
- Column skirt expansion is also critical
- Use the tables for standard pipe guide spacing
for supporting of vertical lines
- Avoid loop on vertical down comer alongside the
- First support is almost always a Rest Support
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- Air cooler inlet manifold piping shall be

symmetrical in design to take care of
differential expansion and also to satisfy
equal flow requirement by process
- Refer Cases 1 & 2: Case 1 is a better option as
tower down comer flexibility is taken care of
by horizontal leg and number of elbows and
pipe is reduced resulting in economical design
- The vertical drop and horizontal leg of pipe
between column and air cooler/pumps shall be
good to absorb thermal growth
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Column to Re-boiler Piping (Typically large bore)

- Column to re-boiler piping is very critical owing
to the presence of two phase flow
- Case 1 shows option of re-boiler supported
off column itself
- This needs early decision and constant interface
with Mech group as column design will see
re-boiler loads
- Option not suitable for revamp scenario
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- Case 2 shows option of re-boiler supported off

an independent structure
- In this case, provision of can type spring below
re-boiler lug becomes necessary to absorb
expansion of column
- Disadvantage is that it takes more space and
increase in structural cost
- Re-boiler location with respect to column and its
connected piping requires interface with process
group and with stress
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- Cases 3, 4 & 5 show piping between column and

re-boiler located in horizontal. Column nozzle
perpendicular to re-boiler center line is preferred
for imparting flexibility
- Space for provision of springs may have to be
considered in layout to reduce loads on re-boiler
- No dead legs allowed in this piping!!!
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Compressor Piping
- Basic rule is that compressor piping and
support foundations shall be isolated from
compressor foundation to ensure vibrations are
not transferred
- Provide adequate flexibility and give
consideration for provision of springs at inlet
- Always liaise with stress and mechanical for
optimum layout/design and qualification of
nozzle loads
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Turbine Piping
- Nozzles are strain sensitive and see
movement during operation
- Consideration shall be given to accommodate
springs before connection to nozzles
- Low friction slide plates under supports are
normally considered to reduce loads
- Piping system shall be balanced and
supported appropriately to allow flexibility
- Steam piping to turbines shall allow for removal of
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

Miscellaneous piping systems

- (Case 1) For piping between horizontal
vessel/drum and pumps, the suction nozzle
from vessel/drum shall be closer to fixed end for
optimum flexibility
- (Case 2) Option 1 piping is preferred over
option 2 because in latter case differential
expansion at pump suction will be unbalanced
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- (Case 3) Exchanger channel side piping

should clear channel flange and first support for
maintenance shall be outside tube pull out space
- (Case 4) shows an example of new line tapped
from existing header on rack. Alternate-2
shows routing with added flexibility when
connected to sensitive equipment nozzle
- Do not support line below bottom nozzle!!!
Examples of Flexible Piping contd.

- (Case 4) When tapping off a header where

there is large expansion, ensure to provide a loop
in horizontal as shown. Loop into expansion
is better
- Use 3 size to calculate minimum expansion leg
length from table

Reduce stress by providing flexibility in the piping

system and proper balanced supporting to ensure
uniform distribution of piping loads
Remember that pipe moves when hot and movement
shall not be restrained by adjacent pipe
Understand that different materials have different
thermal coefficient of linear expansion (i.e. SS
expands more than CS)
Take-away contd.

Most sustained case loads (dead loads) in a piping

system can be addressed by the designer by use of
span table and guided cantilever tables
Avoid fitting-to fitting routing of lines especially for
higher sizes and temps
Remember that expansion leg in the other
direction/plane is good but in third direction/plane is
better (3-D loop better than 2-D)
Piping design owns the ultimate responsibility for
effective, economic and efficient design

There is a draft version of Pipe Support Methodology

book made by our JE Leiden office available with us
for use on Mum-Leiden work share projects. This
book has several graphs and tables to help piping
designer design flexible piping systems with optimum
supporting. This book also provides weights for pipe
and piping components. Some values may be
conservative compared to other standards but the
basis is well explained and easy to use.