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Introduction - Piping Engineering & Design

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Piping Engineering is a specialized discipline of Mechanical Engineering which covers the design of piping and layout of equipment's and process units in chemical, petrochemical or hydrocarbon facilities. Piping Engineers are responsible for the layout of overall plant facilities, the location of equipment's and process units in the plot and the design of the connected piping as per the applicable codes and standards to ensure safe operation of the facilities for the design life.  

Piping can be defined as an assembly of piping components used to convey or  distribute process fluid from one item of equipment to another in a process plant. The piping components that form a part of this assembly are pipes, fittings, flanges, valves, piping specials, bolts and gaskets. This definition also includes pipe-supporting elements such as pipe shoes but does not include support structures such as pipe racks, pipe sleepers and foundations. As per ASME B31.3, the piping designer is responsible to the owner for assurance that the engineering design of the piping complies with the requirements of this code and any additonal requirements established by the owner. Piping Engineering is a very important aspect of plant facility design and extends way beyond designing piping as per ASME Codes. There are various ASME codes used for piping. Most of the plant facilities in the petrochemical and hydrocarbon industry will use ASME B31.3 code for design of process piping. 

What does the ASME B31.3 Piping Code cover

It may be noted that ASME B31.3 code is not a design handbook. The code does not serve as a substitute for sound engineering judgements by the owner and designer. Many decisions that must be made to produce a sound piping installation are not specified in detail within the code. The introduction section of the code clarifies this aspect of ASME B31.3 code.

ASME 31.3 provides ample guidance and set of rules on the following aspects of piping design:

  • References to applicable material specifications and component standards, including dimensional requirements and pressure-temperature ratings.

  • Requirements for design of component and assemblies including pipe supports.

  • Requirements and data for evaluation and limitation of stresses, reactions associated with pressure, temperature changes and other forces.

  • Guidance and limitations on selection and application of materials, components and joining methods.

  • Requirements for the fabrication, assembly and erection of piping.

  • Requirements for examination, inspection and testing of piping.

Piping Engineering and Design Competencies

Piping Engineering broadly involves the following competencies:

  • Plant Layout

  • Equipment Layout

  • Piping Layout 

  • Piping Materials

  • Piping Supports

  • Piping Stress Analysis

  • CAD or 3D Modeling 

Typical Piping Engineering Organization set-up

In many engineering organizations a piping discipline is organized into two groups, namely piping engineering and piping design. The engineering group is mainly involved with piping material specifications, pipng materials and stress analysis whereas the design group is involved with plant layout, equipment layout and piping layout. The lead piping engineer on the project assumes full responsibility for piping engineering and design on the project. The lead designer who is responsible for plant, equipment and piping layout reports to the lead piping engineer. This organizational set-up works successfully in most organizations because it eliminates any conflicts through a single point responsibility, and ensures that a high level of coordination and interface is maintained between the engineering and design group.

In the early stages of your career as a piping engineer or a designer, you may not get immediate exposure to all the required competencies. In very large organizations your role as a piping engineer may be limited to one of the core competencies. It may be a good idea to work in a smaller set-up where the piping engineer engages with almost all activities related to piping engineering and design. On a large project, the Lead Piping Engineer is responsible for overall design of the piping and is supported by the Piping Department Manager and the following piping sub-groups:

  • Piping Materials Engineering Group

  • Piping Layout and Design Group

  • Piping Stress Engineering Group

  • Piping Support Engineering Group

Typical Piping Engineering Organization

Responsibilities of Lead Piping Engineer

The Lead Engineer is required to have the knowledge in all areas of piping engineering along with good managerial skills. He is responsible for day-to-day planning and delegating the tasks to the team members to be able to issue the piping deliverables in a timely manner and meet the project objectives. Following are the key activities and responsibilities of Lead Piping Engineer:

  • Managing the piping engineering activities and deliverables on the project.

  • Ensuring adherence to industry codes and standards as well as department work instructions, specifications, and standards for the assigned project.

  • Participating in developing overall schedule for piping engineering as well as assessing the progress of the piping engineering effort and managing the budget.

  • Coordinating the review of vendor drawings and data used for the project.

  • Coordinating and interfacing with discipline lead engineers to ensure the smooth flow of all information on the project task force, and to ensure alignment with project requirements.

  • Reviewing piping valves and speciality vendor drawings and data.

  • Preparing piping construction scope of work.

  • Participating in the development of P&ID's, package specifications, construction specifications, project schedules, project budgets and construction planning.

  • Performing quality reviews like discipline and inter-discipline checks for detailed engineering documents and specifications. 

  • Planning and participating in any inspection/testing activities associated with their respective piping and equipment packages.

  • Organizing and leading design, layout, constructability and 3D model reviews.

  • Overseeing and assisting in the preparation of reports for feasibility studies.

  • Supporting the Project Manager on piping technical and schedule issues related to the project.

Responsibilities of Piping Stress and Support Engineer

The Piping Stress Engineer is responsible for performing stress analysis of piping systems and ensuring that the piping stresses and loads on equipments are within the allowable limits. The piping stress engineer is responsible for locating the supports and transferring the load information to the structural group to design the support members. To perform these activites he is required to continually coordinate with the layout group as well as the structural group. Following are the key activities and responsibilities of piping stress engineer:

  • Prepare piping stress critical line list.

  • Prepare project stress design criteria or basis.

  • Peform piping stress analysis of piping systems using validated software and prepare stress analysis reports. 

  • Select the type of supports and support location and issue support loads to structural group.

  • Prepare specifications and data sheets for stress specific special items such as spring supports, expansion joints and perform technical evaluation.

  • Coordinate with other disciplines such as process group to confirm various operating scenarios to decide the stress load cases, two phase flows etc. or with structural group to confirm support locations and loads.

  • Prepare stress isometrics mark-ups and issue the same to layout group. Ensure that the stress recommendations are incorporated in piping design by signing and stamping on stress critical isometrics.

Responsibilities of Piping Material Engineer

The Piping Material Engineer is responsible for preparing piping material classes, piping material specifications and other material procurement related requisitions, technical bid evaluations and purchase requistions. The bill of material for piping is usually prepared by the layout group or extracted from the 3D model in an advanced stage of the project. Following are the key activities and responsibilities of piping material engineer:

  • Prepare piping material classes.

  • Prepare piping specifications including material procurement specification.

  • Preparing piping speciality list and data sheets for special items.

  • Preparing valves specifications and data sheets.

  • Checking bill of material for correctness of descriptions.

  • Prepare piping material enquiry requisitions.

  • Prepare technical bid evaluation.

  • Review of Vendor drawings.

  • Prepare piping purchase requisitions. 

Piping Engineering Deliverables

The piping engineering disciplines is responsible for the following deliverables. Different organizations and different regions of the world may use alternate terminologies or prepare additional deliverables depending on the scale of the project which are inlcluded in the brackets:

  • Plot Plans (Overall Plot Plan and Unit Plot Plans)

  • Equipment Layouts

  • Piping General Arrangement Drawings (Piping Plans or Piping GADs)

  • Piping Section and Details (Usually included as part of Piping Plans)

  • Conceptual Piping Layouts or Study Piping Layouts

  • Piping Isometrics

  • Line Designation Table (Line List or Line schedule)

  • Tie-in Schedule (Tie-in Index)

  • Nozzle Orientation Drawings

  • Piping Demolition Drawings

  • Pipe Support Details

  • Material Take Off (Bill of Material or MTO in short)

  • Piping Material Classes

  • Piping Specifications

  • Specialty Items List

  • Data Sheets for Valves

  • Data Sheets for Piping Specials

  • Technical Bid Evaluation

  • Piping Stress Analysis Report

  • 3D Piping Model

Piping design is an excellent career option for Mechanical engineers, it is not suitable for everyone. Piping design is almost 99% technical job, you need have good IQ, imagination, knowledge and willingness to learn, to become a successful piping engineer. If you interested to purse Piping Design Engineering as a career, get in touch with us. We have trained & placed more than 250 piping engineers who are working in India as well as in abroad. Pursue professional learning program in Piping Design Engineering with us & build a robust career for yourself.

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