Piping Engineering / Design Blog.



Posted by Antony Thomas at Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Process Plant Terms


A refinery is a plant that takes crude oil as its feed or charge stock and converts it into the many petroleum products that people use; Some of these are gasoline, jet-fuel, kerosene, butane, propane, fuel oil and asphalt.


The hydrocarbon compound contains hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbon compounds are numerous and form the basis for petroleum products. They exist mostly as vapors and liquids but may also be solid. In general, piping systems refineries and gasoline plants transport hydrocarbons or utilities.

Gasoline Plant

The gasoline plant takes natural gas (a vapor) as its charge stock and separates the vapor’s heavier products out and re-injects the lighter gas (methane) into a pipeline or perhaps into the gas field it came from. Again gasoline, propane and butane are extracted as products. But, since a gasoline plant starts with a vapor, the heavier hydrocarbons do not exist in its charge stock; so heavier products cannot be made. Asphalt s one of the products that is classified as a heavy hydrocarbon and is not produced in a gasoline plant.

Chemical Plant

The chemical plant takes semi-refined products from refineries and gasoline plants and reprocess them, in this case it is also act as a Petrochemical plant. Sometimes blending in other products and converts them into certain chemicals which may be sold as a finished consumer product. One such product widely demanded today is plastic. Chemical plants make many ingredients in modern medicines.

Tank Farm

The tank farm is the area that contains the huge storage tanks of the refinery and gasoline or chemical plants. The tanks are usually isolated from the main processing units in case of fire. They may be 200° or more in diameter and will contain the plant’s charge stock for several days. The tanks also store the plant’s products, until the shipment goes to the consumer.

Flare Systems

The flare system transports vapors (via a piping system) to a flare stack which is very tall and has a flame burning at the top. This system burns waste gases and also collects and burns relief valve discharges. At night the flare stack usually stands out -sending flames high into the air. This is waste gas burning. if it did not burr, it would pollute the air.


Instruments tell the operator what is happening inside a vessel or pipe. There are four basic groups of instruments, namely temperature, pressure, flow and level.


Most students may think of fluid as liquid, but it can also be a vapor. Fluid means something that will flow-something not solid. Piping directs fluid flow.

Process Plant Utilities:

The utility is a refinery’s service portion. While a home has water, gas and electricity, a refinery or other plant has many more, some of which are below.


Steam services many plant items. Heat generates steam in fired boilers or heater which will make many different steam pressures and temperatures. They apply heat and convert condensate (pure water) to steam (a vapor). The steam then goes to the different plant units in the piping systems which use the steam.

Many students think they have seen steam, but they haven’t. They cannot actually see steam: it is invisible. What they have seen is the condensate condensing out of the steam. That is where the term condensate” comes from.


As the energy in steam is used, the steam turns to condensate. Another piping system collects this condensate, which is returned under a row pressure to a collection point and is pumped through the boiler tubing and converted to steam again. So the condensate is in a constant cycle from steam to condensate to steam.

Fuel Oil

Fuel oil is another utility that refineries make and partially consume. It is also sold as a product to heat homes and fires furnaces in private business.

Instrument Air

A utility that operates the plant instruments is instrument air. A piping system distributes this air, which has been compressed and dried to remove, all its moisture, as the moisture would harm the instruments.

Utility Air

Utility air drives air motors and blow air on objects to clean them, such as some barbers blow cut hair off customers with air hoses.

Cooling Water

Cooling water cool various streams in a plant. The water starts at a cooling tower and is pumped through a piping system to exchangers, which exchange heat. it comes out boner-much like water from a hot water heater in a home. This water then returns to the cooling tower, which cools the water. and then is ready for more circulation into the unit. Like the steam and condensate system above, this is a constantly c system.


An underground utility collects drains from funnels or catch basins and, in a separate piping system, transports them to a disposal point. Since no pressure is in this drain piping, the pipes must slope to cause flow. This slope is usually 1 foot per 100 feet of tine or greater.
It can be very difficult to design drain systems. Since they run underground, they must miss all other underground items. The drainage system must twist and turn to miss all the process equipment foundations.
Most plants also have more than one drain system. They may have an oily water sewer a storm water sewer and an acid sewer. The oily water sewer handles the oily drips and drains. The storm water sewer collects surface runoffs from rains. The acid sewer collects acid drains and drips. There may be many other types of separate drain systems.

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