Improve plant operations and safety with software visualization.
by Dominik Fry
October 22, 2018

7. Create a Construction Document

During construction, the design documents are used to build and test the system. Field changes are often necessary to accommodate changes in pipe routing or changes in the system design. If the modifications involve adding pipe length, elbows or adjustments to the pipe sizes, the system model can be updated, and calculations can be done to show the effect these changes have on the piping system operation.

During plant startup and testing, the software provides the plant startup engineers with a model that shows how the system will operate. This information is useful during startup because much of the equipment testing is conducted with the equipment running in abnormal operating conditions. A copy of the design model can be created, and the operating conditions can be adjusted to reflect how the test will be run.

The software also can be used while flushing the piping system to remove construction debris. A copy of the piping system model can be created, and the startup engineer can insert the strainers, filters and piping jumpers needed to flush the system. A fluid flow analysis can then calculate the flush velocities for each flush path. In addition, the fluid flow analysis can calculate if a pump is operating off its pump curve due to abnormal operating conditions encountered during the flushing operations.

Finally, the program can calculate the valve positions needed to balance the flow rates in the piping system.

8. Validate the Piping Model

After the system is built and put into operation, the piping model should be validated. The plant instrumentation shows how the plant is operating. If the model matches the observed plant operating conditions, the model accurately reflects the actual system operation and it is a valid model.

Once the validation is performed for a variety of operating conditions, the model can be used to predict system operation under any possible set of operating conditions.

9. Troubleshoot System Operations

After the system has been turned over to the operating plant, the model can be used to troubleshoot system operations. If the predicted results of the piping system model do not agree with the observed operating data, then the model is incorrect or something in the piping system is not operating as designed.

A piping system lineup can be created so the model is set up exactly like the real system is operating. By comparing the observed values of the operating system with the piping system model, one can quickly isolate the problem and, more importantly, determine what can be done to return the system to normal operation.

10. Make Plant Improvements & Modifications

During the life of the plant, adjustments will be made to the system because of process changes, the addition of new loads or the need to increase capacity. Using the existing piping system model, the project engineer can see how the required changes will affect the operation of the system.

11. Train for Operations

Plant operating personnel need to know how the plant will operate during a variety of conditions. They can either gain that experience by putting the plant into that condition, or they can simulate the operation.

In many cases, the piping system is infrequently operated at given conditions, such as startup or shutdown, making it difficult for operating personnel to obtain necessary experience. In other cases, the system cannot be run in that condition due to operational requirements.


A thorough understanding of your piping system allows for more a more effective and safe use of resources. Individual components can be tuned to run in their most efficient range, which also increases mean time between failure (MTBF). This allows the end user to have a firm understanding of the limitations of the system.

Together, these translate to a safer work environment where maintenance can be planned rather than hurried in an emergency. This also allows for engineers and operators to test the system and make any potential mistakes in the model, rather than in real life. As a result, the model is a valuable design document for anyone involved with the system. If the model is started during the design phase, updated during construction and maintained for the life of the plant, a clear picture of the piping system operation is always available.

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