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Piping Coordination Systems - Reference Points

Foreword - Location is Relative An object's location is always given relative to another reference object.
For example, the location of a Heat Exchanger may be described as five blocks from the General Service Building. To be more
specific, the Heat Exchanger is four blocks east and three blocks south of the General Service Building. With this illustration, a
direction and a distance from the General Service Building has been established.
Several things are assumed to be known, the place to begin (General Service Building), and understanding of east and south (reference
directions), and the length of a block (unit of displacement). Without consensus on these things, communication of the location of a
Process Plant becomes unclear.

Reference Points

Before beginning with making drawings for a new process plant or building, there must be determine where the new building in the
area will take his place. A coordination system, which refers to an officially recognized point therefore is necessary.
In the Netherlands, for example, are thousands of official reference points, distributed across the country on the Internet on
geographic coordinate conversion, triangulation stations, benchmarks, geography or topography. You'll find a lot of information about
how reference points are measured and identified.

Horizontal Reference
Defining a starting point of the site related to the North / South direction, is one of the first steps in setting up a coordination system.
In principle, with a simple reliable compass the direction of the magnetic north can to be determined. In the image below the true
north is at 18. As a draftsman would work with the true north coordinates, he will immediately find out that each line from west to
east and from north to south at an angle of 18 must be drawn.
To avoid this, a Plant North will be determined. In the example below, the true north, 18 is reversed, draftsmen and construction
contractors will be grateful for it.
General there will be tried, to approach the true north-south coordinates as close as possible.
A rule is, that the angle between true north and Plant North can not exceed 45. At 50, for example, the Plant North would be on the
right side, so on the Eastern side of the image.

1 = Official reference point

2 = South West angle of new plant
X = East West distance from new plant to reference point
Y = North South distance from new plant to reference point

Vertical Reference
Before starting with any building, the site is leveled (graded), what means that the ground is made as flat as practically possible. After
leveling we talking about "finished grade", where the highest graded point is termed "high point of finished grade".
This highest point of finished grade refers to an official reference point on which all vertical measurements are related. In the
Netherlands, for example, many vertical measurement are in relation to the "Normaal Amsterdams Peil" (NAP). If the field compared
to the NAP is 1 meter higher, usually the reference point will not become a zero start of 1000 mm, but in this case a zero start at
On a isometric view of a pipe line elevations are indicated by EL.109665 or EL.99450 etc..
What is meant by this vertical dimensions ?

The first EL.109665 you can read as: centerline of pipe is 9665 mm above zero point

The second EL.99450 you can read as: centerline of pipe is 550 mm below zero point

Well, the vertical zero point in this case is 100 meters (100000 mm), and this has the advantage that no negative (minus) values on
drawings need to be applied.
Remark(s) of the Author...
Center-Line and Elevation symbol
I have learned, to apply a centerline, a Elevation symbol and a Center-Line symbol to a isometric.
Namely, the Center-Line symbol at the end of the centerline, and ON that line the Elevation symbol, followed by the elevationnumbers.

The sign on the left shows the centerline symbol.

Tip for AutoCad users: use the CDT font, lower case Q.

The sign on the left shows the Elevation symbol.

That sign, you will see on almost every isometric.
A combination of both signs, you see rarely nowadays on an isometric. Usually only the Elevation symbol is applied. Why? There are
many reasons to make no old-fashioned isometrics.
Large-engineering companies can tell you why!
Piping Coordination Systems - Plot Plan & Equipment - Arrangement Foreword

For clarity, as on this website the word Plant is used, then it refers to a Process plant such as a Chemical plant, Petroleum refinery,
Gas Processing plant, Petrochemical, Pharmaceutical, Textile, Paper, Semiconductor & Cryogenic plants and related processing plants
and terminals. Al these plants fall under the scope of ASME B31.3 Process Piping.
Drawings, which are shown on this page, are fictitious, but they have been drawn a functional Plot Plan of a Process Plant.
Over the years, I've seen a lot of Plot Plans of several engineering companies. All these companies show a certain standard in their
plans, but the layout and dimensioning is often quite different. Also sometimes customers or authorities wants to have additional
information on a Plot Plan. For this reason there is no general rule, for a "final" Plot Plan.
Plot Plan

A Plot Plan is a scale drawing that gives an overview (top view) of the entire plant. All roads, buildings, units, tank farms, employee
entrance etc. will be given on a Plot Plan. It also listed the true north and Plant north, port address, sometimes prevailing winds,
reference point(s), horizontal references etc..
You will understand that a whole process plant, usually can not be given on a readable drawing. Therefore, a distinction is made
between a Overall Plot Plan and a Detailed Plot Plan.
Overall Plot Plan

A Overall Plot Plan, sometimes this plan called a Site Plan or a Site Master Plan, you can compare with a city road map. Important
buildings, parks and street names are given, but not the house numbers or the number of rooms in a building.

With the drawing in your hands, you should find a certain process tank farm and a specific tank, but not a pump or a plate cooler, or
heights of buildings, tanks and so on. That kind of equipment and dimensions are not shown on a Overall Plot Plan.

Right down on the drawing you can see the starting point of this imaginary Overall Plot Plan.
North starting with N - 000.000 coordinate and East with E - 400.000 coordinate.
Both related to an officially recognized reference point, but in practice, the east coordinates refer often to another reference object, and
do not start with the coordinates E - 000.000.
Right on the top under "Notes" you can see the plant north coordinates and (important !) starting reference elevation of this plant is
EL.100000. (see Reference points)
There are no pipe-bridges, pipelines, pumps or other equipment shown on that drawing, but the plan gives a good impression of a
overall process plant.
Detailed Plot Plan

In contrast with a Overall Plot Plan, a Detailed Plot Plan gives a overview (top view) of a part of a process plant. Generally it shows a
part of a certain area, floor or unit.
As you can see on the overall Plot Plan, the process building is largely equipped with a roof, and only some equipment parts are
visible from above.

The plan shows the whole 4th floor on a elevation of EL.129200. These elevation are related to the upper part, Top of Concrete
(T.O.C.) of the 4th floor of the FM-AREA, and indicates a elevation of 29200 millimeters from the starting point (EL.100000) of the
process plant. Furthermore, it shows some equipment, a large pipeline and some smaller, a staircase and the columns of the steel
structure of the building.
Watch out, that all East and North dimensions, starting at the center lines of the columns.
A major advantage of a proper detailed Plot Plan is that you can determine from your office, or a new piece of equipment in a certain
area, floor or unit, can be placed. That however only applies to the horizontal dimensions, because you cannot see possibly
obstructions in the vertical level.
What you also cannot see on a Plot Plan, are the elevations of the equipment. That means that you do not know, or a device on the 4th
floor or may be already on the third floor begins...for this reason, Equipment Arrangements have been considered.
What is a Equipment Arrangement?

Equipment Arrangements are drawings, which show the top and side-view of a part of a process plant. The top-view is similar to a
detailed Plot Plan, except that only equipment is shown.
Both equipment arrangements shows the equipment in a particular area, and sometimes a few details around a specific device.
With a drawing of a site-view you can see the elevations of a certain device, and if the device is going through one, or more floors.


Plot Plans and equipment arrangements are resources to help determine relative and specific positioning of equipment on a process
plant, related to the plant north, that on the drawings must be shown.
Both help the development of support facilities and are used to determine the most cost-effective construction sequence and methods.
They are also used for operational needs, such as training and emergency access, and are essential for obtaining permits and
determining environmental and personnel safety. They are the main documents used in assessing fire protection and if necessary, to
obtain government permits..
Plot Plans and equipment arrangements are dynamic documents and evolve further during the construction phase and the lifetime of a
process plant.
Piping Coordination Systems - Piping Arrangement -

Views in Piping Drawings

There are two types of views in hand-drawn piping drawings:

Orthographic - Plans and Elevations

Pictorial - Isometric Views

Orthographic drawings are views (front, side, top etc.) of an piping system, and in Piping they are called "Piping Arrangements".
An orthographic view shows only one side, and therefore multiple drawings (views) are necessary to show a complete
Piping Arrangement.
In complex systems, where orthographic views do not illustrate the details of the design, pictorial view in isometric presentation is
made for clarity.

Priorities on a Piping Arrangement

Process equipment and piping have priority on the Piping Arrangement. The major primary beams and secondary beams are also
shown, even as Utility stations so that the most efficient route for utilities can be determined.
Order of importance of pipe lines in a Piping Arrangement:

Alloy steel and other special materials

Large bore piping

High temperature/high pressure piping

Lined piping

Carbon Steel Process Piping

Utility piping

Further (if possible) all equipment, instrument connections, with the tag numbers will be shown on a Piping Arrangement. Important
details are often in a larger scale in the same drawing shown.
Even as a Plot Plan, a whole process plant usually can not be given on a readable drawing. Therefore the Piping Arrangement show
parts of a process plant.

Types of Piping Arrangement Drawings

Pipelines on a Piping Arrangement are shown by single lines and double lines.
In single line representation only the center line of the pipeline is drawn using a solid line. In double line representation the actual size
to scale is drawn with center line marked in chain-dotted lines.
Single lines representation

Flanges are shown as thick lines drawn to the scaled outsite diameter of the flange.

For flanged joints a small gap between dimension lines will be shown to indicate a gasket.

Valves are shown with identification number and a handwheel is drawn with stem fully extended. If a Valve is lever operated,
then the movement of handle position is given.

Dimensions for flanged Valves are given to the flange faces, while non flanged Valves are dimensioned to the center lines of
their stems.

Example of a Piping Arrangement

Large image of a imaginary "single line" Piping Arrangement.
The drawing shows 2 pumps, 4 Valves (all Handwheel operated and flanged), a pipe line and a column.
The line number CD - PL - 101 - 12 - C300 - T2 - I2 tells something about the pipe line.


Indicator for plant or system, where the pipeline is located.

Indicator for a service designation.
Indicator for the serial number of the pipe line.
Indicator NPS, in this case the main pipeline is NPS 12.


Indicator for Pipe Line Class or "Pipe Spec".

C tells that the material is Carbon Steel, and 300 indicates the Pressure Class.
Indicator for Tracing type.
Indicator for Insulation type.

Above description of the line number is only an example. For line numbers are no standard definitions, and therefore a customer
specification can be different from what is here defined.
The indication 12-314 (Typ) on the Valve told that the Valve is 12 inches and 314 indicates the type of Valve. The same applies also to
the Valve near the pump, where DR indicates a Drain Valve.
Typ stands for Typical and means that there is another ore more Valves in that drawing with the same specification. The advantage of
this indicator is, that items with the same specification only once need to be defined.
Furthermore, the red arrow indicates the flow direction, which perhaps is unnecessary, because the pipe line is connected to the
Suction side of the pump.

Dis. = Discharge, pressure side of a pump

Suc. = Suction, suction side of a pump

An important item is designation TF (Top Flat) which is shown to the eccentric reducer at the pump. That means that the flat side of
the reducer is on the top of de pipe line. If it was vice versa BF (Bottom Flat), also the elevation to the suction side of the pump must
be given.
Example for the pump suction side:
A eccentric reducer 12 to 8 inch has a center-line difference from 52.4 millimeters.
(12" = O.D. 323.9 mm / 8" = O.D. 219.1 mm / Length = 203 mm / Center-line difference = 52.4 mm).
If the reducer bottom flat, an elevation round off upwards EL. 100548 must be shown.

Note: The connection to the column is Class 600. This change in Pressure Class is indicated
by a so-called "Spec break" (change of Piping Class Specification). In this case it means, that the flange that connect to nozzle C1 also
must be have a Pressure Class of 600, and that the material probably not changed.
Another important item is the elevation (given in red) of nozzle C1 from the column. The elevation EL. 104966 is shown, because the
pipe line ends with an eccentric reducer Bottom Flat (BF). In this case it means, that the vertical centerline from nozzle C1 is 15.88
mm above the center line of the pipeline.
A eccentric reducer 14 x 12 (355.6 mm x 323.9 mm) has a length of 330 mm and a center-line difference from 15.88 mm.

Symbols on a Piping Arragement Drawing

On the drawing can be seen that the pipe line(s) from the pumps run up to the column. The pipeline starts with elevation EL. 100600 at
the pump suction site and ends at elevation EL. 104950 at nozzle "C1" from the column. But without the elevations, the upward
routing is also visible.
For single line representation there are a lot of symbols, which illustrate a directional change.
The three partly open blue circles in the drawing, indicate three Elbows which are bending down. The two blue half-moons around the
pipelines/valves indicate that the Valves are at the bottom of the pipeline are located. The two Valves are needed to drain the pipeline.

By applying eccentric reducers (Top Flat) in the lowest part of the pipeline, the two Valves make it possible to fully empty the system.
In the main Menu "Docs" the most used drawing symbols can be found.

3-Dimensional View
More and more engineering companies show Plot Plans, equipment and piping arrangements in a 3D view. Better 3D software has
made this possible, and generally has this way of drawing many advantages.
There are many programs that can be made 3D views, but they are all very expensive. Large engineering companies often have
developed their own software. Some of these programs make it possible "to walking through a whole plant" in order to find a
particular item. It is very impressive, what is possible with that type of software.

A standard Piping Arrangement does not exist.
Like a Plot Plan or Equipment Arrangement, in the development phase of a new plant, the requirements for the drawings will be made
by customer and/or engineering company.
Remark(s) of the Author...
My own experience with 3-Dimensional Views...

Since 1999, I draw many topics in 3D views.

The reason is, that I have noted that a pipefitter or construction worker knows immediately what he must build. Another reason
is, that people who are not able to read a drawing, also know what I am trying to explain.
For myself, I discovered that it cost me less time, to make different views, because with acceptable 3D software, each view
(what ever you want) in seconds can be displayed and printed.

My first 3D drawing (it is not a piping drawing).

In recent years I have found a combination of both, Orthographic and 3D view. If it is a simple drawing I show only two or
three orthographic views. In complex drawings I show the necessary orthographicthis views with in the right corner of the
drawing, a 3D view. It works perfectly for those who must carry out the job.

Simple dwg of a 3-Dimensional view from the Piping Arrangement above mentioned.
The 3D view from the Piping Arrangement is simple but it probably shows, for most users, a direct understandable drawing.

At the end of 2008 I had a job for the design of a new 14 inch pipeline from and between two storage tanks. Normally I had
made isometric views from the new pipe line and orthographic views of the supports. But in that case, for the first time, I made
only 3d views to scale from the pipeline, Valves, supports etc.. I gave the pipefitters and construction workers all possible
views...the job is performed without any problems.

With respect to our "grandfathers", they builded without our current techniques, the largest plants on earth
Piping Coordination Systems - P&ID -

Piping and Instrumentation Diagram

The piping and Instrument Diagram (P&ID) provides a schematic representation of the piping, process control, and instrumentation
which shows the functional relationships among the system components. The P&ID also provides important information needed by

the constructor and manufacturer to develop the other construction input documents (the isometric drawings or orthographic physical
layout drawings).
The P&ID provides direct input to the field for the physical design and installation of field-run piping. For clarity, it is usual practice
to use the same general layout of flow paths on the P&ID as used on the system flow diagram.
The P&ID ties together the system description, the system flow diagram, the electric control schematic, and the control logic diagram.
It accomplishes this by showing all the piping, equipment, principal instruments, instrument loops, and control interlocks.
The P&ID contains a minimum amount of text in the form of notes (the system descriptions minimize the need for text on the P&ID).
The first P&ID in the set for the job should contain a legend defining all symbols used; if certain symbols are defined elsewhere, it
may be appropriate to only reference their source. The P&IDs are also used by the start-up organizations for preparing flushing,
testing, and blowout procedures for the piping system and by the plant operators to operate the system. The correctness and
completeness of the SD, SFD, and P&ID drawings are crucial to the success of the start-up program.

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The P&ID should show the following:

Mechanical equipment

All Valves associated with the process piping

Instruments significant to the process piping, including:

Process pipes

Vents and drains

Special fittings

Sampling lines

Permanent start-up and flushing lines

Specific information as applicable to job:

Instrument designations

Equipment names and numbers

Pipeline identification

Valve identification

All size transitions in line:

Reducers and increasers, swages, etc

Direction of flow

Interfaces for class changes

Seismic category

Quality level

Interconnection references

Annunciation inputs

Plant computer inputs

Vendor and contractor interfaces

Identification of components and subsystems by others

Reference to a vendor drawing for details not shown

Intended physical sequence of equipment: Including branch lines, reducers, etc.

Image of a simple Piping and Instrument Diagram

Large P&ID image (Dim 3000x2146 / 220kb)

Remarks: The P&ID for a defined system should be limited to coverage of that system to the maximum practical extent. Other
systems that interface with the subject system are shown in phantom if such portions are detailed elsewhere.
Whenever a line is broken off as a matter of drafting convenience, both the break and the continuation are labeled so that one can
readily trace the line from both sides of the break. This applies whether the break and continuation are on the same sheet or on
different sheets of the drawing.
Except for very simple P&ID, the drawing should have the horizontal and vertical borders marked to permit reference to any small
area of the drawing, such as by "Continued at PG-12".
Care should be taken to ensure that these markings are within the sized field of the drawing so that they will always be reproduced
with the drawing regardless of the process used.
Piping Coordination Systems - Piping Isometrics -

Piping Isometric
Unlike orthographics, piping isometrics allow the pipe to be drawn in a manner by which the length, width and depth are shown in a
single view. Isometrics are usually drawn from information found on a plan and elevation views. The symbols that represent fittings,
Valves and flanges are modified to adapt to the isometric grid. Usually, piping isometrics are drawn on preprinted paper, with lines of
equilateral triangles form of 60.

The Iso, as isometric are commonly referred, is oriented on the grid relative to the north arrow found on plan drawings. Because iso's
are not drawn to scale, dimensions are required to specify exact lengths of piping runs.
Pipe lengths are determined through calculations using coordinates and elevations. Vertical lengths of pipe are calculated using
elevations, while horizontal lengths are caculated using north-south and east-west coordinates.
Piping isometrics are generally produced from orthographic drawings and are important pieces of information to engineers. In very
complex or large piping systems, piping isometrics are essential to the design and manufacturing phases of a project.
Piping isometrics are often used by designers prior to a stress analysis and are also used by draftsmen to produce shop fabrication
spool drawings. Isometrics are the most important drawings for installation contractors during the field portion of the project.

How to read a Piping Isometric?

A pipe into a isometric view, is always drawn by a single line. This single line is the centerline of the pipe, and from that line, the
dimensions measured. So, not from the outside of a pipe or fitting.
The image below shows a orthographic view of a butt welded pipe with three sizes (A, B, C).

The A size is measured from the front to the center line of the elbow / pipe.

The B size is measured from centerline to centerline.

The C size is like the A size, measured from the front to the center line of the elbow / pipe.

Orthographic view
(double line presentation)

Isometric view
The image here on the right shows a isometric view of the same pipe as on the
left. As you can see, this drawing is very simple and quick to implement. The red
lines show the pipe, the black dots are the butt welds and A, B & C are the
dimensions of front to center line and center line to center line.
The simplicity with which a pipe isometric can be drawn is one reason to made
A second reason to made isometrics; if a pipe should be drawn in several planes
(north to south, then down and then to the west, etc.), orthographic views really
not an option. In a orthographic view it is not a problem if the pipe runs in one
plane, but when a pipe in two or three planes to be drawn, a orthographic view

can be unclear.
Another reason why isos are preferred, is the number of drawings that for
orthographic views should be made.
For example: for a complex pipeline system, 15 isometrics must be drawn. I've
never tried, but I think for orthographic views maybe 50 drawings are needed to
show the same as the Iso's.

Isometric, Plan and Elevation Presentations of a Piping System

The image below show the presentation used in drafting. The isometric view clearly show the piping arrangement, but the plan view
fails to show the bypass loop and valve, and the supplementary elevation view is needed.

Isometric views in more than one plane

Below are some examples of isometric drawings. The auxiliary lines in the shape of a cube, ensure better visualization of the pipeline

The drawing on the left shows a pipeline which runs through three planes. The pipe line begins and ends with a flange.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs to the east
pipe runs up
pipe runs to the north
pipe runs to the west
pipe runs down

The drawing on the left is almost identical to the drawing above. A different perspective is shown, and the pipe that comes from above
is longer.
Because this pipe in isometric view, runs behind the other pipe, this must be indicated by a break in the line.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs to the south
pipe runs up
pipe runs to the west
pipe runs to the north
pipe runs down

The drawing on the left shows a pipe that runs through three planes and in two planes it make a bow.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs to the south
pipe runs up
pipe runs up and to the west
pipe runs up
pipe runs to the west
pipe runs to the north-west
pipe runs to the north

The drawing on the left shows a pipe that runs through three planes, from one plane to a opposite plane.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs to the south
pipe runs up
pipe runs up and to the north-west
pipe runs to the north

Hatches on a Isometric Drawing

Hatches on isometric drawings being applied, to indicate that a pipe runs at a certain angle and in which direction the pipe runs.
Sometimes, small changes in the hatch, the routing of a pipe is no longer the east, but for example suddenly to the north.

The drawing on the left shows a pipe, where the hatch indicates that the middle leg runs to the east.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs up
pipe runs up and to the east
pipe runs up

The drawing on the left shows a pipe, where the hatch indicates that the middle leg runs to the north.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs up
pipe runs up and to the north
pipe runs up
The two drawings above show, that changing from only the hatch, a pipeline receives a different direction. Hatches are particularly
important in isometric views.

The drawing on the left shows a pipe, where the hatches indicates that the middle leg runs up and to the north-west.
Routing starting point X
pipe runs up
pipe runs up and to the north-west
pipe runs to the north