Dyplast is publishing its latest Technical Bulletin 0720 on insulation on below-ambient temperature piping, and how it can often be mission critical.
Even though the capital cost of the pipe insulation system may be very minor compared to the cost of the entire facility, the fact that the installation of the insulation system is one of the final activities to complete the construction phase and thus enables the commissioning phase makes the insulation system critical for:
- Construction schedule delays
- Operational energy/process inefficiencies
- Near-term outage/curtailments
- Poor system resilience (e.g. from incidents, extreme weather events)
- Inherently low margins-of-error
- Inherent inflexibility (e.g. in process modifications, more cycling, expansion).
When insulation design engineers select an insulant on behalf of their client, their selection fundamentally dictates the design/cost/installation labor/risk profile associated with the entire insulation system. Each insulant requires different approaches to vapor barriers, expansion joints, accommodations for the overall weight of the system with stress on pipe hangars, as well as installation procedures, long-term maintenance, and so forth. Additionally, there are new approaches to refrigeration and process facility design, including modularization and pre-insulation of the pipe before shipment. Unfortunately, some designers have not yet considered the impacts on the insulation systems necessary to support new refrigeration and process facility design approaches.
Insulation system designers generally start with two initial choices: 1) select the insulant that was qualified by their organization years ago, or 2) consider re-qualification of the old and/or qualification of new-comers in light of “what we know today”. The periodic re-qualification is important due to a number of factors including changes in:
- Specification standards (e.g. ASTM, EN, CINI)
- Chemical formulation (such as the chemical’s molecular components, or changes in additives such as fire retardants, catalysts, etc.)
- Manufacturing methodologies
- Manufacturing locations.
It is not possible to fully discuss life-cycle performance/risk in adequate detail within this article, yet the insulant selection stage is a critical step in the process. Being better informed means mitigating risks and potentially improving performance. To be better informed, one must understand:
- What information is pertinent?
- Since insulation is intended to insulate, the essential question is “why not select the insulant with the lowest thermal conductivity at in-situ temperatures”?
- In general, there is no correlation between cost and thermal performance. In fact, many insulants have poor thermal performance yet at higher cost.
- There are indeed circumstances where the specifications require particular insulant attributes such as 25/50 Flame/Smoke per E84, compliance with CINI, limits (rational or not) on Chloride content, etc.
- What information is factual?
- Has the information been verified by an independent third party?
- An insulant certified at Manufacturing Facility “A” may not be certified at Manufacturing Facility “B.”
- An insulant certified/tested in 2018 may have a different formulation in 2020; how do you know unless the processes are audited by a reputable organization?
- Is there full disclosure of all pertinent facts?
- Thermal conductivities at lower or higher temperatures may not be listed, yet are critical?
- Water absorption and water vapor transmission may be measured by different ASTM protocols and not reconciled!
- Certain components may be manufactured in countries that do not comply with the latest environmental protocols (e.g. Montreal Protocol).
The summary conclusion, as elaborated in Technical Bulletin 0720, is that the lack of comprehensive due diligence in the insulation system can tip the financial equation of an otherwise successful project. More information does not always equate to being better informed.
Click here for Technical Bulletin 0720.