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4.2: Piping and Instrumentation Diagram Standard Notation

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    Authors: Halley Crast, Andrew Laskowski, Maurice Telesford, Emily Yatc

    By: Stephanus Oscar, Kaitlin Harrington , Suhendra Lie


    Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs) use specific symbols to show the connectivity of equipment, sensors, and valves in a control system. These symbols can represent actuators, sensors, and controllers and may be apparent in most, if not all, system diagrams. P&IDs provide more detail than a process flow diagram with the exception of the parameters, i.e. temperature, pressure, and flow values. "Process equipment, valves, instruments and pipe lines are tagged with unique identification codes, set up according to their size, material fluid contents, method of connection (screwed, flanged, etc.) and the status (Valves - Normally Closed, Normally Open)."[1] These two diagrams can be used to connect the parameters with the control system to develop a complete working process. The standard notation, varying from letters to figures, is important for engineers to understand because it a common language used for discussing plants in the industrial world.

    P&IDs can be created by hand or computer. Common programs, for both PC and Mac, that create P&IDs include Microsoft Visio (PC) and OmniGraffle (Mac). As with other P&IDs, these programs do not show the actual size and position of the equipment, sensors and valves, but rather provide a relative positions. These programs are beneficial to produce clean and neat P&IDs that can be stored and viewed electronically. See below for P&ID templates for these programs.

    This section covers four main types of nomenclature. The first section describes the use of lines to describe process connectivity. The second section describes letters used to identify control devices in a process. The third section describes actuators, which are devices that directly control the process. The final section describes the sensors/transmitters that measure parameters in a system.

    Line Symbols

    Line symbols are used to describe connectivity between different units in a controlled system. The table describes the most common lines.

    Table 1: Line Symbols

    ine types.gif

    In Table 1, the "main process" refers to a pipe carrying a chemical. "Insulated" is straightforward, showing that the pipe has insulation. "Trace heated" shows that the pipe has wiring wrapped around it to keep the contents heated. "Lagged" indicates on a P&ID that the pipe is wrapped in a cloth or fiberglass wrap as an alternative to painting to improve the appearance of the pipe see here for more information. The last column in Table 1 shows pipes that are controlled by a controller. "Electrical impulse" shows that the manner in which information is sent from the controller to the the pipe is by an electrical signal, whereas "pneumatic impulse" indicates information sent by a gas.

    In addition to line symbols, there are also line labels that are short codes that convey further properties of that line. These short codes consist of: diameter of pipe, service, material, and insulation. The diameter of the pipe is presented in inches. The service is what is being carried in the pipe, and is usually the major component in the stream. The material tells you what the that section of pipe is made out of. Examples are CS for carbon steel or SS for stainless steel. Finally a 'Y' designates a line with insulation and an 'N' designates one without it. Examples of line short codes on a P&ID are found below in Figure A.

    ID - line labeling.png
    Figure A: Line Labels

    This is useful for providing you more practical information on a given pipe segment.

    For example in stream 39 in Figure A, the pipe has a 4" diameter, services/carries the chemical denoted 'N', is made of carbon steel, and has no insulation.

    Identification Letters

    The following letters are used to describe the control devices involved in a process. Each device is labeled with two letters. The first letter describes the parameter the device is intended to control. The second letter describes the type of control device.

    Table 2: First Identification Letter


    Table 3: Second Identification Letter


    For example, the symbol “PI,” is a “pressure indicator.”

    Valve Symbols

    The following symbols are used to represent valves and valve actuators in a chemical engineering process. Actuators are the mechanisms that activate process control equipment.

    Table 4: Valve Symbols


    Table 5: Valve Actuator Symbols


    General Instrument or Function Symbols

    Instruments can have various locations, accessibilities, and functionalities in the field for certain processes. It is important to describe this clearly in a P&ID. Below is a table of these symbols commonly used in P&IDs.


    Discrete instruments are instruments separate or detached from other instruments in a process. Shared display, shared control instruments share functions with other instruments. Instruments that are controlled by computers are under the "computer function" category. Instruments that compute, relay, or convert information from data gathered from other instruments are under the "Programmable logic control" section.

    For example, a discrete instrument for a certain process measures the flow through a pipe. The discrete instrument, a flow transmitter, transmits the flow to a shared display shared control instrument that indicates the flow to the operator. A computer function instrument would tell the valve to close or open depending on the flow. An instrument under the "Programmable logic control" category would control the valve in the field if it was pneumatically controlled, for instance. The instrument would gather information from discrete instruments measuring the position of the actuator on the valve, and would then adjust the valve accordingly.

    In the chart above, it is necessary to know where the instrument is located and its function in order to draw it correctly on a P&ID. A primary instrument is an instrument that functions by itself and doesn't depend on another instrument. A field mounted instrument is an instrument that is physically in the field, or the plant. Field mounted instruments are not accessible to an operator in a control room. An auxiliary instrument is an instrument that aids another primary or auxiliary instrument. Primary and auxiliary instruments are accessible to operators in a control room.

    Transmitter Symbols

    Transmitters play an important role in P&IDs by allowing the control objectives to be accomplished in a process. The following are commonly used symbols to represent transmitters.

    Below are three examples of flow transmitters. The first is using an orifice meter, the second is using a turbine meter, and the third is using an undefined type of meter.

    Table 6: Transmitter Symbols


    The location of the transmitter depends on the application. The level transmitter in a storage tank is a good example. For instance, if a company is interested in when a tank is full, it would be important for the level transmitter to be placed at the top of the tank rather than the middle. If the transmitter was misplaced in the middle because a P&ID was misinterpreted then the tank would not be properly filled. If it is necessary for the transmitter to be in a specific location, then it will be clearly labeled.

    Miscellaneous Symbols

    The following symbols are used to represent other miscellaneous pieces of process and piping equipment.

    Table 7: Process Equipment


    quipment 1.gif

    quipment 3.gif

    Table 8: Line Fittings

    ine fittings.gif

    Table 9: Pipe Supports

    ipe supports.gif

    Crafting a P&ID

    In order to greatly simplify P&ID diagrams for the purposes of this class, a standard convention must be employed. This convention simplifies the many control devices that need to be used. For the sake of brevity, sensors, transmitters, indicators, and controllers will all be labeled on a P&ID as a controller. The type of controller specified (i.e. temperature or level) will depend on the variable one wished to control and not on the action needed to control it.

    For instance, consider if one must control the temperature of fluid leaving a heat exchanger by changing the flow rate of cooling water. The actual variable to be controlled in this case is temperature, and the action taken to control this variable is changing a flow rate. In this case, a temperature controller will be represented schematically on the P&ID, not a flow controller. Adding this temperature controller to the P&ID also assumes that there is a temperature sensor, transmitter, and indicator also included in the process.

    ID - control designation.png

    As you can see on the P&ID above, these controllers are represented as circles. Furthermore, each controller is defined by what it controls, which is listed within arrow boxes next to each controller. This simplifies the P&ID by allowing everyone the ability to interpret what each controller affects. Such P&IDs can be constructed in Microsoft Office Visio.

    Sample Diagram

    Below is a sample P&ID Diagram that is actually used in an industrial application. It is clearly more complicated than what has been detailed above, however, the symbols used throughout remain the same.

    Table 10: Sample P&ID Diagram ampleP&ID.JPG

    Example 1

    Describe the following controlled process in words:


    Answer: Reactants enter a jacketed CSTR where a reaction takes place and the products exit. The reactor is cooled via a coolant water stream. The temperature inside the reactor vessel is monitored with a temperature controller (also contained in the controller is a sensor, indicator, and transmitter), which electrically controls a valve. The valve can alter the flowrate of the coolant water stream, thereby controlling the temperature inside the reactor. A pressure controller is also present which feeds back to an inlet valve. Therefore, we can deduce that this reaction is most likely gas phase and if the CSTR becomes too full (high pressure) the inlet valve will close.

    Example 2

    Draw a proper P&ID diagram of the following process:

    A storage tank is filled with condensed products formed via the CSTR in Example 1. The tank contains a level controller at a set point on the top of the tank. If this tank were to fill, materials would get clogged up in the reactor. Therefore, if the tank reaches 90% of its total capacity, the level controller will send an electric signal, which opens an emergency drainage line located at the bottom of the tank. The level controller will also activate an alarm alerting plant engineers that there is a problem with the storage tank. Finally, the level controller will also close the inlet valve to the storage tank.


    Example 3

    Below is a P&ID diagram of the transesterification process to produce biodiesel. Soybean oil, methanol, and the sodium methoxide catalyst are pumped in to the reactor. The temperature of the reactor is regulated by the circulation water. The resulting biodiesel is then pumped out of the reactor and goes on to other processes so that it can be sold. Below is a P&ID of the process that is missing the valves, pumps, and sensors. Add the pumps, sensors, and valves that are needed to successfully control the process.



    iki sol.jpg

    Example 4

    Below is a example problem of a typical P&ID problem. A is a liquid at Tamp but boils at Trx. B and P are high boiling point liquids and C is a solid. The reaction for the process is 2A+B+C-->P at Trx. Ais fed in excess.


    Below is the solution to the problem above.


    Sage's Corner

    A Brief Guide To Piping and Instrumentation Diagram Standard Notation

    slides for this talk

    Additional Reading

    1. Wikipedia ChemE P&ID symbols entry
    2. Wikipedia P&ID entry
    3. Control Engineering Online Article: how to read P&IDs

    Here are templates for creating P&IDs in Visio (PCs) and OmniGraffle (Mac).


    • Mineral Engineering Technical Services; "Process Engineering.". Last Updated 05/09/2007.
    • Solar Rating and Certification Corporation; "Example System Design.". Last Updated 05/09/2007.
    • Karim, Nazmul M.; Riggs, James B. "Chemical and Bio-Process Control." 3rd Edition. Ferret Publishing.
    • Ogunnaike, Babatunde A.; Ray, W. Harmon. "Process Dynamics, Modeling, and Control." New York Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
    • Beardmore, Roy; "Flow Sheet Symbols.". Last Updated 12/02/2006.

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