Polypropylene-random (PP-R) piping played an important role in the completion of a refrigeration project at an Ohio beef and pork processing plant. The project began in September 2017, and the piping portion was completed in January 2018. On this project, Aquatherm Blue Pipe® SDR 17.6 MF, 0.75-inch through 14-inch, was used to carry a secondary refrigerant (glycol) throughout the 500,000-square-foot facility. The glycol, which is used in the processing areas and shipping and receiving, is piped through the PP-R pipe at a frosty 22°F.

Jason Waters, senior project manager at Stellar Refrigeration in Jacksonville, Florida, is a strong proponent of prefabrication to save time and labor on the job site. On this project, Stellar and the refrigeration contractor, AC General, took full advantage of the pipe’s ability to be fabricated off-site and the pipe’s light weight, hanging 436 prefabricated spools 25-30 feet above the floor.

“Prefabrication is a big time saver,” Waters said. “It also takes a lot of potential errors out of the equation.”

Glen Drummond Jr., owner of AC General, said using prefabricated PP-R pipe is like building a big Lego set.

“They can prefabricate a section of pipe, put it on a truck, and when it gets to the job site, it’s ready to hang,” he said. “It’s much easier than delivering a bunch of pipe and fittings.”

Drummond noted that PP-R pipe offers longer service life, potential labor savings, and properties that prevent it from corroding. He added that his field installation team likes working with PP-R pipe because it’s lighter, cleaner, and easier to work with than steel. These advantages also were cited by Waters, who noted that the light weight of PP-R pipe makes it easier to work with when it comes to supporting it and insulating it.

“It goes up very quickly, and it’s easy to move around — it doesn’t take 10 guys to lift and carry a piece around like it does with carbon steel pipe,” he said. “In addition, we don’t have to block up the PP-R pipe like we do carbon steel pipe when it’s time to insulate it. One person in a scissors lift can just lift the pipe up and slide the insulation on without any special rigging.”

Waters was also impressed with the performance of PP-R’s heat-fused connections.

“When we pressure-tested the PP-R pipe on this project, we didn’t have any leaks,” he said. “Typically, with carbon steel pipe — no matter how good your guys are — you’re going to have a couple of leaks here and there. But, to my knowledge, we didn’t find any leaks when it came to the joints of the PP-R.”

Drummond pointed out that heat fusion with PP-R pipe represents a huge labor savings over welding steel. The differences were very evident on this project in which, in addition to the glycol piping, AC General had to weld a sizable amount of steel pipe for an anhydrous ammonia system.

“First of all, really good welders are few and far between, and they aren’t cheap,” Drummond said. “And for every welder, we had to pay someone to stand there on fire watch.”

Drummond noted that while AC General was stick welding at this facility, his team had to set up numerous fans, ventilation units, and fire blankets.

“There were thousands of dollars of ancillary items that we had to buy continuously when we were welding steel,” he said. “And then we would still get shut down because there were too many fumes.” 

None of those measures were necessary when heat fusing the PP-R pipe.   

“Although PP-R is not the least expensive option upfront, it saves on labor and creates less of a mess,” Waters said. “There are no burrs of metal flying around, so it dramatically reduces safety incidents.”

A final advantage Waters cites from a customer’s perspective is the corrosion-resistance of PP-R pipe.

“Ultimately, as a building owner you really have to keep up with carbon steel piping to prevent it from corroding,” Waters said. “PP-R pipe will last for decades, and it seems like it will be a lot more durable in the long run when it comes to how it will be affected — or unaffected — by whatever product you’re running through it.”