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Brewery wastewater piping

By August 26, 2014May 1st, 2019Drains, Piping

When building or expanding, what should your brewery wastewater piping be made of? Don’t just take your architects or engineers recommendation. Read this to help make the best decision you can. Most of these pipes will be under your concrete slab, under equipment and tanks, and generally not very accessible. Do it right the first time.

In all cases, the very best material for brewery drain lines is stainless steel. It doesn’t corrode, won’t melt, lasts forever- and costs a fortune. I know that pretty much none of us can afford that.

In my years at Deschutes, we would frequently tear up old sections of floor and drain piping for expansions and I would always inspect the old piping. How has it held up after years of high use? Surprisingly, in my experience common ABS piping in gravity drain lines below a slab have held up great. Under a brewhouse no problem. Cellar drains no problem. This is after 10+ years of heavy duty use.

Not bad, the 1st choice is the most expensive and the 2nd choice is the cheapest.

However ABS isn’t perfect. A major craft brewer had to dig up & replace their under slab drain pipes because they melted during a major brewhouse spill. Digging up the slab in a finished, tiled brewhouse is expensive and of course they replaced that pipe with stainless steel. This can happen with just about any plastic pipe, not just ABS. If you want to use a thermoplastic pipe, CPVC would work but at some point the cost will compare to stainless.

If you learn one thing by reading this post let it be this. Do not use ductile iron piping in your brewery drain lines. Large, hard, sharp carbuncles form in the pipe like a barnacle and will catch anything floating by. Not good.

For pressurized applications, such as from your lift station to your above ground tank, fused polyethylene (PE) piping is best. The joints aren’t glued together, the pipe ends are butt welded together, making the joint as strong as the pipe itself. I don’t like PVC in a pressurized application (ABS is not rated for pressure applications). The problem with glued plastic fittings in a pressurized application is joint failure, especially if the material is hot.

At Deschutes we had about 400′ of 4” PVC piping buried 3-4′ below grade between the lift station and the treatment facility. Even with a soft start on the lift station pumps the glued joints kept breaking, one by one, over several years. Each time that would happen we would dig up the parking lot, fix the joint, backfill, and repair the asphalt. Every 20 feet. The long term fix for something like that is to pull a new tube through the existing pipe- or dig it all up and start over. Expensive. Just do it right the first time.

In an overhead application, such as pumping sidestream wastewater to an outdoor tank, stainless is certainly preferred. Plastic pipes like PVC do work, but if really hot water goes through the pipe even once it will sag like a wet noodle. Been there, done that. After years of use someone will run CIP solution through the pipe to clean it. Bam, now the pipe sags between every hanger.  The solution there is to decrease the distance between the hangers or sit the pipe on an angle iron saddle.

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