# Valve Sizing

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Valve Sizing
Te chnic al Bulletin
Scope
Flow Calculation Principles
Valve size often is described by the nominal size of the end
connections, but a more important measure is the flow that
the valve can provide. And determining flow through a valve
can be simple.
The principles of flow calculations are illustrated by the
common orifice flow meter (Fig. 1). We need to know only the
size and shape of the orifice, the diameter of the pipe, and
the fluid density. With that information, we can calculate the
flow rate for any value of pressure drop across the orifice (the
difference between inlet and outlet pressures).
This technical bulletin shows how flow can be estimated
well enough to select a valve size—easily, and without
complicated calculations. Included are the principles of flow
calculations, some basic formulas, and the effects of specific
gravity and temperature. Also given are six simple graphs for
estimating the flow of water or air through valves and other
components and examples of how to use them.
Sizing Valves
The graphs cover most ordinary industrial applications—from
the smallest metering valves to large ball valves, at system
pressures up to 10 000 psig and 1000 bar.
The water formulas and graphs apply to ordinary liquids—and
not to liquids that are boiling or flashing into vapors, to slurries
(mixtures of solids and liquids), or to very viscous liquids.
The air formulas and graphs apply to gases that closely
follow the ideal gas laws, in which pressure, temperature,
and volume are proportional. They do not apply to gases or
vapors that are near the pressure and temperature at which
they liquefy, such as a cryogenic nitrogen or oxygen.
For convenience, the air flow graphs show gauge pressures,
whereas the formulas use absolute pressure (gauge pressure
plus one atmosphere). All the graphs are based on formulas
adapted from ISA S75.01, Flow Equations for Sizing Control
Valves.1
For a valve, we also need to know the pressure drop and
the fluid density. But in addition to the dimensions of pipe
diameter and orifice size, we need to know all the valve
passage dimensions and all the changes in size and direction
of flow through the valve.
However, rather than doing complex calculations, we use the
valve flow coefficient, which combines the effects of all the
flow restrictions in the valve into a single number (Fig. 2).
Pressure drop
Pipe
diameter
Orifice diameter
Orifice
shape
Fluid density
Fig. 1. The flow rate through a fixed orifice can be calculated from
the meter dimensions of pipe diameter and orifice size and shape.
Pressure drop
Safe Product Selection
When selecting a product, the total system design must
be considered to ensure safe, trouble-free performance.
proper installation, operation, and maintenance are the
responsibilities of the system designer and user.
Pipe
diameter
Valve
passage
size
Size
changes
Fluid
density
Direction
changes
Fig. 2. Calculating the flow rate through a valve is much more
complex. The valve flow coefficient (Cv) takes into account all
the dimensions and other factors—including size and direction
changes—that affect fluid flow.
Valve Sizing
Fig. 3. Valve manufacturers determine flow
coefficients by testing the valve with water
using a standard ISA test method.
p2
p1
�p
Flow meter
Flow control
valve
Test valv e
Flow control
valve
Standard distances
from test valve
Minimum lengths of straight pipe
Valve manufacturers determine the valve flow coefficient
by testing the valve with water at several flow rates, using a
standard test method2 developed by the Instrument Society of
America for control valves and now used widely for all valves.
Flow tests are done in a straight piping system of the same
size as the valve, so that the effects of fittings and piping size
changes are not included (Fig. 3).
Liquid Flow
Because liquids are incompressible fluids, their flow rate
depends only on the difference between the inlet and outlet
pressures (Dp, pressure drop). The flow is the same whether
the system pressure is low or high, so long as the difference
between the inlet and outlet pressures is the same. This
equation shows the relationship:
q = N1Cv
Symbols Used in Flow Equations
q = flow rate
p1
p1 = inlet pressure
p2 = outlet pressure
Dp = pressure drop (p1 – p2)
Gf = liquid specific gravity (water = 1.0)
Gg = gas specific gravity (air = 1.0)
N1, N2 = constants for units
�p = p1 – p2
Cv = flow coefficient
T1 = absolute upstream temperature:
K = °C + 273
°R = °F + 460
Note: p1 and p2 are absolute pressures for gas flow.
�p
Gf
Gf
p2
Cv
q
The water flow graphs (pages 6 and 7) show water flow as a
function of pressure drop for a range of Cv values.
Gas Flow
Gas flow calculations are slightly more complex, because
gases are compressible fluids whose density changes with
pressure. In addition, there are two conditions that must be
considered—low pressure drop flow and high pressure drop
flow.
Valve Sizing
Low and High Pressure Drop Gas Flow
Low pressure drop
The basic orifice meter illustrates
the difference between high and low
pressure drop flow conditions.
p2
p1
In low pressure drop flow—when outlet
pressure (p2) is greater than half of inlet
pressure (p1)—outlet pressure restricts
flow through the orifice: as outlet
pressure decreases, flow increases,
and so does the velocity of the gas
leaving the orifice.
p2 > 1/2p1
q
Maximum flow
When outlet pressure decreases to half
of inlet pressure, the gas leaves the
orifice at the velocity of sound. The gas
cannot exceed the velocity of sound
and—therefore—this becomes the
maximum flow rate. The maximum flow
rate is also known as choked flow or
critical flow.
p1
p2
p2 = 1/2p1
q
Any further decrease in outlet pressure
does not increase flow, even if the
outlet pressure is reduced to zero.
Consequently, high pressure drop flow
only depends on inlet pressure and not
outlet pressure.
Sonic flow
High pressure drop
p1
p2
p2 < 1/2p1
q
This equation applies when there is low pressure drop
flow—outlet pressure (p2) is greater than one half of inlet
pressure (p1):
2�p
q = N2Cv p1 1 –
3p1
(
)
�p
p1GgT 1
pressure does not increase the flow because the gas has
reached sonic velocity at the orifice, and it cannot break that
“sound barrier.”
The equation for high pressure drop flow is simpler because
it depends only on inlet pressure and temperature, valve flow
coefficient, and specific gravity of the gas:
q = 0.471 N2Cv p1
p2 > 1/2p1
Gg T 1
p2
p1
p2 < 1/2p1
q
Cv
The low pressure drop air flow graphs (pages 8 and 9) show
low pressure drop air flow for a valve with a Cv of 1.0, given
as a function of inlet pressure (p1) for a range of pressure
drop (Dp) values.
When outlet pressure (p2) is less than half of inlet pressure
(p1)—high pressure drop—any further decrease in outlet
1
GgT 1
Gg T 1
p1
p2
q
Cv
The high pressure drop air flow graphs (pages 10 and 11)
show high pressure drop air flow as a function of inlet
pressure for a range of flow coefficients.
Valve Sizing
+80
Change in specific gravity
+60
Change in flow rate
+40
Percent change
Fig. 4. For most common liquids, the
effect of specific gravity on flow is less
than 10 %. Also, most high-density
liquids such as concentrated acids and
bases usually are diluted in water and—
consequently—the specific gravity of the
mixtures is much closer to that of water
than to that of the pure liquid.
+20
0
–20
–40
Ether
Alcohol
Oils
Nitric acid
Sulfuric acid
+80
+40
Percent change
Fig. 5. For common gases, the specific
gravity of the gas changes flow by less
than 10‑% from that of air. And just as
with liquids, gases with exceptionally
high or low densities often are mixed
with a carrier gas such as nitrogen, so
that the specific gravity of the mixture is
close to that of air.
0
–40
Change in specific gravity
–80
Change in flow rate
–120
Hydrogen
Effects of Specific Gravity
The flow equations include the variables Gf and Gg—liquid
specific gravity and gas specific gravity—which are the
density of the fluid compared to the density of water (for
liquids) or air (for gases).
However, specific gravity is not accounted for in the graphs,
so a correction factor must be applied, which includes the
square root of G. Taking the square root reduces the effect
and brings the value much closer to that of water or air, 1.0.
For example, the specific gravity of sulfuric acid is 80 %
higher than that of water, yet it changes flow by just 34 %.
The specific gravity of ether is 26 % lower than that of water,
yet it changes flow by only 14 %.
Natural gas
Oxygen
Argon
Carbon
dioxide
Figure 4 shows how the significance of specific gravity on
liquid flow is diminished by taking its square root. Only if the
specific gravity of the liquid is very low or very high will the
flow change by more than 10 % from that of water.
The effect of specific gravity on gases is similar. For example,
the specific gravity of hydrogen is 93 % lower than that of air,
but it changes flow by just 74 %. Carbon dioxide has a specific
gravity 53 % higher than that of air, yet it changes flow by only
24 %. Only gases with very low or very high specific gravity
change the flow by more than 10 % from that of air.
Figure 5 shows how the effect of specific gravity on gas flow
is reduced by use of the square root.
Effects of Temperature
Temperature usually is ignored in liquid flow calculations
because its effect is too small.
Temperature has a greater effect on gas flow calculations,
because gas volume expands with higher temperature and
Valve Sizing
Temperature, C
+120
+80
+40
0
–40
+160
+200
+20
+10
Percent change
Change in flow rate
Fig. 6. Many systems operate in the
range –40°F (–40°C) to +212°F (+100°C).
Within this range, temperature changes
affect flow by little more than 10‑%.
0
–10
–20
–30
–40
+100
0
+200
+300
+400
Temperature, F
Numerical Constants for Flow Equations
Constant
N
N1 . . . . . 1.0
Units Used in Equations
0.833
14.42
14.28
Such applications are beyond the scope of this document,
but the ISA standards S75.01 and S75.02 contain a complete
set of formulas for sizing valves that will be used in a variety
of special services, along with a description of flow capacity
test principles and procedures. These and other ISA
publications are listed in the references. Also, most standard
engineering handbooks have sections on fluid mechanics.
Several of these are given in the references, as well.
q
p
T1
U.S. gal/min
psia
—
Imperial gal/min
psia
—
L/min
bar
—
L/min
kg/cm2
—
Cited References
psia
°R
1.ISA S75.01, Flow Equations for Sizing Control
Valves, Standards and Recommended Practices for
Instrumentation and Control, 10th ed., Vol. 2, 1989.
ft3/min
N2 . . . 22.67
std
6950
std L/min
bar
K
6816
std L/min
kg/cm2
K
contracts with lower temperature. But—similar to specific
gravity—temperature affects flow by only a square-root
factor. For systems that operate between ­–40°F (–40°C) and
+212°F (+100°C), the correction factor is only +12 to –11 %.
Figure 6 shows the effect of temperature on volumetric flow
over a broad range of temperatures. The plus-or-minus
10 % range covers the usual operating temperatures of most
common applications.
2.ISA S75.02, Control Valve Capacity Test Procedure,
Standards and Recommended Practices for
Instrumentation and Control, 10th ed., Vol. 2, 1989.
Other References
L. Driskell, Control-Valve Selection and Sizing, ISA, 1983.
J.W. Hutchinson, ISA Handbook of Control Valves, 2nd ed.,
ISA, 1976.
Chemical Engineers’ Handbook, 4th ed., Robert H. Perry,
Cecil H. Chilton, and Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, Ed., McGraw-Hill,
New York.
Other Services
Instrument Engineers’ Handbook, revised ed., Béla G. Lipták
and Kriszta Venczel, Ed., Chilton, Radnor, PA.
As noted above, this technical bulletin covers valve sizing
for many common applications and services. What about
viscous liquids, slurries, or boiling and flashing liquids?
Suppose vapors, steam, and liquefied gases are used? How
are valves sized for these other services?
Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers, 7th ed.,
Theodore Baumeister and Lionel S. Marks, Ed., McGraw-Hill,
New York.
Piping Handbook, 5th ed., Reno C. King, Ed., McGraw-Hill,
New York.
Valve Sizing
Water flow, U.S. gallons per minute
Water Flow—U.S. Units
10 000
8000
6000
4000
3000
2000
Cv = 0.0005
C
v
1000
800
0.0010
600
0.0025
400
300
0.0050
0.010
200
0.025
100
80
0.050
60
0.10
40
30
0.25
Pressure Drop, psi
20
10
0.001
0.002 0.003
0.006
0.01
0.02
0.03 0.04
0.06 0.08 0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.8 1.0
0.6
2.0
1000
800
600
0.10
400
300
0.25
200
0.50
1.0
100
80
2.5
60
40
5.0
30
10
20
25
10
8
50
6
100
4
3
250
2
1
1
2
3
4
6
8
10
20
30
40
60
80 100
Flow, U.S. gal/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 60 psi).
■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 4 U.S. gal/min).
■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0.50).
200
300
400
600
800 1000
Valve Sizing
Water flow, liters per minute
Water Flow—Metric Units
1000
800
600
400
300
200
Cv = 0.0005
100
80
0.0010
60
40
0.0025
30
0.0050
20
0.010
10
8
0.025
6
0.050
4
0.10
3
Pressure Drop, bar
2
0.25
1
0.004
0.01
0.006
0.02
0.03 0.04
0.06
0.01
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.6
0.8 1.0
2.0
3.0
4.0
6.0
100
80
60
0.10
40
0.25
30
20
0.50
1.0
10
8
2.5
6
4
5.0
3
10
2
25
1.0
0.8
50
0.6
100
0.4
0.3
250
0.2
0.1
4
6
8
10
20
30
40
60
80 100
200
300
400
Flow, L/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 30 bar).
■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 0.2 L/min).
■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0.0025).
600
800 1000
2000
3000 4000
Valve Sizing
Low pressure air drop flow, standard cubic feet per minute
Low Pressure Drop Air Flow—U.S. Units
3000
2000
250 psi
500 psi
100 psi
1000
800
50 psi
600
25 psi
Inlet Pressure, psig
400
10 psi
300
�p = 5 psi
200
High pressure drop flow
100
80
60
40
30
20
10
20
30
40
50
60
80
100
200
300
400
500 600
Flow, std ft3/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 200 psig).
■ Read across to the diagonal line for the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 25 psi).
■ Read down to the horizontal scale for the flow rate through a valve with a Cv of 1.0 (q = 65 std ft3/min).
■ Multiply that flow rate by the valve Cv to determine the actual flow rate.
800
1000
Valve Sizing
Low pressure air drop flow, standard liters per minute
Low Pressure Drop Air Flow—Metric Units
200
25 bar
10 bar
100
5 bar
80
2.5 bar
60
50
1.0 bar
40
0.50 bar
Inlet Pressure, bar
30
�p = 0.25 bar
20
High pressure drop flow
10
8
6
5
4
3
2
300
400
600
800
1000
2000
3000
4000
6000
8000 10 000
20 000
Flow, std L/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 100 bar).
■ Read across to the diagonal line for the pressure drop across the valve (Dp = 1 bar).
■ Read down to the horizontal scale for the flow rate through a valve with a Cv of 1.0 (q = 4000 std L/min).
■ Multiply that flow rate by the valve Cv to determine the actual flow rate.
30 000
10
Valve Sizing
High pressure drop air flow, standard cubic feet per minute
High Pressure Drop Air Flow—U.S. Units
3000
2000
1000
800
CvC=v 0.0005
600
500
0.0010
400
0.0025
300
0.0050
200
0.010
0.025
100
0.050
80
0.10
60
50
0.25
40
0.50
Inlet Pressure, psig
30
20
0.01
0.02
0.03 0.04
0.06 0.08 0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.6
0.8 1.0
2.0
3.0
4.0
6.0
8.0 10
20
1000
800
0.10
600
500
0.25
400
0.50
1.0
300
2.5
200
5.0
10
100
25
80
50
60
100
50
40
250
30
20
10
20
30
40
60
80 100
200
300
400
600
800 1000
Flow, std ft3/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 200 psig).
■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 10 std ft3/min).
■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 0.10).
2000
3000 4000
6000
10 000
Valve Sizing
pressure dropUnits
air flow, standard liters per minute
High Pressure Drop Air High
Flow—Metric
200
100
80
60
50
Cv = 0.0005
40
0.0010
30
0.0025
20
0.0050
0.010
10
0.025
8
0.050
6
0.10
5
4
0.25
Inlet Pressure, bar
3
2
0.3
0.4
0.6
0.8 1.0
2
3
4
6
8
10
20
30
40
60
80 100
200
300
80
60
0.050
50
0.10
40
0.25
30
0.50
20
1.0
2.5
5.0
10
10
8
6
25
5
50
4
100
3
250
2
200
300
400
600
800 1000
2000
3000 4000
6000
10 000
Flow, std L/min
Example:
■ Enter the vertical scale with the inlet pressure at the valve (p1 = 20 bar).
■ Read across to the desired flow rate (q = 4000 std L/min).
■ The diagonal line is the desired Cv value (Cv = 1.0).
20 000
40 000 60 000
100 000
200 000
11
Safe Product Selection
When selecting a product, the total system design must
be considered to ensure safe, trouble-free performance.
proper installation, operation, and maintenance are the
responsibilities of the system designer and user.
Swagelok—TM Swagelok Company
© 1994, 1995, 2000, 2002 Swagelok Company
December 2007, R4
MS-06-84-E
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