What is a Piping Strainer?

Piping Strainers (or filters) arrest debris such as scale, rust, jointing compound, and weld metal in pipelines, protecting equipment and processes. A strainer is a device that provides a means of mechanically removing solids from a flowing fluid or gas in a pipeline by utilizing a perforated or mesh straining element. Pipe Strainers are especially important components in piping systems to protect costly equipment from potential damage caused by foreign particles carried by the fluid process. Piping Strainers are also known as Strainer Filters.

Types of Pipes | Classification of …

The following figure shows several types of pipe strainers normally used in Pump or Compressor Suction lines in the process piping industry.

Pump Strainers
Several types of Pump Strainers
Fig.1: Example of a typical Strainer

Application of Piping Strainers

To ensure against the untimely shutdown of equipment, strainers should be installed ahead of pumps, loading valves, control valves, meters, steam traps, turbines, compressors, solenoid valves, nozzles, pressure regulators, burners, unit heaters, and other sensitive equipment. The most common range of strainer particle retention is 1 inch to 40 microns (0.00156 inches).

Strainers in Sensitive Static Equipment

Even though static equipment is normally not considered that sensitive, still sometimes strainers are installed near the following equipment.

  • Heat exchanger
  • Meters
  • Steam trap
  • Spray nozzles

Strainers in Sensitive Dynamic Equipment

For the following sensitive and vibration-prone equipment the use of a strainer is a must.

  • Pumps
  • Compressors
  • Turbines

Types of Piping Strainers/Strainer Types

Depending on the use, two types of strainers are found in industries.

  • Permanent Strainers and
  • Temporary Strainers

Permanent Pipe Strainers

These strainers will be installed permanently in the piping system. Examples of permanent strainers are

  • Y type strainers (Fig. 2)
  • Basket Type strainers (Simplex & Duplex construction) (Fig. 3) and

Y-Type Strainers

This type of strainer got its name from the shape as it resembles the alphabet “Y”. They are low-cost strainers and are used in pressurized lines with low debris or foreign particle concentration. They can be installed in horizontal or vertical lines keeping the filtering element towards the ground. As the retaining capacity of Y-Strainers (Fig. 2) are normally small, they must be cleaned frequently.

Y-type Strainer
Fig. 2: Figure showing an example of a typical Y-type Strainer

Basket Strainer / Bucket Strainers

Basket Strainers or Bucket Strainers are closed vessels with a filter screen inside them. They have a high capacity to retain foreign particles and are hence widely used. Basket strainers (Fig. 3) are used only in horizontal lines, mostly for liquid services with high flow capacity. Bucket strainers can be independently supported like equipment in case their weight is more, or they can be supported inline from pipe supports. As they resemble the alphabet “T” of the English language, they are often termed as T-Strainers.

Basket Strainers is of three types

  • Simplex Style Basket Strainer (Fig. 3) and
  • Duplex Style Basket Strainer (Consists of two parallel basket filters with by-pass Valves as shown in Fig. 3)
  • Automatic Strainers
Basket Strainers
Fig. 3: Typical Basket type filters

Basket filters can be easily cleaned by opening the top cover. Duplex Basket strainers are cleaned online when the pipeline is in operation simply by diverting the flow to the other filter.

Automatic strainers have self-cleaning baskets that are controlled by using pressure drop settings or times; Hence, the cleaning operation is never interrupted.

Temporary Pipe Strainers

Temporary strainers are used for a small period. Examples of temporary strainers are

  • Cone-type strainer and
  • Truncated Cone type strainer

Refer to Fig. 4 which shows typical cone and truncated cone-type temporary strainers.

Typical Temporary Strainers
Fig. 4: Typical Temporary Strainers

Design standards for Piping Strainers

Strainers or filters are normally designed following the below-mentioned International Standards:

  • ANSI B 16.34
  • PED 97/23/EC: Pressure equipment design
  • BPVC: ASME Boiler & Pressure vessel code, Section-VIII Div.1

Pipe Strainer Symbol

Depending on the pipe strainer type, symbols for pipe strainers are also different. Common pipe strainer symbols are shown below in Fig. 5.

Pipe Strainer Symbol
Fig. 5: Pipe Strainer Symbols

Materials of Construction of Piping Strainers

Strainer Body

The body of the strainer can be made from

  • Forging
  • Casting (but flanges shall be an integral part of the body) or
  • Fabrication

Common materials used for the strainer body are iron, steel, stainless steel, bronze, chrome molly, and plastics.

Piping Strainer Internals

Strainers internally must be corrosion resistant, and they must be in contact with dirt or debris continuously. Common materials used are

  • Stainless steel
  • Exceptional care shall be taken for Produced water service
  • copper and aluminum
Strainer Internals
Fig. 6: Strainer Internals

End connections of Piping Strainers

Strainers are connected to piping by the following end connection types

  • Flanged
  • Socket Welded or Threaded

Screens or Filters for Piping Strainers

Two types of screens used in strainers:

  • Perforated screens
  • Mesh screens

Perforated screens

Perforated screens or strainers are formed by punching many holes in a flat sheet of the required material using multiple punches. These are coarse screens and hole sizes typically range from 0.8 mm to 3.2 mm

Mesh screens

Fine wire is formed into a grid or mesh arrangement. This is then commonly layered over a perforated screen, which acts as a support cage for the mesh.

  • Mesh Screen terminology: e.g., 3 mesh screens
  • We shall always ask the process to give Maximum allowable pressure drop at % clogged condition.
  • Mesh screens are usually specified in terms of ‘mesh’; which represents the number of openings per linear inch of screen, measured from the center line of the wire.
Example of Mesh Size
Fig. 7: Example of Mesh Size
  • Mesh is not the only thing to be asked for, but hole size is also important.
  • The corresponding hole size in the mesh screen is determined from knowledge of the wire diameter and the mesh size

Selecting Mesh Size for Piping Strainers:

While selecting the proper mesh size the following factors must be considered.

  • the maximum particle size that the downstream equipment can handle safely.
  • the working temperature and pressure ranges.
  • the maximum allowed pressure drop.
  • the fluid service or nature of the conveyed fluid.

Strainer options

Nowadays various strainer options are available to the user like

  • Magnetic inserts
  • Self-cleaning strainers
  • Mechanical-type self-cleaning strainers
  • Backwashing type strainers
  • Temporary strainers

Y type Pipe strainer on various fluid

Y type strainer on various fluid
Fig. 8: Y-type strainer on various fluid

Selection of Pipe Strainers

The success of a specific type of pipe strainer solely depends on the proper selection of the piping strainer. The main parameters that affect the piping strainer selection process are:

  • Flow Rate: A flow rate more than 150 GPM requires a basket strainer.
  • The dirtiness of the flowing fluid: The basket strainer has more dirt-holding capacity as compared to the Y-strainers.
  • Application Requirement:
    • A y-type pipe strainer is suitable for applications requiring frequent cleaning.
    • For continuous operation, the ideal choice will be a duplex basket-type pipe strainer.
  • Strainer Orientation: For vertical orientation, Y-type is the only option.
  • Pressure Loss: Basket strainers exhibit less pressure loss as compared to Y-strainers. That’s why when there is doubt a basket strainer can easily be installed. It will cost more but will serve all the purposes.

Note that purchasing a spare pipe strainer is always a good engineering practice to avoid unnecessary delays in cleaning and installation for line operation.

Pipe Strainer Dimensions

Dimensions of pipe strainers vary with respect to flange rating, end connection, and pipe strainer types. For flanged piping strainers, with an increase in flange rating the dimension and weight increase. Normally, the pipe strainer dimensions are vendor specific. This is the reason during the initial stages of piping design the length of piping strainers is kept as hold in piping isometrics. Later, when the specific vendor data is available the same is updated in piping isometrics and adjustments are made in piping length. The following table provides some typical pipe strainer dimensions and weights for Y-type and Basket-type strainers as samples. However, Final vendor details need to be verified.

Pipe Size (Inch)Pressure ratingY Type Strainer Length- Flange face to Flange Face (mm)Y Type Pipe Strainer Weight (Kg)Basket Strainer Length- Flange face to Flange Face (mm)Basket Pipe Strainer Weight (Kg)
1/2″3001753.5 – –

Table 1: Pipe Strainer dimensions

Comparison between Filter and Strainer

Nowadays, the terms filter and strainer are used interchangeably in industries. However, there are differences between the two. The main differences between a Filter and a Strainer are tabulated below

A device that eliminates unwanted particles from the fluid is known as a filter.Strainer also serves the same function.
The filtering medium in a filter is normally disposable.Strainer uses a Reusable filter that is used again after cleaning.
The Filters normally filter out smaller particles (smaller than 40 microns).Strainers remove larger particles (larger than 40 microns)
Normally filters remove elements invisible to the naked eye.Dirt removed by strainers is visible.
Filters remove particles by obstruction as well as chemical action.Strainers remove particles by construction only.
Filters use soft media on hard surfaces to remove contaminants.Strainers use hard mesh or rigid materials to remove debris.

Table 2: Filters vs Strainers