Hot Tapping on operating lines

What is Hot Tapping?

Hot Tap or Hot Tapping is a proprietary method for adding a branch connection to a “hot” or operating line.  A proprietary device, to be used in conjunction with a hot tap that blocks a “hot” line is called “Stopple”. Refer Fig. 1

Limitations of Hot Tapping

Hot tap connections shall not be made in any of the following cases:

Limited by Fluid Types:

Lines carrying the following shall not be hot tapped.

  • Acid
  • Caustic
  • Elemental sulfur
  • Oxygen
  • Chlorine
  • Ammonia
  • Potentially toxic materials
  • Any material which may cause metallurgical damage when heated.

Limited by Flammability of Fluid:

Hot taps are not suitable for pipe or vessels containing materials that are flammable below atmospheric pressure or mixtures that will support combustion.

Hot Tapping at site
Fig. 1: Hot Tapping at site

Limited by Material Degradation:

Hot taps are not suitable if the pipe material to be welded may suffer metallurgical or physical degradation from the heat of welding.

Limited by PWHT Requirement:

Piping requiring post-weld heat treatment, for any reason, shall not be hot tapped.

Limited by Pipe Cladding or Pipe Lining:

Hot tapping shall not be performed in piping, or vessels that are clad or lined

Limitation due to Minimum Temperature:

Lines with surface temperatures at or below 0 deg. C is not suitable for hot tapping.

Some other limitations are

  • Equipment Availability: There must be a hot tapping machine available for the temperature pressure and size of the shell.
  • Tanks: Hot taps on tanks shall be located at least 1 m below the liquid level.
  • Compressed Air: Compressed air, when there is any possibility of hydrocarbon contamination, shall not be hot tapped, without thorough internal cleaning, or the introduction of inert gas, prior to welding.
  • Debris Damage: Hot taps shall not be made upstream of any equipment that may be damaged by chips, shavings, and other debris introduced into the line by the hot tapping process. Hot tapping shall not be allowed until systems have been put in place that will positively trap foreign matter.
  • Minimum Wall: The minimum wall for hot tapping is 5 mm.

Hot Tap Design

Dimensions of the Connection:

The dimensions of the connection, the hot tap valve, and the clearances shall be within the limits specified for the hot tapping equipment to be used. This requires data from the most likely contractor or specification of a list of allowable hot tapping machines for that project. The minimum bore of the valve used shall be large enough to pass the cutter or stopple plug.

Size to Size Taps:

A tap equal to the nominal size of the header, such as required for the stoppling of a pipeline, shall be made only when the accurate positioning of the cutter can be guaranteed. This is accomplished by the use of a shop-fabricated split tee. In all other cases, the taps are only allowed at least one pipe size smaller than the pipe to be tapped.

Welding on Pipelines under Pressure:

Before welding on lines under pressure, the existing pipe wall shall be determined. A maximum working pressure shall be calculated in accordance with the appropriate ASME B31 code, using the actual wall minus 2.5 mm. The 2.5 mm wall thickness takes into account the molten and heat-affected portion of the base metal which does not contribute to pressure containment.

Control of Cuttings:

When using gate valves for hot tapping, orient the valve so that chips from the cutting procedure will not fall into areas where the action of the valve is inhibited. If this is not possible, the hot tap valve shall be provided with a valved drain of not less than 3/4 inch NPS to permit flushing of the valve if needed.

Removal of Hot Tap Valve:

When the hot tap valve is to be removed after tapping, as in the case of stoppling, a Lock-O-Ring flange and plug, or approved equal, shall be used unless the equipment can be depressurized and drained prior to removal of the valve.

Guide Bars:

When hot taps are made in pipelines which require scraper bars, a Lock-O-Ring, or approved equal, flange and plug and matching insert with bars attached, shall be installed

Hot Tap Fitting Installation

Positioning the Split Tee and Cutter

The welded branch or split tee shall be accurately positioned so that the axis of the cutter will intersect the axis of the pipe or vessel being tapped at a 90-degree angle unless an angled tap has been specifically approved in the hot tapping procedure. The branch position shall be verified by the assigned inspector prior to making the cut.

Safety Procedures

The hot tapping contractor shall submit safety procedures with his proposal. The installation, pressure testing, welding, and cutting, shall be in accordance with the approved procedures.

Pressure Testing

Test Valve:

The hot tap valve shall have a pressure test applied to the seats and body to ensure no leaks prior to use.

Test Fluid:

Special attention shall be given to the possibility of boiling or flashing of the test liquid if the surface to be tapped is hot.

Hot Tap Test:

When the full assembly is complete, and prior to cutting the coupon, the assembly shall be pressure tested.

Test Pressure:

The test pressure for the hot tap connection shall be in accordance with the appropriate ASME B31 code, however, not exceeding any of the following:

(i) The minimum pressure in the pipe or vessel being tapped, while the test is in progress, plus a calculated differential pressure. The differential pressure shall be 1.25 times the allowable external pressure calculated per the ASME SEC VIII D1, paragraph UG-28. The value of L, for this calculation, shall be the total length of the split tee or the inside diameter of the welded nozzle.

(ii) The maximum test pressure of branch connection flange, or the wall thickness.

(iii) The test pressure of the hot tap connection may be lower than the original hydrostatic test pressure of the pipe or vessel being tapped. This is acceptable since the purpose of the test is to provide some assurance of the integrity of the connection weld. It is not a proof test of the connection. The system being tapped should not be derated because of the lower test pressure of the hot tap connection.

Pad Vent Hole

The reinforcing pad of a welded branch shall be provided with a vent hole. The hole shall be plugged with heavy grease before leaving the job.

Inspection

In addition to the hydro test, the reinforcing pad welds may be inspected by magnetic particle examination. Alternatively, dye penetrant examination may be used provided surface preparation is made as required.

Few more useful resources for you…

Piping Design and Layout Basics
Piping Stress Analysis Basics
Piping Material Basics
Piping Design Softwares
EPC Job Opportunities
Piping Interface Articles

Hot Tapping Operation Video

Refer the following video to visualize the hot tapping operation.

Hot Tap Video by Pro-Pipe

Detailed Course on “Hot Tapping in Pipeline and Piping Industry”

If you still have doubts or you want to get more insights on the topic, you can join the detailed online course on “Hot Tapping in Pipeline and Piping Industry” by clicking here

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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

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