Pipe Support Span for Aboveground Piping

Pipe Support Span is defined as the optimum distance between two supports so as to avoid excessive stress, sagging, or failure of the piping or pipeline system in extreme cases. We all know that while routing aboveground piping or pipeline from one part or equipment to another we have to support the pipe at some definite spans. A properly designed pipe support span helps the piping design personnel to support pipes at regular spacings, thus reducing his work for unnecessary calculations. Pipe Support Span is also known as Pipe Support Spacing. Refer to Fig. 1 that defines the pipe support span for a pipeline system.

Factors on Which Pipe Support Span Depends

There are various factors that influence the pipe support span. Pipe support spacing varies with changes in

  • Pipe Material: Pipe Support spacing varies with pipe material, For non-metallic pipe, the support span is lower than metallic pipes of the same size.
  • Nominal Diameter of Pipe & Schedule: With the increase in pipe diameter and schedule, pipe support span increases.
  • Type of fluid service: Piping support span varies with fluid service; Pipes carrying liquid service have less support span as compared to pipes carrying gaseous fluids.
  • Type and Thickness of Insulation Material: With an increase in thickness and density of the insulation material, pipe support spacing reduces.
  • Piping configuration (Straight pipe and Pipe with elbows): Straight pipe has more support span as compared to pipes with directional changes.
  • Locations of valves and rigid bodies: The presence of rigid bodies in a piping or pipeline system reduces the pipe support span.
  • The structure available for support: Available structures are normally used for supporting the pipe. So pipe span chart may be reduced in those places.
  • Pulsating lines: For vibrating or pulsating lines pipe support span is reduced to avoid vibration tendency and to increase the natural frequency of the piping system.
  • Temperature: With an increase in fluid temperature as allowable stress value reduces, the pipe is supported nearby position and thus reducing the pipe support spacing.
Figure showing pipe support span
Fig. 1: Figure showing pipe support span

Deciding Pipe Support Span

Pipe Support Span Length Depends On-

  • Bending Stress
  • Deflection
  • Indentation
  • Allowable Loads
  • Vibration Possibility and Natural Frequency of the piping system

Bending Stress

Bending is caused mainly due to two reasons:

  • Uniform Weight Load
  • Concentrated Weight Load

Uniform Weight Load

  • Own Weight Of Pipe
  • Insulation Weight
  • Weight of Fluid During operation
  • Weight of hydrostatic fluid During Hydro Test

Concentrated Load

  • Weight Of Valve, Flanges,
  • Strainer, specialty items, inline items, etc.


Deflection (Δ) is defined as a relative displacement of the point from its original position.

  • The basic piping practice to limit pipe deflection between supports to 1” or 1/2 the nominal pipe diameter, whichever is the smaller.
  • The most important reason for limiting deflection is to make the pipe stiff enough, that is , of high enough natural frequency, to avoid large amplitude response under any slight perturbing force. As a rough rule, for average piping, a natural frequency of 4 cycles per second will be found satisfactory. The natural frequency can be calculated by
Natural Frequency




  • t=corroded Thickness of pipe Wall(mm)
  • S=0.67Sh(N/mm^2)
  • R=Radius of pipe (mm)
  • d=Bearing Length(mm)
  • b=Bearing width(mm)

Allowable Load at Support

Allowable Load


  • Pa=Allowable Load at the Support point
  • t=effective local thickness (pipe wall +Reinforced Pad If Any)
  • R=outer radius of Pipe
  • b=Bearing length of pipe (along the axis) on the support structure


Normally project-specific Support Span is provided in tabular format for straight pipes that are known as “Pipe Support Span Chart”. But for elbows or turns the span to be reduced by a factor as shown in the below-attached figure (Fig. 2). Readymade support spans for specific pipe diameter and thickness are available in the MSS code. For Shell group of companies’ support span is provided in DEP in tabular format.

Factor to reduce support span depending on layout.
Fig. 2: Factor to reduce support span depending on layout.

Pipe Support Span Chart

Pipe support span chart is a tabular chart giving a rough idea of supporting distance. These charts are normally mentioned in piping stress analysis project specifications. In the following image (Fig. 3) pipe support span chart from MSS SP-69 is reproduced as a sample.

Sample Piping Support Span Chart (Reference: MSS SP-69)
Fig. 3: Sample Piping Support Span Chart (Reference: MSS SP-69)

Few more resources for you…

Supporting of Piping Systems: Few Guidelines
Supporting of Dual Insulated Piping System
Purpose of Pipe Supports: A small article for beginners
Piping Stress Analysis
Piping Design and layout

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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.

9 thoughts on “Pipe Support Span for Aboveground Piping

  1. hi all,
    with respect to Pa (allowable load at spport) where Sh is “hot allowable stress” or “Bending stress got from caesar software”

  2. ost but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Thanks!

  3. Pipe span we will calculate based on which allowable stress, which is defined in ASME B31. 3.
    I want more details for manual calculation for pipe stress or force calculation. Do you have any reference please share

  4. Question,

    i have 12 dia. Schedule 10 Stainless Steel pipe. this is only air going thru the pipe at approx. 250 deg. F.

    I am supporting this above ground and would like to support approx. 30 feet only one section.

    I can not find any information about supporting Sch. 10 Stainless Steel Pipe. Can you give me any assistance

    1. Normally for 10s and 5s pipe wall supporting to be do with pipe indentations calculations.
      Due to thin wall thickness it will fail with pipe loading..
      There is a Kellogg method to be used to do it.
      If u increase the contact area of piping to resting support steel will pass the stress values of pipe support points

  5. Excellent article.
    One point of discussion, the max deflection of a pipe.
    Many years ago I was asked the question and during research I found an old standard, which limited the deflection by measuring the angle of the pipe to the horizontal at the support point. Assuming a 1:100 fall between supports, if the angle was less than zero then there would be a risk of pockets in the pipe. I know that this is not critical for many situations but it gave a rational reason for the deflection values.

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