Thrust Block Design | Working of a Thrust Block in Pipelines

A thrust block is a concrete pipe restraint that prevents the mainline from moving by transferring pipe loads (mainly due to pressure thrust) to a wider load-bearing surface. Usually, thrust blocks are provided for buried pipelines at fittings requiring branching or direction change. The thrust forces generated at the directional changes or tee junctions due to internal pressure thrust are taken care of by these thrust blocks, which prevents the separation of pipe joints on these pipe fitting locations. Thrust blocks are also known as thrust restraints.

Why to provide thrust blocks?

Fluids traveling through a piping system under internal pressure exert a thrust force at all bends, tee junctions, and stop ends. The magnitude of these forces usually is so high that can easily weaken the joints and even can cause leakage or failure of the piping/pipeline system. With an increase in the piping size, these forces increase further. Installation of a thrust block partially absorbs that pressure thrust force and the remaining is transferred to the surrounding soil.

However, note that thrust blocks are rarely used for steel pipes as the thickness of welded pipes is normally sufficient to prevent joint separation. But the use of thrust blocks is quite common for Ductile iron, GRP/FRP, PE/HPDE, and PVC piping systems.

Thrust block design

As already mentioned that a thrust block is a large concrete block. It has to be sized properly so that the thrust block is capable to withstand the pressure thrust force. Even though thrust blocks are specifically designed to absorb pressure thrust force, they should be designed to withstand thermal forces as well. Sometimes the thermal load can be more than the pressure thrust load. So, it is suggested to find out both thermal and pressure load and consider the maximum force value for the calculation of the thrust block design. So, to size a thrust block the first requirement is the thrust force.

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Thrust Force Calculation for Thrust block design

The raw formula for the calculation of thrust force is Pressure multiplied by the internal cross-sectional area of the pipe. However, depending on various pipe configurations this formula requires to be modified. The following image (Fig. 1) provides some typical thrust force calculation formulas for ductile iron pipes (Reference: Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association)

Thrust force formula for various piping configurations
Fig. 1: Thrust force formula for various piping configurations
  • Thrust Force on an Elbow or bend: To Calculate the design thrust force or resultant force for bends the following formula can be used. Thrust force, F = 2 P A sin (ϕ/ 2) Where: P = design pressure, A = cross-sectional area of the pipe, and ϕ = angle of the bend.
  • Thrust force on Plugs or Caps: The Thrust force in a plug or cap is equal to the design pressure (P) times the cross-sectional area (A) of the pipe. (Thrust force, F = P A).
  • Thrust force for Tee connections: The thrust force generated in a Tee connection is calculated as F=P Ab. Where P=internal design pressure and Ab= cross-sectional area of the branch pipe.
  • Thrust force calculation of Pipe reducers: The design thrust force for piping reducers/expanders is equal to the design pressure (P) times the difference of the cross-sectional areas of the large (A1) and small end (A2) sizes of the reducer. Hence, thrust restraint force, F = P (A1 − A2)
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The thermal load can be directly taken from any stress analysis software like Caesar II, Start-Prof, Rohr-II, or Autopipe.

Once thrust force (Let’s assume the calculated value of thrust force is F) is known, we have to calculate the area required to withstand that thrust force. The area can be calculated by knowing the soil properties where the thrust restraint will be installed. The required soil parameter is the bearing pressure (Let’s assume it to be Pb) of the soil. So, the minimum area required (A) can be easily calculated by dividing the thrust force by soil bearing pressure. Hence, the minimum required area A=F/Pb. This minimum area should be multiplied by a factor of safety (Usually, 1.5) to get the actual area.

Once, the minimum required area is known the thrust block geometry can be designed after knowing the type of pipe fitting where the thrust block will be installed.

Factors Affecting the Size of a Thrust Block

So, as specified above, there are four parameters required for sizing a thrust block. Those are:

  1. Maximum Internal pressure to calculate thrust force
  2. Pipe Size to calculate pipe cross-sectional area for calculating thrust force.
  3. Soil bearing load to find out the area required for the thrust block and
  4. Type of fitting (& Degree of angle in case of bends) to define the geometry of the thrust block
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Fig. 2 below are some images of typical thrust blocks.

Typical thrust block images
Fig. 2: Typical thrust block images

What is a thrust block on a pipeline?

Thrust blocks in a pipeline refer to the concrete blocks provided in buried pipelines for preventing movement and absorbing thrust forces. For large buried pipelines, the pressure thrust force becomes too large that is usually exerted on elbows and tees. Thrust clocks are therefore added in those regions to avoid the failure of piping components.

How does thrust block work?

Thrust blocks are sized to have a larger bearing area which transfers the thrust force from pipe fittings to the soil and thereby safeguarding from joint failures.

Where are thrust blocks needed?

Conventionally, thrust blocks are needed in underground pipeline directional changes. So, in all the fittings like elbows, wyes, Tees, and Pipe Caps, wherever the pipeline changes direction.

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.

15 thoughts on “Thrust Block Design | Working of a Thrust Block in Pipelines

  1. thanks for your blog.
    i have one doubt how can we get thermal loads acting in tee and bend …shall we put anchor or directly from the restrain report of Caesar II

      1. For welded pipe normally thrust block is not provided. We have to prove with calculation that thrust force is taken by welded pipe. thrust force I have calculated Thrust force = 2PA sin angle/2. After wards how to prove that this thrust force is taken by welded pipe. The thrust force comes to around 35T, 610mm OD and 8mm thick pipe for 8.82 bar. Please help. I have to submit the calculation. How this so much of force is distributed

    1. Either you can put ‘ANC’ or define the Displacement ‘D1’ as 0 in all directions, at the center of each Bend or Tee. One of the advantages of defining Displacements as 0 is that it will remain intact even after generating the Buried Model, unlike ANC where you have redefine in Buried Model. Also, you have to add D1 in applicable Load Cases, if you go for 2nd apprach as mentioned above.

    1. Internal pressure can be obtained from the pump calculation. The maximum possible pressure for a system with a centrifugal pump is the pump shut off head.

      1. Does this maximum internal pressure provided by the centrifugal pump system proportional to the head from a reservoir in a gravity flow pipeline?

  2. if we have elbow in potable water system the pipe size 2.5 inch operation pressure 3bar in this case the thrust block required ?

  3. if i have Two DI pipes , 600mm & 800mm DIA , difference gap is only 1.4Meter , we will fix A Equal Tee 600x600mm on the 600pipe , behind far1.4M is the 800mm DIA , how to fix the required thrust block.

  4. In the end, for what pipe sizes are thurst blocks required? Only for the mains, correct? For the service lines, like 63mm, there should or should not be a thrust block at HDPE-VALVE connection?

  5. I am looking to do a seminar on thrust block theory, application, and design. Would you be willing to teach some of my engineers?

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