Ammonia pipe labeling requirements – IIAR & ASME/ANSI
Pressurized anhydrous ammonia is used as a commercial refrigerant due to its ability to absorb substantial amounts of heat from its surroundings. Industrial settings that use it, including food and beverage processing, cold storage and meatpacking, must adhere to ammonia pipe labeling requirements. Below, we'll break down the standards and requirements, including the ammonia piping color code, lettering and placement set forth by ANSI/ASME, in addition to the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration's IIAR Bulletin 114. Before you dig in to the standards, however, it’s important to understand the dangers of ammonia and the importance of using pipe labels and tags on this potentially hazardous chemical.
Dangers of pressurized anhydrous ammonia
Uncontrolled releases of anhydrous ammonia can be harmful to human health, corrosive and explosive when not properly maintained or controlled. Anhydrous ammonia carries a health hazard designation of 3 on the NFPA fire diamond, with threats including:
- Irritation and corrosiveness to the skin, eyes, respiratory tract and mucous membranes
- Severe chemical burns and frostbite to the eyes, lungs and skin
- Aggravation of existing skin and respiratory-related diseases
The EPA has documented a number of accidents, including a meat-packing plant where a refrigeration line ruptured. Eight workers were critically injured, suffering respiratory burns from ammonia inhalation.
The importance of ammonia pipe labeling
When workers and emergency response personnel follow ammonia pipe labeling standards, it helps effectively identify the pipe and follow where it’s going, especially to valve shutoffs in order to stem further release. Pipes that adhere to IIAR pipe marking standards can also be used in safety training for current and new employees and assist with efficiency during maintenance and servicing. During such events using proper lockout tagout devices, like valve lockouts, in conjunction with proper labels can ensure the safety of you and your team.
Ammonia pipe marking regulations
Two organizations supply documents that inform how ammonia pipes are to be labeled:
ASME (ANSI) A13.1 - 2020: Scheme for the Identification of Piping Systems
This ASME standard is a widely used guideline in determining pipe identification requirements. It indicates that “A13.1 is intended to establish a common system to assist in identification of hazardous materials conveyed in piping systems and their hazards when released in the environment.” Find additional information on ANSI pipe marking standard guidelines.
Pipe Marking Color Codes
||Toxic and corrosive fluids
||Potable, cooling, boiler feed
and other water
||Defined by user
||Defined by user
IIAR Guidelines for Identification of Ammonia Refrigeration Piping and System Components, Bulletin No. 114, March 2014
IIAR Bulletin 114 is meant to “establish uniform guidelines for identifying piping in a closed-circuit ammonia refrigeration system and the related refrigeration system components.” IIAR Bulletin 114 offers these guidelines specifically for the ammonia refrigeration industry, and uses ASME Standard A13.1 to inform it. As anhydrous ammonia is classified as a “toxic and corrosive fluid,” safety orange is the appropriate base label color.
Important note: IIAR Bulletin 114 was updated in 2014 to accurately reflect safety orange as the primary recommended label color under an update to the ASME standard in 2007. Prior to that, yellow was used. However, this doesn’t mean that all markers, including those made prior to 2014, must be updated. Section 1 of ASME A13.1 states that “Existing schemes for identification shall be considered as meeting the requirements of this Standard if: (a) such schemes are described in writing; (b) employees are trained as to the operation and hazards of the piping system.”
Ammonia pipe marking guide: color code, lettering and positioning
There are 5 sections on an ammonia pipe label that follow the ammonia piping color code and other requirements.
Marker body (ammonia)
The pipe marker body should be safety orange with “AMMONIA” printed in black letters.
Physical state (liquid, vapor or both)
Ammonia refrigerant exists in a liquid or vapor state, or both. Following are guidelines for each:
- Liquid: Print “LIQ” in black letters on a yellow band in a circumferential arc adjacent and left of “AMMONIA”
- Vapor: Print “VAP” in black letters on a sky blue band in a circumferential arc adjacent and left of “AMMONIA”
- Liquid and vapor: See first two bullets for color and text guidelines; apply “VAP” adjacent and left of “AMMONIA” and “LIQ” adjacent and left of “VAP”
Pressure (high or low)
- Pressure greater than 70 PSIG: Print “HIGH” in black letters on a red band in a circumferential arc adjacent and right of “AMMONIA”
- Pressure less than or equal to 70 PSIG: Print “LOW” in black letters on a green band in a circumferential arc adjacent and right of “AMMONIA”
Abbreviations (HTRL, LTRS, etc.)
Industrial ammonia refrigeration systems are composed of interconnected pipes with varying temperature, vents, suctions, discharges and more. Abbreviated names identify these specific parts of the system. Abbreviations should be printed in black letters on the safety orange field adjacent and left of the physical state.
Directional arrow ( ← → )
Directional arrows should be black in color and proportionate in size to the marker. They may or may not be applied around the full pipe circumference.
List of common abbreviations (see sec. 4)
||Hot Gas Defrost
||High Pressure Liquid
||High Stage Discharge
||High Stage Suction
||High Temperature Suction
||High Temperature Recirculated Liquid
||High Temperature Recirculated Suction
||Low Temperature Recirculated Liquid
||Low Temperature Suction
||Low Temperature Recirculated Suction
||Liquid Injection Cooling
||Low Stage Suction
*Not currently covered in the IIAR standard
3 easy ways to help you follow ammonia pipe labeling requirements
Put the power of on-demand printing in your facility’s toolbox. Or, select from a variety of preprinted ammonia pipe markers.
Control messaging and inventory with these modular kits. Simply add specific text and arrow legends to the pipe marker body using Brady Workstation premade templates. Then print using a compatible Brady printer and apply physical state and pressure labels.
Convenience and customization come together perfectly thanks to this this all-in-one inkjet printing solution. Using Brady Workstation software and premade templates, you can easily create full-color labels, hit print once and apply where you need.
Select from markers with prepopulated text. Then choose different sizes and materials that ensure your markers fit where you need and hold up in the environments they face.
Hazards of Ammonia Releases at Ammonia Refrigeration Facilities (Update). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2001, August). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://19january2021snapshot.epa.gov/sites/static/files/2013-11/documents/ammonia.pdf.
A13.1 - Scheme for the Identification of Piping Systems. ASME. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2021, from https://www.asme.org/codes-standards/find-codes-standards/a13-1-scheme-identification-piping-systems.
Guidelines for: Identification of Ammonia Refrigeration Piping and System Components. International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR). (2014, March). Retrieved October 22, 2021, from http://web.iiar.org/membersonly/PDF/CO/Bulletin_114_REV032014.pdf.