Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: A Complete List of Differences.

In this blog post, you’ll read:Pipelines need regular control management. Their smooth performance leads to efficient flow transfer. Every pipeline system uses control valves to track fluid pathways. The two major control valves are plug valves and ball valves. The role and work of each type should be more obvious.
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Pipelines need regular control management. Their smooth performance leads to efficient flow transfer. Every pipeline system uses control valves to track fluid pathways. The two major control valves are plug valves and ball valves. The role and work of each type should be more obvious. In comparison between the Plug valve and ball valve, both have significant roles. This writing focuses on the plug valve and ball valve differences. Let’s understand everything about these two valves.

plug valve and ball valve
plug valve and ball valve

What is a Plug Valve?

A plug valve within pipes controls the passage of liquids and gases. It consists of a cylindrical or tapered plug that rotates 90 degrees with a hole in the middle. This hole rotates inside the valve body. When we turn the plug, the hole can align with the pipe allowing flow to pass. When we turn the plug away from the pipe, it stops the flow.

plug valve inside
Plug valve inside

Plug valves have a simple design, which makes them easy to operate. They allow quick and efficient flow control. They are not suitable for applications that need precision tracking. It is because they are basic for on/off operations.

What is a Ball Valve?

A ball valve is a subtle valve that controls the flow of liquids or gases through pipes. It gets its name from the round, ball-shaped component inside the valve.

ball valve construction
ball valve construction

Like a plug valve, a ball valve also has a hole through which the fluid or gas can flow. Yet, instead of a plug, a ball valve uses a sphere-shaped ball with a hole in the middle. We can turn the ball with a handle or lever, making it functional.

The fluid can move across the valve if we turn the ball to match the hole with the pipe. This is an open position. When we turn the ball to block the hole, the flow stops, which is a closed position. Ball valves are best for short and frequent flow control applications.

Applications of Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve:

Both plug and ball valves have different applications. Here’s a simple explanation of their applications:

valves applications
valves applications

Plug Valve Applications:

Oil and Gas Industry: Plug valves are applicable in the oil and gas industry. They control the flow of natural gas, crude oil, and liquids in pipelines.

Water Treatment Plants: Plug valves in water treatment plants to maintain water flow. They also control the distribution of treated water.

Chemical Processing: They control the flow of substances during manufacturing processes.

Waste Water Management: Plug valves help manage wastewater flow in sewage treatment plants. It ensures proper sewage treatment and disposal.

Ball Valve Applications:

ball valve applications
ball valve applications

Residential Plumbing: Ball valves in homes control water flow in plumbing systems. Their example includes shut-off valves under sinks and toilets.

HVAC Systems: Ball valves in (HVAC) systems regulate water flow. They also work in refrigerants for heating or cooling purposes.

Industrial Processes: Ball valves find applications in various industrial processes involving fluid control. These include refining, manufacturing, and power plants.

Fuel and Gas Distribution: Ball valves are applicable in distribution systems. They control the flow from storage tanks to different locations.

Working Mechanism: Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve.

Plug Valve:

A plug valve works using a cylindrical or tapered plug that we can rotate inside the body. The plug has a hole right in the center. It can align with the pipe to allow fluid to flow or turn away from the pipe to stop the flow.

structure of plug valve
structure of plug valve

In the open position, the hole in the plug aligns with the pipe, letting go of the fluid. When the plug turns to the closed position, the hole turns away from the pipe, blocking the flow.

Ball Valve:

A ball valve uses a spherical ball with a hole in the middle to manage the flow of fluids. The ball is inside, and we can turn it using a handle or lever.

ball valve uses a spherical ball with a hole
ball valve uses a spherical ball with a hole

The valve opens when the ball rotates to set the hole with the pipe, and the fluid can flow through. When the ball rotates to block the hole, the valve closes and ceases the flow.

Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: Types.

Types of plug Valves.

Lubricated Plug Valve:

Lubricated plug valves inject the lubricant between the valve body and the plug. The lubrication helps to reduce friction and enhance the sealing of the valve. This type of plug valve is common in applications requiring tight seals. It includes high-pressure systems or handling corrosive fluids.

Non-Lubricated Plug Valve:

Non-lubricated plug valves operate without the need for external lubrication. They often use materials like polymers or special coatings on the plug and body. It minimizes friction and achieves tight sealing. These valves are suitable for applications where lubricants may not be workable. It includes food processing or pharmaceutical industries.

Eccentric Plug Valve:

eccentric plug valve
Eccentric plug valve

An eccentric plug valve’s position is off-center from the pipe axis. Before rotating, the plug moves away from the seating because of its design. It reduces wear and friction during operation. The eccentric plug valve provides smooth operation and resistance to debris accumulation. It makes it suitable for applications with slurry or abrasive fluids.

Types of Ball Valve.

Floating Ball Valve:

floating ball valve
floating ball valve

In a floating ball valve, the fluid pressure holds the ball in place. The pressure from the fluid holds the ball against the seat, which creates a seal. Floating ball valves are common in applications with moderate pressures and temperatures. They offer good sealing performance and easy operation.

Trunnion Ball Valve:

trunnion ball valve
Trunnion ball valve

Trunnion ball valves have different support mechanisms for the ball using trunnion bearings. These bearings help support the ball’s weight and control its movement. It ensures better stability and durability. Trunnion ball valves are often applicable in larger pipes having high pressures. They can handle higher loads and pressures more effectively.

V-Port Ball Valve:

V-port ball valves have a V-shaped or contoured bore in the ball. This design allows for precise flow control by adjusting the ball’s position. The V-port design provides better throttling capabilities. It suits accurate flow rates, such as in chemical or process industries.

Three-Way Ball Valve:

3 port ways
3 port ways

They have three ports instead of the usual two. These valves can divert or combine flows from two sources into one outlet. They are applicable where flow direction needs changes or mixing different fluids.

Specification of Plug Valve and Ball Valve:

Specifications.Plug Valve.  Ball Valve.  
Product:Flanged Plug Valve.Flanged Ball Valve.
Material:Stainless Steel.Steel, Ductile Iron.
Media:Oil.Liquids and Gases.
Size:1 ~ 4.2 ~ 24.
Working Pressure:6000 Psi to 20,000 Psi.PN 500
Temperature:High Temperature.High Temperature.
Application:Industrial Oil handling.Chemicals, wastewater, oil, Power plants.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve: Pros and Cons.

Advantages of Plug Valve:

flanged plug valve
Flanged plug valve

Simple and Reliable: Plug valves have a simple design to operate and maintain. The rotation of the plug makes them effective in maintaining fluid movement.

Quick Operation: Plug valves allow efficient flow control due to quick operations. It makes them a perfect fit for applications that need frequent handling.

Versatile: Plug valves can handle fluids like corrosive and abrasive substances. They are common in industries where different liquids or gases need controls.

Good Sealing Performance: Plug valves can provide a tight seal by avoiding leakages. It prevents wastage or potential hazards by ensuring the closure of flow.

Durable: Plug valves are durable due to materials like alloys or engineered polymers. It enables plug valves to withstand harsh operating conditions and longer lifespan.

Cost-effective: Their simple design makes plug valves cost-effective compared to other valves. Their less possible costs make them a favorite choice.

Advantages of Ball Valve:

Easy Operation: Ball valves operate easily, even with a simple handle or lever. Their quick turning allows for convenient opening or closing of the valve.

Quick Shut-off: Ball valves provide a fast shut-off mechanism. Turning the ball to the closed position blocks the flow to avoid the wastage of fluids.

Reliable Sealing: Ball valves have a reliable sealing mechanism. When the ball is in the closed position, it forms a tight seal, minimizing the chances of leakage.

Versatile Applications: Ball valves are best in residential plumbing, HVAC, and industrial processes. This versatility is due to their features in handling massive fluids.

Durability: Ball valves come from sturdy materials, which makes them durable. It gives them the endurance to stand high pressures, corrosion, and extreme heat.

Low Maintenance: Ball valves need minimal maintenance. Their simple design reduces the need for frequent repairs or replacements.

Excellent Flow Control: Ball valves provide excellent flow control capabilities. When open, the ball allows an unobstructed flow through the valve.

flanged cast iron ball valve
flanged cast iron ball valve

Disadvantages of Plug Valve:

Limited Flow Control: Plug valves are on/off and may not provide precise control. They may not be suitable for situations requiring fine flow rate adjustments.

High Torque: Plug valves need significant force. It is common in larger sizes or when dealing with high-pressure fluids. It turns them challenging for individuals with limited strength.

Slurry Handling Limitations: There are better choices for high solids concentrations. The presence of solids can cause blockages or hinder the smooth movement of the plug. It affects its sealing ability.

Size and Weight: Plug valves, especially larger ones, can be bulky and heavy. This can make installation and handling more challenging. They need extra support and space considerations.

Limited to Full Open or Full Closed Positions:

Plug valves operate in fully open or closed positions. They may not offer the flexibility of partial opening for fine-tuning flow rates.

Disadvantages of Ball Valve:

Pressure Drop: Ball valves can cause a pressure drop when fully open. It means there can be a decrease in pressure across the valve. It may affect the system’s performance downstream.

Potential for Cavitation: Ball valves can sometimes cause cavitation in high-velocity applications. Cavitation occurs when the pressure drops significantly. It leads to the formation and collapse of vapor bubbles. This can result in noise, vibration and eventually damages the equipment.

Limited Resistance to Corrosion: Ball valves resist corrosion, but aggressive chemicals can harm. Proper material selection is crucial for compatibility and longevity.

A General Comparison Between Plug Valve and Ball Valve:

Properties.Plug Valve.Ball Valve.
DesignPlug valves have a tapered plug with the ability to rotate inside.  Plug controls the flow by blocking or allowing passage.Ball valves have a hollow, spherical containing a bore in the middle.
Flow ControlPlug valves are for on/off applications and may not provide accurate flow control.Ball valves offer better flow control capabilities for on/off applications. It includes throttling or regulating flow rates.
Sealing Performanceplug valves offer higher sealing due to the direct contact between the plug and the valve seat.Ball valves can provide reliable sealing when closed.
OperationPlug valves are easy to operate. Plug valves need a rotating motion to open or close.Ball valves have a quarter-turn operation for full open or close positions.
Pressure DropPlug valves have a lower pressure drop than ball valves.Ball valves can cause a pressure drop when fully open due to the flow path restrictions by the ball.
Flow CharacteristicsPlug valves may cause turbulence and pressure loss, especially in partially open positions.Ball valves provide more favorable flow characteristics with less turbulence than plug valves.
Maintenance:Plug valves may need occasional lubrication.Ball valves need a periodic inspection of the ball and seat for wear or leakage.
Size and Weight:Plug valves can be bulkier than ball valves, especially larger ones.Ball valves are more compact and lighter, which makes it easy to handle them.

Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: Where to Install?

Suitable locations to Install Plug Valves:

Chemical and Petrochemical Industry: 

Plug valves control refineries’ flow of chemicals, acids, and corrosive substances. Their robust construction and resistance to chemical attack make them a preferred choice.  They can handle aggressive media in chemical processing applications.

Oil and Gas Industry:

Plug valves are common for upstream and downstream applications in these industries. They control the flow of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas. Plug valves can handle pipelines, refineries, and processing plants.

Water and Wastewater Treatment:

Plug valves are applicable in wastewater treatment plants. They can control water flow, slurries, and chemicals in the process stages. Plug valves handle corrosive fluids and offer reliable shut-off capabilities. This makes them valuable in distribution systems, sewage plants, and desalination facilities.

Suitable locations to Install Ball Valves:

Ball valves are versatile and find applications in a wide range of industries. Here are a few examples:

Plumbing and HVAC Systems: 

Ball valves apply in residential, commercial, and industrial plumbing systems. They control water flow and other fluids in pipes, faucets, (HVAC) systems. The compact design and operation flexibility make ball valves popular in household applications.

Chemical Processing: 

Ball valves are wide in chemical processing industries to handle chemicals and fluids. They offer excellent capabilities to seal and precise flow control.

Manufacturing and Industrial Processes:

Ball valves employ in many industrial processes that need control over the flow. They work in the food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, pulp, and paper industries.

Selection Guide for Plug and Ball Valves:

When choosing between a plug valve and a ball valve, there are a few important factors to consider. First, think about certain application and their particular needs. Think about the fluid or gas the valve will handle. Ensuring that the valve you choose matches the pipeline diameter would be best. This ensures proper compatibility and efficient flow control.

The material of the valve also sets some crucial parameters. Different materials will produce relevant effects. Selecting a material that can withstand your application’s demands is important.

Next, consider the type of valve best suits your needs. Plug valves are better for on/off applications. In comparison, ball valves can offer more accurate flow control. Consider whether you need a finely adjusted flow or a simple open/close operation.

Ensure the selected valve can handle your application’s largest pressure and temperature. The product should make no compromises on its performance or safety.

Consult industry standards and regulations that may apply to your specific application. The selected valve should meet all requirements and complies with relevant guidelines. By prioritizing these facts, you can select the most suitable valve. Whether a plug or a ball valve, it would fit your needs.

ball valve's spare parts
ball valve’s spare parts

FAQs Related to Plug Valves Vs. Ball Valves:

Q1: How do plug valves and ball valves work?

A: Plug valves rotate the plug inside the valve body, allowing or blocking access to the fluid. Ball valves function by rotating the ball within the valve. It either aligns the hole with the pipe to allow flow or blocks it when the hole is perpendicular to the pipe.

Q2: Can we repair the plug and ball valves?

A: Yes, we can repair both plug and ball valves. Depending on the issue, repairs may involve replacements of certain parts. It could be seals, gaskets, or other components. It’s important to follow proper repair procedures for your specific product.

Q3: How do I select between a plug and a ball valve?

A: Consider the application needs when selecting between a plug and a ball valve. These are valve size, material compatibility, and desired flow control capabilities. Rating pressure and temperature conditions are also advisory. Referring to manufacturer guidelines can help make the right selection.

Q4: What are common materials used for plug valves and ball valves?

A: Common materials for plug and ball valves are stainless steel, brass, bronze, cast iron, and PVC. Each material is suitable for different applications.

Q5: Among plug and ball valves, which one last longer?

The lifespan of both valves varies on quality, maintenance, and operating conditions. A well-made and maintained plug or ball valve can last many years, even decades.

Factors like the fluid media, operating conditions, and maintenance affect their lifespan. Both valves need routine care and inspections to function well and last longer. With the right care, plug valves, and ball valves can provide reliable service for a long time.

Wrapping Up:

The above comparison between the plug and ball valves sheds light on both. Their structure and type divide them into specific functions. Thus, a few of these suit one place, and the others are for different uses. Your valve must follow the system you are operating. Both plug and ball valves are unique and fit relevant applications.

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