Winter storms in Texas knocked out industrial plants that were not designed to function in low temperatures. It’s like those cold snaps we hear about from time to time damaging orange crops in Florida.

Image complements the text of the article. Orange crop in ice during unusually cold weather. Industrial plants operating in warmer climates such as Texas and Florida are vulnerable to unexpected cold weather just as are orange crops. Industrial plants should be winterized to protect against freezing temperatures. Engineering Partners can help this winterization.

The continental U.S. is geographically large enough to have areas that tend toward warmer averages (Texas and Florida), and those that tend toward colder averages (Maine and Minnesota).

But let’s face it, the continental U.S. does not include the equator or Antarctica (areas that are safer bets for unwavering weather extremes), so from an engineering standpoint, allowing for operation on the opposite end of a given weather extreme is prudent because such weather might come calling one day– as it did in Texas this past winter.

What Is “Winterization”?

For the purpose of this article, let’s define “winterization” as the design, purchase, and installation of systems necessary to keep an industrial plant operational in cold weather. This definition is necessary because “winterization” is also a term popularly referred to as the process of preparing boats and vacation houses to shut down and survive the winter.

Image complements the text of the article. Winterized boat, ready for storage until the warmer months. Winterizing a boat helps it shut down and survive the winter. Winterizing an industrial plant helps it to operate and thrive in the winter. Imperia Engineering partners can winterize your power, chemical, food & beverage, pharmaceutical, or manufacturing plant.

A boat being winterized (sealed and stored) until warmer months

Winterizing industrial plants does not equip them to shut down and survive. It equips them to keep running and thrive.

Winterizing Pipes

First, let’s talk about pipes. Pipes transporting lower viscosity fluids (such as water) may burst when the fluid freezes in cold weather.

Image complements the text. Pipe burst in freezing temperature. Such damage could occur in warmer climates like Texas and Florida where industrial facilities are not winterized to handle cold weather.

Movement in pipes transporting higher viscosity fluids (such as oil and honey) may come to a halt if the fluids turn gelatinous and stop flowing in cold weather. Imagine oil turning into gelatin, and you get an idea of what happens when cold weather increases a fluid’s viscosity.

Image complements the text in the article. Gelatin on a plate as a humorous example of what happens to highly viscous fluids in freezing temperatures. This helps demonstrate why industrial facilities like power, chemical, food & beverage, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing plants should be winterized (protected against cold weather).

Heat Trace

So when the ambient air is cold, pipes need to be warmed up– and kept warm. Making them warm is achieved by lining their outsides with “heat trace,” which can be a tape heated electrically, or a tube heated by steam flowing through it.


This heat is kept in the pipe by insulation, which is installed outside the heat trace.

Image complements the text. Electric heat trace and insulation on a pipe. Imperia Engineering Partners might design such a setup into winterization plans of an industrial plant.

Electric heat trace and insulation on a pipe


Finally, the pipe, heat trace, and insulation are often wrapped in a hard outer shell or “jacket” of PVC or metal. This jacket physically protects the system from outside forces like flying debris and accidental strikes.

Metal-jacketed pipe

Temperature Control

Regulating this process of heating the pipes is a control system that measures temperature and adjusts the system to maintain a pre-set level. Don’t want your pipes to drop below 40° C? No problem, just set your control system to keep your pipes at 40° C (just like you set your thermostat to keep a room at a certain temperature at home).

Image complements the text of the article. PLC or distributed control system (DCS) such as one that might control the temperature of heat trace on piping.

Industrial control system

Winterizing Tanks

Piping is not the only industrial plant component heat tracing keeps warm. Storage tanks often need warming too. Their contents can be valuable products like oil, water, fuel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, or foods and beverages.

Image complements the text in the article. When ambient air is freezing, liquids inside storage tanks can expand and burst the tanks, or increase in viscosity and be difficult to transport through pipes. Such tanks might be within the scope of the winterization plan that Imperia Engineering Partners designs for an industrial client.

Liquid storage tanks

These products must be kept moveable through pipes, not frozen or driven to such high viscosities as to render movement unfeasible. Lining the outside of storage tanks with heat trace is a possible solution.

Winterizing Valves, Instrumentation, & Other Piping System Components

From our description of winterizing pipes and tanks, you get the idea. Winterizing other piping system components such as valves, instrumentation, and pumps is done in a similar fashion– heat trace, insulation, and possibly a hard shell jacket.

Image complements text in the article. Snow on instrumentation gauge and pipe, as might happen when unusually cold temperatures occur as happened in Texas. Winterizing industrial facilities can protect equipment from cold weather.

Winterizing Personnel Areas

What about those areas of a plant where people must work in cold weather? Sure, offices are typically temperature controlled so that people can safely and comfortably work in them. But what about warehouse areas, production floors, equipment rooms, and other areas that are not temperature controlled? Such areas are at the mercy of ambient temperature, and when that temperature is dangerously cold, safety is a concern.

Area heaters can be installed for emergency use. These units often produce heat by means of either electrical elements heating up via electrical resistance, or tubes heating up via steam running through them. The choice of electric heaters or steam heaters is a matter of preference to the facility, and is often determined by which resource is more readily available in a particular area.

Image complements the text in the article. Air electric space heaters like this one are used in industrial plants to heat non-office spaces. Imperia Engineering Partners might design a heater like this one into the winterization plans of an industrial facility such as a power, chemical, food & beverage, pharmaceutical, or manufacturing plant. Plants in warmer climates (Texas, Florida, etc.) would have such a heater installed and on standby for unusually cold periods.

Area electric heater

Each area heater might also contain a fan. Once the heater’s electrical elements or steam tubes heat the air, its fan distributes it into the area.

Winterizing Office Areas In Industrial Plants

Thus far we have addressed industrial plant areas that are largely not temperature controlled. But what about areas that are temperature controlled, such as offices? If a winter storm knocks out heat to an office building, water pipes may freeze and burst. Water supply lines, drainage lines, and sprinkler systems are some examples of piping in non-industrial areas that is vulnerable to cold weather.

Image complements the text in the article. Pipe burst, such as what might happen when unexpected cold weather happens in warmer climates like Texas and Florida. Protection of such pipes might be included in the winterization plans that Imperia Engineering Partners designs for industrial, commercial, or residential clients clients.

Other Systems

Beyond the examples given in this article, many other mechanical and electrical systems are vulnerable to the effects of unexpectedly cold temperatures. A winterization assessment of all areas in an industrial plant is wise.

Bringing It All Together

Knowing what to winterize and how to winterize it can be daunting. Each system in a plant presents its own winterization project. Imperia Engineering Partners can bring it all together. We provide you with a template, a specification identifying systems to be winterized and how to winterize them. You use this specification to obtain contractor proposals to get the job done.

Image complements the text in the article. Engineers looking at design drawings or blueprints. Such collaboration might take place when winterizing an industrial plant.

Contact Imperia today to begin your plant’s winterization before the next cold snap hits!

Tom Rafferty
Business Development Manager
Image shows Imperia Engineering Partners logo, which complements the article text. Imperia Engineering Partners and ReWire Energy are partners on energy efficiency projects. Our goal is to decrease energy waste and increase energy value in commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental facilities.
305 Fellowship Road
Suite 300
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054
(855) 425-8726