Plug Valve vs Ball Valve: What’s the Difference?

The true cost of downtime is different for every type of business, but it could mean $260,000 per hour for yours.

At first glance, a ball valve and plug valve may look identical. Look a little closer and you’ll see vast differences that can mean the difference between instant operation and costly downtime.

82% of companies experienced unplanned downtime and outages at least once between 2016 and 2019. You want to make sure you have the right equipment for the job.

See how making the pick between a ball valve or plug valve may be the right decision for you.

How It Works: The Ball Valve

The way a ball valve works is fairly intuitive to the name.

There is a handle with a spindle that is attached to a ball, inside the valve body. Almost always there are bushings at the top and bottom that keep a ball valve in place. The ball in the valve body has a hole bored through the center, in line with the ends of the valve body.

Ball valves are almost always quarter-turn valves, which means the bored channel will turn 90° to open or close the valve. This makes it ideal for emergency shutoff situations.

The four types of ball valves are:

  • Full port or Full bore
  • Reduced port or reduced bore
  • V-Port
  • Trunnion

Full port valves are oversized compared with the pipe so the bore is the same size as the pipe’s inner diameter. The reduced port is smaller than the pipe’s inner diameter. Reduced port increases friction and reduces flow rate.

V-port ball valves have a v-shaped ball, instead of a bore through the center. This allows you to have more flow control when opening or closing the ball valve in cases of high-velocity fluids.

Trunnion ball valves have more mechanical stability due to the use of trunnions as mechanical anchors for the ball. This type of ball valve is used in high-pressure environments.

How It Works: The Plug Valve

Plug valves have a steel plug that has been bored through, rather than a ball. They are also a 90° or quarter-turn valve style.

The main difference between plug valves and ball valves is that ball valves have a void between the ball and the valve body that can harbor a contaminated medium. Plug valves, on the other hand, do not.

They provide a tight seal which provides the most reliable emergency shutoff.

Plug valves are more popular for use with sewage, slurries, and mud. They have more surface area than a ball valve and don’t restrict flow. There is, however, less flow control with a plug valve.

The Right Tool for the Job

If you’re looking for the right control valve for your piping system, control capability is the major factor. Ball valves and plug valves are both good emergency shutoff capable valve styles.

If contamination isn’t an issue requiring maintenance and downtime, ball valves may be the answer. If you need more corrosion resistance and flow control is less of an issue than on-off operation, plug valves could work nicely.

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