Keeping Pressure Vessels Safe

Pressurized storage tanks are used in a number of different applications. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, these applications including everything from “industrial compressed air receivers to domestic hot water storage tanks. Other examples include recompression chambers, distillation towers, mining operations, petrochemical plants, nuclear reactor vessels, submarine, space ship habitats, and storage vessels for liquified gases such as ammonia, chlorine, propane, butane, and LPG.” Since their invention in the 1800’s which spurred the Industrial Revolution, pressurized vessels have transformed many technologies with the ability to store liquids at high pressure.

Pressurized storage tanks are found in many settings, though you might not know it by looking at them. Many of these tanks have the same cylindrical shape as non-pressurized tanks, but on the inside they are pressurized many times higher than the outside ambient pressure. This is necessary for many commercial and industrial processes, but it also presents a safety hazard. As tanks age they become more susceptible to a pressure related accident, which is why it’s important to take preventative measures and keep safety in mind at all times when working with pressurized storage vessels.

One of the ways this is done is with regulatory measures that ensure all pressurized vessels are designed and built to certain standards. In North America, the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code puts forth specifications for safe pressurized vessels. In the field, regular measurements of the thickness of the tank’s metal wall (using ultrasonic equipment) let personnel can determine when the thickness of the metal has reached a minimum threshold, at which point the tank will need to be repaired or replaced. Proper use of pressure release valves and maintaining the correct temperature in the vessel are also critical in ensure a safe environment in and around a pressurized storage vessel.

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