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HSE RR1161

The response of large pressure vessels in the process industries to excess pressure: literature review

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SUMMARY

Large pressure vessels are used in a wide range of chemical process industries. They contain significant amounts of energy. In the event of a vessel failure, this energy could be released. This gives significant potential for harm to people and other plant. As part of effective risk control, pressure vessels are usually designed in accordance with established codes that define their minimum strength.

HSE is aware that there may be pressure vessel systems in Great Britain where there is potential for exposure to pressures greater than those allowed under relevant current design codes. This can result from: errors during the original vessel design phase; a change in the design code due to improved understanding of the reaction chemistry; or poor change management of plant or process. These situations may lead to insufficient capacity in pressure relief systems for vessels and the potential to generate excess pressure leading to vessel failure.

This report describes a literature review on the impact of overpressure on the likelihood of vessel failure. It includes an assessment of impact of different design standards. It captures sources of relevant good practice and supplementary information that may help in the assessment of risk. The report covers:

  • Likelihood of overpressures and failures;
  • Comparison of different construction standards;
  • Predictions of the effects of overpressures; Calculations of burst pressures.

This Research Report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

Publisher: HSE
Published in: 2020

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