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Pressure Vessel Basic Concepts




Welding Fundamentals. 13


Pressure vessels are containers for fluids that are under pressure. The petroleum and
petrochemical industry uses pressure vessels in all stages of the processing cycle. Within
the processing cycle, pressure vessels convert crude oil or petrochemical feedstocks into
useful products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel. This conversion process takes
place at elevated pressure and temperature levels and often in the presence of a catalyst.
Saudi Aramco also uses pressure vessels extensively to produce crude oil, to manufacture
oil products, to operate utilities, and to store products.
Pressure vessels have different characteristics, and they are typically custom-designed for
particular service applications. Large vessels that are used in refinery processes may be 9
m (30 ft.) or more in diameter and over 60 m (200 ft.) in height. Typical pressures for
Saudi Aramco applications range from 103 kPa (ga) (15 psig ) to 34 470 kPa (ga) (5 000
psig), but most of the pressure vessels operate below 6 895 kPa (ga) (1 000 psig).
Pressure vessel temperatures typically range from -29C (-20F) to over 538C (1
000F). Carbon steel is the material that is most often used to construct pressure vessels.
Chrome alloys, stainless steels, and other alloys are also used to meet specific service
needs. The sections that follow discuss the main components of pressure vessels. Figures
1 through 5 are drawings of typical pressure vessel types. These typical pressure vessel
types are as follows:
Horizontal Drum on Saddle Supports
Vertical Drum on Leg Supports
High Vertical Tower
Vertical Reactor
Spherical Pressurized Storage Vessel
Their main components and several secondary components are identified in these
drawings. The main components are the shell, head, nozzle and support. The secondary
components are noted during the discussion. These figures are referenced during the
discussion that follows.
The shell of a pressure vessel is the primary component that contains the pressure.
Pressure vessel shells are welded together to form a structure that has a common
rotational axis. Most pressure vessel shells are either cylindrical, spherical, or conical in
shape. Figure 1 shows a typical horizontal drum. Horizontal drums have cylindrical
shells, and they are fabricated in a wide range of shell diameters and lengths.


Horizontal Drum on Saddle Supports

Figure 1
Figure 2 shows a small vertical drum. Small vertical drums are normally located at grade.
The maximum shell length-to-diameter ratio for a small vertical drum is about 5:1.


Vertical Drum on Leg Supports

Figure 2

Figure 3 shows a typical high, vertical tower. High vertical towers are constructed in a
wide range of shell diameters and heights. Towers can be relatively small in diameter and
very high (for example, a 1.2 m [4 ft.] diameter and 60 m [200 ft.] high distillation
column), or very large in diameter and moderately high (for example, a 9 m [30 ft.]
diameter and 45 m [150 ft.] high pipes till tower).


High Vertical Tower

Figure 3

The shell of a tower will often have multiple diameters in order to meet particular process
needs. The transition between shell sections of different diameters is achieved through the
use of a conical shell section, as shown in Figure 3. A tower typically also contains
internal trays in the cylindrical shell section. These internal trays, which are also shown
in Figure 3, are needed for flow distribution. Several types of tower trays are available,
such as the bubble-cap, valve, sieve, and packed.
The choice of the tray type that is used is based on the particular process application.
Bubble-cap trays are perforated to allow liquid to run through the tray and down to the
bottom of the tower. Vapors rise up through the tray perforations to higher tower
elevations. The perforations in the trays are made with umbrella-like caps over them,
called bubble-caps. The purpose of the bubble-caps is to force the rising vapors to bubble


through the liquid that is present on each tray before the vapors move up to the tray at the
next higher tower elevation.
Valve trays are also perforated; however, their perforations are covered by disks.
The disks are designed to rise or fall in order to open or close the perforation openings
depending on the fluid flow rates across the trays.
Sieve trays and packed trays each employ fill material to control the flow of liquid and
vapor through the area of the tray. The fill material may be composed of components
such as grating, screen, wire mesh, or metallic rings.
The shell sections of a high tower can be constructed of different materials, thicknesses,
and diameters. Alloys, or a corrosion-resistant lining, are sometimes used in vertical
tower sections where corrosion is a critical factor. If there is a major change in the
corrosiveness of the process fluid in different tower sections, two different materials may
be used in the construction of the vertical tower. Two factors that affect the corrosiveness
of the process fluid are temperature and phase changes (liquid versus vapor) of the
process fluid. Both factors vary along the tower's length.
The thickness of individual shell sections of a high tower can vary along the tower's
length. This variation in thickness is due to changes in design conditions, external loads,
or material.
Figures 4 is a typical reactor vessel with a cylindrical shell. This cylindrical type of
vertical reactor often has two internal catalyst beds. The upper catalyst bed is supported
by a structural grid that is supported from the inside of the cylindrical shell.


Vertical Reactor
Figure 4


Figure 5 shows a pressurized storage vessel with a spherical shell.

Spherical Pressurized Storage Vessel

Figure 5
All pressure vessel shells must be closed at the ends by heads (or another shell section).
Heads are typically curved rather than flat. Curved configurations are stronger and allow
the heads to be thinner, lighter, and less expensive than are heads with a flat shape. The
shape of the curve is usually semi-elliptical or hemispherical. The semi-elliptical shape is
more common. Figures 1 through 4 show heads closing the cylindrical sections of the
subject pressure vessels. The spherical pressurized storage vessel that is shown in Figure
5 does not have separate closure heads.
Additional heads are not needed because the spherical shell completely closes the vessel.
Note that in Figure 4 there is an external outlet collector at the bottom head. The outlet
collector is designed with openings that are sized to permit the required flow but not to
allow any catalyst to escape downstream.
A nozzle is a cylindrical component that penetrates the shell and/or heads of a pressure

Nozzles may be used for the following applications:

Attaching piping systems that are used for flow into or out of the vessel.
Attaching instrument connections, such as level gauges, thermowells, or pressure
Providing access to the vessel interior at manways.
Providing for direct attachment of other equipment items, such as a heat
Nozzles may range in diameter from a 19 mm (0.75 in.) instrument connection to very
large diameter process nozzles.
The nozzle ends are usually flanged to allow for the necessary connections and to permit
easy disassembly for maintenance or access. Welded nozzle connections are sometimes
used to prevent flange leakage, typically in high pressure and/or high temperature
applications, where leakage could be especially dangerous. Nozzles are also sometimes
extended into the vessel interior for some applications, such as for inlet flow distribution
or in order to permit the entry of thermo wells.
Figures 1 through 4 show nozzles that enter pressure vessels through the shell or heads.
The type of support that is used for a pressure vessel depends primarily on the size and
orientation of the pressure vessel. In all cases, the pressure vessel supports must be
adequate for the applied weight, wind, and earthquake loads. The design pressure of the
vessel is not a consideration in the design of the supports, since the supports are not
subjected to the design pressure. Temperature may be a consideration in support design
from the standpoint of material selection and provision for differential thermal expansion.
Saddle Supports
Horizontal drum pressure vessels, as shown in Figure 1, are typically supported at two
locations by saddle supports. A saddle support spreads the weight load over a large area
of the shell in order to prevent an excessive local stress in the shell at the support points.
The saddle is typically in contact with the vessel shell circumference over a 120 angle.
The width of the saddle, among other design details, is determined by the specific size
and design conditions of the pressure vessel.
Leg Supports
Small vertical drums, as shown in Figure 2, are typically supported on legs that are
welded to the lower portion of the shell. The maximum ratio of support leg length to
drum diameter is typically 2:1. Reinforcing pads and/or rings must first be welded to the
shell in order to provide additional local reinforcement and load distribution in cases
where the local shell stresses are excessive. The number of legs that are required depends
on the drum size and the loads to be carried. Support legs are also typically used for
spherical pressurized storage vessels, as shown in Figure 5. The support legs for small
vertical drums and spherical pressurized storage vessels may be made from structural
steel columns or pipe sections, whichever provides a more efficient design. Cross bracing

between the legs, as shown in Figure 5, is typically used to help absorb wind or
earthquake loads.
Lug Supports
Lugs that are welded to the pressure vessel shell, as shown in Figure 6, may also be used
to support vertical pressure vessels. The use of lugs is typically limited to vessels of small
to medium diameter (0.3 to 3.0 m [1 to 10 ft.]) and moderate height-to-diameter ratios in
the range of 2:1 to 5:1. Lug supports are often used within structural steel for vessels of
this size range that are located above grade. The lugs are typically bolted to horizontal
structural members.

Vertical Vessel on Lug Supports

Figure 6
Skirt Supports
High, vertical, cylindrical pressure vessels, such as the tower and reactor shown in
Figures3 and 4 respectively, are typically supported by means of skirts. A support skirt is
a cylindrical shell section that is welded either to the lower portion of the vessel shell or
to the bottom head, in the case of cylindrical vessels. Skirts for spherical vessels are
welded to the vessel near the mid-plane of the shell. Most skirt-supported vessels are
supported back to grade; however, skirts may also be used for vessels that are elevated
within a structure if it is more convenient to do so. In vessels that are elevated within a
structure, the bottom of the skirt rests on horizontal structural members.
This section identifies some of the typical process functions that pressure vessels
perform. Process design engineers and mechanical engineers must know how pressure
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vessels are used, and they should understand how the use of pressure vessels affects
mechanical design. Process design engineers must also understand that certain
specifications will cause the mechanical design to be more difficult or costly than
necessary. Mechanical design engineers can then ensure that the mechanical design will
reflect the proper use of the pressure vessel.
When process and mechanical design engineers are aware of each other's needs and
cooperate in meeting these needs, a more cost-effective mechanical design can be
developed to achieve the required process functions. Process design engineers must also
specify all the process design information that is required for the mechanical design of
the vessel, such as operating pressure and temperature, vessel size, and overall geometry.
The mechanical engineer uses this information for the detailed vessel design.
Fluid Separation
Fluid separation requires the use of either horizontal or vertical drums, such as those
drums that are shown in Figures 1 or 2. The needs of a particular process determines the
vessel orientation that is used. A fluid separation drum separates two liquids that have
different densities, or separates a vapor from a liquid. A drum's internal design details,
such as screens, baffles, and distribution pipes, facilitate the separation process. Gas/oil
separation plants (GOSPs) use large horizontal drums as production traps, dehydrators,
desalters, and slug catchers. Some important mechanical design considerations in these
applications include the type and weight of internal components, maximum liquid level,
and liquid specific gravity.
Some drums, such as in Figures 1 or 2, serve as filters. In this case, a porous medium is
installed inside the drum, and the process fluid passes over it. The type and weight of
internals, maximum liquid level, liquid specific gravity, the expected pressure drop, and
the filtration medium density, must all be specified in order to complete the mechanical
design of the vessel internals and overall vessel support.
A high tower usually separates a hydrocarbon stream into different fractions. These
fractionated streams are used at other stages in the process system. Separation uses a
distillation process that is based on the different boiling points of hydrocarbon fractions.
Trays (such as those shown in Figure 3) or packing materials control the flow distribution
and velocity and aid the separation process. A temperature gradient exists along the
length of the tower, and the bottom of the tower is hotter than the top. Normally liquid is
at the bottom of the tower and vapor is at the top. Liquid, liquid/vapor, or vapor states
exist along the length of the tower. Nozzles, that are located at several points along the
tower, extract the fluid at a particular elevation (that is, at a certain temperature and
pressure level) for use in other processing stages. The most significant mechanical design
requirements that are determined by the process relate to pressure, temperature, and
material selection. Other mechanical design factors to consider are as follows:
Weight of tower internal components
Operating temperature variations along the length of the tower
Design pressure in the vapor space above the liquid

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Weight of the stored liquid

Hydrostatic head of the liquid

Surge Absorption
Vertical or horizontal drums, such as the drums shown in Figures 1 or 2, may be used to
absorb liquid flow or pressure surges that are caused by upstream stages of the process
system. If a drum is used to absorb surges, the operating liquid level and/or pressure in
the drum may vary over a relatively wide range; however, the drum prevents these
process variations from affecting downstream equipment. A surge absorption drum is
intended to produce more stable operations and eliminate the need to design downstream
equipment to absorb these process variations. It should be noted that Saudi Aramco has
numerous installed pressure vessels (particularly in instrument air systems) that are
serving as "pressure reservoirs," and that they are incorrectly referred to as "surge tanks."
Steam Generation
A steam drum is usually horizontal, as shown in Figure 1, and generates steam from
water at a specified pressure and temperature. After feedwater enters the stream drum, the
temperature, pressure, and fluid circulation ensure that saturation conditions are
maintained in the drum, which causes the water to boil. The steam that is generated is
removed by one or more nozzles that are located at the top of the drum.
Reactors convert one hydrocarbon form into another hydrocarbon form that is required at
a later stage of the processing operation. A chemical reaction performs this conversion
inside the reactor. The chemical reaction normally takes place in the presence of a
catalyst. Depending on the process, operating temperatures can reach 538C (1 000F) or
more at pressures over 6 895 kPa (1 000 psig). Cylindrical reactors are typically used and
their design details and volume requirements depend on the particular process.
Conversion processes that are used by Saudi Aramco include Hydrotreating, Fluid
Catalytic Cracking (FCC) and Hydrocracking.
The same factors that influence the mechanical design of distillation towers also apply to
reactors. In addition, the mechanical design engineer must be aware of alternative
operating scenarios that may apply which could affect the mechanical design. For
example, many reactors must be designed for an in-place catalyst regeneration operation,
in addition to the normal operating conditions. The catalyst regeneration operation will
typically occur at a much lower pressure than is used for normal operation, but at a much
higher temperature. The mechanical design of the reactor components must be based on
the more severe of the two conditions.
Spherical or cylindrical storage vessels may be used to store hydrocarbon liquids at
ambient temperature. The liquid may be the result of an intermediate refining step or a
final product. The vapor pressure above the liquid in the vessel results from either the
vapor pressure of the liquid at ambient temperature or pressurization from an outside

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source. A pressure vessel rather than a storage tank is used in situations where the
required design pressure exceeds 103 kPa (15 psig).
Welding is the most common method that is used for pressure vessel fabrication;
therefore, this section focuses on welding. Welding fundamentals and details are
discussed to the extent necessary for a pressure vessel engineer to achieve an adequate
knowledge of welding requirements as they relate to pressure vessels. Additional welding
engineering details are beyond the scope of this Manual. This section also discusses
dimensional tolerances which must be applied to pressure vessel components and
fabrications. Adherence to relatively stringent dimensional tolerances is necessary to help
achieve quality pressure vessel fabrication and acceptable long term reliability. Saudi
Aramco fabrication requirements supplement those that are contained in the ASME Code,
Section VIII, Divisions 1 and 2. Saudi Aramco fabrication requirements are contained
primarily in SAES-D-001, Design Criteria for Pressure Vessels; 32-SAMSS-004,
Pressure Vessels; SAES-W-001, Basic Welding Requirements; and SAES-W-010,
Welding Requirements for Pressure Vessels. Relevant Saudi Aramco and ASME
requirements are highlighted within the topics that are discussed in this section. This
section discusses only Division 1 requirements. Division 2 requirements are generally
more stringent than those that are contained in Division 1. SAIRs are referred to Division
2 for additional details as required.
Welding Fundamentals
A weld is defined as a localized union of metal that is achieved in plastic and molten
states, with or without the addition of filler metal or the application of pressure. Welding
is used in the fabrication of pressure vessels for both pressure containing parts (for
example, shells and heads) and non-pressure containing parts (for example, stiffener
rings, lifting lugs, and supports). Joints that are welded instead of bolted are also
sometimes used for pipe-to-equipment connections in situations where the leakage
potential of a bolted joint must be eliminated. The most common welding method is
called fusion welding. The fusion welding method does not require any pressure to form
the weld. The seam that is to be welded is heated, usually by means of burning gas or
through the use of an electric arc which is brought to fusion temperature. Additional
metal, if needed, is supplied by melting a filler rod into the weld area. The filler rod is
made of a material whose composition is similar to that of the pieces that are being
joined. The most widely used industrial welding method is arc welding. Arc welding is
the general name that is given to several welding processes that generate the heat of
fusion by the use of an electric arc.
An arc welding circuit consists of the following elements:
Power source
Two cables (the electrode cable and the ground cable)
Ground clamp
Electrode holder
Electrodes or rods
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Two types of power supplies are used for arc welding: the direct current (dc) generator
and the alternating current (ac) transformer. The choice of power supply depends on the
particular welding that is to be done.
Regardless of the power source that is used, the electric arc that is produced serves the
same purpose: it produces heat to melt the metal. The two pieces of metal that are to be
joined are placed such that they are nearly touching. The arc from the electrode is
directed at the junction of the two pieces. This arc causes the edges of both pieces to melt.
The molten portions of the pieces flow together along with molten portions of the
electrode. As the arc column is moved along the joint, the molten material solidifies. The
two pieces are then joined with a combination of electrode metal and base metal. The
molten pool of weld metal reaches a temperature of approximately 1536C 2800F), and
there is a temperature gradient into the nearby base metal. The portion of the base metal
that is adjacent to the weld and that is affected by the welding heat is called the heataffected zone (HAZ).
Because the welding heat changes the crystal structure and grain size of the HAZ, a post
weld heat treatment (PWHT) may be necessary to restore the material structure to the
required properties. The need for PWHT for these metallurgical reasons depends on the
materials that are involved and the service conditions that they are exposed to. As the
weld metal and HAZ cool from the very high welding temperatures, the thermal
contraction that occurs in the locally heated area is resisted by the cooler base metal that
surrounds the locally heated area. This resistance to thermal contraction results in
residual stresses that remain in the structure. For thicker plates, these residual stresses
must be removed by PWHT. PWHT requirements based on stress relief considerations
are contained in the ASME Code, Section VIII.
Most modern welding electrodes are coated with a flux. As the electrode wire melts the
flux that coats the wire burns and produces a gaseous shield around the electric arc. This
gaseous shield prevents contamination of the weld by protecting the molten metal from
contaminants that are in the atmosphere.
When the electrode flux melts, part of it mixes with impurities that are in the molten pool
and causes these impurities to float to the top of the weld. When this mixture of
impurities and flux cools, it forms a slag. The slag protects the weld bead from the
atmosphere and causes the weld bead to cool more uniformly. The slag also helps to form
the contour of the weld bead by acting as an insulator. The slag allows an even heat loss
from the local area by insulation of the weld and HAZ. This even heat loss helps to
control the grain structure of the metal. The slag is chipped away after each weld pass
before slag is deposited by another weld pass; otherwise, weld defects will be caused. In
order to permit later weld inspections, the slag is also chipped away when the metal has
cooled after the final weld pass.
Welded joints are described by the position of the pieces that are to be joined and are
divided into five basic types: butt, tee, lap, corner, and edge. For design purposes, welds

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can be divided into three basic types which call for different design methods. These weld
types are: groove, fillet, and plug
Note that, in some cases, a given joint type may employ only one weld type, such as the
groove weld that is used in the butt joint. Other joint types may employ two weld types,
such as the groove and fillet welds that are used in the corner joint.
The choice of the joint and weld type that is to be used in each case depends on the
Saudi Aramco and ASME Code requirements.
The geometric relationship between the parts that are being joined and the access
that is available for welding.
Economic considerations.
Groove welds are subdivided based on the shape of the edges of the groove welds. Buttor tee-type joints with V or double-bevel groove welds are the most common weld joint
types that are used in pressure vessel fabrication. For example, butt-type joints are used
to join pressure vessel shell and head plate sections together. Tee-type joints are used to
join nozzles to shell or head sections. The edges of the pieces that are to be joined are cut
from their initially supplied straight configuration into some form of bevel. The cut edges
are called "edge preparation." The primary pressure containing welds in pressure vessels
must be designed for full penetration (that is, the weld penetrates through the complete
thickness of the metals that are joined) and for full fusion (that is, the weld metal is
completely fused to the base metal and to itself throughout the full thickness). The full
penetration requirement is stated in the ASME Code, 32-SAMSS-004, and in SAES-W001. The ASME Code also specifies the full fusion requirement. The type of edge
preparation that is used depends on the following factors:
The thickness of the parts that are being joined.
The particular welding process that is being used.
Whether the weld will be made in the shop with automatic equipment or whether
it will be made manually.
For thicker plates with access for welding from both sides, double bevel groove welds are
used, and the weld is completed from both sides to help ensure full penetration and
fusion. The angle of the bevel face is also specified to ensure that the welding electrode
has complete access to the bottom of the weld area. The bottom of the weld area is called
the "root" of the weld. The parts that are being joined are separated by a small distance,
called the "root gap." As the thickness of the parts that are to be joined increases, the
width of the open area at the surface of the weld for a V-groove weld preparation
increases because the bevel angle is constant through the entire thickness. This extra
width requires a larger amount of weld metal to make the closure. This extra weld metal
increases the cost of fabrication for both material and labor. The J or U groove-type weld
preparations are more frequently used in thick fabrications. With these J- or U-groove
weld geometries, the weld root is completely accessible, but the total amount of open area
that is to be filled with weld metal is reduced in comparison to the V-groove preparation.
The weld preparation cost is more for a J- or U-groove weld. However, when thick

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components are being joined, the total weld cost is less for a J- or U-groove due to the
reduced actual welding time and material.
The strength of a groove weld is based on the following:
Cross-sectional area that is subject to shear, tension, or compression.
Allowable stress of the weld metal (which is nearly always the same as that of the
parts that are to be joined).
Stresses in groove welds are computed through the use of standard formulas for tension,
bending, and shear. The full penetration groove weld is the most reliable of all weld
types. There are no significant stress concentration effects in a full penetration groove
weld because there are no abrupt geometric discontinuities. The joint efficiency is
specified by the ASME Code and depends on the type of weld examination that is used.
Fillet Welds
A fillet weld has a triangular cross section and joins two surfaces that are typically at
right angles to each other. The size of a fillet weld is specified by the leg length, w, of its
largest inscribed right triangle. A 45 fillet weld with legs of equal size is the most
common and economical type of fillet weld. No edge preparation is required for a fillet
weld. This lack of edge preparation lowers the cost to make a fillet weld. However, the
allowable stress of a fillet weld is also lower than that of a groove weld. Stress
concentrations at the root and toe of a fillet weld can cause fatigue failure under cyclic
loading conditions. Fillet welds are never used as the primary pressure-retaining weld in
pressure vessel construction. Fillet welds are primarily used to attach reinforcing pads,
stiffener rings, and other attachments to the main pressure-containing parts. The stresses
in fillet welds are complex because of the eccentricity of the applied load, the weld shape,
and stress concentration effects. These stresses consist of shear, tension, and compression
stresses. The stress distribution is not uniform across the throat and leg of a fillet weld
and varies along the length of the fillet weld. However, practical assumptions are made
with regard to the fillet weld geometry and applied load in order to simplify design.
Where fillet welds are used for attachments to a pressure vessel, SAES-D-001 requires
that the weld be continuous. A continuous fillet weld is required to prevent the occurrence
of corrosion between the attachment and the vessel due to corrosive fluid being trapped
between the two parts.
Plug Welds
A plug weld is a circular weld that is made through one member of a lap or tee-type joint.
Plug weld holes in thin plates are completely filled with weld metal through the entire
plate thickness. Plug weld holes are typically only partially filled in plates that are about
9.5 mm (3/8 in.) thick and over. Plug welds are most often used in pressure vessel
construction to fix a corrosion-resistant strip lining into an existing vessel.
Weld Joint Categories
The ASME Code, Section VIII, Division 1, defines weld joint "categories" by the
location of a joint in a vessel. The joints that are included in each category are designated
as Categories A, B, C, or D. The Categories are used by the ASME Code in the

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specification of joint type and degree of inspection for certain welded pressure-containing
joints. The ASME Code specifies, in Table UW-12, the weld joint types that may be used
in each Category. The following are examples of specifications in Table UW-12:

Buttwelded joints that are made by double-welding (i.e., welded from both sides)
or by other means which will obtain the same weld metal quality on the inside and
outside weld surfaces may be used for all joint categories. This is the most
commonly used weld type for the weld seams of the main pressure vessel because
it results in the best weld joint efficiencies. If a metal backing strip is used for this
weld, the metal backing strip cannot remain in place.
A single-welded butt joint with a backing strip also could be used for all joint
categories in the ASME Code, but such a joint achieves lower joint efficiencies.
However, both 32-SAMSS-004 and SAES-W-001 prohibit the use of permanent
backing strips.
The ASME Code permits the use of a single-welded butt joint without a backing
strip for Categories A, B, and C; but the code allows such a joint only for
circumferential butt joints that are not over 16 mm (0.625 in.) thick and that are
not over 610 mm (24 in.) in outside diameter. From a practical standpoint, the
allowable weld joint efficiency is so low for this type of joint that it is typically
not used for pressure vessels in refinery applications. Economics is a
consideration in the determination of what weld joint efficiency and weld type to
use. Higher weld joint efficiencies reduce the required component thickness,
which reduce material and fabrication costs. However, these cost reductions come
at the expense of more expensive weld joint preparations and inspection.

Welding Procedures and Welder Qualification

The achievement of high quality pressure vessel fabrication requires the use of tested
welding procedures as well as qualified welders or welding machines. The ASME Code,
Section VIII contains rules for the mechanical design, fabrication, and testing of pressure
vessels. The ASME Code, Section IX covers welding procedures and welder
qualifications, and the use of Section IX is specified in SAES-W-001. Section IX is not
covered in this section. However, several welding procedure and welder qualification
requirements are highlighted in the following paragraphs.
Welding Procedures
The pressure vessel designer determines the basic type and size of weld and the weld
joint configuration to use in vessel fabrication. The welding engineer, on the other hand,
must specify exactly how the vessel components are to be welded together, based on the
following parameters:

Material of components
Thickness of components to be joined
Diameter of components to be joined
Position and direction of welding
Type of weld bevel to use (e.g., V, U, J, one side, both sides)

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Welding process (including variables such as the welding speed, shielding gas,
and flux)
DC or AC electric current
Voltage and current levels
Manual or automatic welding
Preheat temperature and, possibly, PWHT procedures
The welding engineer produces a welding procedure that details exactly how the weld is
to be done and considers the parameters that are listed above. Each weld joint type in a
pressure vessel has its own welding procedure. When a welding procedure is developed, a
welder uses the procedure to weld a sample piece, and the sample weld is inspected and
tested. When the sample weld is approved, the procedure is said to be "qualified": that is,
the welding procedure has been shown to produce sound welds for the intended
application. Pressure vessel fabricators have well established welding procedures that are
available for the types of welds and materials that they normally use. Therefore, welding
procedures do not have to be qualified for every new pressure vessel that is fabricated.
Additional welding procedures are qualified only for new welds that the vessel fabricator
has not made before. Saudi Aramco welding procedure requirements are contained in
SAES-W-001, Basic Welding Requirements. Several of these SAES-W-001 requirements
that go beyond the ASME Code are highlighted as follows:

Welding procedures must be submitted to Saudi Aramco for review and approval
prior to the start of work. This review and approval procedure avoids the potential
problem caused by welds being made by means of unacceptable procedures and
by the need to then determine whether these welds can be accepted or whether
they must be remade.
A weld map, drawing, or table that specifies exactly where each weld procedure
will be applied must be provided by the vessel manufacturer. This information
simplifies the review process, helps ensure consistency between procedure and
weld, and assists maintenance personnel should repairs or alterations be required
Additional requirements are also specified for the test coupon, procedure requalification requirements, procedure variables, documentation, and approval

Preheat and PWHT requirements must be specified in the welding procedure. Saudi
Aramco, preheat and PWHT requirements are specified in SAESW-010 and are contained
in attachment 1.
The ASME Code contains the temperature and hold time requirements when PWHT is
needed for stress relief considerations. These ASME Code PWHT requirements are based
on material type and thickness, as specified in Paragraph UCS-56 for carbon and lowalloy steels. The following parameters (based on the ASME Code, Section VIII, Division
1) must be controlled during PWHT:

- 18 -

The minimum PWHT temperature and the minimum holding time at temperature
are specified based on the material P-No. and thickness. Acceptable PWHT
procedures are also specified. These requirements ensure that adequate stress
relief will occur.
Heat up and cool down rates must be controlled within specified limits in order to
avoid excessive local thermal stresses within the vessel during PWHT. For
carbon and low-alloy steels, these heat up and cool down rates are as follows:

The furnace temperature must not exceed 427C (800F) before the vessel or
vessel part is placed in it.
Above 427C (800F), the heat up rate must not be more than 222C
(400F)/hr divided by the maximum metal thickness of the shell or head plate,
in inches. In no case can the heat up rate exceed 222C (400F)/hr.
During heat up, the maximum temperature variation in the portion of the
vessel that is being heated must be limited to 139C (250F) in any 4.6 m (15
ft.) length.
During the temperature hold period, the maximum difference in temperature
between any two parts of the vessel that is being heated must not exceed 83C
The furnace atmosphere must be controlled to avoid any excessive surface
oxidation of the vessel.
Above 427C (800F), cool down must be done in a closed furnace or cooling
chamber at a maximum rate of 278C (500F)/hr divided by the maximum
metal thickness of the shell or head plate in inches. In no case can the cool
down rate exceed 278C (500F)/hr. From 427C (800F) down, the vessel
may be cooled in still air.
Except as permitted for P-No. 1, Groups 1 through 3, and P-No. 3, Groups 1
through 3 materials, vessels which have received PWHT must receive an
additional PWHT after any weld repairs have been made. The concern here is
that the repair welding may defeat the benefits of the original PWHT. Weld
repairs may be made to these materials after
the final PWHT without doing another PWHT provided that the following
conditions are met:
The repairs are made before the vessel hydrotest.
The PWHT is not required for service reasons.
The size of repair is within specified limits.
Specified inspections are made.

It should be noted, however, that SAES-W-001 requires that PWHT be done after all
repairs are completed. As noted earlier, the ASME Code specifies PWHT based
primarily on stress relief considerations. PWHT may be required based on process service
considerations as well, since welded components are prone to cracking in certain process
environments. SAES-W-010 requires that PWHT be done on vessels in specific process

- 19 -

Welder Qualification
A qualified weld procedure specifies how the weld is to be made. However, the actual
welds will be made either by men or machines. An unqualified welder or defective
machine results in a poor quality weld, even if a qualified welding procedure is used.
Therefore, the individuals or equipment that actually do the welding must be tested to
confirm that they have the capability to carry out the procedure. The result of these
qualifications and tests is that qualified welding procedures are performed by qualified
The ASME Code requires that welders and welding operators that are used to weld
pressure containing parts and to join load-carrying non-pressure parts to pressure parts be
qualified in accordance with Section IX of the ASME Code. Other requirements apply for
less critical welds. Methods must also be established that relate the specific welder to his
work and that permit test records to be maintained.
Acceptable Welding Details
All pressure vessel welds, including the welds that attach heads, nozzles, small fittings,
and non-pressure components to a shell, must conform to requirements that are specified
in the SAESs, 32-SAMSS-004, and the ASME Code. Details that are used for the primary
circumferential and longitudinal welds were discussed earlier in conjunction with weld
joint categories. Other Saudi Aramco and ASME Code weld detail requirements are
highlighted below.
Saudi Aramco Weld Detail Requirements
Saudi Aramco specifies weld detail requirements in 32-SAMSS-004 and SAES-W-010.
These requirements are contained in attachment 1. The paragraphs that follow elaborate
on two of these requirements.

For welded connections, a 6 mm (1/4 in.) NPS weep hole is required in each
nozzle reinforcing pad, saddle wear plate, or attachment pad that covers a weld
seam. The weep hole permits later pressure testing of the pad attachment welds
and also provides a vent during welding.
Support skirts are to be welded to vessel heads (with the exception of
hemispherical heads) so that the centerlines of the skirt plate and the straight
flange of the head line up. This alignment eliminates any additional local stresses
that may be caused by eccentric application of the vessel weight loads. The weld
that attaches the skirt is to have no undercut. This lack of undercut minimizes
local stress intensification effects and the potential for fatigue failure under cyclic

- 20 -

ASME Weld Detail Requirements

Attachment 1 summarizes two locations of ASME Code weld detail requirements. The
paragraphs that follow provide additional comments about several of the ASME
requirements. Further information related to these and other weld details is contained in
the ASME Code.
Thickness of a pressure vessel head sometimes differs from the thickness of the shell it is
attached to, such as when a hemispherical head is attached to a cylindrical shell. The
transition between the component thicknesses must be made gradually in a taper in order
to avoid an excessive local stress. The head-to-shell weld will typically be made in the
cylindrical shell. However, the weld can also be located within the taper.
An intermediate head is attached to the inside of a cylindrical shell when the intermediate
head separates two sections of the vessel. The butt weld between shell sections also
attaches to the head, and a fillet weld is also located between the head and shell. The
ASME Code permits elimination of the fillet weld if there is no access and if the service
is non-corrosive. However, the fillet weld should generally be used for all refinery
applications to avoid the potential for accelerated corrosion due to process fluid getting
between the head and shell.
In some cases, a nozzle neck that has a weld-end may be attached to a pipe that is thinner.
This attachment between components of different thicknesses could occur if extra
thickness was included in the nozzle neck for reinforcement or if the pipe and nozzle
materials and/or allowable stresses differ. In such a case, the nozzle neck must be tapered
to the pipe thickness. Tapers of similar thickness are also used to join shell sections that
are of different thicknesses.
Stiffener rings may be attached to the vessel shell by continuous, intermittent, or a
combination of continuous and intermittent welds. Intermittent welds must be placed on
both sides of the stiffener and may be either staggered or in-line. The ASME Code
specifies acceptable spacing, size, and length of the welds.
Pressure vessel components are designed for specified dimensions through the use of
procedures and equations. The actual fabrication of the individual components and the
completed vessel must match the dimensions that were used in the design calculations
within relatively small tolerances. These small tolerances are required for the design to be
valid and for it to have the reliability that the ASME Code intends.
The ASME Code specifies acceptable dimensional tolerances for specific situations. This
specification also includes allowable alignment tolerances between components that are
being welded together. Excessive misalignment between welded components can result in
poor quality welds, local stress intensification effects that were not considered in the

- 21 -

design, and a reduction in long-term weld reliability. Saudi Aramco generally accepts the
ASME Code tolerance requirements without additions.
Heads and Shells
The following list summarizes the primary dimensional tolerance requirements for heads
andshells based on the ASME Code, Section VIII, Division 1.

Cylindrical, conical, and spherical shells that are under internal pressure must be
substantially round and must meet the following requirements:
o The difference between the maximum and minimum inside diameters at any
cross section is not to exceed 1% of the nominal diameter at the cross section.
Since all the design equations are based on circular cross sections, deviations
beyond this value would introduce higher local stresses that were not
accounted for in the design calculations.
o When the cross section either passes through an opening, or within a distance
of one inside diameter (I.D.) from the opening measured from its center, the
permissible diametral difference stated above may be increased by 2% of the
opening I.D.
Cylindrical, conical, and spherical shells that are under external pressure must meet
the same dimensional tolerances noted above, plus additional dimensional tolerances
that are specified in Paragraph UG-80 of the ASME Code. These additional
requirements account for local geometric discontinuities, which reduce the buckling
resistance of a shell. SAIRs are referred to the ASME Code for details.
The inner surface of a torispherical, toriconical, hemispherical, or ellipsoidal head
cannot deviate outside of the specified shape by more than 1-1/4% of D and cannot
deviate inside the specified shape by more than 5/8% of D. D is the nominal outside
diameter of the vessel shell at the point of attachment. The knuckle radius cannot be
less than the specified value.
A hemispherical head or any spherical portion of a torispherical or ellipsoidal head
that is designed for external pressure must meet additional tolerances that are
specified in Paragraph UG-81 of the ASME Code. This requirement is due to the
influence that geometric shape has on the buckling characteristics of a shell.
The difference between the maximum and minimum diameters of head skirts is to be
limited to a maximum of 1% of the nominal diameter.

Plate Thickness
For plate material that is ordered, it must be specified that the material is to be no thinner
than the required design thickness. If plate is furnished with an under-tolerance of no
more than the smaller of 0.25 mm (0.01 in.) or 6% of the ordered thickness, it may still be
used at the full design pressure for the thickness ordered.
In the extreme case, this degree of permissible plate thickness under-tolerance permits at
most a 6% overstress in the vessel component. This amount of overstress will still be well
below a level that could cause a failure. From a practical standpoint, there will be slight
- 22 -

variations in plate thickness so that the entire plate would not be this thin. In addition, the
allowable stresses are based on minimum permissible material strength properties, and the
material will typically be stronger than these minimum permissible material strength
properties. Therefore, permitting a nominal plate thickness under-tolerance of up to 6% is
well within reasonable safety margins.
It should also be noted that, except for certain special provisions that are noted in
Paragraph UG-16, the ASME Code requires that the minimum thickness for shells and
heads, after they are formed, shall be 1.6 mm (1/16 in.) exclusive of any corrosion
allowance. This minimum thickness requirement results in a basic degree of mechanical
integrity of the vessel regardless of the actual design loads.
As noted earlier, the alignment between two parts that are being welded together must be
within a reasonable tolerance in order to achieve an acceptable weld. The list that follows
highlights several ASME Code requirements for alignment.

Plates that are to be welded together must be fitted, aligned, and retained in position
during the welding operation. This procedure keeps the parts from moving during
Any tack welds that are used to achieve alignment must either be removed when they
are no longer needed, or their ends must be ground and the tack weld incorporated
into the final weld. Tack welds must also be made using qualified welding
procedures. If qualified welding procedures are not used, a relatively poor quality
tack weld could be the initiation point of a weld failure.
Alignment at edges that are to be butt welded must have a maximum offset within the
limits that are shown in Figure 7, based on weld joint category. The thickness, t, is the
nominal thickness of the thinner edge at the joint.

- 23 -

Edge Alignment in Butt Welds

Figure 7
Any offset within the allowable tolerances must be fared at a 3:1 taper over the width
of the finished weld. Additional weld metal may be added at the edge of the weld to
meet this requirement. This 3:1 amount of taper minimizes the effects of local stress


Overall inspection of completed pressure vessels includes an examination of the

Base material specification and quality
Dimensional requirements
Equipment documentation

This section discusses only the methods and extent of required weld examinations. A
good weld combines a good design with the execution of a qualified procedure by a
qualified welder. However, the ultimate quality of the actual welds that are made in a
pressure vessel may not be acceptable for a variety of reasons. The pressure vessel
designer is responsible for specification of the type and extent of weld examination that is
required in order to ensure that acceptable welds are achieved. The most common weld
defects for which welds are examined are as follows:

- 24 -

Poor weld shape due to part misalignment.

Cracks in welds or heat-affected zones (HAZ) of the base metal.
Pinholes on the weld surface.
Slag inclusions or porosity in the form of voids.
Incomplete fusion between weld beads or between the weld and the base metal.
Lack of penetration or an insufficient extent of penetration of the weld metal into the
Undercut, an intermittent or continuous groove that is located adjacent to the weld
and that is left unfilled by weld metal.

The presence of defects reduces the strength of the weld below the requirements of the
design calculations, reduces the overall strength of the fabrication, and increases the risk
of failure.
Weld inspection must be performed in a manner that will detect unacceptable defects and
that will not damage the vessel material. This type of inspection is called nondestructive
examination, or NDE.
Radiographic weld examination, weld joint efficiency, and ASME Code requirements
have already been discussed. For example, a spot radiographic examination produces a
weld joint efficiency of 0.85 in a full-penetration butt weld. A 100% radiographic
examination produces a weld joint efficiency of 1.0 in a full-penetration butt weld. In
practical terms, a weld joint efficiency of 1.0 means that there is greater assurance that
high weld quality is achieved, that there is no difference in quality between the weld and
the base metal, and that the vessel parts may, therefore, be fabricated from thinner
material. Main seam pressure-containing welds are not the only ones whose quality must
be assured. Welds that connect nozzles or major structural components to vessel shells
must also be of high quality. The sections that follow discuss radiographic and other
forms of weld inspection, the types of defects that they can detect, and the extent of
required examination.
After a pressure vessel has been completely fabricated, it must be pressure-tested before
it is considered safe for operation. The objective of a pressure test is to bring the vessel,
under controlled conditions, to an internal pressure that is high enough to demonstrate its
mechanical integrity. Later sections discuss pressure test requirements in more detail.
Weld hardness tests may be required prior to fabrication and after the welding of vessel
components, based on service considerations and the vessel material. Weld hardness must
be kept below specified maximum values in order to decrease the potential for weld
cracking in certain process environments.
If the material is not exempt from impact testing in accordance with Division 2
requirements, Charpy impact tests must be made to confirm that the material has
adequate fracture toughness prior to fabrication. The need for this impact testing must be
included as part of the vessel vendor's fabrication plans.
- 25 -

Methods of Examination
The five primary weld NDE methods are as follows:
Radiographic examination (RT)
Visual Inspection (VT)
Liquid penetrant examination (PT)
Magnetic particle test (MT)
Ultrasonic examination (UT)
The choice of which weld examination method or methods to use depends on the weld
quality required of the joint, the position of the weld, the material to be joined, and the
particular defects that are expected. These weld NDE methods are discussed in the
paragraphs that follow.
Radiographic Examination (RT)
The most important NDE method is radiographic examination. In radiographic
examination, a ray is emitted from a controllable source, penetrates a test specimen, and
leaves an image on a strip of film that is mounted behind the test specimen. The major
advantage of RT is that it produces a permanent record of the examination on film.
Any change in density of the weld metal shows on the film as a dark spot. Flaws such as
gas pockets, slag inclusions, incomplete penetration, or cracks that are located anywhere
through the weld thickness are readily detected. RT examination is most effective in the
detection and identification of small flaws, but RT is not practical for complex shapes
such as tee junctions because the results of the examination are difficult to interpret. RT
examination is most effective in the examination of butt welded joints, such as
longitudinal and circumferential joints in pressure vessel shells.
RT examination is a relatively expensive method due to the high equipment cost and
required safety precautions. When RT examination is done, access to the area is restricted
to essential personnel, and the operators are located behind protective shields in order to
minimize operator exposure to the rays that are emitted.
Visual Inspection (VT)
A thorough visual inspection is usually satisfactory for minor structural welds, such as
those that connect insulation support rings to a vessel shell. All weld surfaces that will be
examined by more extensive means are first subject to VT. Visual weld inspection
involves measuring the weld and noting any areas of obvious surface porosity, slag
inclusions, weld undercut, or overlap. The VT provides an overall impression of weld
quality and helps to locate areas where additional NDE should be performed.

- 26 -

Liquid Penetrant Examination (PT)

A liquid penetrant examination is used to detect weld surface-type defects. Defects which
a PT examination may detect are cracks, seams, porosity, folds, inclusions, shrinkage, or
any other surface defect. PT examination is used for both ferrous and nonferrous
materials. The major limitation of PT examination is that it can only detect imperfections
that are open to the surface. It cannot be used as the only examination tool for critical
pressure-containing welds.
PT is often used as the first and only step up from VT for relatively minor structural-type
welds. In some cases, PT examination is done on intermediate weld passes for critical
welds in order to detect and repair defects early before an entire weld is made. PT is often
done on the weld root pass to ensure that the first weld pass is sound. PT is also often
used after the final weld pass to find flaws that go through the weld surface, after which
another inspection method is used to search for internal defects.
PT is relatively simple and is less expensive than RT, MT, or UT. The basic steps of a PT
inspection are as follows:
Surface Preparation and Cleaning: All surface coatings, such as paint and
contaminants, must be completely removed since they could prevent the entrance of
penetrant into the metal and could also prevent the identification of the flaw. Solvents
are commonly used for surface preparation.
Penetrant Application: Liquid penetrant solutions have high fluidity, low viscosity,
and high reliability to permit penetration into defects by capillary action. The liquid
penetrant solutions also contain a fluorescent or visible dye to mark potential defect
areas. Spraying is a common means of solution application. Adequate liquid
penetration into any flaws generally takes 10 to 30 minutes, after which excess
penetrant is removed.
Removal of Excess Penetrant: Excess penetrant must be removed from the surface by
wiping the surface with a clean cloth or equivalent. The penetrant must still be liquid
at this stage rather than dried, or the entire process must be started again. The
objective is to remove the penetrant from the weld surface without removing any
penetrant that seeped into weld defects.
Development: After excess penetrant has been removed, developer is immediately
applied to make the flaws readily visible. By acceleration of the capillary bleed-out
process, the developer helps detect penetrant that is retained in surface flaws.
Development emphasizes the presence of a flaw by causing the penetrant that is
retained in it to spread over a larger area. Development also acts as a colorcontrasting background for the dye or fluorescent penetrants.
Inspection and Evaluation: After development, the weld is inspected. Inspection is
done in normal light when visible dye penetrants are used and in ultraviolet light
when fluorescent dye penetrants are used. With either type of penetrant, both true and
false indications may be revealed.
The standard true flaws that are indicated by PT include cracks, pits, and porosity. A large
crack appears as a solid line of some width and becomes apparent soon after developer
application. A cold-shut crack is an undersurface crack that bleeds to the surface. A cold- 27 -

shut crack appears as a line of dots and comes to the surface a few minutes after the
developer is applied. Porosity indications appear as dots and come to the surface almost
immediately after developer application.
False or non-relevant indications are not caused by surface flaws. The primary reasons
these false indications occur are poor PT application procedures or rough weld surfaces.
The results of the PT are evaluated to determine if the flaws are real, to determine their
extent and exact nature, and to determine if repairs are needed.
Magnetic Particle Test (MT)
The MT examination can detect cracks, porosity, and lack of fusion at or near the surface
of ferromagnetic materials. Flaws that are up to 6 mm (1/4 in.) beneath the weld surface
can be detected. MT depends on the magnetic properties of the material that is inspected
and cannot be used on nonmagnetic materials. MT is frequently employed on the root and
final weld passes or every 6 mm (1/4 in.) of weld buildup for critical welds where RT
inspection is not practical (such as for nozzle attachment welds).
MT examination is based on the magnetic lines of flux (or force lines) that can be
generated within a test piece. These force lines are parallel if no defects are present. If
there is a defect, a small break in the force lines appears at the defect location. In MT
examination, iron powder is applied to the surface and then the test piece is magnetized.
If there are no defects, the iron powder is aligned in straight lines along the North-South
magnetic flux lines. If there is a defect, the iron powder alignment is disturbed and flows
around the defect
Ultrasonic Examination (UT)
Ultrasonic examination is frequently used to detect subsurface flaws, such as laminations
or slag inclusions that may be present in thick plates, welds, castings, or forgings. UT is
often used to confirm that high weld quality is obtained in pressure-containing joints that
cannot be RT examined. A heavy wall thickness pressure vessel typically employs 100%
RT examination of the primary longitudinal and circumferential joints. Unless specially
designed nozzles are used, the nozzle attachment welds cannot be reliably RT examined,
because nozzles are typically tee joints. UT inspection may be used to ensure that the
nozzle attachment welds are equal in quality to the primary vessel joints that were RT
In UT examination, sound waves are generated by a power source and applied to the test
piece through a transducer. .
In the pulse echo ultrasonic examination system, the sound waves pass through the test
piece and are reflected back to the transducer either from the far side of the test piece or
from a flaw that is located at an intermediate position within the test piece. By careful
calibration, the UT operator knows if a flaw has been detected and knows its location and
its size.

- 28 -

In the through-transmission UT system, it uses two transducers, one to transmit the sound
waves and the other to receive them. In this case, if a flaw is present, the flaw blocks the
reception of the sound waves from the receiving transducer.
Figure 8 summarizes the types of nondestructive examinations, the defects typically
found by each, and the advantages and limitations of each process.

Summary of NDE Types

Figure 8
Type and Extent of Required Examination
The type and extent of examinations that are required for pressure vessel welds are
specified by Saudi Aramco requirements and by the ASME Code. Requirements that are
contained in Section VIII, Division 2 tend to be more stringent than Division 1
requirements. SAIR should refer to Division 2 for details when required.
The ASME Code also specifies inspection procedures and acceptance criteria which must
be followed. The following paragraphs elaborate on several of these inspection

- 29 -

SAES-W-001 requires that any pressure-containing weld that will not be hydrotested
must be 100% radiographed. Such a situation is rare for pressure vessels. However,
this situation could occur in very large field-fabricated vessels where the foundation
has not been designed for the total water weight and where the vessel is not
completely filled with water for field pressure testing.
32-SAMSS-004 requires UT examination as follows:
o All plates that are over 50 mm (2 in.) thick must be UT-examined. As plates
get thicker, they are more prone to internal laminations which could be
detrimental to vessel integrity after subsequent fabrication is done. For
example, if attachment welds are made in the vicinity of a lamination, weld
shrinkage stresses could cause a lamination to open further. Such opening of a
lamination could also occur during plate forming.
o All plates that are over 50 mm (2 in.) thick must be 100% UT-examined for a
distance of 150 mm (6 in.) back from a nozzle weld preparation or other cutout. The presence of a lamination in these areas could lead to poor quality
welds and/or high local stresses that were not considered in the vessel design
o Clad steel plates must be UT-examined. UT examination is done to ensure that
there is an acceptable bond between the cladding and base plate.

Pressure Test Plans

All pressure vessels that are designed to ASME Code requirements must be pressure
tested after fabrication and inspection in order to demonstrate their structural integrity
before they are placed into operation. The pressure test is made at a pressure that is higher
than the design pressure. This excess pressure provides a safety margin since the vessel
component stress levels during the test will be higher than the stress levels which will
occur during operation. The objective of the pressure test is to bring the vessel to a high
enough internal pressure, under controlled conditions, to demonstrate its mechanical
integrity. Successful completion of the pressure test signifies that the vessel is acceptable
for operation.
Pressure tests are typically made using water as the test medium because of the relative
safety of water compared to a pneumatic test. The ASME Code permits performance of a
pneumatic pressure test as an alternative to a hydrostatic test under certain circumstances.
However, 32-SAMSS-004 specifies that all vessels except those in refrigerant service
must be hydrotested.
Vessels in refrigerant service must be either hydrotested and dried or must be
pneumatically tested. SAES-A-004, Pressure Testing, prohibits a pneumatic pressure test
without written approval from the Chief Inspection Engineer. SAES-A-004 also specifies
general requirements for pressure testing.
Since the hydrostatic test will almost always be used, only the hydrostatic test will be
discussed. SAIR are referred to the ASME Code for pneumatic test requirements. 32-

- 30 -

SAMSS-004 requires that the pressure at the top of the vessel be determined by the rules
of Paragraph UG-99 (c) for Division 1 vessels or by the rules of Paragraph AT-301 for
Division 2 vessels. These ASME Code rules require that the hydrostatic test pressure at
the top of the vessel be calculated by multiplying the "calculated test pressure" for each
element by 1.3 and by reducing the value by the hydrostatic head on that element. The
"calculated test pressure" for each element is determined based on the appropriate
equation for MAWP, the nominal component thickness which includes corrosion
allowance, the appropriate weld joint efficiency, and the material allowable stress at test
temperature. The Pressure Vessel Design Sheet (Form 2682 or 2683 for Division 1 or
Division 2 vessels, respectively) also contains the required equations.
Form 2682 contains areas that directly relate to determination of the required hydrotest
pressure. Refer to Form 2682 note the following:
Hydrotest pressures must be calculated for the shop test with the vessel in the
horizontal position, for the field test with the vessel in the final position and with
uncorroded component thicknesses, and for the field test with the vessel in the final
position and with corroded component thicknesses.
The basis for calculation of the initial test pressure for the vessel in the shop is the
lower of the pressure calculated for the shell or the pressure calculated for the heads.
The shop hydrotest pressure must also consider the permitted hydrotest pressure of
any flanged connections. The calculated hydrotest pressure cannot exceed the test
pressure of the flanged connections.
SAES-D-001 and 32-SAMSS-004 require that, during the pressure test, the stress at any
section of the vessel cannot exceed 90% of the material minimum specified yield strength
(MSYS), based on use of the design weld joint efficiency (E). The stress in the vessel is
limited to 90% of the MSYS to ensure that there is an adequate safety margin before
permanent deformation in vessel components can occur
The paragraphs that follow summarize additional general hydrostatic test requirements
that are based on the ASME Code, Section VIII, Division 1.
If visible, permanent distortion of the vessel occurs during hydrotest, the ASME
Authorized Inspector has the right to reject the vessel. Permanent distortion should
not occur as long as the design is correct and the test pressure does not exceed the
value that was calculated on the basis described above.
Pressure chambers of combination units that are designed to operate independently
must be hydrotested as separate vessels: that is, each chamber must be tested without
pressure in the other chambers. In addition:
o If the common elements are designed for a higher differential pressure than
the MAWP's of the adjacent chambers, then the hydrotest of the common
elements must subject them to at least 1.5 times their design differential
pressure, corrected for the effect that design temperature has on material
allowable stress. The allowable stress correction is equal to the ratio of the
mterial allowable stress at test temperature to the allowable stress at design

- 31 -

o If the common elements are designed for the maximum differential pressure
that can occur, and if this pressure is less than the higher pressure in the
adjacent chambers, then their common elements must have a hydrotest
pressure that is at least 1-1/2 times the differential pressure that is marked on
the unit, corrected for temperature. After testing and inspection of the
common elements, the adjacent chambers are then hydrotested
simultaneously. Care must be taken to limit the differential pressure between
the chambers to the pressure that is used when testing the common elements.
All joints and connections must be inspected after application of the hydrotest
pressure. This inspection must be made at a pressure that is not less than 2/3 of the
test pressure.
The metal temperature during hydrotest should be maintained at least 17C (30F)
above the minimum design metal temperature but not over 49C (120F). The
minimum metal temperature is specified to minimize the risk of brittle fracture. The
test pressure must not be applied until the vessel and water are at about the same
Vents must be provided at all vessel high points (based on test position) to purge
possible air pockets while the vessel is filled with water.

Brinell Hardness Test

In the Brinell test, a steel ball that is 10 mm (3/8 in.) in diameter is pressed into the
surface of the metal with a load of 3 000 kg (6 614 lb.). The diameter of the impression
that is made inthe metal surface is then measured through the use of a special microscope.
The diameter of the impression is converted to the Brinell hardness number (BHN) by
consulting a table. For example, soft iron is about 100 BHN, and file-hard steel about
600 BHN. A portable Brinell hardness tester, which uses a much lighter weight to make
the indentation, is used for hardness testing of production welds in a pressure vessel.
Vickers Hardness Test
The Vickers hardness test employs a similar principle as the Brinell test in that the
Vickers test expresses the results in terms of the pressure under the indentor and uses the
same units. However, the indentor is a diamond that is shaped as a square pyramid, the
loads are lighter and vary between 1 and 120 kg (2.2 - 265 lb.), and the impression is
measured using a medium-power compound microscope. The Vickers method is more
flexible and is considered to be more accurate than either the Brinell or Rockwell
methods. However, the equipment is more expensive, and the other methods are faster
for production work.

Hardness Test Results

- 32 -

The ASME Code does not have weld hardness testing requirements or limitations.
However, SAES-W-001, SAES-W-010, and 32-SAMSS-004 have weld hardness testing
SAES-W-010 specifies when hardness testing must be done for pressure vessels and also
specifies the acceptable hardness limits. SAES-W-001 focuses more on the procedural
aspects of hardness testing.
The paragraphs that follow elaborate on several of these hardness test requirements.

The Vickers hardness test procedure must be used for welding procedure qualification
welds for vessels that are in sour service except for specified exemptions. However,
the exemptions must still comply with all NACE MR-01-75 hardness levels and test
requirements. Hardness testing is required for this application since hard welds are
prone to cracking in sour service. One of the exemptions from hardness testing is if
all vessel internal surfaces are clad or weld-overlaid with austenitic stainless steel or
nickel-based alloys. In this case, the cladding or overlay shields the ferritic base plate
from the sour fluid. Partial or complete strip lining, partial cladding, or partial
overlays are not exempt from hardness testing. Another exemption from hardness
testing is if the weld procedure is used only for external structural attachments and the
vessel wall at the attachment point is at least 25 mm (1.0 in.) thick. In this case, the
weld HAZ will not extend to the vessel inside surface and thus will not be affected by
the sour fluid.
The weld procedure qualification welds must also be hardness-tested for vessels in
any service if the wall thickness is greater than 38 mm (1.5 in), except for vessels that
are made from austenitic stainless steel or nickel-based alloys, and except when the
weld procedure is used only for external structural attachment welds. The concern
here is that the high heat inputs that are required to make heavy welds could cause the
welds to be hard and more prone to cracking under service loads. PWHT may be
required for specific materials and/or thicknesses in order to meet the hardness limits
that are specified by Saudi Aramco. SAES-W-010 also requires hardness testing of
the production welds for all vessels that are in sour service, regardless of material, to
ensure that the production welds consistently have acceptable hardness levels. The
Brinell hardness test is used in this case because it is generally quicker and less
expensive for production hardness testing than the other hardness testing methods.
SAES-W-001 specifies hardness testing procedural requirements as follows:
Hardness testing of welding procedure qualification coupons must conform to
Standard Drawing AB-036386 (W), Hardness Testing for Welding Procedure
Production weld hardness testing, when specified, must meet the following
o Testing must be done with a portable hardness tester (TeleBrinell or approved
equivalent). The Brinell scale must be used unless another scale is approved
by Saudi Aramco.

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o The weld must be ground to a smooth flat surface for testing. This smoothing
is required to obtain an accurate hardness measurement.
o Hardness indentations must be made at or near the middle of the weld bead.
This indentation location will give an average hardness reading that is a
composite of the weld metal, base metal, and HAZ (considering the size of the
indentor that is used).
o Hardness retesting may be performed within specified limits if the original
hardness test results are too high.
The Saudi Aramco hardness testing requirements ensure that weld hardness is considered
in the weld procedure qualification tests when appropriate. The hardness tests then
confirm that the hardness of the actual production welds is acceptable for sour service.
Impact Test Plans
32-SAMSS-004 requires that Section VIII, Division 2 exemption criteria and impact test
procedures must be used for both Division 1 and Division 2 pressure vessels. Therefore,
once it is determined that the material cannot be exempt from impact testing, the vendor's
impact test plans must be based on both Division 2 and Saudi Aramco requirements.
Division 2 can be referred to for additional details. Unless otherwise noted, the stated
requirements are from Division 2.

Requirements for impact test procedures and apparatus are specified.

Each set of impact tests must consist of three specimens of a specified size. Unless
otherwise specified, plate specimens may be oriented with the specimen length
parallel to the final direction of rolling. With this orientation, impact energies will be
measured in the direction in which the plate will tend to be tougher.
Certified impact test reports by the materials manufacturer are acceptable provided
that either of the following conditions are met:
o The specimens are representative of the material that was delivered and the
vessel fabrication will not reduce the impact properties of the material.
o The materials from which the specimens are removed are heat treated
separately such that they are representative of the material in the finished
This approach ensures that the basic materials are acceptable before they arrive at the
vessel vendor and provides earlier materials quality control. The material "as-tested"
must then be confirmed to be equivalent to the material "as fabricated." As an alternative
to this confirmation, the vessel manufacturer may do the impact testing.
Minimum required Charpy V-notch impact energy values are specified. These values
are stated both as the average value for the three specimens and the minimum value
for any one specimen. Acceptable impact energy values are specified as a function of
tensile strength, and higher values are required as the tensile strength increases.
Higher strength steels are more prone to brittle fracture than lower strength steels, all
other parameters being equal. Therefore, higher strength steels must achieve higher
impact energy values in order to have adequate fracture toughness.

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32-SAMSS-004 requires that the impact test temperature must be 18C (32F) below
the minimum design temperature that is specified on the Pressure Vessel Design Data
Sheet Form 2682 or 2683. This approach provides an extra margin of safety against
brittle fracture. When impact testing is required, it must include the base metal, weld
metal, and HAZ.
SAES-W-001 contains the following items related to impact tests:
o For any flux, Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) electrode or for any Flux
Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) electrode that is used for welding procedures
with impact toughness requirements, the specified brand, type, and maximum
size used for the Procedure Qualification Record (PQR) must be used in the
actual fabrication.
o Welding procedures with impact test requirements must be submitted to the
Consulting Services Department for final review and approval. This approach
provides additional review to ensure that material toughness is adequately
considered in the weld procedure.


The codes and standards that apply to the evaluation of source inspection include the
ASME Code, Section VIII (Division 1 or 2, as appropriate)
ASME Code, Section IX
SAES-D-001, Pressure Vessels
SAES-W-001, Basic Welding Requirements
SAES-W-010, Welding Requirements for Pressure Vessels
32-SAMSS-004, Pressure Vessels
Form 175-321900, Manufacture of Pressure Vessels


This section may be used in conjunction with ASME Code, 32-SAMSS-004, and the
SAESs, to carry out source inspection and review I&TP
Procedure for Inspection Plans
Use the steps that follow to confirm that the inspection plans that are proposed by
pressure vessel vendors meet Saudi Aramco requirements for Division 1 pressure vessels.
All the requirements are based on Division 1, except where a Saudi Aramco source
document is noted.
Vendor fabrication drawings are to reference the ASME Code, Section VIII,
Division 1, and 32-SAMSS-004, Pressure Vessels.

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As a minimum, the extent of radiography is to be consistent with the weld joint

type, category, and joint efficiency that were employed in the design calculations
in accordance with Table UW-12 of the ASME Code.
Full radiography is also required for the following cases even if not required by
previous step :
o Shell and head butt welds for vessels that are in lethal service.
o Butt welds which exceed the following nominal thicknesses:
32 mm (1 1/4 in.) for P-No. 1 material (carbon steel)
19 mm (3/4 in.) for P-No. 3 material (C-1/2 Mo through 1/2 Cr-1/2
16 mm (5/8 in.) for P-No. 4 material (such as 1 1/4 Cr - 1/2 Mo)
All thicknesses for P-No. 5 material (such as 2 1/4 Cr - 1 Mo)
38 mm (1 1/2 in.) for austenitic stainless steels
Shell and head butt welds in unfired steam boilers that are over 345
kPa (50psig) design pressure.
Butt welds in nozzles and communicating chambers that are
attached to vessel sections or heads that must be fully radiographed
due to lethal or steam boiler service. Exception: Category B and C
butt welds that do not exceed NPS 10 or 29 mm (1 1/8 in.)
thickness do not require radiography.
o Butt welds that are joined by electrogas welding with any single pass that
is over 38 mm (1 1/2 in.).
o Butt welds that are joined by electroslag welding.
o All butt welds in vessels with a minimum design temperature below 0C
(32F), or are in wet, sour service (SAES-D-001 and 32-SAMSS-004).
o Welds that are located under reinforcing pads (32-SAMSS-004).
o Pressure-containing welds that will not be hydrotested (SAES-W-001).
o Category A and B welds that are made from one side, or are located in
shell components that are over 75 mm (3 in.) thick (SAES-W-010).
UT examination is required as follows:
o As a substitute for RT for the final closure seam if the vessel construction
is such that a radiograph cannot be interpreted.
o Electrogas welds that are in ferritic material with any single pass over 38
mm (1 1/2 in.). UT examination shall be done after heat treatment.
o Electroslag welds that are in ferritic material. UT examination shall be
done after heat treatment.
o Welds that are made by the electron beam process.
o Welds that are made by inertia and continuous drive friction process that
are full- or spot-radiographed.
o Plate that is over 50 mm (2 in.) thick. UT examination shall be done in
accordance with ASTM A578, Level I (32-SAMSS-004).
o Plate that is over 50 mm (2 in.) thick, for a distance of 150 mm (6 in.)
back from a nozzle weld preparation, or other cut-out (32-SAMSS-004).

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o Clad steel plate. UT examination shall be done in accordance with ASTM

A578, supplementary requirement S7 (32-SAMSS-004).
o For vessels that are over 75 mm (3 in.) thick (SAES-W-010):
All Category A and B welds
All nozzle attachment welds that exceed 25 mm (1 in.) throat
thickness that cannot be radiographed
Any nozzle attachment welds that exceed 50 mm (2 in.) throat
thickness, in addition to any other inspection
All UT procedures and acceptance criteria are to be in accordance with Appendix 12 of
Division 1.

Magnetic particle and/or liquid penetrant examination is required as follows:

o When a pressure part is welded to a flat plate that is thicker than 13 mm
(1/2 in.) and forms a corner joint:
Flat plate weld joint preparation is to be MT- or PT-examined
before welding.
MT or PT examination of the peripheral edge of the flat plate, and
any remaining exposed surface of weld joint preparation, after
o MT (or PT if nonmagnetic) examination of structural attachment welds
that are made to pressurized components that are not hydrotested after
making the weld (SAES-W-001).
o Except for nonferromagnetic materials, wet fluorescent MT using AC
yoke is required for (SAES-W-010):
All internal welds, including temporary weld areas, for vessels that
are in sour service
All internal and external welds of 25 mm (1 in.) or greater
thickness that are made by the Shielded Metal Arc Welding
(SMAW) process
o For vessels over 75 mm (3 in.) thick, wet fluorescent MT (PT for
nonferromagnetic material) examination for all welds, including
temporary attachment welds (SAES-W-010).

Procedure for Pressure Test Plans

The pressure test shall be made using water, unless a pneumatic pressure test is approved
by the CSD. The required test pressure at the top of the vessel must be specified for the
cases that follow:
Shop hydrotest with the vessel horizontal
Field hydrotest with the vessel in its final position and uncorroded component
Field hydrotest with the vessel in its final position and corroded component

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The required test pressures must be shown in the appropriate spaces on the Pressure
Vessel Design Sheet.
Procedure for Impact Test Plans
Use the checklist that follows to confirm that vessel vendor impact test plans meet Saudi
Aramco requirements. This checklist is applied after it has already been determined that
the combination of material category, minimum design temperature, and thickness would
not be exempt from impact testing in accordance with Section VIII, Division 2 criteria.
Confirm that fabrication drawings or other vessel documentation contains
reference to the ASME Code Section VIII, Division 2 for impact test procedural
requirements, even if the pressure vessel is designed in accordance with Division
1 in all other respects.
Impact test temperature is to be 18C (32F) below the minimum design
temperature that is specified on the Pressure Vessel Design Data Sheet.
Confirm that reference is made to SAES-W-001 for other impact test
An intentional combination of two or more substances, at least one of which is a metal,
hat exhibits metallic properties. It can be either a mixture of two types of crystalline
structures or a solid solution.
A substance that alters the rate of a chemical reaction without changing itself or entering
into the reaction.
Deterioration of a material, usually a metal, due to its reaction with the environment.
Corrosion may be caused either by direct chemical attack or by an electromechanical
A pressure vessel or process system for the removal of liquids from gases or solids by the
use of heat, absorbents, or adsorbents.
A pressure vessel or process that extracts inorganic salts from oil.
The process of producing a gas or vapor from a liquid by heating the liquid in a vessel
and collecting and condensing the vapors into liquids.
Distillation Column

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A high, cylindrical vessel in which liquid hydrocarbon feedstocks are separated into
component fractions, rare gases, and liquid products of progressively lower gravity and
higher viscosity.
The raw or semi-finished material that is processed in a refinery or other processing
The water supplied to a boiler or pressure vessel.
A process of separating particulate matter from a fluid, such as air or a liquid, by passing
the fluid carrier through a medium that will not pass the particulates.
A separate, identifiable part of crude oil; the product of a refining or distillation process.
A projecting rim on an object that is used to keep it attached to another object by means
of bolts and a gasket.
The end section of a pressure vessel.
Hydrostatic Pressure
The pressure at a point in a fluid that is at rest because of the weight of the fluid above it.
Liquid Holdup
A condition in two-phase flow through a vertical pipe; when gas flows at a greater linear
velocity than the liquid, slippage takes place and liquid holdup occurs. In pressure vessel
design, the level of liquid in a pressure vessel during its operation.
A cylindrical opening in a pressure vessel that is used to convey fluid or to monitor
operating conditions.
Pipestill Tower
A distillation tower in which heated oil is circulated, with continuous removal of
overhead vapor, liquid bottoms, and other petroleum fractions from the side. This is the
first pressure vessel that is used for distillation in a refinery.
Pressure Drop
The difference in pressure between two points in a flow system. Usually caused by
frictional resistance to a fluid flowing through a conduit, filter media, or other system that
conducts the flow of liquids.

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The outer, primary wall of a pressure vessel; the shell contains pressure.
Slug Catcher
A pressure vessel used to collect liquid that has accumulated in a gas transmission
pipeline and that has been moved to the slug catcher by means of a scraper passed down
the pipeline.
Specific Gravity
The ratio of the density of a material to the density of some standard material, such as
water at a specified temperature.
Temperature Gradient
The temperature variation per unit of distance or time along the flow path of heat.
A closed, cylindrical component that contains one or more thermocouples.
A baffle along the height of a high vertical tower that controls flow distribution of the
liquid and vapor in the tower.
That portion of a process stream that has not yet entered the system or unit under
Capillary action
The tendency of certain liquids to travel, climb, or draw into tight crack-like interface
areas due to such properties as surface tension, wetting, cohesion, adhesion, and
Communicating chamber
An appurtenance to a vessel which intersects the shell or heads and forms an integral part
if the pressure-containing enclosure.
A material separation that has a relatively large cross section in one direction and a small
or negligible cross section when viewed in a direction perpendicular to the first direction.
A discontinuity whose size, shape, orientation, location, or properties make it detrimental
to the useful service of the part in which it occurs; or a discontinuity which exceeds the
accept/reject criteria of the particular design.

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A finely divided material applied over the surface of a part to help bring out penetrant
A modification of the flux-cored welding process in which there is an externally supplied
source of gas or gas mixture.
A welding process in which consumable electrodes are fed into a joint containing flux;
the current melts the flux, and the flux in turn melts the faces of the joint and the
electrodes, allowing the weld metal to form a continuously cast ingot between the joint
False indication
An indication that may be interpreted incorrectly as a discontinuity or a defect; a
nonrelevant indication.
Any magnetic iron alloy that contains more than 12% chromium and that has a bodycentered cubic structure.
An imperfection which may not be harmful. (An imperfection that could be harmful is
referred to as a defect or discontinuity.)
A coating of mineral compounds on a welding electrode that is intended to perform some
function by chemical reactions in the weld pool.
Flux Lines
Imaginary lines used to explain the behavior of magnetic fields.
Heat-Affected Zone (HAZ)
The portion of the base metal that is adjacent to the weld and that is affected by the
welding heat.
The arrangement of a solid in layers.
Magnetic flux
The total number of magnetic lines existing in a magnetic circuit.
Nondestructive examination (NDE)
Testing to detect internal, surface, or concealed defects or flaws in a material by the use
of techniques that do not damage the item being tested.

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The distance from the original surface of the base metal to that point at which weld fusion
ends. The distance to which a projectile sinks into a target.
The ability of a material to allow passage of a liquid. A material having porosity contains
fine holes, voids, or pores.
Postweld HeatTreatment (PWHT)
A process that relieves residual stresses set up in welded joints after initial cooling.
The use of radiant energy in the form of neutrons, x-rays, or gamma rays for NDE of
opaque objects. The radiant energy produces graphical records on sensitized film; these
records indicate the comparative soundness of the object being tested.
The solidified, glassy mixture of impurities and flux that forms in the weld pool after
chemical reaction.
The contraction of either the base metal or weld metal upon cooling after the weld

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