DESIGN OF STEEL TANKS 1.

GENERAL Oil and oil products are most commonly stored in cylindrical steel tanks at atmospheric pressure or at low pressure. The tanks are flat bottomed and are provided with a roof which is of conical or domed shape. The sizes of cylindrical tanks range from a modest 3m diameter up to about 100m diameter, and up to 25m in height. They consist of three principal structural elements - bottom, shell and roof. For petroleum storage, the bottom is formed of steel sheets, laid on a prepared base. Some tanks for water storage use a reinforced concrete slab as the base of the tank, instead of steel sheets. The shell, or cylindrical wall, is made up of steel sheets and is largely unstiffened. The roof of the tank is usually fixed to the top of the shell, though floating roofs are provided in some circumstances. A fixed roof may be self supporting or partially supported through membrane action, though generally the roof plate is supported on radial beams or trusses. The two standards applied most widely are British Standard BS 2654 [1] and the American Petroleum Institute Standard API 650 [2]. These two Standards have much in common, although there are some significant differences. BS 2654 standard is both a design code and a construction specification. The design code is based on allowable stress principles, not on a limit state basis. The Technical Committee CEN/TC 265 “Site built metallic tanks for the storage of liquids”, the secretariat of which is held by BSI has prepared prEN 14015:2003: Specification for the design and manufacture of site built, vertical, cylindrical, flat-bottomed, above ground, welded, steel tanks for the storage of liquids at ambient temperature and above. This European Standard reflects the current practice within the oil, petrochemical, chemical, food and general bulk liquid storage industry, both European and world-wide. The practice is based on the theory of design stresses or allowable stresses. There is a parallel pre-standard, ENV 1993-4-2 Tanks. It is based on the Limit State Theory (LST), which is being used more and more by the structure steel and reinforced concrete industry. Experience in designing steel storage tanks to LST is limited, and there is little information on which to base the values for load factors, load combinations and serviceability. When sufficient experience has been gained in designing tanks to, and credible values become available for load factors, etc., it is envisaged that there may be a gradual move towards the use of LST for the design of tanks covered by this European Standard. Tanks are usually manufactured from plain carbon steel plate (traditionally referred to as mild steel) of grades S235 or S275 (to EN 10 025), or equivalent. Such material is readily weldable. The use of higher strength grades of low alloy steel (e.g. Grade S355) is less common, though its use is developing. Notch ductility (ударна жилавост) at the lowest service temperature is obtained for thicker materials (> 13 mm) by specifying minimum requirements for impact tests. This is normally achieved by specifying an appropriate sub-grade to EN 10 025. 1

Actual predicted snow load or other superimposed load. Superimposed load: A minimum superimposed load of 1. a tank must be designed to withstand seismic loads.0. plus appropriate vacuum pressure. Full capacity is usually determined by an overflow (преливник) near the top of the tank.85 kN/m2) may develop.2.2 kN/m2 (over the horizontal projected area) is applied to the roof of the tank. such as maintenance equipment.5 mbar. which might be applied to the roof. the relative density of the contents is less than 1. In pressure tanks the valves may be set to 6 mbar vacuum. 3. for a tank without any overflow. This load is commonly known as the 'snow load'. the contents should be taken to fill the tank to the top of the shell. The steel plates are directly supported on a bitumen-sand layer on top of a foundation pad. It is therefore applicable even in locations where snow is not experienced. Non-pressure tanks are often fitted with valves which do not open until the vacuum reaches a value of 2. Wind effects: Wind loads are determined on the basis of a design wind speed. If the subsoil is weak. the foundation pad is replaced by a 2 .5 kN/m2) may have developed. BOTTOM DESIGN For petroleum storage tanks. steel bottom plates are specified. Whilst some guidance is given in BS 2654 and API650 on the design of the tank. For oil and oil products. other codes may give other values). Even without valves a tank should be designed for a vacuum of 5 mbar. only once every 50 years (this provision is from BS only. as well as a nominal snow load. Tanks designed for storage at nominally atmospheric pressure must be suitable for modest internal vacuum (negative pressure). Maximum wind speed depends on the area in which the tank is to be built. a vacuum of 5 mbar (0. By the time a valve is fully open. in which case a pressure difference of 8. but tanks for such liquids are normally tested by filling with water (hydro-test). should be applied.5 mbar (0. should be used when it is greater than the specified minimum. to cater for differential pressure under wind loads. Dead load: The dead load is that due to the weight of all the parts of the tank. typically a value of 45 m/s is taken as the design wind speed. any other imposed loads. to contain vapour losses. laid and fully supported on a prepared foundation. and it includes the internal vacuum load. but in fact represents. representing the maximum 3-second gust speed which is exceeded. up to the full capacity of the tank. DESIGN LOADS AND FEATURES OF SERVICE A tank is designed for the most severe combination of the various possible loadings. according to BS2654. Seismic action: In some areas. Contents: The weight and hydrostatic pressure of the contents. on average. A density of 1000 kg/m3 should therefore be taken as a minimum. specialised knowledge should be applied in determining seismic loads.6 kN/m2). Tanks may also be designed to work at relatively small positive internal pressures (up to 56 mbar (5. usually made of compacted fill.

For larger volume of contents (larger tank diameter). to give a circular shape. because of the ring stiffening which the plates provide to the bottom of the shell. 2 For volume V≤5000 m3 constant thickness of bottom plates tb = 5 mm is typically used. Such a RC foundation ring is especially useful when the tank shell needs to be anchored. FIG.reinforced concrete raft. The radial joints between the annular plates are butt welded. as shown in Figure 2. rather than lapped. called sketch plates. surrounded by a set of shaped plates. For larger tanks (over 12. additional RC foundation ring is recommended to reliably support the bottom immediately below the shell-tobottom joint. according to BS 2654) a ring of annular plates is provided around the group of rectangular plates. 3 .5 m diameter. A typical arrangement is shown in Figure 4. The bottom is made up of a number of rectangular plates.

though BS 2654 sets out minimum thicknesses of plate depending on the size of the tank. Stress calculations are not normally required. which is then transmitted directly to the base.FIG. The only load the bottom plates carry. while the annular plates are thicker and their width and thickness are subject to further design checks. apart from local stiffening to the lowest part of the shell. In Bulgarian practice. 5 4 . is the pressure from the contents. 4 The bottom act as a seal to the tank. tb = 6 mm is typically used. FIG.

a convenient opportunity to use thicker plates in the lower rings and thinner plates in the upper rings. especially with thin material. Each course is butt welded to the course below along a circumferential line. butt welded along the vertical join between the plates. For a uniform shell thickness. one on top of the other. butt welded together. at least for deeper tanks. in a vertical direction. the calculation of stresses is therefore straightforward. Consequently the rules call for the vertical seams to be staggered from one course to the next at least one third of the length of the individual plates. At a fluid depth H. where r = D 2 is the cylinder wall radius.4. or courses. The circumferential tension in the shell will vary directly. Each course is made of a number of plates. Circumferential Stresses Vertical cylindrical tanks carry the hydrostatic pressures by simple hoop tension. if possible. This technique provides. according to the head of fluid at any given level. and 5 . it is necessary to build up the shell from a number of fairly small rectangular pieces of plate. the hoop stress is given by: σ 2 = p rx r t w . Good weld procedures can minimise the distortions or deviations from the ideal flat or curved line of the surface across the weld. Each piece will be cylindrically curved and it is convenient to build up the shell in a number of rings. SHELL DESIGN For practical reasons. but some imperfection is inevitable.

A possible approximate solution for obtaining the resulting internal moment and shear is illustrated on the figure below. Similarly.p rx = γ fp ρhi + γ fa p0 n is the sum of the hydrostatic pressure at the specified depth hi and design positive internal pressure. The shell-to-bottom joint introduces additional bending stresses which arise do to the abrupt change of shell shape and its statically indeterminate support conditions (no outward expansion of the tank body under hydrostatic pressure is possible due to the high in-plane stiffness of the steel base (bottom). because of these restraints. and the weight of the roof which it supports. wind loading on the tank contributes tensile axial stress on one side of the tank and compressive stress on the other. 6 . rather than the greater pressure at the bottom edge. (This is known as the 'one foot rule' in API 650) Axial Stresses in the Shell The cylindrical shell has to carry its self-weight. Consequently. In addition. N2 – hoop tension (kN/m) The lowest course of plates is fully welded to the bottom plate of the tank providing radial restraint to the bottom edge of the plate. as an axial stress. the bottom edge of any course which sits on top of a thicker course is somewhat restrained because the thicker plate is stiffer. which effectively requires that any course is simply designed for the pressure 300mm above the bottom edge of the course. an empirical adjustment is introduced into the design rules.

see the graph below: 7 .Although axial stresses do not need to be calculated for service conditions. Anchorage is recommended for tanks situated in seismic areas as well. For the conditions of purely axially loaded cylinder shell with fixed base. As mentioned in Lecture 1. the tank does have to be checked for uplift when it is empty and subject to wind loading. residual stresses and edge disturbances. a typical example is shown in Figure 7. the basic analysis and design principles given in Lecture 1 for thin shells of revolution apply for the tank wall as well. anchorages must be provided. Each critical stress (in circumferential or meridional direction) shall be calculated separately. the critical stress can be estimated as a function of the “equivalent” slenderness λ. the ECCS procedure for stability check involves the so-called "knock-down" factor α. which accounts for the detrimental effect of imperfections. If necessary. Major design checks for the tank wall: • Strength verification for the tensile hoop stress σ 2 (full tank condition) • Stability check for combined action of compressive hoop and meridional stresses σ 1 (empty tank condition) • Strength check for the local overstressing of the shell-to-bottom joint In general.

The knock-down factor α is explicitly included in the calculation of the shell slenderness. circumferential stiffening is needed to maintain the roundness of the tank when it is subject to wind load. ά 5. no additional stiffening is needed at the top of the shell. except possibly as part of an effective compression ring. Primary Wind Girders A tank with a fixed roof is considered to be adequately restrained in its cylindrical shape by the roof. At the top of an open tank (or one with a floating roof). This stiffening is particularly necessary when the tank is empty. 8 .

In BS 2654 this formula is expressed as a required minimum section modulus given by: Z = 0. Examples are shown in Figure 8. Fortunately. The formula presumes a design wind speed of 45 m/s (corresponds to wind pressure = 1. based on work by De Wit. which is easily applied in design. FIXED ROOF DESIGN General 9 . a channel or other curved member around the top edge of the shell.24 kN/m2).058 D2 H where Z is the (elastic) section modulus (cm3) of the effective section of the ring girder. i. to avoid a corrosion trap. For other wind speeds it may be modified by multiplying by the ratio of the basic wind pressure at the design speed V to that at 45 m/s. by (V/45)2.e. D is the tank diameter (m) and H is the height of the tank (m). It is recognised that application of the above formula to tanks over 60 m diameter leads to unnecessarily large wind girders. the code allows the size to be limited to that needed for a 60 m dia. tank. Wind girders are usually formed by welding an angle. FIG. investigations into the subject have led to an empirical formula. Note that continuous fillet welds should always be used on the upper edge of the connection. 8 Details for primary wind girder 6. including a width of shell plate acting together with the added stiffener.The calculation of the stability of stiffened tanks is a complex matter.

The roof support structure can either be self-supporting or be supported on internal columns.and are usually found only on smaller tanks. radial to the tank. they can be fabricated trusses.Fixed roofs of cylindrical tanks are formed of steel plate and are of either conical or domed (spherically curved) configuration. Self-supporting roofs are essential when there is an internal floating cover.they require some temporary support during placing and welding . The steel plates can be entirely self supporting (by 'membrane' action). naturally. Typical arrangements are shown in section in Figures 10 and 11. Supported roofs are most commonly of conical shape. 10 . The main members of the support steelwork are. The use of a single central column is particularly effective in relatively small tanks (15-20 m diameter). for example. for larger tanks. although spherical roofs can be used if the radial beams are curved. Supported roofs Radial members supporting the roof plate permit the plate thickness to be kept to a minimum. or they may rest on top of some form of support structure. Radial beams are arranged such that the span of the plate between them is kept down to a minimum of about 2 m. They can be simple rolled beam sections or. Permanent support steelwork for the roof plate may either span the complete diameter of the tank or may in turn be supported on columns inside the tank. Membrane roofs are more difficult to erect . This limit allows the use of 5 mm plate for the roof. They greatly facilitate the construction of the roof.

) 11 . Where internal columns are used they will be beneath the main support members. The main support members of the spherical dome are subject to bending and axial load.they are supported at their inner ends on ring beams between the main support members. emergency pressure relief has to be provided to cater for heating due to an external fire. For storage of petroleum products. that the size of the fillet weld between the roof and the shell is limited in size . the central ring must be designed as a compression ring. тя изисква проектантът да заложи съзнателно една слаба връзка между корпуса на резервоара и неговия покрив. the secondary radial members may be considered as rafters . the top of the shell must be designed for the hoop forces associated with the axial forces in the support members.a limit of 5 mm is typical). The main support members need to be restrained at intervals to stabilise them against lateraltorsional buckling. която да се разруши при опасно повишаване на свръхналягането вътре и по този начин да предпази конструкцията от по-сериозна авария. Pressure relief can be achieved either by additional emergency venting or by designing the roof to shell joint as frangible (this means. principally. (Тази концепция не е добре позната в нашата практика: на практика. Where they are designed for axial thrust.Not all radial members continue to the centre of the tank. Those that do may be considered as main support beams. Cross bracing is provided in selected bays. Typical plan arrangements are shown in Figure 11.

pontoon type and double deck type. because there is internal pipework. In petroleum tanks. venting expels some of this vapour. The central diaphragm may need to be stiffened by radial beams. A typical arrangement of a pontoon type roof is shown in Figure 12. which must be drained off. A pontoon roof has an annular compartment. when the temperature drops.7. the roof is therefore fitted with legs which keep it clear of the bottom. The continued breathing can result in substantial evaporation losses. 12 . the free space above the contents contains an air/vapour mixture. and a central single skin diaphragm. Drainage is achieved by a system on the roof which connects to flexible pipework inside the tank and thence through the shell or bottom plates to a discharge. When the tank is emptied. The design is required to ensure that the roof continues to float in the event of a block in the drainage system which results in a surcharge of water on the roof (usually 250 mm of water). it catches rain. two circular skins are joined to circumferential plates and bulkheads to form a disk or piston. Measures are needed to minimise these losses. USE OF FLOATING ROOFS AND COVERS As mentioned above. the roof cannot normally be allowed to fall to the bottom of the tank. At night. A double deck roof is effectively a complete set of compartments over the whole diameter of the tank. The central deck of a pontoon roof should also be presumed to be punctured for this design condition. buoyancy is achieved by providing liquid-tight compartments in one of two forms of roof . floating roofs and covers are commonly used for this purpose. divided by bulkheads. Both types of roof must remain buoyant even if some compartments are punctured (typically two compartments).2 kN/m2) plus any accumulated rainwater. tanks need to be vented to cater for the expansion and contraction of the air. Because the roof is open to the environment. At this stage the roof must be able to carry a superimposed load (1. During service. When the mixture expands in the heat of the day. fresh air is drawn in and more of the contents evaporates to saturate the air. a floating roof is completely supported on the liquid and must therefore be sufficiently buoyant.

13 .

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