ENERGY IN PRESSURE VESSELS

Energy released during burst of 50 WLC CNG Cylinder at 200 bar Pressure
CNG cylinder is a pressure vessel. It can fail in a catastrophic manner, releasing vast amount of stored energy by two ways, 1) shock wave 2) high-speed projectiles. High speed projectiles are the main threat and are primarily responsible for deaths, injuries and property damage in the case of failure of CNG Cylinder. However, shock wave is not to be overlooked. During the inspection of burst vehicle cylinder i.e. Worthington NZS 5454, near Jehlum, it was found out that both of passengers sitting in the front seat of the car didn’t receive any major injuries from projectiles, but they died due to shock wave. Failure of CNG cylinder can only be disastrous if the cylinder do not comply to its manufacturing standard i.e. brittle fracture, non-compliance of burst profile, failure resulting in projectiles (burst into pieces) etc. Theory: Pressure×Volume → (Force/Area)×(Area×Length) = (Force×Length) (N-m) Joule Hence, if we multiply Pressure (P) and Volume (V), we get energy; implying area of PV graph represents energy. The SI unit of energy is Joule which is N-m. Equation for Ideal Gas: An Ideal gas obeys gas laws under all system conditions. The energy in a pressure vessel for Ideal gas can be calculated by finding area under the curve of PV diagram through integration. Let us derive its formula using simple calculus. Assuming PV = nRT (Ideal Gas Law) and P1V1=P2V2 (Boyle’s Law) holds for CNG

Calculation for Ideal Gas: Please note that we will first convert units into SI before applying formula. Volume of 50 Water Liter Capacity (WLC) = 0.05 m3 as 1000 WLC = 1m3 Pressure of 200 bar = 200 × 100,000 Pascal or N/m2 as 1 bar = 100,000 N/m2 PV = 0.05 × 100,000 × 200 = 106 (1 million) ------------ (1) ln Pa/Pb = ln (200/1) = 5.298 (Note: Initial pressure Pa is 200 bar; Pb is 1 bar) - (2) Result for Ideal Gas: We multiply equation 1 and 2 to get energy in 50 WLC CNG cylinder at 200 bar. Energy in 50 WLC CNG cylinder = 5.298 million Joules or 1.26 kg of TNT
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Equation for CNG: A real gas molecule interacts with others whereas ideal gas molecule is totally independent. There is no ideal gas in the world. A real gas behaves like an ideal gas only at high temperatures and low pressure; in conditions as in the CNG cylinder i.e. high pressure and ambient temperature; the behavior of real gas is not ideal. That is where adiabatic index (γ) i.e. ratio of specific heats Cp/Cv, comes in to play. The γ value varies for different gasses; the value is 1.66 for mono-atomic inert gasses i.e. helium, argon; 1.4 for diatomic gasses such as Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen; 1.3 for polyatomic gases such as CO2, methane etc. Natural Gas is primarily composed of methane along with some percentage of higher hydrocarbons; hence, its adiabatic index (γ) is nearly 1.27. The formula for stored energy in real gases is given below: Stored Energy (U) = PvVv/γ-1 [1-{Pa/Pv}γ-1/γ] ------- (a) Pv = The absolute pressure of CNG cylinder. Vv = Volume of the CNG Cylinder Pa = Atmospheric Pressure or absolute pressure to which the cylinder or pressure vessel drops when it burst Calculation for CNG: Now we calculate energy in CNG cylinder using the above formula (a). Stored Energy (U) = 106/(1.27-1) [1- {1/200}(1.27-1)/1.27] Result for CNG: Solving the above equation we get the energy inside a 50 WLC CNG cylinder. Energy in 50 WLC CNG cylinder = 2.503 million Joules or 0.6 kg of TNT Note: • This energy is only due to pressure assuming that there is no air-fuel explosion. If the gas explosion occurs during burst due to mixing of air and gas; then the energy released from will increase manifolds. There is only one reported accident of CNG cylinder where this phenomenon happened. However, it has happened in CNG compressors piping/fitting/H.E many times. • • • The stored energy in excess of 100kJ is considered to be a high hazard. The explosion of TNT and burst of failed Pressure Vessel are quite similar. Therefore, it is helpful to think of stored energy in terms of mass of TNT. 1 kg of TNT releases 4.184 x 106 Joules of energy. Prepared by:
Asim Riaz Research Engineer HDIP, Islamabad Page 2 of 2

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