This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Back to RELIEF
need to order a two-inch pop valve.” It wasn’t too long ago that generic requests such as this were becoming a disturbing trend in our industry. But with pressure relief systems serving as the final line of protection against catastrophic equipment failure, customers today are coming to recognize the value of providing complete process data when ordering valves and replacement parts. Not only is safety at stake, but selecting the properly-sized valve for the job can provide considerable cost savings over the life cycle of a facility. “First line of safety and last line of defense” is a phrase that has long been associated with pressure relief valves. Safety relief valve systems are intended to operate in emergency situations, when an equipment failure, accident or process malfunction has created pressurized conditions the core system was not designed to handle. In essence, the pressure relief valve is intended to perform when the operation of a process has gotten out of control, and personnel or equipment can only be maintained through emergency release of the process material.
HOW TO SIZE AND SELECT
NOT ONLY ARE CRITICAL SAFETY ISSUES AT STAKE, BUT SELECTING THE PROPERLY-SIZED RELIEF VALVE FOR THE JOB CAN PROVIDE CONSIDERABLE COST SAVINGS OVER THE LIFE CYCLE OF A FACILITY. BY ANTHONY FABBO
Correctly sizing and selecting a pressure relief valve is more complex than it may seem, and multiple factors must be taken into consideration if the system is to operate effectively. Traditionally, the pressure relief valve was considered a highly engineered product, but a combination of commercial pressures and the engineering manpower shortage that has emerged in recent years has caused some to regard the
© 2006 Valve Manufacturers Association. Reprinted with permission.
Valve M A G A Z I N E | F a l l 2 0 0 6
A Dangerous Trend Let’s examine some of the factors that contributed to this dangerous trend. vessels. When you recognize that the pressure relief valve is one of the most critical components in a pressure relief system. the world’s demand continues to outpace supply. overpressure and relieving capacity. which contains hundreds of protected systems. and the need to “fast track” these projects has contributed to an overall shortage of engineering manpower that will only worsen over the coming decade as baby boomers retire in increasing numbers. Engineers then evaluate each device according to the process parameters (such as pressure. for while the true Grail will bring you life. The number of refineries in the United States has dwindled to 148 from more than 300 in the early 1980s. In each case. selection and installation are necessary to guarantee the system will perform when required. In the oil industry. Sizing Bigger isn’t better when it comes to the RV orifice selection based on capacity requirements. engineers select a device that is of suitable size and otherwise meets the conditions and requirements encountered in the engineering standards. Superimposed backpressure is the static pressure existing at the outlet of the pressure relief valve at the time the valve is required to operate. The industry remains under extreme pressure to design and construct new refining capabilities. . dynamic instability (chattering) and a change in closing pressure. Then. driving prices to record highs and putting immense production pressures on current refining capabilities. Understanding the consequences of identifying backpressure on a relief system is absolutely critical to the proper engineering of the relief system. Manufacturers go through a rigorous capacities certification program administered by the National Board (NB) Pressure Relief Device Certification Program. in combination with the product catalogs available from the device manufacturers. The starting point for process safety management is to ensure that the contents of the protected systems are handled in controlled ways under various operational and exceptional conditions or scenarios. There are two kinds of backpressure to consider. Over-sizing is becoming increasingly common. which states that valves subsequently certified would have capacities Selection In the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade there’s a dramatic scene in which the wise old Grail Knight advises one of the villains to “choose wisely. It can be constant. each consisting of a Valve M A G A Z I N E | F a l l 2 0 0 6 closed loop of pumps. Although this may appear to be prudent. and reviewing piping considerations is necessary in selecting the appropriate relief valve. it becomes clear that proper sizing. backpressure. in which paragraph UG 131 was revised. one might think of a stove heating a pressure-cooker with a pressure relief valve on it.B A C K T O B A S I C S : R E L I E F V A L V E S safety relief valve as just a commodity product. Built-up backpressure is caused by pressure losses in outlet piping and reaches its maximum value at full discharge of the valve. Backpressure may be one of the leading contributors to problematic relief systems. Obtaining accurate process data.” when given the chance to © 2006 Valve Manufacturers Association. a decrease in relieving capacities. As the most experienced personnel begin to retire or move into management positions. so great care should be taken in determining the nature of any backpressure. there is a growing void in the industry’s ability to replace this unique expertise. the false Grail will take it from you. Depending on the process design and technology in use. defining the appropriate overpressure scenarios. Unidentified backpressure can adversely affect valve performance. and the various sizes required for each scenario are resolved into a required device size. it is essential to evaluate it in the context of a typical processing plant. valves and other process elements. including a change in set pressure. stamped equal to 90% of the average actual relieving capacities from the previous 100% allowance. In essence there is some capacity conservatism built into the design of a certified valve. In the simplest case. It is always variable in nature. variable or a combination of both. temperature and viscosity) relevant to each scenario. this oversizing process can drastically affect the overall dynamic stability of the pressure relief valve and may contribute some negative consequences to the overall header manifold/flare system. The capacity rating is determined from tests of samples of the relevant pressure relief device type at an NB-accepted testing laboratory under ideal conditions. A Complex Process The process of sizing and selection of a relief device for a “protected system” is intricate and complex. as designing engineers tend to “pad” capacity requirements to ensure adequate safety to the system. In both cases the negative consequences of misapplication can be equally catastrophic. pipes. The 1963 winter addendum to the code. Further complicating matters is the fact that pressure relief system engineering has generally been a niche engineering discipline that can take years of training and on-the-job experience to master. This process can range from the relatively straightforward thermal application to the much more complicated distillation tower application. Reprinted with permission. ensuring controlled failure modes in processes is typically accomplished by inserting a number of pressure relief and other safety devices into the plant circuits. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this issue. even as demand continues to grow in seeming defiance of rising prices. Identifying Backpressure The first step in the sizing process is to determine the set pressure. the required size of the device is computed according to the relevant engineering standards.
The standard flange facing is raised face. 300#. As the system pressure approaches set pressure. Those with a complete knowledge of the pressure-relieving requirements of the protected system and the environmental conditions particular to that installation need to be in charge of the pressure relief valves selection process. The selection combinations are numerous and require the same level of engineering due diligence that was employed during the sizing exercise. A pressure relief valve is a relief device designed to open and relieve excess pressure. In this case. Materials of Construction In choosing materials of construction. By comparison. Types of Valves: Spring Loaded and Pilot Spring loaded pressure relief valves utilize a spring to achieve the seating force needed to keep the valve closed and to re-close the valve after an upset condition. however. property personnel and public safety. bejeweled vessel. combining pressure relief and drop out services in one installation. but on a poorly reasoned and uninformed guess. Pressure relief valves are mechanical devices and the way they operate is quite simple and can be explained by a force balance. Pilot-operated pressure relief valves utilize system pressure and a pilot control valve to achieve the seating force needed to keep the valve closed and to re-close the valve after an upset condition.). other options available include: ring joint. large and small tongue. installation close to the pressure source. Flange rating selection depends on system pressures and temperatures. They are available in two design types.B A C K T O B A S I C S : R E L I E F V A L V E S select Christ’s chalice from among a myriad of objects. Upright installation. and small male. the selection process was not based on any analytical or deductive reasoning. Proper Installation Essential A pressure relief valve is a precision instrument and its performance can be adversely affected by improper installation. then. rupture pin valves.” Although the average Hollywood action movie and the typical processing plant don’t generally share many similarities. to re-close and prevent the further flow of fluid after normal conditions have been restored. consider these factors: Ⅲ Pressure/temperature considerations Ⅲ Corrosive/erosive applications Ⅲ NACE (National Association of Corrosion Engineers) sour gas applications Ⅲ Soft seat requirements Optional Items Remote sensors: These provide an economical way to rapidly depressurize vessels in the event of an emergency. Reprinted with permission. Inlet/Outlet Flange Ratings and Facings Pressure relief valves are available in a wide variety of flange ratings and facings. The fact that pressure relief valves reclose differentiates them from other pressure-relieving devices (rupture disks. They are used when the normal operating pressure exceeds 90% of set pressure. or when the location at which pressure must be sensed is different than the location at which relief is to occur. and failure of a pressure relief valve can lead to catastrophic overpressure of equipment and/or release of fluid under pressure. And so the bad guy chooses “poorly” and with dire consequences as he is immediately consumed by flames. and decisions should never be based on arbitrary assumed conditions or incomplete information. Indy chose “wisely. 900#. conventional or balanced. Pilot controls are available in snap-acting or modulating designs. etc. Typical ASME flange ratings are 150#. Lift indicators: These devices mount on any cap construction and provide a signal locally or to remote locations to indicate the valve has operated. A seating (or closing) force acting on top of the pressure relief valve disc keeps the valve closed until the upward force (system pressure x disc surface area) acting beneath the disc is larger than the seating force. Correct installation is essential for plant. large and small groove. the seating force between the nozzle and disc approaches zero (Figures 1 and 2). . large and small female. properly sup- Figure 1 Figure 2 Valve M A G A Z I N E | F a l l 2 0 0 6 © 2006 Valve Manufacturers Association. 600#. 1500# and 2500#. Indiana Jones correctly selects the simple wooden cup after analyzing the data and concluding that Jesus would not have used a fancy. this particular scene provides a neat analogy as to what could happen if pressure relief valves are selected without the data points needed to make a wise choice.
which required that all pressure relief valves in liquid service be designed and certified to achieve full lift at an inlet pressure of no more than 110% of set pressure. Today’s process for the proper sizing and selection of a pressure relief valve must involve the manufacturers’ representative. Liquid trim: ASME Section VIII Code (1986 edition) incorporated an addenda to the 1983 edition. a new design. and eventually determining the optimum pressure relief valve. certain operating characteristics (blowdown) may need to be considered on each individual application. Summary Pressure relief systems. For applications installed after Jan. The generally accepted term is a “popping” action. Trim Selection Vapor trim: Safety valves are characterized by a rapid lift from closed to a nearly wide-open position when the set pressure and overpressure of the valve is achieved. “I need to order a 2-inch pop valve” just doesn’t cut the mustard in today’s highly technical and very complex world of pressure relief systems. however. petrochemical. Whatever the industry—whether petroleum. 1985. power. Proper relief valve sizing and selection process is a critical component of the well-designed process safety management system. 1.cwfc.B A C K T O B A S I C S : R E L I E F V A L V E S ported inlet/outlet piping. original equipment manufacturer and the end user. As existing safety-relief valves could not meet this requirement. . Reprinted with permission. Highly sophisticated pressure relief device software has been developed over the last few years that can greatly improve the sizing and selection process. Reach him at 631-293-3800 or via email at valvesystems@curtisswright. Valve M A G A Z I N E | F a l l 2 0 0 6 © 2006 Valve Manufacturers Association. however. But we would argue they require the same degree of awareness at the operating stage. the liquid trim relief valve. certainly require a high degree of awareness at the design stage.com. avoiding inlet pipe reducers and a myriad of other considerations ensure suitable relief valve installation. Safety valves are designed for use only on vapor services and may not be used in liquid service. Two-phase flow trim: Liquid trim relief valves may have dual certification for liquid and vapor. engineering procurement contractor. vibration considerations. establishing correct ASME code/API requirements. was developed.com). these are simply “tools of the trade” and do not necessarily make the user a relief valve expert. Each bears a responsibility of obtaining correct process data. Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Valve Systems Division (www. liquid trim relief valves that meet these requirements must be used in all liquid services that fall under the scope of the ASME code. as a last line of defense. Take the advice of the Grail Knight and choose wisely! VM ANTHONY FABBO is vice president and general manager. oil and gas—it is critically important that each operator understands and is committed to process safety management with its integral subset being relief protection systems.