External Pressure

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File: PVE-3473 Last Updated: May 18, 2011 By: LB

External Pressure

External pressure (vacuum) calculations start off more complex than internal pressure calculations and once jackets or other sources of pressure are added the difficulty increases. The external pressure rating depends upon more variables and the failure mechanism is more difficult to understand. This article is only an introduction, but it also covers many of the areas of external pressure that we repeatedly have to explain. Common mistakes made with external pressure calculations are listed. Sample vessel calculations are included throughout this article based on a vessel 48" diameter x 96" long with a Flanged and Dished (F&D) head at one end and a Semi Elliptical (SE) head at the other. As the design conditions change, the required shell thickness is updated. Internal pressures are calculated at 30 psi for comparison. Download the sample calculations at the end of this article.

1 - The Basics - Failure Mechanisms
The mechanism of external pressure failure is different from internal pressure failure. Different methods are required to design vessels to safely handle this different failure mechanism. Internal pressure failure can be understood as a vessel failing after stresses in part or a large portion exceeds the materials strength. In contrast, during external pressure failure the vessel can no longer support its shape and suddenly, irreversibly takes on a new lower volume shape. The following 3 pictures show vessels of reduced volume after external pressure failure. The forth picture shows an internal pressure failure for contrast.

A storage tank tested crushed after hydrotest when a plastic sheet blocked the top vent during draining

Vacuum failure of a barometric condenser (vacuum vessel) after the internal support rings failed



unloading a vessel or a tank that is not adequately vented . The code rules are on average very conservative. but greatly simplify what would otherwise be very difficult calculations . The finite element analysis and burst testing are done to a usually less conservative 3x factor of safety (See ASME VIII-1 UG-101(p)) where exact testing or analysis information replaces generalized code rules. 3. Good videos can be found on YouTube . the less stable) length (the longer the less stable) thickness (the thinner the less stable) material properties . These four variables are used in Code equations which can specify the thickness of a safe straight shell. 4.pveng.contrast this with the mechanisms shown during external pressure failure External pressure can be created 3 ways: 1.or .a lower yield point is less stable from plastic collapse and a lower modulus of elasticity is less stable from elastic collapse. The vessel no longer has the ability to hold its shape and suddenly collapses to a shape with less internal volume. the cool down rate can be very fast overloading vacuum protection equipment.see the links at the bottom of this article. In addition we can use burst (proof) testing or finite element analysis to calculate components not covered by the code rules. It is good practice to design any vessel exposed to steam service for full vacuum. 3. External pressure generated from an internal vacuum External pressure failure can be understood as a loss of stability. Elastic and plastic collapse will not be discussed further here.vacuum inside + pressure greater than atmospheric outside.cooling down a vessel filled with steam that condenses to water. Large vessels typically have lower external than internal pressure ratings. The stability of a straight shell under external pressure depends on four variables: 1.this has been a good trade off. 2. Two simple and unexpected sources of vacuum . 2. Nozzles are calculated using the familiar area replacement rules. http://www.php 7/13/2011 .com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. ASME type pressure vessels use code rules to calculate the safe external pressure load. diameter (the larger the diameter. Similar methods are used to calculate heads.External Pressure Page 2 of 10 A storage tank tested to destruction with an internal vacuum (external pressure) Unexpected internal pressure failure during hydrotest (caused by pressure stress and helped by unacceptable material properties) . From a vacuum inside a vessel and atmospheric pressure outside From a pressure outside a vessel greater than atmospheric (typically from some types of jacket or a surrounding vessel) From a combination of the first two .

In this case. http://www.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure.) A typical vessel 48" diameter with a straight shell 96" long needs a shell 0. A SE head needs to be 0.Vacuum Rings Instead of making the shell thick enough to handle the external pressure. The calculations are found in ASME VIII-1 UG-28. 3 .pveng.056" thick for an internal pressure of 30 psi.Designing for External Pressure The easiest way to design for external pressure is to make the shell thick enough to make the vessel stable with an acceptable factor of safety (pass code calculations).082" thick for the interior pressure but 0.046" thick for the interior pressure but 0.142" for the vacuum. L1 and L2 are calculated separately.127" for the vacuum. When the reinforcement is as strong as required by UG-29. 4x factor of safety in external pressure buckling analysis 4x factor of safety . The shell calculations are for a cylinder with supported ends (the heads at each end).04x the 15 psi applied pressure. (See the companion calculation set part 2 starting on page 4.php 7/13/2011 . but the two heads are given different equivalent radiuses resulting in different required thicknesses. The UG-29 reinforcing calculation ensures that the reinforcing is strong enough that whatever happens on one side of it has no impact on the other. The F&D head on the left end needs to be 0. This is greater than the 3x safety factor expected in the code and shows the code results to be acceptable.225" thick for a 15 psig external pressure (full vacuum) per VIII-1 UG-28. The effective length of a vessel includes some of the length of the heads. The F&D and SE heads are both calculated as if they are part of a sphere. Calculations are also given for the heads which are treated as spheres.External Pressure Page 3 of 10 2 . an economical vessel can often be designed by reinforcing the shell. Each zone independently passes the code calculations.the design exceeds the code required 3x factor of safety FEA results show that the shell will collapse at 4. the effective length of the shell is reduced and thinner shells can be used. The length of the vessel used in the calculations includes some of the head at each end. but needs to be 0. The head is calculated as a sphere.

The shell needs to be 0. If there is no internal vacuum then the length used for the external pressure calculation is the length of the jacket.External Pressure from Simple Jackets Simple jackets made from rolling plate welded to the shell at both ends create zones of external pressure.pveng. FEA results show that the shell will collapse at 8.External Pressure Page 4 of 10 A vessel divided into zones using a stiffening ring (See companion calculations starting on page 9. (page 13) 4 .1x the 15 psi applied pressure. The code rules are excessively conservative in this case.160" thick under the jacket per UG-28.php 7/13/2011 . More rings could be added to lower the required thickness further. External pressure L exists for the length of the jacket (See companion calculations starting page 15. The vacuum ring has successfully separated any action on one side of the ring from affecting the other side. http://www. but provides no guidance on the design.1x factor of safety with a thinner shell and a vacuum ring added.063").) If a 24" long jacket at 30 psi is added to the outside of the straight shell. then the external pressure of 30 psi needs to be calculated for an effective length of 24". The required head thickness could also be reduced by adding some type of reinforcement.168".25 x 2.063" elsewhere for the 30 psi internal pressure (minimum code allowed thickness = 0.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure.225 to 0. VIII-1 allows for this.) The sample vessel shell reduces in required thickness from 0. Not bad for the addition of a 0. This is much greater than the 3x safety factor expected in the code and is acceptable.5" bar rolled the hard way. 8. but could be 0.

As the zones get shorter. The jacket closure is not stiff enough to function as a vacuum ring . See UG-28.3x. This goes above and beyond the VIII-1 code requirement which does not require UG-29 on jackets. The FEA shows the factor of safety is adequate at 4. See Fig UG-28 for a definition of L that shows the treatment of the zones as separate lengths.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure.8x.it now meets UG-29 requirements. The jacket closure ring is stronger . The factor of safety is 5.3x and experience indicates that this type of design is safe.php 7/13/2011 . This level of safety goes beyond what the code and practical experience indicates is necessary. http://www.two separate zones of external pressure are calculated.the jackets effects extend beyond the effective length of the jacket but the design is acceptable. The factor of safety is 5. (See companion calculations starting page 17. The effect of the pressure is now confined to the span of the jacket. Finite element analysis results show that the effect of the external pressure is not confined to the length of the jacket.5" and passes UG-29 rules for a vacuum ring. The simple jackets in the picture below do not connect . Action of the jacket has been isolated within the span of the jacket.External Pressure Page 5 of 10 The jacket rings are not functioning as vacuum support rings (action on one side of the ring is not isolated from the other side) but the factor of safety is acceptable at 4. Stronger end rings on the jacket can isolate the action inside the jacket area from the rest of the shell. The jacket closure per App 9-5 is not as strong as required by UG-29 but the outer jacket shell adds to the stiffness of the shell. A common mistake is to assume that the external pressure has to apply to the full vessel length or that the separate sections need to be treated as common.pveng.) The jacket closure is now 1" x 1.8x (Acceptable). the required thickness to pass external pressure calculations is reduced.

however these results cannot be applied to the head. attached well enough.php 7/13/2011 . but there are no code rules available for the half pipe on the head. We do not care whether the shape has pressure on an internal (concave) or external (convex) shape.188" (the lowest value provided for on the charts) for a 3" half pipe jacket pressurized up to 243 psi on shell or head. http://www.) If the shell is calculated using UG-28. then a thickness of only 0. What we care about is the distance between stay rods . A common mistake with half pipe jackets is not to calculate the required vessel thickness under the jacket to EE-2(1) or other methods. EE-2 is not mandatory so other methods such as UG-28. The code calculation could be based on the dimension L and the regular code calculations applied for the straight shell. A common mistake with half pipe jackets is to assume that the full head of a vessel under the jacket needs to be calculated for external pressure. The appendix EE half pipe calculation requires a wall thickness of 0.Stayed Surfaces for External Pressure Stayed surfaces provide freedom to the designer using jackets.095" is required.it is the same for the head and the straight shell.External Pressure Page 6 of 10 Two unconnected jackets (per Fig UG-28) 5 . Appendix EE contains rule EE-2(1) which provides a means of calculating the required shell thickness to handle the jacket pressure.this is only true if there is another source for external pressure other than the pressure in the half pipe jacket. and are the shell and jacket surfaces thick enough to support the span between stays. The length of the external pressure has been reduced enough that it often has no impact on the design (but it still needs to be calculated). burst test and finite element analysis are also available to the designer. Half pipe jackets per VIII-1 Appendix EE (See companion calculations starting page 22.are the stay rods strong enough. The accepted method of calculating the required shell thickness is to use the rules of appendix EE-2.Half Pipe Jackets Multiple unconnected jackets lead to the case of half pipe jackets. We do not care if the failure mechanism is the crushing type of collapse (external) or tearing (internal). The EE-2 method is very useful because no code rules exist for a head that is only partly exposed to external pressure. 6 . or the shape of the jacket itself. A common mistake with half pipe jackets is to assume that the vessel has to be designed for external pressure . No longer do we care about the shape of the object under the jacket.pveng.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. This provides the same required thickness for the shell under the jacket regardless of the local shape of the vessel .

More than One Source of External Pressure External pressure calculations are more difficult with more than one source of external pressure . This inflation pressure is higher than the required burst pressure and is far in excess of any allowed external pressure for the vessel.External Pressure Page 7 of 10 Half pipe jackets per VIII-1 Appendix EE The rules for stayed design are found in VIII-1 UG-47 and work the same way as the design of flat heads found in UG-34 but now we look at the distance between stays instead of the diameter of the head. A common mistake with dimple jackets is to not calculate the required thickness of the head or shell but assuming that it will be adequate because it is thicker than the dimple jacket. The cases with the stay rods.a typical example is a vessel with an internal vacuum and pressure in a jacket.) If our vessel has a jacket supported by stays on a 6" spacing.with correctly spaced stay supports A dimple jacket is a form of stayed surface (See companion calculations starting page 25.) A common mistake with dimple jackets is to assume that the vessel has to be designed for external pressure . not included in the calculation set. Sample laser welded dimple jacket .php 7/13/2011 . The accepted method to calculate the required shell thickness is to use the rules of 17-5.this is only true if there is another source for external pressure other than the pressure in the jacket. The jacket portion is tested by burst test and can be used for any shape of vessel.4" dia The rules for the dimple jacket are found in Appendix 17. The complex shape of this locomotive firebox can be calculated as if it is a simple flat plate . Because the rules are designed for flat surfaces (the weakest shape found in pressure vessels) they will work for any shape of vessel or jacket.pveng. then the required head or cylindrical shell thickness is 0.modified flat plate calculations that can be used for any shape of vessel. (Equation 17-5 (2). The stays have to be 0.140 inch. Note that laser welded and inflated jackets have special restrictions regarding the burst test (last portion of section 17-5(a)(2). The dimple jacket has some strength from its shape that the shell does not have.164". The dimple jacket is a form of stayed jacket that can be any shape. If our vessel has a dimple jacket with a 6" spacing then the required head or cylindrical shell thickness is 0. The inflation pressure can be as high as 800psi. A shell of inadequate thickness can lead to yielding under hydrotest showing the location of the dimple welds from inside the vessel (the inside surface is no longer smooth).first calculate the complete vessel for the vacuum condition as if the jacket does not exist (see the first http://www. half pipe jackets and dimple jackets are the simplest .prior to inflation This laser welded dimple jacket will be inflated once it is rolled into the shape of a shell and welded to the rest of the vessel. The distinction between what is the vessel and what is the jacket is often not important. The internal (pressure vessel wall) thickness is calculated per 175 (b)(1) or (2) . This only works because the pressure inside a dimple jacket is not an external pressure.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. 7 .

A common mistake is to attempt to calculate the entire vessel for an external pressure of P+V. Finally design the jacket for the pressure P. The F&D and SE heads are limited by the half pipe jackets found on them and need to be 0.it needs to be 0. The required thickness = 0. dimple and stayed surfaces .142" thick. More stiffeners can be added until the shells required thickness from vacuum pressure is equal to that required by the dimple/pipe/stay calculations.0.225" thick. The thickness under the half pipe jacket remains at 0. The straight shell external pressure calculation with vacuum ring was calculated on page 10. dimple and stayed surfaces Step 1: the external pressure is now 15+30 = 45 psi (vacuum +30 psi jacket pressure).169" less than required under the dimples.225" thick. Vacuum + external pressure on half pipe. 6 and 7 in the calculation set: The F&D head .External Pressure Page 8 of 10 cases above).200" (Page 29). This was calculated back at pages 5. Half pipe jacket The half pipe jacket increases the stiffness of the shell http://www. The minimum stayed thickness is now 0. stays or half pipe jackets.188" thick. the straight shell 0.php 7/13/2011 .188". the minimum thickness provided for in the appendix EE charts (Page 30). Vacuum + external pressure on half pipe.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. Step 3: the maximum thickness from step 1 and 2 above is used.pveng.172" (Formula App 17-5 (2)).Vessel straight shell is supported by a UG-29 style vacuum ring The required thickness of the straight shell from the vacuum only load can be reduced by adding the vacuum stiffener as previously calculated. The required thickness under the dimple jacket rises to 0. Those required thicknesses now govern and the shell thickness cannot be further reduced by adding more vacuum rings. the SE head . Next calculate the shell for the local loads under the dimple/pipe/stay using the combined P + Vacuum. The straight shell is limited by the 15 psi external pressure .0.127" thick. Step 2: the whole vessel has to be calculated under the 15 psi external pressure.

excluding conical heads (Fig UG-28. http://www. 1981 file BC80-326: Question: When single embossed.its strength against external pressure collapse has increased but code rules are not provided to determine how much stronger it now is.External Pressure Page 9 of 10 The required shell thickness has been calculated for two cases: 1) for the P+V case under the stays/dimples/half pipes and 2) the whole vessel under the external pressure from the vacuum only. FEA analysis verifies that the method is acceptable (see page 40). each end of the cone is calculated as a line of support. such as described in Appendix 14. a special analysis based on Boardman's methods as presented by Bednar in "Pressure Vessel Design Handbook" is used. More commonly. may properties of the embossed assembly be considered when determining the required thickness of the flat plate for the external pressure? Reply: Yes. However. Because the angle of the cone is 45 degrees. This can be seen in the UG-29 vacuum ring example back at the beginning of this article. the vessel is not the same as the original vessel. the rules of U-2(g) shall apply. Special analysis is required over 30 degrees. This meets the requirements of ASME 1-8 and the cone provides two lines of support. Le (see illustration). However.pveng.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. 3. Effective length is not changed by the addition of a conical section If a cone is not checked against Appendix 1-8 the effective length will continue straight through the conical section. 1/3 the depth of a formed head. Special analysis is required for cone angles > 30 degrees. The external jackets and stays increase the stiffness of the vessel . stiffening rings like vacuum rings can increase the stiffness of the junction to meet code rules. The geometry covered by your inquiry is not specifically covered by any of the rules of Division 1. What happens on one side of the line of support does not affect the other side. The cone and shell thickness both affect if the juncture passes.Cones. 4. and straight shell sections are calculated the same way as before. A line of support is describe as: 1. External pressure burst testing or finite element analysis could be used to determine a thinner safe vessel thickness than possible using standard code calculations. Refer to interpretation VIII-81-47 July 1. Effective length is segmented at the cone junctions (See page 31 of the companion calcs. Alternately. conical transitions can also reduce the effective length of a vessel. jacketed assemblies. App 1-8 provides the rules for area replacement. A conical section must be calculated with each end of the section as a line of support in order for the effective length to be reduced. Lines of Support and Junctions In addition to jackets and vacuum rings. and again as a juncture with the shells (page 36). One cone acts as two lines of support if each cone shell junction passes the area replacement or special analysis rules of App 1-8. The area replacement rules work for cones with an angle up to 30 degrees.) The left head. 8 . The burst test or FEA would include the stiffening effect of the jacket. The cone is calculated to pass external pressure on its own (page 34). 2. Each adjacent cylinder will be calculated using the full effective length.1) a vacuum ring meeting UG-29 a jacket closure meeting Appendix 9-5 a cone-to-cylinder junction or head junction that meets the requirements of Appendix 1-8 The goal of a line of support is to effectively segment the vessel into sections that can bear the pressure load independent of adjacent components. are used as shells subjected to external pressure loading on the embossed side.php 7/13/2011 .

When the pole is pushed on from the side. higher than many other safety factors in pressure vessels. very scary. and a fly landing on top causes it to topple . The pole stays centered until it is pushed. The change is sudden and irreversible and if you watch the YouTube videos.com/watch?v=mAb-Sl5u4Eg http://www. YouTube videos: http://www. we set a 3x factor of safety. http://www. the vessel has less reserve strength left to push back.youtube.php 7/13/2011 . A stable system is one that is stronger than required.Understanding Stability At the beginning of this article. When the vessel is pushed on.com/watch?v=ZGhAeG13MTI&feature=related http://www.youtube. sometimes low. As external pressure is added to the system. The code aims for a 3x factor of safety.youtube. but at the cost of extra engineering effort.com/watch?v=7gr_muLpvUA&NR=1 http://www.com/ASME/ASMEComment/ExternalPressure/ExternalPressure. as the weight on the top of the pole is increased. Because the exact calculation of the critical external pressure on a vessel is difficult. Alternately. The weight on top of the pole is similar to the external pressure on the outside of a pressure vessel. Less conservative approaches would require more exact calculations. the pole has no additional strength. the pole loses its ability to push back against the sideways force.com/watch?v=Uy-SN5j1ogk&feature=related http://www. Eventually the vessel reaches a point where it has very little reserve strength. but not an explanation of how the failure mechanism works.without any sideways force. At this point the vessel can change shape to a smaller volume configuration.External Pressure Page 10 of 10 9 .pveng. A small weight can be placed on top of the pole. the failure mechanism for external pressure was given. The failure is irreversible and sudden.com/watch?v=zWr_foudBko&feature=related Companion Calculation Set(pdf format): Calculation Set More ASME Comments (c)2011 Pressure Vessel Engineering Ltd. However. You push on the wall of the vessel and it cannot push back.com/watch?v=2WJVHtF8GwI&NR=1 http://www. it pushes back and returns to its original shape.youtube. such as provided by FEA. one can visualize a long pole mounted in the ground. it bends back. sometimes calculating high.youtube. it bends. and returns back to center once the sideways force is removed. At a critical weight. Once the load is removed.youtube.