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Emergency Release of Internal Pressures from Aboveground Storage Tanks

By George L. Morovich


13 Flower Tuft Ct. The Woodlands, Texas 77380 PH: +1-979-247-4812

Emergency pressure release alternatives. The causes, frequency and risks of emergency internal pressure incidents.

Methods for providing emergency release of internal pressure from within aboveground storage tanks are desired as a safety precaution to prevent shell uplift.

Shell uplift may cause failure of the bottom to shell joint along with damage to piping, sumps and appurtenances; thereby, resulting in a release of a tanks contents.

There currently are three basic approaches for emergency release of internal pressure. 1. Emergency venting per API 2000 2. Weak roof to shell seam (Frangible roof) 3. Floating roof with open circulation venting

Emergency Venting Per API 2000 applies only for relief of internal pressures resulting from exposure to an external fire.

Frangible Roof Joint (weak roof seam)

Based on completed research (allowing minimal shell uplift), this approach is not reliable for tanks below 50 diameter. Current API research investigated relative strength of roof-to-shell and bottom-to-shell joints along with allowable uplift. Results of research expected to allow frangible joint down to 30 diameter (with improved bottom joints and consideration of tank uplift, similar to Appendix E earthquake design for uplift requiting flexibility in piping and attachments).

Frangible Roof Joint (weak roof seam)

1. Applicable to Cone Roofs only, based on specified roof slope, top of shell section detail and maximum weld size. 2. Subject to workmanship (such as excessive welds), 3. Subject to changes that weaken the relative strength of the bottom joint (such as bottom settlement and corrosion). 4. Incident results in roof damage (typically requiring removal from service). 5. Not suitable for certain incidents (such as overfill).

Floating roof tanks with open venting or other means to avoid combustible mixture Considered exempt from the condition that API 2000 provides protection for.
1) The floating roof minimizes exposed product. 2) Circulation vent area will exceed the area required in API 2000. 3) Circulation vents or other means used to minimize the potential hazard of combustible mixtures from developing within the tank.

Internal Floating-Roof Tank

Domed External Floating-Roof Tank

Internal Floating-Roof Tank

Floating roof Fixed roof

Internal Floating Roof Tank --- Internal deflagration reported due to lightening strike during filling

Over Pressure Event

Over Pressure Event

Area of top shell course damage.

Areas of bottom plate lifting.


Overfill Steam Release Gas Injection Product Reactions External fire exposure Internal deflagration Earthquake Other Of course other causes of roof / shell failure occur, such as incidents involving excessive wind or exposure to an external deflagration.

Overfill incidents appear to be the most common and preventable cause of emergency pressure related damage to tanks. Minimum emergency vents or a frangible joint cannot be expected to relieve pressure prior to uplift. Product level control is the best means to avoid this type of incident. Tank design with low profile floating roofs and rim vents can avoid damage.

Aluminum dome peripheral venting facilitates overfill with minimal damage or no damage to the dome roof. Any resulting damage to the dome roof can typically repaired without removal of the tank from service. Overfill slots are not desired due to reduced operating capacity.

OVERFILL in a cone roof tank causes damage to frangible roof.

Steam Release is primarily a concern on heated tanks.

Gas Injection These types of incidents can also damage the internal floating deck; however, if the tank is equipped with circulation venting the damage is typically limited to the floating deck.

Over Pressure Event

Product Reactions storing certain products, such as Styrene, that can polymerize with release of significant pressure. These tanks are often equipped with dome roofs and tank shells are anchored to a counterweight to prevent uplift. External fire exposure is the basis for the NFPA minimum requirement. Internal deflagration within an aboveground storage tank is the most severe but also a very rare incident. API research should produce a program to determine vent requirements based on product storage variables.

Internal deflagration within an aboveground storage tank is the most severe but also a very rare incident.

Earthquake is only a risk in certain areas but the damage effects can be substantial. The sloshing of product can cause uplift on the fixed roof and this may damage or cause failure of the frangible joint, fixed roof support structure (cone roof columns, rafters, and aluminum dome supports and framing) and shell.

Shell and bottom damage resulting from seismic event. Note the plastic deformation due to uplift. (submitted by John Lieb, Tank Industry Consultants)

PRESSURE RELEASE ALTERNATIVES Alternate Frangible Roof Joint Details for small tanks are offered; however, cost to document these will likely prohibit adding these to the Standard. Counterweight Anchorage of the tank shell and reinforced shell to bottom joints.

PRESSURE RELEASE ALTERNATIVES (CONT) Relative Strength of Roof-to-Shell and Bottom-to Shell Joints research completed will likely allow for further reduction of the 50 diameter limit. Allowable uplift and impact on attached piping will also be considered.

PRESSURE RELEASE ALTERNATIVES (CONT) API 650 G Structurally Supported Aluminum Dome roof peripheral flashing (not sealed to tank) may be documented to provide vent area contribution.

PRESSURE RELEASE ALTERNATIVES (CONT) API 650 G Structurally Supported Aluminum Dome roof peripheral flashing uplift (resulting in no shell damage) may be repaired without removal of tank from service.

PRESSURE RELEASE ALTERNATIVES (CONT) Deflagration Venting research conducted with oversight from the PVRC and support from API provides a mechanism to evaluate venting of partial volume deflagrations.

CONCLUSION To minimize the impact of internal over pressure incidents, attention should be paid to the causes, frequency and resulting damage. Some causes can be efficiently avoided. Fixed and floating roof types and details allowing for internal pressures to be safely vented with minimal damage are preferred. Attention must be made to tank operation, tank condition and modifications. Determine vent requirements based on product storage variables and operating risks.