The Importance of Pressure Vessel Safety, Inspection and Maintenance

August 19, 2015

Inspection and maintenance routines are an essential part of engineering. There's no exception to this rule. Even maintenance-free machines, the equipment recommended by diligent design engineers, are subject to deterioration. An inspection strategy is thus a genuine imperative if expensive gear is to stay in service. But more than this, much of the equipment in service today is defined by incredibly hazardous attributes. Pressure vessels, in particular, contain toxic chemicals and pressurized gases. The pressures we're referring to are so intense that fluids within the vessel undergo a state change. Gases become liquids and "flash" back to a gas when placed in a condensate cycle. Imagine this as a refrigeration mechanism but one that's been scaled to manage a stream of cryonically processed liquid nitrogen.

If the worst were to happen, a pressurized vessel were to leak or deteriorate to the point that contents could escape into the air, then a liquid nitrogen spill would cause damage, but this is an inert substance, meaning only the extremely cold temperature would present an environmental risk. Even so, lives would be lost in this hypothetical scenario due to the asphyxiating effects of the liquid as it expanded and regained its gaseous form. And this is only an example of a minor leak. Without a carefully regimented inspection strategy, vessels would leak flammable liquids or toxic acids, fluids that would flash and transition into a dangerous cloud of poisonous fumes.

As the dangers of this catastrophic scenario are known intimately by manufacturing engineers and installers alike, manufacturing science is both morally and lawfully compelled to do everything in its power to avoid such dangers. This is why maintenance is designed to partner with an inspection philosophy. Under the AS/NZS 3788 mandatory guidelines, an in-service inspection evaluates each pressure vessel in an installation for operational viability. A scheduled preventative maintenance plan reinforces the inspection mandate by using a structured approach to deterioration issues. In other words, it's not enough to spot a broken fastener or a worn seal and record the safety concern for someone else to fix on their next shift. The maintenance plan prevents safety issues by replacing potential safety weak points in a timely manner as set by the incorporated plan. Worn or apparently undamaged, these parts will be replaced.

Every pressure vessel and its associated framework is guarded by safety measures, by safety valves and redundancy systems. Lightning conductors and grounding networks accent the metal outline of the frame. Protective gear is worn, ladders are in place, and safety rails are installed everywhere. But these are active protective assets. The in-service inspection plan takes this methodical approach to the next level by attending to faults before they become major, safety-compromising problems, issues that simply can't be afforded in a pressurized environment where dangerous chemicals are contained inside welded vessels.

Contact Details

Fusion - Weld Engineering Pty Ltd
ABN 98 068 987619

1865 Frankston Flinders Road,
Hastings, VIC 3915

Ph: (03) 5909 8218

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