Over the years, the FSA Gasket Division has provided insights into many specific sealing and gasket issues. Even with the educational effort on the gasket itself, chances are that end-users of gaskets will be confronted at some point with a bolted flange connection that leaks. When this happens, those involved will usually still consider the gasket as the probable cause of the leakage. So it continues important to share the knowledge and experience of the gasket material manufacturers to help users understand how other factors related to the gasket, but not the gasket itself, may contribute to the sealing difficulties they face. The experience of most gasket material manufacturers suggests that a very high percentage of bolted flange connections that leak (perhaps 75 to 85 percent) do so as a result of bolted flange connection issues other than the gasket itself. These factors usually relate to installation and assembly problems and limitations. A bolted flange connection is a complex combination of many factors. All these various elements are interrelated so depend upon one another to achieve a successful seal.
The critical nature of installation and assembly has been recognized for many years but only relatively recently have best practices been compiled. This was accomplished with publication of the ASME PCC-1-2000 “Guidelines for Pressure Boundary Bolted Flange Joint Assembly.” An update to this document, PCC-1-2013, recently has been published with focus on developing standard qualifications and requirements for the training and certification of flange assemblers.
Some of the most frequent issues dealing with the installation of a gasket and the assembly of a flange include:
- Under loading of the Gasket
- Uneven Compression of the Gasket
- Application of a used gasket
- Poor torque/load control of fastener installations
- Lack of standard proper installation procedures for outside contractors
The gasket is but one of many reasons a bolted flange joint can leak. Even when all the complex inter-related components work in perfect harmony, the single most important factor leading to success or failure will be attention given to proper installation and assembly procedures by the craftsman installing the gasket. If done properly, the assembly will remain leak-free for the target life expectancy.