In the oil, gas and process industry, engineers and technicians must face the problem of maintaining a hermetic seal for a variety of industrial equipment. An example is flanges, which are the most common attachment method of one pipe to another pipe or equipment. Since the parts to be jointed are both rigid, they both must be perfectly machined an aligned. They also must maintain this aligned position during changing service conditions in order to maintain a seal. This can be difficult to achieve given the nature of alloys used in equipment, the fluids to be contained, as well as process variables (such as vibration, temperature variations, wear and chemical compatibility) and cost constraints (man hour maintenance time, cost of products and downtimes).
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Gasket failures can be problematic, causing unwanted downtime, revenue loss and safety concerns. Failure analysis shows that up to 85% of all gasket failures are due to faulty user installation, though it is important to note that with proper training and installation procedures, most of these failures are preventable. ASME PCC-1 is a post-construction guideline for pressure boundary bolted flange joint assemblies, and the bulk of gasket manufacturers derive their installation procedures from this guideline. For the end user who does not have an installation procedure, it is a great resource to have; however, the book is more than 99 pages and is not suitable to carry around in the field.
To help with this, the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA), in conjunction with the European Sealing Association (ESA), have created a Gasket Installation procedures pocket book (available in nine languages on the FSA and ESA websites (fluidsealing.com, europeansealing.com) to help installers focus on the key points of proper gasket installation. Following is a summary of the six principal areas of focus in sequential order.
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Gasket blowout is the most catastrophic of gasket failures. It usually occurs with no discernable warning and
causes a sudden and significant release of internal pressure, usually accompanied with loud popping sound or whistle. Depending on the process being contained and/or the amount of stored energy at the time, the result can be fatal.
Part One of a two-part Sealing Sense series brings attention to the balance of forces present at the potential
moment of gasket blowout and provides guidance on how to protect against this type of gasket failure. Equations are provided to assist with evaluating these forces and results are presented to show that to protect against blowout, clamping force can be significantly more important than gasket tensile strength.
Part Two discusses the two most important strategies to use for applying the correct clamping force. End users control these strategies. One involves developing a bolt load solution that optimizes
the inherent strength of the BFC components. The other is following an installation procedure that ensures that the specified bolt load is reached and evenly distributed around the face of the gasket.
Click here to read Part One and Part Two of this series.