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Following a fracture mechanics “fitness-for-purpose” analysis of petroleum industry cold service pressure vessels, using the British Standard PD 6493, it was realized that an analogous approach could be used for the failure analysis of a similar pressure vessel dome which had failed in service some years previously. The failed pressure vessel, with a diam of 2.5 m and several meters tall, had been made of 12 mm thick IZETT steel plate of the same type and heat treatment as used in the earlier fitness-for-purpose already measured. Examination of the fracture surfaces suggested, from fatigue striations manifested by SEM, that the vessel was subject to significant fatigue cracking, which was probably corrosion assisted. From COD measurements at the operating temperature of -130 deg C (-202 deg F), and a finite stress analysis, a fracture mechanics evaluation using BS PD6493 yielded realistic critical flaw sizes (in the range 51 to 150 mm). These sizes were consistent with the limited fracture surface observations and such flaws could well have been present in the vessel dome prior to catastrophic failure. For similar pressure vessels, an inspection program based on a leak-before-break philosophy was consequently regarded as acceptable.

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