Pressure Vessels: A Guide to Understanding How They Work

Pressure vessels help keep liquids, gases, and vapors at their required pressure settings (for the applications they’re needed for). Of course, pressure vessels come in different forms, and these variations in design affect the contents they store. This post will examine how pressure vessels work, how they differ, and which ones work best for specific situations.

What are pressure vessels, and how they work

The purpose of pressure vessels is to store and transmit various substances that are under pressure. These substances may include gases, vapours, or liquids. Regardless of the substance, these vessels keep compounds at an ideal pressure that differs from outside forces. The typical use of pressure vessels is to facilitate steam boilers or to store compounds such as diesel or petrol.

Pressure vehicles typically use direct or indirect heat sources to maintain pressure. The vessel, in turn, exerts pressure equally in all directions. Carbon steel and stainless steel are the two most common materials used for pressure vessels.

Types of pressure vessels

There are several pressure vessels, but most fall into two main categories. The first category of pressure vessels is based on purpose. These vessels serve a particular industrial application, and manufacturers build them to withstand the demands of these functions.

The second category of pressure vessels is based on geometry. The shape of a pressure vessel can also affect the efficiency of specific applications because certain shapes alter the distribution of substances in a tank. That can have effects on temperature and pressure.

Pressure vessels built for specific purposes

  • Storage vessels – Typically made for the primary purpose of holding liquids and gases.
  • Heat exchangers – Used to transfer heat between two or more fluids.
  • Process vessels – Pressure vessels used to facilitate industrial processes ranging from distillation to mass separation.

Pressure vessels classified by geometry

  • Spherical vessels – Pressure vessels built with a spherical shape and typically used to store high-pressure fluids due to their increased structural integrity.
  • Cylindrical vessels – Pressure vessels built with a cylindrical shape and used for their versatility and affordability.

Selecting materials/considerations

Choosing a suitable pressure vessel based on purpose and shape is crucial, but so is your choice of material. Not every compound can withstand the same conditions. Ultimately, you want the material in your vessel to remain structurally sound under all circumstances.

For example, if the liquid you’re housing is corrosive, the material in your tank should have high corrosion resistance. Or, if the industrial process itself involves intense pressure, the material should have enough strength to withstand it. Of course, some materials are easier to maintain and afford, and you should also consider these factors.

  • Carbon steel – Used for a wide range of applications due to its high tensile strength and thin wall density.
  • Stainless steel – Ideal for its high resistance to corrosion, chemical acidity and weathering, as well as its high tensile strength and thin wall density.
  • Hastelloy – A synthetic alloy that exhibits excellent resistance to corrosion, oxidizing, cracking and high temperatures.
  • Nickel Alloys – Suitable for various applications, offering significant protection against corrosion, thermal expansion, and weathering.
  • Aluminum – Advantageous for its high strength yet lightweight composition.
  • Titanium – Possesses a similar strength and wall thickness to carbon and stainless steel, along with excellent thermal conductivity and corrosion resistance, and is non-toxic.

Of course, these materials are advantageous or disadvantageous depending on the industrial application. No right or wrong material fits all industries – only what’s suitable (or not) for your business need.

Choosing the suitable pressure vessels for your industry

Identifying the best pressure vessel for your industry and business may take time and effort. Decision-makers must understand the nuances and implications of particular processes to choose a vessel to facilitate them.

Of course, this can get tricky when deciding which vessel to buy among an array of options. Here at Wattco, our representatives can help you find the exact pressure vessel needed for the application you are trying to maximize. We also provide a wide range of pressure vessels, including those used in the oil and petrochemical industries.         

Get in touch with a Wattco representative to help determine your application’s best type of pressure vessel.