How to Inspect and Assess Pressure Tanks

A variety of inspections for pressure tanks and vessels are required by Federal, State and some local authorities. These include inspections undertaken during and post manufacturing phases, delivery phase and operational inspections. Further inspections are required pre and post repair and during load and offload conditions.

Unless your specific pressure tank or vessel is exempt from certain regulations, all pressure tanks and vessels are required to be inspected, with larger industrial application specific vessels being required to undergo inspections multiple times and at various points in its lifecycle. Failure to properly implement inspections, as called for under the regulations, can result in fines or worse.

Cursory and Comprehensive Inspections

Cursory inspections are typically visual inspections done by anyone, including maintenance personnel, installers and other people who are responsible for the continual operation of the pressure tank or vessel. By contrast, a comprehensive inspection is one that corresponds to all relevant authority guidelines and are done by a qualified inspector with knowledge of ASME Code Section 8. Cursory inspections are fine for identifying areas of concern based on visual clues, but should not be undertaken as a replacement for a comprehensive inspection. In effect, cursory inspections are in addition to comprehensive inspections. The only exception is at purchase, as some pressure vessels or tanks can be purchased with only a cursory inspection.

Conducting Cursory Inspections

To properly conduct a cursory inspection, all surface areas of the vessel or tank should be visually checked. This includes any connecting sections such as seals or welds, as well as any ingress or exit points, including all maintenance hatches. The things to look for are:

  • Any bending or bowing of metal that is not part of the design.
  • Any material that is discolored or appears to have been subject to undue stress.
  • Pitting of any of the surface material,
  • Rust or any oxidizing on the material
  • Welds that have protrusions or excess metal that might signify over welding or heat stress.
  • Any cracking or flaking.
  • Any hatches that do not close or seal perfectly
  • Any bent or scratched threads on inlet or exit piping connections.
  • Any signs of previous damage and subsequent repair

Remediation

Importantly, if any of the above are discovered during a cursory inspection, it does not imply that a serious issue or concern is warranted. Some of these can occur during normal operation. However, if multiple issues are found then the correct course of action would be to perform a comprehensive inspection at the earliest opportunity. Most issues discovered can be remedied via repair methodology and in some cases does not require the unit to be taken out of operation to perform said repairs. Ultimately, it is best to adopt a safety first inspection program, which is one that includes both a comprehensive and cursory inspection system.

The ASME has stringent requirements for inspections in all phases and other entities such as Federal, State and local authorities may augment these inspections with further requirements. Only a qualified and experienced manufacturer can truly and accurately inspect a pressure tank or vessel and ensure that it meets or exceeds all ASME guidelines and any ancillary rules and regulations as required. Additionally, while it might seem at first glance that these inspections are unnecessary or exceedingly rigorous, these inspections help make sure your product is of the highest quality and will perform to your specification.

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