Under pressure for over 80 years

A history of Pressure Vessel Codes at BSI - Part 2

The new edition of BSI's Specification for unfired fusion welded pressure vessels, PD 5500:2012, will be published shortly. This is an appropriate time to have a look at the history of the pressure vessel codes at BSI and how they have been shaped over time. In the second part of this article, we look at the emergence of the first BSI unified pressure vessels code in the 1950s and 60s.

Many standards

By the end of the 1940’s there were many standards in force covering different types of pressure vessel. High carbon and low carbon steel cylinders and “air receivers” were covered before the war, and during war time, emergency war revisions were made to them. Post-war, standards appeared covering manganese steel and high carbon steel gas cylinders for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and ethylene.

By 1949, the industry making the greatest use of pressure vessels was the chemical sector. This included branches such as petroleum, rubber, plastic and soap.  Petroleum was operating on a very large scale, and during reviews of the requirements for pressure vessels, the special activities of this sector were an important factor.

A Unified Code

The Provisional Code BS 1500, covering fusion-welded pressure vessels for use in the chemical and allied industries, was released in November 1949. It covered a very wide field of vessels, notable types including tanks, receivers, coolers and heat exchangers. It referenced many pressure vessel standards already in force.  BS 1500:1949 was intended as a code for comment for 12 months, to be reviewed in light of observations submitted by the industry. However, it remained a Provisional Code until its first revision in 1958.

It was apparent by the 1950s that industry was always seeking more efficient ways of using standards. BSI was working to ensure that specifications were co-coordinated so that where they were common to different industries, the most economic range of suitable products would be available. In the field of pressure vessels, when BS 1500 was revised in 1958, it expanded to cover mechanical and chemical engineering as well as petroleum. 

BS 1500 Part 1 was released in the November and covered fusion welded pressure vessels for use in chemical, petroleum and allied industries. Part 2 (Alloy Steel Pressure Vessels) and Part 3 (non –ferrous Pressure Vessels) were under consideration, but as it turned out, only Part 3 appeared in 1965 and covered Aluminum. 

Greater design stresses for the chemical and petroleum industries

By the 1960s, many standards were being geared especially to help exporters.  BS 1515 was published in 1965, and related to more advanced designs for fusion-welded pressure vessels required by the chemical and petroleum industries. The 1965 standard allowed higher design stresses than those in the long-standing specification of the British market and was of considerable benefit to firms supplying export markets.  Part 1 covered Carbon and Ferritic Alloy Steels. Part 2 was not published until 1968, and related to Austenitic Stainless Steel.

Steel Codes – plates, forging, casting and bolts

A set of pressure vessel steel codes, BS 1501 to BS 1506, were published in one booklet in 1950, covering carbon and alloy steel plates, forgings, castings and bolting material. They were revised in 1958, but in 1964 were issued as separate publications. The scope of BS 1501 Part 1 was widened to relate to steels for all fired and unfired pressure vessels and entitled “Specification for Steels for Fires and Unfired pressure Vessels : Plates”.  BS 1501 Part 2 appeared in 1970, covering alloy steels and Part 3 in 1973 related to corrosion and heat-resisting steels. BS 1502 covered steel sections and bars, BS 1503 Forgings, BS 1504 castings and BS 1506 bolting. BS 1505 was never released as a standard.

Looking to the 1970s and beyond

A new BSI pressure vessels code appeared in the 1970s in loose-leaf format, replacing BS 1500 and BS 1515, and the importance of the European Commission would come to the fore as pressure vessel steel codes were replaced with European standards and a European Pressure Vessels directive was issued. These new developments will be covered in Part 3 on this article.

What’s available in the Knowledge Centre?

BSI’s Knowledge Centre can provide access to many of the withdrawn pressure container standards. Members can view withdrawn standards without charge in Chiswick, and they are available for purchase in hard copy and PDF. BSI members receive a 50% discount, free postage and can buy on account.

To find out more please contact the Knowledge Centre at: knowledgecentre@bsigroup.com or on +44 (0)20 8996 7004.

Read Part 3....

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