ASME Factor for Pressure Vessels

ASME pressure vessel

Introduction to the ASME factor of a pressure vessel

In the context of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC), when referring to the “ASME factor” for pressure vessels, it’s often about the design safety factor or the allowable stress factor. This factor represents the relationship between the material’s ultimate tensile strength (or yield strength) and the allowable stress value used in design calculations.

For many materials and applications under the ASME BPVC Section VIII (which governs the design of pressure vessels), this factor is set at:

Allowable Stress (S)=Yield Strength (or Tensile Strength)3.5Allowable Stress (S)=3.5Yield Strength (or Tensile Strength)​

So, the safety factor is typically 3.5. However, it’s crucial to note that this is a simplified representation, and the actual factor can vary based on several parameters:

Material and Temperature:

 The factor can change depending on the material used and the operating temperature. ASME BPVC Section II, Part D, provides allowable stress values for various materials at different temperatures.

Weld Joint Efficiency:

 The allowable stress can also be affected by the efficiency of the weld joints. Full penetration welds that are radiographically examined, for example, may have a higher joint efficiency compared to those that aren’t.

Division of Section VIII:

 The ASME BPVC Section VIII has multiple divisions. Division 1 is based more on design-by-rule principles and uses the 3.5 factor commonly. Division 2 (Alternative Rules) can have a more detailed design-by-analysis approach and might use different safety factors based on a more nuanced understanding of material behavior, stress concentrations, and other parameters.

Nature of Stress:

 The ASME BPVC differentiates between primary stresses(like those caused directly by pressure) and secondary stresses (like those from thermal expansion). The treatment and allowable values might differ based on the nature of the stress.

When designing a pressure vessel or any related component, it’s imperative to refer directly to the relevant sections and tables of the ASME BPVC to determine the appropriate allowable stress and associated safety factors for the specific material and conditions in question.

Fatigue Considerations:

For pressure vessels that are expected to undergo cyclic loading or unloading (e.g., pressure changes, thermal cycles), fatigue can be a significant concern. The ASME BPVC Section VIII, Division 2 provides rules and methodologies to account for fatigue. It involves determining the number of cycles the vessel will experience over its lifetime and comparing it to fatigue curves generated for the material.

Creep Considerations:

For vessels operating at high temperatures, creep (time-dependent deformation) can become a significant design constraint. ASME provides guidelines for evaluating the long-term effects of elevated temperatures on materials and ensuring that vessels can withstand these effects.

Ligament Efficiency:

When pressure vessels have multiple openings or closely spaced penetrations, the material between these openings (ligaments) becomes critical. The ASME BPVC provides rules to calculate the efficiency of these ligaments and adjust the allowable stress accordingly.

Formed Heads and Transitional Sections:

 Vessels often incorporate formed heads (like elliptical, hemispherical, or torispherical heads) and transitional sections. The ASME BPVC provides formulas and rules to determine the thickness and design of these formed components based on the type of head and the applied pressure.

External Loadings:

While internal pressure is the primary load for many vessels, external loads like wind, seismic, weight of attached equipment, and piping-induced loads can also be significant. The ASME BPVC provides guidance on evaluating and accounting for these external loads in the design and support of pressure vessels.

Bolting and Flanged Connections:

 Pressure vessels often have flanged connections secured with bolts. The design, selection, and application of these bolts are crucial for the vessel’s integrity. The ASME BPVC offers guidelines for the proper design and selection of bolts and gaskets for flanged connections.

Corrosion and Wear Allowances:

Over time, vessels can undergo corrosion or wear, which can reduce wall thickness. The ASME BPVC allows designers to add a corrosion or wear allowance to the required wall thickness to ensure that the vessel remains safe throughout its operational life.

Quality Control and Quality Assurance:

Fabrication quality is paramount for the safety of pressure vessels. The ASME BPVC mandates certain quality control and assurance measures, including material traceability, welding procedure, and welder qualifications, non-destructive examination, and hydrostatic testing.

Documentation and Certification:

 For a vessel to be stamped with the ASME “U” symbol, comprehensive documentation needs to be maintained and provided. This includes material test reports, welder qualifications, non-destructive testing reports, and more. This documentation serves as a record of the vessel’s compliance with ASME standards and provides crucial information for future inspections and maintenance.

In summary, the design and fabrication of pressure vessels according to the ASME BPVC is a multifaceted process. Every aspect, from material selection to fabrication techniques, is governed by rules aimed at ensuring the highest levels of safety and reliability. When adhered to diligently, these standards and criteria help prevent failures and the associated catastrophic consequences.

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FAQ: Understanding ASME Factors and Pressure Vessels

1. What is the ASME factor in pressure vessel design?

The ASME factor, often referred to as the “safety factor,” in pressure vessel design is a critical element defined by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). It’s a multiplier applied to the maximum allowable stress in a pressure vessel’s material, ensuring the vessel can withstand pressures beyond its normal operating conditions. This factor is crucial for ensuring safety and reliability, especially under varying operational stresses and temperatures.

2. How does the ASME factor influence the selection of materials for pressure vessels?

Material selection for pressure vessels is significantly influenced by the ASME factor. Materials must not only be suitable for the vessel’s intended use but also capable of safely handling stress levels determined by the ASME factor. This means choosing materials with appropriate strength, corrosion resistance, and durability to exceed the minimum requirements set by ASME standards, thus ensuring long-term safety and functionality.

3. Can the ASME factor vary based on the type of pressure vessel?

Yes, the ASME factor can vary depending on the type and use of the pressure vessel. Different types of vessels, such as those used for gas storage versus liquid storage, may encounter different operational stresses and temperatures. ASME codes take these variations into account, setting different safety factors for different vessel types and applications to ensure optimal safety and performance.

4. What role does the ASME factor play in pressure vessel testing and certification?

During pressure vessel testing and certification, the ASME factor plays a pivotal role. Vessels are tested under conditions that simulate the stresses they would face in real-world operations, often exceeding normal operating pressures. The ASME factor ensures that these vessels can withstand these tests without failure, which is crucial for certification under ASME standards. This process guarantees that the vessels meet the highest safety and quality benchmarks before they are put into service.

5. How do changes in ASME codes affect existing pressure vessels?

Changes in ASME codes can have significant implications for existing pressure vessels. If a code revision introduces stricter safety factors or material requirements, existing vessels may need to undergo reassessment or modification to comply with the new standards. This ensures that all pressure vessels, regardless of their manufacturing date, adhere to the latest safety and quality guidelines, thereby maintaining operational safety and integrity.


In the realm of industrial solutions, Red River emerges as a pioneer, offering a diverse range of custom-engineered products and facilities. Among our specialties is the design and production of Custom/OEM Pressure Vessels, meticulously crafted to meet individual client requirements, ensuring performance under various pressure conditions. Our expertise extends to the domain of prefabrication, where Red River leads with distinction.

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