Types of Pressure Vessel Stress

welding pressure vessels

Introduction to the different types of pressure vessel stress

Pressure pots are like the tough guys of the industrial world, dealing with all sorts of pressures, both inside and out. Getting the lowdown on the different pressures they face is key to keeping them strong and in the game. Here’s the scoop on the main pressures these bad boys tackle:

Circumferential Stress, a.k.a. The Squeeze Play:

  • Imagine the pressure of trying to pop the vessel open like a soda can. That’s the hoop stress, doing its thing around the vessel, usually the top dog of stresses in a cylinder-shaped pressure pot when it’s under internal pressure.

Longitudinal or Axial Stress, The Stretch:

  • This one runs from top to bottom. In a skinny-walled cylinder under pressure, it’s usually playing second fiddle, about half as intense as the hoop stress.

Radial Stress, The Innie:

  • Pushing inward from outside to inside. But for the thin-walled crew, it’s like a whisper compared to the shout of hoop and longitudinal stresses.

Thermal Stress, The Hot & Cold:

  • Throw in some temperature swings, and you’ve got thermal stress causing the vessel to expand and contract differently in parts, adding more drama to the mix with the internal pressure.

Stress Concentration, The Drama Queen:

  • This happens when you’ve got sudden changes in shape or design, like nozzles or attachments, making some areas more stressed than others.

Bending Stress, The Lean:

  • Comes from outside loads, wonky installation, or uneven support. Long, slim vessels need to watch out for this curveball, which can throw them off balance.

Vibrational or Dynamic Stress, The Shaker:

  • Think of vibrations from machines, flow-induced vibes, or other external vibes. Over time, these can cause cracks from too much shaking.

Compressive Stress, The Squeeze:

  • Although pressure vessels usually deal with tension from inside pressures, they can also face a squeeze, especially from outside pressures or from shrinking in the cold.

Fatigue Stress, The Tired Out:

  • All about the repeat offense – cycling pressures or temperatures can cause small damages that add up, leading to cracks from being overworked.

Corrosion-Induced Stress, The Eater:

  • Corrosion can thin out areas, leading to more stress. Plus, mix in tension with a corrosive environment, and you’ve got a recipe for stress corrosion cracking.

Residual Stress, The Leftover:

  • These are the stresses that stick around after manufacturing or welding. If they’re not chilled out properly, like through post-weld heat treatment, they can mess with the vessel’s vibe.

Why Stress Analysis is a Big Deal:

  • Safety First: Pressure vessels have to handle a lot, and a failure could be disastrous, leading to injuries, property damage, or worse. Making sure they can deal with all possible stresses is crucial for keeping things safe.
  • Efficiency = Savings: A vessel designed to handle its stresses well needs less fix-up and lasts longer, saving cash over time.
  • Playing by the Rules: Following standards set by big names like the ASME is not just smart; it’s often the law, ensuring vessels are up to snuff on handling stress.

The Manufacturer's Playbook:

  • Choosing the Right Stuff: Selecting the best material based on what the vessel will face, from the environment to what it’s holding, is step one.
  • Designing to Dodge Stress: Using tools like Finite Element Analysis (FEA) helps in tweaking the design to handle all stresses like a champ.
  • Smart Building Moves: The way a vessel is put together, especially with welding, can introduce stress points. Skilled welding and treatments post-weld can smooth these out.
  • Testing, Testing: Before a vessel hits the field, it’s put through the wringer with tests like hydrostatic and non-destructive testing to catch any flaws.

Keeping It Real on the Field:

Even after a vessel is out there doing its thing, keeping an eye on it with inspections and maintenance is key to catching and fixing any issues, from wear and tear to damage, ensuring it keeps doing its job safely and effectively.

In essence, understanding and managing the various stresses on pressure vessels is crucial from the drawing board to the field, ensuring they perform safely and efficiently throughout their life in the industrial world.

Need a reliable partner?

Red River specializes in the design and manufacturing of pressure vessels. We also fabricate related items such as prefabricated spools and skid packages.

Reach Out to us today and experience the Red River difference. Where American Made and American Values come together, we care more.

FAQ: Understanding Different Types of Pressure Vessel Stress

1. What are the primary types of stress encountered in pressure vessels?

Pressure vessels are subjected to various types of stress, primarily categorized into three groups: membrane stress, bending stress, and peak stress. Membrane stress occurs uniformly over the thickness of the vessel wall, typically caused by internal pressure. Bending stress is due to loads that cause the vessel to bend, such as weight and external forces. Peak stress is localized and occurs at points of discontinuity like nozzles or junctions where different stresses concentrate.

2. How does thermal stress impact pressure vessels?

Thermal stress in pressure vessels arises due to temperature gradients within the vessel material or between the vessel and its contents. When different parts of the vessel expand or contract at different rates due to temperature changes, it creates stress. This is particularly critical in vessels undergoing rapid temperature changes or those operating at high temperatures, as it can lead to material fatigue or failure if not properly managed.

3. Can corrosion lead to stress in pressure vessels?

Yes, corrosion can significantly contribute to stress in pressure vessels. Corrosive environments can weaken the vessel material, leading to a reduction in thickness and, consequently, an increase in stress due to internal pressure. Pitting corrosion, in particular, can lead to stress concentration points, increasing the risk of crack initiation and propagation.

4. What role does fatigue play in the stress of pressure vessels?

Fatigue stress is a critical concern in pressure vessels, especially those subjected to cyclic loading conditions. Repeated application of stress, even if it’s below the material’s yield strength, can lead to the gradual development of cracks and eventual failure. This is why understanding the fatigue life of the material and the operational cycles of the vessel is essential in design and maintenance.

5. How do design features influence stress distribution in pressure vessels?

The design of a pressure vessel significantly influences how stress is distributed across its structure. Features like shape, size, and the presence of discontinuities (like nozzles, joints, or changes in thickness) can create areas of stress concentration. For instance, spherical vessels typically experience more uniform stress distribution compared to cylindrical ones. Similarly, the placement and design of reinforcements around openings can mitigate stress concentration effects.


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.

The company excels in creating prefabricated facilities, modules, and packages, reinforcing its stance as a forerunner in innovation and quality. This proficiency is further mirrored in their Modular Skids offering, where they provide an array of Modular Fabricated Skid Packages and Packaged equipment. Each piece is tailored to client specifications, underlining their commitment to delivering precision and excellence in every project they undertake.

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