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Journal of Pressurized Equipment and Systems 2 (2004) 41-47

Design of repair clamp for on-line elimination of leakage


from bolted flanged joint
Xin Ma a,*, Jinyang Zheng a, Zhongpei Ning b
a

Institute of Chemical Process Equipment, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310027,China


Department of Production and Technology, LTH Natural Gas & Chemical Corporation, Luzhou 646300,China

Abstract
A new method for design of repair clamp used for on-line elimination of leakage from flanged joint is presented, where a removable
inner ring is employed to compensate the gaps between the split surfaces of the clamp halves. Two independent dimensions are employed respectively to eliminate two possible leakages of the sealant in different places. The problem on unit sealing pressure around
the outside of the flange and the gap between the split surfaces of clamp is solved. The new method is applicable to eliminate leakages
in bolted flanged joint under various working condition as long as the gap between flanges is equal to or larger than 6mm. Several
practical applications in an ammonia plant with Kellogg process show that good economic benefit and satisfactory sealing were both
achieved.
Keywords: Leakage; Injecting seal in service; Flanged joint; Repair clamp.

1. Introduction
Leakages at various levels are frequently found in
welding joints, sealing devices and even shells (main
body) of pressure vessels, piping and valves in process
plant, generally due to corroding, flushing of internal
working substance, fluctuation of service load, and so
on. If the leakage develops to some extent without being eliminated in time, it would result in serious problems such as environments pollution, loss of working
substance, waste of energy, toxicosis, explosion, etc.
The most common method is to replace the disabled
gasket in flanged joint, or change the defective valves
or pipe tract, or mend the perforation or crack in the
welding joint. However, doing these usually means
shutting down the production system, with consequent
great economic losses to the process plant for the continuity of the process industry. Moreover, new leakages
would often be provoked by fluctuations of pressure
load and thermal load when the production system is
shut down and started again. It is, therefore, very important to eliminate leakage on-line in time so that high
load operation of the process production with safety,
economic efficiency and long production time would
be maintained.
It is effective to deal with some leakages on-line by
using welding, plugging or gluing [1] for certain operating condition and working substance, and full encirclements sleeves can also be employed for some perforation in the gas pipeline as well [2-3]. But these
*

Corresponding author.
E-mail address: zjumaxin@163.com (Xin Ma).

repair techniques may be invalid when the operating


pressure or operating temperature is high, or the working substance is flammable or explosive, where the
injecting seal [4] is an alternatively available.
1.1. Injecting seal in service
Injecting seal in service is widely used to eliminate
leakages of working substance in bolted flanged joint,
welding seam and shell of pressure vessels and piping
in process plants. A new seal chamber, which is used to
contain the sealant, is built over the areas where the
leakages are detected. A repair clamp is extensively
used to build the sealing chamber. The repair clamp
usually comprises two half shells, which are joined
together with plate lug, bolts and nuts. Along the
circumferential direction, each of the shells has some
through-thickness threaded holes (typically with thread
of M141.5), which are used to let the sealant into the
seal chamber and to vent the leaking working substance when the injecting seal in service are carried out.
The sealant is injected into the seal chamber with a
sealant gun (sealant syringe), which is connected with
the clamp shell in the thread hole one by one with a
connecting nut. Through the connecting nut, there is a
small plug valve that is used to let the sealant into the
seal chamber and prevent it from leaking out. The
driving force of the piston of the sealant gun comes
from oil pressure produced by an oil pump, which is
connected with the gun by a high-pressure hose. Fig. 1
shows how the injecting seal in service works. After
installing the clamp and connecting the sealant gun, the
hose, the pump, then the sealant gun is linked with one

42

Xin Ma et al. / Design of repair clamp for on-line elimination of leakage from bolted flanged joint

of threaded holes which is in the opposite direction to


the leaking point, then the sealant is injected into the
sealing chamber continuously from the sealant gun,
and the leaked working substance is vented from the
other threaded holes. As the sealing chamber is filled
out gradually with the sealant, which solidifies gradually under combined action of the temperature of the
leaked working substance and the injecting pressure,
the leaking passage of the working substance is
blocked little by little, and the plug valves are closed
one by one when the injected sealant arrives. When all
the plug valves are closed and the leaking passage is
blocked tightly with the solidified sealant, the leakage
will be eliminated completely finally. The possibility
of eliminating the leakage of working substance
on-line without shutting down the production system is
probably the unique merit of injecting seal in service
over other competing techniques mentioned above.
1.2. Problems with repair clamp over flanged joint
The main reasons for leakages in bolted flanged
joint are the defected gasket and damaged sealing face,
due to fluctuation of the operating pressure or initial
tiny flaws, where initial minute leakage will soon develop into ejecting heavily resulted from highly speed
attack of the working substance, especially in operating
condition where high temperature and high pressure
are both present.
Caulking, steel strip and repair clamp can all be used
in the injecting seal in service to eliminate the leakage
in the bolted flanged joints [4]. The first two methods
are applicable only for leakages in operating condition
of low pressure and small gap between flanges, while
the third one, i.e., the repair clamp, is almost applicable
for leakages in all kinds of operating condition. On

account of extensive using of the repair clamp, it is


important to design an appropriate repair clamp in order to carry out injecting seal in service effectively.
Spot repair on-line of leakage in the bolted flanged
joint is usually a hard job, due to short time, the formidable natural conditions and the tough work environment. How to design a repair clamp over bolted
flanged joint properly seems, therefore, to be a subtle
work even for experienced engineers, especially in
operating conditions where high temperature and high
pressure are both present or the leaking working substance is explosive or flammable.
1.3. Previous work
Previous work in this field focused mainly on following: analysis and experimental validation of the
additional force of bolts caused in bolted flanged joint
when the injecting seal was carried out [5], and how to
design a repair clamp over bolted flanged joint with
reasonable structure under severe operating conditions
[6-8]. To ensure safety of bolts, Zhao [5] advised the
initial injecting pressure should not be larger than 6.0
MPa, and the final injecting pressure, 10.0 MPa. Hu [8]
and other researchers [1,4] developed 3 kinds of reinforced repair clamp over bolted flanged joint:
. Repair clamp with caulking, in which a convex
is designed along the inner side of the clamp, and large
plastic deformation is produced along the edges of both
flanges by caulking in order that the edge of the flange
can contact tightly with the convex (see Fig. 2 for detail). The flanges should be made of plastic materials
or this kind of repair clamp will fail. On the other hand,
it will be a tough job to strike the edges when the
flanges are large.

bolted flanged joint

connecting nut and plug valve

sealant gun
(sealant syringe)

repair clamp shell


high pressure hose

seal chamber

oil pump

Fig. 1. Schematics of how a repair clamp over bolted flanged joint in injecting seal works.

Journal of Pressurized Equipment and Systems 2 (2004) 41-47

flange
the convex of
the repair clamp
gasket

repair clamp
caulked edge of
the flanged joint

43

or leaking substance which is difficult to burn or explode, or the leakage is not so heavy.
1.4. Present study
The object of the present study is to find out a new
structure of the repair clamp over bolted flanged joint
so as to eliminate leakage in severe operating conditions more easily and reliably where high temperature
and high pressure are both present, the leaking working
substance is explosive or flammable, or serious leakage
may occur, and to validate the usefulness and effectivity of this structure by applications in engineering.

Fig. 2. Repair clamp with caulking.

2. The new method for design of repair clamp

bolted flanged joint


copper wire

injecting hole
repair clamp
Fig. 3. Repair clamp with copper wire.
bolted flanged joint
thin steel strip

the gap c
between flanges

repair clamp
soft stuffing

Fig. 4. Repair clamp with soft stuffing.

. Repair clamp with copper wire which is shown


in Fig. 3. Two slots are designed in the clamp, and four
sections of copper wire are put into the slots individually. The plastic deformation of the copper wire results
from the bolt force, and a sealant-tight chamber is built
with the gap of the flanges, the clamp and the deformed copper wire.
. Repair clamp with soft stuffing, in which a thin
steel strip and some soft stuffing such as asbestos rope
are placed in the slots instead of the copper wire (Fig.
4). The steel strip and soft stuffing are pushed by the
pressurized sealant, which is injected into gap between
the thin steel strip and the slot with the sealant gun so
that the soft stuffing can contact tightly with outside
edges of the flanges, thus the seal chamber is built.
These repair clamps are effective for certain cases,
which mainly include low or medium working pressure,

2.1. Difficulty the conventional method faced with


Experience in engineering shows that the key of injecting seal in service is how to build a sealant-tight
chamber properly and select suitable sealant. In practice, the sealant can be selected according to the leaking substance and its temperature and pressure. Certainly, requirements on liquidity, stability and time of
solidification for the sealant should all be considered as
well. On the other hand, the seal chamber needs to
contain the sealant and prevent it from escaping under
pressure of leaking substance and injecting pressure
before the sealant solidified. Hence, it is important for
the seal chamber that certain strength, stiffness and
especially, effective sealant-tightness, which is also the
most important for the repair clamp, should all be satisfied at the same time.
To ensure the sealant-tightness of the repair clamp,
two gaps are crucial (see Fig. 5). One is the radial gap
d between outer surface of the flange and inner surface
of the repair clamp; the other is the gap t between
clamp halves. When the pressure of the leaking substance is low, for example, Pw 1.6 MPa, the satisfying gaps (as a matter of experience from engineering,
no gap should be larger than 0.5mm in this case) can
be arrived by designing the repair clamp precisely or
using one of the repair clamps mentioned in 1.3. But
when the pressure of the leaking working substance is
higher, for example, Pw 2.5 MPa, especially when
Pw 10.0 MPa, and severe leakage occurs at the same
time, even a very minute gap will result in that the
sealant is forced out along the gap t or d, thus the injecting seal in service fails. To solve this problem, soft
stuffing materials mentioned in 1.3 can be used to
eliminate the radial gap d, and the gap t should be decreased to some extent as small as possible (according
to our experience from engineering, usually the gap t
should not be larger than 0.05 mm in the case
Pw 10.0 MPa). The stuffing corresponds to the gasket
in bolted flanged joint; therefore, enough unit pressure
in radial direction between the flanges and the stuffing
is needed, just as what the gasket in a bolted flanged

44

Xin Ma et al. / Design of repair clamp for on-line elimination of leakage from bolted flanged joint

joint does, to prevent the sealant from being forced out


along the axial direction at out circle surface of the
flange. The unit pressure can be provided through bolts
force of the repair clamp as long as the gap t>0, i.e. the
split surfaces of the repair clamp does not contact each
other tightly. But when doing this, another difficulty
arises: how can we ensure enough radial unit pressure
between the flange and the stuffing and a gap t minute
enough at the same time just with a single dimensionthe proper inner diameter of the repair clamp.
Usually, the radial unit sealing pressure between the
flange and the stuffing is still low but difficult to be
increased, because the split surfaces of the repair
clamps have contacted each other tightly (the contact
pressure between the split surfaces of the clamp other
than the radial unit pressure between the flange and the
stuffing will be increased if the bolts force is increased
later in this case), thus the sealant would be forced out
along the circumferential surface of the flange if the
injecting seal were carried out; or the radial unit pressure between the flange and the stuffing has been large
enough and the stuffing material almost can not be
compressed any more, while the gap t between the split
surfaces of the repair clamp is still large, as would lead
to that the sealant be forced out from the gap t. Both of
the above cases would result in failure of injecting seal
in service.
2.2. New method for design of repair clamp over
bolted flanged joint
The structure of the repair clamp can be changed
according to the above analysis. That is, two dimensions can be employed to meet the different requirements of the leak-tightness of the sealant in repair
clamp in two different locations. A new design method
on repair clamp over bolted flanged joint as follows
was developed.
(1) Only the radial unit pressure between the flange
and the stuffing is taken into account when design a
repair clamp, and two slots where stuffing material is
put can be grooved in the inner side of the repair clamp.
With the bolts at the plate lug, the adequate radial unit
pressure between the flange and the stuffing can be
achieved. Thus possible leakage of the sealant along
the circumferential surface of the flange can be prevented. As to the gap t between the split surfaces of the
repair clamp, it may be controlled at 0.5~5 mm loosely.
(2) An inner ring which is split into two halves is
set at the inner side of the repair clamp and in the gap
of bolted flanged joint as well (Fig. 6). The split surfaces of the half ring are stagger with those of the half
shell of the clamp approximately in a 90 angle, and
the thickness B of internal ring is designed strictly. The
thickness B equals to the gap of the flanged joint, and
the deviation should be not larger than 0.05 mm. This
can be archived easily.
(3) A tongue (an inner convex, see Fig. 7) can be

employed along the inside surface of the repair clamp


as an alternative. In this case, the tongue should be
removed partly near the split surface of the clamp and
a section of the inner ring, which is taken from that
designed as mentioned above in (2) and is also used to
prevent the sealant from being forcing out near the
split surfaces of the clamp, should be employed just at
the breach of the tongue instead of an inner ring half in
(2). See Fig. 7 for detail. The tongue can be used as a
facility in position finding when the repair clamp is
being mounted on the leaking bolted flanged joint.
In this new method, the potential possible leakages
of the sealant when injecting seal is carried out are
prevented by following means: on the one hand, possible leak passage 1 (see Fig. 5) is prevented through
adequate radial unit pressure between the flange and
the stuffing. The radial unit pressure is supplied by
bolts force of the repair clamp, and the bolt force can
be ensured through a suitable gap t (about 0.5~5 mm,
which could be attained easily), which would be satisfied only by a proper inner diameter Di of the clamp. In
other words, the diameter Di is only used to get adequate radial unit pressure. On the other hand, possible
leak passage 2 is prevented through strictly designed
inner ring other than inner diameter Di in traditional
methods. Therefore, the requirement for the gap t, as
mentioned above, can be very low in this new structure.
The effect of the inner ring, which almost contact with
both flanges tightly, is similar to that of labyrinth gland:
increase the fluid resistance if the sealant were leaking
out. The inner ring, the split surfaces of which are
staggered with those of the clamp, can compensate the
large gap t between the split surfaces of the clamp.
Moreover, an additional differential pressure of the
flowing sealant would be caused across the inner ring,
as can be helpful for the soft stuffing to seal flowing
sealant. That is to say, possible leakage 1 is prevented
finally through a proper inner diameter Di of the repair
clamp, while possible leakage 2 is prevented finally
through a suitable thickness B of the inner ring. Two
independent dimensions Di and B are employed respectively to eliminate two possible leakage of the
sealant in different place. Therefore, the potential
leakages of the sealant would be prevented completely
as a result, and design of a repair clamp over bolted
flanged joint would be an easy job as well.
2.3. Scope of application
According to the fundamentals of the new method, it
is important for a bolted flanged joint to have a gap C
which is wide enough to put in an inner ring, and the
clearance between the inner ring and the two flanges
should be as small as possible. The smaller the clearance is, the better the effect of the injecting seal in service would be. If the inner ring could contact tightly
with both of the two flanges, the best sealing would be
archived.

Journal of Pressurized Equipment and Systems 2 (2004) 41-47

the gap d between flange and repair clamp


(the possible leak passage 1)

45

blind flange
the bolts of the flanged joint

the bolts of
repair clamp

the gap t between split surfaces of


repair clamp
(the possible leak passage 2)

repair clamp

Fig. 5. Schematics of the gaps (d and t) and possible leak passages.

the soft stuffing in the repair clamp

the inner ring halves

bolted flanged joint

soft stuffing

the plate lug welded to the


repair clamp

one of injecting holes


in the repair clamp

the gap t between the split surfaces


of the repair clamp

one of through-thickness holes


in the inner ring

the gap between inner ring halves

(a)

repair clamp
inner ring

(b)

(a) The repair clamp, the inner ring halves and the soft stuffing. (b) A flanged joint mounted with a repair clamp with inner ring.
Fig. 6. How a repair clamp with inner ring works.

partial inner ring


tongue
(inner convex)

a leaking flanged joint should be equal to or larger than


6 mm to employ this method with good sealing result.
This gap size would be satisfied in most cases, that is,
the new method could be applied when a leaking
bolted flanged joint is composed of a pair of raised
face flanges, ring joint flanges, or some of tongued and
grooved flanges, or some of Male & Female flanges.

bolts in flanged joint

3. Validation in practical engineering

Fig. 7. Repair clamp with partial inner ring.

As for the thickness of the inner ring, it should not


be thinner than 6mm according to our experience in
engineering. It would be difficult to machine an inner
ring if it is too thin, for there are some radial
through-thickness holes in the inner ring to let the
sealant in. Therefore, the gap C between the flanges of

Dozens of repair clamps which were designed according to the new method mentioned above have been
used successfully to eliminate leakages in bolted
flanged joints of various working substances, operating
conditions and different levels of leakage occurred in
actual production of process plants. The results are all
satisfactory. Here are some examples in a synthesis
ammonia plant with Kellogg process with a product of
300,000 tons per year in LTH Natural Gas & Chemical
Corporation, Luzhou, Sichuan province:

46

Xin Ma et al. / Design of repair clamp for on-line elimination of leakage from bolted flanged joint

. A heavy leakage occurred in the bolted flanged


joint of the outlet check valve of 114-Cwhich is an
important heat-exchanger in the plant. The leaking substance is boiler feed water with a high pressure of 10.5
MPa at 314 . The diameter of the valve cap, i.e., a
blind flange, is about 350 mm, and the gap C between
the flanges of the valve cap and the valve body is 8.0
mm. In this case, a repair clamp with a partial inner
ring was employed (see Fig. 7). The gap t between the
split surfaces of the clamp was 1.0 mm after the repair
clamp was mounted on the leaking bolted flanged joint,
while the leakage was eliminated successfully after the
sealant was injected into the seal chamber with a labor
of 3 hours. Good sealing had been remained till the
major repairs of the synthesis ammonia installation
about a year later, during which several large fluctuations of pressure and temperature load were occurred,
due to shutting down and restarting of the installation.
. A severe leakage occurred in the bolted flanged
joint of the inlet nozzle of 101-C, i.e., the primary
waste heat boiler, which is one of critical equipments in
the Kellogg process. The working substance is boiler
water with a high pressure of 10.5 MPa at 314 . The
diameter of the flange is about 600 mm, and the measured gap C between the flanges was 11.3 mm, and the
eccentricity, 3.0 mm. A repair clamp with inner ring

was employed in this case. Considering that the leakage


is very large and severe, dual sealing slot, between
which the sealant would be injected in so that a
pre-sealing could be carried out, were employed at the
each side of the repair clamp (see Fig. 8 for detail), and
many comb dent were also employed on the end faces
of the inner ring where the effect of labyrinth seal
would be more strong (see Fig. 9 for detail). The gap t
between the split surfaces of the repair clamp was 3.5
mm after the repair clamp was mounted, but the leakage was also cleared up successfully with a labor about
8 hours.
. A leakage occurred in the bolted flanged joint of
a reformer tube of 101-B, i.e., the primary converter,
which is also one of crucial equipments in the Kellogg
process. The working substance is the primary reformed gas (which is explosive and flammable) with a
pressure of 2.2 MPa and a high temperature of 780 .
The diameter of the blind flange is about 200 mm, and
the measured gap C between the flanges was 11.0 mm.
A repair clamp with inner ring was employed in this
case. The gap t between the split surfaces of the clamp
was 1.0 mm after the repair clamp was mounted, while
the leakage was eliminated successfully with a labor
about 1.5 hour.

slots used to hold soft stuffing

chambers for pre-sealing

half shell of
repair clamp

e=3.0

injecting holes

plate lug of repair clamp

Fig. 8. The repair clamp employed over the bolted flanged joint of inlet nozzle of 101-C.

r0.3

90

0.1

1.5

comb dents of the inner ring

0.75

injecting hole

Fig. 9. The inner ring of the repair clamp in 101-C.

Journal of Pressurized Equipment and Systems 2 (2004) 53-59

4. Conclusions
A new method for design of repair clamp over
bolted flanged joint was developed, where a removable
inner ring is employed to compensate the gaps t between split surfaces of the clamp halves, and two independent dimensions Di and B are employed respectively to eliminate two possible leakage of the sealant
in different place. The problem on unit sealing pressure
around the outside of the flange and the gap between
the split surfaces of clamp is solved. The scope of application of the new method is comprehensive. It is
applicable to eliminate leakages in bolted flanged joint
which might be composed of a pair of raised face
flanges, ring joint flanges, or some of tongued and
grooved flanges, or some of M&F flanges as long as
the gap C between the flanges is no less than 6mm.
The engineering applications in an ammonia plant with
Kellogg process shows that good economic benefit and
satisfactory sealing are both achieved by using this
method.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Hui Zhou, a senior

engineer in department of production in LTH, for his


valuable contributions to this work.
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