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ASME Sec VIII the most common code used

for designing pressure vessels in Oil & Gas.

We are all aware of the ASME Sec VIII, as an international Code for designing pressure vessels,
but have we ever thought that despite the code being not mandatory why it is a common trend in Oil
and Gas. If we look up in history of incidents that led to safety hassles, in most cases ‘Improper
design’ caused unknown pressure differential that was dangerous and led to fatal consequences.
Considering these impacts in the past, many associations developed guidelines to design pressure
vessels. Some guidelines are followed internationally and some are followed country wise. These
guidelines are termed as Codes and Standards.

Amongst the available codes (ASME Sec VIII, PD 5500, EN 13445 3, IS 2825) ASME is the most
favored code in the Oil & Gas Industry.
The reason for such universal acceptance of ASME Sec VIII is essentially due to the following
 ASME Sec VIII is one of the safest code and the safety margin is also high compared to other
design codes.
 ASME codes are updated every year based on the feedback received from the users and based on
current industry scenario.
 ASME being the largest committee for codes also ensures better and reliable experience.
Interpretation of any code is always a complicated issue for engineers wherein the support
provided by ASME through prompt replies helps the engineers to understand the technical aspect
and expedites the engineering process.
Additional Information regarding Pressure Vessels & ASME Sec VIII
Pressure Vessel: A pressure vessel is a closed container designed to hold gases or liquids at a
pressure substantially different from the ambient pressure.

Pressure ranges in ASME Sec VIII code:

Pressure range starts from 15 PSI to 3000 PSI can be designed as per ASME Sec VIII Division 1.
Pressure range starts from 3000 PSI to 10,000 PSI can be designed as per ASME Sec VIII Division
2. Pressure range over 10,000 PSI can be designed by ASME Sec VIII Division 3
ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) Stamps – Ready Reckoner
 A – Field Assembly of Power Boiler
 E – Electric Boilers
 H – Heating Boilers, steel plate or cast iron sectional
 HV – Heating Boiler safety valve
 HIW – Lined portable water heaters
 M – Miniatures Boilers
 N – Nuclear power plant components
 NPT – Nuclear power plant component particles
 NA – Nuclear power plant installation/Assembly
 NV – Nuclear power plant safety valves
 PP – Pressure piping
 RP – Reinforced plastic pressure vessels
 RTP – Reinforced Thermoset plastic corrosion resistant equipment
 S – Power boilers
 U1, U2, U3 – Pressure vessels
 UD – Rupture disc devices
 UM – Miniature Pressure vessels
 UV3 – High pressure vessel safety valves
 V – Boiler safety valve
Important Fact
The ASME Code Section 8 is the construction code for pressure vessel and covers
design, manufacturing and pressure vessel inspection and testing in the
manufacturing shop.

This Code section addresses the mandatory requirements, specific prohibitions, and
non-mandatory guidance for Pressure Vessel Materials, design, fabrication,
examination, inspection, testing, certification, and pressure relief.

In this article you will learn about the different subsections and guidelines for the
use and application of this code.

For ASME Code Section 8 scope and boundaries, review the Pressure Vessel
Definition article.


Pressure Vessel Definition

The Pressure Vessel Definition article provides you the definition and boundaries
of pressure vessel based API code and ASME Code.

Based on the ASME Code Section VIII, pressure vessels are containers for the
containment of pressure, either internal or external.

This pressure may be obtained from an external source or by the application of

heat from a direct or indirect source, or any combination thereof.

The ASME Code is a construction code for pressure vessels and contains
mandatory requirements, specific prohibitions and non-mandatory guidance for
pressure vessel materials, design, fabrication, examination, inspection, testing, and

Pressure Vessel Definition - Scope

These scopes are based ASME Code Sec VIII Div 1

 The vessel with maximum allowable working pressure(MAWP) higher than

15 psi

 Inside diameter to be higher than 152 mm

 No piping or piping component

 No rotating or reciprocating Equipment

 Not Water Vessel up to 300psi or 210°F

 Not within the scope of other Sections

 Also for gas fired double shell heat exchangers < 50 psi

 Not Steam Boilers with direct firing

 Not for Human Occupancy (PVHO)


 The welding end of the first circumferential joint for welded connections

 The first threaded joint for screwed connections

 The face of the first flange for bolted, flanged connections

 The first sealing surface for proprietary connections or fittings

 Non pressure parts welded directly to a pressure retaining surface

 Pressure retaining covers

 Pressure relief devices

What is API Code Definition from Pressure Vessel?

Contrary of ASME Code Sec VIII, which was developed for construction, the API
STD 510 covers the in-service inspection, repair, alteration, and rerating activities
for pressure vessels.

This inspection code applies to all refining and chemical process vessels that have
been placed in service.

What is the API STD 510 coverage?

 Vessels constructed in accordance with an applicable construction code

 Vessels constructed without a construction code (non-code)—A vessel not

fabricated to a recognized construction code and meeting no known
recognized standard

 Vessels constructed and approved as jurisdictionally special based upon

jurisdiction acceptance of particular design, fabrication, inspection, testing,
and installation

 Non-standard vessels—A vessel fabricated to a recognized construction

code but has lost its nameplate or stamping.

You may know ASME Code Section 8 has three divisions. Division 1 covers
pressure up to 3000 psi, Division 2 has an alternative rule and covers up to 10,000
psi and Division 3 can be used for pressure higher than 10,000 psi.

Hierarchy of Standard

1. Law and Regulation at Location of Installation

Mandatory application of ASME pressure vessel code is determined by rule and

regulation at location of installation.

For example, if you are living in the state of Minnesota, the application of ASME
Code for construction and stamping is mandatory in your location, but if you are
living in the state of South Carolina, it is not mandatory.

2. ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code

The next item in this hierarchy is ASME Code itself; the ASME Code generally is
divided into three groups as following:

Group 1: Construction Codes

Some of them are: Section VIII for pressure vessel, Section I for Power Boiler,
section III for Nuclear Power Plant and Section IV for heating Boiler

Group 2: Reference Codes

These are the codes which are referenced from construction codes as explained in
group 1.

The ASME Section IX for welding and Section V for Non Destructive Testing are
in this Group.

For example, ASME Code section VIII for welding requirement such as WPS
(Welding Procedure Specification), PQR (Procedure Qualification Record),
Welder Performance Qualification, etc. refer you to ASME Section IX.

Group 3: In-Service Codes

These are the codes for in-service inspection after placing the equipment into

The ASME Section VI for the heating boiler and Section VII are from this group.

3. National Board Inspection Code(NBIC):

We have assigned a separate article for the NBIC, but as required for this article,
the NBIC is making certification for ASME Authorized Inspectors and is also
certifying R stamp for Repair services for stamped pressure vessels.

ASME Code Section 8 Content:

See following Fig; it shows ASME Code Section 8 Content:

This section is divided into three Subsections, Mandatory Appendices, and

Nonmandatory Appendices.
Subsection A consists of Part UG, covering the general requirements applicable to
all pressure vessels.

Subsection B covers specific requirements that are applicable to the various

methods used in the fabrication of pressure vessels.

It consists of Parts UW, UF, and UB dealing with welded, forged, and brazed
methods, respectively.

Subsection C covers specific requirements applicable to the several classes of

materials used in pressure vessel construction.

It consists of Parts UCS, UNF, UHA, UCI, UCL, UCD, UHT, ULW, and ULT
dealing with carbon and low alloy steels, nonferrous metals, high alloy steels, cast
iron, clad and lined material, cast ductile iron, ferritic steels with properties
enhanced by heat treatment, layered construction, and low temperature materials,

For example, if you need to manufacture a pressure vessel with SA 516 Gr.70
material (Carbon Steel), then you need to meet the marked items in above Fig.

Please note that ASME Code Section 8, does not provide you fabrication
tolerances except for misalignment and weld reinforcement.

For example, for nozzle orientation, projection, elevation and other required
tolerances there are no values in the code, and you may refer to pressure vessel
handbooks for such information.

Review the Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection article for such tolerances.

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection

The Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection article provides you with information
about the dimensional requirements in pressure vessel construction and pressure
vessel inspection.

You may know some fabrication tolerances have not been addressed in ASME
Code Section VIII.
So you need to refer to other sources for inspection. This article provides you the
most important dimensional inspection requirements.

The dimensional check of a pressure vessel consists of the following items:

 Mill Under tolerance of Plates and Pipes

 Tolerances for Formed Heads

 Out of Roundness of shell

 Nozzles and attachments Orientation

 Nozzles and attachments Projection

 Nozzles and attachments elevation

 Nozzles and attachments levelness

 Weld mismatch

 Weld reinforcement

Mill Under tolerance of Plates and Pipes

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Plate:

Your pressure vessel plates with 0.01 inch or 6% under tolerance, whichever is
smaller, may be used for full design pressure, instead of at the given design
thickness specified.

However, if the material specification allows greater under tolerance, then the
ordered thickness for the material should be sufficiently greater.

For example, if you have SA 516 Gr.70 plate with a 0.625 inch nominal thickness,
and the actual thickness is 0.615, it is acceptable, and you may use this plate
without any specific design consideration.

But if the same plate has an actual thickness of 0.595 inches, you need to consider
mill under tolarence in your design calculation.

This plate thickness is acceptable based on the material specification (see table in
SA 20 for thickness tolerances). We cannot reject this plate because it is in the
permissible tolerance of plate specification, but based on ASME Code SEC VIII
Div 1, you need to consider this 0.03 inches in your design calculation: e.g.
Thickness = Min Thickness + Corrosion Allowance + Mill Under tolrance

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Pipe:

Contrary to the plate material, your pipe and tube mill undertolrances need to be
taken into account for design consideration.

Pipe and tube undertolrances are almost -12.5 % of the nominal wall thickness, but
sometimes there are differences for different materials, so for any specific material,
it shall be referred to the suggested pipe or tube material specification to obtain the
exact amount of mill undertolrances.

For example, if there is a pressure vessel with nominal shell thickness of 0.5 inch,
it needs a 6” SA 106 Gr.B nozzle to be attached to the shell plate.

Assume that external loading is not a design controlling factor (is not governor), so
as our minimum, nozzle thickness will be the same as the shell thickness.

So with a consideration of -12.5%, the calculation will be: 0.5 / 0.875 = 0.571
inches. So when we refer to ASME B36.10 and select our pipe schedule it will be
SA 106 Gr.B Schedule 160.
Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Tolerances for Formed Head:

You may know that there is a specific rule for dimensional checking of formed
heads, based the fact that the UG-81 inner surface shall not deviate outside of the
specified shape more than 11⁄4% of D and inside the shape more than 5⁄8%.

You can use sweep boards, which are made by cutting a thin steel sheet or piece of
wood for checking your crown and knuckle radius.

For your skirt, the difference between the maximum and minimum inside diameter,
should not be more than 1%, and you can use a tape measure or laser measure for
dimensional control of the skirt.

So to fully understand, let's check the following head together:

Head ID = 3364 mm

Head Type: Torispherical

Limit for Outside of specified Shape = 3364 x 1 ¼% = 42.05 mm

Limit for Inside of specified Shape = 3364 x 5/8 % = 21.025 mm

So we check the depth, and the drawing is 656.3 mm and the actual is 672 mm, so
it is outside of the shape. We need to check if it is in the range of tolerance, so the
maximum outside of the shape will be 42.05 + 656.3 = 698.35 so our actual value
is 672 mm. 672<698.35, so it is OK.

We cut a sweep board equal to the head drawing crown radius (3400 mm) and
other one for the knuckle radius equal to 204 mm, so we try to fit the sweep boards
in the heads for the above example of the sweep boards. The edge distance to the
head surface should not be deviate from the above limited values.
Skirt max and min ID should not be more than 1% of the ID, which is 33.64 mm.
So, in the above example skirt is also is OK. Our nominal thickness is 20 mm, so
up to 19.746 is acceptable then for the above example. The thickness dimension is
also OK.

So the above head dimensions are ok

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Out of Roundness of Shell:

UG-80 deals with out of roundness of shell. The maximum permitted ovality
tolerance (D max – D min) shall not exceed 1% of the nominal diameter of the

If you have an opening, then the tolerance can be increased by 2% x d (d =

diameter of opening), if the measurement is taken within a distance of ‘d’ from the
axis of the opening.

The out of roundness generally is measured in two directions with a

normal measuring tape or laser measure, so one direction would be the D max and
other one would be the D min.

The following picture shows an out of roundness measurement:

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Nozzles and Attachments Orientation:

ASME Code SEC VIII Div 1 has not specified the orientation tolerances for
nozzles and attachments, so you need refer to the pressure vessel handbook.
It is almost +/- 1 degree. The orientation check can be done by a simple calculation
by using a measuring tape in the actual measurement work on the vessel.

For example, we want to check N3 orientation in following drawing.

N3 is located at 120 degrees in the drawing. The manufacturer has located this
point in the vessel with a marker, and we want to check the location, and if it
is OK, then we can allow the manufacturer to cut.

So we run this simple calculation:

Vessel OD = 97.875”

Shell outside Circumference length = π x OD = 3.14 x 97.875 = 307.3275”

307.3275 distributed to 360 degrees so each degree represents

307.3275/ 360 =0.8536”

N3 is located at the 120 degree position, so if we use a measuring tape and keep 0
at the zero reference point in the vessel and pull the tape, the nozzle center should
be located at 120 x 0.8536 = 102.4425 inches.

This 102.4425 is a perfect case so our tolerance is ±1 degrees. So if the tape shows
in following range, it will be OK.
102.4425 – 0.8536 =101.5889”

102.4425 + 0.8536 =103.2961”

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Nozzles and Attachments Projection:

Nozzle and attachment projection is the length from the nozzle or the attachment
face to the vessel shell centerline.

Projection dimensions are addressed in general assembly drawings. The projection

tolerances are not addressed in ASME Code SEC VIII Div 1, but if you refer to the
pressure vessel handbook, almost ± 0.25 of an inch is permissible.

In following figure, we need to check the BD nozzle projection. It should be 660

mm in distance from shell centerline to the flange face.
In practical measurement, you may use a measuring tape to measure the distance
between the shell outside circumference to the nozzle face. Then the measured
value is summed with the shell thickness and the inside radius. So for the above
example, the following range is acceptable:

660 – 6.35 = 653.65

660 + 6.35 =666.35

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Nozzles and Attachments Elevation:

Your Nozzles and attachments elevation is the length between the nozzles or the
attachments centerline and the bottom or top head tangent line.

The elevation dimension is addressed directly in the general assembly drawing.

The elevation tolerances are not addressed in ASME Code SEC VIII Div 1, but if
you refer to the pressure vessel handbook, almost ±0.25 inch is permissible.

In following figure, we need to check Nozzle EB elevation. As you see in the

drawing, the distance between the nozzle centerline to the bottom head tangent line
is 700 mm.
In actual measurement, the measuring tape or laser measure is used to measure
from the nozzle neck center line to the tangent line. In this example, the following
range is acceptable:

700 – 6.35 = 693.65

700 + 6.35 = 706.35

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Nozzles and Attachments Levelness:

The nozzles and attachments levelness tolerances are not addressed in ASME Code
SEC VIII Div 1, but in the pressure vessel handbook, a ½ ˚ deflection is

For levelness checking, a level gage is used. If the bubble is in the middle of the
designated lines, the nozzle is level.

But if the bubble intersects the designated limit lines, you need to run a simple
calculation and see if your deflection is within the tolerance limit.

You need to move one end of the level gage up to the bubble to be placed in
middle. Then measure the distance between the level gage end and the flange face.
The measured value is the X in the figure.
Then obtain α, if α is less than 0.5˚, the deflection falls within the tolerances. And
it is OK otherwise it will require cutting out and re-welding.

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Weld Mismatch:

ASME Code SEC VIII Div. 1 specified tolerances for weld mismatch in UW-33. It
is important to know that the limit for weld mismatch is stringent for a category A
weld (Longitudinal joint and circumferential shell to hemispherical head).

The concept behind this is that the longitudinal joint bears double the amount of
stress, and inspectors should precisely check these joints.

For example, you have a pressure vessel with a nominal thickness of 1 inch. You
do a visual and measure the mismatch by the welding gauge. Assume you found a
0.143 inch mismatch in one longitudinal and one circumferential joint.

So you look to the UW-33 table:

The permissible weld mismatch in the longitudinal joint for your case is 0.125 of
an inch, and for the circumferential joint, it is 0.1875 of an inch.

Your weld mismatches for both longitudinal and circumferential joints are 0.143,
so your circumferential joint is OK, but your longitudinal joint should be repaired.

Pressure Vessel Dimension Inspection - Weld Reinforcement:

The same concept for weld mismatch exists for weld reinforcement tolerances. The
longitudinal joint weld reinforcement limit is more stringent than that for
circumferential joints.

This is because longitudinal joint bears double stress, and it is required that the
stress concentration is minimized.

In the same example, assume that there are 0.150 of an inch welds reinforcement
for both category A and B welds. Do you want to review your weld acceptance?

Category A allowances = 0.093 inch

Category B allowances = 0.1875

So our circumferential joint is OK, but the longitudinal is not OK and should be
repaired by removing the excess weld reinforcement.


If you review the ASME Forward statement it clearly says “The Code does not
address all aspects of construction activities, and those aspects which are not
specifically addressed should not be considered prohibited.”

In continuing it says, “The Code is not a handbook and cannot replace education,
experience, and the use of engineering judgments.”