Air receiver tank safety should be a priority for every compressed air user. Poor maintenance, improper storage, or operation at unsafe pressures can lead to a dangerous air receiver tank failure.
This article explores the common causes of air receiver tank failure, safe maintenance and storage for air receiver tanks, and the importance of using ASME-rated compressed air equipment.
Your compressed air receiver tank is a type of pressure vessel. It stores air under immense internal pressure over a long period of time. If the tank is not maintained properly, corrosion, stress, and fatigue can lead to a dangerous tank rupture.
Occupational Hazards of Air Receiver Tanks
An air receiver tank failure is extremely hazardous. The high internal pressures inside the tank can cause it to rupture with explosive force if the integrity of the tank is compromised.
When this happens, large pieces of the tank may be propelled at high speeds into nearby equipment, infrastructure, or people. There may also be small, sharp pieces of shrapnel that can penetrate the human body at high speeds. Air receiver tank failure may result in extensive damage to the facility and nearby equipment and severe injury or death for nearby workers.
Common Causes of Air Receiver Tank Failure
The most common causes of air receiver failure are:
- Faulty design/use of non-code tanks
- Operation above maximum allowable working pressure (over-pressurization)
- Improper installation
- Weld failure
- Improper repair of cracks/leaks
- Exposure to extreme environmental conditions (freezing or overheating)
- Safety valve failure
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Do Air Receiver Tanks Have to Be ASME Certified?
Air receiver tanks used in industrial applications must be certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Using an uncertified air receiver tank may lead to damage to your facility or injury or death for employees in the case of a rupture.
ASME Standards for Air Receiver Tanks
ASME acts as an independent quality assurance organization to ensure the safety and quality of manufactured items. Manufacturers must meet all ASME safety and engineering standards for their products to get an ASME certification stamp.
Air receiver tanks fall under the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Certification Program. This program defines a series of standards governing the design, fabrication, assembly, and inspection of pressure vessel components during construction. These rules include engineering standards for the thickness of the tank body, welds and joints, connections, and other components of the tank.
Can I Buy an Air Receiver Tank Without ASME Certification?
Non-code air receiver tanks should never be used, especially for industrial applications. It is possible to find non-code air receiver tanks at some big box stores. These tanks are likely to be cheaper, but they have not undergone the rigorous manufacturing processes and quality testing needed to ensure that they are safe and reliable. Using a non-code air receiver tank could put your life and the lives of your coworkers at risk.
Preventative Maintenance for Air Receiver Tanks
Compressed users must follow all maintenance recommendations for the safe operation of the air receiver tank. These include:
- Only use ASME-certified air receiver tanks.
- Never over-pressurize the tank; follow operating guidelines for maximum pressure.
- Make sure that the tank has a pressure gauge and it is functioning correctly.
- Periodically inspect the tank for corrosion, signs of weld seamstress, cracks, thinning of the vessel walls, and other defects.
- Make sure that the tank has an ASME-certified safety relief valve, and the valve is working correctly.
- Drain the tank frequently to prevent liquids from accumulating inside the tank.
- Have all alterations or repairs completed by certified professionals to ensure that the repair meets quality standards.
- Provide safety training for air receiver tank operators.
Consult the OSHA guidelines for pressure vessel safety for more information.
Safe Storage for Air Receiver Tanks
Air receiver tanks should be stored in a location where they are protected from temperature extremes and moisture buildup that can cause corrosion.
Air receiver tanks generate heat. Compressed air enters the tank at high temperatures. As it cools, heat is radiated from the tank. This may impact the placement of the tank if your manufacturing processes are heat-sensitive or you want to reduce strain on your HVAC cooling system.
Can the Air Receiver Tank Be Stored Outside?
Outdoor storage of the air receiver tank is only appropriate for environments that stay above freezing year-round. In freezing temperatures, outdoor tanks can ice up and even rupture—a costly and potentially dangerous outcome. If your area experiences freezing temperatures during part of the year, it is safest to keep your tank indoors.
If you are storing your air receiver tank outdoors, be sure to conduct frequent inspections to monitor for corrosion. Any signs of corrosion should be addressed immediately to maintain the integrity of the tank.
Preventing Air Receiver Tank Icing
If your area is subject to cooler temperatures with the occasional risk of icing, take special care of your tank in cooler weather. The tank will generate some heat on its own. However, if temperatures drop too far, the tank is still at risk of freezing. Insulating your tank and providing auxiliary heating during cold weather may be necessary to prevent damage.
Inspecting the Air Receiver Tank
If you are not sure whether or not your air receiver tank meets code requirements, you should have it inspected. Your local Fire Marshall may provide this service. They will stop in and test your tank with ultrasonic metal thickness testing technology. If your air receiver tank does not pass the inspection, it should be decommissioned and replaced immediately.
All air receiver tanks must also be inspected once they are installed. OSHA does not mandate a specific testing interval, but it is recommended that all air receiver tanks be inspected at least annually. Your insurance company or local governing board may have different requirements. OSHA requires that formal inspections be performed by an inspector holding a valid National Board Commission and in accordance with the applicable chapters of the National Board Inspection Code. Manufacturers are required to keep records of formal inspections and make them available to OSHA representatives upon request.
In between formal board inspections, manufacturers should conduct frequent visual inspections of the air receiver tank to look for signs of corrosion, damage, or weld failure. Check drains daily and pressure relief valves quarterly to make sure they are operating correctly. Contact your manufacturer or compressed air system installer immediately if you see any signs of problems with your air receiver tank.
Have questions about air receiver tank safety? Talk to one of our compressed air system experts.
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