Common Causes of Gasket Failure

21 June 2016

If flanges mechanically fasten sections of pipe together, traditionally by employing sets of stubby bolts, then gaskets are the leak-guarding inserts that make sure the two mating surfaces are fluid-proof. Of course, secure as this fastening configuration is, we’re still looking at discrete parts, and isolated parts are leak-susceptible. Let’s reinforce our understanding of this surface-mating action by taking a look at the common causes of gasket failure so that we can deliver a pipeline that’s guaranteed to remain leak free over its entire processing life.

The Common Causes of Gasket Failure Include

We begin with the characteristics of the conveyed fluid. A chemically active facility processes caustic materials. Condensed and distilled until the substance is extremely corrosive, poorly manufactured gaskets will deteriorate and eventually succumb to wear, thus allowing the fluid to seep through the damaged gasket. The same potential for failure exists in scenarios where high pressures and higher temperatures imbue the fluid with unprecedented amounts of energy.

Mechanically-Induced Leakage Events

System vibrations are generated by machinery. Resonating tremors are mechanically transmitted along metal frameworks and pipes. The result is a slackening action, a scenario where once secure nuts and bolts loosen. The tight union between the two flange surfaces gives way, perhaps imperceptibly, until gasket compression is lost and the seal springs a leak. The thermal events covered above also contribute system-detrimental effects, with metal parts expanding and contracting until, again, the flange fasteners slacken.

Avoid Unintelligent Installation Practices

This situation introduces elements from both of the paragraphs covered above. Material science has intelligently manufactured a wide range of polymer-reinforced gaskets, but this means the right material has to be paired with the right application. A chemically resistant material interfaces with a chemical processing plant, a heatproof variant is installed in a heat exchanger assembly, and so on. If the wrong product is installed, expect trouble. The same case applies in mechanically-dominant settings. If the two flanges don’t properly align, for example, then loading is applied unequally and the gasket isn’t uniformly compressed, which opens the joint to a potentially devastating leakage event.

The common causes of gasket failure are many, but, once evaluated, we can quickly incorporate safeguards. The flanges and the fasteners are engineered to eliminate the majority of surface flaws, even the intrusion of corrosion due to cathodic effects. Then, upon proper installation, our final responsibility is to insert geometrical-assured outlines that are material-assessed to ensure they fit their application.

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