Understanding Gasket Blowout and How It Can Be Prevented

03 June 2019

In fluid processing applications, gasket blowouts are classed as worst-case scenario events. One moment everything is working flawlessly. Pumps are running and pressurized fluids are safely contained. A catastrophic second later, an entire flange pairing or pipe fitting has failed. Without any discernible warning whatsoever, the steam or chemical or fuel load is whistling out of the line as a highly energetic spout. A site disaster could be seconds away.

Assessing the Pressure-Fuelled Consequences

A steam leak, one that’s taken place on a pressurized line, can be so concentrated that it forms an invisible spout. If someone were to come in contact with that jet-like stream, the steam would cut through their skin like a cauterizing scalpel. As bad as this scenario is, it can become worse. A pressurized fuel leak will combust if a spark occurs nearby. With chemical leaks, this high-powered puncture will spread near and far while it poisons everything and everyone. And remember, this type of system breach occurs in seconds. There’s no time to come up with a leak prevention plan when high-pressure seals fail catastrophically. Knowing the disastrous potential, there’s a whole field of science dedicated to gasket blowout prevention.

Introducing the Blowout Prevention Factors

When designing high-pressure system gaskets, a series of pressure regulating parameters are addressed. There’s the fastening framework, which creates invisible beams of clamping force. Those beams also penetrate the seal to draw the opposing flange in tight. Tightened in a pattern, all potential axial and radial forces stay counterbalanced. Next, stopping leakage pathways from forming, ones that’ll make themselves known with explosive intensity, flange gasket materials exhibit great mechanical resilience. Obdurate as steel, the inwardly pressed sealing substance also provides a measure of outward pressing energy. It’s this compressibility, plus the material’s innate elasticity, that works in conjunction with the fasteners’ clamping force to create a reliable seal.

Statistically gathered and analysed, these factors are plugged into engineering equations and gasket blowout simulations. The different seals are tested to destruction within virtual computer spaces. Even then, the job’s not done. The next stage involves placing the seals within controlled test scenarios, where they’re then exposed to substantial amounts of mechanical stress. Again and again, blowout science procedures test different gasket families to destruction. Above and beyond such design precautions, there are yet more measures. One redundant safety system layer is layered upon the next. In all likelihood, those measures will never be used. All the same, they exist, and they’re continually maintained to ensure proper operation, should that worst case scenario ever happen. Finally, Blowout Prevention (BOP) valves are installed to offload those catastrophic pressures.

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