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# Thrust Force Calculations for

## Pressure Safety Valves

Robert D’Alessandro, P.E.
Degussa Corporation, Mobile, AL 36602; robert.dalessandro@dugussa.com (for correspondence)

## Published online 12 May 2006 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002/prs.10138

When a pressure safety valve actuates, thrust forces nitude of the thrust forces that are developed. Once
are developed. These thrust forces must be considered known, these reaction forces can be balanced by the
for the proper installation of the relieving device. For installation of appropriate restraints at key locations.
gas or vapor compressible ﬂow, Simpson developed For the typical emergency relief system, the restraints
thrust force plots that can be used to calculate the necessary to balance the relief valve thrust forces are
magnitude of the thrust force. Although these charts are usually moderate and the costs associated with these
available in the open literature, the assumptions be- restraints are typically low. However, large pressure
hind the charts and the underlying equations are not. safety valves operating at high pressure can produce
This article addresses these issues. All equations and substantial thrust forces.
fundamental assumptions are stated and all ﬂow mod- One method for calculating the thrust forces gener-
els are explained. Numerical examples are given to ated when a pressure safety valve actuates was de-
illustrate the use of the equations and the correspond- scribed by Simpson [1]. The Simpson method is typi-
ing Simpson Charts. In addition, several important cally presented in the form of charts where the thrust
modiﬁcations to the original charts are noted. The force parameter is plotted against the backpressure
thrust force equations for a relief valve operating with ratio. The ratio of outlet area to relief valve nozzle area
a subcritical nozzle and a subcritical outlet, which are is used as a parameter. The charts can be used only for
absent from the original Simpson Charts, are included compressible gas ﬂow in relief valves. The effect of the
here. The extent of the region where the relief valve ﬂuid properties is incorporated via the heat capacity
operates with a critical ﬂow nozzle and a subcritical ratio of the gas under consideration. Each value of the
ﬂow outlet is modiﬁed to account for backpressure heat capacity ratio yields a new Simpson Chart. The
effects. Finally, the concept of a minimum relief valve Simpson Chart for a gas with a heat capacity ratio of
outlet to nozzle area ratio is introduced. © 2006 Amer- 1.40 is shown in Figure 1.
ican Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog For this diagram, the stagnation pressure is the ves-
25: 203–213, 2006 sel static relieving pressure in absolute pressure units,
whereas the backpressure is the static pressure imme-
diately downstream of the relief valve exit plane in
INTRODUCTION
absolute pressure units as well. The backpressure ratio
Thrust forces are developed when a pressure safety
is the backpressure divided by the stagnation pressure.
valve actuates. If the relief valve is mounted directly to
The parameter k is the heat capacity ratio for the gas
the vessel, there is no net force at the relief valve nozzle
under consideration and is evaluated at the vessel stag-
because the relief valve disk acts as a thrust plate that
nation conditions; An is the cross-sectional area of the
balances the momentum of the ﬂowing ﬂuid. In other
relief valve nozzle; and Ae is the cross-sectional area of
words, the vessel restraints and weight are normally
the relief valve outlet. The thrust force parameter is a
sufﬁcient to balance the forces that are developed at
dimensionless ratio deﬁned by the following equation,
the relief valve nozzle. However, the balance of forces
where TR is the thrust force and P0 is the vessel stag-
at the relief valve exit may not be zero. The thrust force
nation pressure:
at the relief valve exit acts in a direction opposite to the
direction of the mass ﬂow discharging from the relief
valve. To properly secure relief valves and prevent TR
Thrust Force Parameter ⫽ (1)
damage to connected components such as pipes and P0An
equipment nozzles, it is necessary to estimate the mag-
Each Simpson Chart can be divided into three re-
© 2006 American Institute of Chemical Engineers gions as shown in Figure 1. Each region represents a

## Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) September 2006 203

Figure 1. Simpson Chart: Thrust force for a compressible gas or vapor with a heat capacity ratio of 1.40.

different ﬂow regime within the relief valve geometry. TR ⫽ thrust force, N
For Region A, the ﬂow is choked at the relief valve W ⫽ ﬂuid mass ﬂow, kg/s
nozzle and at the relief valve exit plane. For Region B, ue ⫽ ﬂuid velocity at the relief valve outlet, m/s
the ﬂow is choked at the relief valve nozzle, but is Ae ⫽ cross-sectional area of the relief valve outlet, m2
unchoked at the relief valve exit plane. In Region C, the Pe ⫽ pressure at the relief valve outlet, Pa
ﬂow is unchoked throughout the relief valve geometry. Pb ⫽ backpressure at the relief valve outlet, Pa
Region A is a very important ﬂow regime. In this The ﬁrst term on the right side of this equation
region, the ﬂow is choked at the relief valve exit plane. represents the thrust force arising from ﬂuid momen-
This type of relief valve ﬂow pattern is often referred to tum. The second term represents the thrust force re-
as “body-bowl” choking. It must be considered care- sulting from the potential pressure discontinuity at the
fully when evaluating the effect of backpressure on the relief valve outlet.
performance of a relief valve. Dividing Eq. 2 by the stagnation pressure (P0) and
relief valve nozzle cross-sectional area (An) yields the
BASIC FORCE BALANCE FOR A PRESSURE SAFETY VALVE dimensionless steady-state thrust force equation:
The basic steady-state force balance for a venting
relief valve is given by the following equation:

T R ⫽ Wu e ⫹ A e 共P e ⫺ P b 兲 (2)
TR
⫽ ⫹
P 0A n P 0A n A n 再
Wu e A e P e ⫺ P b
P0 冎 (3)

## Simpson was able to evaluate the above expression

The following nomenclature and units are used: for a compressible perfect gas. The results of this eval-

204 September 2006 Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3)
Figure 2. System sketch and model sketch.

uation are the Simpson Charts. In each chart, the thrust Subscripts e, n, *, and b denote, respectively, the
force parameter is plotted against the backpressure relief valve exit plane, the relief valve nozzle, the relief
ratio (Pb /P0). The ratio of the relief valve outlet area to valve body, and the conditions immediately down-
relief valve nozzle area (Ae /An) is used as a parameter. stream of the relief valve exit plane.
The mass ﬂow and exit velocity can be eliminated
from Eq. 3 by using the mass ﬂux at the relief valve THRUST FORCE EQUATIONS
outlet: Three cases must be considered.
• Case 1: presumes the ﬂow through the relief valve
W ⫽ G eA e (4) is choked at the relief valve nozzle and at the
relief valve exit plane.
Ge • Case 2: the ﬂow through the relief valve nozzle is
ue ⫽ (5)
␳e still choked, but the ﬂow at the relief valve exit
plane remains unchoked.
Substitution of Eqs. 4 and 5 into Eq. 3 yields the • Case 3: considers unchoked ﬂow throughout the
following working dimensionless thrust force equation: relief valve geometry.
The ﬂow process to bring the ﬂuid from the stagna-
TR

A e G e2

P 0A n A n P 0␳ e A n 再
Ae Pe ⫺ Pb
P0 冎 (6)
tion condition to the nozzle throat is assumed to be
isentropic, that is, adiabatic and reversible. The ﬂow
from the nozzle throat to the relief valve body is as-
MODEL sumed to be adiabatic, but irreversible. Finally, the ﬂow
To evaluate the thrust force equation, it is necessary through the outlet nozzle is also assumed to be isen-
to solve the ﬂow and pressure balances from the stag- tropic. All ﬂow patterns are assumed to be frictionless
nation condition through the relief valve nozzle into and at steady state. In essence, the relief valve is mod-
the relief valve body and ﬁnally through the relief valve eled as two ideal frictionless nozzles that are fed from
exit plane. The important variables and parameters an inﬁnite reservoir and separated by a plenum.
necessary to solve these balances are shown in Fig- The body of a relief valve has a very complicated
ure 2. geometry. In addition, there are few, if any, geometric
The following nomenclature for the variables and similarities between the bodies of various relief valve
parameters shown in Figure 2 is used: sizes and relief valve manufacturers. As a result of this
TR ⫽ thrust force, N complex geometry, the ﬂow pattern of the relieving
A ⫽ cross-sectional area, m2 ﬂuid in the relief valve body is also very complicated.
W ⫽ mass ﬂow, kg/s To assume that the body and outlet act as a frictionless
u ⫽ velocity, m/s ideal nozzle is, in many respects, a drastic simpliﬁca-
P ⫽ pressure, Pa tion. However, in making this assumption the mathe-
T ⫽ temperature, K matics becomes tractable and, as is shown herein, the
␳ ⫽ density of the gas, kg/m3 answers obtained are reasonable.
G ⫽ mass ﬂux, kg m⫺2 s⫺1 For each of the three cases mentioned above, eight
M ⫽ molecular weight of the gas, kg/kmol independent nonlinear algebraic equations in eight un-
k ⫽ speciﬁc heat ratio of the gas, unitless knowns (Pn, P*, Pe, ␳n, ␳*, ␳e, Gn, and Ge) can be

Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs September 2006 205

developed and solved simultaneously in terms of the G e2 A n2 P 0 P e 2
known parameters (P0, Pb, An, Ae, and k). The results of ⫽k 2 (11)
P 0␳ e A e Pe P* k⫹1
this ﬂow analysis are then used in Eq. 6 to calculate the
thrust force parameter from the known parameters in-

dicated. Details of the derivations are not included 共k⫺1兲/k
here. However, the results for each of the three cases Pe 1 1 P 0 P e2
⫽ ⫹ ⫹ 2共k ⫺ 1兲
are shown below. Interested readers can consult P* 2 2 P e P 02
D’Alessandro [2], where a considerable amount of ad-

ditional detail is given on the derivations and other A n2 2
aspects of this subject including comparisons of the ⫻ (12)
A e2 k ⫹ 1
methods given here to other methods in the open
literature.

Case 1—Region A: Choking at Relief Valve When Eqs. 11 and 12 are combined and substituted
Nozzle and Exit Plane into the thrust force expression (Eq. 13) for the thrust
For Region A, solving the ﬂow and pressure bal- force on a relief valve when the ﬂow is choked at the
ances through the relief valve yields the two following relief valve nozzle and unchoked at the relief valve exit
expressions: is obtained. This equation yields the curves shown in
Region B of Figure 1:

k/共k⫺1兲
Pe An 2

⫽ (7) 共k⫹1兲/共k⫺1兲
P0 Ae k ⫹ 1 An 2
2k
TR Ae k ⫹ 1

G 2
Pe ⫽ 2 共k⫹1兲/共k⫺1兲 1/ 2
e P 0A n P b Pb A n2 2
⫽k (8) ⫹ ⫹ 2共k ⫺ 1兲
P 0␳ e P0 P0 P 02 A e2 k ⫹ 1
(13)
Substitution of Eqs. 7 and 8 into Eq. 6 leads to the
desired expression for the thrust force parameter:
Case 3—Region C: Subcritical Flow through the

k/共k⫺1兲
TR 2 Ae Pb Entire Relief Valve
⫽ 共k ⫹ 1兲 ⫺ Generally speaking, thrust forces are small in Region
P 0A n k⫹1 An P0
C. The pressure discontinuity term in the thrust force

1/共k⫺1兲
2 Ae Pb expression (Eq. 6) is again zero because the ﬂow is
⫽2 ⫺ (9)
k⫹1 An P0 unchoked at the relief valve exit plane.
When the equations describing the ﬂow and pres-
Equation 9 is the Simpson equation for the thrust sure balances for the pressure relief valve are solved
force on a relief valve when the ﬂow through the relief simultaneously, the following equations are obtained:
valve is choked at both the relief valve nozzle and the

relief valve exit. This equation yields the lines shown in 共3⫺k兲/k 2/k 2 2/k 共k⫺1兲/k
P* P* Ae Pb P*
Region A of Figure 1.
From this equation one easily determines that the ⫺ ⫺
P0 P0 An P0 P0

maximum thrust occurs when the backpressure is zero. 2 共k⫹1兲/k
Under these circumstances, the thrust force parameter Ae Pb
is given by ⫹ ⫽0 (14)
An P0

1/共k⫺1兲
TR 2

⫽2 when Pb ⫽ 0 (10) 共k⫺1兲/k 1/k
P 0A n max
k⫹1 G e2 2k P* Pb Pb
⫽ ⫺ (15)
P 0␳ e k⫺1 P0 P0 P0
The maximum thrust force parameters for k values
of 1.01, 1.40, and 1.80 are 1.215, 1.268, and 1.313,
respectively. Generally speaking, larger heat capacity For a given heat capacity ratio, outlet to nozzle area
ratios result in larger relief valve thrust forces. ratio, and backpressure ratio, Eq. 14 yields a speciﬁc
body pressure ratio. Trial and error calculations are
Case 2—Region B: Choking at the Relief Valve necessary. Because this equation has multiple roots,
Nozzle Only care is required to obtain the physically real solution for
For Region B, the outlet nozzle is unchoked. This the body pressure ratio. Starting the trial and error
implies that the exit pressure (Pe) is equal to the back- calculation with a body pressure ratio of 0.999 ensures
pressure (Pb). Therefore, the second term on the right that the correct solution is obtained.
side of Eq. 6 becomes zero. When the working equation for the thrust force (Eq.
When the ﬂow and pressure balances are solved for 6) is combined with Eq. 15, the following expression is
this case, the following two expressions are obtained. obtained:

206 September 2006 Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3)

TR Ae 2k P* Pb Pb
⫽ ⫺ For the boundary between Region B and Region C,
P 0A n An k⫺1 P0 P0 P0 the Simpson Chart compares the nozzle choking pres-
(16) sure directly to the backpressure. The result is the
vertical line between Region B and Region C shown in
Figure 1. This assumes that there is no pressure drop
Once a body pressure ratio is calculated by Eq. 14,
between the relief valve body and the relief valve exit
the corresponding thrust force parameter is calculated
plane when the relief valve outlet is unchoked. A dif-
using Eq. 16. The expressions shown above, Eqs. 14
ferent approach is used here. The body pressure is
and 16, represent Region C on the Thrust Force Chart.
compared against the nozzle choking pressure instead:
The graphical representation and underlying equations
for Region C were not included in the original Simpson
work. As should be expected, Eqs. 14 and 16 yield the P*
correct limit when the backpressure equals the stagna- Pn
If ⬍ then the flow is choked (20)
tion pressure. That is, at this limit, the body pressure P0 P0
equals the stagnation pressure and the thrust force
parameter equals zero.
P* Pn
BOUNDARY CONDITIONS If ⱖ then the flow is unchoked and Pn ⫽ P*
P0 P0
As mentioned previously and illustrated in Figure 1,
the Simpson Charts are segregated into several distinct (21)
regions. In Region A, the ﬂow through the relief valve
is choked at both the relief valve nozzle and the relief
valve exit. For Region B, the ﬂow is choked only at the The nozzle choking pressure is calculated using the
relief valve nozzle, but not at the relief valve exit where classical expression for the isentropic ﬂow of an ideal
the ﬂow is subcritical. In Region C, the ﬂow is not gas given by Eq. 22. The body pressure is calculated by
choked either at the relief valve nozzle or the relief using Eq. 23, which is an alternate form of Eq. 12 with
valve exit. The equations derived thus far can now be the exit pressure set equal to the backpressure:
used to develop expressions for the boundaries be-

tween these regions. Pn 2 k/共k⫺1兲
⫽ (22)
Boundary between Region A and Region B P0 k⫹1
For the boundary between Region A and Region B,

the relief valve exit pressure is compared to the back- P*
pressure to determine whether the ﬂow is choked or Pb 1 1
⫽ ⫹ 1 ⫹ 2共k ⫺ 1兲
unchoked. First, Eq. 7 is used to calculate the relief P0 P0 2 2

valve exit pressure. Then the following two criteria are ⫺2 共k⫹1兲/共k⫺1兲 1/ 2 k/共k⫺1兲
used to determine the ﬂow condition at the relief valve A eP b 2
⫻ (23)
exit plane: A nP 0 k⫹1

Pb Pe
If ⬍ then the flow is choked (17) An expression for the boundary between Region B
P0 P0 and Region C is obtained by setting Eq. 22 equal to Eq.
23. Algebraic manipulation yields the desired result,
Pb Pe expressed as
If ⱖ then the flow is unchoked and Pe ⫽ Pb
P0 P0

(18) Pb 2 Pb 2/k
k⫺1
⫺ ⫹
P0 BC
k⫹1 P0 BC
2
To determine the thrust force parameter at the

2 2/共k⫺1兲
boundary between Region A and Region B, Pe is set An 2
⫻ ⫽0 (24)
equal to Pb in Eq. 7. The resulting expression is com- Ae k⫹1
bined with Eq. 9 to yield the following desired expres-
sion:
For a given heat capacity ratio and nozzle to outlet

## 再 冎 再 冎 area ratio, Eq. 24 yields the backpressure coordinate of

k/共k⫺1兲
TR 2
⫽k when Pe ⫽ Pb (19) the boundary between Region B and Region C. Back-
P 0A n AB
k⫹1 pressure ratios equal to or greater than the value ob-
tained by this equation will result in an unchoked relief
This equation describes the horizontal line between valve nozzle. For the relief valve nozzle to remain
Region A and Region B on the Simpson Charts shown choked, the actual backpressure must be less than the
in Figure 1. This boundary is independent of the back- backpressure calculated by Eq. 24.
pressure until the backpressure becomes high enough To determine the thrust force parameter at the
to unchoke the relief valve exit. boundary between Region B and Region C, Eq. 16 is

Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs September 2006 207
combined with Eq. 23, yielding the following expres- based on either the Region A equations or Region B
sion: equations, is as follows:

⫺k/共k⫺1兲
2 2 Ae 2
TR k Ae Pb ␣m ⫽ ⫽ (27)
⫽ ⫹ 2共k ⫺ 1兲 An k⫹1
P 0A n k⫺1 An P0 min
BC BC

Pressure safety valves with outlet to nozzle area
2 Ae Pb
⫻ ⫺ (25) ratios less than those calculated by Eq. 27 cannot choke
k⫹1 An P0
BC at the main nozzle. For heat capacity ratios of 1.001,
1.40, and 1.80, the minimum outlet to nozzle area ratios
are 1.655, 1.892, and 2.132, respectively.
This equation along with Eq. 24 is used to map the new
boundary between Region B and Region C. REVISED THRUST FORCE CHARTS
It is interesting to note what happens to Eq. 24 as the Based on the analysis shown in the previous sec-
ratio of the outlet area to the nozzle area becomes very tions, a revised thrust force chart is constructed. For
large. Under these circumstances, the third term in Eq. each heat capacity ratio, a different chart can be gen-
24 approaches zero and the expression simpliﬁes to the erated. The thrust force chart for a gas or vapor with a
following equation: heat capacity ratio of 1.4 is shown in Figure 3. The
identical thrust force chart, noting all pertinent equa-

k/共k⫺1兲
tions, is shown in Figure 4.
Pb 2 Figures 3 and 4 can easily be compared with the
⫽ (26)
P0 BC 共 A e /A n 3⬁兲
k⫹1 original Simpson Chart (Figure 1). Differences include
the following aspects:
1. The extent of Region A is limited by the existence of
This is the equation that yields the vertical boundary a minimum outlet to nozzle area ratio and this min-
line between Region B and Region C in the original imum value is ⬎1.0.
Simpson Charts. In this article, however, it represents 2. Region C has a complete set of thrust force curves
only the boundary point for very large outlet to nozzle that smoothly converge with the thrust force curves
area ratios. in Region B.
3. The boundary line between Region B and Region C
is curved rather than a straight vertical line and this
Minimum Outlet to Nozzle Area Ratio
curve depends on the backpressure and the heat
Before showing the expressions for the minimum
capacity ratio.
area ratio, a simple “thought” experiment is helpful. Let
us assume there are two equal-diameter ideal friction- Holding the relief valve outlet to nozzle area ratio
less nozzles in series, separated by a plenum and op- constant and using the heat capacity ratio as a param-
erating under steady-state conditions. The ﬂowing ﬂuid eter can generate an alternate form of the thrust force
is assumed to be a perfect gas. In addition, let us chart. This type of thrust force chart is shown in Figure
assume that the backpressure is low enough to ensure 5 for a 4M6 pressure safety valve with an outlet to
choking at the downstream nozzle. Based on mass ﬂow nozzle area ratio of 7.12. The heat capacity ratio is
continuity at steady-state conditions, the mass ﬂux varied from 1.001 to 1.80.
times the cross-sectional area for both nozzles must be
equal. Because the diameters of both nozzles are equal, EXAMPLE PROBLEMS
the mass ﬂux through the upstream nozzle must be To illustrate the use of the revised thrust force charts
equal to the mass ﬂux through the downstream nozzle. and the associated equations developed herein, the
However, the pressure in the plenum between the two following examples, extracted from the CCPS Guide-
nozzles must also be lower than the stagnation pres- lines for Pressure Relief and Efﬂuent Handling Systems
sure feeding the upstream nozzle. If the upstream noz- [3], are presented.
zle is choked, the mass ﬂux through this nozzle must be
greater than the mass ﬂux through the downstream Example Problem 1
nozzle. This is a logical inconsistency. Therefore, if the Consider acetone ﬂowing through a typical 2J3 pres-
cross-sectional areas of both nozzles are equal and the sure safety valve. That is, the valve has a 2-in. nominal
downstream nozzle is choked, the upstream nozzle inlet, a J oriﬁce designation, and a 3-in. nominal outlet.
must be unchoked. The ASME actual nozzle area is 1.452 in.2 and the ASME
Obviously, the same conclusion is reached if the discharge coefﬁcient is 0.864. The valve outlet has an
downstream nozzle has a cross-sectional area smaller inside diameter of 3.068 in. (7.393 in.2 or 0.004770 m2).
than that of the upstream nozzle. Based on this The pressure safety valve has a set pressure of 50 psig
“thought” experiment, there must be an outlet to nozzle and operates with a 5 psi or 10% overpressure. Based
area ratio ⬎ 1.0 where both the upstream and down- on this, the relieving pressure is 55 psig or 69.7 psia.
stream nozzles cannot be choked. The ﬂow and pres- For a relieving condition of 69.7 psia, the CCPS exam-
sure balance equations for Region A or Region B can be ple indicates a relieving temperature of 109.7° C
used to determine this minimum area ratio. The result, (382.85 K) with a corresponding heat capacity ratio of

208 September 2006 Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3)
Figure 3. Thrust force chart for a compressible gas or vapor (k ⫽ 1.40 and Ae /An ⱖ ␣m).

## 1.102. Acetone has a molecular weight of 58.08 lb/ P b 19.7

lbmol. The backpressure immediately downstream of ⫽ ⫽ 0.283
P 0 69.7
the pressure safety valve exit plane is 5 psig or 19.7
psia.
Although the recommendation suggested herein is Determine the choking pressure at the relief valve exit
to use the ASME actual nozzle area and a discharge by using Eq. 7.
coefﬁcient of 1.0 for calculating the thrust force, the

CCPS example reduces the nozzle area by multiplying
by the ASME discharge coefﬁcient. To allow an equiv- P e 共1.452兲共0.864兲 2 1.102/共1.102⫺1兲

alent comparison, the same approach is taken here. P0 7.393 1.102 ⫹ 1
The outlet to nozzle area ratio and the backpressure
⫽ 0.0991 f P e ⫽ 共0.0991兲共69.7兲 ⫽ 6.91 psia
ratio are calculated ﬁrst. The outlet to nozzle area ratio
is above the minimum value for a gas with a heat
capacity ratio 1.102.
Because the choking pressure at the relief valve exit
plane is less than the given backpressure, the ﬂow is
Ae 7.393 unchoked at the relief valve outlet. Therefore, the relief
⫽ ⫽ 5.893
A n 共1.452兲共0.864兲 valve exit pressure is set equal to the backpressure. In

Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs September 2006 209
Figure 4. Thrust force chart for a compressible gas or vapor (k ⫽ 1.40 and Ae /An ⱖ ␣m).

addition, the operating condition of this relief valve lies 共1.102⫹1兲/共1.102⫺1兲 1/ 2 1.102/共1.102⫺1兲
2
in either Region B or Region C on the thrust force chart. ⫻
1.102 ⫹ 1
Now, determine the choking pressure at the relief
valve nozzle by using Eq. 22: ⫽ 0.3033 f P * ⫽ 共0.3033兲共69.7兲 ⫽ 21.1 psia

1.102/共1.102⫺1兲
Pn 2
⫽ ⫽ 0.5843 f P n
P0 1.102 ⫹ 1
Given that the calculated relief valve body pres-
⫽ 共0.5843兲共69.7兲 ⫽ 40.7 psia sure (21.1 psia) is less than the relief valve nozzle
choking pressure (40.7 psia), the ﬂow is choked at
The body pressure is determined by using Eq. 23: the relief valve nozzle. Therefore, the operating
point for this relief valve lies in Region B on the

P* 19.7 1 1 thrust force chart.
⫽ ⫹ 1 ⫹ 2共1.102 ⫺ 1兲 Because the ﬂow is choked at the relief valve nozzle
P0 69.7 2 2 and unchoked at the relief valve exit plane, Eq. 13 is the

⫺2 correct expression for evaluating the thrust force pa-
7.393 䡠 19.7
⫻ rameter:
1.452 䡠 0.864 䡠 69.7
210 September 2006 Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3)
Figure 5. Thrust force chart: 4M6 PSV with outlet to nozzle area ratio of 7.12.

1 2
2共1.102兲
TR 5.893 1.102 ⫹ 1

⫽ 2 2 共1.102⫹1兲/共1.102⫺1兲 1/ 2 ⫽ 0.2358
P 0 A n 19.7 19.7 1 2
⫹ ⫹ 2共1.102 ⫺ 1兲
69.7 69.7 5.893 1.102 ⫹ 1

Now the thrust force can be calculated using the tional comparison, the alternate COMFLOW value of
deﬁnition of the thrust force parameter (Eq. 1): 21.2 lbf is also obtained from the CCPS Book.

## T R ⫽ 共0.2358兲共69.7兲共1.452兲共0.864兲 ⫽ 20.62 lb f Example Problem 2

⫽ 91.7 N The same basic example is used here, except that a
signiﬁcantly higher stagnation pressure is used. This
higher stagnation pressure causes critical ﬂow at the
This value can be compared with the Simpson Chart pressure safety valve exit plane and thus the operating
value of 20 lbf given in the CCPS book. For an addi- point lies in Region A of the thrust force chart.

Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs September 2006 211
Again acetone is ﬂowing through a typical 2J3 pres- Given that the calculated relief valve body pressure
sure safety valve. The ASME actual nozzle area is 1.452 (52.3 psia) is less than the relief valve nozzle choking
in.2 and the ASME discharge coefﬁcient is 0.864. The pressure (156.4 psia), the ﬂow is choked at the relief
valve outlet has an inside diameter of 3.068 in. (7.393 valve nozzle. Therefore, it is conﬁrmed that the oper-
in.2 or 0.004770 m2). The pressure safety valve has a set ating point for this relief valve lies in Region A on the
pressure of 250 psig and operates with a 25.0 psi or thrust force chart.
10% overpressure. Based on this, the relieving pressure Because the ﬂow is choked at the relief valve nozzle
is 275 psig or 289.7 psia. The saturation temperature of and choked at the relief valve exit plane, Eq. 9 is the
acetone at this pressure is 179.8° C (452.95 K) and the correct expression for evaluating the thrust force pa-
heat capacity ratio is 1.333. The molecular weight is rameter:
again 58.08 lb/lbmol. The backpressure immediately
downstream of the pressure safety valve exit plane is

1/共1.333⫺1兲
TR 2
still 5 psig or 19.7 psia. ⫽2 ⫺ 共5.893兲共0.068兲
P 0A n 1.333 ⫹ 1
As in Example 1, the ASME discharge coefﬁcient is
applied. The outlet to nozzle area ratio and the back- ⫽ 0.8587
pressure ratio are calculated ﬁrst. The outlet to nozzle
area ratio is still above the minimum valve for a gas Now the thrust force can be calculated using the
with a heat capacity ratio 1.333. deﬁnition of the thrust force parameter (Eq. 1):

## Ae 7.393 T R ⫽ 共0.8587兲共289.7兲共1.452兲共0.864兲 ⫽ 312.1 lb f

⫽ ⫽ 5.893
A n 共1.452兲共0.864兲 ⫽ 1388.3 N

## Pb 19.7 ASSUMPTIONS AND LIMITATIONS

⫽ ⫽ 0.068 To derive the equations shown in this article, several
P 0 289.7 assumptions were necessary. These assumptions limit
the applicability of these equations. Therefore, the
Determine the choking pressure at the relief valve exit reader is cautioned to apply these equations with care
by using Eq. 7: when conditions fall outside of the stated limitations.
In developing the ﬂow models, the following pri-

mary assumptions concerning the ﬂuid and its ﬂow
P e 共1.452兲共0.864兲 2 1.333/共1.333⫺1兲

P0 7.393 1.333 ⫹ 1
1. The ﬂuid obeys the perfect gas law.
⫽ 0.0916 f P e ⫽ 共0.0916兲共289.7兲 ⫽ 26.54 psia 2. The ﬂow through the entire relief valve is adiabatic,
that is, heat is neither lost nor gained by the ﬂuid as
Because the choking pressure at the relief valve exit it ﬂows from the vessel stagnation condition to the
plane is greater than the given backpressure, the ﬂow is relief valve exit.
choked at the relief valve outlet. Therefore, the relief 3. The ﬂow through the entire relief valve is friction-
valve exit pressure is set equal to the exit choking less.
pressure. In addition, the operating condition of this 4. The ﬂow from the vessel stagnation condition to the
relief valve lies in Region A on the thrust force chart. relief valve nozzle is isentropic.
Check the choking pressure at the relief valve nozzle 5. The ﬂuid stagnates in the relief valve body.
by using Eq. 22: 6. The ﬂow from the relief valve body to the relief
valve exit plane is isentropic.

1.333/共1.333⫺1兲
7. The heat capacity ratio for the gas is held constant
Pn 2 throughout the expansion process, that is, it is inde-
⫽ ⫽ 0.5398 f P n
P0 1.333 ⫹ 1 pendent of decreasing pressure and decreasing tem-
perature.
⫽ 共0.5398兲共289.7兲 ⫽ 156.4 psia
For the most part, these seven assumptions do not
severely limit the applicability of the charts or their
The body pressure is determined by using Eq. 23:
underlying equations. As discussed previously, As-
sumptions 5 and 6 are the most difﬁcult assumptions to

P* 19.7 1 1 accept.
⫽ ⫹ 1 ⫹ 2共1.333 ⫺ 1兲 The thrust force parameters obtained from the equa-
P0 289.7 2 2 tions herein yield ideal theoretical thrust forces. The

⫺2 real thrust force will probably be larger. The deriva-
7.393 䡠 19.7
⫻ tions assume steady-state ﬂow through the relief valve,
1.452 䡠 0.864 䡠 289.7
which is almost never true. Flow through a relief valve

2
and closing, sometimes over very short periods of time.
1.333 ⫹ 1
This dynamic behavior tends to increase the reaction
⫽ 0.1805 f P * ⫽ 共0.1805兲共289.7兲 ⫽ 52.3 psia forces through harmonic effects. It is common practice

212 September 2006 Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3)
Table 1. Summary of other open literature methods for pressure safety valve thrust forces in gas/vapor service.

## Literature Method Region A Region B Region C Remarks

DIERS Project Manual [5] Correct equation Graph only Not included
DIERS Project Manual Incorrect equation Incorrect equation Not included Probably a
Errata [6] typographical error
CCPS Guidelines for ERS Graph only Graph only Not included
[3]
HSE Workbook [7] Incorrect equation Not included Not included Probably a
typographical error
API RP 520 [8] Correct equation Not included Not included
Crosby Relief Valve Correct equation Not included Not included Includes a 25% safety
Handbook [9] factor

to multiply the thrust force values obtained from a article has veriﬁed this approach and details can be
theoretical analysis by a dynamic load factor (DLF), found in D’Alessandro [2].
which has a maximum theoretical value of 2.0 and, in
most installations, this maximum value can be applied LITERATURE CITED
without severe cost implication [4]. 1. L.L. Simpson, Reaction forces from process vent-
ing, unpublished memorandum, Union Carbide
OTHER OPEN LITERATURE METHODS Corporation, Danbury, CT, October 1969.
Table 1 summarizes the status of the thrust force 2. R.N. D’Alessandro, Pressure safety valve thrust
methods for gas or vapor pressure safety valves in forces for compressible gas or vapor ﬂow, Proc Int
several of the major open literature sources. Most of Symp on Runaway Reactions and Pressure Relief
these do not include a method when the pressure Design, October 31–November 2, 2005, Cincinnati,
safety valve exit is unchoked and none includes a OH.
method when both the nozzle and outlet are un- 3. Center for Chemical Process Safety, Guidelines for
choked. Some are even in error! pressure relief and efﬂuent handling systems,
Additional details concerning the relationships be- American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New
tween the methods given in this article and those found York, 1998.
in API RP 520 [8] and the Crosby Pressure Relief Valve 4. J.E. Huff, Flow through emergency relief devices
Engineering Handbook [9] can be found in and reaction forces, J Loss Prev Process Ind 3
D’Alessandro [2]. (1990), 43– 49.
5. H.G.Fisher, H.S. Forrest, S.S. Grossel, J.E. Huff, A.R.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Muller, J.A. Noronha, D.A. Shaw, B.J. Tilley, Emer-
The author gratefully acknowledges the valuable gency relief system design using DIERS technol-
input obtained from Harold Fisher, Chairman of the ogy—The Design Institute for Emergency Relief
DIERS Users Group. In addition, thanks are extended System (DIERS) project manual, American Institute
to Andrew Jones, Jeff Seay, P.E., and Frank Fearn, P.E. of Chemical Engineers/Design Institute for Emer-
of Degussa Corporation for reviewing the original arti- gency Relief Systems, New York, 1992.
cle [2] before publication. 6. Errata to the DIERS project manual, published Jan-
A very special acknowledgement must also be ex- uary 5, 2005.
tended to Jim Huff, who reviewed the original article 7. J. Etchells and J. Wilday, Workbook for chemical
and provided extremely beneﬁcial feedback on some reactor relief system sizing, health and safety exec-
of the detailed technical aspects of the proposed meth- utive, Contract Research Report 136/1998, ISBN 0
ods. Huff maintains that the thrust force at the relief 7176 1389 5, ﬁrst published in 1998.
valve outlet can be determined without specifying the 8. American Petroleum Institute (API), Sizing, selec-
ﬂow path within the relief valve body. In other words, tion, and installation of pressure-relieving devices
the assumption of isentropic ﬂow from the relief valve in reﬁneries, Part II—Installation, API recom-
body to the relief valve exit is unnecessary. Instead, mended practice 520 (4th edition), API, Washing-
simply considering adiabatic ﬂow from the relief valve ton, DC, December 1994.
nozzle to the relief exit in conjunction with isentropic 9. Crosby Valve & Gage Company, Crosby pressure
nozzle ﬂow from the stagnation condition to the relief relief valve engineering handbook, Technical Doc-
valve nozzle and a continuity equation should be suf- ument No. TP-V300, Crosby Valve & Gage Com-
ﬁcient to calculate the thrust force. The author of this pany, Wrentham, MA, May 1997.

Process Safety Progress (Vol.25, No.3) Published on behalf of the AIChE DOI 10.1002/prs September 2006 213