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Frangible roof to shell joints

Frangible is a word that means easily broken. However, in the context of tanks, the word has a specific
meaning and is defined in the main tank construction standards BSEN 14015 and API650.

The concept of frangible roof only applies to flat bottom, cone roof tanks with limited roof apex angle. A
Frangible roof is a roof to shell joint or junction that is weaker than the rest of the tank and will
preferentially fail if the tank is over pressurised. Since this junction will fail before any other part of the
tank, such as the shell, the bottom, or the shell to bottom joint, the bottom and shell can be relied on to be
intact. Since failure at the roof is in the least damaging mode of failure for a liquid storage tank, liquid
chemicals or stored products will probably not be released.

The failure mechanism when a tank with a frangible roof to shell joint is over pressurised this area
buckles into a wave shaped pattern and the roof tears away from the top angle rim allowing gases to

Frangible roofs are normally specified as a means of providing emergency relief venting in the situation
when a tank is engulfed in fire, or the adjacent tank is on fire, causing rapid vaporisation of the stored
product such that the normal venting system cannot cope and the pressure in the tank rises to a point
where the roof to shell joint fails. Consequently although the tank is damaged and the vapours escaping
may well ignite, the liquid is retained within the tank shell avoiding burning liquid in the bund area and
further hazard to tanks, equipment and personnel.

For a tank to be considered as having a frangible roof to shell junction the following criteria must be met:-
The strength of the roof to shell junction must be weak enough to meet the criteria of the tank design code
in question.

The roof plates must not be welded to the tank roof structure, which normally rules out externally
stiffened tank roofs from being considered as being frangible.
The roof plate to curb angle fillet weld must not be greater than 5mm.
The roof slope must not be greater than 1:5 for BSEN 14015 and 1:6 for API 650 tanks.

For small tanks of dia less than 5 metres it is not normally possible to make the strength of the compression
ring to shell junction weak enough to provide failure before the base to shell or shell its self fails.

Consequently for smaller tanks emergency-venting capacity has to be provided by the use of emergency
relief man-ways situated on the tank roof.

In addition to the noted tank design codes further information can be found in EEMUA publication No
180 - 'Guide for designers and users on frangible roof joints for fixed roof storage tanks'.
Picture - Fixed Roof Tank with Frangible Roof Joint where the roof-to-shell connection failed under
excessive vapour pressure.