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Pressure vessel
A pressure vessel is a container designed to hold gases or
liquids at a pressure substantially different from the ambient

Pressure vessels can be dangerous, and fatal accidents have

occurred in the history of their development and operation.
Consequently, pressure vessel design, manufacture, and
operation are regulated by engineering authorities backed by
legislation. For these reasons, the definition of a pressure vessel
varies from country to country.
Horizontal pressure vessel in steel.
Design involves parameters such as maximum safe operating
pressure and temperature, safety factor, corrosion allowance
and minimum design temperature (for brittle fracture). Construction is tested using nondestructive testing, such as
ultrasonic testing, radiography, and pressure tests. Hydrostatic tests use water, but pneumatic tests use air or another gas.
Hydrostatic testing is preferred, because it is a safer method, as much less energy is released if a fracture occurs during the
test (water does not rapidly increase its volume when rapid depressurization occurs, unlike gases like air, which fail

In most countries, vessels over a certain size and pressure must be built to a formal code. In the United States that code is
the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC). These vessels also require an authorized inspector to sign off on every
new vessel constructed and each vessel has a nameplate with pertinent information about the vessel, such as maximum
allowable working pressure, maximum temperature, minimum design metal temperature, what company manufactured it,
the date, its registration number (through the National Board), and ASME's official stamp for pressure vessels (U-stamp).
The nameplate makes the vessel traceable and officially an ASME Code vessel.

History of pressure vessels
Pressure vessel features
Shape of a pressure vessel
Construc on materials
Safety features
Leak before burst
Safety valves
Maintenance features
Pressure vessel closures

Alterna ves to pressure vessels

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Scaling of stress in walls of vessel
Spherical vessel
Cylindrical vessel with hemispherical ends
Cylindrical vessel with semi-ellip cal ends
Gas storage
Stress in thin-walled pressure vessels
Winding angle of carbon fibre vessels
Opera on standards
List of standards

See also
Further reading
External links

History of pressure vessels

The earliest documented design of pressure vessels is described in the book Codex
Madrid I, by Leonardo da Vinci, in 1495, where containers of pressurized air were
theorized to lift heavy weights underwater,[1] however vessels resembling what are
used today did not come about until the 1800s where steam was generated in
boilers helping to spur the industrial revolution.[1] However, with poor material
quality and manufacturing techniques along with improper knowledge of design,
A 10,000 psi (69 MPa) pressure
operation and maintenance there was a large number of damaging and often fatal vessel from 1919, wrapped with
explosions associated with these boilers and pressure vessels, with a death high tensile steel banding and steel
occurring on a nearly daily basis in the United States.[1] Local providences and rods to secure the end caps.
states in the US began enacting rules for constructing these vessels after some
particularly devastating vessel failures occurred killing dozens of people at a time,
which made it difficult for manufacturers to keep up with the varied rules from one location to another and the first
pressure vessel code was developed starting in 1911 and released in 1914, starting the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel
Code (BPVC).[1] In an early effort to design a tank capable of withstanding pressures up to 10,000 psi (69 MPa), a 6-inch
(150 mm) diameter tank was developed in 1919 that was spirally-wound with two layers of high tensile strength steel wire
to prevent sidewall rupture, and the end caps longitudinally reinforced with lengthwise high-tensile rods.[2] The need for
high pressure and temperature vessels for petroleum refineries and chemical plants gave rise to vessels joined with
welding instead of rivets (which were unsuitable for the pressures and temperatures required) and in 1920s and 1930s the
BPVC included welding as an acceptable means of construction, and welding is the main means of joining metal vessels

There have been many advancements in the field of pressure vessel engineering such as advanced non-destructive
examination, phased array ultrasonic testing and radiography, new material grades with increased corrosion resistance
and stronger materials, and new ways to join materials such as explosion welding (to attach one metal sheet to another,
usually a thin corrosion resistant metal like stainless steel to a stronger metal like carbon steel), friction stir welding
(which attaches the metals together without melting the metal), advanced theories and means of more accurately
assessing the stresses encountered in vessels such as with the use of Finite Element Analysis, allowing the vessels to be
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built safer and more efficiently. Today vessels in the USA require BPVC stamping but the BPVC is not just a domestic code,
many other countries have adopted the BPVC as their official code. There are, however, other official codes in some
countries (some of which rely on portions of and reference the BPVC), Japan, Australia, Canada, Britain, and Europe have
their own codes. Regardless of the country nearly all recognize the inherent potential hazards of pressure vessels and the
need for standards and codes regulating their design and construction.

Pressure vessel features

Shape of a pressure vessel

Pressure vessels can theoretically be almost any shape, but shapes made of sections of spheres, cylinders, and cones are
usually employed. A common design is a cylinder with end caps called heads. Head shapes are frequently either
hemispherical or dished (torispherical). More complicated shapes have historically been much harder to analyze for safe
operation and are usually far more difficult to construct.

Spherical gas container. Cylindrical pressure vessel. Picture of the bo om of an Fire Ex nguisher with
aerosol spray can. rounded rectangle
pressure vessel

Theoretically, a spherical pressure vessel has approximately twice the strength of a cylindrical pressure vessel with the
same wall thickness,[3] and is the ideal shape to hold internal pressure.[1] However, a spherical shape is difficult to
manufacture, and therefore more expensive, so most pressure vessels are cylindrical with 2:1 semi-elliptical heads or end
caps on each end. Smaller pressure vessels are assembled from a pipe and two covers. For cylindrical vessels with a
diameter up to 600 mm (NPS of 24 in), it is possible to use seamless pipe for the shell, thus avoiding many inspection and
testing issues, mainly the nondestructive examination of radiography for the long seam if required. A disadvantage of
these vessels is that greater diameters are more expensive, so that for example the most economic shape of a 1,000 litres
(35 cu ft), 250 bars (3,600 psi) pressure vessel might be a diameter of 91.44 centimetres (36 in) and a length of 1.7018
metres (67 in) including the 2:1 semi-elliptical domed end caps.

Construc on materials
Many pressure vessels are made of steel. To manufacture a cylindrical or spherical pressure vessel, rolled and possibly
forged parts would have to be welded together. Some mechanical properties of steel, achieved by rolling or forging, could
be adversely affected by welding, unless special precautions are taken. In addition to adequate mechanical strength,
current standards dictate the use of steel with a high impact resistance, especially for vessels used in low temperatures. In
applications where carbon steel would suffer corrosion, special corrosion resistant material should also be used.

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Some pressure vessels are made of composite material, such as filament wound
composite using carbon fibre held in place with a polymer, (Kabir, 2000) (http://
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263822399000446). Due to the
very high tensile strength of carbon fibre these vessels can be very light, but are
much more difficult to manufacture. The composite material may be wound
around a metal liner, forming a composite overwrapped pressure vessel.

Other very common materials include polymers such as PET in carbonated

beverage containers and copper in plumbing.

Pressure vessels may be lined with various metals, ceramics, or polymers to Composite overwrapped pressure
prevent leaking and protect the structure of the vessel from the contained vessel with tanium liner.

medium. This liner may also carry a significant portion of the pressure load.[4][5]

Pressure Vessels may also be constructed from concrete (PCV) or other materials which are weak in tension. Cabling,
wrapped around the vessel or within the wall or the vessel itself, provides the necessary tension to resist the internal
pressure. A "leakproof steel thin membrane" lines the internal wall of the vessel. Such vessels can be assembled from
modular pieces and so have "no inherent size limitations".[6] There is also a high order of redundancy thanks to the large
number of individual cables resisting the internal pressure.

Safety features

Leak before burst

Leak before burst describes a pressure vessel designed such that a crack in the vessel will grow through the wall, allowing
the contained fluid to escape and reducing the pressure, prior to growing so large as to cause fracture at the operating

Many pressure vessel standards, including the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code and the AIAA metallic pressure
vessel standard, either require pressure vessel designs to be leak before burst, or require pressure vessels to meet more
stringent requirements for fatigue and fracture if they are not shown to be leak before burst.[7]

Safety valves
As the pressure vessel is designed to a pressure, there is typically a safety valve or
relief valve to ensure that this pressure is not exceeded in operation.

Maintenance features

Pressure vessel closures

Example of a valve used for gas
Pressure vessel closures are pressure retaining structures designed to provide cylinders.
quick access to pipelines, pressure vessels, pig traps, filters and filtration systems.
Typically pressure vessel closures allow maintenance personnel.


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Pressure vessels are used in a variety of applications in both

industry and the private sector. They appear in these sectors as
industrial compressed air receivers and domestic hot water
storage tanks. Other examples of pressure vessels are diving
cylinders, recompression chambers, distillation towers, pressure
reactors, autoclaves, and many other vessels in mining
operations, oil refineries and petrochemical plants, nuclear
reactor vessels, submarine and space ship habitats, pneumatic
reservoirs, hydraulic reservoirs under pressure, rail vehicle
An LNG carrier ship with four pressure vessels for
airbrake reservoirs, road vehicle airbrake reservoirs, and storage liquefied natural gas.
vessels for liquified gases such as ammonia, chlorine, and LPG
(propane, butane).

A unique application of a pressure vessel is the passenger cabin of an airliner: the outer skin carries both the aircraft
maneuvering loads and the cabin pressurization loads.

A pressure tank connected A few pressure tanks, here A pressure vessel used as a A pressure vessel used for
to a water well and used to hold propane. kier. The Boeing Company’s
domes c hot water CST-100 spacecra .

Alternatives to pressure vessels

Natural gas storage
Gas holder
Depending on the application and local circumstances, alternatives to pressure vessels exist. Examples can be seen in
domestic water collection systems, where the following may be used:

Gravity-controlled systems[8] which typically consist of an unpressurized water tank at an eleva on higher than the point of use.
Pressure at the point of use is the result of the hydrosta c pressure caused by the eleva on difference. Gravity systems produce
0.43 pounds per square inch (3.0 kPa) per foot of water head (eleva on difference). A municipal water supply or pumped water
is typically around 90 pounds per square inch (620 kPa).
Inline pump controllers or pressure-sensi ve pumps.[9]



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No matter what shape it takes, the minimum mass of a pressure vessel scales with the pressure and volume it contains and
is inversely proportional to the strength to weight ratio of the construction material (minimum mass decreases as strength

Scaling of stress in walls of vessel

Pressure vessels are held together against the gas pressure due to tensile forces within the walls of the container. The
normal (tensile) stress in the walls of the container is proportional to the pressure and radius of the vessel and inversely
proportional to the thickness of the walls.[11] Therefore, pressure vessels are designed to have a thickness proportional to
the radius of tank and the pressure of the tank and inversely proportional to the maximum allowed normal stress of the
particular material used in the walls of the container.

Because (for a given pressure) the thickness of the walls scales with the radius of the tank, the mass of a tank (which scales
as the length times radius times thickness of the wall for a cylindrical tank) scales with the volume of the gas held (which
scales as length times radius squared). The exact formula varies with the tank shape but depends on the density, ρ, and
maximum allowable stress σ of the material in addition to the pressure P and volume V of the vessel. (See below for the
exact equations for the stress in the walls.)

Spherical vessel
For a sphere, the minimum mass of a pressure vessel is


is mass, (kg)
is the pressure difference from ambient (the gauge pressure), (Pa)
is volume,
is the density of the pressure vessel material, (kg/m^3)
is the maximum working stress that material can tolerate. (Pa)[12]
Other shapes besides a sphere have constants larger than 3/2 (infinite cylinders take 2), although some tanks, such as
non-spherical wound composite tanks can approach this.

Cylindrical vessel with hemispherical ends

This is sometimes called a "bullet" for its shape, although in geometric terms it is a capsule.

For a cylinder with hemispherical ends,


R is the radius (m)

W is the middle cylinder width only, and the overall width is W + 2R (m)[13]

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Cylindrical vessel with semi-ellip cal ends

In a vessel with an aspect ratio of middle cylinder width to radius of 2:1,

Gas storage
In looking at the first equation, the factor PV, in SI units, is in units of (pressurization) energy. For a stored gas, PV is
proportional to the mass of gas at a given temperature, thus

. (see gas law)

The other factors are constant for a given vessel shape and material. So we can see that there is no theoretical "efficiency of
scale", in terms of the ratio of pressure vessel mass to pressurization energy, or of pressure vessel mass to stored gas mass.
For storing gases, "tankage efficiency" is independent of pressure, at least for the same temperature.

So, for example, a typical design for a minimum mass tank to hold helium (as a pressurant gas) on a rocket would use a
spherical chamber for a minimum shape constant, carbon fiber for best possible , and very cold helium for best
possible .

Stress in thin-walled pressure vessels

Stress in a shallow-walled pressure vessel in the shape of a sphere is

where is hoop stress, or stress in the circumferential direction, is stress in the longitudinal direction, p is internal
gauge pressure, r is the inner radius of the sphere, and t is thickness of the sphere wall. A vessel can be considered
"shallow-walled" if the diameter is at least 10 times (sometimes cited as 20 times) greater than the wall depth.[14]

Stress in a shallow-walled pressure vessel in the shape of a

cylinder is


is hoop stress, or stress in the circumferen al direc on

is stress in the longitudinal direc on
Stress in the cylinder body of a pressure vessel.
p is internal gauge pressure
r is the inner radius of the cylinder
t is thickness of the cylinder wall.

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Almost all pressure vessel design standards contain variations of these two formulas with additional empirical terms to
account for variation of stresses across thickness, quality control of welds and in-service corrosion allowances. All
formulae mentioned above assume uniform distribution of membrane stresses across thickness of shell but in reality, that
is not the case. Deeper analysis is given by Lame's theory. The formulae of pressure vessel design standards are extension
of Lame's theory by putting some limit on ratio of inner radius and thickness.

For example, the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) (UG-27) formulas are:[15]

Spherical shells: Thickness has to be less than 0.356 times inner radius

Cylindrical shells: Thickness has to be less than 0.5 times inner radius

where E is the joint efficient, and all others variables as stated above.

The factor of safety is often included in these formulas as well, in the case of the ASME BPVC this term is included in the
material stress value when solving for pressure or thickness.

Winding angle of carbon fibre vessels

Wound infinite cylindrical shapes optimally take a winding angle of 54.7 degrees, as this gives the necessary twice the
strength in the circumferential direction to the longitudinal.[16]

Opera on standards
Pressure vessels are designed to operate safely at a specific pressure and temperature, technically referred to as the
"Design Pressure" and "Design Temperature". A vessel that is inadequately designed to handle a high pressure constitutes
a very significant safety hazard. Because of that, the design and certification of pressure vessels is governed by design
codes such as the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code in North America, the Pressure Equipment Directive of the EU
(PED), Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS), CSA B51 in Canada, Australian Standards in Australia and other international
standards like Lloyd's, Germanischer Lloyd, Det Norske Veritas, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS S.A.), Lloyd’s
Register Energy Nederland (formerly known as Stoomwezen) (http://www.lr.org/nl/energy/stoomwezen/) etc.

Note that where the pressure-volume product is part of a safety standard, any incompressible liquid in the vessel can be
excluded as it does not contribute to the potential energy stored in the vessel, so only the volume of the compressible part
such as gas is used.

List of standards

EN 13445: The current European Standard, harmonized with the Pressure Equipment Direc ve (97/23/EC). Extensively used in
ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code Sec on VIII: Rules for Construc on of Pressure Vessels.

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BS 5500: Former Bri sh Standard, replaced in the UK by BS EN 13445 but retained under the name PD 5500 for the design and
construc on of export equipment.
AD Merkblä er: German standard, harmonized with the Pressure Equipment Direc ve.
EN 286 (Parts 1 to 4): European standard for simple pressure vessels (air tanks), harmonized with Council Direc ve 87/404/EEC.
BS 4994: Specifica on for design and construc on of vessels and tanks in reinforced plas cs.
ASME PVHO: US standard for Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy.
CODAP: French Code for Construc on of Unfired Pressure Vessel.
AS/NZS 1200: Pressure equipment.[17]
AS/NZS 3788:2006[18]
API 510.[19]
ISO 11439: Compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders[20]
IS 2825-1969 (RE1977)_code_unfired_Pressure_vessels.
FRP tanks and vessels.
AIAA S-080-1998: AIAA Standard for Space Systems - Metallic Pressure Vessels, Pressurized Structures, and Pressure
AIAA S-081A-2006: AIAA Standard for Space Systems - Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs).
B51-09 Canadian Boiler, pressure vessel, and pressure piping code.
HSE guidelines for pressure systems.
Stoomwezen: Former pressure vessels code in the Netherlands, also known as RToD: Regels voor Toestellen onder Druk (Dutch
Rules for Pressure Vessels).

See also
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Minimum design metal temperature (MDMT)
Bo led gas Vapor–liquid separator or Knock-out drum
Composite overwrapped pressure vessel Pressure bomb – a device for measuring leaf water
Compressed air energy storage poten als
Compressed natural gas Rainwater harves ng
Demister Relief valve
Fire-tube boiler Safety valve
Gas cylinder Shell and tube heat exchanger
Gasket Vortex breaker
Head (vessel) Water well
Water-tube boiler

1. Nilsen, Kyle. (2011) "Development of low pressure filter tes ng vessel and analysis of electrospun nanofiber membranes for
water treatment" (h p://hdl.handle.net/10057/3997)
2. Ingenious Coal-Gas Motor Tank, Popular Science monthly, January 1919, page 27, Scanned by Google Books:
h ps://books.google.com/books?id=HykDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA13
3. Hearn, E.J. (1997). Mechanics of Materials 1. An Introduc on to the Mechanics of Elas c and Plas c Deforma on of Solids and
Structural Materials - Third Edi on. Chapter 9: Bu erworth-Heinemann. pp. 199–203. ISBN 0-7506-3265-8.
4. NASA Tech Briefs, "Making a Metal-Lined Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel" (h p://www.techbriefs.com/component/co
ntent/ar cle/747), 1 Mar 2005.
5. Frietas, O., "Maintenance and Repair of Glass-Lined Equipment", Chemical Engineering, 1 Jul 2007.
6. "High Pressure Vessels",D. Freyer and J. Harvey, 1998

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7. ANSI/AIAA S-080-1998, Space Systems - Metallic Pressure Vessels, Pressurized Structures, and Pressure Components, §5.1
8. Pushard, Doug (2005). "Domes c water collec on systems also some mes able to func on on gravity" (h p://www.harvesth2o.
com/faq.shtml). Harvesth2o.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
9. Pushard, Doug. "Alterna ves to pressure vessels in domes c water systems" (h p://www.harvesth2o.com/pumps_or_tanks.sht
ml). Harvesth2o.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
10. Puskarich, Paul (2009-05-01). "Strengthened Glass for Pipleine Systems" (h p://www.gmic.org/Student%20Contest%20Entries/2
007%20Contest%20Entries/26-Paul%20Puskarich%20-%20Glass%20for%20Pipeline%20Systems.pdf) (PDF). MIT. Retrieved
11. Beer, Ferdinand P.; Johnston, Jr., E. Russel; DeWolf, John T. "7.9". Mechanics of Materials (fourth ed.). McGraw-Hill. p. 463.
ISBN 9780073659350.
12. For a sphere the thickness d = rP/2σ, where r is the radius of the tank. The volume of the spherical surface then is 4πr2d =
4πr3P/2σ. The mass is determined by mul plying by the density of the material that makes up the walls of the spherical vessel.
Further the volume of the gas is (4πr3)/3. Combining these equa ons give the above results. The equa ons for the other
geometries are derived in a similar manner
13. "Mass of pressure Cylindrical vessel with hemispherical ends( capsule) - calculator - fxSolver" (h p://www.fxsolver.com/browse/
formulas/Mass+of+pressure+Cylindrical+vessel+with+hemispherical+ends(+capsule)). www.fxsolver.com. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
14. Richard Budynas, J. Nisbe , Shigley's Mechanical Engineering Design, 8th ed., New York:McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-312193-2,
pg 108
15. An Interna onal Code 2007 ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code (h p://www.asme.org/kb/standards/bpvc-resources). The
Americal Society of Mechanical Engineers. 2007.
16. MIT pressure vessel lecture (h p://web.mit.edu/course/3/3.11/www/modules/pv.pdf)
17. "AS 1200 Pressure Vessels" (h p://infostore.saiglobal.com/store2/Details.aspx?ProductID=356464). SAI Global. Retrieved
14 November 2011.
18. "AS_NZS 3788: 2006 Pressure equipment - In-service inspec on" (h p://infostore.saiglobal.com/store/details.aspx?ProductID=3
74650). SAI Global. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
19. "Pressure Vessel Inspec on Code: In-Service Inspec on, Ra ng, Repair, and Altera on" (h p://global.ihs.com/doc_detail.cfm?ite
m_s_key=00010564). API. June 2006.
20. ."Gas cylinders - High pressure cylinders for the on-board storage of natural gas as a fuel for automo ve vehicles" (h p://www.is
o.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=33298). ISO. 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2009-04-17.

A.C. Ugural, S.K. Fenster, Advanced Strength and Applied Elas city, 4th ed.
E.P. Popov, Engineering Mechanics of Solids, 1st ed.
Megyesy, Eugene F. "Pressure Vessel Handbook, 14th Edi on." PV Publishing, Inc. Oklahoma City, OK
Kabir, Mohammad Z (2000). "Finite element analysis of composite pressure vessels with a load sharing metallic liner". Composite
Structures. 49 (3): 247–55. doi:10.1016/S0263-8223(99)00044-6 (h ps://doi.org/10.1016%2FS0263-8223%2899%2900044-6).

Further reading
Megyesy, Eugene F. (2008, 14th ed.) Pressure Vessel Handbook. PV Publishing, Inc.: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
www.pressurevesselhandbook.com Design handbook for pressure vessels based on the ASME code.

External links
Use of pressure vessels in oil and gas industry (h p://ar cles.compressionjobs.com/ar cles/oilfield-101/5130-storage-tanks-ves

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Basic formulas for thin walled pressure vessels; with examples (h p://www.mathalino.com/reviewer/mechanics-and-strength-of
Educa onal Excel spreadsheets for ASME head, shell and nozzle designs (h p://www.pveng.com/ASME/DesignTools/DesignTool
ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel website (h p://www.asme.org/Codes/Interna onal_Boiler_Pressure.cfm)
Journal of Pressure Vessel Technology (h p://www.asmedl.org/PressureVesselTech)
EU Pressure Equipment Direc ve website (h p://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/pressure_equipment/ped/index_en.html)
EU Simple Pressure Vessel Direc ve (h ps://web.archive.org/web/20060623135144/h p://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/pressure_e
EU Classifica on (h ps://web.archive.org/web/20070111202012/h p://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/pressure_equipment/ped/gui
Pressure Vessel a achments h p://oakridgebellows.com/metal-expansion-joints/technical-videos/lugs-on-pipe-and-vessels-
new (h p://oakridgebellows.com/metal-expansion-joints/technical-videos/lugs-on-pipe-and-vessels-new)

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