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Pressure Vessels: Types, Working Principles, and Applications

Publication Date : 2023-05-16

By Mat Khaloobagheri


Pressure vessels are sturdy containers designed to hold and control internal or external pressure. They are of vital importance in numerous industries, with countless individuals directly involved with or in proximity to these vessels on a daily basis. However, despite their significant contribution to the global economy, there remains a general lack of understanding among the majority of people regarding the nature and purpose of pressure vessels.


What are pressure vessels and how do they work?

Pressure vessels primarily serve as containers for internal containment, and they are widely used for storing liquids, gases, or vapors at pressures exceeding 15 PSI. These vessels can be categorized as either fired, like boilers, or unfired, such as storage tanks, processing vessels, and heat exchangers. Due to their operation under high pressure, the fabrication of pressure vessels must adhere to stringent regulations. Prominent standards in this regard include ASME Section VIII and API 510.

When seeking a pressure vessel manufacturing company, it is crucial to choose a fabricator that diligently follows industry standards, implements rigorous quality control measures, and conducts thorough vessel testing to ensure optimal performance and safety.


What is the difference between pressure tanks and pressure vessels?

While people often use the terms "pressure vessel" and "pressure tank" interchangeably, they are not synonymous. In fact, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Pressure tanks are designed with a Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure (MAOP) of 15 PSI, whereas high-pressure vessels begin at 15 PSI and have the capacity to withstand pressures up to 3000 PSI, or even higher under specific allowances. This distinction highlights the varying capabilities and applications of these two types of containers.


Types of Pressure Vessels

There are many kinds of pressure vessels, with the three most common being storage vessels, heat exchangers, and process vessels.


Storage Vessels

Numerous products necessitate the application of pressure for their proper storage. Storage pressure vessels serve this purpose by offering tailored designs to accommodate specific types and temperatures of products. Examples of such products encompass propane, ammonia, butane, chlorine, and LPG, among others.


Heat Exchangers

Heat exchangers facilitate the transfer of heat between two substances without direct contact between them. Among the commonly used pressure vessel configurations for heat exchangers are those featuring a network of metal tubes. In these systems, one substance flows through the tubes while another substance circulates around them. This arrangement allows for efficient heat transfer from one substance to the other. An application of this type of pressure vessel can be observed in waste processing facilities, where heat exchangers play a vital role in recovering heat from waste gases.


Process Vessels

Process vessels, known for their versatility, are commonly integrated into production process lines where multiple tanks work together to carry out various tasks related to product processing. These tasks encompass separation, heating, cooling, purification, blending, and more. Process vessels find application in diverse industries such as paint manufacturing, drug manufacturing, refineries, and food processing facilities.


Pressure Vessel Designs and Shapes

The design requirements, stored product, available space, and budget of a company dictate the shape and size of a pressure vessel. The four prevalent shapes for pressure vessels include:

  • Cylindrical Pressure Vessels
  • Spherical Pressure Vessels
  • Horizontal Pressure Vessels
  • Vertical Pressure Vessels

In terms of material, pressure vessels can be fabricated from a wide range of materials, but the most commonly used ones are carbon and stainless steel.


Types of Pressure Vessel Heads

The most frequently encountered types of pressure vessels are cylindrical, horizontal, and vertical vessels, all of which necessitate specialized ASME caps on both ends. These caps, commonly referred to as "heads," come in three primary variations:

  • Hemispherical Head
  • Ellipsoidal Head
  • Flanged and Dished Heads



In conclusion, pressure vessels are essential components in numerous industries, serving as containers for storing liquids, gases, or vapors under high pressure. They are designed to meet strict regulations and standards to ensure safety and compliance. While pressure tanks and pressure vessels may be used interchangeably in common language, they have distinct differences in terms of maximum operating pressures. The three main types of pressure vessels include storage vessels, heat exchangers, and process vessels, each fulfilling specific functions in different industries. Pressure vessel designs and shapes vary based on design requirements, available space, and budget, with common shapes including cylindrical, spherical, horizontal, and vertical vessels. Understanding pressure vessels and their applications is crucial for maintaining safety and efficiency in various industrial processes.


Looking for Help?

If you are looking for an expert pressure vessel designer, look no further than Acetake Group Inc. We’ve been designing tanks and vessels for over 15 years and our state-of-the-art designing capabilities enables us to deliver robust vessels that stand the test of time.

Check out one of our recent ASME pressure vessel design and fabrication projects and contact us today to discuss your next pressure vessel project.


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