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Metal Expansion Joints for Pressure Vessels: Applicable Design Codes and Standards

Different requirements apply to expansion joints for pressure vessels and Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers than for pipings. These usually have to be designed for higher pressures and the axial movements are not as pronounced as with piping. Although they must be designed for a defined axial expansion, they can be designed to be stiffer overall.

Expansion joints in Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

Heat exchangers are critical equipment in many industrial heating and cooling processes. Due to the system-related temperature difference between the outer shell pipe and the slim inner tubes, different changes in length occur which can lead to large material stresses, especially with fixed tube heat exchangers. An expansion joint is inserted in the shell pipe for this purpose.

In shell and tube heat exchangers are two main types of expansion joints used: bellows and flanged & flued.

  • Bellows type expansion joints have a flexible, accordion-like geometry that permits expansion differential between the tubes and shell. Benefits over Flanged & Flued is their flexibility in design to accommodate greater movement. Downsides is their thin-wall construction is less robust and at risk of physical damage and the pressure load is lower.
  • Flanged & Flued expansion joints typically utilised two formed shapes that form a single large corrugation and are constructed of the same material and thickness as the shell cylinder. Flanged and Flued Expansion Joints typically have higher stiffness and absorb less axial deflection compared to lens type Thick Walled Expansion Joints. They are tough and reliable and also suitable for higher pressures. They are quite strong and less likely to fail than bellows expansion joints.

Table: Overview of Codes, Standards and other Specification for Expansion Joints

EN 13445 serieEN 14917Germany
AD 2000 B13
ASME BPVC Section VIII Div. 1 App. 26ASME BPVC Section VIII Div. 1
App. 5
EJMA Rules
ApplicationPressure VesselPressure Vessel and PipingPressure Vessel and PipingPressure Vessel and Heat ExchangerHeat ExchangerGeneral applications
General NotesCE Marking and EU-Declaration of Conformity by pressure vessel assembly manufacturerEU harmonised
CE Marking and EU-Declaration of Conformity
Specification for single-ply design Bellows Expansion Joints ASME Code U Certificate (Form 26-1) by Pressure Vessel Manufacturer or Part Manufacturer required;ASME Code U Certificate (UG-120) by Pressure Vessel Manufacturer or Part Manufacturer required;This rules are referred in any Piping Codes
Scope & LimitsPS > 0,5 bar;
Bellows Expansion Joints intended to installed on pressure vessels, especially tube-sheet
heat exchanger
(assembly manufacturer)
Bellows Expansion Joints for pressurised applications;Single ply Bellows Expansion Joints for
Pressure vessel and industrial piping
MAWP > 15 psi = 1 bar;
Bellows Expansion Joints;
MAWP > 15 psi = 1 bar;
Flexible Shell Element Expansion Joints;
Bellows Expansion Joints for generally applications
PED harmonised standardYesYesNoNoNoNo
Pressure thrust loading incl. combined other movementsYesYesYesTable 26-1YesYes
Angular rotation (rotating movement)EN 13445-3/ Clause 14.10 YesYesTable 26-1YesYes
Axial movementEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.10required anchor and additional guidesYesTable 26-1YesYes
Lateral deflection EN 13445-3/ Clause 14.10YesYesTable 26-1YesYes
UniversalNorequired anchor and additional guidesNoTable 26-1NoYes
Multiple-plyYesYesNoYesNoYes, max 5
Calculation of the allowable number of cyclesYesYesYesYesApp. 5-1 (d): Not required, only specified by Pressure vessel manufacturerYes
Stresses and Instability due to internal pressureYesYesYesYesYesYes
Fatigue evaluationYesYesYesYesYes
External pressure designEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.7.5YesYesYesNoYes
Design generalEN 13445-3/ Clause 14YesYespara. UHX-1: If max. Design Temperatures higher than Table 26-1.2: Design requirements for bellow expansion joints in
Section VIII, Div. 2, Part 4.19
App. 5-3;
UHX-1: If max. Design Temperatures higher than Table 26-1.2: Design requirements
Section VIII, Div. 2, Part 4.20
Unreinforced U-shaped bellowsEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.5Section 6.2.3 YesTable 26-1NoYes
U-shaped reinforced bellowsEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.6Section 6.2.4NoTable 26-1NoYes
Toroidal bellowsEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.7Section 6.2.5NoTable 26-1NoYes
Fabrication EN 13445-3/ Clause 14.8
EN 13445-4
Section 7NoApp. 26-10App. 5-4Yes
Inspection and testingEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.9
EN 13445-5
Section 8NoApp. 26-11App. 5-5Yes
MarkingAssmembly marking by name plate incl. CE Marking;
No additional requirements
Separate marking by name plateCode requirementsApp. 26-13
ASME U2 Stamp incl. Partial Data Report
App. 5-6No
Operating/installation instructionRequired
EN 13445-5
Section 8.7.3NoPressure Vessel Code
Pressure Vessel Code
Installation and shipmentEN 13445-3/ Clause 14.4.6Section 10.3
Annex C

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Metal Bellows Expansion Joints for pressurised piping systems: Applicable Codes and Standards


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