Storage Tank Venting

For Conservation, Safety and Environmental Protection

Protectoseal vents are intended for use on atmospheric and low pressure liquid storage tanks. This section explains why tank venting equipment is needed and the method of sizing and specifying relief vents. The hazards associated with pressure and vacuum accumulation, especially in tanks storing flammable and combustible liquids, are identified. The operation of vents, their role in safe plant operations, and importance in minimizing evaporation losses and fugitive emissions are also discussed. Definitions of terms commonly encountered in the tank venting industry are provided, along with links to other useful and informative sites.


Atmospheric Tank – A storage tank that has been designed to operate at pressures from atmospheric through 0.5 PSIG.
Combustible Liquid – A liquid having a flashpoint at or above 100° F.
Diaphragm – The sealing (gasket) material that is part of the pallet assembly and which seals against the seat surface when the vent is closed.
Design Pressure – The maximum pressure or vacuum that a storage tank can withstand without damage to its structure.
Flammable Liquid – A liquid having a flashpoint below 100° F.
Flashpoint – The minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor in sufficient concentration to form an ignitable mixture with air near the surface of the liquid.
Leak Rate – The leakage of vapor from the vent prior to reaching the set point.
Low Pressure Tank – A storage tank which has been designed to operate at pressures above 0.5 PSIG but not more than 15 PSIG.
Pallet Assembly – The weight or spring loaded disc housed within the vent that moves in response to the tank pressure, allowing flow into or out of the tank. The pallet assembly covers the vent seat when in the closed position.
Pressure Vessel – A storage tank or vessel which has been designed to operate at pressures above 15 PSIG.
Set Point – The tank pressure/vacuum at which the vent begins to open.
Seat – The machined orifice within the vent housing on which the pallet assemblies sit when closed.
Tank Vent – A device intended to provide pressure and/or vacuum relief for atmospheric or low pressure storage tanks. The set points of the vents may be provided by weight loading, spring loading or buckling pin.



The use of large capacity tanks and vessels for the temporary storage of flammable or combustible liquids is a common practice in a wide range of commercial and industrial enterprises. These tanks provide fixed volume containers to hold liquids transferred (filling and emptying) through connected piping systems. In any such fixed roof tank, the volume above the liquid level is known as the vapor space.

Assume that a tank is completely vapor tight and that liquid is being pumped into and out of the tank. Filling the tank raises the liquid level and causes the vapor space to decrease (vapors are compressed), with a resulting increase in the pressure in the vapor space. Alternatively, if liquid is withdrawn from the tank, the vapor space increases (vapors are allowed to expand) and the pressure in the vapor space decreases.

Now assume that the tank is again completely vapor tight, no liquid is being transferred (the liquid level does not change), but the liquid in the tank is being heated or cooled. The addition of heat causes vapors to be generated and evolve into the closed vapor space. The result is an increase in pressure in the vapor space. Cooling of the liquid leads to contraction of the vapors and a corresponding pressure decrease in the vapor space.

The scenarios outlined above reflect common hazards associated with the storage of flammable liquids in fixed roof tanks. Unless the tanks are equipped with properly designed and specified venting devices, excessive pressure and/or vacuum accumulations in the vapor space can result in severe tank damage. Protectoseal pressure and vacuum relief vents are specifically designed to address and eliminate this potentially hazardous situation.

Normal Venting- In day-to-day tank operations, changes in the liquid level are caused by routine filling and emptying of the tank. Changes in the temperature of the vapors and liquids in the tank are the result of variations in the ambient atmospheric temperatures (e.g. higher temperatures during the day; cooler temperatures at night). Discharging the volume of vapors generated (pressure relief), or inbreathing the volume of make-up air required (vacuum relief), during such activities is defined as normal venting (Vents That Provide Normal Pressure/Vacuum Relief).
Emergency Venting- The temperature of the stored liquid and vapors may also increase as a result of the tank being exposed to an external fire. A significant amount of heat may be transferred through the tank shell and the volume of vapors generated as a result of this heat input can be substantial. Providing a means of discharging this large volume of vapors and prohibiting an increase of pressure within the tank is defined as emergency venting (Vents That Provide Emergency Pressure Relief).


In addition to protecting a tank from excessive pressure and vacuum, Protectoseal vents also play a key role in the reduction of product evaporation losses and fugitive emissions. The vents are designed to remain closed until they must open to protect the tanks. Vapors are contained and are not released into the atmosphere. The reduction in product loss as compared to an open vent pipeline is significant. The emission of vapors into the atmosphere is minimized. Tank vents are an important tool in any company’s attempts to comply with the Clean Air Act mandates concerning air pollution.


The method of operation of Protectoseal pressure/vacuum vents is straightforward. The vents are mounted on a nozzle connection that leads to the tank’s vapor space. Each vent includes a machined seat that is closed by a moveable sealing disk (pallet assembly). The pallet assembly is held in its closed position by weights, springs or buckling pin (depending on the vent style). The amount of closing force applied determines the set point of the vent. The pressure in the tank’s vapor space pushes against the pallet assembly, in opposition to the closing force. When the tank pressure reaches the vent set point, the pallet assembly lifts and vapors are allowed to escape from the tank through the vent. The pressure and/or vacuum in the tank’s vapor space is maintained within a safe range.


Pressure/Vacuum relief vents are available in a range of sizes. Larger size vents provide greater flow capability than smaller size vents. When choosing a proper size venting device the following information is significant:

The amount of vapors that must be relieved is usually stated in Standard Cubic Feet of Air per hour (SCFH). Methods of calculating these volumes for specific normal venting and emergency venting situations can be found in 29CFR – OSHA 1910.106.

Storage tanks are mechanical structures. There are limits as to how much pressure and vacuum they can withstand before they are damaged. These limits are known as the tank’s design pressure and vacuum.

The relief vent will remain closed until its set pressure is reached. If there is a need to maintain some pressure in the tank during normal operations, the vent must be set so that it will not open and begin relieving below that pressure.

Each size and style of vent will flow specific volumes of vapors at a given pressure. These vent flow capabilities are available from the manufacturer.

The key to sizing a vent for pressure or vacuum relief is to make sure that the vent (with set point) chosen will flow the required amount of vapors at a pressure less than the design pressure of the tank. This insures that the tank’s design pressure or vacuum are never exceeded.

Although the vent sizing procedure can be done manually, The Protectoseal Company has automated the calculation and specification process through the ProFlow® Sizing/Selection Software.

Protectoseal venting devices are available in a wide range of materials (aluminum, stainless steel, ductile iron, hastelloy, PVC, FRP, etc.). The material must be compatible with the service conditions. Improper material choice can lead to contamination of the product being stored or reduction in the vent’s ability to operate safely. Information on the corrosion resistance of materials under various service conditions is available in corrosion handbooks and chemical dictionaries.


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