Misapplication of Pressure Vessel Codes in Forensic Applications





FEA, Simulation, Stress-Strain, Failure Analysis, Pressure Vessel, ASME, piping, corrosion, Finite Element, Phoenix


Engineering codes are a key method to guide designs to safe and reliable outcomes. Many such codes have prescribed calculations where the user provides specific inputs in a series of calculations, often using charts or tables, to get specific outputs. The design margins, units, and underlying theory are not always apparent. Engineering codes may not be suitable for reverse engineering an incident or providing a failure prediction. This article examines a criminal negligence case in which an initial forensic analysis incorrectly applied the ASME Pressure Vessel Code to use Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of a failed pressure vessel section. The flaws in the original analysis were revealed by applying reverse engineering using conventional stress calculations and understanding basic material science. This emphasizes the need to understand the underlying theories with both engineering codes and numerical modeling. Subsequent FEA provided an accurate analysis report that was successfully used in court. These same methods can be applied to many other engineering codes and standards.


R. G. Kammer. “The Role of Standards in Today's Society and in the Future.” https://www.nist.gov/speech-testimony/role-standards-todays-society-and-future (accessed 02 January 2018).

B. Kemper, “Evil intent and design responsibility,” Science and Engineering Ethics, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 303-309, jun 2004, doi: 10.1007/s11948-004-0026-4.

Boiler and Pressure Vessel Safety Act, S. o. Illinois § 430 ILCS 75, 2017.

Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, ISBN 0517-5321, ASME, New York, 2010.

W. J. Sperko, “Reduction of Design Margin (“Safety Factor”) in the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code in the 1999 Addenda,” Sperko Engineering, June 1, 2000 2000. [Online]. Available: http://sperkoengineering.com/html/articles/Margin.pdf.

D. A. Osage and J. C. Sowinski, “ASME Section VIII—Division 2 Criteria and Commentary,”ASME PTB-1, 2007.

Process Piping (B31.3-2008 ), Engineering Code 0791831507, ASME, New York, NY, 2008.

Fitness-for-service (API 579/ASME FFS-1), ISBN 0791831027, API and ASME, Washington, D.C., 2007.

T. Seipp and M. Stonehouse, “Writing and Reviewing FEA Reports Supporting ASME Section VIII, Division 1 and 2 Designs: Practical Considerations and Recommended Good Practice,” in ASME 2014 Pressure Vessels and Piping Conference, 2014, vol. Volume 3: Design and Analysis, V003T03A076, doi: 10.1115/pvp2014-28958.

J. R. Farr and M. H. Jawad, Guidebook for the design of ASME section VIII pressure vessels. New York: ASME (in English), 2010.

K. R. Rao, Companion guide to the ASME boiler & pressure vessel code : criteria and commentary on select aspects of the boiler & pressure vessel and piping codes, 2nd ed. New York: ASME Press (in English), 2006.

D. R. Moss, Pressure vessel design manual : illustrated procedures for solving major pressure vessel design problems. Amsterdam; Boston; Heidelberg: Elsevier/Gulf Professional (in English), 2004.

D. Renfroe, “Forensic Engineers Preparing to Meet the Challenges To Credibility in a Court of Law,” Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers, vol. XXIV, no. 1, p. 8, June 2007 2007.

Federal Rules of Evidence, § 702 Testimony by Expert Witnesses, 2014.

O. C. Zienkiewicz and R. L. Taylor, Finite Element Method: Vol. 2: Solid and Structural Mechanics. Vol. 2. (in English.), 2000.

B. Kemper, “Jurisdictional Acceptance of Non-ASME Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy,” in Joint ASME/USCG Workshop on Marine Technology & Standards, Arlington, Virginia USA, July 2013 2013: ASME, doi: 10.13140/2.1.1144.9927.

K. Karpanan and W. Thomas, “Local Failure Analysis of HPHT Subsea Tree Components due to Triaxial Stress,” in ASME 2014 Pressure Vessels and Piping Conference, 2014, vol. Volume 5: High-Pressure Technology; ASME NDE Division; 22nd Scavuzzo Student Paper Symposium and Competition, V005T05A009, doi: 10.1115/pvp2014-28722.

W. T. Yaxley and W. Bracken, “Forensic Engineering Structural Failure Review By Finite Element Analysis,” Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers, vol. XIX, no. 1, p. 5, June 2002 2002.

J. W. Ozog and R. M. Frierott. (2017) The Eroding Distinction Between Strict Liability and Negligence in Illinois Product Liability Cases. IDC Quarterly. 3.

W. C. Young and R. J. Roark, Roark’s formulas for stress and strain, 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill (in English), 1989.

M. Jirásek and Z. P. Bazant, Inelastic analysis of structures. Chichester, West Sussex, England; New York, NY: Wiley (in English), 2002.

J. Lubliner, Plasticity theory. Mineola: Dover Publications (in English), 2008.

A106 / A106M-19a. Standard Specification for Seamless Carbon Steel Pipe for High-Temperature Service, ASTM, West Conshohocken, PA, 2010.

X. Duan, M. J. Kozluk, T. Gendron, and J. Slade, “Alternative methodology for assessing part-through-wall cracks in carbon steel bends removed from Point Lepreau Generating Station,” Nuclear Engineering and Design, vol. 241, no. 3, pp. 630-637, 2011/03/01/ 2011, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nucengdes.2010.07.035.

ASM, Atlas of Stress-Strain Curves, 2nd ed. Materials Park, OH: ASM International, 2002.

V. Nascimento and L. Nunes, “Analysis of asymmetric radial deformation in pipe with local wall thinning under internal pressure using strain energy method,” in Technical Committee on Solid Mechanics, Brazilian Society of Mechanical Sciences and Engineering (ABCM), 2009, p. 399.

B. Kemper, “Application of Annealed Cable for Vehicle Arresting Barriers,” in Safety Engineering and Risk Analysis, 2002 2002: ASME, doi: 10.1115/imece2002-32464.




How to Cite

Kemper, Bart. 2021. “Misapplication of Pressure Vessel Codes in Forensic Applications”. Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers 37 (1). https://doi.org/10.51501/jotnafe.v37i1.67.