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Load Cases and How They Are Handled by PV Elite

By Ray Delaforce
PV Elite Software Engineer, Intergraph
What is a load case? Well, first we consider the word load. A load is any direct
force, or bending moment that is applied to a structure. Where do these loads come
from? Consider this tower, for example:

Image 1

Image 2
The lateral forces in Image 1 cause a bending moment to be experienced in the tower.
But note the pressure is a load and the weight of the vessel is also a load. In Image
2, there are three resultant internal longitudinal or axial stresses generated in the
tower. These are:

Stresses from the pressure acting inside the tower

Stresses from the total vessel weight acting on section X-X

Stresses from the resultant bending moment as the location X-X

So, in essence, there are only three sources of load:

Weight

Pressure

Moment

Now let us consider the term cases used in the phrase load cases. Reflect for a
moment that we have these cases:

Weight

Operating weight

Hydro test weight

No weight

Empty weight

Pressure

Operating pressure

Hydrotest pressure

No pressure

Vacuum pressure

Moment

Seismic moment operating

Seismic moment at hydrotest

No moment

Wind moment operating

Wind moment at hydrotest

We can have any combination of these loads. In the case cited above, there would be
a combination of 80 cases. However, PV Elite is limited to 20 cases.
We have three loads and many cases, but how are the stresses derived? In the case of
a tower, or vertical pressure vessel, it is simply treated as a beam subject to these
load; a beam that is also subject to pressure loading.
Consider the tower illustrated in Image 1. Let us see the internal stress induced in the
tower:

Image 3
As can be seen, the stresses on the right hand side of section X-X are different from
the stresses on the left-hand side because of the stresses from the bending moment.
We consider a particular pressure code, namely the European code EN 13445 Part 3
(Design). That code mandates certain load cases be considered. As displayed in PV
Elite, they are as follows:

Image 4
Although these load cases look complicated, we are still only dealing with:

Pressure

Weight

Moment from wind or seismic loading

we will discuss how load cases are handled by PV Elite. But first, to unravel the
mystery of load cases:

1.

Weight:

a.
b.
c.
d.

OW Operating weight in the corroded condition


EW Empty weight
HW Hydro test weight
CW Un-corroded weight

2.

Pressure:

a.
b.
c.
d.

NP No pressure
IP Internal (design) pressure
EP External pressure
HP Hydro test pressure

3.

Moment:

a.
b.
c.
d.

WI Moment from the operating wind load


WE Moment in the un-corroded condition empty
WF Moment in filled with the operating liquid
EQ Moment from earthquake loading at operating condition

We can ignore the other loads, which are forces or moments to which the user
can subject the tower. Note that we are still only considering three loads:
Weight, Moment, and Pressure.

What equation can we use to compute the stress from these three loads
applied to the tower? Here is a simplified equation, that is very easy to apply,
but remember, we are considering axial, or longitudinal stresses, not hoop
stresses:

Where:

W = Weight
P = Pressure
M = Moment
The plus sign means tensile stresses, and the minus sign means compressive
stresses. In the case of the moment, there is a sign. This is because the right

side of section X-X could be tensile, and the opposite side could be
compressive. In the case of pressure, the sign means that the pressure could
be internal pressure, or partial vacuum.

Now, let consider just the first load case as displayed by PV Elite:

Pressure:
0.9IP is 0.9 x the internal or design pressure
Weight:
CW is the operating weight
Moment:
1.1WI is 1.1 x the wind load at the operating condition
All you have to do is to go down the list determining which is the pressure,
which is the weight, and which is the moment. Then apply the simple equation
shown above.
PV Elite does the calculation for each load case (combination of pressure,
weight, and moment) and displays the result in a table like this, as shown for
the first load case:

f1 f2
This means the hoop stress minus the axial stress
f2+0.5p
This means the axial stress plus 0.5 x (0.9 x design pressure)
Hoop+0.5p
This means 0.9 x Hoop stress + 0.5 x (0.9 x design pressure).

You can work your way down the list looking at the various load cases to see
how the stresses are derived.
Looking at the table below, we can see, for example, that we have a problem

with node 30. It is in red font with an asterisk at the end of the line.
This is an indication that the item is over-stressed. Toward the right-hand side
of the table, you see these headings:

The word Rat stands for Ratio. Toward the left-hand side of the table, we
have the actual computed stresses. However, those stresses are to be within
the allowable stresses, imposed by the code.
Ratio simply means:

If the actual stress is greater than the allowable stress, the ratio is bigger than
1.0. That is an indication that overstress occurs. For node 3, the ratio is 1.017,
indicating we have a condition of overstress.
The article has attempted to simplify the understanding of load cases. The
concept is simple, and I hope that the explanation is understandable