Elastomers play an essential role in pressure vessels as seals, hoses, gaskets, diaphragms, liners and other critical components . Some polymeric materials used for non-pressure applications such as electric power cable insulation have received much attention with respect to the effects of aging and life management, but many critical elastomeric pressure vessel components such as seals have not. Performance of these seals depends upon the effects of both time- and event-dependent aging. Understanding and addressing aging and degradation are fundamental to effective preventative maintenance and life-cycle management programs.
Proper management of elastomers is necessary for performance requirements and for cost containment. In one of the case studies presented synthetic seals in engines were quite costly to change on the suggested OEM maintenance schedule where replacement intervals were based on assumed operating conditions applicable to other industries. When the actual service for these engines is as emergency diesel generators (EDGs, e.g., in nuclear power plants) the use is primarily in stand-by mode, and the usage is far different than that of the manufacturer’s target application. In this investigation the assessment of pressure seal performance was based on situation-specific operation and environmental parameters. This resulted in much longer replacement intervals. In another case study alternate materials were identified which are expected to improve performance over the original material.