A cylindrical steel storage tank is a cylindrical shell subjected to internal hydrostatic pressure due to the stored liquid product. The hydrostatic pressure causes the shell to experience circumferential stress. This circumferential stress can lead to the yielding of the shell if its thickness is not designed properly. The design of step-walled steel storage tanks requires the calculation of the required thickness of each shell course.

A conservative way of calculating each course’s thickness is using the one-foot method (1FM). This method calculates the required thickness to withstand the hydrostatic pressure one foot above the bottom edge of the shell course under consideration.

Another method, which is more refined than the 1FM, is the variable-design-point method (VDM), which finds the point in the course where the maximum circumferential stress is. VDM calculates the required shell thickness to withstand that maximum circumferential stress.

However, VDM does not capture the circumferential stress resulting from the bottom edge yielding moment accurately for some thank geometries.

A new linear analysis approach using thin-shell theory is presented in this paper. The approach captures the plastic yielding moment of the bottom edge accurately, and may produce more economical and safe designs than 1FM and VDM.

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