This article discusses how ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BPVC) has continued to evolve in the past 100 years to meet the needs of the engineers using the most advanced technology. The first edition of what has now become the ASME BPVC was published in 1914. The Code has continued to expand and adapt over the years to meet the needs of new technologies, many unimagined 100 years ago. The Code continues to meet new challenges and to extend its influence in the cause of safety around the globe. The volunteers who meet four times a year to maintain and extend the Code are completely dedicated to translating sometimes painfully gained experience into rules that strive to protect people. It's why competitors come together and share critical knowledge with one another and the public, and why volunteers dedicate time that almost universally extends well beyond the traditional 40-hour work week.
The Committee Forms 1911
ASME forms a committee to create a uniform set of standard specifications for the construction of steam boilers and pressure vessels, later to be known as
The first edition of what has become the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code was published in 1914. The Code has continued to expand and adopt over the years to meet the needs of new technologies, many unimagined 100 years ago. The Code continues to meet new challenges and to extend its influence in the cause of safety around the globe. In this issue, we hear from a few people representing all those for whom the Code is literally a way of life.
The Code has grown from a single 114-page book to volumes that fill a bookshelf–or a disc.
team is one of nature’s most useful and powerful phenomena; at Babcock & Wilcox it is present in some fashion nearly everywhere. From heating the offices in which we work, to the driving force behind the power plants we design.
The power of steam was once frighteningly evident; 1,200 people were killed in the V.S. between 1898 and 1903 in 1,900 separate steam boiler explosions. Imagine what it would be like to be in a restaurant and not know if the boiler below you would explode, or to know ifyour kids were safe at their school, things we thankfully take for granted today.
First Edition 1914
ASME publishes the first edition of Rules for the Construction of Stationary Boilers and for Allowable Working Pressures. Today, in much-expanded form, it is commonly known as the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code.
Several high-profile boiler accidents, such as a 1905 explosion and fire that killed 58 people at the Grover shoe factory in Brockton, Mass., ultimately led to an industry initiative to create a set of universal design and manufacturing standards for boilermakers, a Code that would help safety standards catch up to the rapid technical advancements of the boiler industry. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers published the first ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code in 1914, and The Babcock & Wilcox Companythe leading boilermaker in America at the time-provided instrumental engineering and technical support for the publication.
B&W was also a stalwart and vocal advocate for industry-wide adoption of the Code, even as some companies resisted. Babcock & wilcox became the holder of compliance certificate No. 1 under the new Code.
“From a manufacturer’s perspective, the Code is without a doubt about safety, and no less today than when it was introduced one hundred years ago,” said Kip Alexander, vice president of technology for B&W’s Power Generation Group. “Safely harnessing the power of steam is quite literally why B&W exists, and our history, which we’re very proud of: is almost inseparable from the history of the Code.”
As time has passed and safe operation of pressurized equipment has become a normal practice, other benefits of the Code have become apparent. “While protecting life and property is always the priority, from a quality standpoint, the ASME Code provides a framework by which an organization can build consistent processes,” said Ron Pulliam, group quality director for the Power Generation Group’s boiler and emissions control division. “It also provides a level playing field for all manufacturers, suppliers, and installers. When you’re all playing by the same set of rules and adhering to the same standards, you and your customers can be confident of the quality of your finished product, and nobody is tempted to cut corners on safety or quality.”
“While protecting life and property is always the priority, from a quality standpoint, the ASME Code provides a framework by which an organization can build consistent processes. It also provides a level playing field for all manufacturers, suppliers, and installers.”
The Code is ingrained in literally every part of Babcock & wilcox’s design and manufacturing process. The thermal-hydraulic and performance engineer begins with specifications for pressure and temperature and the Code returns wall thickness and material. The quality engineer relies on the Code to define essential non-destructive examination before first operation.
If one thing can be gleaned from the growth of the original Code from 114 pages to its modern form ofbinders filling an entire bookcase (that is, unless you're consulting the digital edition) is that details matter. The volunteers who meet four times a year to maintain and extend the Code are completely dedicated to translating sometimes painfully gained experience into rules that strive to protect people. It’s why competitors come together and share critical knowledge with one another and the public, and why volunteers dedicate time that almost universally extends well beyond the traditional 40-hour work week.
From B&W founder George Babcock serving as the ASME’s sixth president in 1887, to the numerous B&W employees who serve on committees today Code participation has always been an integral part of our engineering culture.
Roberto Garcia, quality control manager at B&W de Monterrey, a Power Generation Group unit in Mexico, is the first Code committee member from Mexico, and contributes his expertise to the Subcommittee on Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Spanish. His participation highlights the rapidly growing importance of international collaboration for both industry and the Code.
“It is extremely important for the Code to have a presence in all those countries that are lacking or have no safety standards,” Garcia said. The Code continues to expand internationally, and according to Garcia, “We will find more technical leaders around the world that share our interest to develop the Code and make it stronger. I would really like to see the Code translated into other languages. This would allow the Code to reach other countries and expand our spirit and frontiers.”
The B&W corporate commitment to the Code has never diminished, even during the sometimes brutal economic conditions the power generation industry has seen over the last 100 years; because this commitment does as much for the volunteers as they do for the Code.
William Bees, who retired from the Babcock & wilcox Nuclear Operations Group, Inc., and was the 2013 recipient of the ASME S. Y. Zamrik Pressure Vessel & Piping Medal, says the time he volunteered to work on the Code expanded his horizons and points of view.
“It was a rewarding experience and I worked with many talented individuals,” Bees said. “When you work so closely with such people, you’re always challenged to look at problems in new ways and from new perspectives.”
Bob McLaughlin, former director of quality assurance at Babcock & wilcox Nuclear Energy and current vice chairman of ASME’s Section I standards committee agrees. He said he finds himself being educated every time he attends an ASME Code meeting. “We really get a great education from our peers on the Code, engineering and ideas, concepts and technologies,” he said.
This collaboration and learning is important as ever, as the Code is facing the same challenges as the industry it serves: experienced engineers are retiring and fewer young engineers step into the gaps. It is an exciting time to be involved in the power generation industry and the Code because there are many opportunities to contribute, and many people willing to share their experience.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Code is that it is far from precluding innovation. Technology has made great strides during the tenure of the Code. Within B&W, we are still proud of our innovations in size (the first 1,300 MW units, for American Electric Power) and efficiency (the first commercial, supercritical steam pressure unit, UP-I, that advanced the state of the art by leaps and bounds).
An even more fundamental example of this evolution is the change from riveting to welding. When riveting boilers prevented further pressure and temperature gains, B&W not only pioneered the fusion welding of pressure vessels, but the x-ray inspection of these welds as a way to ensure their soundness. The Code and its writers were able to adopt this new technology into accepted best practices.
In the 1950s, the advent of nuclear powered steam generators required the creation of a whole new type of design code (Section Ill, with design by analysis and consideration of the concept of low cycle fatigue failure). B&W is proud to have contributed a significant amount of testing data that underlies the Code design fatigue curves even today, because design methods and material performance cannot be separated from safe operation of critical equipment.
Far from being a cookbook, the Code provides a consistent starting point for everyone, with a variety of design and construction methods that allows for improvements in durability and cost while promoting competition. “Even after working with the ASME Code for decades, I still continue to find ways to improve on designs and processes,” said senior pressure vessel designer Dana Moot.
First BPVC VIII 1925
Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code Section VIII Unfired Pressure Vessels appears. With the 1968 edition, the title became Rules for Construction of Pressure Vessels, Division 1.
The evolution of the Code continues, and frames some of the most significant challenges in power generation today. While the Boiler Code celebrates its 100th anniversary, it is a living document keeping pace with industry. Efforts to modernize it to address higher temperature operation and frequent load cycling are in full swing.
The pursuit of material design temperatures up to 760 °C, termed advanced ultra-supercritical (or A-USC) operation, is a prime example of contemporary challenges. (Today, supercritical power plants operate at 565 °C and even the most advanced units operate around 625 °C.)
The Boiler Materials Development Consortium, supported by the Department of Energy, the Ohio Coal Development Office, the Electric Power Research Institute, and companies such as B&W, Alstom Power, Babcock Power, and Foster Wheeler Corp., has led this effort for over 10 years now. Operation at higher steam temperature greatly improves plant efficiency; reducing fuel waste, waste production, fuel transportation cost, cost of electricity and carbon dioxide emissions.
The consortium has been proactive in terms of the Code throughout, introducing the first new thickness formula (Equation A-317) to the Code in many, many decades to provide greater accuracy for thicker components at high temperature. New materials (such as Special Metals 740H) are also being introduced into the Code through consortium-sponsored Code Cases.
While better materials and more accurate basic equations are the first steps in safe design, the Code is also being challenged to develop design rules that will provide the same levels of safety for hightemperature service, including consideration ofload cycling which fundamentally degrades the life of high-temperature components. Even traditional plants, due to uneven demand and the need to maximize use of alternative but varying energy sources such as wind and solar energy, are facing concerns about load cycling.
Modernization efforts are highlighting issues such as the role of tools like finite element analysis and its verification and validation in high-temperature, highpressure design, and the generation and use ofcomplex materials data-issues which are not easily addressed.
There will always be a need for power and the industry must respond with options that are economically feasible and respect the environment. Developing safety standards for advanced power plants with higher efficiencies and fewer emissions, and for alternative energy sources such as concentrated solar power has already started the Code on the road to the next 100 years.
Babcock & Wilcox employees (past and present) Dave Dewees, Craig Jones, Megan Slater, Paul Weitzel, Steve Scavuzzo, Dana Moot, Patricia Becker, Jim Tanzosh, and Ryan Cornell contributed to this article.