It is well known that the response of a rail tank car to exterior heating (e.g., fire engulfment) is significantly affected by the operating characteristics of the pressure relief valve (PRV). If the valve jams or fails in some way, it can lead to a violent vessel rupture; therefore, PRV failure modes and mechanisms must be understood. This paper investigates the studies which have been conducted in the area of PRV technology. The original focus of the paper was to conduct a literature search to find the state-of-the-art for the PRV’s which are presently installed on railway tank cars, highway tankers, and stationary LPG storage vessels. When few papers were found which had concentrated on this particular topic, the authors continued the search by considering both the nuclear power and chemical processing industries, where similar technologies are found. The results of the literature search suggest that the PRV’s currently installed on tank cars and highway tankers are based on designs more than 30 yr old. Controlled fire tests and industry’s maintenance programs suggest that PRV’s could be improved. Most experimental studies of PRV’s have concentrated on flow visualization techniques and have not considered PRV dynamic characteristics. The lack of understanding of valve dynamic characteristics has slowed the development of improved PRV dynamic computer models.

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