The behavior of aboveground storage tanks subjected to seismic excitation was investigated using numerical methods by taking flexibility of foundation into account. The hydrostatic load due to stored liquid has an axisymmetric distribution on the tank shell and base. However, during seismic events, the hydrodynamic load originating from the seismic acceleration of liquid in the tank starts to act in the direction of the earthquake motion. This leads to a nonaxisymmetric loading distribution, which may result in buckling and uplifting of the tank structure. Finite element models were created having nonlinear material properties and large deformation capabilities. Three different tank geometries with liquid height to tank radius aspect ratios of 0.67, 1.0, and 3.0 were selected representing broad, nominal, and slender tanks. These tanks were subjected to two different hydrodynamic loading based on Housner's and Jacobsen–Veletsos' pressure distributions, which forms the basis of design provisions used in American Petroleum Institute API 650 and Eurocode 8, respectively. These pressure distributions were formulated under the assumption of rigid tank wall and base. Furthermore, each tank for a given geometry was subjected to two different foundations: (1) representing a rigid foundation and (2) representing a flexible foundation. The flexible foundation was created using a series of compression-only elastic springs attached to tank base having equivalent soil stiffness. Static analysis corresponding to maximum dynamic force was performed. The finite element results for circumferential and longitudinal stress in the shell were compared with the provisions of API 650. It was found that the effect of foundation flexibility from the practical design point of view may be neglected for broad tanks, but should be considered for nominal and slender tanks.

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