Types of Breather Valves

Basic function of breather valve

The breather valve also known as pressure/vacuum relief valve is a protective device mounted on the top of a fixed roof atmospheric storage tank.  Its primary function is to conserve the loss of storage tank content when the tank is in out-breathing mode.  The purpose & selection of breather valve is mainly to control the in-breathing and out-breathing of storage tank by protecting the tank under over pressurization and vacuum and possible rupture or imploding

The storage tank needs a suitable size vent (fixed or controlled venting) to achieve in-breathing and out-breathing cycles during loading or unloading operations.  The inbreathing of storage tank is due to the pump in of fluid to storage tank and condensing of vapour part of storage tank at lower ambient temperature.  This develops a vacuum in the tank if fixed vent nozzles is under sized or controlled venting is in close mode till preset value.  The out-breathing process is an opposite phenomenon to inbreathing and it takes place when the tank is loaded and evaporation of liquid due to higher atmosphere temperature.  This phenomenon develops over pressure in tank if vent nozzle is under sized or controlled venting in close mode till preset value.  The pressure and vacuum developed in the tank shall be within the design values allowable by a code and function of pressure / vacuum relief valve is to conserve the vapour loss by opening and closing within the set values to safeguard the tank design parameters.

Types of Breather Valves

a)   Pressure or Vacuum Relief Valve

Pressure and vacuum relief valve is a composite unit to encounter the over pressure/vacuum condition within storage tank with single unit.  However it is feasible to achieve two independent units one to control pressure and other to control vacuum and can be procured as pressure or vacuum relief valve.  The basic function of each unit is identical to composite unit under respective area of work.

b)   Emergency Vent Valve

The pressure/vacuum relief valve is meant to take care of normal in-breathing and out-breathing functions.  The minimum ambient temperature is a geographical phenomenon and can be estimated based on local metriological data for sizing the vent nozzles.  However, maximum temperature is a function of storage tank exposure temperature due to external fire in an area in vicinity of storage tank or flashes due to chemical reaction within the tank.

In such a situation to cope up with the rate of evaporation of liquid stored in the storage tank based on worst wetted surface area of tank would call for an emergency vent valve which is pressure set at a value slightly higher than breather valve to work as stand by device under emergency situation when breather valve cannot control the rise in pressure of tank.  The emergency vent valve maintains the positive pressure in the tank within allowable design parameters.  Hence emergency vent valve can be termed as emergency pressure relief valve.

c)   Gauge Hatch

This has similar function as emergency vent valve as far as construction features are concerned.  However, this is recommended as a standby measure on top of storage tank to carry out manaul measurement of tank level with a metallic tape where conventional float and tape type level instrument is out of action.

d)   Tank Blanketing Valve

The function of automatic tank blanketing valve is to maintain the constant pressure in the vapour space of storage tank when tank is under unloading mode or vapour under condensation due to low ambient temperature.  Under both these pheonomena vacuums are developed within the tank and this will allow the inert gas to automatically enter the tank in vapour space and maintain the tank vapour space pressure.  The advantage of this unit is to minimise the tank content to get vapourised due to loss in tank level while unloading and due to increase in ambient temperature.

e)    Pilot Operated Relief Valve

The pilot operated relief valve is designed to provide safe, dependable and accurate low pressure and/or vacuum protection.  Full flow is attained with no more than 10% over-pressure.  This reduces the need of high over pressure design requirements which save products and prevents high fugitive emissions.  Blowdown may be adjusted to the requirements between 0% to 20% of set pressure.  Properly adjusted pilot operated relief valve is bubble tight upto 95% of set pressure.

f)    Air Operated Relief Valve

Air operated relief valve is used to replace weight loaded & pilot operated valves in severe applications where polymerization & crystallization may take place & plug as well as corrode the control orifice. The air operated valve increases valve efficiency & reduces evaporation losses. The pressure switch coupled with a solenoid valve & using instrument air instead of corrosive product vapour provides a bubble tight seal.   Additionally the use of clean air greatly reduces the maintenance time compared to the pilot operated valve. By using air operated valve remote sensing is provided by the pressure switch. The valve provides greater conservation due to minimum product loss.