What Are Pressure Vessels?

Fire extinguishers are a type of pressure vessel and work only if properly sealed and kept at the right temperature.
Fire extinguishers are a type of pressure vessel and work only if properly sealed and kept at the right temperature. (Image: fire extinguisher image by Chris Roselli from Fotolia.com)

Pressure vessels are chambers that can tolerate pressures above 15 psi. These chambers can hold liquids, gasses or even solids. Tankers with hazardous materials and airplanes are two types of pressure vessels. While pressure vessels are useful in many situations, they present a number of dangers if not handled and maintained properly.


Pressure vessels can have closed or open ends. Most pressure vessels are cylindrical, but they do not have to be. Closed-end vessels usually are tankers carrying liquid nitrogen, nitrous oxide or other gasses. Open-ended pressure vessels are essentially pipes that connect one high-pressure area to another, such as in industrial kitchens or factories. These pressure vessels can hold up to significant pressure moving through them, and they typically have re-enforced sides for additional protection.


Pressure vessels are the way producers move potentially harmful gasses, such as oxygen. Safety devices also can be pressure vessels; fire extinguishers are one example. These vessels also carry flammable liquids, such as gasoline, and can be used in manufacturing plants.


A leak or crack in a pressure vessel presents dangerous possibilities. The vessel can explode if the crack gets large enough for the pressure of the air to weaken the sides of the container. Accidents or other large bumps can cause hazardous contents to explode or start a fire. If a leak allows a poisonous gas to escape, people may suffocate without knowing that the vessel has a problem.


People who work with pressure vessels on a regular basis should have vessel-specific training. The basic information should include how to handle fire emergencies as well as proper maintenance and care for the vessels. Within the construction industry, training certification programs educate people on how to install pressure vessels, such as boilers.

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