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Safety valve sizing for highly viscous flow according to

EN ISO 4126-4 and industrial practice

D. Moncalvo, L. Friedel, Techn. Univ. Hamburg-Harburg

The calculation of the reference valve seat relief area on the basis of the iterative procedure included in EN ISO
4126-4 and by adopting an explicit method as carried out in the industrial practice leads to the same valve size.
This applies to valves with a high and a low value of the related lift, resp., with a valve nozzle orifice according
to API RP 526. However, under extraordinary conditions it may be possible that the seat areas differ due
to the graduation of the valve sizes within a suppliers production programme. Indeed, neither method gives
systematically larger relief areas than the other, the procedures are equivalent.

The safety valve liquid flow capacity in case of a highly viscous fluid is reduced by a dimen-
sionless viscosity correction factor, K accounting, among others, for thermodynamical, fluid-
dynamical, geometrical, reference model and derated discharge coefficient, dr inadequacies [1].
Besides from the original graph in API RP 520 (1993) [2] and the correlation included in API
RP 520 (2000) [3], there is no mandatory formula for it but, indeed, a variety of equivalent
correlations is proposed in the literature according to M.Wieczorek et al. [4].

The ultimately required seat area, A , according to, e.g., [2, 5, 6] follows from
A = A0 /K where A0 q with 0.3 < K 1 (1)
dr 2(p0 pb )

Herewith, A0 is the reference valve seat area necessary in case of an inviscid fluid with its den-
sity, , M denotes the mass flow to be discharged, while p0 and pb are the upstream relieving
pressure in the component to be protected and the static back pressure.

The various sizing procedures in case of highly viscous flow include the same inviscid flow area
design based solely on postulated flow conditions and on the derated discharge coefficient, dr ,
the latter being obtained usually with water or some other low viscosity fluid. Divergences oc-
cur when the fluid viscosity has to be accounted for, due to a different definition of the Reynolds
number and, consequently, of the viscosity correction factor, Table 1. In EN ISO 4126-4 [5]
a preassumed viscous flow area, AISO > A0 is tested through a comparison where it affects
both terms of the inequality, the actual viscosity correction factor, Kact and the minimum
required factor, Kmin ; such procedure must, therefore, be iterative. In contrast to this is the
approach adopted in industry, where the selection of the catalogued viscous flow area consti-
tutes the last step following the prediction of the viscosity correction factor calculated through
the reference seat area, A0 . This approach would be regarded as straightforward. In detail,
the EN ISO 4126-4 standard accounts for the fluid viscosity, through an actual correction
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factor, Kact biunivocally correlated [7] to the Reynolds number, ReISO defined through the
candidate viscous flow area, AISO the mass flow rate and the dynamic viscosity. This viscous
flow area fixes, by dividing through the reference seat area, A0 also the minimum required
viscosity correction factor, Kmin , which needs to be exceeded by the actual factor, Kact in
order for the preassumed area AISO to be the finally required valve seat area, AISO . In case of
failure, this procedure is repeated with the next larger catalogued valve seat area. In industrial
practice, the Reynolds number, Reind defined as function of the reference seat area, A0 the mass
flow rate, M and the fluid viscosity, relates to the viscosity correction factor, Kind through
manufacturers developed correlations or alternatively according to API RP 520 (2000), Table
2. The reference seat area is enlarged by this viscosity accounting factor to obtain the minimum
required viscous flow area, Aind . The actual valve seat area, Aind can, therefore, be the next
larger value extracted from the respective manufacturers catalogues. From this description
the divergence between the two procedures is best shown in the case of highly viscous fluids
when large discrepancies between the reference seat area, A0 and the actually required area,
A which are reflected in the respective Reynolds numbers, ReISO and Reind , hence, on the es-
timation of the viscosity correction factors. The question, therefore, arises to which extent the
valve relief area prediction for high viscosity fluids is affected by using these different procedures.

For numerical identification of the finally required valve sizes, the flow conditions, i.e., the oper-
ational pressure difference across the valve, p = p0 pb and the liquid mass flow rate, M have
been set constant and independent from the fluid. Three valve classes have been investigated
first, i.e., Type 441 from LESER GmbH & Co. KG, Type 6102/6302 from Bopp & Reuther
GmbH and Type VSE2/VSR2 from Sempell AG. For each of the specified valves with a so
called high value of the related lift, the certified derated discharge coefficient, dr along with
the inlet and outlet nominal diameter, resp., DNin and DNout is depicted in Table 3 as taken
from the producers catalogues for a set pressure of 30 bara and a fluid independent mass flow
rate of 45000 kg/h.

Several viscous media have been investigated, from highly dense and less viscous mercury to
medium density high viscosity glucose syrup, passing through several lighter standard SAE mo-
tor oils. The properties are listed in Table 4 in the order of increasing viscosity. The reference
seat area, A0 for each of the three valve classes is calculated first according to Eq. 1, while
the viscous areas, AISO and Aind follow by using the procedures outlined in Table 1. From an
examination of the results, no substantial difference arises from using the two procedures, since
the same final valve seat area is obtained. The only exception to this conclusion is the case of
syrup flow through LESER Type 441, where according to EN ISO 4126-4 the next larger valve
is necessary. The original question, therefore, mutates to the analysis of the occurrence of such
phenomenon, meaning, if it should be regarded as exceptional so that the above conclusion is
still valid, or instead of the common valve design for highly viscous flows.

The answer to the new question can hardly be found by using real fluids, where density and
viscosity are not physically independent from each other, but rather by basing on synthetic,
ideally incompressible polyliquids. In detail, several polyliquid flows with a common density of
1200 kg/m3 and a dynamic viscosity ranging between 1 to 4 Pas has been employed, Table 5.
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In analogy with the sizing conditions in case of real liquids, the operational pressure difference
and mass flow rate are fixed for the sake of simplicity to the same level as before. The reference
seat areas, A0 remain, consequently, equal for each valve type since they are independent of
the viscosity level. On analysing the results, it is evident that also in case of polyliquid flows
the actually required areas, A are equal for both procedures and unaffected by the viscosity
level. The conclusion seems to be that different valve sizes by using the two procedures are
rarely obtained. In an attempt to reinforce this conclusion as an universal rule, a trial and
error assignment of peculiar viscosity levels specifically to each valve type is carried out until
some sizing result divergence is obtained. In those cases named Poly 4 a, 4 b and 4 c, finally,
substantially different predictions occur. However, unfortunately the result is not dependent on
the procedure but on the graduation of the valve sizes within a suppliers production program.

In order to provide a common ground for a conclusion, the study is extended to safety relief
valves with geometries in accordance with API 526 [7], i.e., low values of the related lift, for a
set pressure of 40 bara and identical polyliquid properties, Table 6. In detail, the considered
safety valves, for each of which ASME derated discharge coefficients are provided, are Type
526 from LESER GmbH & Co. KG (dr = 0.57), Type 8102/8302 from Bopp & Reuther
GmbH (dr = 0.675) and Type SC from Sempell AG (dr = 0.576). From the results it may be
concluded that the former statement can be extended, resp., generalised: there is no difference
when sizing the viscous flow relief areas for valves with high or low related lift through one
or the other of the two procedures, unless the situation is extraordinary. Indeed, engineering
common sense would definitely suggest opting for the larger relief area. Indeed, the results in
Tables 5 and 6 do not prove that the use of either the iterative procedure following EN ISO
4126-4 or the direct industrial method leads to an oversizing for a postulated worst credible
maloperation case.

[1] L. Friedel, J. Schecker: Fudge factors in chemical reactor dynamic venting simulation.
Minutes Europ. DIERS User Group Mtg, Ludwigshafen, 2000.

[2] API RP 520: Sizing, selection and installation of pressure-relieving devices in refineries,
Part I - Sizing and selection, 1993.

[3] API RP 520: Sizing, selection and installation of pressure-relieving devices in refineries,
Part I - Sizing and selection, 2000.

[4] M. Wieczorek, L. Friedel: Massendurchsatzkapazitat von Vollhubsicherheitsventilen bei

hochviskoser Flussigkeitsstromung und Zweiphasenstromung - Teil 1 and 2. Techn.
Uberwachung 44 (2003) 11/12, 22/28, and 45 (2004) 1/2, 31/36.

[5] EN ISO 4126-4: Safety devices for the protection against excessive pressure - Part 4: Pilot
operated safety valves, Dec., 2000.

[6] AD-Merkblatt A 2: Sicherheitseinrichtungen gegen Druckuberschreitung. Sicherheitsven-

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tile, 1993.

[7] API RP 526: Flanged steel safety relief valves, 1984.

EN ISO 4126-4 Industry

Select catalogued flow area AISO > A0

Kmin = A0 /AISO
q q
ReISO = M / 4/AISO Reind = M / 4/A0
Kact = [0.9935 + 2.878/ReISO + 342.75/Re1.5
Kind = f (Reind )
If Kact > Kmin , then AISO = AISO ; Aind = A0 /Kind
otherwise repeat with next larger AISO Aind is next catalogued seat area Aind > Aind

Table 1: Viscosity correction factor prediction procedure according to EN ISO 4126-4 [5] and
to industrial practice

Manufacturer Viscosity correction factor, Kind = f (Reind ), [-] Reind , [-]

0.6413 + 0.2669ln(Reind) 34 200
LESER 0.5735 + 0.4343 ln(Reind ) 0.04093ln2(Reind ) + 0.001308ln3(Reind ) 200 60000
1 > 60000

[0.9935 + 2.878/Re0.5 1.5 1
ind + 342.75/Reind] > 34

Table 2: Calculation of the viscosity correction factor as a function of the Reynolds number
according to the recommendation by the valve manufacturer

Test condition: p set = 30 bara , M = 45000 kg/h

LESER B&R Sempell

441 6102/6302 VSE2/VSR2
dr = 0.45 dr = 0.78 dr = 0.55
DNin DNout DNin DNout DNin DNout
20 40 20 32 40 50
25 40 25 40 50 80
32 50 50 100

Table 3: Catalogued derated discharge coefficient, inlet and outlet nominal diameter as a
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function of the valve type for equal safety valve duty

Test condition: p = 30 bara , M = 45000 kg/h

Substance Safety valve flow area

Density Viscosity A0 AISO Aind
3 2 2
[kg/m ] [P as] [mm ] [mm ] [mm2 ]
Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell
Mercury 13530 0.0015 97.49 56.24 79.77 254 201 254 254 201 254

865 0.08 385.57 222.45 315.47 416 314 471 416 314 471
Oil engine
883 0.503 381.62 220.17 312.24 416 314 471 416 314 471
SAE 50
895 2.19 379.05 218.69 310.14 661 314 471 661 314 471

Syrup 1200 3 327.36 188.86 267.84 661 314 471 416 314 471

Table 4: Predicted viscous flow area for selected fluids according to both sizing methods

Test condition: p = 30 bara , M = 45000 kg/h , = 1200 kg/m3

Substance Safety valve flow area

Viscosity A0 AISO Aind
[P as] [mm2 ] [mm2 ] [mm2 ]
Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell
Poly 1 4 661 314 471 661 314 471

Poly 2 2.5 327.36 188.86 267.84 416 314 471 416 314 471

Poly 3 1 416 314 471 416 314 471

Poly 4aLeser 3 661 416

Poly 4bB&R 0.54 314 201
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Poly 4cSempell 10.0 616 471

Table 5: Predicted viscous flow area for selected polyliquids according to both sizing methods
Test condition: p = 40 bara , M = 45000 kg/h , = 1200 kg/m3

Substance Safety valve flow area

Viscosity A0 AISO Aind
2 2
[P as] [mm ] [mm ] [mm2 ]
Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell Leser B&R Sempell
Poly 1 4 G G G G G G

Poly 2 3 223.82 189.0 221.48 G G G G G G

Poly 3 2 G F G G F G

Poly4aLeser 1.5 F G
Poly4bB&R 2.9 G F
Poly4cSempell 0.82 G F

Table 6: Predicted viscous flow area for selected polyliquids in case of safety relief valves with
ASME certified derated discharge coefficient and nozzle orifices in accordance with API 526


Die Bemessung des Entlastungsquerschnittes auf der Basis des iterativen Verfahrens gema EN
ISO 4126-4 und entsprechend der in der industriellen Praxis eingesetzten expliziten Methode
fuhrt auf identische Ventilabmessungen. Unter auergewohnlichen Bedingungen ist es aber
moglich, da sich unterschiedlich groe Entlastungsquerschnitte ergeben. Identische Ergebnisse
werden fur Sicherheitsventile mit groen und kleinen Werten des bezogenen Ventiltellerhubes
bzw. mit Ventildusen gema API RP 526 erzielt. Keine der beiden Vorgehensweisen fuhrt
systematisch auf groere Entlastungsquerschnitte in Vergleich zueinander, im Prinzip sind
daher beide Methoden gleichwertig.
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