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Structural effects of foundation tilt on storage tanks

s c Palmer, MA, CEng, FIMechE
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Vertical cylindrical tanks for bulk storage of oil and liquefied gas are sometimes constructed on soils that are susceptible to settlement.
The types of foundation settlement and their structural effects on the tank are reviewed. An arbitrary operational limit of 1 in 200 is
sometimes quoted for the foundation tilt of atmospheric storage tanks. This limit is based on aesthetic considerations and on the effects
on pipework connections and other attachments. Many tanks reach this limit before the end of their design life, and tank owners face
dificulties in assessing the effects of foundation tilt since the current design and inspection codes give no guidance.
The purpose of this paper is to present a simple method for calculating the overturning moment, shear force and associated stresses
caused by tilt of a tank, and to present a rational design basis. The procedures can be used in the design of new tanks to withstand a
speci$ed magnitude of foundation tilt and also to predict the maximum allowable tilt for existing tanks. Similarities with the overturning
effects caused by wind and seismic loading are identifed. The possibilities of axial buckling and Ahear buckling are investigated, and
allowable stresses are discussed. For anchored tanks, the effects of tilt on the shell hold-down anchors are shown to be significant, and
for unanchored tanks the possibility of shell uplift is discussed. A diagrammatic representation of the results is presented which allows
stresses caused by tilt to be compared with stresses caused by other tank loads and the prediction of stresses caused by future tilt.
Experimental tests on a model open-top tank are reported, and indicate that tilt did not cause significant distortion of the tank.

NOTATION it is not surprising that tank foundations are susceptible

combined cross-sectional area of shell hold-down to settlement, particularly for tanks constructed on
A, weaker soils, as found in some coastal locations. The
E Young’s modulus of elasticity various forms of foundation settlement, as recently dis-
h height of liquid cussed by the Institution of Structural Engineers (l),
height of centre of gravity of W, above base and their structural effects on storage tanks are
hs reviewed below.
h, height of centre of gravity of above base
I second moment of area of lowest shell course
about a diameter = nR3t 1.1 Forms of settlement
1 height of tank shell 1.1.1 Uniform settlement
M overturning moment at base of shell
overturning moment caused by wind loading Uniform settlement can be considered to cause a rigid-
allowable overturning moment caused by wind body vertical displacement of the tank base, in which
loading the tank base retains its original profile. Uniform settle-
ment will thus not cause any general distortion of the
Q shear force at base of shell, in direction of
tank. The allowable limit for uniform settlement will
maximum tilt HL
r radial tolerance of floating-roof seals normally be dictated by the flexibility of attached pipe-
R radius of shell work and other connections, which will determine the
S direct stress magnitude of settlement at which the loads on tank
t thickness of lowest shell course nozzles and other connections reach their maximum
U maximum differential settlement across diameter allowable values. Additionally, provisions may be
(Fig. la) required to prevent accumulation of rainwater around
U uplift force on tank the base of the tank.
wb weight of base of tank
1.1.2 Planar tilt
w, weight of contents of tank
w, weight of snow on tank roof This type of differential settlement corresponds to a
w weight of tank shell and roof rigid-body rotation of the tank base, in which the tank
base again retains its original profile, as shown in Fig. 1.
8 angular coordinate (Fig. lc) Since the perimeter of a tank base is normally con-
V Poisson’s ratio structed to lie in a horizontal plane, when the tank has
P density of liquid suffered pure tilt the perimeter of the base will lie in an

7 shear stress
angle of tilt (small)(Fig. lb)
inclined plane, which can be considered as the ‘tilt
The tank design codes specify foundation level toler-
ances for construction purposes, but these tolerances
1 INTRODUCTION are not intended to be considered as limits for sub-
Vertical cylindrical tanks are widely used for bulk sequent settlement. For atmospheric tanks, BS 2654 (2)
storage of oil and liquefied gas. Given that the weight of limits the maximum tilt of the foundation during con-
the contents of a large tank may exceed 1000oO tonnes, struction to 24 mm across the diameter and requires
that the shell should not be out of vertical by more than
The MS WQS received on 14 April 1992 and WQS accepted for publication on 1 in 200. For refrigerated tanks, BS 4741 (3) and BS
28 July 1992. 5387 (4) limit the maximum tilt of the foundation to the
E00392 @ IMechE 1992 0954-4089/92 $3.00 + .05 Proc Instn Mech Engrs Vol 206
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Low point L


- I

Section XX
Fig. 1 (a) Vertical tank and hydrostatic pressure distribution pa
(b) Tilting tank (exaggerated)and hydrostatic pressure distribution pb
(c) Change in pressure on shell, Ap = p b - pa = (pgu/2) cos 0

equivalent of 25 mm across a diameter of 30 m (1 in tlement (for which specialist advice is recommended).

1200) and restrict the maximum deviation from shell Out-of-plane settlement of a tank base, whether in the
verticality to the range 1 in 400 to 1 in 250, depending form of a general dishing or a more localized depres-
on the tank diameter. sion, can cause overstressing and rupture of the tank
For subsequent operation an arbitrary limit of 1 in base and the base-to-shell joint, and can cause problems
200 is sometimes quoted (1)for the maximum allowable for tanks with column-supported roofs.
tilt of atmospheric tanks, based on aesthetic considera- Out-of-plane settlement of the perimeter of the base
tions and on the effects on pipework connections and can cause distortion of the shell of open-top tanks SUE-
other attachments. However, many tanks reach this cient to cause jamming of the floating roof. If adequate
limit during their design life, and tank owners and oper- settlement data are available, Malik et al. (6) have
ators can face difficulties, since the tank design codes shown how to estimate the radial deflection of the shell,
and inspection code API 653 (5) give no guidance on based on the assumption that the deformation of the
assessing the effects of tilt. This paper will address these shell is inextensional. A more refined procedure, in
dificulties. which the shell is considered to act as a membrane, has
been presented by Kamyab and Palmer (7) to analyse
any form of perimeter settlement. This procedure has
1.1.3 Out-of plane settlement
also been applied to present simple design charts for
Out-of-plane settlement (settlement from the tilt plane) localized perimeter settlement (8). Their model tests (9)
is perhaps the most severe form of tank foundation set- have also indicated that out-of-plane settlement of
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anchored tanks could lead to overstressing of the diametpr of the wet shell, between the high and low
anchors or to buckling of the tank shell. sides, is p g u at all depths, except near the liquid surface.
From Fig. l c it can be seen that at a typical cross-
section XX, the change in pressure Ap (= pb - pa)
1.2 Objectives and scope caused by tilt varies with the angular coordinate 0
The remainder of this paper is devoted to the effects of around the circumference of the shell according to
planar tilt on the tank structure, in combination with
other normal tank loadings. The purpose of this paper
is to present a simple method for calculating the over-
turning moment, shear force and associated stresses
- cos 8

Since the magnitudes of tilt under consideration and

caused by tilt of a tank and to present a rational design hence the changes in liquid depth are small, in calcu-
basis. The procedures can be used in the design of new lating the shell loading it is assumed that this pressure
tanks to withstand a specified magnitude of foundation distribution acts on an area of constant height h of the
tilt and also to predict the maximum allowable tilt for shell, corresponding to the wet area of the shell before
existing tanks. Both anchored and unanchored tanks the tank was tilted. Hence the change in the hydrostatic
are considered. Excluded from the scope are considera- force d F acting radially outwards on an elemental strip
tions of: of shell of height h and width R dO is given by
(a) out-of-plane settlement, that is only planar tilt is d F = Ap(hR do)
(b) the combined effects of tilt with seismic and other The contribution of this force to the overturning
abnormal loads, moment dM, exerted by the tank contents on the shell,
(c) the effects of tilt on the tank foundation and the about the diametrical axis Y,Y, of the base of the shell,
possibility of foundation failure. is given by


dM,=dF - (3 C O S ~

The main structural effect of foundation tilt is the over- Hence the overturning moment, caused by tilt of the
turning effect caused by the weight of the liquid con- contents, acting on the shell is
tents of the tilting tank. The overturning effect is similar
in nature to that experienced by a tank subjected to
lateral ground motion or wind loading. Tilt results in an
overturning moment and a shear force and the stresses Therefore
caused are considered separately below. The method of
calculation is presented with reference to the lowest
course of the tank shell, where the overturning moment
and shear force have their maximum values. All other
shell courses of a tilting tank could be assessed in a However,
similar manner, as in the procedure for assessing wind W, = pgnR2h
and seismic loading.
Some storage tanks, particularly fixed-roof tanks, are Therefore
anchored to their foundations to prevent uplift of the
tank shell when subjected to vertical loads caused by
internal vapour pressure acting on the roof, wind loads
M, = (. k) sin

and seismic loads. Anchor bolts or straps normally This overturning moment is of the same nature as that
secure the tank shell to a concrete base slab or ring- caused by wind loading and by lateral motion of the
beam. Anchorage effectively increases the stiffness of a liquid during earthquakes. To this must be added the
tank shell, thereby helping to retain circularity of the overturning moments M , and M, caused respectively by
shell and simplifying calculations. The stresses caused the combined dead-weight of the tank shell and roof &
by tilt of an anchored tank are considered below. For and the design weight of snow on the tank roof W,,
unanchored tanks, the possibility of shell uplift must be given similarly by
considered, and this is discussed further in Section 3.
M, = W ,h, sin t
2.1 Overturning moment calculation and
Considering firstly a tank with no tilt, the hydrostatic M , = W,h, sin i+b

pressure distribution ?a is shown in Fig. la. The pres- Hence the total overturning moment M , on the shell
sure exerted on the shell at a given depth is constant caused by tilt is given by
across any diameter. If the tank is then tilted through a
small angle $, the maximum change in elevation across M, =M, + M , + M,
the base is given by
u = 2 R sin I) (3)

and the hydrostatic pressure distribution pb is shown in The moment causes vertical stresses in the shell.
Fig. lb. The difference in hydrostatic pressure across a Assuming the shell to behave as a beam with second
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moment of area I = nR3t, from engineering bending the tank is tilted through a small angle $, the weight of
theory the maximum axial stress So caused by tilt is the contents has a component W, sin $ acting parallel
given by to the inclined base of the tank. This lateral force acts
on the tank shell, which is held in equilibrium by the
(4) shear force Q, acting on the base of the shell, and hence
Q, = & sin $, as above. Furthermore, although the
centre of gravity of the contents does not remain on the
The maximum compressive stress occurs at point L and
axis of symmetry of the tank, it does remain at a con-
the maximum tensile stress at H.
stant elevation h/2 above the plane of the tank base.
Note that since in practice the angle of tilt $ is small,
Hence the overturning moment exerted by the tank
it follows that sin 9 w $, and hence the overturning
contents on the shell about the diametrical axis Y,Y, of
moment and stresses increase linearly with the angle of
the base is M , = Wc(h/2) sin $, as above.
tilt. Note also that the stress caused by the effects of the
Note that throughout this paper the only overturning
contents alone is given by
moment considered is that acting on the tank shell. The
& = + I = *
nR t
(): ):
- sin 9
total overturning moment acting on the complete tank,
which would be relevant to foundation design, includes
a further contribution from the moment exerted by the
However, since the tank shell thickness in the lowest hydrostatic pressure distribution on the tank base, as
course generally depends on the product of liquid shown in Fig. lc.
height and tank radius, that is t a hR, it follows that for
a given angle of tilt 9,
S , a-
R Possible failure mechanisms for anchored tanks sub-
Hence, overturning stresses are greater for higher values jected to tilt, in combination with other normal tank
of the tank height-radius ratio. It is also important to loadings, are illustrated below with reference to a single-
note that the maximum overturning moment and stress walled steel tank for storage of a refrigerated liquefied
have been determined from the inclination of the shell, gas, such as butane, designed in accordance with BS
which has been assumed to be the same as the planar 4741 (3) and shown schematically in Fig. 1. Such tanks
tilt of the base. However, the inclination of the shell are often constructed on a concrete base slab. Where
may differ from the tilt of the foundation on account of there is no deformation of the concrete base slab, planar
construction tolerances and, to a lesser extent, shell flex- tilt is the only form of differential settlement that the
ibility. The approach is equally valid for a tilting tank steel tank can experience.
shell constructed on a horizontal foundation. This sug-
gests that the first step in assessing foundation tilt 3.1 Axial buckling
should be to ascertain by physical measurement the
overall verticality of the shell at several stations around The overturning effects of tilt could in principle lead to
the circumference (for example using a plumb-line), various forms of axial buckling of the tank shell, includ-
when the tank is full of liquid, in addition to normal ing the 'elephant's foot' buckling phenomenon, as dis-
foundation level measurements. cussed by Priestley et al. (10) in connection with seismic
loading. To assess the possibility of axial buckling, the
2.2 Shear force calculation maximum compressive axial stress that could occur on
the low side of the shell at L is calculated below and
Similarly, the hydrostatic force change d F acting on an
compared with the maximum allowable shell stress.
elemental strip of the shell causes a shear force dQ, at
the base of the shell, in the direction HL, given by Causes of compressive axial stresses in the shell
include :
dQ, = d F cos 0
(a) dead-weight of the shell, roof, fittings and insulation,
Hence the shear force Q, caused by tilt of the contents (b) snow load on the tank roof,
of the tank is found by integration as (c) internal vacuum on the tank roof,
(d) piping loads and live loads,
Q, = W, sin t,h
(e) the overturning effects of wind loading, tilt and
The total shear force Q at the base of the shell of a seismic loading.
tilting tank is thus given by
The compressive shell stresses caused by these loads
Q = (W, + + W,) sin $ (6) (omitting seismic loads) can be added, and the variation
of stress with the angle of tilt $ is shown schematically
The maximum resulting shear stress z in the tank shell
in Fig. 2, assuming sin )I = $. The maximum compress-
acts at points Y, and Yz and is thus given by
ive stress occurs at point L on the low side of the shell,
and it is assumed conservatively that the wind flow is in
r=- Q (7) the direction HL.
Determination of allowable values for axial stress
The simple expressions for M , and Q, derived above requires careful consideration, since the axial buckling
can be explained by the following argument. The weight of imperfect cylinders is still not fully understood and
of the tank contents W, always acts vertically down- BS 4741 (3) gives no guidance. The classical buckling
wards through the centre of gravity of the liquid. When stress S,, for a perfect, axially loaded unpressurized
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Compressive axial I
stress in lowest I
shell course at L I
Tilt of liquid contents I
nd snow f’ I

shell stres! Wind overturning moment I
Piping loads and live loads 4 1
Internal vacuum

Snow load on root’ I




Dead-weight of shell and roof

Angle of tilt w Maximum

allowable tilt
Fig. 2 Variation of maximum compressive axial stress in lowest shell course
at location L with angle of tilt t,b

cylinder is given by ECCS (11) as predicted from equation (8) for all relevant com-
binations of loadings. Other shell courses can be assess-
’c, =R ed in a similar manner, interpreting h as the height of
the liquid surface above the bottom of the shell course
However, to account for the dramatic reduction in axial under consideration.
buckling strength which can be caused by imperfections On the above basis, the ability of a tank to tolerate
in the shell, for the outer tank of a double-walled tank tilt will depend on the margin between calculated and
BS 5387 (4) incorporates a ‘knock-down’ factor of allowable stress when the tank was initially designed.
approximately 0.1 for ‘static’ loading (dead-weight, Designers strive to minimize this margin for economic
snow, vacuum and 50 per cent piping loads), that is reasons, and thus allowable tilts may be small when
computed on this basis. However, there is a strong
‘allowable = o.lscl argument for using allowable stress values greater than
Hence the corresponding formula in BS 5387 (4) can be those predicted by equation (8), and this argument is
expressed as presented below.
Equation (8), which applies to an outer tank that
does not normally contain liquid, takes no account of
the hydrostatic pressure in a liquid-filled tank. This
hydrostatic pressure is beneficial in inhibiting buckling.
where As an indication of this effect, Appendix G of BS 2654
(2) permits an increased maximum allowable compress-
t = shell thickness excluding corrosion allowance ive stress in the lowest shell course of a large tank full
r =joint efficiency factor of liquid subjected to seismic loads, given by
G =a factor for increase in allowable stress, when
wind loads and seismic loads are included (G lies 0.2Et
in the range 1.0-1.33) Sallowable =-
R (9)

Equation (8) is based on a similar formula in API 620 Equation (9) incorporates a knock-down factor of 0.33
(12), but with different values of G and q. [compared to 0.1 in equation (8)], equivalent to a value
Figure 2 shows the maximum tilt at which the total of G = 3.33, reflecting the stabilizing effect of the hydro-
compressive shell stress at L reaches the allowable value static pressure. As for seismic loading, the overturning
0 IMechE 1992 Proc Instn Mech Engrs Vol 206
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effects of tilt are greatest when the tank i s full of liquid, resulting from the total uplift force U , the dead-weight
and it is therefore justifiable to take some account of Ft( and the shell overturning moment M caused by the
hydrostatic pressure in determining allowable stresses. combination of the above loads can be found from
On the basis of equation (9), much larger magnitudes of
U - w 2M
tilt would be tolerable. Equation (9) is based on a s, = ___ +-
similar formula in Appendix E of API 650 (13). Aa AaR
It is important to note that inherent in the code for- Equation (10) assumes a linear elastic anchor stress dis-
mulae for calculating allowable compressive stresses is tribution across the tank, as incorporated in Appendix
the assumption that the tank has been fabricated within G of BS 2654 (2). The last term in equation (10) is
the design code tolerances. Where tilt is significant, it obtained by considering the anchors to be equivalent to
may be desirable (though not easy) to ascertain by a cylindrical shell with the same total cross-sectional
measurement that the magnitudes of deviations of the area A , , as shown in Fig. 3. The cylinder therefore has
shell from its nominal cylindrical shape lie within the thickness t , = AJ(27cR) and second moment of area
design code tolerances. If the deviations are found to I , = 7cR3t, = A, R2/2.
exceed these tolerances, assessment of the tank buckling However, the ductility of the anchors and the magni-
strength poses great difficulties and warrants specialist tudes of the loadings may influence the stress distribu-
advice. In principle the buckling strength could be tion, as discussed by Priestley et al. (10) and Leon and
assessed in accordance with the procedures employed Kausel (14). If the ductility of the loaded anchors is suf-
by the ECCS (ll),but the ECCS recommendations are ficient to allow a slight uplift of the shell and the base
confined to shells with imperfections not exceeding 50 near the shell from the foundation, the weight of liquid
per cent of the tank wall thickness, which may be less supported on the uplifted base will provide a restoring
than normal tank construction tolerances, and specific- moment, of unknown magnitude. To take account of
ally excludes tanks with significant foundation tilt. the beneficial effects of this restoring moment in calcu-
Figure 2 allows comparison of the stresses caused by lating anchor stresses would be contrary to the pro-
tilt with those caused by other tank loads, and can be cedures in the design codes for anchored tanks, but it
used to predict the stress increases caused by future tilt.
If the calculated shell stresses for an existing tank are
considered unacceptably high, stresses may be reduced
by :
(a) reducing the maximum operating height h of the
tank, thereby reducing the effects of tilt, since for a
given tank the stress S, a h2, from equation ( 5 ) (a
reduced operating height may also be beneficial in
reducing the rate of future settlement);
(b) reducing the maximum operational vacuum, to
compensate for the effects of tilt.

3.2 Axial overstressing of shell

The analysis above concerns the compressive vertical
stresses induced in the low side of the shell at L. On the
high side of the shell the overturning moment tends to
induce tensile vertical stresses at H. The magnitude of
these tensile stresses will normally have little effect on
the shell itself, but can be very significant for the
anchors used to hold down the shell.

3.3 Overstressing of shell anchors

For an anchored tank, the combined cross-sectional Anchor stress
area of the anchors A , is much less than that of the
lowest shell course, by a factor of the order of 30. Thus,
the additional tensile stresses in the shell at H caused by
tilt become magnified in the anchors at H. Hence the
anchors may be the limiting feature in the determina-
tion of maximum allowable tilt.
Causes of tension in the anchors at H include:
(a) the uplift force from internal vapour pressure acting
on the tank roof,
(b) the uplift force from wind suction acting on the roof, Layout of anchors, with combined cross-sectional
(c) the overturning effects of wind, tilt and seismic area A,
loading. Equivalent cylindrical shell
Anchor stress distribution for tank subjected to
These loads are offset by the dead-weight W, of the tank uplift U,dead-weight and overturning moment
shell and roof. The maximum tensile anchor stress S, M
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Tensile stress in
anchors at H

_____---- Tilt of liquid contents

Tilt of dead-weight and snow

I A Wind suction on roof

I Internal
I Angle of tilt q~ vapour
I pressure
Dead-weight of Maximum
shell and roof allowable tilt

Fig. 4 Variation of maximum tensile stress in anchors at location H with

angle of tilt 1(/

may be deduced that equation (10) is likely to be con- stress z caused by tilt plus the shear stress caused by
servative for anchor design. wind flow in the direction HL (and seismic loads).
The variation of anchor stress at H with the angle of Allowable stresses may be determined from ECCS (11)
tilt IJ is shown schematically in Fig. 4, assuming which suggests that the geometry of many tanks is such
sin IJ = t,b and omitting seismic loads. Figure 4 shows that
the maximum tilt at which the calculated anchor stress
at H reaches the allowable value specified in the design 20 < z < 7 5 ( y
code for all relevant combinations of loadings. Com-
parison of Figs 2 and 4 illustrates schematically that where
anchor stress may be the limiting feature, since anchors 12
are often designed to operate at close to their allowable
stress and an increase in allowable anchor stress cannot
be justified. and
If the calculated anchor stresses for an existing tank
are considered unacceptably high, Fig. 4 suggests that 1 = height of the tank shell
stresses may be reduced by : For perfect cylinders of this geometry, the critical shear
(a) reducing the maximum operating height of the tank, stress for elastic buckling is given by
thereby reducing the effects of tilt;
(b) reducing the maximum vapour pressure, to compen-
sate for the effects of tilt.
For tanks with imperfections not exceeding 0.01R,
If calculated anchor stresses are close to their allowable ECCS (11) recommends a knock-down factor of 0.65, so
limits, it may be prudent to inspect the anchors and
their attachments for evidence of deterioration and
signs of looseness or overtightening. An analysis of the
stresses at the junction of the anchor to the shell could
be performed, as required by Appendix L of API 620
(12). This formula does not take account of the beneficial
effects of hydrostatic pressure. Where tilt is significant,
the interaction of shear loading, axial loading and ex-
3.4 Shear buckling of sheU
ternal pressure (due to wind and vacuum) should be
The lateral force Q could in principle lead to failure of considered.
the tank by shear buckling. The maximum shear stress In addition to the above considerations of buckling
occurs at points Y, and Y, and will comprise the shear and overturning effects, three other possible per-
Q IMechE 1992 Proc Instn Mech Engrs Vol 206
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formance criteria are described by Marr st al. (15), and Equation (12) therefore suggests a convenient and
are outlined below. conservative method for evaluating the effects of tilt;
namely it suggests that the total overturning moment,
3.5 Circumferential overstressing of shell caused by wind and tilt combined, could be limited to
The maximum increase in hydrostatic pressure of p&2
at and above L will cause an increase in circumferential
stress. These increases are not likely to be significant for L
small tilts. that is
3.6 Loss of freeboard
Tilt will cause a reduction by an amount 4 2 in the free-
board between the maximum level of the liquid surface
If the allowable tilt based on equation (13) is unaccept-
and the top of the tank shell, which could eventually
ably low, a larger value may be justifiable, based on the
lead to spillage from open-top tanks or overstressing of
maximum allowable overturning moment from the
the shell-to-roof joint of fixed-roof tanks. This may be
wind load M,, determined from the design codes, and
particularly important for tanks designed to withstand
discussed below, using
seismic loads. Some adjustment of the level monitoring
instrumentation may be necessary. M, < M,, - M,
3.7 Evaporation from floating-roof seals The value of the overturning moment Mi which could
cause instability and toppling of an empty rigid tank
Assuming that a tilting shell retains its circularity, the about L is found from the equilibrium of moments
free surface of the liquid will adopt an elliptical shape. about L as
The semi-minor axis will remain equal to the nominal
tank radius R, but the semi-major axis will increase by Mi = (W, Wb)R +
an amount R ( l - cos t,b)/(cos I)). For tanks incorpor- Thus Mi exceeds Mu by a factor greater than 2. Values
ating a roof or cover that floats on the liquid surface to
of overturning moment in between Mu and M i will
minimize evaporation losses, this increase can be com-
cause limited uplift of the shell and lift-off of the tank
pared with the amount of radial extension r that can be base near the tank shell, with the weight of any liquid
tolerated by the roof edge seals, to find the critical value
supported on the uplifted base providing a significant
of u for seal leakage given by restoring moment.
u = 2(2Rr)’’2 The design codes differ in their requirements for
determining the maximum allowable moment from
wind loading. API 650 (13) states that where over-
4 UNANCHORED TANKS turning stability is specified by the purchaser, the allow-
For ambient temperature storage tanks, particularly able overturning moment M,, from wind pressure shall
those with floating roofs, anchors are often unnecessary. not exceed two-thirds of the dead-weight resisting
If uplift does not occur, unanchored tanks can be moment, excluding any tank contents, so that
assessed in an identical manner to anchored tanks, as (& - U)2R
above, and the maximum overturning moment acting Mwa = 3
on the shell can again be considered as the sum of the
moments caused by tilt and wind (and seismic loads). The tank dead-weight should be calculated after deduct-
However, if uplift does occur, the analysis becomes ing any corrosion allowance. Thus M,, exceeds Mu by
far more complicated. Tank uplift behaviour is still not a factor of 4/3.
fully understood. The ratio of the stiffness of the tank BS 2654 (2) does not include such a simple expression
compared to the stiffness of the foundation is an import- for allowable overturning moment from wind load. BS
ant parameter. As a portion of the shell, and the base 2654 (2) states that tank anchorage shall be provided for
near the shell, lift off the foundation, the change in fixed-roof tanks if, with one of the following conditions,
geometry of the tank will influence the magnitudes of there may be a tendency for the shell and the bottom
the overturning moments by tilt and wind, and will plate, close to the shell, to lift off its foundations:
mobilize a restoring moment provided by the weight of
the liquid contents supported by the uplifted base. Fur- (a) uplift on an empty tank due to internal design pres-
thermore, there will be a significant redistribution of the sure, counteracted by the effective weight of roof
stresses between the tank shell and the foundation. and shell (that is if U > WJ;
The value of overturning moment Mu corresponding (b) uplift due to internal design pressure in combination
to the onset of uplift at H can be equated to the with wind loading, counteracted by the effective
moment at which an anchored tank would first experi- weight of roof and shell, plus the effective weight of
ence tension in its anchors. This moment can be pre- product considered by the user to be always present
dicted from equation (10)as in the tank.
BS 2654 (2) gives no guidance on the calculation of the
‘effective weight of product’, which can be considered to
resist overturning by wind loads, although the pro-
where & = dead-weight of the shell and roof, after cedure given in Appendix G for determining the resist-
deducting any corrosion allowance. ance of unanchored tanks to seismic overturning gives
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some pointers. Tt is interesting to note that since real above the points corresponding to H, L, Y, and Y2
tanks are not rigid, these requirements of both API 650 shown in Fig. 1. A series of tests were performed in
(13) and BS 2654 (2) effectively permit a limited amount which the tilt was increased in increments up to a
of uplift, since this enables the restoring moment pro- maximum of 5".
vided by the dead-weight of the tank to approach its
maximum value and also mobilizes the weight of any 5.1 Anchored tank
stored product supported on the uplifted portion of the In this first series of tests, the tank base was held in
base. contact with the foundation by weights placed on the
tank base, close to the tank shell. The outwards radial
displacement measured by the gauge on the low side of
As a preliminary experimental investigation of the the tank, corresponding to a location 140 mm above
effects of tilt, tests were performed in Cambridge on a point L in Fig. 1, gradually increased with tilt to a
model tank, shown in Fig. 5. The model had been used maximum valuc of approximately 0.22 mm at a tilt of
in an earlier set of tests (9)to investigate the effects of 5". There were no significant displacements at the other
out-of-plane settlement of the perimeter of the base. The three gauges. The largest measured increase in diameter
open-top model tank was 440 mm in radius and of 0.22 mm over 880 mm at a tilt of 5", equivalent to a
180 mm high. The shell and base were fabricated from 0.005 per cent increase in diameter per degree of tilt,
0.25 mm thick Melinex polyester sheet. Tests revealed supports the common assumption that tilt does not
average values of Young's modulus E of 4.0 x lo9 N/ cause significant distortion of tanks stiffened at the top.
m2 and Poisson's ratio v of 0.31. In order to model the
strains induced by hydrostatic loading when the tank 5.2 Unanchored tank
contains liquid, the model scale factor must be chosen For the second series of tests the base weights were
as the ratio of the Young's modulus of Melinex to that removed, so that the tank was unanchored. To simulate
of steel and is thus approximately 1 : 50. Thus the model the dead-weight of a steel tank shell, additional weights
represents a full-scale tank 22 m in radius and 9 m high. were positioned on the top of the ring girder. There
The shell was stiffened at its top with an external ring were 32 weights, equally spaced, each with a mass of 30
of rectangular cross-section, of width 5.33 mm and grams. Feeler gauges were used to monitor uplift, by
depth 4.2 mm, cut from a sheet of Darvic PVC. The measuring the gap between the steel foundation plate
dimensions were chosen to model the circumferential and the Melinex tank base, directly below the shell.
stiffness of the girder required for the full-scale tank, as With the tank containing 140 mm of water and the tank
determined from BS 2654 (2). Values of E and v for the foundation horizontal, it was observed that because of
ring were found to be close to those of Melinex. construction tolerances in the tank and its foundation, a
The tank was filled with water to a height of 140 mm. gap of up to 0.1 mm was observed at a number of loca-
Four dial gauges were mounted to detect any large tions. Sliding feeler gauges around the circumference of
changes in radial displacement of the outer surface of the tank base revealed significant variations in contact
the shell at a constant height of 140mm above the pressure between the tank base and the steel founda-
tilting base of the tank. The dial gauges were located tion.

Anchored Unanchored
Wind Shell weight

Dial gauge

Tilting foundation plate I

0.25 rnm thick Melinex shell and base -I1
7.5 x 7.5 x 0.25 mm Melinex reinforcing angle _t
Fig. 5 Schematic cross-section of model tank
@ IMechE 1992 Proc Instn Mech Engrs Vol 206
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During the tilt tests, the magnitudes of uplift were possibility of shell uplift exists. A diagrammatic repre-
small, and the precise onset of uplift was very difficult to sentation of results allows the stresses caused by tilt to
identify. The first signs of uplift occurred at a tilt of just be compared with stresses caused by other tank loads
over 2", as can be predicted by equation (12). At the snd allows prediction of the stress increases caused by
final tilt of 5", the maximum uplift at H was estimated future tilt. Operational measures to alleviate the effects
as approximately 0.3 mm. The uplifted portion took the of tilt have been identified.
form of a narrow crescent. as reported by Clough et u1. Experimental model tests suggest that tilt does not
(16) and Cambra (17), extending around an arc of cause significant distortion of open-top tanks that are
approximately 120" of circumference, centred on H. The stiffened at the top.
radial depth of the crescent could not be determined Tilt may reduce the resistance of a tank subjected to
precisely, but did not appear to extend more than seismic loading, and further work on this topic is
7.5 mm inside the shell, corresponding to the edge of recommended.
the internal 7.5 mm angle used to join the model base
to the shell.
The uplifted portion of the tank shell exhibited a sig- ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
nificant loss in stiffness, and required only small dis- The author is grateful to Mr R. 0. Long of Whessoe
turbance loads to cause displacements and vibration, Projects for suggesting the method of analysis contained
radially and vertically. As predicted from equations (41, in Section 2.1.
(7), (9) and (1l), no evidence of buckling was observed.
To allow closer examination and measurement of
uplift, it would be desirable to perform a further set of REFERENCES
tests on a new model tank designed to display greater
1 IStructE/ICE,'IABSE, Joint report on Soil-strurture interaction:
magnitudes of uplift and the possibility of buckling, the real behauiour of structures, Sec. 7, Cylindrical storage-tank
incorporating the following features: structures, March 1989, pp. 53-65 (Institution of Structural En-
gineers, London).
(a) a larger height-radius ratio, 2 BS 2654: 1989 Munujacture of verticai steel welded non-refrigerated
(b) a more realistic construction of the shell-to-base storage tunks with butt-welded shells for the petroleum industry
joint and (British Standards Institution, London).
(c) a rigid floating roof to allow observation of changes 3 BS 4741: 1971 Vertical, cylindrical, weided steel storage tunksfor
low-temperature service: single-wall tanks for temprrarures down to
in edge clearance. -50°C (British Standards Institution, London).
4 BS 5387: 1976 Vertical, cylindrical, welded storage tanks for low-
temperature service: double-wall tanks for temperatures down to
6 CONCLUSIONS ~ l96"C (British Standards Institution, London).
A simple method for calculating the overturning 5 APT Standard 653: 1991 Tank inspection, repair, alteration and
reconstruction, 1st edition (American Petroleum Institute).
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predict the maximum allowable tilt for existing tanks. I Kamyab, H. and Palmer, S. C. Analysis of displacements and
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depending on the type and geometry of the tank. Tilt sure Vessel 'I'echnol., 1991, l l y l ) , 71-80.
effects are greatest for tanks with large values of the 9 Kamyab, 11. and Palmer, S. C. Experimental investigation of the
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height-radius ratio h/R. ment. In Applied Solid Mechanics, Vol. 3 (Eds I. M. Allison and C.
The calculations are based on the inclination of the Ruiz), 1989 (Elsevier).
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assessing foundation tilt should be to ascertain by of' steel shells, 4th edition, 1988 (European Convention for Con-
physical measurement the overall verticality of the shell structional Steelwork, Brussels).
at several stations around the circumference (for 12 API Standard 620: 1990 Design and construction of large, welded,
example using a plumb-line), when the tank is full with low-pressure storage lanks, 8th edition (American Petroleum
liquid, in addition to normal foundation level measure- 13 API Standard 650: 1988 Welded steel tanks for oil sturuge, 8th
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Methods have been presented to assess the effects of 14 Leon, G. S. and Kausel, A. M. Seismic analysis of fluid storage
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15 Marr, W. A., Ramos, J. A. and Lambe, T. W. Criteria for settle-
and shear buckling of the shell. Similarities with the ment of tanks. J . Geotech. Engng Div. ASCE, 1982, 1DS(GT8),
overturning effects caused by wind and seismic loading 1017-1039.
have been identified. The need for further work to iden- 16 Clough, R. W., Niwa, A. and Clough, D. P. Experimental seismic
tify the buckling strength of axially loaded cylinders study of cylindrical tanks. J . Struct. Die. ASCE, 1979, 105(ST12),
with large imperfections has been highlighted. 2565-2590.
17 Cambra, F. J. A study of liquid storage tank seismic uplift beha-
For anchored tanks, the effects of tilt on the anchors viour. Conference on Pressure vessels and piping, 1983, pp. 37-46
can be significant, while for unanchored tanks, the (ASME).

Part E: Journal of Process Mechanical Engineering @ IMechE 1992

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