MTI Hosts Training on Improving Reliability of BFJAs

By Kirk Richardson

Fifty people participated in a special training session on Bolted Flanged Joint Assemblies (BFJAs) at MTI’s AmeriTAC 127 Meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 15. Hardin Wells, Fellow  - Mechanical Tech Service and Jonathan Meyer, Mechanical Engineer - Mechanical Tech Service, both from MTI member company Albemarle Corporation, led the half-day session.

According to Wells, BFJAs are one of the more under-appreciated pressure retaining components in the Chemical and Petrochemical Process Industries, similar, in some regards, to the way utility systems are often ignored or overlooked. However, BFJAs are typically used in every process application in every CPI manufacturing plant, handling fluids that range from truly innocuous to those that are incredibly hazardous or highly corrosive. Interestingly, the same level of scrutiny that is used for welding of metallic piping components used in these services is not generally applied to the bolted flanged joints, nor is the science behind bolted joints as well appreciated across our industry.

As part of a larger effort focused on Mechanical Integrity, Albemarle is in the midst of a multi-year initiative to significantly elevate the reliability of BFJs and thereby reduce Loss of Primary Containment (LOPC) occurrences.  “The training and the journey undertaken by Albemarle seek to address an area of common concern for the CPI, particularly given the ever-increasing focus on elimination of loss of primary containment events,” reports Wells. “Albemarle's objectives also include a desire to escalate the importance of bolted flanged joint integrity within and across our industry, in order to raise the standard for EPC firms, mechanical contractors, third party service providers, and consultants. This in turn will help each of us do a better job of managing bolted flanged joints, from design to installation, maintenance, and repair.”

After framing the mechanical integrity issues related to BFJs, the presenters outlined Albemarle's training initiatives and journey to date. Finally, and most importantly, the training session looked into the components and physics of a BFJ, using an instrumented flange assembly demonstration unit to show why proper procedures are so important to the goal of reliable BFJs. “That really brings to life what is happening in a bolted flanged joint, and makes it easy for the audience to really connect to the physics of a bolted flanged joint — even those who have little experience or exposure to flanged joints,” points out Wells. “In our experience, the visual and interactive components of our training package create a more impactful and longer lasting learning experience for the participants. Being able to actually see what creep relaxation or elastic interaction between adjacent bolts looks like in real time, and how these phenomena affect the quality of gasket stress produced, usually leaves a lasting impression.”

Feedback from the audience was immediate and positive, according to Wells. “About half of the attendees sought us out over the two days following the training to tell us how impactful they felt the presentation was,” he notes. “Quite a few were interested in getting a copy of the presentation and with regards to the OEM for the training rig we were using. Hopefully our presentation will be a catalyst for potential projects related to bolted flanged joints. For more information about MTI’s upcoming training events, visit
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