What is a Rupture Disc?

Rupture discs are the second commonly used pressure relief (protection) devices after safety valves (PSV/PRV) in industrial applications. It is basically a non-reclosing type pressure relief safety device that protects equipment or system during overpressure situations or potentially damaging vacuum conditions. This device is also popular as a pressure safety disc, bursting disc, or burst diaphragm.  It consists of

  • a one-time-use membrane that ruptures at a predecided pressure difference between the inlet and outlet of the device (i.e, defined breaking point), either positive or vacuum, thus releasing the pressure
  • and a disc holder.

The major objective of the rupture disc (Fig. 1) installation in piping or pipeline systems is to optimally protect and minimize the downtime of the system/plant. As the rupture disc is a one-time-use device it has to be replaced after the burst.

Advantages of Rupture Disc over Pressure Safety valve (PSV)

The major advantages of rupture disc comparative to electronic, pneumatic, or spring-loaded safety systems are

  • the failsafe performance of rupture discs.
  • economical
  • high reliability to prevent unnecessary downtime of the system
  • simple design with no moving parts
  • leak tightness.
  • react quickly enough to relieve the excess pressure quickly
  • lightweight
  • used for both gas or liquid handling application
  • no additional maintenance cost for each rupture disc per service.
Typical Rupture Disc for Industrial Application
Fig. 1: Typical Rupture Disc for Industrial Application

Disadvantages of Rupture Disc

However, there are few drawbacks as well. These are

  • not possible to test before application.
  • can degrade with age or due to corrosion.
  • need replacement every time it ruptures. So, a shutdown may be required to refit.
  • care to be exercised during installation not to damage the rupture disc
  • improper bolt torque during installation may also affect the disc burst pressure

Design of Rupture Disc

Rupture discs consist of one or more flat or domed layers and generally, are round or square in shape. The rupture element of the disc is equipped with breaking points that are normally created by means of lasers. These breaking points can be made of simple cuts or even special geometries.

Depending on the application, rupture discs can be of different types. They are mostly made of metals or plastics (Inconel, Hastelloy, or Tantalum, plastic liners such as PTFE or FEP.). Domed rupture discs are of two types

  • having the dome towards the process (reverse acting rupture disc) enabling very high operating pressures and operating pressure ratio.
  • or having the dome away from the process (forward acting rupture discs).

Installation Methodology

Rupture discs can be installed

  • directly between flanges, or
  • inserted into a rupture disc holder, which is then mounted between flanges.

How do you select a Rupture Disc?

Rupture discs are not standardized products. hence, various parameters need to be considered for the optimal selection of the right device. Few of those parameters are:

  • Line operating parameters.
  • Pipe size (The diameter of the rupture discs is specified matching the diameter of pipes or flanges as the nominal pipe size DN or NPS (Nominal Pipe Size).
  • Burst or set pressure (The pressure at which the rupture disc opens. It is selected in such a manner, that the rupture disc opens before there is any system damage. It is normally, above the working pressure during normal operation and below the maximum allowable working pressure) and corresponding temperature.
  • Burst tolerance: Defines the tolerance around the defined burst/set pressure at which the rupture disc opens. For example, If a ruptured disc has a burst tolerance of +/-10%, and the defined burst pressure is 10 bar, the rupture disc will open between 9 bar and 11 bar.
  • Permissible overpressure or vacuum pressure
  • Process medium
  • Vacuum resistance
  • Pulsation
  • Necessary vent area, or required flow rate

Where do you use a Rupture Disc?

The following picture (Fig. 2) below shows three main cases of rupture disc applications.

Application of Rupture Disc as Primary and Secondary Relief
Fig. 2: Application of Rupture Disc as Primary and Secondary Relief

Rupture Disc as Primary Relief

Rupture disc can be used as another pressure relief device to protect a vessel of the piping system from overpressure. In the following cases, they can be preferred as a primary relief option over the pressure relief devices:

  • When the pressure rise is so large and rapid that extremely fast-acting is required to prevent catastrophic failure. A relief valve (PSV/PRV) can still be installed in parallel to protect against other relieving scenarios.
  • When the relieving fluids may impede the proper operation of the pressure relief valve.
  • The use of a rupture disc as primary relief is attractive if the relieving fluids are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and the system stop and the loss of fluids is not an issue.
  • When the vessel has no permanent supply connection, and to protect the vessel against exposure to fire or other sources of heat. This is usually the case with storage vessels for non-refrigerated liquefied compressible gases at ambient temperatures.

Rupture Disc as Secondary Relief Device

  • As stated earlier, rupture discs and pressure relief valves can be used in parallel. In such configuration, the design considers a double jeopardy scenario and gives protection with both the vessel overpressure and the pressure relief valve failure.
  • If the process involves exothermic reactions where abnormally high and uncontrollable pressure conditions arise, parallel installation of Rupture disc and PRV is recommended.

Combination of a Rupture Disc and Pressure Relief Valve

The combined use of a ruptured disc along with a pressure relief valves is becoming more popular within the industries nowadays. There are two potential possibilities:

  • rupture disc upstream (inlet) of the relief valve.
  • rupture disc downstream (outlet) of the relief valve. 

Rupture disc at the inlet of Pressure Relief Valve

The process benefits of installing a Rupture disc at the upstream of PRV/PSV are the following:

  • It ensures positive sealing of the system.
  • It protects the PSV/PRV from fluids containing solids, that may plug/damage the valve.
  • It provides protection of the valve from corrosion and thus reduce valve maintenance.
  • It allows in-situ testing and calibration of the safety valve.
Rupture Disc
Fig. 3: Rupture Disc

Rupture Disc at the outlet of the Pressure Relief Valve

Rupture disc can also be installed on the downstream side of the pressure relief valve for the purpose of protecting the valve from the atmospheric of downstream fluids. If the relief fluids vented in the common header vented media can result in either corrosion or polymerization. In such cases, the Rupture disc would isolate the vented media from the relief valve.

Rupture discs can also be used at upstream as well as downstream of Pressure relief devices.

Few more Resources for you..

Routing Of Flare And Relief Valve Piping: An article
Various types of pressure relieving devices required for individual protection of pressure vessels in process plants
Modeling Relief Valve (Pressure Safety Valve) Thrust force
Stress Analysis of PSV connected Piping Systems Using Caesar II

Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

One thought on “What is a Rupture Disc?

  1. Amazing and detailed description of the rupture disc and safety installation. I liked this article it was very crisp, pinpointed enough and most importantly supplied with diagrams to make it thorough. I am a Third Year Chemical Engineering Student moving to Fourth year and i found this very relevant as my curriculum of semester 6 had a safety related subject. Overall an interesting article as per me.

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