History of ASME Codes for Pressure Vessel

Pressure vessels are containers made to store pressurized media and as such, have inherent safety risks. The safe application of these equipment has always been an important challenge. A large Loss of life resulted due to many catastrophic accidents occurred early twentieth century, led many states began to enact rule and regulations regarding the construction of steam boilers and pressure vessels.

Also, manufacturers and users of boilers and pressure vessels realized that the lack of uniformity in these regulations between states made it difficult to import and export pressurized products between states. It was American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that stepped in to unify the design formulation and make standard specifications for steam boilers and pressure vessels.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers, was founded by Henry R. Worthington, Alexander Lyman Holley, and John Edson Sweet, along with other prominent industrialists and technical innovators in 1880. The purpose was to better serve the needs of engineers and the designers and managers of the machine shops by providing them with a forum for discussion and collaboration. The founders established engineering standards, which would ensure safety, reliability and operational efficiency in machine design and mechanical production.

ASME issued its first standard, “Code for the Conduct of Trials of Steam Boilers”, in 1884. Shortly after in 1887, ASME issued, “Standard for the Diameter and Overall Dimensions of Pipe and Its Threaded Ends”, which addressed mass production and standardization issues with the manufacturing of pipe. After more years of research and development ASME published the first edition of the BPVC Code in 1914. The code was called ASME Rules of Construction of Stationary Boilers and for Allowable Working Pressures. It was a single 114-page volume. The first Code rules for pressure vessels, entitled Rules for the Construction of Unfired Pressure Vessels, followed in 1925.

The code developed over time into the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel code, which today has over 92,000 copies in use, in over 100 countries around the world. Nowadays, the code consisted of 16,000 pages in 28 volumes and is presented in eleven Sections, with multiple subdivisions, parts, subsections, and Mandatory and non-mandatory appendices (scroll down for a list of all Sections). Section VIII is the most used code for design and construction of almost all pressure vessels in the United States. To learn more, read our article on the ASME SEC VIII code.

Applications of Pressure Vessels are numerous. Process and storage steel Pressure Vessels in food and pharmaceutical industries,  industrial compressed air receivers and hot water storage tanks, diving cylinder, recompression chamber, distillation towers, autoclaves and many other vessels in mining or oil refineries and petrochemical plants, nuclear reactor vessel, habitat of a space ship, Submarine, pneumatic reservoir, hydraulic reservoir under pressure, rail vehicle airbrake reservoir, road vehicle, airbrake reservoir and storage vessels for liquefied gasses as ammonia, chlorine, ammonia, chlorine, Propane, butane and LPG, pig launchers and receivers, gas and/or liquid separators, oil filters, boilers, heat exchangers, reboilers, expansion tanks and …


For all these equipment, the design conditions, as well as design criteria need to be met. Codes and standard define the design and calculation framework. Currently, all provinces of Canada and 49 of the 50 United States have adopted, by law, various Sections of the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. Furthermore, the BPVC is international. Over 25 percent of the companies accredited by the ASME Codes and Standards to manufacture pressure parts in accordance with various Sections of the B&PVC are located outside of the United States and Canada. Read here a simplified design check list based ASME SEC VIII.

Pressure vessels are designed to operate safely at a specific pressure and temperature, technically referred to as the “Design Pressure” and “Design Temperature”. A vessel that is inadequately designed to handle a pressure higher than “Design Pressure” would be a very significant safety hazard. Because of that, the design and Certification of pressure vessels is governed by safety authorities, to examine the safety design, construction and application. These jurisdictions, in Canada, issue a Canadian Registration Number, CRN, for the equipment. CRN implies the design, construction and application of pressurized equipment in accordance to design codes and standards such as the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code in North America, the Pressure Equipment Directive of the EU (PED), Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS), CSA B51 in Canada, AS1210 in Australia and other international standards like Lloyd’s, Germanischer Lloyd, Det NorskeVeritas, Stoomwezen etc.


  • ASME BPVC Section I – Rules for Construction of Power Boilers
  • ASME BPVC Section II – Materials
  • Part A – Ferrous Material Specifications
  • Part B – Nonferrous Material Specifications
  • Part C – Specifications for Welding Rods, Electrodes and Filler Metals
  • Part D – Properties (Customary)
  • Part D – Properties (Metric)
  • ASME BPVC Section III – Rules for Construction of Nuclear Facility Components
  • Subsection NCA – General Requirements for Division 1 and Division 2
  • Division 1
  • Subsection NB – Class 1 Components
  • Subsection NC – Class 2 Components
  • Subsection ND – Class 3 Components
  • Subsection NE – Class MC Components
  • Subsection NF – Supports
  • Subsection NG – Core Support Structures
  • Subsection NH – Class 1 Components in Elevated Temperature Service
  • Appendices
  • Division 2 – Code for Concrete Containments
  • Division 3 – Containments for Transportation and Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High Level Radioactive Material and Waste
  • Subsection WA – General Requirements for Division 3
  • Subsection WB – Class TP (Type B) Containment
  • Subsection WC – Class SC storage Containments
  • Division 4 – Reserved for fusion reactors (Not Active)
  • Division 5 – Construction rules for high temperature reactors (Not Active)
  • Subsection HA – General Requirements
  • Subsection HB – Class A Metallic Pressure Boundary Components
  • Subsection HC – Class B Metallic Pressure Boundary Components
  • Subsection HF – Class A and B Metallic Supports
  • Subsection HG – Class A Metallic Core Support Structures
  • Subsection HH – Class A Non-Metallic Core Support Structures
  • ASME BPVC Section IV – Rules for Construction of Heating Boilers
  • ASME BPVC Section V – Nondestructive Examination
  • ASME BPVC Section VI – Recommended Rules for the Care and Operation of Heating Boilers
  • ASME BPVC Section VII – Recommended Guidelines for the Care of Power Boilers
  • ASME BPVC Section VIII – Rules for Construction of Pressure Vessels
  • Division 1
  • Division 2 – Alternative Rules
  • Division 3 – Alternative Rules for Construction of High Pressure Vessels
  • ASME BPVC Section IX – Welding and Brazing Qualifications
  • ASME BPVC Section X – Fiber-Reinforced Plastic Pressure Vessels
  • ASME BPVC Section XI – Rules for Inservice Inspection of Nuclear Power Plant Components
  • ASME BPVC Section XII – Rules for the Construction & Continued Service of Transport Tanks