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Pressure Testing: Best Practices

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Success below the seas comes from careful preparation topside. Pressure testing remains one of the most useful tools designers have available to assure their systems function as intended, whether a company chooses to have in-house pressure test capability or to work with a commercial test facility.

Capt. Don Walsh, pilot of the bathyscaph Trieste on its historic two-man dive to the floor of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, said with a grin, “Successful operations depend upon a Skill-to-Luck ratio. While luck is important, you always want skill to be more than 50%.”

Given the limited availability of ship time, the danger to personnel in close quarters onboard ship or in a submersible, the high cost of ship operations and equipment, and the long lead time of grant and project funding, pressure testing makes sense to validate system integrity before deployment. Simply put, equipment should not see pressure for the first time on its first operational deployment. Pressure testing is a vital environmental check of mechanical integrity, analogous to electronics and software burn-in. Ideally, pressure testing will simulate the actual conditions of deployment and operation. A solid test provides the operator and deck crew confidence in the system being deployed.

While pressure testing will appear to add time and cost, in practice it saves both by eliminating failure modes, some potentially catastrophic, while offshore.

This technical note is intended to summarize current best practices in pressure testing for engineers and programs managers new to the field, including tips for coordinating work with pressure test facilities. The lessons are based on the authors’ combined experience as users and operators of pressure test facilities.
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Document Type: Technical Note

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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