API 653 Exam Chapter 2

API 653 Exam Chapter 2 – An Introduction to API 653 2009 and its Related Codes

API codes, and the way in which they are written, are an acquired taste. As with all tastes that develop over time, some people eventually acquire it, some pretend to (because it sounds good) and others do not, but just put up with it. API codes are written from the viewpoint of the US refinery industry, so if you are not in the US refinery industry you may find some of the concepts and terminology different. In particular, the system of personnel responsibilities (what the inspector has responsibility for) bears little resemblance to the way that things work in many tank operator companies in the Middle East , Australia, Canada, Undited State, UK and Europe.

This chapter is about learning to become familiar with the layout and contents of API 653. It forms a vital preliminary stage that will ultimately help you understand not only the content of API 653 but also its cross-references to the other relevant API and ASME codes.

API 653 is divided into 13 sections (sections 1 to 13) and nine annexes followed by a large group of figures and 12 tables. Even when taken together, these are not sufficient to specify fully a methodology for the inspection, repair and alteration and reconstruction of storage tanks. To accomplish this, other information and guidance has to be drawn from the other codes included in the API 653 body of knowledge (BOK).

Figure 2.1 shows how all these codes work together So that we can start to build up your familiarity with API 653, we are going to look at some of the definitions that form its basis. We can start to identify these by looking at the API 653 contents/index page. This is laid out broadly as shown in Fig. 2.1.

Figure 2.1 The API 653 body of knowledge (BOK) codes
Figure 2.1 The API 653 body of knowledge (BOK) codes

2.1 Section 1: scope

This is a very short (one-page) part of the code. Unlike some other API codes (and earlier versions of this one), this section does not give a list of types of tanks that are specifically included or excluded from the coverage of API 653. The main emphasis is on the principle that API 653 can be used in relation to tanks that were built to the construction code API 650, or any other tank construction code (e.g. BS 2654).

Note also how the fitness-for-service (US terminology for fitness-for-purpose) document API RP 579 is cross-referenced for the source of more detailed assessment procedures than are given in API 653. As with all the API Certified An Introduction to API 653: 2009 and its Related Codes

Figure 2.2 The contents of API 653
Figure 2.2 The contents of API 653
Figure 2.2 The contents of API 653 (continued)
Figure 2.2 The contents of API 653 (continued)

Inspector examination scopes, the actual content of API 579 is not in the exam syllabus; you just need to know of its existence, and broadly what it covers.

Section 1.2: compliance

The overriding principle of this section is identifying the party with the ultimate responsibility for compliance with API 653 as the user/owner of the storage tanks (not the APIcertified inspector). There is an inference in this section that all other involved parties should have responsibilities for their own actions, but the overriding responsibility still lies with the user/owner. Again, this is a principle common to all the API in-service inspection codes.

Section 1.4: safe working practices

Strictly, API codes are not health and safety (H&S) documents. There does seem to be a trend, however, as new editions are published, to cross-reference various H&S documents that have an influence in various ‘jurisdictions’ in the USA or related API documents that contain H&S information.

Note how this section references API 2015 (safe entry to tanks), API 2016 (entering and cleaning tanks) and API 2217A (work in confined spaces). They also appear in the list of referenced codes shown in section 2 of API 653. Questions on H&S requirements often appear in the closed-book section of the API exam paper. They are invariably of a fairly general nature and relate mainly to avoiding the danger of confined spaces or explosive atmospheres in empty tanks.

2.2 Section 3: definitions

This section of API 653 is smaller than the equivalent one in API 570 or API 510. Although it has been expanded in this latest 2009 edition of the code, it contains fewer technical definitions than is usual, mainly because a lot of the technical details on storage tank subjects are presented in API 575, rather than in API 653 itself. We will look at the content and major technical points of API 575 later.

There are a few specific definitions listed in API 653 that you need to understand at this stage.

Section 3.1: alteration

An alteration is defined in API 653 as any work on a tank that changes its physical dimensions or configuration. Note how this is a much broader definition than in API 510/570 where an alteration is more specifically defined as a change that takes a component outside the documented design criteria of its design code. There is probably no hidden reason behind the differences in approach (other than they were written by different people).

This definition leads on to one of the main thrusts of the content of API 653 – that of tank repair and reconstruction. The whole concept behind API 653 seems to be that a storage tank inspector is going to spend their life looking at tanks that resemble rust-buckets and need imminent repair to stop them leaking or falling down. This would suggest that some probably do.

Section 3.3: authorized inspection agency

Again, this can be a bit confusing. The four definitions (a to d) shown in API 653 relate to the situation in the USA, where the authorized inspection agency has some kind of legal jurisdiction, although the situation varies between states. Note this term jurisdiction used throughout API codes and remember that it was written with the various states of the USA in mind.

The UK situation is completely different, as control of major accident hazards (COMAH) and other H&S legislation form the statutory requirement. For atmospheric storage tanks, the nearest match to the ‘authorized inspection agency’ in the UK is probably the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It is different with pressure equipment, where the Pressure System Safety Regulations (PSSRs) and their ‘Competent Person’ inspection body occupy the nearest role to the ‘authorized inspection agency’ position.

Section 3.4: authorized inspector

This refers to the USA situation where, in many states, storage tank inspectors have to be certified to API 653. There is no such legal requirement in the UK (but don’t tell anyone). Assume, for this book, that the authorized inspector is someone who has passed the API 653 certification exam and can therefore perform competently the storage tank inspection duties covered by API 653. Note this difference to other API codes:

API 653 is noticeably different to API 510 (vessels) and 570 (pipework) in that it does not spend lots of time trying to list the numerous responsibilities of the authorized inspector. This may be because API are trying to make their codes more relevant to non-US situations where the responsibilities are different. Instead, API 653 concentrates much more on the technical aspects of tank inspections. This is good news, because this is what codes are supposed to be for. No one consults the stultified content of codes when working out job descriptions or contract wording.

Figure 2.3 summarizes how API 653 sees the duties and responsibilities of the tank owner/user and API-certified tank inspector.

Section 3.7: change in service

Changes in service of storage tanks are perfectly allowable under the requirements of API 653, as long as code compliance is maintained. In the USA, the API-authorized inspector is responsible for accepting changes of service, once he is happy with the results of thickness checks, change of process conditions, etc. In the UK way of working, this is unlikely to be carried out by a single person (although, in theory, the API 653 qualification should qualify an inspector to do it).

Figure 2.3 Roles and duties
Figure 2.3 Roles and duties

Section 3.19: owner/operator

This section appears in many of the API codes. Sometimes it refers to the owner/user, rather than owner/operator. The overriding principle is that the API-certified storage tank inspector is responsible to the owner/user for confirming that the requirements of API 653 have been met. You will see this as a recurring theme throughout this code (and there will almost certainly be examination questions on it).

Section 3.23: reconstruction organization

Surprisingly, API 653 exerts little control on who is allowed to carry out repairs to storage tanks. Contrast this to the API approach on pressure vessels, where organizations that hold an ASME ‘code stamp’ (certificate of authorization) are seen as the main participants.

Section 3.24: repair

API 653 places great importance on the activities of repair and reconstruction of storage tanks. To this end, definition 3.24 specifies four broad definitions of repair activities. These are:

  • Replacement of bits of tank roof, shell or bottom
  • Re-levelling and/or jacking of bits of a tank
  • Adding reinforcement plates to existing shell penetrations
  • Repairing defects by grinding-out and welding

The key aspects of this are not the repair activities themselves (they are fairly obvious), but what happens after the repair is completed. Look back to API 653 definition 3.2 ‘as-built standard’ and read what it says. Three things should become apparent:

In the USA, great emphasis is obviously placed on what edition of the code a tank was built to (originally) and repaired to (after it has developed rust-bucket status). This is not necessarily of such interest in other countries but API and ASME codes clearly revolve around it.

The main US code for both construction and repair is actually API 650, rather than 653.You can see this from the list of revisions in API 653 Annex A. Note how API 650 was preceded by the older code API 12C. In the most recent edition of API 653 it is clear that API are keen to recognize other tank construction codes, as well as API 650. This explains the use of the generic term ‘as-built standard’ instead of assuming that all tanks have to be built to API 650.

It is possible for a repaired tank to be rated to several

Figure 2.4 API 653 definitions of major repairs (MR) and major alterations (MA)
Figure 2.4 API 653 definitions of major repairs (MR) and major alterations (MA)

separate construction code editions, one for the original construction and one for the re-rating, each time it is repaired or altered. Note the sections of definition 3.2 where it says this. Note also the statements in the section where it gives the situation if the original code edition, or the actual construction date, are not known.

Section 3.18: major alteration/repair

As a related section to section 3.24, section 3.18 specifies what API 653 considers a major alteration/repair. These definitions have some implications as to the applicability of other sections in the code. Figure 2.4 summarizes the eight definitions.

Section 3.21: recognized toughness

This rather strangely titled definition is in recognition of a link to section 5 of API 653 which covers the avoidance of brittle fracture in storage tanks (both new and repaired). Brittle fracture at low ambient temperature is one of the few catastrophic failure mechanisms that can affect storage tanks so API 653 contains quite a bit of content aimed at avoiding it. It is purely a function of material choice, so mitigation measures are fairly predictable. We will see these covered later in API 653 section 5 and API 571.

Now try these introductory questions on the scope and definitions of API 653: 2009. The answers are in the back of this book.

2.3 API 653 scope and definitions: practice questions


Q1. API 653: scope
Which of these vessels is specifically excluded from the requirements of API 653?



Q2. API 653: conflict of codes
If there is a conflict of technical requirements between API 650 (construction) and API 653 on activities that must be carried out on an in-service tank, what actions would you take?



Q3. API 653: responsibilities for compliance
Who has the ultimate responsibility for compliance with API 653?



Q4. API 653: safe working practices
What does API 2016 cover?



Q5. API 653: alterations
Which of these is classed as an alteration to a storage tank?



Q6. API 653: authorized inspector
In regions of API jurisdiction, can an authorized inspector be an individual (self-employed) person?



Q7. API 653: authorized inspector certification
How many years of storage tank inspection or inspection supervision experience must an applicant with a degree in engineering or technology have in order to satisfy API acceptance criteria?



Q8. API 653: inspector recertification
How often must an API 653-certified vessel inspector who is actively involved in tank inspections be ‘recertified’ by API?



Q9. API 653: inspector recertification
An inspector achieved API 653 certification 3 years ago but has only been actively engaged in tank inspections for 25 % of his time over the past 3 years. What does this inspector have to do to achieve his 3-yearly recertification?



Q10. API 653: inspector recertification
How often does an API 653-authorized inspector who has been actively engaged in tank inspections for 50 % of his time have to sit the online test covering revisions to the codes relevant to their authorization?


Click Here To Read Next API 653 Exam Chapter 3 – An Introduction to API RP 575

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