On the low-cycle fatigue capacity of unanchored steel liquid storage tank shell-to-base connections
Under strong earthquake motions, the liquid stored within large unanchored steel tanks can cause rocking and uplift of the tank base from the supporting foundation. Repeated rocking can lead to low-cycle fatigue fractures in the tank base-plate, and ultimately spillage of tank contents. Due to limited research on tank connection capacity, current European and New Zealand tank standards (EuroCode8 and NZSEE) impose unjustified rotation limits on tank shell-to-base connections (current limit being 0.2rad). These rotation limits often govern the design of new tanks, and many existing tanks require retrofit to meet compliance. This paper experimentally investigates the fatigue capacity of tank shell-to-base connections, with a focus on the effects from material ductility and applied strain range (rotation range). Twenty-seven tank connections representing two steel material grades are fatigue tested under constant range rotation cycles to generate fatigue-life curves. Tensile loads applied to the base-plate simulate membrane action present in tanks during uplift. Results indicate that the strain capacity of the base-plate base material strongly influences connection fatigue capacity as fatigue fractures originate in the base material away from the weld toe and weld HAZ. Increasing base-plate ductility drastically increases connection fatigue life. All connection specimens sustained multiple uplift cycles at rotations greater than the existing EuroCode8 and NZSEE limits.