Safety Tips for On-Site Fuel Storage Tanks

Fuel storage tanks are an alternative to conventional, outbound methods of fuel access. The fuel tank is situated on a private business property for factory or fleet use. This way, machines and vehicles can access fuel on the spot without the need for commercial fuel storage stops.

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Why Use a Fuel Storage Tank?

Why buy a fuel storage tank? The better question is why go out to get fuel from a commercial provider when you could have your fuel on-site? Fuel storage tanks are most beneficial for the following reasons:

  • Easily refill equipment on-site: The main reason companies purchase fuel storage tanks is for on-site fuel access around the clock, throughout the week. This way, machines can run nonstop without pausing for fuel refills because the fuel tank is connected to the fuel supply of the factory machinery.
  • Have access to backup fuel: With a fuel storage tank, you have backup fuel on hand for whenever a machine or vehicle runs empty.

How to Choose the Right Fuel Storage Tank

If you are in the market for a fuel tank, consider the size and space of your facility and the fueling needs of the processes at hand. Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much fuel do you need?

Some of the most important things to consider with a fuel storage tank are its size and capacity and how those features correlate to the needs of your facility. It all comes down to how much fuel your operations require.

2. How often would you consume a tank?

Over what span of time would you ultimately consume 12,000 gallons of fuel? Would that be enough to fuel your operations for a reasonable fill cycle, or would you need a tank that can handle 24,000 gallons? The size of your tank will ultimately determine how many processes you can fuel on a single tank-fill cycle and how often you will need to order refills.

3. How much on-site space do you have?

If you are serious about purchasing a tank for your facility, you should already have the tank’s location designated on the property. If not, you need to select an area and determine whether the space in question will accommodate a prospective tank model. This space will need to be located in a safe area, preferably at a reasonable distance from any building on the property. Alternately, if you opt for a below-ground tank, you will need to have an allotted ground space that could realistically be unearthed to make way for the tank.

4. What type of fuel will you use?

The fuel type used in your operations will determine your needs in a tank design. If you plan to use flammable fluids, you will need to have a tank that is double-walled or stored in a tub or dike. If you plan to use more than one type of fluid, you will need a separate tank for each.

At Shipley Energy, we sell and install storage tank units and also provide on-site fuel refill services. Whether you run a large or small facility, we can help you find a tank that will perfectly suit your operations.

Above-Ground vs. Below-Ground Storage Tanks

Fuel storage tanks come in different sizes to suit a variety of working environments. Overall, fuel tanks fall into two categories — above-ground and below-ground. The differences are as follows:

1. Above-Ground Tanks

Numerous advantages come with choosing an above-ground tank, which is easy to install, inspect and service. The benefits of above-ground tanks can be summarized as follows:

  • Less expensive to install: Above-ground tanks are relatively inexpensive to install because the tank is simply set up on your property.
  • Easier to inspect: Since the tank is in clear view, inspections are easy to perform on a regular basis. This also makes above-ground tanks more convenient for audits.
  • Easier to maintain: Whenever an above-ground tank requires maintenance, the task is easy since the tank is fully accessible.

Due to factors like placement and exposure, above-ground tanks are subject to different environmental laws than below-ground tanks. The one disadvantage is that above-ground tanks are exposed to the elements and contain flammable compartments of fuel that could ignite in the event of a nearby explosion or passing wildfire.

2. Below-Ground Tanks

There are two main benefits to below-ground tanks:

  • Protected: Below-ground tanks are protected from the elements and generally removed from above-ground catastrophes.
  • Out of the way: Below-ground tanks consume no above-ground space, thus freeing land at your place of operation for other uses.

On the downside, below-ground tanks are more difficult to install because of the excavation work required. If problems emerge, a below-ground tank is troublesome to inspect because it must first be excavated. If you ever decide to move your base of operation, a below-ground tank could render your relocation efforts far more difficult.

Above-ground and below-ground tanks are equally safe when it comes to the storage of fuel due to the stability of propane and heating oil. The foremost things to consider before you choose between one or the other are the fuel requirements of your business. If your operations are tremendous and require maximum fuel supplies, you will probably need a larger tank. Consider how much of your existing ground space could be set aside to accommodate a fuel tank.

Fuel Storage Tank Safety Requirements

When you have an on-site fuel storage tank, safety is paramount. It is your responsibility to maintain the tank and keep it in compliance with regulatory laws. For example, when you dispense fuel, you need to ensure that the tank remains free of contamination or water. The following measures are necessary to keep your tank environmentally safe and compliant with legal requirements:

1. Structural Testing

The EPA requires that above-ground tanks — referred to as “bulk storage tanks” in EPA literature — be tested regularly for structural integrity. The agency requires a combination of visual inspections with at least one scientific method such as radiographic, ultrasonic or hydrostatic testing.

2. State Requirements

Above-ground tanks are generally regulated at the state level. The laws of a given state may require that the tank and its attachments be painted a particular color to designate its purpose. State law may also require that the tank be equipped with alarms. Check your state’s EPA website for more information.

3. Schedule Annual Reviews

As the facility owner or foreman, it is crucial to hold annual reviews on fuel tank safety and cleanup procedures. Attendance of these reviews must be mandatory for all on-site company staff. Each year, everyone on staff should undergo a reevaluation of his or her ability to clean, contain, and dispense fuel.

4. Test Staff Yearly

Every 12 months, company personnel should be re-briefed and quizzed on spill-prevention measures. Hold tests on how to properly handle fuel leaks or tank explosions in the event of a catastrophe. Annual reviews are also a perfect opportunity to present new safety protocols to company staff.

5. Train Staff in Tank-Related Risk Management

All facility personnel should be trained on safety measures regarding the tank. Make sure that all of your employees are tested on how to inspect, power-on and power-off the tank. If a spill does occur, all staff must also be trained on spill-containment and safe-cleanup measures.

If you store fuel over long periods, you increase the likelihood of microbial contamination. Therefore, tanks must receive maintenance periodically to prevent such problems. In any case, companies that cycle through fuel supplies more rapidly tend to experience fewer problems with water or contamination.

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Additional Fuel Storage Safety Tips

In addition to the legal requirements and staff tests, you should enact the following fuel tank safety tips at your facility:

  • Ensure that the tank has a proper support structure: The safety of a given tank design depends on the strength of the tank itself as well as the support structure on which it stands. To ensure that a tank design is safe for the fuel chemicals that you would be using at your facility, inspect the design of a prospective tank before you make a purchase. Check for features such as structural foundation, storage and pressure capacity. At Shipley Energy, we only sell fuel storage tanks designed for maximum safety.
  • Monitor the tank for contamination: During each tank inspection, check for signs of corrosion. Each time the tank undergoes a fuel refill or additive treatment, monitor the process closely with the supplier to ensure that new fuel enters the tank free of gelling or plugging issues.
  • Never fill to full capacity: With fuel tanks, you need to create room for expansions in the fluid that can result from temperature change. To prevent this expansion process from exceeding space limitations and causing pressure within the tank, limit fills and refills to 95 percent of the tank’s storage capacity.
  • Indoor tanks are not outdoor tanks: If your tank is installed indoors, it should only be used for indoor machinery. The components required to funnel the fuel to an outside location could make the setup more cumbersome and dangerous.
  • Flammable-liquid tanks must be safeguarded: If your tank is intended for flammable liquids, it must be fire-guarded for protection from surrounding fires. A properly fire-proofed tank should be able to withstand flames for at least two hours.
  • Outdoor tanks should be marked as such: If you have an above-ground fuel storage tank located outside your facilities, the tank should be Underwriters Listed (UL) to mark its purpose.
  • Each tank requires proportionate containment space: The containment area designated for a tank must be large enough to contain its contents in the event of tank-failure. For maximum safety, the containment area should be 125 percent the size of the tank itself.
  • Double-walled tanks provide maximum safety: If the tank is double-walled, this will generally satisfy the requirements for fuel containment. The double-walled design also protects the internal tank more securely from exposure to water via rain or condensation. Another option is dikes, though these can make water removal more difficult.
  • Fill-ups should occur once per month: To lower the frequency of risks associated with tank fill-ups, never fill more frequently than once per month. To that end, you should have a fuel supply that will last at least a month for the operations at your facility. Factor this into your choice in tank size.
  • Keep above-ground tanks away from buildings: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends an above-ground tank be situated at least 40 feet away from any building. The location should also have sufficient drainage and be elevated from its surroundings.
  • No smoking near the tank: The area that surrounds your above-ground tank must be a smoking-free zone. To ensure that this rule is followed, display boldly lettered “No Smoking” signs on every side of the tank.
  • Tank saddles required: Unless the tank is proofed against corrosion, it must have concrete or steel saddles.
  • Roof structures are recommended: An above-ground tank should be situated under a roof structure to protect the basin from rainwater. A roof will also reduce sun and heat exposure and lower the amount of condensation that otherwise might accumulate on the tank.
  • Test your fuel for water: For maximum assurance of fuel purity, the tank should be inspected for water traces on a periodic basis. Now and then, use an extraction kit to collect fuel samples from your tank and submit them to a lab for testing.

Choosing a Fuel Delivery and Storage Partner

Business owners and factory operators reap numerous benefits with fuel storage tanks. The advantages of having a tank include:

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Let Shipley Energy Handle Your Fuel Needs

Now that you know the benefits of on-site fuel and understand all the safety tips for fuel storage tanks, there is nothing to prevent your company from reaping the benefits of owning a fuel tank. At Shipley Energy, we’ve provided and installed tank units and offered fuel refills in counties around the Northeast for almost 90 years. Contact us today to learn more about our bulk fuel delivery and fuel storage tank services.

Find the Right Fuel Tank Solution for Your Needs

Find the Right Fuel Tank Solution for Your Needs

Getting started with Shipley Energy is easy and hassle-free. Contact our commercial sales team to get started today.

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