Tank Talk: Good Fuel Tank Inspection Practices

February 22nd, 2012

Whether you’re a seasoned inspector or novice tank owner you want to make sure everything is up to code on your tanks.   So let's talk about good fuel storage tank inspection practices. The American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Steel Tank Institute (STI) are associations that publish manufacturing and inspection standards for oil and natural gas tanks, piping and equipment.  When their inspection and maintenance protocols are followed, a facility owner should expect to significantly extend the useful life of the equipment.

Let's face it a good fuel tank inspection program can also prevent catastrophic failures and oil spills and in this economy with many facility owners forced to operate outdated and aging equipment,  a proper inspection to identify areas of concern and recommend a course of treatment & repair is critical to a businesses success.  There are several key tank issues that can cause a significant amount of heartache as well as unnecessary repair and/or replacement work such as corrosion and proper venting.

Corrosion Issues:

  • Identify areas with the highest probability of a corrosion issue.
  • If water is present in the tank, the point at which the water is resting is an area where corrosion is likely to occur.
  • Take into account the surrounding areas.  What could be facilitating corrosion in the area?

Tank Venting:

The importance of venting fuel storage systems is underemphasized in a large number of fuel system installations. The fuel tank’s emergency vent is designed to help prevent the tank from becoming over-pressurized and rupturing if exposed to fire.  Key points to remember:

  • Emergency vent is separate from the normal working vent (smaller in diameter and will have either a pressure vacuum cap or atmospheric vent installed on it).
  • The emergency vent should not be obstructed from fully opening during the presence of extreme heat exposure
  • The cap should not be painted shut and should be operating freely.
  • It's not all that uncommon for installers to keep the PVC plug installed from the factory in this port
  • Install the proper venting device before walking away from the site.

Another positive from an inspection is ensuring the flow capacity of the emergency vent is equal to or greater than what is required from the tank manufacturer (always compare the two).   An underrated emergency vent flow capacity is another installation error made all too often and missed during fuel storage tank inspections.  It’s also imperative to ensure the vent has a UL listing number engraved on the top as well.  It's not unusual for older installations to have emergency vents installed that are not UL listed.

For more information on fuel tank inspections procedures visit the API or STI websites.  If you still have questions, contact us; we may be able to help.