Now, more than ever: Keep water out of your storage tank system

May 14th, 2014

- Courtesy Steel Tank Institute/Steel Plate Fabricators Assn

Over the past ten years, there has been a proliferation of documents emphasizing the importance of fuel storage system maintenance--especially keeping water out of your tanks.

Why it's important

There are a number of reasons why keeping water out of storage tank systems is important. One of the key factors is simple: fuel degrades in the presence of water, and today's newer fuels are more likely to absorb water than fuels in the past.

Water also increases the likelihood of corrosion of components, both those suspended in the fuel and those in the vapor space at the top of the tank, regardless of tank material.

Some of the changes in fuels today are a result of federal clean air laws. In an effort to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles, the US government now requires cleaner fuels and higher percentages of biofuels in vehicles. For example, reducing the amount of sulfur in diesel fuels makes them burn cleaner.

Another impetus for development of newer fuels results from changes made to vehicle engines to improve gas mileage, such as continually evolving fuel injection systems that clog more easily and
therefore require cleaner fuels.

Newer fuels demand new detection methods
Since STI/SPFA published Keeping Water Out of Your Storage Tank System ten years ago, new challenges to keeping fuel systems water-free have evolved. Because today's biofuels hold more water in suspension, traditional detection methods, such as use of water pastes and electronic monitors, aren't always effective.

To address the difficulties of detecting water in biofuels, the National Workgroup on Leak Detection Evaluation (NWGLDE) is currently working on new protocols for leak detection methods, to ensure that leak detection equipment functions as well with these new fuels as it does with gasoline and diesel. NWGLDE is an independent work group comprised of 11 members from both state and federal UST regulatory programs. NWGLDE's mission is to review leak detection systems to verify that they meet EPA or other regulatory requirements.