Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fuel Storage Tank Maintenance - Keep It Clean

Keep It Clean - Fuel Storage Tank Maintenance

Most owners and operators of fuel storage tanks do not understand that maintenance is required to safely and successfully operate fuel storage tanks.

We constantly hear that customers have tanks that have never been cleaned and worse yet, that they believe that they never need to check to see if they have any problems.

This is made even worse by the information that some fuel suppliers tell their customers; for example that it OK to have some water at the bottom of the tank.

Well here is some real world information for everyone on this subject.

Fuel Storage Tanks all require regular maintenance. They are designed with the pickup tube 3" to 6" from the tank bottom so that small amounts of water, sediment and other contaminants have a space they can settle out so that they will not be drawn into the vehicle or equipment tanks as fuel is pumped out. This water and sediment material will accumulate over time and will cause problems if not removed periodically.

Some will tell you that 1/2" or 1" or even 2" of water is alright, and they are flat out wrong. Every time fuel is transferred into that tank it stirs up all that material and it may take as long as a day for it to settle out again. In the meantime every tank you dispense fuel into gets some of this material.

If you have a steel tank that water is corroding your tank from the inside out and putting rust particles into your fuel. We often find above ground tanks only a few years old that have rusted from the inside to the point of leaking from water and sludge in the tank.

Many customers have electronic monitoring systems that provide constant readings showing fuel level, water level, and leak detection. Some of these customers will see 1/2" or a few gallons of water on these system and ignore it because they have been told it is not important.

One problem we see time and again is that the sensors on these monitoring systems fail and they don't tell you when they fail, they just go on showing the last reading forever. This goes on until they start pumping water into their equipment at which point someone checks the tank with a stick and water finding paste only find that they actually have several inches of water.

We have told all of our customers for many years that even though you have spent several thousand dollars for a state of the art monitoring system, you still need to have some one check every tank at least once a month with a stick and water finding paste.

And this rule should be written next to the monitor and maybe next to where you store the measuring stick: "The Only Acceptable Amount of Water in Any Fuel Storage Tank is ZERO (0)".

For those of your with in-ground steel tanks, these tanks have Sacrificial Anodes attached to them. These Anodes take the weak electrical current generated by the tank and pass it into the ground through them. This prevents the tank metal from corroding, however the Anode "Sacrifices" itself in this process. The Anode is used up over a period of time. When the Anode is "used up" the tank begins to corrode often very quickly. Tank owners should periodically check these Anodes and Replace them as necessary. In many states this is part of the required maintenance and testing procedures, however you should know this and check to be certain it has been properly done.

Caps, Sumps, and Vents should all be checked for integrity and to see that they are doing their intended job.

Fuel Storage is a vital link in getting clean fresh fuel safely and efficiently into vehicles and equipment. You have a big investment in the tank, its installation, and in the fuel in it. It only makes sense to properly maintain and protect this investment.

Today we have new challenges with Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD), Biodiesel, Gasohol, Conventional Gasoline, and Reformulated Gasoline containing any amount of Ethanol. These fuel products hold much higher levels of water and are much more corrosive than fuels we have traditionally dealt with. They require much higher levels of monitoring and maintenance to have a safe and trouble free delivery system.

We are happy to offer analysis and suggestions on how to operate and maintain your systems.

Please post your comments or questions here.

Diesel Doctor


  1. 3 to 6 inches for your sub pump dangerous, place the pump 8 to 10 inches above the bottom to give extra leway in case of problems

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  5. Oh Thank you so much for your post! You've just given me an idea how Tank Maintenance important is.

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  9. A fuel storage tank does need maintenance every once in a while. Having water in the fuel tank can cause a lot of negative effects. It can rust the interior of the fuel tank, clog up the lines, foul the fuel filter, ruin the electric fuel pump (if your tank has any) and get mixed with the gas alcohol level. The effects may not be evident early on, but it would certainly affect the tank in the long run.

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  11. I can't imagine why people wouldn't want to do maintenance on their fuel tanks. The stuff they are storing is a hazardous material. You want to make sure that the safety and quality of your tank is assured. It just makes sense.

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  13. We have a couple of diesel storage tanks where I work and I don't think we have been maintaining them how we should be. This advice is like a wake up call! We are getting some new smaller tanks and it will be the perfect opportunity to get everyone together and go over the care and maintenance of all our tanks and I will see if we can get a rep from the store to give us a quick lesson.

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