Underground Storage Tanks … managing the risks

Most Service Stations across Australia rely on underground fuel tanks to store fuels for the retail market. Utilising underground storage tanks presents many advantages such as site appearance, fire safety, protection from the elements and vandalism … and of course space considerations. Being underground means tanks are not taking up valuable space on your forecourt or site.

When you think about the number of Service Stations that were in existence in the 60s, 70s and 80s, you come to realise the potential number of fuel tanks which could be buried underground. You also don’t have to look far to see a closed or derelict Service Station in most regional towns or cities. Obviously some tanks have been removed or decommissioned, but many still remain … with some tanks still in use at enduring fuel outlets.

Unlike the Double Walled Fibreglass Underground Tanks installed by Fuelco today, which are rust or corrosion resistant, the tanks buried some 50 to 60 years ago were manufactured from steel, as was the attached piping from tank to bowser. These tanks are often out of sight, out of mind … especially when it comes to regular servicing and maintenance.

The probability of an old underground steel tank or attached pipework failing is high and inevitable as time goes by; especially if regular maintenance has been neglected throughout its lifespan.

Other factors such as soil acidity, the presence of groundwater and poor dewatering practices could lead to disastrous environmental consequences … not to mention the risk to health and property.

We’ve all seen the headlines …

Multiple cars break down on M4 after using contaminated fuel, June 2015

In this instance the cause of the break downs was attributed to water seeping into underground fuel tanks.

Excess water runs too deep in service station’s fuel tank, May 2015

Again excess water was found in the fuel being sold at a local Service Station.

If you own, or are responsible for underground fuel tanks you should consider the following to ensure your business and the surrounding people and environment are free from risk:

  • Ensure ALL tanks are maintained on a regular basis ensuring the dip and fill point caps and gaskets are in good condition and that product ID’s are in place.
  • Perform regular dipping for water using water finding paste. Water finding paste is a water detection product used to aid in the detection of water within fuel supplies. Water finding paste is normally used in the petroleum industry to monitor and detect moisture levels in various fuel types in storage tanks. If water is detected in your tanks, a qualified contractor should be used to remove the water and advise on methods to minimise recurrence.
  • Reconcile fuel deliveries against sales and tank fluid levels daily. Most states mandate the use of statistical inventory management programs in their respective regulatory codes.
  • Decommission redundant or abandoned tanks to eliminate possibility of hydrocarbons leaking into surrounding soil and waterways.
  • Ensure your tanks and entire site is compliant to regulations … just because it was when installed doesn’t mean it is now as regulations have changed over the years.
  • Put an upgrade plan in place if tanks and pipework are older or made of steel, using Double Walled Fibreglass Underground Tanks installed by Fuelco.

Whilst the financial burden of regular maintenance, upgrades or replacement can be costly to your business now … so too can the cost of fines or legal action resulting from environmental issues further down track if you ignore the potential risks.

If you need more information or help putting a strategy in place please contact one of the Fuelco team on 1300 FUELCO … we’re here to help your business succeed.