Farm fuel storage tank upgrades. What are the options?

Older style farm fuel tanks might have done the job for decades, but with fuel prices at a premium, environmental regulations tightening and tax breaks on offer, there’s no better time to investigate new options to improve efficiency and ensure compliance. 
When old tanks have become corroded or unstable, the Australian Standards say it’s time to move on – but how?

The most common above-ground options for farm fuel storage are overhead fuel tanks or newer portable self-bunded tank designs.

Overhead tanks
One of the major advantages of overhead tanks is that the force of gravity means they do away with the need for a pump.
On the downside, maintenance checks can be difficult and safe access for cleaning and testing fuel levels has been an issue.
Usually cleaning involves cutting a hole in the tank, then rewelding once the job is done – a messy exercise which also leaves room for leaks and can compromise structural integrity over time.
In 2005, New South Wales farmers using overhead tanks were forced to make expensive modifications after fuel distributors began to enforce tough new occupational health and safety bans regarding access.

Changes to workCover regulations meant tanker drivers were prevented from climbing ladders to check and fill tanks, and farmers reported having to spend up to $630 per tank for parts only to convert them to ground fill.

If your farm uses overhead fuel tanks it’s important to check you meet safe access requirements and monitor the integrity of stands regularly.
Remember to recheck if you remodel or replace the tanks, as changes can result in reduced stability. High winds and soil erosion can also undermine the stability of support structures.

Tripod stands should not be used for tanks larger than 2200 litres.
Australian environmental legislation requires the provision of bunded areas where more than 1200 litres of fuel is being stored. Regulations and requirements may differ depending on state and local government rules, so it’s best to check with your local authorities on best practice in your area.

In the United States these requirements have been tightened this year for farmers storing large amounts of fuel, and it’s likely safe storage will become increasingly important in Australia.

Basically, the law requires that tanks be surrounded by a containment structure which will prevent contamination of surrounding soil and water if a rupture or leakage occurs.

Traditionally, this has meant creating considerable works around a permanent tank site which is chosen carefully for accessibility, proximity to work sites for ease of refuelling, fuel security and environmental safety.

When spills do occur clean-up can be costly and the fuel is usually non-recoverable.

Leaks that are reported attract large penalties which usually include clean-up costs.

Self-bunded tanks
The growing market in self-bunded tanks addresses environmental and safety issues through a design that incorporates a tank within a tank.

FES Tanks operations manager Rob Salermo says the strong construction and design of modern self-bunded tanks means they can be easily transported and relocated on the farm as refuelling needs change, without the need for preparatory bund construction work.

Access from ground level through a manway which can be unbolted and reattached without compromising the tank’s integrity means it’s easier to clean tanks, ensuring optimum fuel quality and maximum cost-efficiency by reducing vehicle maintenance due to fuel contaminants.

Prevent fuel loss
In the event of a rupture, the sealed bund can retain the entire tank capacity and not only avoid costly clean-ups but prevent loss of the fuel.
The good news is that fuel storage is evolving, and new designs are more than keeping pace with the changing regulatory environment.

Making the right decision for your situation will require planning, and it’s worth asking an expert to ensure the package you choose will serve your needs now and into the future.
For further information visit FES tanks - fuel equipment specialists.
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