On-Farm Fuel Storage: Benefits Vs. Risks
Posted: August 31, 2012
The best description of a well-managed system includes an organized set of guidelines including safety and security plans, environmental impact considerations, and adherence to local, state and federal regulations. When these items are handled in an organized fashion, the farm owner recognizes the benefits of lower (bulk) fuel costs, operational convenience, and fuel tax savings.
According to a comprehensive document on the topic from Purdue University, the past several decades have experienced an increased reliance on aboveground storage tanks. This trend has been encouraged by the costs associated with contamination of groundwater and soil by buried tanks that are leaking. As a result of widespread underground fuel leakage, state and federal regulators are now enforcing stricter standards.
Aboveground storage tanks have distinct advantages including easier detection of leaks, placement and replacement at different locations as traffic patterns on the farm change, and easier removal when circumstances warrant changes--including the sale of the farm.
Even with these advantages, there are drawbacks to aboveground tanks to consider. Among them are:
- Vehicles can sideswipe or back into them. To limit this exposure, place the tanks in low-traffic areas and build barriers, known as bollards around the aboveground tank area.
- Vandals or trespassers can damage or deface tanks. Or worse yet, someone could access the tank’s contents. To limit the losses, install and use foolproof locks; provide a means for visual observation of the area from other parts of the farmstead; install lighting to improve security; and use safety signage to warn individuals about the dangers.
- Fuel can spill onto the ground during unattended fueling activities. Train your family members and workers about the proper procedures for fueling vehicles and equipment on your farm. You should also consider secondary containment and fueling pads where the spilled product can be captured and be properly disposed.
- Tanks can be moved or damaged by high winds or shifting ground. Make sure that the aboveground tanks are stable and mounted securely to the ground. This might include the added expense of installing a concrete base for mounting the tanks.
- Tanks are susceptible to higher vapor pressures as air temperature rises. Equip all aboveground tanks with primary and emergency vents. Check them regularly to ensure that obstacles are not blocking their designed purpose.
For additional information about the design, installation and maintenance of aboveground fuel storage on your farm, consult the Aboveground Petroleum Tanks publication.