Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What Types of Fuel Storage Systems are Available?

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 Above ground storage tanks | Underground storage tanks

The objectives of fuel storage are to maintain fuel quality and minimize losses in a safe manner. There are several on-farm storage options classified as underground and above ground. Above ground systems include on-ground and/or overhead tanks.

Underground tanks are completely buried with only the pumps, vents and fill connections visible. Vertical, on-ground tanks are usually cylindrical in shape and have their bottoms sitting directly on the ground. These are not as common as a horizontal tank is on the farm. Horizontal, on-ground tanks are cradled close to the ground in a heavy steel frame. An on-ground tank must be equipped with a pump for fuelling vehicles and farm machinery. The last above ground option is overhead tanks. They are supported above the ground on stands and the fuel is gravity fed.

Table 3. Comparison of above ground storage tanks (AST’s) and underground storage tanks (UST’s)

Tank System Advantages Disadvantages
ASTsSystem can be visually monitored for leaks or corrosion, allowing for an effective responseIncreased fire hazard
Repairs are quick and less expensiveMay require vapour recovery system
Minimal excavation requiredIncreased risk of vandalism or accidental vehicular collision
Installation slightly less expensiveCan be aesthetically undesirable
Takes up additional space
Tanks exposed to adverse weather conditions; additional wear may result
Tank exposed to pressure and temperature fluctuations
USTsDo not require any surface spaceRepairs are more difficult and expensive
Less of an aesthetic concernReleases and corrosion can go undetected
Tank sheltered from adverse weather conditionsExtensive excavation required for installation
Reduced fire hazardGreater corrosion risk for steel tanks and piping
May not be required to control the release of volatile organic vapoursUnderground piping subject to breakage with freeze and thaw stresses
Storage Tank Management Systems, Public Works and Government Services Canada, adapted

Above Ground Storage Tanks

Traditionally, many farms used the overhead, gravity fed type systems that would not comply with the AFC. Because of the large expense often associated with new on-ground tank systems (the most recommended), many producers are looking for ways to upgrade their existing systems. This publication will also provide some suggestions and ideas for farmers looking to decrease their risk associated with these tanks. However, if a producer chooses to use their existing tanks with some upgrades, they may still not meet all of the AFC requirements.

Underground Storage Tanks

Under the AFC new underground fuel tanks must be installed by an approved contractor. While farmers are exempt from the AFC, there are compelling reasons why an approved contractor should be hired.

Some protection is provided by the contractor’s insurance if a leak or malfunction can be traced to the installation. If a farmer installs his own tanks, his risk is extended to include both the owner’s and the installer’s liabilities. The Petroleum Tank Management Association of Alberta (PTMAA) has a list of approved contractors. See the For More Information section in the Appendix for contact details.

According to the AFC, all new underground construction must include:
  • Cathodic protection on steel tanks and piping
  • Tank leak detection (monitoring wells or acceptable means of monitoring of secondary containment, ATG, etc.)
  • Line leak detection (single, vertical check valve on suction, mechanical or electronic leak detectors on turbine systems, sump monitoring)
  • Under-dispenser sumps
  • Spill containment on fill pipes (liquid-tight fill buckets)
  • Over-fill prevention devices (95% maximum tank capacity)
  • Liquid-tight fill couplings (cam-lock connections)
  • New, underground Class A4 construction must also include secondary containment on tanks and piping. Class B systems can be installed with single wall tanks and piping
Overview of Regulations, PTMAA

Figure 9: Underground storage tank5

Figure 9: Underground storage tank5

4Class A sites include underground fuel tanks that are within 500 metres (1640 feet) of a water well or 200 metres (650 feet) from a surface water source. All other underground fuel tanks are considered Class B sites.

5This figure is for illustration purposes only. Although most major components are shown, some installations will require additional devices/equipment in order to be in compliance with the Alberta Fire Code.

Source: Agdex 769-1. September 2008.

Other Documents in the Series

  Farm Fuel Storage and Handling
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Why is Farm Fuel Storage and Handling Such an Important Issue?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What can You do?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What is the Legislation Regarding Farm Fuel Storage?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What are the Risks?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What are Other Common Issues With on Farm Fuel Storage?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What Types of Fuel Storage Systems are Available? - Current Document
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Planning Your Fuel Storage Site - What You Need to Know
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - What do You do With the Old Tanks?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Emergency Procedures
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Are There Special Considerations for Storing and Handling Biofuels?
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Appendix: Frequently asked questions
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Appendix: Emergency Plan and Spill Kits
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Appendix: Monitoring for Fuel Losses and Fuel Inventory Sheet
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Appendix: For More Information
Farm Fuel Storage and Handling - Appendix: Glossary and Acronyms
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Melissa Orr-Langner.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on September 25, 2008.