Do's and Don'ts for storing and managing your own fuel

Do's and Don'ts for storing and managing your own fuel

Storing your own diesel fuel on site offers many advantages for a heavy-equipment, transport company with a back to base fleet, farm equipment, or mining fuel management. Buying fuel in bulk becomes a cheaper alternative and you don’t have to wait on fuel delivery services or go to a retail outlet or truck stop.

When it comes to the installation and maintenance of bulk fuel tanks, there are a whole host of federal, state and local regulation requirements you need to follow. Once you start buying bulk fuel and dispensing it, you are responsible for keeping it safe, free from water and contamination, as well as accounting for the fuel use and ensuring your records are accurate. Loss prevention through theft is also paramount in some regions.

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Whilst many large fuel users cycle through their fuel fast enough to reduce the effects of contamination, water and microbial contamination, these ailments can also occur in a fuel transfer tank, trailer tank or any type of bulk fuel supply tank. Some type of fuel monitoring system should be attached to the fuel transfer pump used on the bulk fuel transfer tanks, to ensure that this fuel is reconciled appropriately.

Do’s and don’ts – for onsite fuel tank design

For years, many stored fuel below ground. Because they were not visible, the underground tanks provided natural security from thieves and vandals. When some underground tanks began to leak and create environmental problems, stricter federal regulations governing the construction and use of buried fuel tanks were introduced. Most abandoned the underground tanks and started storing fuel above ground.

For construction fleets, mining fleets and any back to base transport company, above ground fuel tanks are almost always the best choice. Purdue University conducted a study of above ground fuel tanks and noted their primary advantages are that they can be easily inspected and painted, making leaks less likely and they can be safely relocated to a different part of the property as circumstances dictate.

Drawbacks to above ground fuel tanks are that vehicles can reverse into them, vandals can deface or damage them and trespassers can siphon off fuel. Additionally, above ground fuel tanks are vulnerable to high winds, flooding, theft and vandalism.

Other onsite alternatives include a self-bunded diesel tank or fuel container tank with a fuel transfer pump fitted. These systems can have a fuel management system fitted to properly and conveniently account for fuel usage using a fuel swipe card, code system or RFID tag. Not only do fuel management systems give you control for the accounting of fuel but they are also excellent at loss prevention due to theft.

Do’s and don’ts - for safety

As mentioned, there are several federal, state and local laws and regulations you must adhere to when you install an above ground fuel tank on your property. Note, however, that state and or local laws may be more prohibitive and should be researched before arbitrarily locating a tank on a jobsite. Laws can be very specific to zoning.

As a minimum, Purdue University suggested the following guidelines:

  • A tank intended for outdoor use should have an Underwriters Listed (UL) outdoor-use designation.
  • Indoor basement tanks are not intended for outdoor use.
  • Tanks designed for flammable liquids such as Petroleum should be fire-guarded to prevent fuel ignition for two hours during a fire.
  • Bulk diesel fuel tanks do not have to carry a two-hour fire rating if the flash point is greater than 100-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A “secondary containment” area must have the capacity to hold the contents of the primary tank, should it fail (recommended 125 per cent).
  • Double-walled tanks satisfy secondary containment requirements, as do dikes or “bathtubs” in which the primary tank is situated.
  • Double-walled tanks are preferable because rainwater is not a problem; conversely, removing accumulated rainwater from dikes can be a hassle.
  • Every fill-up poses a spill risk, so limit fill-ups to once a month by selecting a tank that will hold a month’s supply of fuel. In selecting a tank size, calculate its usable volume, since the pump intake is situated several inches above the bottom of the tank, which reduces the volume of usable fuel. Also, tanks should be filled to no more than 95 percent capacity to allow for expansion.
Another good set of guidelines comes from the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) with many other like associations around the world offering similar advice. They recommend:
  • Any above ground fuel tank be located on a high, well-drained site, a minimum of 40 feet/12.19 metres from any buildings, water tributary or combustible materials.
  • The fuel tank area should be free of weeds, grass or other combustible material.
  • Open flames and smoking cannot not be permitted in the area.
  • The tanks should be installed in an east-west orientation to reduce the amount of solar radiation the tank receives.
  • The above ground fuel tank should be marked with the name of the fuel contents and a sign with “FLAMMABLE–KEEP FIRE AND FLAME AWAY.”
  • “NO SMOKING” signs should also be conspicuously exhibited from various angles of approach.
  • Fire extinguishers should be mounted in easy to access locations.
  • Do not place tanks where ignition sources such as welding and cutting torches are likely to be used.
  • A roof structure is recommended to reduce evaporation and condensation effects and to keep water from collecting in the catch basin. It also provides shelter, to some extent, from the direct rays of the sun to minimize over-heating.
While it is possible to fabricate your own tanks, you still should buy fuel pumping and dispensing equipment, and a fuel management system to monitor all the fuel dispensing. A less time-consuming strategy may be to purchase a complete tank from a reputable source including fuel transfer pump and fuel management system. Some suppliers will provide a fuel tank fuel transfer pump and fuel management system at substantial discounts if you commit to buying a predetermined amount of their product.

Do’s and don’ts – for training and risk management

Proper management of the risks associated with above ground fuel tanks is essential. Everyone who works on or around the equipment or the fuel tank locations should be trained to identify and eliminate risks. They should also know how to conduct routine inspections of fuel tank containers, dispense fuel and operate pump shutoffs properly.

Additional training should teach employees how to contain spills, conduct clean-up procedures and how to safely operate the equipment. Involve your employees in scheduled reviews of your fuel operation and identifying the steps you can take to minimize spills.

Do’s and don’ts – for fuel management systems

Fuel management systems are becoming much more prevalent due to the fluctuating fuel costs as well as rising fuel consumption. Some people also tend to help themselves to your fuel tanks. When that happens, you're lucky if all you lose is the gas or diesel, because all you've lost is the money for that fuel. The real problem is when these thieves and vandals pump as much fuel as they need into their truck and then let the rest run onto the ground. Now you've not only lost a product but you've also got soil contamination.

An automated fuel system allows administrators to manage the vehicles in their business, monitor efficiencies as well as minimizing fraudulent transactions, reduce pilfering and the resulting environmental damage. The days of writing tedious hand-written log sheets and manually costing for fuel for multiple sites are gone as new technology can alleviate all major headaches and eliminate human error. If you have more than one site bulk fuel tank or have a remote fuel site then an automated cloud based fuel management system is by far the best. One of the major advancements with these fuel management systems is the ability to capture all fuel usage data automatically, store it at the unit and then transfer and store it online via networked communications, 3G, Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

This type of fuel management system can provide automated information captured in real-time. Data is readily available, saving time and preventing human error.

The fuel distribution business is one of the most complex and heavily regulated industries not only in the US but also throughout the world. The correct fuel management software allows you to quickly and accurately calculate rebates for tax purposes. This can become a very quick and streamlined process, with easily accessible fuel management reports.

A quick word on the cloud

One of the major developments with the fuel management system is the ability to capture all fuel usage data automatically, store it at the fuel management unit and then deliver that information to the cloud via networked communications, 3G, Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Some of the benefits of a cloud based system over PC software include:
  • Collection of data is automatic
  • Data is always available
  • No set up, installation or customer hardware requirements beyond an internet connection and web browser
  • System and platform are scalable as your business grows
  • No specific PC hardware or software installation skills are required
  • No ongoing licensing costs or software updates are required
  • Some providers have unit diagnostics accessed remotely
  • Flexible reporting allowing the end user to design their own reporting system uniquely for their needs
  • Secure and multi-user / multi-site access through simple login and password authorizations

Not all systems have all the capabilities but the SmartFill GEN 2 fuel management system is one which has been specifically designed for the cloud and has had these features built in as standard.

Summary

Storing and managing your own fuel can save a great deal of money if done correctly. With equipment like the above ground fuel storage tanks, bunded fuel tanks or container fuel tanks, fuel transfer pumps and a fuel management system in place, buying bulk fuel and dispensing it can become a significant cost saving opportunity.

SmartFill GEN 2 has all the functions you require from a fuel management system providing all the accurate data you need at your fingertips. Contact Fluid Management Technology for more information.

 

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