Poor operations and maintenance procedures for monitoring and removal of water from fuel storage systems can lead to a number of problems. Fuel can degrade and subsequently so can vehicle performance, also microbial contamination and damage of the entire storage system can occur. This applies to any fuel storage system, no matter what material it is constructed from as well as any stored product whether gas, diesel, jet fuel, and others. Your entire fuel storage system will be impacted by water, not just the above-ground fuel storage tank. Although the tank is a common collection place, it also provides an easy means to monitor for water in your system and commonplace to treat the problem. It is very important that all owners and operators of fuel storage systems implement routine operations and maintenance procedures for monitoring and removing water when detected.
Why the concern about water in a storage system?
Poor operation and maintenance procedures for monitoring water and removing it from above ground fuel storage systems will lead to problems:
- Fuel quality can be degraded and result in poor performance of vehicles, failed exhaust emissions or even major engine damage.
- Filters can get clogged prematurely and lead to excessive maintenance or replacement cost.
- Plugged filters can also slow down fueling and reduce output and sales for retail facilities.
- Microscopic batteries can grow in a moist environment and attack your entire fuel storage system, including the steel tank, tank linings, seals and hoses, low points in the piping, leak detectors, turbine pump components, filters and valves,
even overfill prevention devices.
- In the worse case, the product can leak and cause environmental damage, leading to a costly cleanup, downtime and lost business.
Is the concern about water relevant only to underground fuel storage systems?
Would the concern about water apply only to gasoline or diesel fuel?
No. Almost any stored product can be affected by the presence of water. An extreme example would be jet fuel, where water in the product has obvious consequences. The presence of water in fuel can cause oxidation, which breaks down the fuel and forms insoluble particulates called “sludge”. This “sludge” can clog fuel lines, nozzles, filters, and screens. This will ultimately lead to wear in pumps and system malfunction leading to unnecessary added costs.
How does water get into the fuel storage system?
It can enter in a number of ways, including:
- Condensation, caused by air entering thru the vents or fuel temp swings
- Damaged spill bucket or fill cap gaskets
- Loose fittings or plugs
- High throughput in fuel distribution/delivery infrastructure, allowing less time for water to settle out of product before pumped at the refinery or as it’s moved along the shipping process.
- Certain fuels are more prone to moisture attraction. A fuel’s aromatic content and temp affect the amount of moisture it can hold. Generally, the higher the aromatic content and the warmer the fuel, the more water it can hold. This is usually not an issue until the fuel is cooled, causing the water to be released and settle at the bottom of your tank.
What can be done to prevent problems associated with water in a storage system?
Being new or upgraded is not enough. Having a new or upgraded above ground fuel storage system is a good start, but the system must be properly operated and continuously maintained. Envirosafe offers some excellent options for fuel polishing and fuel maintenance to help keep your system free of water and contaminants. We have some suggested operations and maintenance practices to help also listed below:
- Monitor and check for water. An automatic tank gauging system with water monitoring capability is the ideal method, as long as your sensors are maintained to be functional. However simple monitoring with alcohol-compatible water paste on a gauge stick is quick, easy, and an inexpensive way to check for the presence of water in your storage tank.
- If water is detected in the tank, remove it.
- Inspect fill and vapor caps for damage and missing gaskets, replace if necessary.
- Inspect product and spill containment buckets – if the water is present, remove and dispose of water properly.
- Audit your fuel delivery company’s tank filling process and request water content to be included in the delivery Certificate of Analysis. Make sure to also measure the water level before and after each fuel delivery.
- Use water-sensitive fuel filters and watch for slowed-down fueling, this can be a sign of a problem.
- Treat your fuel storage tanks annually, or as needed, with a maintenance level dosage of antimicrobial pesticide. These products disinfect fuels and fuel systems.
- Examine and maintain the inside of your fuel storage tank, remove any water and sludge.
- As an added safety measure, have your storage tank periodically cleaned by qualified professional contractors.