Fiberglass Underground Storage Tank Success in the USA

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Posted / Last update: 01-11-2001
Publication: Petroleum Equipment & Technology Archive
Issued: November 2001
Author: Curran Sullivan D. , PE

Industry Installation Procedures
While each fiberglass tank manufacturer publishes detailed installation procedures, the petroleum industry (American Petroleum Institute) and the tank installer industry (Petroleum Equipment Institute) also publish and routinely update underground tank installation standards (API 1516 Installation of Underground Petroleum Storage Tanks and PEI 100 Recommended Practices for Installation of Underground Liquid Storage Systems). These installation standards are codified in the Model Fire and Building Codes by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (e. g., cities, counties and states) and required by the federal government (i. e., Environmental Protection Agency). Thus, the proper procedures for the installation of fiberglass tanks are readily available and mandated in the USA.

Installer Training and Oversight
Petroleum marketers and fiberglass tank manufacturers recognized early on that installation contractors required training to bring them up to date with fiberglass technology. Former installation practices (e. g., allowing foreign objects in the backfill, damaging coatings, blocking tanks with hard objects, improper backfill and poor compaction) caused many premature steel tank failures. As a result, beginning in late 1960, oil company personnel and fiberglass tank manufacturers conducted contractor installation training programs and the record shows that over 25,000 personnel were trained. In addition, since 1980, this number has grown considerably as many states required additional installer training and refresher courses.

Installer oversight has also become an important part of successful tank installations. Oversight in the USA is required by federal government rules, state inspectors and fire code jurisdictions. For example, New York City has historically required on-site fire personnel oversight while a tank is being installed.

An independent market study by Havill Consultants reported that 55% of tanks owned by retail petroleum marketers in the USA are fiberglass and that most of them are single-wall tanks. The record shows that these tanks have performed successfully and that there is no evidence of systematic failure. Where tanks have failed due to isolated manufacturing defects the petroleum industry and the public are best served by identifying failures that occur, determining the causes and implementing quality control and assurance, and oversight procedures to prevent reoccurrence.

Curran Sullivan D. , PE
Sully Curran is Executive Director of the Fiberglass Tank & Pipe Institute, located in Houston, Texas. He is the past chairman of the American Petroleum Institute. Committees on petroleum storage facilities. (2001)

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