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EPA: Diesel Storage Tank Corrosion Common

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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A vast majority of diesel fuel underground storage tanks may exhibit moderate to severe corrosion, according to the U.S. government—but few of the tanks’ owners are aware of it.

A study recently released by the Environmental Protection Agency showed that 83 percent of underground storage tanks (USTs) studied showed moderate to severe corrosion, but only about 25 percent of tank owners realized there was corrosion in their tanks before the EPA inspections took place.

According to the agency, most of the corrosion in diesel USTs takes place on internal metals, on both steel and fiberglass tanks. Corrosion can lead to tank failures and eventual releases of fuel, which contaminate groundwater.

A Recent Problem

The EPA says there’s no one cause of corrosion in diesel USTs that has been pinpointed, but notes that scientists suspect that microorganisms play a part. Research on the topic is ongoing.

Examples of internal corrosion
Images: U.S. EPA

According to the EPA, most of the corrosion in diesel USTs takes place on internal metals, on both steel and fiberglass tanks.

According to the agency, UST owners began reporting corrosion to UST servicing companies in 2007. At that time, components in the upper parts of the USTs began showing corrosion, even in tanks that had previously shown very little corrosion over the years.

USTs installed since 1988 must meet government standards regarding corrosion protection, including tank linings and in some cases cathodic protection.

Study Commissioned

In 2014, the EPA’s Office of Underground Storage Tanks undertook a project to better understand the corrosion issue and how to address it.

The study conducted by the EPA involved inspections of 42 actively operating diesel USTs in 2015. Of the 42 tanks, 35 showed evidence of corrosion. While the agency notes that the tanks studied were diverse in their location and general condition, the sample was still small and may not be precisely indicative of the prevalence of the problem nationwide.

Lining a UST

USTs installed since 1988 must meet government standards regarding corrosion protection, including tank linings and in some cases cathodic protection.

In addition to fuel releases that threaten the environment, the EPA notes that internal corrosion can cause smaller, but still substantial, problems for UST owners: For example, corrosion debris can clog filters, causing increased maintenance costs.

Conclusions

Beyond the apparent widespread nature of corrosion in diesel USTs, the EPA study noted several other conclusions, at least tentative in nature. Ethanol was found in 90 percent of diesel USTs, meaning that “cross-contamination of diesel fuel with ethanol is likely the norm, not the exception,” the agency writes.

And the presence of particulates and water content in the diesel fuel were “closest to being statistically significant predictive factors for metal corrosion,” though the agency stops short of saying those factors were a likely cause. It also notes the possible involvement of microbiologically induced corrosion.

Maintenance and Monitoring

The Clean Diesel Alliance recently performed research on the topic as well, and put together a two-page guide for operators on preventive maintenance and recognizing signs of corrosion and contamination.

Given that the precise cause of diesel UST corrosion hasn’t been identified, NACS, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, holds that “consistent tank maintenance and monitoring is considered the best approach for dealing with the issue at this time.”

   

Tagged categories: Corrosion; Corrosion protection; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); North America; Research; Tank interiors

Comment from Mario Colica, (7/27/2016, 3:45 AM)

The best practice is to prevent as possible the corrosion before the installation.Most chemicals, among them Hydrocarbons ,have been successfully stored in Zinc coated contaniers for years. Once again Zinc coating is a valid help against corrosion of steel


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