Underground Steel Tanks – Keep or Replace?

Yes, that is the question that many service station owners ask themselves.  Many sites have steel tanks that are well over 30 years, some nearing the 50-year mark, and all have the potential to fail.  Unfortunately, many owners put their head in the sand hoping the problem won’t rear its nasty head because the tanks are out of sight, they shouldn’t be out of mind.  It can be expensive replacing the tanks, but it can also be costly in remediation costs.

The costs associated with tank removal and replacement can be enormous, and new tanks don’t bring more fuel volume they only reduce the risks related to steel tanks. Also, the downtime and interruption to the business while the tanks are being upgraded means revenues are momentarily stopped.

So, what are the questions you need to ask yourself on whether to keep or replace your tanks?

  • How old are your tanks?
  • What are your tank capacities – are the sufficient for your operation?
  • When did you last do a tank and line test?
  • What are the daily fuel reconciliations telling me?
  • Do you wait until you have a tank or pipework failure?

What are some of the factors that can cause your tank to corrode?

  • Soil acidity
  • Presence of groundwater
  • Scratch on tank, when installed, can cause corrosion

Not only should you look at the steel tanks but what about the pipework? I once had a site that cars were getting water with their fuel.  My tanks were dry and sound, but the water was coming from a rusty pipe.  In a way, I was lucky that water was coming in as it brought this problem to my attention as I could have had a slow leak causing damage to the environment.

The problem that many owners face is will the monies that are needed for new tanks be viable given that the volume that is generated through their site is low.  Yes, this is a problem for many low volume service stations are confronted with.

So, you need a plan! – Upgrade or repair?   What are your next steps?

It is best to understand the condition of your tanks and soil before you decide what to do next.

  • Get tanks and pipework tested
  • Do groundwater tests
  • Do Environmental Site Assessment

How are tanks and pipework tested?

Tanks and pipework are tested under a pressure test, and as long as they hold that pressure, the tanks are regarded as tight.

What is groundwater testing?

Groundwater samples are collected from at least three wells that are installed by a competent and experienced person. When installing wells consideration of;

  • the locations of tanks, pipework, filling points and dispensers
  • the hydraulic gradient on the site and any variations that may occur such as seasonal conditions
  • the topographic slope and boundary condition

Samples are tested for the presence of hydrocarbons in the water and should be done on a regular basis.

What is an Environmental Site Assessment?
Testing is undertaken to identify if there is any contamination of the soil and if there are any risks to the environment.  Holes are drilled, and core samples are taken for testing by analytical laboratories. This can be a costly exercise but it is essential if tanks have failed or if you are selling a service station property.

Some of your options to consider:

  • Tank and pipework replacement
  • Tank restoration
  • Above ground storage solutions

It is always best to contact experts In each field to be fully informed.  Below are some contact that I use and recommend.

ESA Testing & Remediation
Greg Morgan
M: 0430 286 669
E:  greg@emrgroup.com.au

Risk Management
Wayne Lamb
M: 0408 872 316
E:  wlamb.wde@gmail.com

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