Fuel tank cleaning – a guide:
Ensuring fuel tanks are kept clean and properly maintained is a legal obligation for all facilities storing fuel on-site. As hydrocarbon tank cleaning involves working with hazardous chemicals and requires specialist skills, it should always be carried out by trained professionals. It is important to have an understanding of the processes involved, and to appreciate the benefits of having a regular storage tank cleaning and maintenance plan. In this blog post, we outline the key elements of an industrial tank cleaning program, as well as the ongoing monitoring and maintenance required to keep your fuel tanks clean and safe.
1. Set a maintenance schedule
First things first; tank cleaning and maintenance programs need to be planned carefully. A fully documented plan should be produced, including a complete description of the facility, details of all licensed operators who will be carrying out maintenance and/or repairs, as well as the procedures and protocols for monthly, quarterly and annual inspections. All emergency procedures must also be covered, including security, fuel transfer procedures, detailed protocols for the event of a spill or discharge, and the process for notifying the relevant authorities. Some facilities may also be required to carry out non-destructive testing (NDT) in accordance with their license, which will also need to be included in the maintenance plan.
2. Pre-cleaning procedures
Crews in charge of cleaning should have daily meetings on-site, to run through any safety concerns and potential complications that might be encountered during the cleaning operation. All discussions need to be fully documented, and a Health & Safety Plan (HASP) should be drawn up, before any work commences.
3. The cleaning process
There are a number of methods that can be deployed to clean fuel tanks, and the most appropriate will vary depending on the type of tank being used, and its location. For example, underground tank cleaning is likely to require a different approach than a surface tank. The most common storage tank cleaning services available are:
Non-Entry Tank Cleaning
This process works by removing all the contents of the tank and lowering in cleaning equipment, which pressure washes or uses expanding foam to remove all chemicals and contaminants, with progress being monitored by remote cameras, where necessary.
Manned Entry Tank Cleaning
Sometimes circumstances dictate that someone has to manually clean the tank from the inside. This must always be carried out by an experienced confined space entry crews.
Fuel Filtration/Fuel Polishing
This method doesn’t require the tank to be emptied; instead, the fuel is left in the tank and any water and contaminants are filtered out. Accuracy is monitored using remote cameras and fibre optics.
Multipoint Pumping (Water)
In this cleaning method, pumps and suction tubes are used to remove water and contaminants from empty tanks, with the waste then being disposed of at a licensed facility.
4. Ongoing monitoring and maintenance
To ensure fuel tanks are kept fully operational and in a safe condition, the following regular checks are recommended.
- Inspect the sump for any spilled fuel and remove all accumulated debris
- Check all explosion vents can open and close easily, and that they are totally unobstructed
- Check that all valves open and close correctly, and that they aren’t blocked or seizing up
- Inspect all pipes for signs of leakage and repair any cracks or holes, as necessary
- Make sure the overfill alarm is fully operational
- Check the overfill prevention equipment is fully operational
- Ensure the tank coating is in serviceable condition
- Check any secondary containment is free of holes, cracks, tears, or other damage
- Check any secondary containment is free of fuel, water and debris
- Make sure the interstice of double-walled tank is checked for liquid and debris
- Visually inspect the sump, tank, platform, skid and handrail for rust, cracked welds and structural damage or deterioration; and repair as needed
- Check the bolts on structures, stairs and platforms, and tighten or replace as required
Why regular cleaning and maintenance is important
Correct tank maintenance and cleaning will help you avoid many issues, like moisture building up inside and corroding the tank, causing leaks; or sludge collecting at the bottom of the tank, which can contaminate contents and clog pipelines. Harmful mould, bacteria and microbes can grow inside tanks that have not been cleaned for a long time, which could also lead to contamination, blockages or damage being done to filters. Many of these issues can be extremely costly to rectify, if left unchecked for long periods of time, so it’s essential to adhere to your maintenance schedule.
Having a regular tank cleaning and maintenance schedule will not only keep you compliant with licensing obligations, it will almost certainly save you money in the long run. To learn more about Enva’s storage tank cleaning services, please visit our website. Alternatively, if you would like help planning a fuel tank cleaning and maintenance schedule, or have any other questions, please contact us today.