How to Increase Industrial Storage Tank Life Expectancy
Industrial storage tanks form the backbone of facility operations. These tanks are instrumental to production and operation across an industrial plant, from fuel to vital chemicals to waste material. With that, it is important to make sure that your tanks operate as well as possible for as long as possible. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can plan to extend the lifespan of your tanks with proper maintenance and operational procedures.
How Long Do Storage Tanks Last?
Various factors affect the lifespan of a storage tank. These include whether it is an above-ground or an underground tank, the quality of the materials, the quality of installation, their design, their level of environmental exposure, maintenance schedules and leak catching, proper integration into the rest of the plant, and even the different substances stored within. The selection of a particular tank is made with the specifics of your plant intention and specific geography. There are many other factors to take into account during the selection, installation, and maintenance of such a tank, all of which contribute to its life span. Steel tanks are often subject to corrosion from the inside, making it difficult to see some of the signs that a tank is reaching the end of its life span from the outside. So knowing how these factors are likely to affect your specific tank is crucial.
A standard above-ground storage tank has a lifespan of around 20 years, though they can last upwards of 40 with exemplary maintenance. Though they are exposed to exterior elements, it is slightly easier to maintain and observe these tanks, making them relatively resilient. Underground storage tanks, however, tend to last around 15-20 years, particularly in relatively wet climates. They are harder to maintain properly, and leaks can be more common and difficult to detect. This fact means that their operable lifespan tends to be on the shorter side despite their higher possible life spans.
If you have either of these tanks currently on site, it could be worth seeing how far into this cycle you are and how your maintenance practices have been so far in the life cycle. If you are trying to figure out how expected life spans play into the selection of a future tank for your facility, you can consult this article to learn more about the different types of storage tanks to get a sense of which tank is right for you!
Part of extending the lifespan of a storage tank comes down to the protective coatings you provide for the tank on both the outside and the inside. Almost all liquids, including water, can have corrosive effects on the materials which make up a storage tank; acids, organic compounds, and waste material only speed this process up even further.
Basic coating approaches, such as rubber coatings or paint, are minimally effective, as they break down quickly. Rubber liners, in particular, also have to be very thick in order to be effective, which can diminish the storage capacity of any tank.
Recent developments in polyurethane, polyurea, and epoxy coatings offer significant performance improvements. It is best to install such coatings before the tank’s first use, as they are not meant to fix corrosion. Once corrosion takes hold, it can continue to eat away at the metal underneath a coating. You can tune polyurethane and epoxy coatings to impressive levels of heat or corrosion resistance, while polyurea coatings offer a still impressive level of protection with cure and coverage times within minutes. Make sure to consider the intended application of your tank when choosing a coating, as there is no one-size-fits-all coating. Still, these coatings are all exemplary at reducing contamination and corrosion.
Investing in the best tank and coating technology is crucial to extending the lifetime of a storage tank, but this technology is useless if you do not keep track of your tank’s status. Even special coatings and excellent designs will fail, and when this goes undetected, the corrosion or damage can spiral. Catching corrosion or leaks or any other small failure early — and you cannot totally engineer such failures away — will enable you to perform necessary repairs before the problem spreads. Such maintenance can get you in front of the types of damage that severely shorten the usable life span of a tank.
Failing to meet inspection standards can have further effects on your facility beyond tank failure. Regulations require extensive inspection of all the main components of your tanks every month, with more involved inspections at longer intervals. Failure to comply with these standards can lead to fines, and failure to detect leaks or environmental damage can lead to further legal complications.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Properly scheduled inspection is the first step to a well-coordinated cleaning and maintenance plan. Getting ahead of minor problems and tank buildup through active, preventative maintenance will prevent larger, downstream failures and the extended downtimes associated with those failures. Tanks, and your facility at large, depend on well-functioning, interconnected systems, and inefficiency or damage to one part can cascade through the entire system. So it is best to catch these problems as early as possible.
Proper cleaning practices are crucial to ensuring that you can keep your tanks working as well as possible. Sludge buildup can make it difficult to inspect, maintain, or apply coatings to a tank, not to mention reducing usable capacity and increasing system wear. Traditional tank cleaning requires hazardous confined space entry by workers and the total flushing of a system. Ecorobotics offers fully robotic tank cleaning and sludge removal services to make it much easier for you to keep your tanks clean and running. They can operate without confined space entry and do not require the total vacating of a tank. This robotic technology can complete cleaning in less than half the time of a traditional human crew and will go a long way to helping you extend the lifetime and optimize the efficiency of your tanks!
Protect Your Storage Tanks
Storage tanks are a vital part of your facility’s infrastructure. A complete understanding of your implemented technology, along with proper coating, inspection, maintenance, and cleaning, can extend the life expectancy of your tanks. These practices can ensure that you see a full return on your tank investment and will keep your facility running at peak efficiency for longer.