Industrial Storage Tanks: Replacement vs. Maintenance
Replacing an aging or outdated industrial storage tank may offer improved efficiencies and cost savings due to new designs and features, but repairing the existing tank may provide a more economical short-term solution.
Since repeated use is rapidly affecting a tank’s ability to perform safely and efficiently, operations managers must understand the many factors involved when replacing or repairing industrial tanks to avoid costly downtime or safety issues.
With this guide to the relative costs of replacement vs. maintenance of industrial storage tanks, plant managers can make informed decisions and determine the best solution for a facility’s operational goals.
When to Replace Your Industrial Storage Tank
Plant managers can consider the following signs for better clarity on whether it’s time to replace an existing tank.
No matter the condition, at a certain age, industrial storage tanks no longer meet rapidly changing safety and environmental standards. As a result, tanks older than 15 or 20 years are prime replacement candidates, particularly those serving a high-risk or hazardous chemical application.
Industrial tanks hold a range of substances, some breaking down structural integrity faster than others. Tanks storing corrosive chemicals, in particular, warrant immediate attention and consideration for replacement.
Previous Maintenance History
How many times have you performed repairs or maintenance on a particular tank? If the answer to that question is “a bunch,” it is likely time to replace the tank. Repeated maintenance and repair on industrial storage tanks is a signal that the underlying structure is weakening and may eventually fail, putting employees, equipment, and the environment at risk.
Original Service Conditions
The conditions behind the installation and manufacturing of the tank also play a role in determining whether replacement is necessary. For example, is the tank failing due to installation error or outdated building requirements? If so, your best bet is to replace the tank.
Industrial storage tanks are designed to withstand a certain amount of pressure and capacity. If the tank or its other components show signs of wear and tear or their capability no longer produces the same output, an upgrade or replacement is a viable, more cost-effective solution.
Benefits of Storage Tank Replacement
While the determination that an industrial storage tank needs replacing may frazzle project managers trying to maximize operational efficiency, the benefits of doing may actually reap better, more long-term rewards, including:
- Improved Efficiency. New tanks bring more efficient operation and less downtime for increased productivity — and profits.
- Better Safety. Failing or old tanks are a huge safety issue. Upgrading to a new tank eliminates those risks.
- Reduced Maintenance Costs. Replacement means a new, more durable tank that won’t eat up the budget with costly maintenance and repairs.
- Long-Term Savings. A new tank may cost more upfront, but the long-term savings from reduced maintenance and higher efficiency make up for it.
As a bonus, new tanks also enhance the look and feel of a storage facility, making the space more attractive to customers and potential business partners wanting to work with cutting-edge operations.
When to Repair Your Storage Tank
Certain factors help make the decision easier for plant or operations managers who are trying to keep safety and productivity at the forefront of business practices.
Dents, Leaks, Bumps, & Scrapes.
Industrial facilities are subject to unexpected bumps and scrapes, resulting in a small storage tank leak, dent, or both. Therefore, repairs are often recommended if an industrial storage tank shows signs of these minor damages.
PRO TIP: Consider optimizing regular maintenance routines to catch minor damage early, avoiding costly structural repairs (or cleanups), and keeping safety standards high.
Ladders, platforms, roofs, and other tank components commonly break or wear down over time. If parts such as these require repair or replacement, repair and maintenance solutions often prove a faster, more affordable answer.
Acts of God
Weather, electrical surges, and even vandals can interrupt a tank’s performance or structural integrity. For these acts of God, repair is likely the best solution — at least until there is more time to assess the situation.
Benefits of Storage Tank Repair
Though repair may not provide a replacement’s long-term benefits, it offers certain advantages that make it a better option in many situations.
- Cost-Effectiveness. Repair is almost always cheaper than replacement, making it the go-to choice for budget-savvy decision-makers.
- Faster Implementation. With repair, tanks are often back up and running faster than with a replacement, ensuring no disruption to profit margins.
- Less Disruption to Workflow. Repairs can be completed without disturbing the overall operations, keeping downtime to a minimum.
Furthermore, repair solutions can increase the life expectancy of a tank, extending the time and associated costs between replacements.
Best Maintenance Practices for Industrial Storage Tanks
Enacting the following maintenance practices is the best way to ensure industrial storage tanks operate efficiently and safely, thus reducing the frequency and resulting costs of repair or replacement.
- Regular Inspections. Regular visual, internal, and structural inspections are a smart way to avoid potential storage tank problems.
- Follow Agency Guidelines. EPA and OSHA regulations vary between above-ground and underground tanks, so it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest policies that ensure optimal performance with no disruptions.
- Periodic Testing. Monitoring tanks for pressure, temperature, and general performance helps identify (and fix) potential problems before they become bigger issues.
- Robotic Assistance. Confined entry spaces pose safety risks for human personnel tasked with inspection, cleaning, and repairs — not to mention the risk to the tank itself. Robotic solutions that perform these tasks, along with other maintenance needs, can significantly reduce the cost and risk associated with labor-intensive tank repairs or replacements.
With these practices in place, industrial storage tanks have less risk of malfunctioning, meaning fewer repair costs down the line and less interference with day-to-day operations.
Protect Your Plant’s Assets
Industrial storage tanks are a critical part of any modern facility. Ensuring they remain in optimal condition with regular maintenance and inspection is key to a plant’s success.
When repair or replacement for any industrial storage tank becomes necessary, understanding the factors above helps plant managers make the best decision.
Learn more about the differences between underground and aboveground storage tanks to better understand their proper maintenance and repair needs.