designing a tank strategy

Thanks to emerging technology, fuel operators have many choices when installing or upgrading USTs.

By William K. Morris, Contributing Editor

Today’s UndergroUnd storage tank (Ust) installation is a far cry from those of the past. With the intricacies of environmental regulation, liability concerns and the high value of fuel, it is more important than ever for petroleum retailers to install state-of-theart Ust systems. It’s just good business.

Ust installations are governed by local, state and federal regulations, codes, industry standards and manufacturers’ recommended practices. the federal regulation that forms the minimum regulatory requirement for Ust systems can be found in 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 280 and 281. Most states or territories also have a section of their administrative code dedicated to Ust system installations. Enforcement of the rules and licensing of installations and installers is typically carried out on a state level.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) has several industry-standard publications available as recommended practices for the installation and operation of petroleum storage and distribution systems. API Recommended Practice 1615, for example, Installation of Underground Petroleum systems, is a guide to the procedures and equipment that should be used for the proper installation of Ust systems for owners, regulators, contractors and design professionals.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) publication most commonly referred to is PEI RP 100: Recommended Practices for Installation of Liquid storage systems. It provides current information on the proper engineering and construction practices for the installation of petroleum storage and distribution systems.

Manufacturers of petroleum equipmentcomponents of a Ust system also haveinstallation guidelines for their respectiveequipment. these may include installation checklists for proper installation andwarranty activation. Many manufacturesof Ust system components (tanks, pipingand dispensers) require manufacturer certification of installers in addition to statelicensing.

Proper design of a Ust system meeting the minimal requirements of these regulations, codes, industry standards and manufacturer recommended practices is a critical first step for a prospective facility. the best way to get a proper system design is to hire a design professional. Money spent to hire a Ust-specialized professional is the proverbial “drop in the bucket” compared to the cost of permit delays, incompatible system components, constructability issues, time delays and potential liability if a Ust design specialist is not on your team. Require your design professional to document his/her experience with petroleum system design.

Proper selection of major system components such as tanks, piping systems, leak detection systems and dispensers is also a critical step. there are many “state-ofthe-art” components available and many questions: should you choose steel or fiberglass tanks? Is flexible pipe better than rigid pipe? Which leak detection system should you choose?

An important thing to remember whenselecting your system components is gowith proven, established, easy-to-operate, modern technology. In general, try toselect components that have been on themarket for at least a year and that are usedby major petroleum retailers. select components service technicians are familiar with.Ask equipment suppliers for references,Underwriter Laboratories (UL) listing orCalifornia Air Resources Board (CARB)certification (if applicable). Do not volunteer to be an equipment guinea pig.

Finally, when selecting a Ust contractor, hire a licensed, manufacturer-certified,experienced contractor. At a minimum,your contractor should have three to fiveyears of petroleum experience. the electrician should have petroleum system-specificexperience as well. Insist the contractorprovide a licensed installer on site during the installation. Require the contractorprovide written documentation of experience, current licensure and manufacturercertification, along with references prior toawarding a construction contract.

Consider hiring your design professional to be present during critical stages of construction such as tank installation, piping and sump testing and final system start-up. Require your contractor photograph critical stages of the installation and provide copies of all checklists, licensing, regulatory notifications, as-built drawings and warranties prior to project closeout. the design and installation of a petroleum system can be greatly simplified with an experienced, well-qualified equipment, design and construction team.

William K. morris is president of Morris and Associates, an engineering and environmental consulting firm in Houston. His expertise is in the design and permitting for convenience stores and his clients include Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, McDonald’s, Safeway and Walgreens. He can be reached at 281-855-6433 or via email at


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