Water and chemical storage tanks from places like Tanks Direct are important in industrial/manufacturing plants. It isn't uncommon to see them with collapsed walls, wrinkling on the roof and other damage because most people don't remember how delicate these tanks really are. Tank failure can result in storage material contamination, production interruptions and loss of storage material among others. This article highlights some ways to prevent this eventuality.

1. Do not overfill the tank

The dangers of overfilling cannot be overemphasised; many accidents and losses have occurred as a result of having too much volume or mass in a tank. All storage tanks should include high-level interlocks and overflow systems as well as alarms, and these should be regularly inspected. While human operators should be assigned to monitor tank levels, bear in mind that overfilling may not be immediately visible, hence the need for operational automated monitoring systems. Overfilling may not be very risky when storing water, but chemicals pose a greater hazard on overflow, and hence normal levels must always be maintained.

2. Maintain the correct pressure levels

Careful monitoring of tanks' venting, input and output lines are pivotal to maintaining the correct pressure and prevent damage from over- or under-pressure. Over-pressure can cause tanks to overflow and even burst, while under-pressure can cause denting and wrinkling because of counteraction from atmospheric pressure.

These vent and overflow lines should lead to above-ground or underground tanks where storage material can be redirected to or from to reduce or increase pressure using automated tracking and valve systems. In addition, there must be a management-of-change study before any alterations are made to the tanks' venting systems.

3. Be careful when cleaning

Cleaning is an important part of tank maintenance, but it can also be hazardous depending on the tank's contents. Some best practices are highlighted below:

  • Recruit specialised contractors particularly when dealing with pressurised tanks or tanks with potentially hazardous contents. This is also necessary when cleaning the inside of the tanks, which will need special apparatus and skills.

  • Take extra care when cleaning awkward places like around connections, vents, sumps, grills, meshes and piping

  • Ensure cleaning solvents/products will not react with the storage materials to release harmful products

  • Following a spill, wash down the affected area after clearing, and plan for proper drainage of the water that will be used as it will be contaminated

  • Schedule cleaning times for little-traffic times. Clearly mark with slipping hazard signs, especially when cleaning slow-drying or impermeable surfaces

  • Pressure washing should be done from stable platforms and only when tank contents have been completely removed. Additional caution should be taken when steam cleaning or using hot water jets.