Fuel Storage: Steel Vs Polyethylene

When you store fuel on your worksite or other locations your going to have to make the decision on whether a Polyethylene fuel tank or Steel fuel tank will suit your requirements best.

Polyethylene tanks are other wise known as a plastic fuel tank, however Polyethylene tanks are not made from your average plastic as it is manufactured from a High Density Polyethylene or HDPE which is a special grade of plastic in which is very strong, durable and reliable.

So, what is the best suited material for your fuel storage solution? Unfortunately there is no clear answer as both plastic and steel tanks have advantages and disadvantages, personally we believe polyethylene fuel tanks are the better choice as they are cleaner, lighter, condensate less and last as long as a steel tank.

There is also the option to have a fuel tank / fuel bowser manufactured with a polyethylene inner tank and a steel outer bund in which is the best of both worlds.

Plastic Fuel Storage Tanks

Advantages Disadvantages
Plastic fuel tanks are on average about 30% lighter than steel making transportation and installation cheaper and easier. There is a limit to how large a plastic fuel tank can be made before the integrity of the design becomes compromised, the Maximum capacity is generally around 1,700 gallons (6,500 litres)
Heat from the environment transfers slower to the contents of the fuel tank as plastic is a insulator  Plastic is a softer material than steel 
Plastic fuel tanks can be virtually manufactured into any shape the customer requires if they are willing to pay for their own custom design, however the mass-market will be limited to different shapes as off the shelf products are ready to be dispatched
Plastic condensates less then steel meaning there will be less water in the fuel
Plastic does not corrode meaning there is no risk of contamination where as steel tanks will rust over time
Plastic fuel tanks don't tend to have seems as they are moulded as one unit meaning testing the tanks are easier and less risk of the tank failing 
If impact occurred the fuel tank will be able to reform into its natural shape and plastic fuel tanks will not spark when contact is made

Plastic + Steel Fuel Storage Tanks

Advantages Disadvantages
Best of both worlds as you get the clean fuel storage solution as a plastic tank with the security of a steel tank  There is a limit to how large a plastic fuel tank can be made before the integrity of the design becomes compromised, the Maximum capacity is generally around 1,700 gallons (6,500 litres)
Easily maintained as you can usually access the inner tank by removing the lid to the outer bund 
Plastic fuel tanks can be virtually manufactured into any shape the customer requires if they are willing to pay for their own custom design, however the steel bund may prevent certain custom shapes from being manufactured
Plastic condensates less then steel meaning there will be less water in the fuel
Plastic does not corrode meaning there is no risk of contamination where as steel tanks will rust over time
Plastic fuel tanks are on average about 30% lighter then steel making transportation and installation cheaper and easier
Heat from the environment transfers slower to the contents of the fuel tank as plastic is a insulator 

Steel Fuel Storage Tanks

Advantages Disadvantages
Steel is a stronger material then plastic It is a common misconception that it is more difficult to drill a steel tank as drill innovation has made drilling steel very easy to do and there is a serious risk of creating sparks near fuel when theft is attempted
There is also a lot of scope for flexibility within the design of steel fuel tanks and custom steel fuel tanks can easily be made in a variety of complex designs Steel is hygroscopic which means it retains water meaning when a change in temperature occurs steel will condensate more water into the fuel 
Over time steel will rust / corrode creating contamination into the fuel as well as weakening the tanks structure
Steel fuel tanks are welded together meaning there are seams around the tank in which may fail therefore leaking fuel and creating environmental issues if the bund is not appropriate for the inner tanks contents, however by law a bund has to be 110% of any inner tanks contents
Steel is heavier than plastic, making it more expensive and challenging to transport and install
If impact occurred the steel fuel tank may create a spark
Testing a steel fuel tank is harder to do because every weld seam has to be checked for leaks and rust and the test procedure will require either the tank being removed from the bund or use specialist camera equipment enable to visually inspect all welds

Bottom Line Of Comparing Plastic Fuel Tanks To Steel Fuel Storage Tanks

Your final decision on whether you should buy a steel fuel bowser, Polyethylene fuel bowser or have the best of both worlds by buying a fuel storage tank that is manufactured with a steel outer bund and a polyethylene inner tank all depends on what you feel is best for your operations and which option is the most cost-effective.

All of these options are available to be stored outside and as long as the specific product has ADR / U.N certification it can be transported on the public highway.

 

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