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A petroleum and refining station in need of secondary containment for petroleum storage.

More than 70 million barrels of oil are produced worldwide on a daily basis, according to OPEC, with high volumes of oil and petrochemicals constantly being stored and transported throughout the United States and the rest of the world. To protect the environment and ensure regulatory compliance, petroleum refining spaces and facilities with petroleum bulk storage must provide secondary containment solutions that guard against leaks and spills.

As a leader in the coatings and secondary containment market, BCI provides exclusive, innovative options to meet your fuel containment requirements. Our patented containment system (T.R.A.P.S.) and patented liner seaming system (PolySeam®) provide cost-effective methods to meet fuel containment regulations. Hydrocarbon filtration products mitigate oil contamination for SPCC compliance.

What is Petroleum?

Modern society essentially runs on petroleum, which provides the base for gasoline and fuels for heating, transportation and generating electricity. It also provides petrochemical materials used in pharmaceuticals, cleaning products and many household items. 

Petroleum is a fossil fuel that is extracted from underground reservoirs by drilling rigs and pumps, then shipped to refineries. Crude oil refining involves the separation of such impurities as sulfur, sand and other components.

Petroleum refining begins with separation, as crude oil is piped into distillation towers, where heat causes the liquids and vapors to separate into different components such as kerosene and propane. Afterwards, the distilled products are further processed into gasoline, which then receives final treatment or blending. 

Newly-arrived crude oil and refined petrochemical materials are normally stored at a tank farm, oil depot or oil terminal, which are different terms for an industrial facility often constructed as part of an oil refinery or placed in close proximity to one. Tank farms or petroleum bulk storage terminals are usually equipped for the loading and transfer of fuel products and feature above ground or underground tanks, pipelines, pumping facilities and additional transfer equipment to load tanker trucks, trains or barges.

The Dangers of Petroleum Production

The refinement of crude oil into petrochemicals usually releases toxins into the atmosphere that can be hazardous to humans as well as the environment. 

Among the chemicals released at refineries are known or suspected cancer-causing agents as well as materials that may aggravate childhood asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Refinery wastewater can be highly contaminated with petrochemicals that can have an adverse impact if released into the area ground water or surface water. Soil contamination is generally less common and less damaging than refinery air or water contamination, but it also poses risks to the environment.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA), petroleum production workers might be exposed to hazardous chemicals that can lead to such effects as chemical burns or inhalation of toxic vapors. Fires, explosions and oxygen deficiency are also hazards at refineries and fuel storage facilities. Employers must train workers to handle chemicals and establish safe work practices.

Rules and Regulations for Petroleum Storage

Oil refineries and facilities with petroleum tank containment areas are required to follow rules and regulations to avoid fuel leaks and discharges that can lead to potentially destructive fires, contaminate waterways or otherwise represent an environmental hazard.

The Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency apply to facilities with total above ground storage tank (AST) capacity of more than 1,320 gallons in containers of 55 gallons or larger, or total buried capacity of more than 42,000 gallons.

The so-called “SPCC Rule” requires these facilities to take preventative steps against oil spills, such as using suitable tanks and containers and provide overflow protection. Petroleum bulk storage containers should include secondary containment, which goes into effect if primary containment fails. This can include earth or concrete dikes or remote impoundment with capacity to match the container. 

Secondary containment should also be provided where oil is loaded and unloaded for transportation. Sorbent materials, drip pans and curbing can be used in these areas. Facilities should periodically inspect and test petroleum containment tanks, pipes and containers, as well as prepare an SPCC plan for oil handling and spill prevention.

How to Create a Secondary Containment Solution

Tank containment areas at refineries require durable secondary containment solutions. Protective spray coatings can extend the life of petroleum containment tanks while reducing the chance of oil spills and potential cleanup costs and fines.

Secondary containment solutions for tank containment areas include such construction features as sorbent materials, dikes, impervious berms or retaining walls, gutters, retention ponds and other drainage systems, as well as sorbent materials. 

The suitable secondary containment should be determined based on site-specific conditions. Factors influencing containment decisions include the location, type and quantity of stored petrochemicals, the area topography and proximity to population centers, water or other environmentally sensitive areas, and the likelihood of risky construction activities such as fueling or vibration damage.

The durability of petroleum bulk storage tanks, as well as their secondary containment, can be enhanced with coatings that have high resistance to petrochemicals. Effective spray coatings will withstand temperature fluctuations and surface movement and resist harsh environments while being free of VOCs.

A flexible coating can repair cracks and leaks while reducing vapor loss and noxious odors, which can help ensure an AST is compliant with environmental requirements. 

Buried tanks and pipelines can experience high levels of corrosion due to contact with the soil, but protective industrial coatings can prevent corrosion. With some coatings, the polar bonding of the molecules in the coating form strong adhesion to the steel surface, providing a durable coat.

In addition, spray coatings used with concrete containment will bond to substrates and form a permanent film that protects against degradation caused by moisture and chemicals. 

Spray coatings or lining systems can seal and restore aging fuel containment systems, and can also withstand heavy traffic and abrasions as well as seal joints, cracks and voids. This can be more cost-effective than replacing the containment system outright.