Curren Environmental Blog

How long does an Oil Tank Last?

Posted by David C Sulock on Mar 6, 2018 4:01:00 AM

What is the life expectancy of an oil tank?

How long does an oil tank last?  When do you replace an oil tank.  These are popular oil tank questions.  All things have a finite life expectancy. Both aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) and underground storage tanks (USTs) have a usable life. The problem is your tank can fail (holes appear) and you may never notice.  An industry average for the life span of an oil tank is 20 years, some tanks last longer and some shorter.  This time frame is greatly dependent on the type of oil tank, construction of the tank (meaning thicker walled tanks generally can last longer). environment the tank is in (indoor - outdoor),  and the contents of the tank.  Harsher environments tend to shorten the lifespan of pretty much anything, including steel tanks. 

 
my oil tank leaked pic2.jpg

 

When I ask people how long they think a tank is supposed to last I typically get silence or "I don’t know".   Then, I tell them thank you for not saying "Tanks last FOREVER".   A simple rule of replacement is if the roof has been replaced, so should the tank.    This is for all the people who are using a tank TODAY and if your house was built between 1950 and 1995, your tank is beyond any reasonable expectation of usable life and should be replaced.  No there is not a likely possibility that the original tank from the day your house was constructed has been replaced.  The saying 'if it isn’t broken don’t fix it' is unfortunately followed when it comes to oil tanks.   Simply put, if people replaced tanks within a reasonable amount of time, you wouldn’t have tank leaks and expensive environmental cleanups.

How do oil tanks leak?  Many oil tanks rust through from the inside out.  This most often occurs when the oil is not present, meaning upper portion of the tank where the tank is empty and the oil is not present to lubricate the steel.  Tanks can also leak due to the use of low sulfur fuel.  Heating oil tanks that have low sulfur fuel and water can allow microbial growth to occur.  Secretions from these microbes can produce acids that can corrode a steel tank.

Click Here to Learn about Testing Oil Tanks for Leaks

Aside from corrosion inside the tank, an oil tank can deteriorate from the outside due to environmental conditions.   Rust never sleeps and for corrosion to occur you need metal, oxygen and moisture.   How fast a given metal rusts is based on the environment the metal is exposed too. 

 

Holes in Underground Oil Tank

 

Aboveground oil tanks may look fine from a cursory exterior view but in fact, could heavy corroded on the inside and be ready to fail. 

Underground oil tanks are thicker than comparable aboveground tanks due to a more corrosive environment.  In short, an indoor rated AST is thinner than an outdoor rated AST, which is thinner than a buried UST.  Curren has found that there is a wide variation in indoor aboveground and outdoor aboveground oil tank life spans due to the considerable variation in both the quality and thickness of steel (older tanks seem to have been a heavier gauge steel), which helps prolong the life of the tank.

 

Tank Questions? Click Here

We have seen indoor oil tanks in good condition that are 60 years old or older, and we have found failures in newer oil storage tanks that may have been made of thinner or cheaper steel and that did not last as long as the original ones.  The tanks made immediately following WWII are of higher quality, saying things are not made as good as they used to be is a very true statement when it comes to oil tanks.

Rather than guess a tanks oil tank condition, we suggest that if your home has an older aboveground oil storage tank, twenty years old or older, you should replace the tank.  Keep in mind many brand new oil tanks have a 1 year warranty.

What Can Cause an Oil Tank To Leak?

  • Exposure of the oil storage tank to wide temperature swings, especially in cold and humid climates can increase in-tank condensation leading to corrosion
  • Exposure of the tank fill or vent pipes to rain, especially to roof runoff for tanks mounted under the eaves of a home and especially if the oil fill cap is not securely tightened after filling with oil.  
  • External oil tank rust due to exposure to the weather. Many small tanks, 275 to 300 gallon tanks were used for unintended uses.  Meaning many of these size tanks, were never rated for outdoor use, but have been used for outdoor use and some even buried.   You can tell what use a tank is rated for by reading the UL label that is affixed to the top of the tank.  Manufacturers of newer oil storage tanks in this size range often have removed this "indoor use only" wording from the UL label.
  • Improper oil tank installation  of improper oil tank type.  Meaning the tank was not designed for the current use.  We have found indoor oil tanks that were moved outside and placed onto the underground in the soil surface below a deck, and then partially to half buried. What is this tank, an underground tank or an aboveground tank?  (The government definition of a UST is one where 10% or more of the tank is buried below ground.) These tanks were not rated for outdoor use at all and are at extra risk of leakage due to placement of the tank body directly in contact with the soil.
  • Improper oil storage tank supports, such as failure to keep the outdoor tank off of the ground, to install it at the proper pitch and direction of pitch, and to install it on level surface, unsecured legs of the tank can lead to the tank tipping over, ripping open an oil line, and obvious discharge of oil from the tank.   This is more common with out-of-service tanks.

Want information on tank removal? Clock here Oil Tank Removal

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NJDEP Oil Tank Grant Changes Effective September 2011

Posted by david sulock on Sep 29, 2011 2:14:00 PM

Changes to the NJDEP & EDA Tank Grant Effective September 15, 2011

Grant applications that have already passed NJDEP review and have been submitted to the EDA are now being processed by the EDA with the monies added to the Grant Fund from the 2012 State appropriation.   These applicants who had submitted their grants prior to the May 3, 2011 fund change  will be receiving notification from the EDA over the next few weeks.

Applications that are in-house at the EDA but incomplete will be reviewed and processed in the order that they were received and held until sufficient funds become available.

There is a priority system that is in place pertaining to which applicants get funding first as per NJSA 58:10A-37.4, which is as follows:  

1) Applications indicating a discharge posing a threat to drinking water, human health or sensitive ecological area;

2) Supplemental applications for remediation of discharge from regulated tanks;

3) Applications for remediation of discharge from regulated tanks;

4) Supplemental applications for remediation of discharge from unregulated tanks;

5) Applications for remediation of discharge from unregulated tanks;

6) Non-leaking tank applications

Within each of these categories, priority is based on the application filing date and processing dates that EDA staff adheres to when conducting its review.Click me

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Oil Tank Removal in New Jersey

Posted by david sulock on Jan 28, 2011 9:00:00 PM

The purpose of this document is to provide a concise reference to the preferred practices and procedures for oil tank removals in NJ. 

oil tank removal nj 

Buried oil tanks raise a variety of environmental, safety, legal and economic concerns for home owners and home buyers. The largest concern relates to the environmental issues that are caused when the oil tank leaks and causes  soil or groundwater  contamination. 

The following is a breakdown of the proper steps that should taken in order to remove your residential oil tank. 

Step 1: Permitting 

Local construction/demolition and/or fire subcode permits need to be applied for and the permits approved by the municipal office.     Once the local permits are approved, it is typical that the local inspector will need to be onsite for all or a part of the removal activities.  Permit application, insuring permit approval and scheduling of local inspectors is always done by Curren Environmental before removing the oil tank. 

Step 2: Underground Utilities 

State law requires that before any excavation activities can commence, a utility markout will need to be performed. The company performing the oil tank removal should call for an underground markout through “NJ One Call”.  t is the law in New Jersey and other states, to call for a utility markout before you dig. Make sure the company you choose to remove the tank obtains a markout confirmation number.  It protects all parties involved. 

Step 3: Oil Tank Cleaning 

Cleaning of the tank will consist of wiping, squeegeeing and removing all liquids and sludges from the tank.  Liquids are then either  placed into onsite storage containers or a vacuum truck. . 

Step 4: Oil Tank Removal    

It is recommended that all oil tanks be removed from the ground  when taking a tank out of service.  (In some instances when removal of the oil tank may damage the integrity of the structure an abandonment in place can be performed.)  By removing the tank from the ground a site assessment can be performed to determine if the tank has maintained integrity. 

Step 5: Oil Tank Site Assessmen

After the oil tank is removed a site assessment can performed by Curren’s certified NJDEP Subsurface Evaluator.  The site assessment to evaluate whether contamination is present in the excavation can be carried out in a variety of ways  while the tank is being removed. 

▸   Evidence of contamination can be determined from product odors, product stained soils, and/or visual evidence of free product.   

▸   Inspection of the Underground Storage Tank, (UST), for evidence of corrosion or perforations. 

▸   By a series of observations and measurements during the tank excavation and decommissioning operations such as  soil and ground water sampling and analysis. 

In New Jersey the standard analytical testing method for #-2 heating oil is Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH). All samples must be submitted to an independent NJDEP licensed laboratory for analysis.  EPH results are measured in part per million or ppm. Samples results above 5,100 ppm are actionable and require remedial activities to be completed.   EPH results  between 1,000 ppm and 5,100 ppm require an additional analysis. 

Step 6: Backfilling 

Once the tank is removed from the ground the void space must be backfilled with clean certified  fill.  The general equation for backfilling is five cubic yards of backfill material for every 1000 gallons of storage capacity.  For example a 500-gallon tank would require 2.5 cubic yards of fill material.  Suppling and installing the backfill is always performed by the firm removing the tank and should be included in tank removal cost. 

Step 7: Site Investigation Report - Tank Certification

Curren Environmental will prepare a Site Investigation Report which will document the tank removal activities.  The report will detail the heating oil tank removal and provide certification of the tank removal.   The report will include the following information: 

   1.  Copy of the local permit for tank removal 
   2.  Liquid receipt from the tank cleaning. 
   3.  A thorough written description of the tank removal activities. 
   4.  Photo documentation of tank removal (if available). 
   5.  A copy of the tank scrap receipt. 
   6.  Any applicable laboratory test results. 
   7.  A detailed text description of the condition of the tank and if any petroleum contamination was noted in the tank excavation. 

Curren Environmental, Inc. is a licensed by the  New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to perform closure activities associated with Underground Storage Tanks, (USTs).   

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