polyethylene drums for fuel tanks

Discussion in 'Materials' started by naturewaterboy, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. naturewaterboy
    Joined: Sep 2006
    Posts: 211
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: key largo, florida, usa

    naturewaterboy Steel Drum Tuner

    Anyone have thoughts on using 55 gallon polyethylene drums for fuel tanks? I am planning on removing an old aluminum 250 gallon fuel tank, and I think I'm going to install new plastic tanks (thinking 5 tanks at 50 gallons each or something on this order). Just wondering if the used drums are an option.
     
  2. kengrome
    Joined: Jul 2006
    Posts: 718
    Likes: 25, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 305
    Location: Gulf Coast USA

    kengrome Senior Member

    I don't see why they wouldn't work if you install and seal them properly.
     
  3. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    Well, to begin with they aren't designed to be used as fuel tanks.

    You don't say what kind of fuel, but maybe that kind of "polyethylene" won't stand up to it.

    They have no baffles to prevent fuel sloshing around and either busting the barrels or whatever arrangement holds the barrels in the boat.

    You would have to stand them on end for them to retain whatever strength they were designed for.

    I don't think it's a good idea.

    On the plus side, a burst 55 gallon fuel tank in a boat can be very exciting. ;)
     
  4. eponodyne
    Joined: Aug 2007
    Posts: 327
    Likes: 13, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 171
    Location: Upper Midwest

    eponodyne Senior Member

    I've never wanted to do this with plastic barrels but I've often wondered how to go about converting stainless beer kegs to fuel tanks. Hmmmm....
     
  5. TollyWally
    Joined: Mar 2005
    Posts: 774
    Likes: 26, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 423
    Location: Fox Island

    TollyWally Senior Member

    First you drink the beer, ALL THE DETAILS SHOULD BE QUITE CLEAR BY THE TIME YOU EMPTY THE KEG! :)
     
  6. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member


    I do not think it is quite this kind of problem. there are polyethylene tanks designed for fuel storage, but this is something that should be verified for the fule and tanks you are using.

    The tanks are designed for storage and transport of toxic liquids, if they are strong enough for rough handling with fork lifts and trucking about on rough roads I should think they would be plenty strong for a fuel tank. There are federal regs on how strong storage containers must be for transport of toxic liquids on public hwys, it is likely higher than for an installed fuel tank.

    5-50 gallon tanks would act like having 4 baffels in one 250 gallon tank. I would think you would not need baffles. You also have the advantage that if you get a leak all of your fuel will not drain out of one tank. They likly would take up more space than a single large tank.

    I think it would work fine as long as you take steps to verify the plastic is suitable for the fuel, they are anchored well so they do not shift, and you have a good way to meter and transport the fuel. A complex fuel manifold is more suseptable to developing leaks, airlock, etc. But I would seriously consider this as an economical but viable option. Just do your homework before you commit to it.

    Good luck.
     
  7. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    I'm not saying who's right or wrong here, just bringing forth possibilities.

    I think marine conditions are much worse than what a barrel in the back of a spring and shock absorber mounted truck would encounter.

    I would guess trucks haul around full containers. Full containers don't need baffles, half empty ones do.

    Plastic barrels are pretty much a one use, disposable item. They come in a variety of thicknesses, I suppose so they can be made as cheaply as possible and still be able to satisfactorily perform their one-time function with a reasonable, industry acceptable fail rate.

    Designed to be used once has got to be different than being designed to be used for years, as in a boat.

    Toxic and flammable are different things, as is the difference between having a truck on fire and a boat on fire.

    I've looked but can't seem to find any available information on the internet, except info from gov. and industry sources that want money for the info. Perhaps Ike, the Coast Guard guy, could chime in here.

    I'm all for cheap solutions to problems and would have no problem trying this with water or something like that, but I'd prove it with fresh water before trying sewage though.

    Also, I imagine insurance would not cover any problems encountered or that could be blamed on unapproved fuel tanks.
     
  8. Fanie
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 4,603
    Likes: 174, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2484
    Location: Colonial "Sick Africa"

    Fanie Fanie

    I prefer PE fuel tanks to metal ones. They don't rust, scharf the decks, weighs lighter, is very strong, float, does not get attacked by fuel and in theory should last forever. Also cheaper than SS or glass tanks.

    The only cryteria to using those big drums are they must be able to handle a bit of pressure... sure one can find out what the requirements are.

    So you're the one using all our fuel up with your big drums :D
     
  9. naturewaterboy
    Joined: Sep 2006
    Posts: 211
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: key largo, florida, usa

    naturewaterboy Steel Drum Tuner

    My fuel is gasoline, and the drums are polyethylene - I don't know for sure if this is the same material as the plastic tanks manufactured for boats. The manufacturers like Moeller also make 50 gallon unbaffled tanks (my other option). 50 gallon tanks from a manufacturer like Moeller (cross linked polyethylene, according to one website selling them) are about $250, used barrels are $30.

    I suppose if there are insurance problems, I'll spend the extra grand and buy tanks, but it sure is tempting to stick that money somewhere else in the boat (I hear a loud sucking sound everytime I open my wallet around my boat:D )
     
  10. safewalrus
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 4,742
    Likes: 78, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 659
    Location: Cornwall, England

    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Of Interest in thi line there's a Dutch firm called VETUS, well known in Europe, been producing purpose designed 'plastic' fuel tanks for years (had them in my last boat, burned diesel, perfectly alright). If I remember rightly they are polyprop - why not 'google' (or who ever you use) for their website and take a look - might even give you a few ideas. Good luck with the project.



    the Walrus
     
  11. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 197, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    For all I know they might be perfectly acceptable. At the bottom of this page is a list of other "tank" threads.

    This one.....
    http://boatdesign.net/forums/showthread.php?t=11238
    has entries by the 'Ike' I was referring to. You can e-mail him direct through this forum. If you click on his name and then his personal profile, it lists the boating websites he has that might have more information.

    The thing is, it's not a good idea, legally, to tell someone how to rig up unapproved fuel systems.
     
  12. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 2,528
    Likes: 362, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1669
    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    I doubt very much that polyethylene barrels would meet the requirements fro gasoline fuel tanks on boats. Specifically They probably wouldn't meet the 2 1/2 minute fire test. Further fuel tanks have to meet a variety of other tests.

    Look here http://newboatbuilders.com/pages/fuel.html for a synopsis and here for the regulations, http://www.uscgboating.org/safety/boatbuilder/fuel/fuel.htm

    I am assumming you are talking gasoline here. Plastic tanks also have to meet a permeation requirement. Fuel vapor permeates through the walls of plastic tanks. You would have no way of knowing what the permeation rate would be so the compartment would have to be ventilated and any electrical equipment in the fuel space would have to be ignition protected.
     
  13. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    You keep assuming that because barrels are used for storage and transport of liquids that some how they are not "as good" as a fuel tank. You would be surprised at the amount of DOT requirements there are for the storage and transport of drums that contain hazardous liquids (volumes of regulatoins in fact).

    The barrel requirements could be much more strict since in handling and transport they are far more exposed to rough handling than a fuel tank in a vehicle. It would not surprise me if the DOT requirements for poly barrels are far more strict than for a fuel tank.

    So you are clearly speaking from ignorance and lack of experience with such things. I have designed stationary bulk storage facilities for hazardous liquids, and I am familiar with the mountains of regulations surrounding all aspects of handling liquid materials. But because I have never designed a storage barrel I am not familiar with those particular specifications. But neither would I assume storage barrels are infirior.

    Since there is a potentially large savings, it is simple enough to find out what specs the barrels must meet and compare them with those of a fuel tank.

    You have to look them up and find out for your self. Somewhere on the barrel is a specification label (an ASTM standard most likely), all you have to do is find out what those specs are and compare them for the requirements for fuel tanks. Also note that there may be different classes or categories of poly barrels for the storage and transport of different types of liquids. It would not surprise me at all if they are very high standards that could be above the requirements for fuel tanks.

    And since there are FAR more storage barrels made than boat fuel tanks, it is certain that even the best barrels will cost less that a new fuel tank. And they might even meet a much higher standard.

    So unless you know what you are taking about, I would not assume that standard category fuel tanks are better than rated poly-barrels. It is easy enough to find out.
     
  14. safewalrus
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 4,742
    Likes: 78, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 659
    Location: Cornwall, England

    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Petros when it comes to things legal and boating in the US of A I would sincerly hope you are not stating th above about IKE, he knows a little more than the average US boater - in fact that is quite a broad statement to make on here! You just don't know some of the characters and what they've done or know....................of course if you don't mind making a fool of yourself just go ahead!
     

  15. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 148, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    It was not meant to be an insult, but merely an observation. It does not mean I think others are stupid, just that their assumptions MAY be unwarrented. I openly admitted that I am ignorant of specific requirement for storage barrels.

    But often those familiar with only their primary trade will not know what happens in other industries. I have a professional engineering license and have worked in a number of different industries directly dealing with safety issues. Every aspect of any product or activity that involves health and safety will always have a massive amount of regulations that goes with it. It is an unwarranted assumption to think that somehow boat fuel tanks have higher standards than industrial storage barrels. That is my only point.
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.