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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Managing Emergency Fuel Stocks

With fuel at a 2 year low we may want to consider some storage both short and long term. Here's a few tips and tricks to help in your preparation efforts.


Managing emergency fuel stocks

In addition to vehicles, you may need extra fuel for an ATV that you might scout on, and you probably have a generator set that runs on either gas or diesel (some Kohler whole-house fixed gensets run on propane).
Regardless of what it's for, emergency fuel (defined as any fuel beyond what's in the main fuel tanks of the vehicle/generator/ATV/Boat) needs to be stored properly, transferred properly and preserved properly.
Read on.
STORING FUEL
There might be a difference in storing fuel depending on what type of fuel it is. Gasoline is difficult to store, but diesel isn't. Depending on how much you are going to store, you might use steel barrels, plastic fuel tanks, fuel bladders or just jerry jugs, either steel or plastic.
For diesel, you don't need to vent the storage tank, but it's a good idea. Diesel doesn't evaporate, but it does attract water out of the air more than gasoline. You need to have some ability to remove that trapped water, which lies in the bottom of your tank and grows algae in it, which then clogs up your fuel filters, usually at a critical time. Use two additives in diesel that is stored for longer than 2 months: an anti-gel (anti-wax) and a fuel biocide (kills the algae). If you live far North, you may wish to add up to 15% K-1 Kerosene to your diesel for easier starting of your equipment.
For gasoline, you have to deal with the volatility issue. Gasoline creates vapor pressure at fairly low temperatures, and can pressurize a sealed tank to the failure point. You have to provide for venting the vapor off. Problem: the vapor is heavier than air and explosive, so it seeks low ground and will blow things up if it ignites. Solution: keep the tanks cool (in the shade), keep their vents cracked to allow them to vent, and make sure the vented vapor isn't going to be trapped in a low place or have a source of ignition. The classic garage fire is usually started by vapors from a jerry jug of gas venting, with the vapors accumulating, and rising up high enough to reach the pilot light on a hot water heater or furnace, or get into a fridge compressor motor, or some other source of spark. The fire is prevented by storing the gas outside, away from anywhere it will accumulate in low places (under a toolshed, for example). Use a gasoline stabilizer (Stabil by Gold Eagle is what I use) if you are keeping the gas for over two months.
Barrels: try to cover the tops of barrels with a tarp to discourage standing water in the rimmed tops. That water will eventually seep past the barrel bung and get into the fuel. Keep the barrels off the ground, so they don't rust. Use wooden pallets of good quality, or interlocking rubber matting sections that are designed for this use. Depending on your area, there may be fire regulations on storing more than a few gallons of fuel above ground, and there are DEFINITELY regulations on storing it below ground (permanent tanks). Follow the regulations. Make or buy ground leads (at least #10 wire with copper-plated toothed spring clamps) and connect all the barrels together and to a ground rod driven 3 feet into the ground. Barrels can take some sun, but shade is best. If gasoline is stored in barrels, provide a vent.
Bladders: These are a way to store fuel in collapsible containers. Very nice. Very expensive, they can cost hundreds of dollars. Pay attention to the temperature limits of the bladders, both upper and lower limits, before you buy them. Bladders are best stored full in a plywood box made for that particular size bladder. Attach all the hosing for the fill, drain and vent before filling (gets real messy to do that with a full bladder). Sun is not good for these tanks, so store them in the shade.
Plastic tanks: Rotomolded plastic tanks are probably the best compromise for storing diesel fuel, and aren't bad for gasoline, either. Make sure the plastic is the right density for diesel or gas, as the composition of these tanks varies. They cost about a buck a gallon (over 25 gallons) to buy, and come with several locations for fill, drain and vents, which you install yourself. Most plastic tanks (Tempo is the best known brand) handle temperature extremes well, but check anyway before you buy. The downside of plastic tanks is that they can't be grounded, so extra care must be taken when filling or draining, both actions create static electricity in the fuel mass. Try to keep the sun off plastic tanks. Outboard gas tanks come with all the fittings, and handle easily, and can take more vapor pressure than jerry jugs, so they are really the best choice in a 4-to-6 gallon tank, but they cost $30 or so, compared to $7 for a plastic jerry jug.
Jerry jugs: anything 6 gallons and under with handles for pouring. They come in plastic (color-coded for the type of fuel, diesel ones are yellow), or steel (Blitz is the only manufacturer left, I think). Don't fill them to the rim, leave at least a half-gallon of extra room in them. keep them out of the sun, and storage on pallets is best.
TRANSFERRING FUEL
This is where most fires start in fuel supplies. There is only one proper way to do it, and that does NOT involve pouring the fuel into a funnel positioned in the fill opening of the tank being fueled.
The only proper way to transfer fuel is by fuel hose. Get an appropriate length of Coast-Guard rated fuel hose, at least 3/8" ID if you are going to siphon. Push the hose into your storage tank slowly, so it fills, then cap off the transferring end with your finger and pull the hose out of the storage tank enough to put into the mouth of the tank to be fueled, which must be lower in elevation. Remove the finger and the fuel should flow. When it is flowing, put the transferring end down into the tank being filled, the lower, the better.
The way I prefer is to use an outboard-tank hose set. These sets come with a priming bulb and sufficient hose to transfer fuel from apickup bed into the pickup's gas tank. I buy a 12"X3/8" pipe nipple (galvanized iron), and a 45-degree Street Elbow of the same size. Screw the elbow onto one end of the nipple, tightly (with vise or vise-grips), and put the other end into a Tempo outboard hose ser of 3/8" size, in the SHORT END OF THE SET. Fasten a hose clamp over the joint to keep it together. To use this set-up, just drop the nipple end into a tank or jerry jug, put the ling end into the vehicle fuel tank, and squeeze several times on the bulb until you feel and hear fuel flowing.
I once had an electric fuel pump set up for this purpose, but quit using it when I realized that there was a potential for sparks, and that is not good.
Another important consideration here is tank capacity. Don't try to empty a 6-gallon jerry jug into a truck fuel tank that has 5 gallons of room in it. You'll make a mess, create a hazard and waste precious fuel. Know your tank capacities before you start refuelling.


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Author: Bullseye

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