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THMG009 – Leaking fuel tanks


In this episode Mike and Bob discuss the various ways we remove fuel from leaking tanks and the considerations as to the techniques that are out there.


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  1. This episode is about one of the most common occurrences we deal with, as we are sure you are dealing with out there in the rest of the world
  2. Vehicles are carrying fuels and they leak, we are the ones who come to remedy the situation
  3. I would estimate that 60% of our incidents deal with some variation of this scenario


  1. Mike how do you start your Size up
    1. What things am I looking at and why is it leaking?
      1. Was it involved in an accident?
      2. Was it pierced by something it drove over
      3. Age and rot?
      4. SAFTY!
        1. vehicle in park
        2. Is it off
          1. hybrid vehicles make no sound
        3. wheels chocked
        4. parking brake on if you’re going to use floor jack or jack stands


  1. what things are you looking for in a vehicle
    1. type
      1. car
      2. truck
      3. airplane
    2. age
      1. Construction of vehicle
        1. location of tank
        2. type of fuel cell probably in the vehicle
      2. construction of the tank
        1. import because this may dictate our operations
        2. plastic poly tank
          1. with or without skid cover
          2. Skid plate may look like metal tank with vent holes
        3. metal tanks
          1. usually ferrous in nature
          2. TRICK OF THE TRADE,
            1. USE A MAGNET to determine ferrous tank


    1. Any big difference between older cars and trucks
      1. tend to not have anti syphon device
      2. smooth bottom flat tank
        1. not formed fitted around shafts or frame
  1. Size of the tank
    1. do we have the containment to collect it all
    2. Create a gas tank to gas tank transfer
      1. moble gas station
      2. note: that fuel belongs to the owner of the vehicle


    1. any size up on the street
      1. need to consider how the car is sitting in road
        1. want to find lowest point of tank
      2. manholes
      3. sewers
      4. storm drain
      5. May require notifications if quantities are high enough
      6. Drill Trick from Uncle Bob
        1. Throw a few gallons on the floor and have guys guess the amount.
  1. What’s in the tank
    1. Diesel
    2. Gasoline
    3. Bio-diesel


  1. What are we as we get ready to go into operation
    1. Chemical Physical Properties
    2. Properties of liquid
      1. Gasoline Flash point is -44 degrees F
      2. Diesel Flash point is about 140 degrees F
  2. Hose line charged and in area
    1. PPE
    2. Consider Foam op?
  3. chocked?
  4. Ignition off and in park


  1. What are we going to do for Product control
    1. POP up pool
      1. sizes from 20 gallons to 110 gallons
    2. Spackle bucket cut down
      1. snap on lid for screw top
    3. blocking off sewer grates
      1. Use gel pads
      2. Use plastic bags and cover with dirt or sand


  1. damming and diking
    1. Dams control the flow of water: a barrier to obstruct or control the flow of water or fuel
    2. dike prevents floods: an embankment built along the shore of a sea or lake or beside a river to hold back the water and prevent flooding. We do this with speedy dry


  1. Fuel removal
    1. First question we have to ask ourselves is, “Do we need to facilitate the removal, or is it doing a good job on its own?”
      1. ie make a hole or not make a hole
    2. Risk vs reward
    3. Evacuation methods
      1. Where we work we usually help the tank if needed to empty.
      2. We basically do this in one of 2 ways. To puncture and to drill. Each one has a method and reason to do it. Mike is more in the drill camp, and I am more in the puncture camp. Let’s explain.
    4. Bob prefer Puncture
      1. In this method, we puncture the tank using an appliance. All of the appliances I will be mentioning are built by members in house. I’m sure we are not re-inventing the wheel, but we use these puncturing tools to do the job as efficiently as we can within the safety guidelines our Department allows.
      2. Tools
        1. flat plate with spike
          1. easy to decon
          2. requires a jack to puncture tank
          3. generally not a fan of doing this because it requires a lot of decon post incident.
        2. Scissor jack with spike
          1. jack is built-in so all you need is ratchet extension
          2. can be used with battery powered impact driver
          3. you can be out of flash area (confirms with meter) so cordless impact driver is ok.
          4. if flash is big concern can use air tools
          5. pro
            1. simple to use
            2. requires little skill
            3. your body parts are remote, you’re not under the car
            4. if it flashes there is less risk of you getting burned
            5. smaller hole allows for slower release of fuel, easier to control if pump fails
          6. con
            1. leave tip up into tank, so not all fuel comes out
            2. leave irregular hole difficult to patch
            3. maybe be difficult to hit the right spot depending on vehicle type and obstruction.


  1. drill
    1. tools
      1. straight bit
      2. hole saw
      3. pros
        1. quick
        2. clean hole with flush edges
        3. can easily vary size hole you want
      4. cons
        1. usually causes operator to become contaminated with product, but there are tricks to minimize this (plastic bag over hand from speedy dry)
        2. do not use with ferrous metals
          1. unless you have a method of creating an o2 delinquent area
        3. Plastic tank are perfect
        4. need to be close to underside of vehicle
        5. requires full PPE for fire
        6. air tools are a must to reduce risk of flashing vapor
  2. siphon through fill pipe
    1. Almost a non option
    2. most tanks have devices that block suction from entering tank or baffles internally
    3. Cut fill line
    4. through the trunk


  1. What are we doing with the liquid control now that it’s coming out?
    1. So now we have the product coming out of the tank and being caught by the pool or containment that you have set up. Now we have to get it into the drum or container you have set up to hold it.
    2. pump selections
      1. dragen
        1. venturi based pump
        2. Pro
          1. air powered
          2. fast for large volume flow
          3. does well with dirty product
        3. con
          1. pushes (possible) flammable vapors into work area
          2. if air goes down so does pumping quality
          3. can be finicky with any break in suction won’t work
          4. During decon, rusting can occlude holes and diminish operation and suction
      2. patay pump
        1. manual diaphragm based pump
        2. pro
          1. no need for air or electric
          2. quick to set up
          3. no issue with flammable vapor
        3. Con
          1. can fail in dirty product
          2. large quantities can burn through manpower
          3. must decon pumps
    3. Vapor reduction?
      1. Try to reduce surface area to minimize vapor production
      2. Bio-solve or other type of emulsifier
      3. Covering or foam blanket


  1. What Metering and safety things should we consider?
    1. LEL and UEL
      1. Near tank
      2. In tank
      3. At pump site?
    2. Hose line charged
    3. Reduce the personal in area
    4. SCBA and full PPE
    5. Create a means or way of egress
      1. Don’t get too far under vehicle that if it flashes, you are not able to exit rapidly
    6. Where to put it when collected
      1. Drum
      2. Speedy dry
      3. Salvage bags
      4. Pigs
  2. After actions
    1. Notifications
    2. DEP
    3. DEC
    4. Coast Guard

Author: The HazMat Guys