We attended CEREALS in June, and recent reports tell us that tanker delivery drivers are increasingly refusing to clamber up ladders to fill fuel and fertiliser tanks from a top fill point, declaring a max fill point no higher than chest height.
Of course, beyond the obvious risk factors associated with clambering up unstable step ladders with a delivery hose, there are other perils of Top Inlet Fuel Tanks compared to the Advantages of Center Inlet Systems.
Everybody’s commitment to safety must always remain paramount in fuel storage and handling. If we explore the potential hazards surrounding filling large fuel tanks from a top inlet, it becomes evident that adopting a centre inlet system offers substantial benefits.
Let’s delve into the dangers of top inlet fuel tank fillings and shed light on the advantages of a centre inlet approach.
The conventional filling of large fuel tanks through a top inlet poses significant risks that demand immediate attention.
Some of these hazards aren’t immediately obvious, but they make sense when you think about them.
One of the headline problems with a top inlet is Vapour Accumulation. Rapidly pumping fuel into a top inlet displaces air inside the tank, accumulating potentially explosive vapours. A simple spark or ignition source can ignite these vapours, resulting in catastrophic explosions and endangering lives and property. Nobody wants to be up a ladder if this happens!
Next, we have the issue of overfilling and the resulting Environmental Impact. Accidental overfilling of a top inlet tank can result in fuel spills, causing detrimental environmental consequences. Fuel spills can contaminate soil, water sources, and delicate ecosystems. Additionally, they pose a severe fire hazard, as the spilt fuel acts as an accelerant.
A more obvious risk is Static Electricity and Fire Risks. The filling process generates static electricity due to friction between the fuel and the delivery equipment. If proper precautions aren’t understood and taken, static discharge can occur, igniting fuel vapours and leading to fires or explosions.
CapEx is often a driving force behind not swapping out outdated or dilapidated storage tanks but putting the CapEx discussion to one side for a moment.
We need to consider the costs and broader fallout of spills, fires and explosions leading to potentially massive fines from the Environment Agency and the HSE, damage to the farm, its people and its equipment, not to mention lost productivity.
So, what are the benefits of having a centre fill?
To mitigate the dangers associated with top inlet fuel tank fillings, moving to a centre inlet system offers several compelling advantages:
Center inlet systems minimise vapour accumulation during fueling by allowing air to escape as fuel enters the tank. This design significantly reduces the risk of explosive conditions, securing the safety of personnel and infrastructure.
Center inlet systems provide better control over the fuel-filling process. Drivers can easily monitor and regulate the fill levels, minimising the chances of overfilling and subsequent fuel spillage. This, in turn, reduces environmental contamination and fire hazards.
Center inlet systems incorporate proper grounding and bonding techniques as an integral design part. These systems mitigate the risk of electrostatic discharges by effectively dissipating static electricity, preventing potential fires or explosions.
The filling grounding notwithstanding, Center inlet systems facilitates a more even fuel distribution within the tank, minimising the potential for fuel stratification or degradation over time. This provides consistent fuel quality, improves combustion efficiency, and reduces maintenance requirements.
There might be a critical mass point where one of two things could happen.
First, fuel supplies stop. If companies refuse to dispense, what contingency does a farm have? Most farms, especially during harvesting, use large fuel volumes, so popping down to the nearest petrol station isn’t viable.
Or, god forbid, somebody has an accident, especially possible in the extreme heat we are experiencing these days when the government mandates an immediate change to legislation leaving farmers with no alternative but to change, which will drive demand up massively and, as a result, prices.
Almost all agriculture publications always read that farmers need to invest in ‘bigger, better, faster’, but fuel is at the heart of all operations.
At LAMMA in January and again at Cereals in June, the hundreds of farmers we spoke to, most were surprised at how low the cost of new storage investment is and how many grants are available.
All Tuffa tanks come with a standard centre fill, so you are assured of safety and compliance.
Invest in your fuel future now, not in the future and remember.
Safe, Store, Secure.