Tank Maintenance: 6 Tips to Protect Steel Tanks from Water

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Steel tank

Steel tanks are common in many industries, especially in the oil and gas sector, where they store crude oil, gasoline, and other petroleum products. But these tanks are also used to hold ethanol, a biofuel increasingly used as a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to gasoline. While steel tanks are strong and durable, they are not impervious to water, which can cause corrosion and other damage over time.

Water is the enemy of steel tanks. When water gets inside a steel tank, it’s not just corrosion and rust; the damages can compromise the tank’s integrity. Water can also promote bacterial and fungal growth, contaminating the fuel and reducing its quality. Water can enter a steel tank in several ways, such as rainwater, condensation, and leaks. Water can also be introduced during filling, especially if the tank is not adequately cleaned and dried.

For this reason, those in charge of maintaining steel tanks must actively take steps to ensure water does not enter them. To help you with this, here are some tips:

#1 – Check for Tank Compatibility with All Compositions of Ethanol

Before using a steel tank to store ethanol, you must check if the tank is compatible with all ethanol compositions. Ethanol can be blended with gasoline in different ratios, such as E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) and E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Different ethanol compositions can affect the tank’s material and coatings differently. Therefore, you must ensure the tank is designed to withstand the specific ethanol composition.

#2 – Utilize Water Monitoring Tools

Water monitoring tools can help detect the presence of water in steel tanks and prevent water-related issues. Some of the common water monitoring tools include:

  • Automatic Tank Gauge – An automatic tank gauge (ATG) is a device that measures the fuel level and temperature in a tank and alerts the operator if there is any water or leakage. ATGs can also generate reports and data to help optimise inventory management and prevent fuel loss.
  • Water-Sensitive Fuel Filters – Water-sensitive fuel filters trap water and other contaminants before they enter the engine or fuel system. These filters have a water-absorbing element that changes colour when it detects water, indicating that the filter needs to be replaced.
  • Water Paste – Water paste is a special chemical that can detect the presence of water in fuel tanks. The paste changes colour when it comes in contact with water, making it easy to identify and remove the water.

#3 – Slope the Tank 1/4 Inch per Foot toward Its Supply End

Sloping the tank 1/4 inch per foot towards its supply end helps to ensure that any water or sediment that may accumulate in the tank will be directed towards the outlet where it can be easily removed. This slope also helps to ensure that all the fuel in the tank is used before refilling, reducing the risk of stale fuel and contamination.

#4 – Use Biocide When Cleaning Tanks

Cleaning tanks is essential to remove contaminants and prevent bacteria and fungi growth. However, cleaning can also introduce water into the tank, which can cause corrosion and other issues. To prevent this, use a biocide when cleaning tanks. A biocide is a chemical that can kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. It can also help remove any water that may be present in the tank.

#5 – Conduct Routine Inspections

Routine inspections can help detect and prevent water-related issues before they become severe. Inspections should include checking for leaks, corrosion, and other signs of damage. However, inspections should also include testing for water and checking the tank’s fittings, valves, and seals.

#6 – Remove Water Immediately When Identified

If water is identified in the tank during an inspection or otherwise, it should be removed immediately. This can be done using a pump or other extraction method. Otherwise, the water can cause corrosion, contamination, and other damage to the tank and its contents.


Steel tanks are meant to provide reliable storage for various substances, but they require proper maintenance and care to function effectively. For this reason, regular inspections, cleaning, and maintenance are essential, especially since steel tanks will be used extensively. Following the tips in this guide, tank owners and operators can ensure that their tanks remain in good condition and provide safe and reliable storage.

ATM Tanks provides top-quality services for tank maintenance! Our tank specialists use comprehensive maintenance measures to ensure your tank continues to function optimally. Request a quote today!

Aaron James
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About The Author

Aaron James
Aaron has been working at ATM Tanks for the past 5 years. He has completed a wide range of projects across Australia including new tank builds, cleaning and servicing existing tanks and countless tank inspections. However he has excelled recently at project management for ATM Tanks.

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