insights

fuel leak detection

Russell Dupuy 05 Sep 2018 By Russell Dupuy

Time for an intervention — time for fuel leak detection

Are your fuel sites compliant with EPA standards?

If you have ever had the misfortune of one of your fuel tanks leaking, you’ll confidently say “Yes!”. You will know, from experience, that a leaking fuel tank is disastrous for business, with costly consequences. After excessive clean-up costs, loss of inventory and hefty EPA fines, a single leak can cost you over $1 million dollars. Now, you ensure your fuel site is compliant to minimise the chance of that ever happening again.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid any leaks thus far, you might also believe you’re running a compliant fuel site. You’re doing a ‘good enough’ job.

The truth is, if you have no leak detection measures in place, you’re operating with a major risk.

There’s a general consensus amongst many smaller fuel retailers that a fuel leak will not happen at their site. This can lead to some fuel sites cutting corners in compliance – such as failing to submit SIR analysis data on time, or inconsistently monitoring and measuring their fuel inventory.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “It won’t happen to me” if you have never experienced a fuel leak before. But the fact of the matter is, a leak may occur at any time, and at any site.

Ignorance isn’t bliss: How one fuel site lost 10,000L of fuel overnight

If you’re still thinking a leak will never happen to you – you aren’t the only one. Last year, a small, independently owned service station discovered the consequences of this mentality.

After receiving a substantial delivery of fuel, the owners were horrified to wake up the next morning with a close-to-empty tank. Overnight, 10,000L of fuel had leaked into the ground.

This station had no leak detection in place, and the EPA hammered down on the prosecution. The station is still wrapped in legal battles and paying off extensive fines for soil contamination. In addition, they lost profit from the leaked fuel, had to pay excessive clean-up fees, and shut down the business during the clean-up.

If this fuel station had a leak detection system in place, they could have been alerted to the problem early on, reducing the damage.

Now, the independent fuel station submits their SIR analysis data on time, every time, to minimise their risk of a future leak.

Staying on top of your fuel — save yourself trouble in the future

Despite the severity of their fines, the EPA will recognise your efforts to minimise environmental damage. If you have leak detection measures in place, the EPA will take that into consideration.

We’ve established that the worst thing you can do is nothing but it’s also important to note that leak detection is only effective if you do it properly.

Some smaller fuel sites use an Excel spreadsheet and dip stick to record and monitor their fuel site’s data. This might seem like a cost-effective method, but it’s certainly not compliant. There are many factors that could affect your fuel tanks and day-to-day operations that simply can’t be accounted for using inventory control.

Without complete visibility over what’s going on in your underground tanks, you cannot foresee hidden problems. These include:

  • Expansion, contraction and evaporation of fuel
  • Tank leaks
  • Line leaks to the pump
  • Line leaks from the remote fill to the tank
  • Pump leaks
  • Water intake

Monitoring your fuel compliance ensures the quality and levels of fuel in your tanks are up to standard and allows you to react quickly, should a problem arise.

How to properly start monitoring your fuel tanks —

There are a number of tools and methods available to help you start properly monitoring your fuel tanks and detect problems early on to reduce risk:

  • Statistical Inventory Reconciliation (SIR) analysis — This can be a cost-effective way of monitoring fuel and is a good line of defence against costly fuel leaks and maintenance issues. It must be noted that your SIR analysis reports are only as good as the data you provide. If your data is inaccurate you could risk missing a leak. An effective solution is to send your good quality data on time to a SIR analyst who can determine if there may be a potential problem with your tank system which needs investigating. You can read our article on how to get accurate SIR data.
  • Automatic Tank Gauge (ATG) — This is a safe and easy solution to managing wetstock and achieving highly accurate estimates on fuel and water levels inside your fuel tanks. The ATG (and site) needs to satisfy certain requirements and to be managed properly to be considered a compliant leak detection method. For sites with remote/offset fills, an additional leak detection system such as SIR analysis will also need to be considered. Unfortunately, alarms often go unnoticed or ignored, and can become difficult to keep on top of across multiple sites. A better solution to have complete visibility over your fuel sites is with real-time data. Our remote fuel monitoring solution, Fuelsuite, allows you to access fuel data at a site level, from anywhere in the world and anytime.

Fuel leaks do happen. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to implement effective leak detection measures.

It’s time to take control!

The only way to gain complete control and visibility of your fuel sites and underground tanks is with real-time data. The ability to access data at a site level gives you visibility on your site’s fuel inventory and alerts you to any tank problems.

Fuelsuite allows you to bring together EPA compliance requirements, fuel inventory, delivery and reconciliation of ATG alarms all within a single management suite that can be accessed remotely. It equips you with the capability to effectively manage your leak detection.

With data captured every 30 seconds, Fuelsuite will track any alarms instantaneously and alert you to exactly which tank is experiencing a problem. The real-time data provided by Fuelsuite’s cloud-based platform will allow you to react quickly and take immediate action on potential tank system leaks.

If you want to gain complete visibility and control over your fuel sites, get in touch with EMS today or give us a call on 1300 367 783 to learn more about implementing Fuelsuite at your fuel site.