Fuel Storage for Emergency Preparedness

I want to be able to store gasoline at the cabin. Well, near the cabin.

I talked with a number of folks who have already done this. Some have done it a bit differently, some have done it in a way that I don’t think will work out real well. This is the story on how I am doing it.

First off, primarily I want enough fuel to run my generator without having to run to town to buy gas. I also would like to have enough fuel on-hand to run my chain saw should the need arise. But, mostly it is for the Honda EU2000i generator.

And no, I am not talking about running the generator all the time, not even all night long. I want to be able to run it when needed for my tools or recharging batteries, etc. So that makes it a whole lot easier to store the kind of quantity that I am talking about.

And to be honest, I had an opportunity to buy a 55gal drum a couple of years ago and that made it all the easier deciding how much fuel to store.

You will notice that the barrel is a beautiful blue. Yeah, but that isn’t the important part. Notice that it is a previously used racing fuel drum. Yup, it originally contained 110 octane racing fuel. Now that freaking rocks! So I have virtually the perfect barrel to start with…one that contained high-grade fuel. You can probably find something similar. Look for a race track or drag strip near where you live. Go there and talk to the pit crews. Ask them if you can buy their old fuel drums.

Just a couple more thoughts on what kind of container to start out with:

  • Plastic will breakdown faster than metal.
  • Metal will rust if you don’t protect it.
  • Previous contents matter. Don’t buy a drum that contained anything that would contaminate the fuel. No, I don’t think you can rinse it out well enough.
  • Dust, dirt, water, etc. will not be a good thing for your stored fuel when it comes time to use it.
  • The drum must be able to be air and water tight.

Now that I had the drum, I cleaned up the outside by using a really stiff brush and getting all the junk off the surfaces. Then I wiped it down really well with acetone to break through any residue that would adversely affect the paint I was about to apply.

Paint Color –

I am not going to store this thing in any kind of building, structure, or protective anything. It will be outside and covered with some material to reduce its visibility and protect it a little from the sun. Since it will be exposed to the elements I want it to be as resistant to degradation as possible. That means an oil-based paint. I like Rustoleum.

Since I want this thing to be low-profile (i.e. camouflaged) I need a good color based coat that matches the dirt around my place. Turns out that the primary brown color was perfect. I used a 4” roller to apply the paint.

Camouflage –

There are a couple rules of camouflage, among them are; 1) no straight lines, 2) reduce the highs, 3) raise the depths. But, colors used also have to match the surroundings. I have a lot of Pinon / Juniper trees on my place, their trunks and branches are various shades of black and dark grays.

So I did some rough looking paintings of the trunks about the same size of where I will place the barrel.

I used black to start the trunks. And I applied a technique called “dry bushing” where the brush has a little bit of paint on the brush but very, very little. You remove most of the paint by wiping it on a terry cloth before applying it to the barrel. Once the paint was barely starting to dry I took a terry cloth towel and lightly wiped over the black paint. That removed any “harsh” or “clearly defined” brush strokes. In other words it gave it a slightly fuzzy look.

As I looked at the PJ trunks on the property I noticed a bit of different shades of gray in them. So out came the flat white Rustoleum. I dry brushed a little white onto the black…sparingly. That gave the black trunks and branches a little character…some depth.

Since there is also green on the PJ trees I used a spray can to blot on what some might call a leaf pattern. I call it a blotch. But, I am not trying to paint a tree. I am not trying to make the barrel look like a tree. I am trying to make the barrel blend in when it is placed in a group of PJ trees. So a little green was needed. But, I also noticed that there were various shades of green, more light than dark. I also looked and realized there were clumps of khaki looking grass as well. So on went a little light tan spray paint as well.

I tried to keep everything muted and fuzzy. This is the end result.

How to Top the Tank-

Here is where is gets kind of weird. You need to seal the fuel drum to prevent anything getting into the drum and contaminating the fuel. And you don’t want to lose the fuel through uncontrolled “venting”. However, there is another danger…it blows up. Yeah, a minor detail.

First, that is why I am not storing the drum of gasoline in any structure. I don’t want to come out to the property one day and find a hole in the ground surrounded by a pile of splintered wood. True, I might come out to a hole in the ground but that is acceptable to blowing up my cabin or storage shed.

So how do I seal my drum?  Great question!

First, I have to ensure that nothing gets into the drum. The large opening on top of the drum you see in the picture is 2” pipe thread. So I bought the components you see in the picture.

1- I started with a 2” threaded adapter to regular PVC connection. I am using Schedule 40 PVC for its strength.

2 – Next I cut a short piece of 2” Schedule 40 pipe so I can connect my 2” T to it. The 2” T has a 1/2″ pipe thread side outlet to it.

3 – On the top of the T I use a 2” reducer to get to a 1/2” pipe thread.

4 – I used a  short 1/2” nipple into a 1/2” T.

5 – On the top of the 1/2” T I reduced it to 1/4” pipe thread.

6 – I then installed a Control Devices CR Series Brass Pressure Relief Valve, 0-100 psi Adjustable Pressure Range, 1/4″ Male NPT. I want to be able to set the venting pressure at 15psi. The drum can easily handle 15psi as the gasoline expands when the heat of the day is on it. The venting can also assure that I don’t get a too serious vapor accumulation in the drum and end up with a BLEVEE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion).

7 – On the side of the 2” T I installed a regular hose faucet to it. And bought a brass hose thread cap to place on the faucet outlet. The facet will serve two purposes; 1) allows me to manually vent, under controlled conditions, the vapors when I need to use the gasoline, 2) allows me to connect a nitrogen gas tank to the drum.

8 – On the side of the 1/2” pipe T I used another 1/2” to 1/4” reducer so I could install a Winters PEM Series Steel Dual Scale Economical All Purpose Pressure Gauge with Brass Internals, 0-30 psi/kpa, 2″ Dial Display, +/-3-2-3% Accuracy, 1/4″ NPT Bottom Mount. Yup, keeps me informed of what the drum pressure is.

 

This is the end product…Note # 1 on all threaded connections I used “yellow” Teflon tape. Yellow is designed for vapor/gas usage. It is thicker and forms a better seal on pipe threads. Yes, I used it on the 2” PVC threads that go into the drum’s 2” opening.

Note #2 – I also camo painted the “head” as well. I didn’t paint any sensitive surface such as the pressure relief valve adjustment surfaces or the face of the pressure gauge.

Note # 3 – Nitrogen gas is introduced once the gasoline is in the drum and just prior to closing the valve. The nitrogen settles on the surface of the gasoline and forms a seal that enhances the life of the stored gasoline.

What Gasoline to Use –

Here’s the key…knowing what gas to store!

Most gasoline that you buy today has ethanol in it. Ethanol sucks! Ethanol has water in it. What don’t you want in your stored gasoline? Water. Connect those dots…NO ETHANOL GAS!!

Also, you want a high octane gasoline as well. Over time, even with fuel stabilizer/conditioner in it, gasoline will begin to deteriorate. What that means is gasoline loses its ability to combust. Gasoline has a flashpoint of about -35 to -45°F. As that lowers through degradation the gasoline becomes less volatile and less likely to ignite at a temperature that is conducive to efficient engine operations. So you want your gasoline as strong and water-free as possible. 91octane is the power that most small engines recommend. They operate at peak performance at that point. Too much octane above 91 and you risk burning out the valves, etc. Too low of octane and the engine can’t properly ignite the fuel to run the engine smoothly…or at all.

For you technical junkies out there…octane is a measure of gasoline’s resistance to detonation. The higher the octane rating the more efficient your engine is in putting out more power because the engine can compress the gasoline more before it ignites. Lower octane means lower power output.

The gasoline you want to run in your engines, small or vehicle, for peak efficiency is 91 – 100. Any higher than that you are wasting your money and run the risk of burning up your engine.

You can buy great non-ethanol gasoline at your local airport…if they will sell it to you. Some do, some don’t. Aviation gasoline generally runs around 100 octane and is “low-led” vs. “unleaded”. And “lead” is a friend to your engine! Lead is a natural lubricant for engine valves.

As an option, marinas also sell non-ethanol gasoline. However, it is normally 90 – 92 octane and “unleaded”. Some marinas already put conditioner in the gasoline in their storage tanks.

WARMING – If you are going to buy gasoline from a marina ask them if their gas contains ethanol. If it does, don’t buy it.

I bought my gasoline at a local marina. I am using the best stabilizer/conditioner on the market Pri-G. I am placing 53 gallons of gasoline in my 55gal drum. I am adding the stabilizer after every 5gals to make sure I get a good mixing of stabilizer into the gasoline.

Note: Small engines need better gas, the smaller the engine the better gas it needs. An 8-cylinder vehicle motor can compensate for lower quality fuel. The vehicle’s computer can manipulate a wide-range of engine operations to off-set poor quality fuel. A small engine may only have a single cylinder and a much less powerful computer…fewer options to manipulate engine settings.

Finishing It Up –

Yes, I put the drum a safe distance from the cabin just in case I would get an explosion. And yes, I placed the drum where I wanted it BEFORE I added the gasoline. And no, I didn’t dig a hole to place the drum in, I didn’t want to trap water next to the drum.

My fuel supply with the stabilizer/conditioner in it with the nitrogen seal should be good for a minimum of 5 years. But, to hedge my bet I set next to the drum enough Torco Accelerator fuel additive to boost the octane rating when I use the fuel. The fuel might degrade over time, the additive will give the fuel a little added boost to make it run my small engines better.

Now, you might be wondering how well protected the fuel drum is. Well, it isn’t. To protect the drum isn’t feasible. I chose instead to hide it in plain sight. The camo will give it a pretty good chance of being overlooked, possibly even from up close. If I tried to make it bullet proof I would have to build some kind of bunker for it. That would add a whole new layer of work that would make it expensive. And making a bunker would then raise the possibility that it would be seen. So I chose the less-expensive and less-intrusive option…hide it.

I haven’t included any pictures of the final project as it sits on the property yet. I didn’t take any. But, next time out I will take a couple of pictures and play “find the drum” game with you.

 

Materials –

 

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2 thoughts on “Fuel Storage for Emergency Preparedness

  1. Great article. I have a clarification to make and a suggestion. First, gasoline doesn’t explode. The correct mixture of gasoline and air, in a controlled compression chamber such as the cylinder of an engine, will detonate, but the gasoline itself won’t. If you shoot a hole in the barrel, most likely the gasoline will drain out of the barrel and soak into the ground. If a spark happens to cause the vapors to catch on fire, it will burn, and it may look like an explosion, but it won’t blow a hole in the ground.

    The suggestion would be to not use plastic fittings in making your header. Plastic will deteriorate in the sun (you said you were not putting it in a building) and may not last as long as the gasoline itself. If you go to a plumbing warehouse, you should be able to find the same parts in black pipe and make the same header. Another problem with plastic is that header sticking up there like that will be the first thing someone grabs to move the barrel or at least tip it, so they can get the gas out of the barrel. A good yank on the top of that header and the threads of the plastic going into the bung, will give way and the whole thing will break off.

    You might come out of the large bung with a 2″ to 3/4″ reducer and then your valve or hose bib. Then in the small bung on the other side of the barrel top, come out of it with a close or 1″ nipple, and then a 90 degree elbow. Put your gauge and nitrogen inlet on that but have it as close to the top of the barrel as possible. Now neither of your outlets will be high enough to look like a good handle for moving the barrel. Being metal pipe they will last longer in the sun and even if used as a handle they will be much stronger.

    Just my 2 cents worth. Keep the ideas coming. Your blog is the first one I read when you have new posts.

    rimfire

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a little side note…….

      A boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE) is an explosion caused by the rupture of a vessel containing a pressurized liquid above its boiling point. Boiling point of gasoline is 95 – 200 degrees F.

      Like

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