Whether designing a few above ground storage tanks or performing tank farm design for an entire facility, proper consideration should be given to the adverse impact of corrosion that can occur on the tank bottoms. When addressing the issue of tank bottom corrosion, consider the environment, the tank size and design, and the type of tank foundation to be employed. There are definite advantages in certain materials based on the size and requirements of an above ground storage tank (AST) foundation. By carefully assessing the tank farm surroundings and long-term requirements, costly and potentially dangerous corrosion related tank failures can be avoided. Whether you are relying on a reputable company in the industry or taking on your own front-end engineering and design, there are across-the-board tank farm design recommendations to consider when it comes to corrosion prevention:
In terms of corrosion prevention for under ground storage tank (AST) foundations, is cathodic protection (CP) effective?
For tanks erected on compacted soil or sand foundations, with or without a concrete ring wall, cathodic protection is considered a “good engineering practice” and has been proven as an effective means of addressing tank bottom corrosion concerns. When you compare various methods of corrosion prevention for above ground storage tank bottoms, CP is shown to prevail over asphalt or concrete unless your project involves smaller diameter tanks. The corrosion failure rate is greater for tanks built on asphalt or concrete compared to tanks where a concentric ring cathodic protection system is installed.
In terms of corrosion, when is asphalt or oil/sand acceptable for above ground storage tank (AST) foundations?
Asphalt foundations are not common in the United States, as the mechanical integrity of asphalt can be an issue depending on the AST environment. As well, the use of oil/sand layer designs has been phased out by most tank owners in the United States due to the adverse impact that these oil/sand layers have on tank bottom cathodic protection systems. While historically prevalent in the Middle East and Asia, most larger national oil companies have abandoned this approach because it causes shielding of cathodic protection (CP) current, allowing corrosion to occur. Kuwait Oil, Aramco, and others now prefer clean sand combined with CP as the base material of choice. This is standard in the United States and has been for several decades.
What is a Concentric Ring Cathodic Protection System for above ground storage tanks (AST)?
A. Designed for long-term storage, an AST cathodic protection ring system offers a factory-assembled design whereby the anode rings are ready to install with cable leads that extend past ring wall penetration. Concentric rings sizes are made to order, requiring no onsite welding, cutting, or splicing. The anode locations are marked, rings are laid out, and cabling is placed using a proven labeling system for future monitoring. A mixed metal oxide (MMO) anode is centered among a low-oxygen-generating coke backfill to eliminate depolarization.
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Are there some cases where concrete foundations are advantageous for tank farm corrosion prevention?
During installation of above-ground storage tanks, there are some advantages to concrete foundations for tanks when it comes to corrosion—the high pH of the concrete acts to passivate the steel, unless you have an above ground storage tank (AST) liner pad or something that is between the concrete and the tank bottom. If you can effectively seal the chime from the ingress of water and oxygen, the corrosion rates are generally quite small. Unfortunately concrete foundations for larger diameter tanks are not typically practical and can be quite expensive to properly install. Concrete foundations with appropriate AST liners are best for smaller diameter tanks.
In tank farm design for corrosion prevention, what are the best recommendations for above ground storage tank (AST) liners?
Plastic secondary containment liners are largely phased out in the United States and have been replaced by geotextile membranes that serve the same secondary containment purpose as plastic—they are conductive to allow cathodic protection (CP). The general standard in the United States is to have a CP system directly under the tank in order to minimize stray current or current losses due to earthing systems around the tank. Since the tank bottom is a large bare structure and the anodes are closely coupled to the tank bottom, there is usually very little current drain to other structures; the system if properly designed can accommodate modest current drain. While a plastic liner provides isolation from other nearby structures, when a problem arises with the CP system or if the CP system reaches the end of its projected service life, there is no way to install a new CP system without replacing the tank bottom.
Tank farm corrosion prevention is more manageable now than ever before. The MATCOR Concentric Ring Cathodic Protection System™ is just one of many excellent options for protecting your above ground storage tank (AST) from damaging corrosion.
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