Underground storage tank
Underground storage tanks generally fall into four different types:
- Steel/aluminum tank, made by manufacturers in most states and conforming to standards set by the Steel Tank Institute.
- Composite overwrapped, a metal tank (aluminum/steel) with filament windings like glass fiber/aramid or carbon fiber or a plastic compound around the metal cylinder for corrosion protection and to form an interstitial space.
- Tanks made from composite material, fiberglass/aramid or carbon fiber with a metal liner (aluminum or steel). See metal matrix composite.
- Composite tanks such as carbon fiber with a polymer liner (thermoplastic). See rotational molding and fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP).
Petroleum underground storage tanks
USTs, used to store petroleum, are regulated in the United States to prevent release of petroleum and contamination of groundwater. They are used throughout North America at automobile filling stations, and many have leaked, allowing petroleum to contaminate thesoil and groundwater.
In 1984, in the United States, the Congress developed laws to minimize and prevent environmental damage, by charging owners with the task of verifying, maintaining, and, if necessary, cleaning up sites damaged by petroleum contamination.]
Legislation requiring owners to locate, remove, upgrade, or replace underground storage tanks became effective December 24, 1989. Each state was given authority to establish a program within its own jurisdiction to set up a program to compensate owners for the cleanup of underground petroleum leaks, to set standards and licensing for installers, and to register and inspect underground tanks.
Most upgrades to USTs consisted of the installation of corrosion control (cathodic protection), overfill protection (to prevent overfills of the tank during tank filling operations), spill containment (to catch spills when filling), and leak detection for both the tank and piping.
Many USTs were removed without replacement during the 10-year program and many thousands of old underground tanks were replaced with newer tanks made of corrosion resistant materials (such as fiberglass) and constructed as double walled tanks to catch leaks from the inner tanks and to give an interstitial space to accommodate leak detection sensors. Piping was replaced during the same period with much of the new piping being double-wall construction and made of fiberglass or plastic materials.
Tank monitoring systems capable of detecting leaks as small as 0.1 gallons-per-hour were installed and other methods were adopted to alert the tank operator of leaks and potential leaks.
Regulations included a requirement that UST cathodic protection systems be tested by a cathodic protection expert (minimum every three years) and that systems be monitored to ensure continued compliant operation.]
Many owners, who previously stored fuel in underground tanks, switched to above-ground tanks to enable closer environmental monitoring of fuel storage and to reduce costs. Many states, however, do not permit above-ground storage of motor fuel for resale to the public.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Underground Storage Tank Program is generally considered to have been very successful. The national inventory of underground tanks has been reduced by more than half, and most of the rest have been replaced or upgraded to much safer standards. But of the approximately one million underground storage tanks sites in the United States as of 2008, most of which handle some type of fuel, an estimated 500,000 have had leaks. As of 2009, there were approximately 600,000 active USTs at 223,000 sites subject to federal regulation