All transfer zones used for the loading and unloading of oil need special attention to secondary containment. Since the primary containment vessels used in these areas are generally mobile on at least one end of the exchange, there’s a higher chance of spill than when dealing with only fixed storage tanks. The valves, nozzles, and filling arms used for transferring oil between storage tanks and mobile refuelers or tanker trucks are also prone to leaking due to their design. Secure these spill-prone areas with extra care to meet all the relevant oil containment regulations.
Challenges of Containing Spills in Loading Zones
The sheer amount of activity going on in the average loading zone makes it a challenging candidate for containment. Trucks rolling in and out of the loading bays carry even the smallest drips of oil along on the tires, spreading it out of the area and over surrounding soil. Spreading a liner just under the area of direct contamination will only result in small scale releases occurring around the borders. It’s easier to contain a larger area than what’s strictly necessary for both backup volume and better spread control. Large loading elements like extended filling arms often leak oil farther than expected when there’s damage or an accident, so account for a full range of motion when planning containment for a loading zone.
Active vs Passive Spill Containment
Loading zones need both active and passive spill containment since there’s always a chance of a leak larger than the permanent basin can handle. Even with extensive drainage and reclamation systems in place, large drips and leaks should be treated with active spill containment for temporary control. Flexible berms, absorbent materials, and abrasive-resistant pumps all help control and remove large volumes of spilled oil before it can overwhelm the passive and permanent containment measures. Keep these temporary tools close at hand so deployment only takes a few minutes after a spill or leak is discovered.
Sizing Containment for Loading Zones
Containment for loading and transfer zones is slightly more complex than for fixed storage areas. If the transfer equipment is connected directly to a high-volume tank, you may need a containment basin sized to its total volume in case of a full discharge. This could make your loading zone massive even if you’re only transferring relatively small amounts of oil each day. Installing intermediary systems to transfer limited amounts to holding tanks before final loading is recommended. This can reduce the size and extent of the containment system needed for each loading zone without running the risk of leaks or overwhelmed systems.
Discharge During Transit
There are only a few practical ways to provide containment during transit and transportation, but they’re all highly limited in volume. Double walled tanks can only handle small leaks before there’s a risk of a secondary leak developing. Checking the transport vessels before and during transit is the best way to spot leaks and prevent accidental discharge and oil loss. Thorough inspections may cost a little more in labor and time, but they can save hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in fines, especially when transporting oil through open waters.
Clearly marking designated loading and unloading zones for oil and other potentially hazardous liquids is essential for protecting workers. All employees or contractors working in transfer zones should wear proper personal protection equipment (PPE) to prevent splashes of oil from irritating the skin or eyes. If fumes are generated by heated storage tanks or aerated spray, respirators are also necessary. It’s easy to accidentally enter an active loading zone where PPE is needed if there’s no signage, so make sure all workers and contractors are aware of safety procedures to maintain the containment zone.
Transferring oil from one storage tank to another shouldn’t cause a lot of stress and tension among your team. Design permanent containment for these loading and unloading areas with the help of durable RPE liners from us here at BTL Liners.