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Posted Sunday, July 10th, 2022

As a stakeholder in a construction project that requires a diesel generator installation, you will be involved in decision making around the diesel, specification, and location of the building services, electrical, mechanical, plant etc. As with most critical infrastructure projects, one of the most critical elements of these will be the fuel system to support the generators in the event of a power outage. In this article we discuss the 3 most important points to note when designing and planning for this.

In short, the 3 most important points are space, resiliency, and environmental compliance. We unpack the meaning of each in this article.

Space

One every project we are involved in, the single most common perceived pain point we unearth is the best utilisation of space. Real estate is at a premium in most cities and developers want to maximise their return on investment, and in turn, architects & consultants are driven by these factors every day of the week in order to provide a solution for their clients. Hence the service & plant rooms in a project are often fighting for enough space to achieve the required output. That brings the question of where to situate the bulk fuel tank to feed the generator.

Clause 5.6.3.2 of AS:1940:2017 calls for it to be on or below the lowest level of a building, when storing over 1,000L. It also gives 3 methods of doing this:

  1. A double-wall tank buried in accordance with Clause 5.12; or
  2. Installed on or below the lowest floor level of a building, in a tank chamber in accordance with Clause 5.13; or
  3. A tank having integral secondary containment with an FRL of 240/240/240 and complying with Clause 5.9

Method 1 does save space and being out of sight may please those stakeholders only with aesthetics in mind. However it does have several drawbacks such as being expensive to install, monitor and service; the inability to relocate/upsize, and makes for a more complex fuel system in total. It may also be impossible due to existing underground services, or a high water table/flood zone. These are all factors that need careful considerations in the early stages of design.

Method 2 takes up the most space of these three methods, due to requirements of of Clause 5.13.1. A 4-hour fire-rated room, including the roof, must be built around the tank and services, often eating into precious basement floor area that could be used for revenue generating carparks. Clause 5.13.1 (e) calls for a clear space of 450mm between any tank and any wall or roof of the chamber, or any other tank in the chamber. In effect the diesel storage hazardous zone or footprint is increased in this way.

Method 3 involves reducing the hazardous zone or footprint by enclosing the fuel directly with the 4 hour fire-rated material. It gives a way to save space over method 1 while saves the hassle and reducing the lifetime costs of method 1. Space is saved by not requiring a 4-hour fire-rated room around the tank, or expensive fire-rated dampers , ventilation, penetrations etc. – as allows by Clause 5.9.4 (c). A 4-hour fire-rated tank can be placed in ‘dead’ space such as under car park ramps or in unusable corners. It is also rated to have dispensers, pump, and standard pumps/electrical placed directly on it.

Supervault SVR

(While this article does not cover tanks outside, an outdoor 4-hour fire-rated tank also enjoys half the separation distance to buildings, boundaries, and public places that is required by standard tanks – see AS1940 5.9.4 (d) – allowing the hazardous zone to be reduced and the tank placed closer to a building, therefore saving space).

Resilienct

Resiliency is becoming increasingly important to how we operate un todays business world, especially with the onset of cyber attacks, pandemics, disruption, and our reliance on power and connectivity in our busy data-driven lives of the 21st century.

Dictionary.com defines Resilience as ‘the ability of a system or organisation to respond to or recover readily from a crisis, disruptive process, etc.’

To relate this to storing fuel, we need to look at bests practice, or the highest benchmarks. For example, a healthcare facility mat require 24 ours or fuel storage for it’s standby generators, yet:

  • How do we ensure that the fuel will be clean when called for?Supervault SV
  • How do we know that no leaks will occur during the operation?
  • What if a sever earthquake occurred and fuel storage was compromised?
  • Will the tank structure stand up to wind loads when full of fuel?
  • What if the tank was impacted by a heavy object such as a vehicle?
  • Will the tank perform to it’s claimed certification if the building caught fire?

That’s where global tank standards step in to assure us. The USA has developed such standards over years and years and are generally what other standards around the world are based on. Resiliency can be based on these standards if we understand what levels or codes out tanks are certified to.

All tanks are required by AS:1692:2006 to have a permanent nameplate attached outlining the standard they are built to. It is important to note that global standards such as SwRI 95-03 and SwRI 93-01 for multi-hazard tanks are serialized and certified by the governing body globally to very strict quality control programs. Others such as UL2085 and AS1692 may only be ‘built to’ those particular standards and as such are not controlled by any program or carry any binding certification. In this case when storing fuel in a building it may mean the insurance could be null & void if a disaster ever occurred.

At the end of the day, the fuel system should be designed to cover all eventualities, especially in a mission critical facility. Resilience should mean that the backup generator power system performs as designed, the fuel is safe, clean, and efficiently sent to the generator immediately to allow its interruption-free operation. Fuelchief has modular equipment option that can help in this case too. The Supervault SwRI 95-03 tank is an example of a tank at the top of the resilience pyramid, a multi-hazard rated tank including fire, impact, ballistics, and thermal moderation.

 

Environmental Compliance

This term makes up the 3rd important point, due to market vigilance on environmental issues. An environmental disaster and the resulting consequences from authorities could severely impact a company’s revenue or ability to provide products & services. A fuel leak into a nearby waterway, for example, could incur substantial fines or curbing or operations at the least, or immediate shutdown/large public implication or severe impact on public reputation at worst. Insurance cover would be at risk if -non-compliant equipment is found to be used in the build.

So it is incumbent on stakeholders to minimise and eliminate the risks by specifying & policing the quality of the fuel system as a whole. There should be involvement of Hazardous Goods Consultants from an early stage, a strict product quality control program should be in place and there should be a reviews & approvals process for equipment. Tanks, pumps, and controls should be positively identified to come from a reputable OEM with substantial warranties.

Fuel tanks, for example, that are on the market vary a huge amount in the quality and warranties. Some are made by small time non-compliant engineers who are not audited or controlled in manufacture, some arrive from offshore with very dubious welding & testing certificates, while at the other end of the spectrum, some are backed up with 30 year warranties and long local manufacturing lineage.

A good method to ensure your fuel tank is compliant and reliable, is to ask all potential suppliers for a copy of the MDR – Manufacturing Data Report. This report must show all steel mill certificates including thickness, batch number etc, along with verified & certified pressure tests. The higher the tank standard, the better these MDRs will be, and the easier they will be for the manufacturer to provide. For example, any individual tank certified to SwRI 93-01 or SwRI 95-03 will have gone through 3 separate pressure tests during its manufacturing cycle to achieve the required global standard.

Summary

At Fuelchief we are willing to help advise and review your fuel storage plans. The importance of space, resiliency, and environmental compliance is integral to the success of a modern building project, and indeed the companies who are involved.

At Fuelchief we’re building resiliency into energy infrastructure.

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