A storage tank fabrication project is a massive undertaking, but it becomes easier to manage when the people involved with the design understand the best practices to follow. Adhering to those will avoid development slowdowns, disappointed clients and other undesired results. Here are some essential things to remember to help things go smoothly.
1. Make the Design Process Collaborative
People should always evaluate options that let all involved parties weigh in on every phase. Even the most well-planned projects typically have some unexpected challenges. However, everyone’s collective wisdom could be instrumental in getting around those obstacles and remaining on schedule.
One of the easiest things to do is use a cloud-based tool like a project management interface. It can provide a single place for authorized users to see what happens during every step and who has been responsible for making specific design decisions. A building information modeling system could be ideal for helping people succeed on projects that require fitting tanks in existing spaces and ensuring those operate safely without interfering with other infrastructure.
Effective collaboration occurs when all participants feel heard, respected and valued. People must also keep an open mind, particularly about designs they hadn’t previously considered.
Working together goes beyond your design team and means keeping clients involved. Give them regular updates and inform them of anything requiring changes from their expectations. They’ll appreciate the ongoing information because it avoids surprises.
2. Stay Familiar With Useful Design Tools
Poor-quality outcomes often occur in storage tank fabrication when the people involved haven’t taken adequate time to understand the possible ramifications of certain decisions they make. Fortunately, various design platforms exist that make it easier to gauge those impacts in a controlled environment.
For example, the TANK design tool allows users to try 15 nozzle designs and evaluate stresses caused by differential expansion. However, because that all happens within the program, people can learn about potential problems before implementing real-life solutions. That allows them to save time and money.
In the United Kingdom, engineers from Bristol’s National Composites Centre spent a year developing a tool to improve the designs of hydrogen cryogenic tanks. They then used it to create three aircraft storage tanks. This approach made the inner and outer tank skins weigh significantly less, representing a major win for an aviation-related application.
3. Learn All the Associated Regulatory Specifics
Responsible storage tank fabrication requires understanding all the applicable codes and regulatory requirements. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has different underground or above-ground storage tank specifications. Specifics also exist if the tanks will store dangerous chemicals or get used during transport.
Some regulations are extremely extensive. For example, the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code encompasses 16,000 pages and almost 30 volumes, making it impossible to digest the information quickly.
Some code sections split the information into divisions based on the associated pounds-per-square-inch the vessel will tolerate during use. There are both mandated and volunteer design details in the document. People can use those to create a thoughtful framework for storage tank fabrication and design, covering all their bases.
Consider hiring an external consultant to guide you through the regulatory specifics. Even if you have a general understanding of how to make a compliant tank, that expert can bring up matters you hadn’t considered or point out why specific decisions may not work as well as envisioned.
4. Gather Information to Justify Cost-Related Decisions
Some people believe high-quality results will always be expensive. That’s not necessarily the case, but all design team members must become familiar with the price points for all options under consideration. Then, they can discuss how much different possibilities will cost and why.
Spending money on tank fabrication sometimes makes good financial sense when the existing vessel could cause significant issues if not replaced. In one example, officials inspected a water tank in Eugene, Oregon and uncovered urgent matters. Firstly, the vessel — built in 1939 — cannot withstand earthquakes. Moreover, it had roof joint leaks that could negatively impact water quality.
These problems needed attention because residents rely on the tank for water. The replacement plan involves a pair of tanks that can each hold 7.5 million gallons. However, people involved in the fabrication project also had to begin building the tanks before decommissioning the old one. That approach prevented pressure issues from affecting a network of other tanks in the area.
Community Members Give Input About a Water Reservoir Storage Tank
Getting balanced input about storage tank fabrication possibilities may involve getting feedback from the surrounding community, especially if the tank’s budget comes from taxpayer funding.
Consider the case of a water reservoir storage tank proposed for Bowen Island, British Columbia. Local authorities had already recommended replacing an existing tank to support the firefighting and storage needs. But some residents who attended a community informational meeting raised concerns about the project’s $655,000 price tag.
Initial plans were to pay for the tank with a short-term arrangement across five years.
It would mean each resident of the surrounding 144 properties would pay $937 more per year. If the payments occurred across 10 years, the associated levy would be $522.
People also took issue with the tank’s size. However, some didn’t realize making the tank half the size doesn’t also halve the cost. For example, this tank — much bigger than the one it’s replacing — is a bolted-steel option with a 595-cubic-meter capacity. It will cost $374,000 of the total budget.
When some residents suggested making the vessel smaller, they learned designing one to hold 290 meters would still cost $325,000. Decision-makers had previously agreed the cost difference for the larger tank was worthwhile.
Another point of contention with the residents was that some suggested a concrete-reinforced tank for the increased life span it offers. However, such an option would cost $1.5 million.
These examples highlight the importance of giving people details about why particular tank fabrication possibilities are prohibitively expensive or otherwise inappropriate. Many individuals — especially clients — don’t want to hear their suggestions merely won’t work. They want to know why that’s the case. Collecting data supporting your claims will prove to them you’re making careful decisions with plenty of reasoning behind them.
Make Storage Tank Fabrication an Ongoing Learning Process
Even if you’ve been involved in dozens of storage tank fabrication projects for many decades, you’ll almost always learn something new from each effort. Besides applying these best practices to every project, consider your most prominent takeaways and use them to make future attempts even better than expected.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine, an online publication that explores innovations in science and technology.