A new system for lining fuel station tanks was presented by Shell at the APEA (Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration) conference.

Tokheim is working in partnership with the manufacturer of the Unmanned Bag Lining System and is the authorised installer. UK operations manager Andy Wallace explained that what has generated so much interest is that the system has been designed so it can be installed from above ground with no requirement for anyone to enter the tank.

This brings benefits in terms of price and reduced down time, but the major driver is the health and safety benefits of not requiring anyone to enter the tank. Wallace said: “It’s the only type of lining we currently offer because we want to avoid the man entry, and there is no other way or method we are aware of that can be done without going into the tank.”

The system works by inflating the lining within the tank and uses a principle that has been in operation in German commercial and domestic heating oil tanks for a number of decades, but has now been developed for fuel station tanks.

Shell has been piloting the system at several sites across Europe including one in the UK, at its service station at Epping in Essex. The UK pilot is only for the diesel tanks, and Tokheim is currently going through the application process to get approval for the unleaded version. Wallace said: “There is a pilot unleaded version at a German fuel station, so it is a case of getting it signed off once the authorities are happy, and we’re expecting that early next year.”

Explaining how the system is installed he said the first requirement is accurate measurements of the tank, because each bag is designed and manufactured specifically for the contours of the tank involved.

Before installation the tank has to be clean and dry, and the first step is inserting an inflatable mattress into the tank, which is designed to guide the lining system into place, and can be negotiated into position using ropes and guide lines.

Next, the bag and its external fleece lining, which comes as one unit, is placed into the tank on top of the mattress. Once it’s in position it is inflated using standard airguns and the dome of the lining will come into place and is connected to the dome of the tank using a tension ring. Wallace said: “We then apply a vacuum which holds the liner against the walls of the existing tank. That’s then put on a monitoring system to measure the interstitial space and ensure there are no potential issues.”

He said that Tokheim is already in discussions with a number of potential customers. He added: “There was considerable interest at the APEA on the back of the presentation and a demonstration that Tokheim had on its stand at the exhibition.”

While the safety issue of not having anyone enter the tank is the biggest selling factor, Wallace said there were also savings in terms of down time and cost. He said: “Our estimates are that it can be as low as 25% of the cost of some traditional lining systems and can be done in less than half the time.”

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