DP Fuel Tank Services (DP-FTS) and Fuel Hygiene Solutions (FHS) successfully collaborated recently on the replacement of an old petrol pump, thereby making the underground storage tank fit for re-use.
Before installing a brand-new pump with DP & FHS livery, the old pump was in a uniquely good condition for a 1960’s dispenser, which had spent its life on a country home estate serving the working farm. The Tokheim pump has now been carefully transported to a renovation company in Devon, where it will be brought back to its fully restored glory. DP currently have two vintage restored petrol pumps; a 1920’s hand crank Godwin in Cleveland Discoll livery and a 1950’s Avery Hardoll in Gulf livery. Nigel Plumb, Director said; “Our fully restored petrol pumps are a great reminder of the rich petroleum history in the UK”. Back on the farm DP carefully removed the Tokheim pump; nitrogen gas inerted
the underground fuel storage tank, manually cleaned and gas-freed the tank internally, and carried out ultrasonic testing to ensure the future integrity of the tank. Then FHS joined the project to relocate the dispenser, freeing up valuable space, and installing a full ATEX approved pump along with industry
certified Smartflex pipework. Our brand new dispenser was ready for use.
DP Tanks had the task of digging out a redundant petrol tank for West Surrey Golf Club in Godalming, which involved the removal of a 4,500 litre UST redundant petrol tank from the ground in preparation for future building work on the site where the petrol tank was located.
The DP Tanks team inerted the tank using nitrogen gas and gave it a comprehensive internal clean prior to excavation from the ground.
The excavation was checked for contaminants and backfilled using clean materials, and finally, the tank and associated pipework were removed and taken off-site for recycling.
Safely Removing Fuel Tanks
Removing a tank is not just a matter of undoing a few rusty bolts and lifting it onto the back of a lorry. It has then to be cleaned thoroughly first so that the tank can be transported safely and recycled.
The tanks have often been built in almost inaccessible basement rooms. Sometimes they are completely bricked up to provide a bund* in case of leaks, with just a small inspection hatch being left.
Bunding, also called a bund wall, is a constructed retaining wall around storage “where potentially polluting substances are handled, processed or stored, for the purposes of containing any unintended escape of material from that area until such time as remedial action can be taken. Bunding is a legal requirement in many countries particularly around tanks, storage vessels and other plant that contain liquids which may be dangerous or hazardous to the environment
Particular examples which receive specific attention in the UK, the rest of Europe and the USA are oil and fuel storage tanks and transformers at electricity sub-stations which are filled with oil for cooling and insulation purposes.It is reasonably easy to construct a “water-tight” bund around the base of a tank or vessel. A concrete base and a sealed wall of masonry, brickwork, concrete or even prefabricated steel provide the holding capacity.
In the UK commercial installations exceeding 200 litres and domestic installations exceeding 2500 litres require a bunded tank to comply with Environment Agency ‘control of pollution regulations’.
On occasions, during the tank removal process, we have to cut up the tanks on the spot and manhandle the pieces out through a maze of corridors, stairs and doors, without damaging anything on the way out.
DP Tanks have used this technique successfully in many high profile jobs, including Buckingham Palace and a number of prestigious London hotels.
David Plumb, the father of the current managing director Nigel Plumb, founded the tank cleaning company that was to bear his name for 43 years in 1966, giving up his job to do so.
For the first few years David Plumb & Co Ltd was run from a semi-detached house in Coulson. Then in 1971, he and his family took over the tenancy of a service station in Lower Kingswood, Surrey, on the A217 to the south of Sutton, south London. While continuing to run the forecourt as a going concern, hosting a car sales and repair operation, and even selling second hand furniture, its large amount of land and out-buildings provided room for the tank cleaning vehicles and equipment.
The year after our founding was the high water mark for UK petrol stations, when there were 39,958 sites throughout the UK, more than four times the current figure. The tanks were smaller, there were still pumps on the pavement, there were lots more grades of petrol, filters were less effective and most stations sold paraffin. As one of the very few companies specialising in tank cleaning at the time, there was plenty of work to go around and very little incentive to diversify.
Soon, the trend was for fewer but larger tanks and, for those with dual tanks, the easiest way to achieve this was simply by cutting two holes in the baffle plate; one at the top and one at the bottom to allow free flow between the two sides. The only way to do this was to make the tanks safe, get inside and cut the holes. As we had personnel trained in gas freeing, tank entry and confined space working, adding this service to our portfolio was a natural evolution.
Then, gradually at first and then with increasing speed, smaller stations began to consolidate into fewer larger ones, so we found we were called in more often by building companies that had been asked to demolish or redevelop small service stations. We used our skill to make the tanks safe to remove if the tanks were to be taken out, and developed techniques to make them permanently safe with concrete slurry if they were to be left in the ground. Eventually, we began doing the demolition ourselves on some sites, but even now we still work with developers.
In the 70s, the plethora of petrol grades began to be whittled away; firstly with the disappearance of two-star, then three-star and, eventually, five-star. This, coupled with a huge increase in car ownership, meant that having lots of smaller tanks on a site went out of fashion, as did having dual tanks; one large tank separated into two by the use of a steel partition or baffle plate.
Changing attitudes in the 90s meant there was also more emphasis on being environmentally safe, which meant that, working with environmental consultants, we became involved in testing the sites we were decommissioning for contamination from leaks, and then cleaning up any contamination. This usually involves removing contaminated soil to a properly authorised disposal site and back-filling with inert and clean materials.
Challenges We Face
The latest set of challenges facing the industry is coming from the move to biofuels, which are causing a great deal of concern among service station operators. Because of their ability to flush accumulated sludge through the system which causes clogging, the best way to head off problems is a thorough tank cleaning – right back where we started.
Also, while most vehicles can deal with the 7% of biofuels in standard diesel and petrol that are currently in use, these are due to increase to 10% and then 15% mixes by 2020. Many cars will not be able to run on the 15% mix, so we could return to multiple grades of fuel on forecourts and, consequently, smaller tanks and dual tanks again. Maybe we will get asked to replace the baffles we cut out a few years ago.
While we will always work on forecourts, our next evolution is most likely to be in the service we offer for larger tanks and their industrial owners, plus those who have tanks on commercial sites. Commercial tank owners usually come to us for two reasons; either to clean their tanks as part of heading off bio-fuel problems with emergency generators, or to decommission and remove them to create more room when they go over to other fuels.
In the end, it will be the market that decides. Our skills have already taken us into areas that no one would not have dreamed of back in 1966. Today, if someone says, “Can you do it?”, the answer is usually, “Yes we can”.
Health & Safety has changed a great deal in last 50 years since DP Fuel Tank Services Ltd opened their doors. For the better we would add!
1966 when David Plumb & Co was founded there were already a number of key H&S legislative acts in place. RoSPA (Royal Society for the prevention of accidents) had already been formed since 1941. As we wanted to commemorate our dedication to safe working practices, we did a little research and found some interesting facts on the history of health & Safety dating back to 1802. http://www.historyofosh.org.uk/timeline.html
We even kept our first ever 1st Aid box dating back to 1966, showing just how important Health & Safety has been and continues to be to us.
In addition to our commitment to attain the highest levels of Health & Safety, we continually train our entire team to the uppermost standards on every aspect of our work, in order to ensure their safety and those around us.
We’ve also partnered with Citation, Health & Safety experts in order to ensure our continued diligence in the ever changing world of Health & Safety.
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Safety for members of the public, contractors and our own personnel is our top priority. On all of our sites:
Personal safety equipment is used at all times
All safety regulations are rigidly adhered to
Safety and toolbox talks are given at the start of each day and to every new person arriving on site – see below
Two way radios are used to communicate between banksmen and machine operators
Only personnel trained in confined space working operate inside tanks
Personnel who enter tanks are attached to a harness and safety-line and wear breathing apparatus, a personal escape kit and safety clothing at all times
All our sites are properly secured to prevent public access
Staff welfare is looked after on each site, including the provision of toilet, washing and canteen facilities
All practical steps are taken to ensure the safety and security of our staff
Health & Safety is not just a phrase or a set of paperwork to us. From head office to every operative on site, it is part of our culture. As well as ensuring their own safety, all our personnel are trained and encouraged to point out when others are putting themselves in danger, or endangering others.
Meet the team
Director Nigel Plumb is the face of the business; working closely with our clients to provide the best solutions and service.
We pride ourselves in putting the customer first. Once we get a customer we keep them, by finding solutions to their problems. These include everyone from individual householders and independent forecourts to local authorities, facilities managers, major oil companies and the MOD.
This is due to the fact that, as well as carrying out the most difficult jobs with thoroughness, a professional approach and a spotless safety record, we go the extra mile to ensure that our customers are always satisfied. Where we are the main contractor, we also ensure that the site’s neighbours are briefed and inconvenienced as little as possible.
DP Fuel Tank Services was established in 1966 as David Plumb & Co Ltd. It was founded by David Plumb, the father of the current director Nigel Plumb. Since then we have won and kept a reputation for high levels of expertise and professionalism in our specialist fields. These include tank cleaning, excavation, nitro-foam inerting, tank removal, demolition and decommissioning. Our expertise covers a variety of fuel types, including petrol, diesel, gas-oil, kerosene and heavy fuel oil.
Our reputation for excellence and reliability is based on the use of highly trained professional personnel, the most up-to-date equipment and attention to detail. This was recognised when we were presented with the APEA Customer Care Award.
Our record for safety and customer care is second to none. Between our founding in 1966 and now, we have enjoyed an excellent safety history due to the rigorous training and tight control we maintain over our contracts and staff. Full safety precautions are ALWAYS adhered to.
Serving the petroleum industry since 1966
Our aim is to consistently provide a level of service that exceeds customer expectations. We will work as a team with integrity and efficiency to achieve results. Our aim is to provide a professional, yet friendly, approach that sets us apart from our competitors.
When the Royal Holloway University of London wanted to expand the available area in its listed Boiler House building, used as a performance space for the drama department, it called in the expertise of DP Fuel Tank Services (DP FTS) to remove two giant fuel tanks.
Up until 1968, the 19th century building, near Egham in Surrey, was literally a boiler house, providing heat and power for the entire college, and then the boilers and generators were taken out and the massive open space that remained was turned into a performance facility. The two 120,000ltr fuel tanks that fed the boilers and generators were left in place until this year, when DP FTS was asked to begin the process of turning the space into a dance studio.
As the room operated as a containment bund for the tanks, the first thing DP FTS had to do was to pump out more than 20cm of contaminated water that had accumulated across the whole of the 22m x 10m floor.
The next step was to remove about 34,000ltr of water and 6,450ltr of contaminated gasoil from the two tanks and tanker it away for proper disposal.
The only access to the tank room was a small hatch, part way up the wall, so the second task was to knock through a doorway large enough to bring equipment in and the metal of the tank out.
Although they had recently contained gasoil, the tanks had been originally built to hold heavy oil, so they were constructed from 9mm thick steel, which had to be hot cut into sections that could be easily handled.
As well as two people in full PPE and breathing apparatus carrying out the cutting, because of the size of the tanks and the confinement of the room the operation required the construction of scaffolding platforms for safe working at height, and two people solely devoted to fire watching. Two powerful air inductors were also used to help with smoke removal.
As well as the two main tanks, DP FTS had to also remove a 1100 ltr fibreglass tank, originally installed to draw water from a sump hole in the tank room floor. Before work could start on this 2,000ltrs of contaminated water had to be pumped out and safely disposed of.
Finally, 280m of associated pipework had to be taken out and sent for recycling, the room jet washed clean and all water removed.