As essential businesses, keeping fuel sites operating reliably is crucial.

 

By Ed Kammerer

The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the early months of 2020, brought unprecedented attention to businesses that were regarded as “essential,” with great importance placed on those that were able to continue operating as expected while the full parameters and effects of the pandemic still were being determined. In reality, essential businesses have always existed and include such entities as hospitals, schools, military bases and other governmental institutions that must be kept operational during periods of emergency.

In addition to those operations usually associated with emergencies, another essential business sometimes overlooked is the retail fuel station, and, in many cases, there are regulations in place to ensure these types of businesses remain operating. For example, in times of emergency, Florida’s Statute Chapter 526 Section 143 (526.143)—Alternate Generated Power Capacity For Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities—requires retail motor-fuel facilities to remain operational in the event of a “major disaster,” which is defined as “a disaster that will likely exceed local capabilities and require a broad range of state and federal assistance.”

Specifically, the statute reads that “each motor-fuel retail outlet…which is located within one-half mile proximate to an interstate highway or state or federally designated route must be prewired with an appropriate transfer switch and be capable of operating all fuel pumps, dispensing equipment, life-safety systems and payment-acceptance equipment using an alternative generated power source.”

To ensure operation if or when a state of emergency is declared, fuel retailers that must adhere to the statute, along with other essential businesses such as hospitals and governmental facilities, will typically install a diesel-powered backup generator system to provide electricity if the power supply is interrupted. In these cases, the facility may have up to a 20,000-gallon (75,000-liter) tank installed either aboveground or underground to store diesel fuel dedicated solely for use in the backup generator. In some applications, there also will be a 200-gallon (750-liter) day tank to receive diesel fuel fed through a supply line when the generator is in use. An overflow return line also is used to prevent the tank from exceeding its capacity as it is being fed.

Additionally, a growing number of fuel retailers are diversifying their operations to the point that they also serve as fuel suppliers, meaning they may have supply contracts with various hospitals, schools and governmental entities that must be kept operational. This means the fuel supplier may not only be delivering diesel for backup generators but also fuel oil for boilers and water heaters.

 

OIL-BURNING EQUIPMENT STANDARDS

In 1957, the CSA Group, a global nonprofit dedicated to standards development, testing, inspection and certification for public and private-sector industries, created standard CSA B139, Installation Code for Oil-Burning Equipment, which was updated for the 10th time in 2019 and is dedicated to supporting the safe operation of oil-burning equipment. This standard specifies requirements for the installation of large oil-burning equipment, particularly when it is used in water-heating and power-generation applications that feature stationary or portable oil-burning equipment, including boilers, water heaters and stationary internal combustion engines (i.e., generators) used in emergency power situations. CSA B139 also provides standards for the installation or altering of ancillary equipment, including piping and tubing systems, control devices, venting systems and underground supply tanks, aboveground outdoor tanks and aboveground tanks installed inside buildings.

The need for emergency backup systems at many businesses and governmental institutions, along with the strict tenets of CSA B139, requires the development of an emergency fuel storage and supply system that will not only perform when needed—which, in some cases, may be after it sits idle for numerous years—but also will do so in a safe, environmentally sensitive way. The design and operation of these emergency systems are unique to the specific location, so there can be no “one size fits all” solution for these so-called snowflake installations. This means the operators of these places need to identify and work with a supplier that can provide all the necessary system components, which makes it easier to outfit unique system configurations.

 

MITIGATING AN EMERGENCY

Realizing the importance of keeping essential businesses operating during times of emergency, and well aware of the pivotal role that diesel generator sets and fuel oil boilers play in these situations, forward-thinking manufacturers and suppliers of fueling systems for emergency generators have begun designing systems that give the operator access to a reliable fuel supply for generators and boilers that are fed from remote tanks.

A typical setup features a ¾-inch supply line and a 1-inch overflow return line that run from the remote aboveground or underground storage tank (AST/UST) to the emergency generator or boiler day tank. Both lines are inserted into a common flexible access pipe that provides retractable access to the fuel lines. The supply- and return-line piping are connected to the generator/boiler and AST/UST via a double-entry boot fitting.

Flexible piping excels in these types of applications for several reasons:

  • Its increased flexibility lowers the amount of force required to bend the pipe, making it easier to fit the parameters of the site’s configuration, which also makes installation quicker and easier, especially in cold weather.
  • The piping system is installed in continuous runs where all fittings are situated in containment chambers; this helps eliminate buried fittings, couplings or joints in the ground, and therefore helps protects against accidental fuel leaks.
  • The pipe coupling or fittings are made of stainless steel to be compatible with any type of fuel and to withstand harsh environments both above and below ground.
  • The fuel oil or diesel piping can be installed in an access pipe that gives it the ability to be replaced, removed or repaired without the need to dig up the ground or disrupt the business to which it is supplying fuel and backup power.
  • The use of an enhanced fluoropolymer liner, such as Kynar, makes the piping denser and more permeation resistant to any type of fuel.

Finally, the most effective of these piping systems will be engineered to be compatible with the site’s existing tank sumps, transition sumps, manholes and other ancillary components that may be needed to fit the demands of the specific installation. This eases the demands that are placed on system design, installation and operation. 

For essential businesses, it is critical that they always operate as expected, even under challenging circumstances. In places like Florida, the definition of essential businesses includes fuel site operators that are situated along vital roadways or supply fuel to other essential businesses. Recognizing the importance for any and all essential functions requiring a diesel-powered generator or ready fuel oil supply to operate seamlessly at all times, targeted CSA 19-approved fuel supply systems are being developed that will help ensure the efficient and cost-effective operation of all oil-burning equipment when it is called upon in case of emergency.

 

Ed Kammerer is the director of global product management for OPW, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at ed.kammerer@opwglobal.com. OPW is defining what’s next in fueling solutions and innovations worldwide. OPW delivers product excellence and the most comprehensive line of fueling equipment and services to retail and commercial fueling operations around the globe. For more information on OPW, go to opwglobal.com.