By Keith Moye, OPW

“Safety” is one of those areas where, while significant advancements have been made in petroleum distribution, from the terminal to the retail site or home-fuel tank, the job is never done. Many thousands of gallons of hazardous motor fuels are handled every day, and unsafe fuel-handling operations can put lives, communities and the environment at risk.

The companies that design and develop equipment and systems for fuel-handling operations recognize the importance of creating a safe fuel-handling environment, and that has certainly been the case at OPW. There has been a flurry of activity recently, with a number of innovations entering the market throughout the range of the distribution channel. Here are five of the most significant:


  1. “Smart” Tank-Truck Monitoring Systems

Historically, fueling systems have relied on drivers to take actions necessary to prevent the wrong fuel from being dropped into the wrong storage tank at the terminal or retail fueling site. For example, older systems instructed the driver to always drop diesel first. The development of manual product grade indicators (PGIs) let the driver know which storage tank held which grade of fuel. Experience, however, has shown that hurried or distracted drivers might forget to unload diesel first, and PGIs can be imperfect with respect to indicating the correct grade of fuel.

The industry has recently begun to adopt the “smart” tank-monitoring system. This highly engineered, digital solution consolidates driver access to the different control systems on the tank trailer—including cross-drop prevention, on-board overfill prevention monitoring, pneumatic (air pressure) control, security, electronic PGIs, troubleshooting and usage history—operated by an easy-to-use digital touchscreen display.


  1. Total Terminal Fluid-Handling Solutions

A storage terminal is more than a collection of disparate parts performing in a vacuum with no regard for the other fuel-handling components. On the contrary, a storage terminal features a series of critical fuel-handling operations and pressure points, all of which must work harmoniously in order to maximize operating safety.

Manufacturers of fuel terminal components must remain mindful that every link in the fluid-handling chain be capable of performing its specific duties every time lest the entire system fail. The following components have advanced in recent years, all with the end goal of an optimized fuel-handling experience:

  • Loading Arms: A variety of loading-arm styles—short-range hose, balanced mechanism, counterweighted hose, A-frame hose and compact torsion spring (CTS), among others—have been developed to meet the unique design and operational needs of different loading terminals. From pre-engineered standard models to the most highly customized system, all are designed to deliver a safer loading experience to minimize or even eliminate strain on the operator and threats of product leaks.
  • API Bottom-Loading Couplers: These have been designed to combine ease of loading with installation and maintenance that can be performed in a matter of seconds, not minutes or hours, with no special tools required. They are also clean and safe, with a goal of making product leaks and spills at disconnection or through accidents a thing of the past.
  • Electronic Equipment: Thanks to the advances in everything from digital ground-verification and optic rack monitors to overfill prevention devices, it has never been safer to load or unload a tank truck at a storage terminal. These devices are designed to prevent delivery commencement until it is safe to do so and allow the disconnection of all hoses and equipment only when fluid flow has ceased.
  • Swivel Joints: These are used in a broad range of fluid-handling applications in chemical, petroleum, petrochemical and refinery industries. Swivel joints are used with flexible piping systems, loading arms and hose reels where they provide durable, reliable and safe operation in critical connection points along the fluid-handling chain.
  • Safety Breakaways: Available in direct-pull and cable-release iterations, safety breakaways provide an added layer of protection for people, equipment and the environment from unintended tank-truck pull-away incidents that can result in a catastrophic spill of hazardous materials. The breakaways shut at both ends during a pull-away incident, which enables them to simultaneously prevent a spill and protect the loading station from damage.


  1. Leak-Free Dry Disconnects

These hose-connection devices feature an automatic sealing mechanism at both the hose and fixed-pipe ends when a delivery hose is disconnected. They are ideal for use in any fluid-transfer application where loss of fluid upon disconnection cannot be tolerated because of environmental regulations, worker safety considerations, the high value of the fluid or where cleanliness is a concern.

The flow shut-off mechanism within dry disconnect couplings also allows for very low flow restrictions. This design enhances flow while simultaneously reducing the risk of internal blockages, which can lead to connection malfunctions. Dry disconnect couplers also include a safety interlock to prevent accidental opening and a sealing arrangement that results in a drip-free dry disconnect.

Some dry disconnect coupling designs can automatically shut off in the event of an accidental disconnection of the coupler and adaptor. Should this type of dry disconnect coupling be accidentally disconnected due to operator error or accident while the handle is in the open position and product flow is in progress, the poppet in the adaptor will automatically close and the seal cylinder will immediately stop flow through the coupler.


  1. Watertight Fuel-Storage Systems

Knowing the challenges associated with the monitoring and maintenance of underground fueling equipment at retail and commercial fueling sites, the designers and manufacturers of tank and dispenser sumps, manhole covers, spill containers and multiports have worked diligently to create state-of-the-art solutions, especially where water intrusion is a constant concern.

The advanced abilities of the new age of “watertight” fuel-storage systems and components lower the chance that they may fail, whether through water intrusion or any of a host of seismic events.

  • No-Drill Tank Sumps: These components feature factory-installed conduit ports and electrical wiring junction boxes that require no drilling, which allows them to be installed as-is at the fueling site. This mitigates the risk that unintended leak points are created while drilling holes for the placement of entry fittings or that leaking conduit lines may allow water migration into the sump.
  • Watertight Tank Sumps: These sumps function as liquid-tight isolation containers that provide secondary containment for tank and pipe fittings, valves and pumps. They are manufactured via a resin transfer molding (RTM) process that creates consistent wall thickness, proper glass-to-resin ratios and ultra-smooth wall surfaces inside and out for ultra-tight waterproof sealing capability. These sumps are outfitted with a stainless steel ring and watertight sealing gasket for additional water-intrusion prevention capability.
  • Low-Profile Dispenser Sumps: These sumps offer a completely integrated, environmentally secure underground fuel-delivery system that employs pre-fabricated, factory-assembled sumps and components that support watertight operation while also eliminating many operator errors that can occur during installation. Factory-installed dual-sided, rigid entry fittings (REF) provide double protection by sealing the pipe inside and outside the sump. Construction featuring a rigid composite material eliminates entry-fitting degradation that can result in water intrusion.
  • Composite Multiports: Lightweight fiberglass construction resists corrosion and reduces handling strain while improving safety for the operator. They are installed over the top of tank sumps to provide spill containment for fill pipes and vapor-recovery risers, while also allowing easy access to the tank top.
  • Double-Wall Sealable Spill Containers: These feature an integral “plumber’s plug” and double-wall sealable design aimed at preventing water and debris from penetrating the spill container at the surface. These also limit corrosion and damage to the fill and vapor-return riser connections and components, while an integrated vacuum test port allows for easy testing with no need for hydrostatic testing.
  • Composite Manhole Covers: Designed to be lightweight, corrosion-resistant and durable, the covers feature a non-bolted design with a flat gasket creating a watertight seal and are ideal for use in tank-sump access, multiport, single-port fill sump and interstitial-sump applications.


  1. Cleaner Fuel-Nozzle Technology

The search for true “dripless” fueling nozzle technology has proceeded for years. As an example, OPW’s new series of nozzles feature a patented, free-draining spout that drains the residual fuel into the vehicle when the dispensing process is halted. These next-generation nozzles have been tested and approved to meet the rigorous standards set by California Air Resources Board (CARB) for dripless conventional nozzles. For diesel, OPW’s capture technology allows any retained fuel in the spout to migrate back to the diesel-capture device, which secures the fuel in a diesel-capture chamber until the next fueling cycle begins.

The pursuit of optimized fuel-handling safety for storage terminals, tank trucks and forecourts will never end, but the level of safety available to the operators in these industries has never been higher than it is today—with many more innovations promised to come.


Keith Moye is the vice president of global marketing for OPW, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at To learn more about OPW, visit