Inspectioneering Journal

Maintenance Strategies for Aboveground Storage Tanks in Crude Oil Service

Part 1

By Melissa Ramkissoon, Inspection Engineer at Petrotrin. This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.
This article is part 1 of a 2-part series.
Part 1 | Part 2


In today’s market, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil continues to fluctuate. From June 2014 to June 2015, crude oil prices dropped by 43.3%. There are many contributing factors to declining oil prices and the decrease in worldwide demand; and these low prices significantly affect countries where the main source of revenue is the oil and gas sector. The potential impact of falling crude oil prices elevates demands for return on investments on new projects, aged infrastructure, refining and exploration costs, operations and maintenance costs. Without a properly maintained energy infrastructure for both transportation and storage, many oil production opportunities would have to be abandoned.  Aboveground Storage Tanks (AST) are essential to any successful oil and gas operation and must be properly managed to ensure operations function in a safe and reliable manner. In this current economic climate, an operator could suffer crippling losses if one of their large ASTs experienced a catastrophic failure. The costs associated with spill clean-up, recovering any crude oil or chemicals, repairs or replacement of equipment, remediating any damage to the environment, public relations, and restoring the company’s reputation would do serious damage to the operator’s financial status.

ASTs are large stationary assets designed to temporarily hold liquid or gas substances for a period of time before being transported to processing facilities or retailers. When it comes to thorough maintenance and inspection practices, ASTs are often neglected, especially when tight margins push operators to focus the budget towards operating their facility and deferring maintenance costs. This can negatively impact the operations and reliability of ASTs and can potentially result in catastrophic failures with serious consequences.

In this 2-part series, I will identify some common failures related to ASTs in crude oil service and recommend strategies to prevent and/or mitigate such failures. There are multiple strategies that can be adopted, such as: brainstorming, document review, the Delphi technique, interviewing, the BowTie method, Political Economical Social Technological Legal Environmental (PESTLE), and Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) Analysis. This article will review historical root causes of AST failures and discuss maintenance strategies that help prevent both predictable and unforeseen incidents. 

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Comments and Discussion

Posted by J. Patrick Williams on October 12, 2015
Very good write-up. However, please clarify that... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Kiriti Bhattacharya on October 27, 2015
This is an excellent article - touching all the... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

Posted by Melissa Ramkissoon on October 27, 2015
Thank you for the encouragement and the feedback.... Log in or register to read the rest of this comment.

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