At Industrial Propane Service, Inc. (IPS), we’ve provided construction and service solutions to customers in the propane industry for over 50 years. From distributing and servicing equipment to designing and building facilities, we can meet a variety of industry needs. One of our core offerings is bulk plant design, construction, and servicing.
What Are Bulk Plants?
Bulk plants are facilities used to store bulk liquefied petroleum products before they are distributed to commercial, consumer, and retail markets. While most employ aboveground tanks to store materials, some utilize underground tanks to suit their operational and environmental needs.
Understanding Your Propane Tank
Propane tanks can feature a number of connections (e.g., valves, gauges, and other instruments), each of which performs a different function that helps ensure the safety of a tank’s people and processes. Some of the most common connection components include:
- Fill Valves: Fill valves provide a connection point between the storage tank and delivery vehicle during tank refilling operations (i.e., the tank is filled with liquid material from the truck).
- Vapor Return Valves: Vapor return valves provide a connection point during refilling operations that allows for the removal of excess pressure within the tank.
- Liquid Withdrawal Valves: Liquid withdrawal valves provide a connection point between the delivery vehicle and storage tank during truck refilling operations (i.e., the truck is filled with liquid material from the tank).
- Relief Valves: Relief valves serve as a safety mechanism for preventing overpressure. They allow tanks to vent propane if excess pressure builds up within them.
- Fixed Liquid Level Gauges: Fixed liquid level gauges indicate if and when the propane is at or about 80% capacity. They help prevent overfilling.
- Float Gauges: Float gauges—also sometimes called a dial gauge—indicate the volume of propane within the tank.
They are also available in a variety of sizes and configurations to suit different applications. For example, they can be small or large, horizontal or vertical, and above ground or underground. Regardless of how they are designed, they must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) for the construction of propane vessels in the United States. These guidelines are put in place to ensure the tanks operate efficiently and safely.
In addition to being aware of tank design and construction requirements, bulk plant owners and managers should know and understand the tank safety and compliance requirements regarding installation and use. For example:
- Tanks cannot be filled unless they have an appropriate manufacturer’s nameplate.
- Tanks must be painted with a reflective color.
- Tanks must have a regulator that is pointed vertically downward or, if it is pointed vertically upward, is covered and protected.
- Tanks must be installed on level ground.
How to Run Bulk Plants Safely
There are three key factors to keep in mind when owning or operating a propane bulk plant: safety, efficiency, and longevity. Ensuring your plant has these qualities necessitates focusing on the following:
- Design: Your tanks must meet all necessary functional and safety requirements without interfering with the performance of other equipment.
- Maintenance: Your tanks and other equipment must be regularly serviced to ensure they remain in proper working order.
- Training: Your employees must be fully and regularly trained in safety guidelines to ensure they know how to use and maintain tanks and other equipment properly.
- Inspection: Your facility must be regularly inspected to ensure any component repair or upgrade needs—especially those regarding connections—are identified and resolved quickly.
Regarding all of the above, it is important to keep in mind federal, state, and local regulations. Your plant site should comply with any relevant requirements and restrictions. Additionally, it should meet the minimum standards required by your insurance provider.
Why Partner With IPS for Your Propane Plant Needs?
If you’re looking for an experienced and knowledgeable partner to help ensure your propane plant operates efficiently and safely, IPS has got your back. Our expert team of fully trained and certified personnel offers design, construction, and other services tailored to the needs of customers in the propane industry. Our service offerings include:
- Designing, constructing, and installing storage tanks with up to 90,000-gallon capacities
- On-site training and safety inspections
- 24/7 emergency support services
Some of the other unique solutions we can provide include:
- Cylinder dispensing cabinets that are custom-built to your specifications
- Automatic additive injectors that are used to inject measured amounts of methanol
- Portable gas-powered transfer pumps that are used to transfer liquid from tanks to bobtail trucks
- Cylinder evacuation systems that meet your operational needs while remaining cost-effective and eco-friendly
- Complete component systems that feature all pump and piping components needed for satellite facilities and larger projects
To learn more about our propane plant capabilities or discuss your project with one of our experts, contact us today.