Updated: Nov 11
Purchasing a high-quality chemical storage tank is a significant investment for companies and public water organizations, and choosing the right tank for your needs isn’t always easy. If you’re considering a fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) tank, be sure you understand the capabilities and solutions you’ll face if your FRP tank needs repair.
Let’s examine the challenges of fiberglass tank repair to determine if fiberglass tanks are a wise choice for chemical storage at your facility in the long run.
What Is Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic?
Fiberglass storage tanks are filament-wound or hand-laid up. Fibers are intertwined into a nexus veil that is wound onto a spool. In this spool, the fibers create a fiberglass layer with added resin, which keeps them bound together.
Capabilities For Fiberglass Storage Tanks
The winding construction method means that fiberglass tanks are inherently constructed with seams in the tank walls. As a result, the fibers create a reinforced structure with little to no opportunity for weak points to be vulnerable to leaks.
The mechanical properties of fiberglass have been tried and tested for years when using fiberglass tanks to store certain harsh chemicals. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic is the material for storing petroleum-based products such as chemicals, gasoline, and kerosene, it can be easily repaired, relined, and reinforced.
The area between the filament layer and the resin is may become weak, but we've seen FRP Tanks last 30 years. Like any material, fiberglass-reinforced plastic tanks undergo a chemical attack, which makes FRP more prone to oxidizing or corrosive chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite or sulfuric acid.
Areas to watch in FRP Tanks include:
Seams – Hand-laid fittings may be a weak point to fiberglass-reinforced plastic. Because the fittings are installed after the tank shell is created, additional seams are needed in the manufacturing process. Sometimes attachment bond failure can also happen due to fittings being added later. But don't worry; FRP tanks are easily repaired.
More rigid, brittle material – While FRP can be lighter than polyethylene or steel tanks, the multi-layered material becomes more ridged over time, but don't worry, many Fiberglass Tanks last up to 30 years! Plus, FRP is a better environmental choice as opposed to plastics. Impact damage can be real if the tank is not handled with extreme care.
Prone to scratching – Scratches to the outer resin layer can compromise the fiberglass tank. Any impact on the outside shell of the tank that results in a scratch can lead to microcracking and compromise the tank, but this can be true of any tank made of plastic, polyethylene, or polypropylene.
Limited UV Protection – FRP Tanks can be specified with UV Gelcoat protection that can be easily repaired over time.
Etching of the Glass Resin – Certain chemicals, like Hydrofluosilicic acid, can etch the glass, but most tanks are easily repaired before any structural issues are detected.
Challenges of Repairing Fiberglass Storage Tanks
Fiberglass-reinforced plastic tanks can be prone to micro-cracks. Given the interwoven strands of the glass layer used in FRP tanks, the origin of the crack is often challenging to locate. Micro cracks in FRP tanks can lead to tank leaks, potential tank failure, and catastrophic exposure. It is tough to repair the compromised area when micro-cracks develop in fiberglass-reinforced plastic storage tanks.
FRP tank repairs can be cost-effective and cause minimal disruptions to your operations. You will most likely need to drain the tank and place the remaining chemical in a temporary storage tank. The damaged FRP tank must be cleaned and pressure washed to be repaired from the inside and outside of the tank. Depending on the severity of the problem, repair costs can be exorbitant. Indirect repair costs include downtime, labor costs of handling the issue, and minimal interruptions in your production schedule.
CONCLUSION: FRP Tanks are an efficient, effective, and reliable source for any organization storing or transporting chemicals, oil, gas, or water.