Storing Gasoline in Plastic Containers

Is plastic an option for storing fuel?

 As a packaging medium, plastic has become a mainstay in many industries. Often a suitable alternative to glass and metal containers, plastic containers are lightweight, durable, shatter-resistant and, in many cases, less expensive in material costs and in shipping expense. As strong and durable as many types of plastic containers are, plastics do have some limitations. One of these is in plastics’ ability to store gasoline. We are frequently asked whether our standard plastic containers, drums and IBCs are suitable for gasoline storage. The general consensus? This is probably not a good idea. However, there are other containers that can be used for this application.

Storing Gasoline in Plastic ContainersStoring Gasoline in Plastic Containers

Tips for safe storage of gasoline

With a flashpoint of -45ºF (-43ºC), gasoline is a highly flammable, extremely corrosive liquid. When stored in standard plastic containers, such as milk jugs or plastic drums, gasoline and other fuels can react with the chemical composition of the plastic and break down its chemical bonds. These chemical bonds hold the plastic’s polymers in place to give the plastic its structure and strength. This breakdown can also affect the fuel’s chemical composition and cause the fuel itself to become unstable and, often, unusable.

Gasoline vapors are also a concern. Any container designed to hold gasoline must be properly vented to prevent these vapors from building up. The vapor itself is flammable and the pressure can build up leading to a potentially dangerous situation if it is not stored properly. Additionally, most state and local municipalities have fire codes and regulations that must be followed to ensure safe storage. Other general safety tips include:

  • Use tanks or cans that are approved to hold gasoline
  • Keep gasoline and other flammable liquids away from potential heat sources (e.g., lit cigarettes, pilot lights, hot water heaters, etc.)
  • Fill small engines when they’re cooled
  • Do not mix gasoline with other substances
  • Store gasoline in a separate building, such as a garage or shed
  • Clean spills immediately with appropriate cleaning materials
  • Follow state and local fire codes and regulation mandates

Can you use steel drums for storing flammable liquids?

Although storing fuel in plastic drums is not advisable, steel drums may be an option for storage of gasoline. Steel drums are extremely durable and resilient, and are composed of materials that are less likely to interact with flammable chemicals. Part #26WG55, 55 Gallon Tight Head Steel Drum, UN Rated, 2" & 3/4" Nylon Fittings, Unlined is UN rated to store flammables and includes a nylon plug that allows the drum contents to vent, reducing the risk of vapor buildup which can lead to the chance of explosion. Nylon plugs melt as the temperature rises in case of fire, which will also reduce the chance of explosion. Fuels like gasoline and diesel should also be stored under certain conditions which will keep the liquids in usable conditions. Some other considerations for diesel fuel storage include:

Steel Drums to Store GasolineSteel Drums to Store Gasoline
  • Avoid contact with zinc, copper, or metal alloys that contain zinc or copper. These metals react with diesel and form unstable compounds, which means there is higher potential for dangerous chemical reactions like explosions. If such contact is inevitable, a metal deactivator additive will help.
  • Avoid the presence of water. Water permits growth of fungus and bacteria, whose natural byproducts can make the fuel unstable.
  • Store the fuel in ambient temperatures of 68ºF (20ºC).
  • Minimize exposure to dust and dirt which contain trace elements like copper and zinc, which can destabilize the fuel.

What containers are approved to hold gasoline?

For smaller amounts of gasoline, Type I and Type II safety cans are specifically designed for this purpose.  Also known as gas cans, these containers are made of specially formulated plastic and metal that can withstand gasoline’s corrosive effects without deteriorating. The main difference between Type I and Type II cans is Type I cans have a single opening for pouring and filling, while Type II cans have two separate openings for filling and pouring. These containers are rigorously tested to achieve FM and UL approvals and should be OSHA and NFPA compliant.

To meet OSHA safety mandates for proper handling in commercial settings, gasoline must be stored in a red safety can with a yellow band to label the container with the name of its contents. This makes these cans easily identifiable and an effective way to promote safe handling. Other OSHA compliant features for safety cans include:

  • A flash arresting screen
  • Spring-closing lid and spout cover
  • Designed to safely relieve internal pressure when subjected to fire exposure

 

SHOP TYPE I SAFETY CANS

SHOP TYPE II SAFETY CANS

For larger quantities of gasoline in industrial settings, specially designed storage cabinets for flammables should be used in order to meet NFPA 30 requirements.

SHOP FLAMMABLE SAFETY CABINETS

Discover our safe storage solutions

It is important to consider plastic’s limitations. Standard plastic containers are not a good option for storing gasoline. Always use caution when handling flammables and always follow safety guidelines.  The proper handling of gasoline and other flammables is critical to ensure storage safety.

If you would like to find out more about the safety storage options available, please contact one of our product experts via email or call us at 630.629.6600 today!

 

This information has been provided as a general guide. It is the customer's responsibility to select the proper container for product and application compatibility. For more information about requirements for storing and handling flammable liquids, please consult your local, state and federal regulations.