Tank and Tank Farm Design Guidelines

December 12, 2023
Safety & Quality
Fabrication & Construction
Detail Engineering & Design
Front-end Planning

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The design and construction of tank farms are of special importance in chemical and refining industries to ensure the safe storage of petroleum products and chemicals. If you’re considering starting your own tank farm project, you’ll want to carefully consider relevant tank and tank farm design guidelines before getting started. 

In the United States, tank farm design must comply with federal and state regulations, codes, and standards. We’ll review some guidelines influencing tank farm design to provide insight into the process. 

H+M Industrial EPC has provided engineering and construction services for many tank farm projects, the tank farm designs specifically vs. the tank design, and has relationships with many trusted tank suppliers to ensure needs are met and the vision is realized. 

Types of Storage Tanks

Industrial storage tanks are containers used primarily for storing various substances such as gas, oil, water, and petrochemical products. Farm tanks primarily store gas, oil, water, and petrochemicals.  They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including underground, horizontal, and vertical configurations, and are made of materials such as concrete, stone, fiberglass, steel, or plastic. 

Aboveground tanks (AST) and underground tanks (UST) are the two main types of fuel storage tanks. ASTs are popular due to their low installation and maintenance costs, making them cost-effective and convenient for storing fuels and chemicals. USTs, on the other hand, bury at least 10% of their volume underground, making them suitable for space optimization and reducing the risk of explosion, but they must be registered with the EPA due to regulations and can pose inspection challenges as well as potential leaks or pollution.

Understanding how regulations impact your tank farm operations is important. Whether you manage a chemical storage tank, run a residential UST, or own a farm, federal and state regulations will apply.

Regulatory Compliance for Tanks and Tank Farm Design

Regulations apply to tanks with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or more for storing petroleum products such as motor fuels and used waste oil. Those who own or operate such tanks, must adhere to federal and state requirements, which include the following:

  • Tank Registration
  • Financial Responsibility
  • Leak Detection
  • UST System Upgrades (as of December 1998)

Regulations for Storage Tanks in Texas

  1. ST - 1: Administration of storage tank and spill prevention program. Regulations for aboveground and underground storage tanks, addressing pollution prevention, retrofitting standards, and release cleanup.
  2. ST - 2: Tank handling and inspection requirements for underground storage tanks. Registration and licensing requirements for entities involved in installation, repair, or removal of tanks.
  3. ST - 3: Underground storage tank tightness testing requirements for petroleum products. Mandatory testing to prevent leaks into soil and groundwater.
  4. ST - 4: Company certification for tank handling and inspection. Use of certified personnel for tank handling activities.
  5. ST - 5: Permit requirements for operating storage tank systems. Mandatory permits, registration, and compliance with standards for tank operation.
  6. ST - 6: General operation requirements for underground storage tanks. Training requirements for operators, installation standards, and compliance with technical and administrative rules.
  7. ST - 7: Investigation of suspected releases from storage tanks. Reporting and investigation of suspected releases within specific timeframes.
  8. ST - 8: Reporting releases from storage tanks. Actions required upon confirmed releases, including reporting to the regulatory agency.
  9. ST - 9: Interim remedial actions upon release. Immediate actions to prevent further harm or threats from a release, including safety measures and environmental assessment.

Additional Consideration for Chemical Tanks

If you own or operate a farm UST with a capacity greater than 110 gallons used to store anti-freeze or other chemicals, it may also be subject to UST regulations. The detailed requirements for regulated UST systems can be found here

Exclusions from Regulation

Some tanks are excluded from federal and state regulations. These regulations include:

  • Farm and residential tanks with a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less storing motor fuel for non-commercial purposes (non-commercial means not for resale).
  • Tanks holding heating oil used exclusively on the premises.
  • Any underground storage tank with a capacity of 110 gallons or less

Tank Farm Design Guidelines

Client-Specific Requirements

Clients may have unique operational needs or environmental considerations that must be addressed during the design phase, in addition to regulatory requirements.

Storage Tank Specifications

The choice of storage tanks is fundamental to tank farm design. Consider factors like tank size, material, and capacity to align with project needs and product properties.

Construction Material

Choosing the right material for tank construction is important to ensure structural integrity and prevent chemical reactions. Consider the storage properties, potential corrosion, and environmental conditions.

Plant Location's Topography

Understanding the plant location's geographical layout is essential for optimizing tank placement, foundation design, and overall feasibility.

Related Codes and Standards

In the USA, several codes and standards guide tank farm design:

  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Association): Provides guidelines for fire protection and safety.
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration): Focuses on worker safety and health.
  • API Standard 2610: Covers design, construction, operation, maintenance, and inspection of tank facilities.
  • Local Safety Guidance: Provides region-specific recommendations.
  • Factory Act of the State (if applicable): Complies with state-specific regulations.
  • Fire Hydrant and Spray Manual Instructions: Critical for fire protection.
  • Insurance Requirements: Specific to mitigate risks.

API Standards for Storage Tanks


Design and Construction of Large, Welded, Low-Pressure Storage Tanks

API 650

Welded Steel Tanks for Oil Storage


Cathodic Protection for Above Ground Petroleum Storage Tanks


Lining of Above Ground Petroleum Storage Tanks


Tank Inspection, Repair, Alteration, and Reconstruction


Venting Atmospheric and Low-Pressure Storage Tanks


Cleaning Petroleum Storage Tanks


Evaporating Losses from External Floating Roof Tanks


Evaporating Losses from Internal Floating Roof Tanks


Overfill Protection for Petroleum Storage Tanks


Measurements and Calibration of Petroleum Storage Tanks

API storage tank standards are created by committees of experienced tank designers, fabricators, owners, and operators who bring a wealth of knowledge from their respective businesses. API standards, while covering many aspects of AST and UST design and operation, are not exhaustive.

Classification of Petroleum Products

Classification based on flammability (Flash Point) determines storage and handling protocols:

  • Class-A: Liquids with a flash point below 23°C.
  • Class-B: Liquids with a flash point between 23°C and 65°C.
  • Class-C: Liquids with a flash point between 65°C and 93°C.
  • Excluded Petroleum Class: Liquids with a flash point at or above 93°C.

Please note that specific regulations and classifications may vary by region or country, so it's important to consult local regulations and standards when dealing with petroleum products in a specific jurisdiction. 

Aerial view of tank farm at night, tank farm design guidelines.

Installation Types

Installations are categorized into two types in the USA:

  • Small Installations: Aggregate capacity of Class-A and Class-B petroleum product storage tanks is less than 5000 m³.
  • Large Installations: Aggregate capacity exceeds 5000 m³.

H+M Industrial EPC Tank Farm Design Guidelines

Finding the right Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor for your tank farm project can ensure your project’s success. Tank farm projects, especially those involving petroleum products, require precision, compliance, and expertise.

We’ve suggested a few steps to help you find the right EPC contractor for your project below: 

  1. Define Your Project Needs: Start by defining the scope, scale, and specific requirements of your tank farm project. Determine the types of tanks needed, their sizes, and the products they will store. A key aspect of this process is understanding the roles and relationships between the tank farm contractor and specialized tank builders.
  2. Industry Experience: Look for an EPC contractor with extensive experience in designing and constructing tank farms. Experience matters in ensuring compliance with industry regulations and standards. 
  3. Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that the EPC contractor you choose has a deep understanding of regulations and a strong commitment to safety and quality. They should be well-versed in local, state, and federal requirements.
  4. Safety Record: Safety is a top concern in tank farm operations. Inquire about the EPC contractor's safety record and their safety practices. A commitment to safety demonstrates professionalism and minimizes risks during construction and operation.

Partnering With H+M Industrial EPC

H+M Industrial EPC specializes in capital project services for clients along the Gulf Coast, including Houston, South Texas, and Corpus Christi, TX, USA. We value our clients' unique needs and will collaborate with you during the planning stages to determine which contract type will provide you with the greatest level of success.

We offer robust scope definition procedures and constructability analysis to optimize the success of project execution and field delivery. For clients seeking end-to-end solutions, our comprehensive services, including detail engineering and design, procurement, fabrication, and construction allow us to take your capital project from conception to completion, providing tailored solutions to meet your unique needs.

About the Author

Want to Learn More About Project Management?

To find out more about tank farm design guidelines and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

To find out more about the advantages and disadvantages of turnkey projects and how H+M Industrial EPC can meet your capital project needs, contact us through our website today.

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