by Lori Riddle
Aviation fuel storage tankWelcome back to the Think Tank! Today we're talking about field erected tanks and the roles they play in industry and our national economy. This article first appeared as a guest post on Castagra's blog.

What do field erected welded steel tanks DO?

Field erected welded steel tanks are everywhere. If you drive around your community and see a very tank that’s sitting by itself, on a concrete foundation, chances are you’re looking at a welded steel water storage tank. If you’re near a port city and you see acres of huge tanks, those are field erected welded steel tanks. From municipal water storage, to terminals, to power plants, mining operations, chemical processing plant, food production and fire protection, field erected welded steel tanks are everywhere and they play an important role in our industries and our communities.

That giant tank wasn’t born there.

When you see a huge welded steel tank, it may look like it’s always been part of the landscape. But before that tank was built, there was a need. A need to store something, and a lot of it. So, an engineer designed the ideal storage container and a tank company prepared the steel plates and transported them to the site. Meanwhile, someone else cleared the site and built a foundation. Then the tank company welded the tank together right there on the foundation, and maybe they painted it, too. Now it’s a part of the landscape, but it was once just a drawing and a pile of steel plates.

Let’s take a look at a few uses and functions of above ground storage tanks:

Power Plants

Above ground storage tanks are key components of power plants, from traditional coal fired plants, to combined cycle, nuclear, new clean coal, and biomass or other alternative power generation facilities. Tanks store raw water, demineralized water, fuel, oil and wastewater. Tanks and specialty vessels are used in emissions control systems, too, and are vital in the “scrubbing” processes that remove harmful vapors from the plant’s emissions. Welded steel tanks hold the slurry mix used in wet scrubber systems, and specialty emissions-cleaning vessels like absorbers are made of welded steel. Other specialty vessels, like ductwork and stacks are also made of field erected welded steel. Storage tanks for power plants are typically designed to API 650, NFPA and/or AWWA D-100 standards, and are made of carbon steel or specialty stainless steel, depending on the vessel’s purpose. Additional specialty vessels can include cone bottom silos, bubbler vessels with multiple intake and outlet ducts, absorbers with massive duct openings, and welded steel stacks or stack linings.

Municipal/Community Water Supply

Municipal water storage tanks are probably the most well-known type of field erected welded steel tanks. You may not have really noticed them before, but you’ve probably passed a few of them a few hundred times. Cities, counties, town, utility districts, co-ops, and other community organizations rely on storage tanks to maintain clean, safe water supplies for their citizens. Water storage tanks not only keep the water supply clean and available, they provide the pressure needed to move the water through the distribution system to homes and business throughout the service area. Water storage tanks are designed, fabricated and built according to AWWA D-100 standards, and can be built as reservoirs (larger in diameter than in height), standpipes (greater in height than diameter), ground storage tanks, and even elevated tanks. Extremely large volume tanks are built as composite structures mounted on concrete columns. Welded steel water storage tanks offer communities a unique opportunity to create huge ambassadors – tanks can be custom painted with names, logos and murals, and can even be painted to represent a destination, product or location unique to the area. For example, the water tank in York, SC, is painted to look like a baseball to honor the Knights, neighboring Charlotte’s MLB team. In Clanton, GA, the water tank looks like a giant Georgia Peach.  Next time you take a drive, keep any eye out for your local water tanks - they’re everywhere!

Chemicals - Production and Storage

From the cleaners under your kitchen sink, to fertilizers and to the polymers that add strength to laminate wood flooring, chemicals are everywhere in modern life. (Check out the Discovery Channel for suprising places where chemicals show up.) Storage tanks play a huge role in the chemicals industry, whether they’re used for holding raw liquid ingredients, for processing or for final product storage. Chemical storage tanks can be as varied as the products they hold, but are generally API 650 tanks with specialized coatings and roofing solutions to protect the tanks contents and the environment.

Fire Protection

Tanks that hold raw water for fire protection are everywhere. Many office parks, industrial parks, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, power plants, and large institutional facilities must have water available for fire protection. Firewater tanks are designed, fabricated and constructed according to NFPA standards, and are typically flat bottom tanks with specialized nozzles to accommodate the flow of water from the tank in a fire fighting situation. They can be 50,000 gallons up to several hundred thousand gallons. If you’re watching, you can will probably a see firewater tank off of the interstate the next time you travel through an industrial area, or pass a freight terminal or distribution center.

Storage Terminals

Terminals are an essential part of industry and the world economy. Bulk liquid storage terminals are located in port cities and in land-locked areas all over the globe. Terminals of two or three tanks up to hundreds of tanks hold crude oil, gasoline, diesel and other petrochemical products, chemicals, food and beverage products, and other liquids for import and export. Terminal tanks are carbon steel API 650 tanks that can hold millions of gallons of product. Specialized roofing systems such as internal floating roofs with seals ensure that tanks holding potentially dangerous liquids will not release noxious fumes to the environment. Terminal tanks are custom engineered, fabricated and built to meet the specific safety and environmental protection requirements for the product(s) they will hold. If properly maintained with regular inspections and API 653 repairs when needed, terminal storage tanks can be part of our industrial and economic infrastructure for decades.

Field erected welded steel tanks perform in many other capacities all day, every day – in refineries, in ethanol plants and other renewable fuels operations, in the food and beverage industry, in the pharmaceutical industry, and in other applications. If you’ve used water, power, gasoline, or a chemical product today, chances are you have been an indirect user of a field erected welded steel tank!

For more information about field erected welded steel tanks, visit

For more information on tank design standards:

American Petroleum Institute

National Fire Protection Association

American Water Works Association


Free above ground storage tank guide

Above Ground Storage Tanks welded steel storage tanks storage tanks

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