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Water MoleculeIf you’ve checked your underground oil tank for corrosion or leaks recently, you may be lulled into a false sense of security thinking everything is OK.

As it turns out, the rusting process of an oil tank can be suddenly be sped up after the accumulation of acidic compounds reaches the tipping point which triggers a runaway chemical feedback loop.

Warning: some science content included:

Here is how it works – the air within the oil tank contains moisture. Since your tank is shielded from the sun by the virtue of being underground, this moisture causes condensation to form on its walls.

Now, water is heavier than oil, so it eventually drips down the walls of the tank and settles at the bottom starting a slow but steady corrosion process.

Underground storage tanks for the most part have thick walls, and if this corrosion were the only thing attacking the tank integrity, it would take many decades for the corrosion to grow to the point where oil leaks can occur. At least that was the idea when oil tanks were a popular way of storing fuel.

Unfortunately the reality is that the oil at the bottom shields the tank wall from oxygen so the corrosion process is altered. It all starts when a tank is forced to borrow oxygen from water molecules, leaving free hydrogen atoms to float around.

Over time the smaller bubbles coalesce creating bigger bubbles until they are big enough to break the surface tension and escape into the interior of your tank.

Hydrogen is a very reactive gas. It readily reacts with oxygen to form more moisture that continues the cycle. However, a small amount of hydrogen reacts with other impurities, creating acidic compounds that act as catalysts to the entire process.

And this is what spells big trouble.

As the tipping point gets reached, the tank corrosion significantly speeds up. By the time this effect is noticeable, typically a good amount of oil has leaked out and has contaminated the soil, which will have to be excavated and hauled away.

In 2008, one homeowner was forced to remove over 450 tons of soli this way, at a price tag that would bankrupt most BC households.

So if you checked your oil tank recently in hopes of buying more time, you should understand that a buried oil tank can be a time bomb.

Call CERC and get a quote for a tank removal today