Typical underground fuel-oil piping installations rely on a “low point” containment sump to collect any fuel that is released as a result of a rupture in the fuel-oil carrier pipe. By sloping the pipe in the direction of the containment sump, the leaking fluid makes its way to the collection sump, where a float switch sensor is used to detect accumulation. On larger sites, multiple collection sumps (and sensors) are sometimes needed due to the inability to slope all of the piping toward a single “low point”.
One downside to containment sumps is the requirement for periodic maintenance to inspect the condition of the water-tight seal on the sump’s lid. If a bad seal is left unattended, moisture will enter the collection area and will trigger a false fuel leak alarm. This can lead to the entire fuel transfer system being shut down, which could disable critical emergency generators when they are most needed.
An alternate method that may require less maintenance and provide less nuisance alarms, is accomplished by the use of a hydrocarbon-only sensing probe. These probes are specifically-designed to detect liquid fuels, by using sensor elements that swell upon exposure to hydrocarbon liquids. Major benefits include:
- The sensor elements do not react to water. This provides a more reliable monitoring system, by eliminating false alarms triggered when water enters a containment sump.
- The sensing probes can be easily cleaned and reused numerous times after exposure. This can lead to faster and less costly integrity checks on the leak monitoring system.
- In addition to the typical installations in piping and containment sumps, these probes can be used in conjunction with line leak detectors to provide a comprehensive solution to monitor fuel system integrity across a complete site. You can now design around a single monitoring panel to monitor cable leak sensors and multiple probes installed across fuel tanks, fuel transfer pump skids, piping systems and floor spaces.
If you are tasked with the design of a fuel-oil distribution system, and are having trouble with details related to leak detection or other aspects of the fuel system, we are here to help!