Advancements in resins from INEOS and other leading material suppliers build upon tried-and-true technology that make composites an attractive option for tanks in a variety of industries, from chemical processing and mining to wastewater treatment and pulp and paper. Composites are corrosion resistant, strong, lightweight and flexible – all of the attributes required by a nuclear power plant in the northeast that reached out to Plas-Tanks for three storage tanks.

The nuclear power plant needed three 10,000-gallon tanks to store chemicals in its current facility. “Part of the scope requirement for us was to build tanks that could be easily installed within this existing structure,” says Puthoff. Plas-Tanks fabricated each of the cylindrical tanks in four separate pieces – the bottom, two middle sections and the top. In early 2020, the pieces will be shipped to the nuclear power plant, where Plas-Tanks’ employees will laminate the pieces together on-site.

“There’s a lot more flexibility and options with FRP than other materials,” says Puthoff. “If you get in the field and realize there’s a problem with the structure, it’s very easy to modify on-site. You can cut another hole or put a fitting in another spot. Alloys can be welded in the field, but composites don’t require traditional welding, so there’s no worry about open flames or permits to weld.”

Regulations that Impact the Market

Perhaps one of the biggest influences on the tank market is regulations. “Regulations are becoming stronger across all of our platforms. They are the driving force for all FRP products,” says Coe. “We’re not promoting these regulations, but we’re also not pushing against them. We are simply meeting our customers’ requirements.”

ZCL | Xerxes sells underground tanks to a variety of industries, including petroleum. In July 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised its underground storage tank regulation originally adopted in 1988 (Code of Federal Regulations, 40 CFR Part 280). The goal of the regulation is to prevent underground storage tanks from leaking and contaminating the groundwater. Among the requirements, tanks must provide cathodic protection and be double-walled so they can be monitored.

While the EPA regulation addresses the more than 550,000 underground tanks nationwide that store petroleum and other hazardous substances, there are a plethora of other regulations – mostly state and local – that provide what Coe calls “built-in growth opportunities” for tank suppliers. And they extend beyond tanks for caustic gases and liquids.