Tanks Collapses

Forensic Services Newsletter

CITS technician carrying out non-destructive testing of a tank.

If insurers have any claims involving tanks, your first stop for technical advice should be Forensic Services. In 2003 alone we have had assignments involving tanks that have caught on fire, ruptured, corroded, collapsed or crumpled.

As can be seen, tanks fail for many different reasons. Chemical engineers, corrosion experts and mechanical engineers all have their areas of expertise, which may or may not be relevant to any particular collapse.

A damaged tank whose appearance suggested a partial vacuum had been created. However investigation by FSG revealed corrosion of the roof was the cause of the collapse.

Accordingly, when we undertake these assignments, we try to match the skills of the investigator with the likely failure mechanism. This is not only important in terms of coming up with the correct cause, but also if the results have to be presented in a court of law. If you do have a tank failure and need a technical opinion, it is best to provide photographs to us and ask for our initial impression, particularly if the tank is out of town. Remember there is no charge for this initial approach *.

A stainless steel molasses tank that voided the contents through a split seam at the base. Examination by FSG revealed stress corrosion cracking (see photo below) was the cause of the split.
Examination by FSG revealed stress corrosion was the cause of the split.

You will note that none of the tanks we investigated in 2003 had exploded. This is itself an area of considerable discussion on some claims, with insurers wishing us to provide an opinion on whether a tank had exploded or was instead damaged by one of the mechanisms listed in the opening paragraph. The word implosion is often incorrectly used in describing certain tank failures and the etymology of this word is relevant to some tank insurance claims.

If there is an argument about the condition of a tank, our industrial arm, CITS, enables us to conduct surveys and prepare reports. We can also repair tanks through CITS.


Barry Dillon