The failure of steel tanks forms a distinct area of forensic accident investigation and is one in which Forensic Services engineers are regularly involved. Considering petroleum tanks alone, about one billion m3 are in storage in steel tanks on land. The number of tanks is unknown, but one index tracks 20,000 tanks in 800 oil farms.
With so many tanks, it can be appreciated that even if the failure of an individual tank is statistically low, there will be accidents. What is surprising is the variety in the ways that tanks can fail. Poorly fitted floating roofs, lightning strikes and corrosion have featured in petroleum tank accidents we have investigated. If we extend to steel tanks storing other materials, tanks have simply collapsed or crumpled.
Usually tank collapses are investigated by our mechanical engineers, but when necessary we call upon the skills of our chemical engineers, metallurgists and NDT experts.
If you do have a tank failure and need help, it is best to provide photographs to us and ask for our initial impression.