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Determining Diesel Fuel Levels in Storage Tanks

Truckers, farmers, and heavy equipment operators rely on diesel fuel to keep equipment running their best. Many businesses also use diesel-powered generators for primary or backup power. No matter what the use might be, diesel fuel waits in storage tanks until someone removes some for various uses.

Diesel storage tanks vary in size and usually make it difficult to tell how much is in them. A variety of methods help to determine the correct diesel fuel level to prevent diesel storage tanks from going empty without notice. Several commonly used measurement tools and techniques can determine the correct fuel levels in tanks. Here’s what makes them so important.

diesel fuel

Diesel Fuel Drives the Economy

Without diesel fuel for the many trucks plying the nation’s roadways, national commerce would grind to a halt. Diesel also powers trains, barges, and boats that enable commerce to power the national economy. The nation’s supply chain heavily depends on diesel fuel to get goods to market, and those markets sometimes are located very far away.

The U.S. Department of Energy says the nation’s transportation systems used nearly 3 million barrels of diesel fuel every day in 2023. That’s about 125 million gallons and represents about three-fourths of the total daily usage of diesel fuel. It’s also about 15 percent of the nation’s total daily fuel consumption.

Without diesel fuel, supply chain disruptions would occur and trigger rising costs at the grocery store and other retail locations. Diesel even powers the buses that provide public transportation in cities and take kids to school throughout the school year. Those vehicles all need fuel that is stored in tanks, which in turn need devices to help determine their levels and when to top them off.

Commonly Used Measurement Devices

A variety of sensors help to track diesel levels in storage tanks. One of the most commonly used is the float fuel-level sensor, which floats on top of the fuel so that you can determine the level in the storage tank. The sensor does not give a very high degree of accuracy regarding the total volume of diesel fuel in a storage tank, but it is a very affordable way to determine when is tank is mostly, partly, or barely full of fuel.

Those who need a very high degree of accuracy might try a radar-level transmitter that uses a radar-level meter to accurately determine the remaining quantity of diesel fuel in a storage tank. The sensor can determine the fuel level in a storage tank to within 1 mm, which is an extremely high degree of accuracy. The sensor helps to accurately measure the total diesel fuel that a facility has in storage when used in most of its storage tanks.

If a diesel storage tank is nearly empty, a low level diesel fuel switch helps to prevent drawing fuel from a tank that is very low. The switch tells you when it’s time to top off a nearly empty storage tank. It also helps to switch to a full tank when you need more diesel fuel.

Storage Regulations for Diesel Fuel

Federal, state, and local governments generally follow National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes and standards for storing flammable and combustible liquids. Formally known as NFPA 30, the standards lower the potential for hazardous storage and handling of diesel fuel and other flammable and combustible liquids. Diesel fuel is regulated as a Class II flammable and combustible liquid, along with paint thinner.

The NFPA 30 standards say a vessel with a capacity of at least 60 gallons counts as a storage tank. When that tank stores diesel fuel, it has to be stored away from occupied buildings and other important structures. They can be stored in tanks located above ground and out in the open. A secondary storage tank can be used as a spill control. It’s important to know which tanks are full and which are nearly empty, and sensors are the best tools for doing just that.

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