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What is a Tank Farm?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A tank farm is a facility where petroleum products are stored prior to being disbursed to end consumers or retail facilities. People may also use the term “oil depot” to refer to a tank farm. Some farms are owned by a single company which uses the farm to meet its needs, while others are administered by a group. It is also possible for facilities to have their own tank farms for the purpose of storing fuel on site, with airports being a classic example of a facility which needs to have a lot of fuel on hand.

The facilities at a tank farm are usually very basic. Tanks can be above or below ground, with plumbing so that tanks can be connected to tankers and piping for the purpose of dispensing fuel and refilling the tanks. Many tank farms are located near refineries, ports, rail yards, and major trucking terminals, for convenience. These locations make it easy to move fuel in and out of the farm. A tank farm can also be located along a pipeline used to transport petroleum products. The farm may also have facilities to store delivery trucks, as seen when a company which sells natural gas or propane to the public makes deliveries to home tanks.

Some security facilities are necessary at a tank farm, because the farm represents a significant fire risk. Someone could target the farm for sabotage or terrorism, causing a large fire and potentially endangering the fuel supply if the farm is large. People also want to avoid accidents at tank farms which could result in accidental release of fuel, explosions, fires, and other problems. Guards are usually posted on site and the site is locked and regularly inspected to confirm that all systems are operating as they should be.

Companies which sell fuel to gas stations keep fuel on tank farms, sending out delivery trucks on a regular basis to fill up the storage tanks at the gas station. Tank farms can contain a mix of fuel, including gasoline with various octane ratings and diesel, along with fuels like propane and natural gas. Each tank is clearly labeled to indicate the contents and provide information about safety.

Small tank farms are sometimes kept at bus yards and other transit facilities for the purpose of refueling vehicles. This eliminates the need to buy fuel commercially, and allows maintenance crews to handle maintenance tasks in a convenient location.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon197877 — On Jul 18, 2011

Our Builder put a propane tank in for a 26 home development. It's a propane farm, and lies in the easement with 8 tanks. I know they paid a handsome sum to put this in. They rape us on price each year.

Questions: Does this tank farm depreciate? If so, at what rate? For how long? Can home owners buy it? What legal rights do we have? We have a monopoly going on. Homeowners need to buy this and go to open market propane buying.

By MrMoody — On Jul 05, 2011

I’ve heard of terrorists wanting to target oil tanks as part of their terrorist plots. I imagine that it would take time and a certain amount of logistics to fence out such a large facility, determine where the oil tanks are, and how to plant the bombs at strategic locations to cause the maximum amount of destruction – all the while avoiding security.

The fact that such plots have not been carried out thus far speaks either for the complexity of carrying out such an operation, or the effectiveness of our tank farm monitoring, or both.

Either way, I’m glad that we’re still safe. I think security experts are forced to become more and more creative as they strive to stay one step ahead of the terrorists.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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