Storing Bio Diesel Fuel

Bio Diesel Info

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This information has been compiled by Steve Yee over the past 3 years or so, and has been generated from a bunch of sources, including the following web sites and forums:
-Yahoo! Biodiesel forum
-Yahoo! Phxbiodieselcoop forum
-Yahoo! Biofuel forum
-Sequential Biofuels (
-Connecticut BioDiesel Co-Op (
-U.S. Department of Energy
-Boulder BioDiesel (
-Portland BioDiesel Co-Op (

There are many ways to store larger amounts of BioDiesel.  The most common methods are:
-HDPE/Plastic Drums
-Steel Drums (stainless preferred!)
-Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC's are used for larger storage beyond 200
gallons.  Most IBC's start at 275 gallons)

Size and portability needs/constraints:
Unless you have a trailer and a barrel dolly/hand truck, you're not likely to have the means to store anything as large as a 55 gallon drum.  A fully loaded 55 gallon drum full of BioDiesel can weigh up to 450lbs.  This method is best for people that have the tools and the floor space to handle fully loaded drums.

An IBC can be moved only with a forklift or pallet jack.  A fully loaded IBC filled with BioDiesel can weigh up to 2250lbs, excluding the IBC's weight itself.  IBC's are best for those who want to store and use large quantities of BioDiesel and have the space to place one, mostly outside.

This leaves 15 and 30 gallon drums. 

A 30 gallon drum weighs about 250lbs fully loaded, can be manhandled relatively easily with simple dollies and hand trucks, and does not take a large amount of space. 

A 15 gallon drum weighs about 120-130lbs fully loaded, and can be handled without special equipment by most adults.  A 15 Gallon Drum is also small enough to store without any special accomodations.  Many BioDiesel enthusiasts get the 15 gallon units because they fit within the trunk of a vehicle quite easily.  An H1 4 Door Hard Top can accommodate a minimum of 6 of the 15 gallon drums in it's rear cargo space.

Drum Types/qualities:
A good BioDiesel drum has the following qualities:
- Air and liquid tight seals.  This means you need what's commonly known as a tight head drum or a closed drum. 
- Closures with at least one two inch bung.  This allows you to use commonly available tools (like a drum bung wrench) and pumps (to get the fluids out).
- Lack of reactiveness to the BioDiesel.  This means that most of the time, you'll use a good quality plastic drum.
- HDPE/Plastic drums are excellent for storing BioDiesel.  Many HDPE drums are used for food services and environmental services use.  I've seen, used and received containers that had held soap, apple juice, cooking oil, Diet Dr. Pepper, vinegar, and Soy Sauce.  Once it's rinsed out, an HDPE drum is great for storage.
- Metal/steel drums are good for storage too, but you're best getting a newly reconditioned one (used one time only) or a new one.

Most good quality drums are UN rated.  For the specific type that you need for good BioDiesel storage, fellow BioDiesel enthusiasts have recommended the following specifications:

Plastic/HDPE drum:
Minimum specficiation of:
- 1H1 (Plastic Drum, closed)
- Y1.0, X1.0, or higher (X or Y designation is for the packing group performance standard code.  You want X or Y as the code.  The numeric designates the maximum specific gravity of the liquid you are storing. BioDiesel averages .85-.88 for it's specific gravity.)
- 100 (hydrostatic pressure rating in PSI)

As an example - you'll see a code of: 1H1/X1.8/150/05

This translates out to a closed plastic drum, Packing Group 1, 2 or 3 with a liquid SG maximum of 1.8, 150 PSI, built in 2005.

Steel Drum:
Minimum specification of:
- 1A1 (Steel Drum, closed)
- Y1.0, X1.0 or higher
- 100

Safety issues and other storage notes:
Even though BioDiesel is considered a fuel, it's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) lists it chemically as one of the following:
- Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (BioDiesel made by the Methoxide method)
- Fatty Acid Ethyl Ester (BioDiesel made by the Ethyl Alcohol method)
- Methyl Soyate (AgriBioDiesel with Soy oil/Methoxide method)
- Rapeseed Methyl Ester (BioDiesel with Rapeseed Oil/Methoxide method)
- Fatty Acid Ester (DOT shipping name for generic BioDiesel)
- Soybean Oil Ester (DOT shipping name for Soy Oil BioDiesel, or

Make sure that the container that you use will NOT react to anything in BioDiesel.  This is why using a HDPE/Plastic drum is preferred.  Metal tanks with any level of interior varnish or coatings needs to be resistant to BioDiesel.

Depending on your local fire codes, you should be able to store modest amounts (about a 55 gallon drum worth) of BioDiesel inside a home garage with no issues, as long as you use a sealed container for long term storage. Please check with your local fire department.

If you're intending to use an IBC to store BioDiesel, please check with your local fire department.  Some areas may require you to have larger storage containers like IBC's be surrounded by a secondary containment unit.

Other storage facts/notes:
-BioDiesel is a solvent.  It will degrade asphalt surfaces in the off chance that it's exposed to BioDiesel.  It is also an excellent paint stripper.
-BioDiesel is hydrophilic - it attracts water
-BioDiesel will react with air and oxidize, rendering the fuel unusable after a while.  Longer term storage requires the use of an additive to stabilize the fuel.
-Keep a copy of BioDiesel's MSDS handy.  A good one can be found here:
-Most fire departments will not consider BioDiesel a fire hazard for storing it.  It's flash point is over 300 degrees F. 

One - it's vegetable oil, or waste cooking oil of some sort (vegetable or otherwise).
Two - It's NFPA rating is 1 on the flammability scale from 0 (won't burn) to 4 (will burn easily)
Three - It's HMIS rating is: Health - 0, Fire - 1, Reactivity - 0. 
Four - the flash point of BD (depending on testing method used and the source oil) ranges from 300 degrees (Waste Vegetable Oil) to 425 degrees F(Rapeseed and Soy Oil based).  Give the flashpoint of either version to a Fire Marshal and 90 percent of them will shoo you away.
Five - It also depends on how you mention and give the information to the "authorities" involved.  Show an MSDS of Commercially available BioDiesel to most of them (provided they are knowledgable), and they will leave you alone.

You will need at least a good quality pump and a bung wrench.  Bung wrenches can be purchased mail order from Northern Tool or Harbor Freight.  You will need to purchase the bung plug wrench (A.K.A. a drum plug wrench) online - I've yet to find one at a local tool store.  Please get one that's made from Aluminum or Brass.  This will eliminate the sparking possibility if you use steel drums (another plus for HDPE!).

A good barrel pump will be self priming, will have a decent flow rate (5 gpm at a minimum), and will have the fittings necessary to directly be inserted into a 2" bung opening.

Finding what you need: 
The following searches have been successful in finding and locating sources for 15, 30, and 55 gallon drums and their parts/tools/etc. 

Note - each line contains the key phrases needed for a successful search. You may add additional items like locations to narrow the search.

- reconditioned 15 gallon drum
- reconditioned 30 gallon drum
- reconditioned 50 gallon drum
- barrel and drum recycling

Doing Ebay searches:  The following keywords have been successful in finding suitable drums in the past:

- 15 gal barrel
- 15 gal drum
- 30 gal barrel
- 30 gal drum
- 55 gal barrel
- 55 gal drum

Harbor Freight Part numbers:
Plug/Drum/Bung Wrench - 90875.  5.99 at the time of this writing.
Self priming barrel pump - 34679.  19.99 at the time of this writing.

Northern Tool part numbers:
Wesco Drum Plug Wrench - 14391.  19.99
Northern Industrial Universal Drum Plug Wrench - 143034.  19.99
Northern Industrial Drum Plug Wrench - 143035.  12.99