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Is Polyethylene Plastic Safe for Diesel Fuel Storage?

Polyethylene is one of the most common synthetic materials used in the production of plastic storage drums, including the classic blue plastic drum found in warehouses across the world.

But while plastic drums have a wide range of uses from storing food to transporting hazardous waste, businesses often ask the staff at ITP if they’re safe for storing diesel fuel.

The short answer is yes, polyethylene plastic (particularly a dedicated plastic oil drum) is safe for storing diesel fuel, but there are limits on how long it can be safely stored for. In this article, our team explains in more detail how polyethylene plastic can be used to safely store diesel, and what you need to be aware of when using them for fuel storage.

How Long Is It Safe to Store Diesel Fuel in a Plastic Drum?

Plastic drums for industrial usage are manufactured from polyethylene, a form of plastic that is durable yet malleable. Industrial-grade plastic drums are manufactured from HDPE, or high-density polyethylene, which is specifically designed to hold industrial goods.

HDPE drums are strong enough to hold hazardous waste for long periods of time, while food-grade HDPE drums are safe enough to store edible, consumable goods before they make it onto the market. With such a range of uses, it’s no surprise that plastic drums can also be used for storing diesel fuel.

But before you start filling plastic drums with fuel, you need to check that the drum is designated as suitable for use as a plastic oil drum, and that it was manufactured from HDPE. Not all plastic will hold diesel fuel effectively, without contaminating the fuel or being rapidly broken down.

Once you have an industrial standard plastic oil drum, you still need to consider how long you can safely store the fuel for. Unfortunately, you can’t store diesel fuel in plastic drums forever. The diesel will react with the plastic polymers over time, even if the drum is produced from HDPE. The plastic will then break down, eventually leading to leakages. The diesel fuel can also start to break down and become no longer fit for purpose.

Government guidelines recommend that diesel fuel be stored for no longer than six months. After this, you need to change your drum and dispose of your diesel fuel. Other factors can also affect this limit. For instance, extreme heat or temperature changes will degrade the fuel faster.

Benefits of Using a Plastic Drum for Diesel Fuel Storage

Despite the limited time period for storage and the potential for degradation of the polyethylene plastic material, there remains a range of benefits to be had from storing diesel fuel in a plastic oil drum.

Diesel fuel degrades quickly if it comes into contact with particular metal alloys, including the likes of zinc or copper. While metal drums can be suitable for diesel storage, you need to be certain that the metal won’t react with the diesel. With a plastic drum, you don’t need to worry about this.

Many metal barrels or storage containers are also prone to rust. Again, rusting can affect the quality of diesel and cause degradation of the fuel in storage. Plastic drums don’t rust, so there’s no need to worry about this either.

On top of these benefits in comparison to metal containers, there are a number of other reasons why plastic drums are a popular choice for storing diesel fuel:

  • They’re robust and difficult to damage
  • Plastic drums can safely store diesel fuel for up to six months
  • They’re cost-effective and available for bulk purchase
  • Plastic drums can be stored and transported industrially (using forklifts etc.)
  • Leakages can easily be repaired and maintenance costs are low
  • Plastic drums can be recycled, or decontaminated, repaired and reused 

Contact ITP Packaging for Your Fuel Storage Needs

Knowing how to safely and securely store and transport diesel is essential for all industrial and commercial businesses that consume large quantities of fuel on a daily basis.

Our staff at ITP Packaging are on hand to help you to select the most appropriate plastic oil drum or industrial containers for your fuel storage needs. From blue plastic drums to steel barrels, we’re confident we have the industrial containers you need. Our friendly and professional team are available to answer your questions, so contact ITP Packaging today to find out more and place your order.

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