Keeping a propane tank underground offers many conveniences. Locating a propane tank underground optimizes space by freeing up land above ground. It also gets rid of the eyesore created by above-ground tank storage.
At the same time, underground propane tanks present some unique hazards that need to be addressed to ensure safety. Propane is a highly flammable substance that can cause explosions and other hazards if not handled properly.
If you're considering an underground propane tank, you should analyze all of the following potential hazards before making plans for installation:
Corrosion issues are probably the most severe hazard posed by storing a propane tank underground. While corrosion is an issue for tanks stored above ground, underground tanks are constantly in contact with moisture in the ground. This means that special precautions have to be taken to protect them against corrosion.
Cathodic protection is typically used with underground propane tanks to protect against corrosion. This type of protection involves using a sacrificial anode bag that is electrically connected to the tank to serve as the target of corrosion in place of the tank itself.
The anode bag will gradually corrode away over time. It needs to be replaced periodically once it has become severely corroded to continue protecting the tank.
Naturally occurring movements in the ground are another propane tank hazard that is unique to underground storage. Natural pressures in the ground like creep and crawl stress could cause structural damage or leaks in a tank. Also, earthquake hazards are a huge problem with underground propane tank storage.
Opting for underground tank storage should involve carefully analyzing geological factors that could cause a propane tank to become warped over time.
An underground propane tank is kept out of sight, so it's not easy to detect leaks as soon as they occur. Propane leaks are extremely dangerous and need to be identified and fixed as soon as possible.
Regular inspections can help ensure that any conditions that may lead to a leak are remedied before problems arise. Fortunately, propane gives off a strong odor. This odor is often detectable even when it comes from an underground tank if the leak is fairly large.
Over time, tree roots stretch out beneath the ground. They can create a surprising amount of force and pressure as they grow. A propane tank should not be placed underground in the path of any growing trees to prevent roots from causing damage and leaks.