They are a common sight at any of our refineries, including Edmonton, Sarnia, Montreal and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo –   large white storage tanks emblazoned with company logos that are a key part of the oil industry’s operations. 

For example, at the Suncor Edmonton Refinery, there are more than 50 storage tanks in a range of sizes, and each can hold from 160 to more than 230,000 barrels of fuel. In total, the tanks at the Edmonton Refinery have an approximate storage capacity of 800 million litres, or 5 million barrels. In these tanks, incoming crude oil is held until it can be processed into finished products. Other tanks hold finished products awaiting shipment to customers and terminals across western Canada.

Ensuring the tanks are regularly cleaned and maintained is essential for safe operations, meeting provincial and municipal regulations, and being able to store fuels as needed.

Men inside tank cleaning it
Tank cleaning and repairs are done every 15-20 years in the 50+ year life of a large fuel storage tank. The  work typically  takes four to eight months.

Tank maintenance and inspection

“A tank can last 50+ years with an extensive preventative maintenance schedule that includes daily operator rounds, equipment repair as required, regular inspections, and a major tank cleaning every 15-20 years,” says Andrew Robinson, maintenance director, Suncor Edmonton Refinery. “With our inventory, this means our team cleans, maintains, and inspects three to four tanks per year.” 

The typical plan for tank cleaning – a four to eight-month project – includes:

  • Taking the tank out of service and moving the contents to another tank. Cleaning the tank inside and outside.
  • Conducting a full inspection of the tank to determine what repairs and maintenance need to be done.
  • Once the repairs are done, the tank is used to store fuels again.

The bottom line around tanks? Ongoing inspection and maintenance of the tanks helps ensure we’re running the refinery safely, and it keeps contaminants out of the fuels so we have reliable, quality products to ship to Canadians.