Safe and Accessible Fuel and Lubricants

September 9, 2010 07:17 AM
Safe and Accessible Fuel and Lubricants

Very little on Robbie Williams’ Henderson, Ky., farmstead escapes scrutiny as he constantly searches for ways to make his farm safer, more efficient and more convenient.
When he turned his attention to fuel and lubricants, Williams devised storage facilities that provide convenient access and minimal chance of spills.

“In my state, farms are not required by law to have a containment area for fuel storage,” Williams says. “But we may need containment in the future. I also was concerned about aesthetics—I didn’t want my tanks surrounded by weeds and mud.”

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Williams’ fuel containment area encloses a 10,000-gal. tank for off-road diesel fuel, a 2,000-gal. tank for on-road diesel fuel and a 500-gal. tank for gasoline. The concrete floor is 6" thick, and the walls are 8" thick. Both are reinforced with steel rebar.

Because the containment facility sits on gently sloping terrain, Williams made the south (uphill) wall wider at the bottom and sloped it upward to function as a retaining wall. The wall is 3' tall, but it extends only about 1' above ground level on the south side, where the fueling stations are located.

To preserve visibility of the farmyard and road, Williams chose a lower-profile 8'-tall tank for his off-road diesel fuel, rather than a 10’-tall tank.

Remote fueling stations for each tank are mounted on 5" steel tubing embedded in the concrete. Williams made hose holders by cutting out an 8"-diameter metal disk and welding it onto a short length of 5" pipe, which is welded to the upright.

“The tubing that carries fuel from the tanks to the fueling stations was bent with a pipe bender, so there would be no joints that could leak,” Williams explains. A power switch and a meter to measure the amount of fuel are mounted at each station.
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Electrical power enters the facility through a control box, which contains a keypad for a garage door opener and a contactor from an old grain dryer.

To turn on the power, the operator punches a code into the keypad. This also activates a time-delay relay, which turns off the power after a prescribed amount of time. There also is an emergency stop button.

The fueling stations are spaced far enough apart to permit filling a tractor, a semi truck and a pickup all at the same time. The corners of the fuel containment area are protected by
uprights that are made of 5" pipe filled with concrete.

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No Mess Pickup Storage

If you carry funnels and oil jugs in your pickup, they inevitably spill or get dirty. Cheap plastic storage boxes solve the problem. Buy boxes with sturdy hinges and latches that won’t blow open during transport. A few modifications inside the box will keep supplies organized. Slightly tapered plywood dividers slip into indentations in the walls of the box to create compartments, and an
expanded-metal grid sits just off the bottom with absorbent paper underneath.

Oil Storage Tank Becomes a Greenhouse
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 A 210-barrel crude-oil storage tank, once owned by an oil company, no longer stores oil, but it still found a home on Robbie Williams’ farm in Henderson, Ky. Williams recycled the tank into a greenhouse for his daughter Caroline.

Williams built the greenhouse about 15 years ago, but he stopped using it as he got busier with his farm. He and Caroline refurbished it when she entered high school and developed an interest in horticulture.
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The greenhouse was created by laying the tank on its side and building an earthen berm around the bottom. Williams cut “windows” out of the exposed half, turning the tank into a curved framework for two layers of UV-resistant plastic. “The tank was clean and had one end missing, so it was safe to cut with a torch,” he explains.

A small, 115-volt squirrel-cage fan blows an insulating layer of air between the two layers of plastic. “We run the inflation fan anytime the greenhouse is in operation, especially during cool weather,” Williams says.

In the end of the tank, Williams cut holes for windows, framed them with treated 2x4s and attached 1/8" Lexan polycarbonate plastic sheeting. He made the mounting holes in the sheeting a little oversized to allow movement with changing temperatures.

Temperature inside the greenhouse is regulated by three line-voltage thermostats, set in sequence. They control an LP gas heater, motorized shutters that open in warm temperatures and a two-speed 12" ventilation fan.

Last year, Caroline used the greenhouse to produce ornamental peppers, tomatoes and nicotiana (ornamental tobacco), which she sold as far away as Columbus, Ohio.




You can e-mail Darrell Smith at

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