Canadian Mining Journal


Fuel storage bladders help make getting permits a little easier

The Monument Bay Project, Mega Precious Metals’ most advanced Manitoba project, is located 570km northeast of Winnipeg and 340km east southeast of Thompson.

The Monument Bay Project, Mega Precious Metals’ most advanced Manitoba project, is located 570km northeast of Winnipeg and 340km east southeast of Thompson.

The nearest communities are Red Sucker Lake First Nation, 52km to the southwest, and God’s Lake Narrows First Nation,100km to the west. Hydro power lines currently run as far as Red Sucker Lake First Nation.

It’s a gold and tungsten property, 100 per-cent-owned by Mega Precious Metals Inc. and consists of 136 contiguous claims totaling 338km2 and, as already described, it’s located in a remote part of the province where access to the site has been primarily by air.

Because of its location, diesel, gas and jet-A fuel have been delivered and stored at the site in fuel drums; a common, but unfortunate choice since drums carry a high price tag in more ways than one. 

First of all, they’re expensive to buy, inefficient to transport, and are often abandoned and left behind to become garbage and a potential threat to the environment. 

Secondly, and in addition to being an eyesore, abandoned drums can also create a spill risk from the small amounts of fuel left inside, all of which adds up due to the number of drums. 

Spillage can also occur from everyday fuel transfers and injuries are also possible to workers who have to move the heavy drums on a daily basis.

So, Mega Precious Metals asked the question: “Is there a better way to store fuel in remote locations?” 

“Absolutely there is,” says Trudy Gilbertson, a petroleum storage program specialist with the Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship Department of Manitoba.

In fact, it’s Gilbertson’s job to work with companies like Mega Precious Metals to process applications and issue approvals for projects that require fuel storage in remote areas.

“The military, for example, has been using collapsible fuel storage bladders instead of fuel drums for decades to help prevent contamination to remote sites so the question is, why haven’t more companies followed the military’s lead?” asked Gilbertson.

To help answer this question, here’s a look at possible answers on how to switch to a safer and more environmentally friendly option.

A Regulator’s Perspective

Once again, Gilbertson says, “We do everything from the cookie-cutter permit to a custom process that satisfies the requirements of a unique operating permit and having said that, 90 per cent of the time we issue the same permit.”

And that’s where Mega Precious Metals and its Monument Bay mining camp enters the picture. Their request to use collapsible fuel bladders fell into the 10 per cent “unique” category.

Typically, fuel storage permits are needed for obvious uses such as gas stations, airport fueling depots and refinery tanks, but in the case of the Monument Bay camp, fuel was going to be stored beside a lake in the Manitoba Twin Lakes area. 

“The Monument Bay project introduced us to fuel bladders for the first time, but we had no provincial standard to use to create a variance for them,” says Gilbertson. 

“So, we did our homework, talked to others that had used bladders before and Mega Precious Metals provided all sorts of documentation,” said Gilbertson.  “It wasn’t so much about the product; it’s a good product that fits the environment and came highly recommended.  Our biggest concern was about how to deal with spills and what safeguards were in place.”

Wanting to see a formal plan, Gilbertson asked for a full proposal which was followed by several back-and-forth revisions.

 “Even though we were talking about a new way of operating in a remote location, as it turned out, the biggest sticking point was that the company didn’t have a spare bladder,” said Gilbertson.

With all other aspects satisfied, the decision was made to purchase an SEI Industries’ Arctic King tank from SEI Industries to provide additional capacity for fuel transfer in the case of a leak in one of the bladders in use. With the spare bladder purchased, the permit was approved.

“Ultimately, our role is not to put people out of business or be in the way of doing business, we just want to keep everyone compliant,” says Gilbertson.

She says that learning about collapsible bladders has given her a “different perspective now” and she wouldn’t think twice about approving them again.  “My only regret is that I didn’t get to see them being filled with fuel.” 

Since then, Gilbertson has gone on to participate as a regulator on a technical committee to create a new CSA national standard for fuel bladder tanks which was recently completed and released in July 2014.

Which bladders are approved?

So far, SEI Industries’ Arctic King tank is the only collapsible fuel bladder that meets the new CAN/CSA B837 2014 national standard for Canada. 

Specifically designed for liquid fuel storage in remote sites and the Canadian environment, the Arctic King is constructed from a proprietary high-durability fabric unique to SEI.  In addition to its innovative fabric, SEI is currently the only manufacturer who uses encapsulated cross seams and 100% radio frequency welding specified in the national standard (although other manufacturers may do so in the future). 

Arctic King tanks have excellent UV and hydrolysis resistance for a longer life expectancy and are deployable to -50° F (-46° C).  Easy to fold, transport and relocate, the Arctic King requires minimal site preparation and saves on transportation costs, thanks to its lighter weight.

Getting the Permit Right

Depending on the authority having jurisdiction, collapsible fuel bladders and secondary containment systems require variances to construct and operate.  Tetra Tech, a leading provider of consulting, engineering and project management services worldwide, has worked closely with SEI Industries, in the successful permitting of these systems.

Tetra Tech says it has permitted fuel bladder systems in less than two months, however, a more typical timeline would be 3-6 months, especially with new jurisdictions where fuel bladders have not historically been used.

After assisting Mega Precious Metals with its Monument Bay permit and helping many others with their applications, today, Tetra Tech staff are experts in the permitting of collapsible fuel bladders in Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories. 

What’s their secret?  By integrating environmental considerations early in the design process, the company says it’s easier to obtain approvals and avoid permitting hurdles which can cause delays.

“Initially, due to collapsible fuel bladders not previously being used in some jurisdictions, there were some uncertainties with the permitting process,” says Ryan Wizbicki, a project manager in Tetra Tech’s Winnipeg office.  “To overcome this, we worked to ensure that sufficient information was provided so that regulators could adequately review the proposed systems and make informed decisions.” 

“With bladder tanks already heavily used by Canada’s Armed Forces on federal land, federal technical guidelines were also helpful in evaluating their suitability,” he says. 

A second challenge for regulators was the inability to use fuel system parts (piping and fittings connecting the collapsible bladders to dispensing equipment) that are typically used with conventional rigid tanks.  For example, a typical overfill prevention valve or high level alarm cannot be installed in a bladder tank.  To address this, alternative solutions were employed in order to meet overfi
ll protection requirements.

“In many cases, properly designed, installed and maintained collapsible fuel bladders are a far safer alternative from an environmental perspective,” notes Wizbicki.  “The fuel bladders and equipment are easier to transport to the location, require a smaller footprint of ground disturbance and are easier to decommission following end of use.”

“They also provide a more stable storage system than using fuel drums and can reduce both fuel handling costs and work place injury,” he adds.

Making the SwitchIf you’re ready to use collapsible fuel bladders, the expert advice below will help ensure a positive outcome with your permit application:

Allow enough time to process your application especially if needing a variance.  For example, “don’t leave the application until the last minute knowing your access road will be closed in two weeks,” says Gilbertson.

Read the regulations that apply to bladder tanks in your area and familiarize yourself with the new national standard (CAN/CSA B837 2014) by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Hire a licensed petroleum technician (LPT) for the area your project is located in to prepare your application.  Involve them early in process. 

Prepare your operating procedures and contingencies planning.  “Think through the process.  How will you deal with things such as communications, access, staff on site, roads, fuel handling and inventory procedures?” says Gilbertson. 

Review your application and submit through your LPT.  Your LPT will also submit any test results, site drawings and/or completion documents needed.

Switching to collapsible fuel bladders makes sense both as a business case and a social responsibility effort that helps to ensure pristine remote locations stay that way.

Information for this Special Report* provided by Nancy Argyle of Calgary. In addition to being a university lecturer, former print reporter, and strategic communications consultant, she also holds a commercial pilot’s licence.