Secondary Containment System

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In today's industrial landscape, environmental protection has become a paramount concern. Secondary containment systems play a vital role in preventing hazardous chemical spills and leaks that could potentially pollute soil, water, and the surrounding ecosystem. This article provides a comprehensive overview of secondary containment systems, including their purpose, components, regulatory requirements, and best practices. Whether you are a facility owner, operator, or simply interested in environmental sustainability, understanding the importance and implementation of secondary containment systems is essential for safeguarding our planet.

1. Definition and Purpose
Secondary containment refers to the preventive measures taken to confine and control hazardous substances in the event of a storage tank failure, piping breach, or accidental spill. The primary objective of a secondary containment system is to contain and isolate any leaked or spilled substances, preventing their migration into the environment. These systems act as a crucial barrier between potential pollutants and the surrounding ecosystem, minimizing the risk of contamination and protecting human health, wildlife, and natural resources.

2. Components of a Secondary Containment System
A well-designed secondary containment system typically consists of several key components. These include:

a) Containment Structure: The containment structure is the primary physical barrier that surrounds the storage tanks or vessels. It can be constructed of concrete, steel, fiberglass, or other impermeable materials. The structure should be designed to withstand the anticipated load, including the weight of the stored substances and environmental factors such as seismic activity.

b) Secondary Containment Liner: The liner is typically a chemically resistant material that is installed within the containment structure to prevent any potential leaks or spills from reaching the environment. Common liner materials include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), reinforced polyethylene, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) geomembranes.

c) Leak Detection and Monitoring Systems: To ensure the integrity of the secondary containment system, leak detection and monitoring systems are essential. These systems can include sensors, alarms, and automated monitoring devices that detect leaks, spills, or any changes in fluid levels within the containment area.

3. Regulatory Requirements and Compliance
Governmental agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States, have established regulations and guidelines for the installation and maintenance of secondary containment systems. These regulations vary depending on the industry, the type of hazardous materials being stored, and the size of the facility. It is crucial for facility owners and operators to familiarize themselves with their specific compliance requirements to avoid potential penalties and environmental harm.

4. Best Practices for Design and Installation
Implementing a high-quality secondary containment system requires careful planning and adherence to best practices. Some key considerations include:

a) Site Assessment: Conduct a thorough site assessment to identify potential risks, including soil conditions, drainage patterns, and proximity to water sources. This assessment will help determine the appropriate size and type of containment system required.

b) Proper Design: Work with experienced engineers and consultants to design a secondary containment system that meets regulatory requirements and industry best practices. Consider factors like load capacity, expansion joints, and proper drainage.

c) Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Establish a routine maintenance and inspection program to ensure the integrity of the containment system. Inspections should include checking for cracks, leaks, or deterioration, as well as verifying the effectiveness of leak detection and monitoring systems.

5. Types of Secondary Containment Systems
Secondary containment systems can vary depending on the specific application and industry. Some commonly used systems include:

a) Berms or Dikes: These earthen or concrete barriers are commonly used for bulk storage tanks, creating a surrounding wall that contains any potential spills or leaks.

b) Double-Walled Tanks: These tanks consist of an inner storage tank surrounded by an outer containment shell. In case of a leak or failure of the inner tank, the outer shell acts as a secondary barrier, preventing any leakage from reaching the environment.

c) Spill Trays and Pans: Typically used for smaller containers, spill trays and pans provide a containment area directly beneath the storage or handling equipment, capturing any spills or leaks.


Secondary containment systems are vital safeguards against potential environmental disasters caused by hazardous chemical spills and leaks. By understanding the purpose, components, and best practices associated with these systems, facilities can effectively mitigate risks and protect the environment. Compliance with regulatory requirements and regular maintenance and inspection are crucial for ensuring the integrity of these systems. By prioritizing the implementation and maintenance of secondary containment systems, we can collectively contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.

Wear and tear on oil sands equipment represents a serious concern for the oil and gas industry. The cost of lost production output is remarkably high. Whenever a part is worn down or breaks, a production including the affected equipment must cease until a fix has been performed. The cost of a leak in the processing plant or into the natural environment is high. Leaks present dangers to workers, residents, and plants, and animals beyond the facility. In addition, the price of equipment, materials, and labor to restore or replace a part is costly. The fact that the oil sands industry deals with immense costs are not unexpected.

The Hazards Faced by Oil Sands Equipment

The equipment degeneration happens in two steps. When sand drifts across metal, it hits the surface of the metal. As the surface wears down, corrosive chemicals further destroy the exposed metal below the surface. These two methods advance the rate at which a part is degraded. In addition, when metal parts heat up, the hardness of the parts goes down. This means the wear rate on the machinery increases even more. All of the factors add up to premature part malfunctions.

Specialized Coatings for Oil Sands Equipment

A contemporary innovation to combat wear is a customized chromium-carbide overlay. This coating can be sprayed into the interior of metal pipes and tubes, with the coating being up to 0.25 inches (6.35 mm) thick. The coating is applied by plasma-transferred arc welding (PTAW). When applied correctly, the chromium-carbide coating combats friction, impact, heat, tar sand erosion, and the corrosive materials produced by and involved in tar sands processing. 

The coating works because it produces a stronger heat-resistant surface than the metal in the pipes and tubes. The chromium-carbide coating also has a high melting point and is resistant to both abrasion and corrosion.

Each chromium-carbide coating begins as a customized powder blend. The complicated part of customization is that each oil sands producer has its PTAW equipment. Each producer also has a unique setup and sometimes unique device for tubes and pipelines.

The use of the chromium-carbide coating is expected to have a vital positive impact in plants that fasten in a process known as upgrading, in which asphalt is converted into light sweet synthetic crude oil.

Providing the Chromium-Carbide Powder to Oil Producers

Hollingshead said PPM is capable of producing a range of chromium-carbide powders.

The cost of the materials for this powder is competitive. In addition, there's the potential work of making tweaks to customize a blend.

Right now, due to covid related slowdowns, demand is down substantially, around 50 percent. Oil producers are making less oil in response to the decrease in world oil demand. Companies are using this time to improve what they manufacture. With more knowledge, they can create better products.

The Origin of the Polyurea for Hard Facing

Oil sands producers in Alberta, Canada, began looking for a solution to corrosion and wear in metal tubing in 2016. They reached out to ArmorThane, the province's largest producer of protective coating solutions. The organization is tasked with assisting businesses within the industry worldwide.

ArmorThane develops polyurea protective coatings for pipeline companies and oil producers in over 60 countries around the world. The company makes a variety of polyurea and polyurethane blends and components.

They are always looking at ways to optimize the polyurea and account for technical issues like differences in application methods.

Still Learning What Works for Corrosion and Abrasion Protection

Having improved wear resistance should provide cost savings when compared with standard CRAs.

The polyurea overlay technology provides a dependable solution to resist wear and erosion in the oil sands industry. Companies are primarily concerned about the coating's toughness. Polyurea coatings are amazingly tough. When a microcrack initiates for any reason, it can propagate rapidly to fail the material.

Ensuring a Positive Return on Investment

It is also essential to keep a customer's return on investment in mind. An oil producer will likely not spend the money to apply a coating if the cost is so high that they break even on it. ArmorThane said the improvement of the polyurea is primarily driven by the customers' need to reduce processing and production costs. Improvement is also driven by competition between parts suppliers and between oil producers.

Understanding what motivates producers and suppliers is what allows them to do a better job. They have learned over 30 years of doing business that no two customers have the same issues and questions. With time, they hope listening to their needs and working with them to optimize the coating will reduce operational cost, more efficient plant performance, and reduce part waste.

Future Innovations in the Oil & Gas Industry

Garry Froese is the CEO for ArmorThane. Froese said Canada's energy sector has a long-standing history of technological advances and innovation.

Froese also said oil and natural gas companies have invested billions in research and development over the years.

"They are sharing technologies as well as collaborating with innovators, universities, and governments to leverage their innovations further, even across industries. Engineers, operators, and researchers continue to identify progress opportunities and gaps, such as coating solutions to improve efficiencies and reduce costs in manufacturing our natural resources. As a leader of clean-tech innovations, the energy sector will continue to work on improving environmental and operational outcomes in the future while ensuring our country's investment attractiveness and competitiveness."


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