If you are responsible for the bulk storage of barrels and drums, you should have a plan in place for protecting your products and materials from temperature extremes as well as moisture incursion. Below are some of the reasons why temperature extremes and the presence of water can be not only harmful, but dangerous, if allowed to affect stored materials. Also, information is provided that can help you protect the integrity of barrels and drums.
For many materials stored in barrels and drums, temperature is an important parameter to consider. Temperature is a concern for certain chemicals due to several reasons:
- Product degradation – some chemicals and materials lose their potency as their temperatures rise and fall.
- Flammability – some products are flammable at even relatively low levels of heat, and maintaining a cool temperature is vital for preventing fires.
- Vaporization – for chemicals with a low boiling point, exposure to heat can cause them to vaporize. This process can be both hazardous, with toxic substances, and costly, if a substantial amount of product is lost.
- Freezing – For many chemicals, freezing is a potential problem, particularly if they are stored in an outdoor environment.
To prevent temperature-induced problems from becoming a reality, responsible individuals should make advance preparations for keeping barreled products at a suitable temperature level. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:
- Attach barrel/drum heaters – these devices typically consist of a thermo-conductive material attached to the circumference of barrels. This material is then, in turn, wired into a heater and allows the heat to radiate into the drum and its contents. When looking to purchase barrel/drum heaters, be sure to match the proper heater with the barrel/drum material. For example, some heaters are designed for plastic drums, while others are suitable for use with metal barrels only. Accidentally placing a heater designed for metal on a plastic drum can result in melting and even cause a fire or an explosion.
- Provide a means of cooling – for some materials, keeping them cool is more of a problem than maintaining warmth. If you aren't able to maintain a stable, cool temperature, then an interior storage location may be necessary for at least some months of the year. Other ways of maintaining a cool temperature is through the use of ice or shielding from the sun. Refrigerated lines can be placed in close proximity to these materials, as well, though the cost and complexity of such a system may make its use inadvisable or unrealistic.
Besides temperature, the threat of moisture incursion is another concern when protecting the integrity of bulk-stored barrels and drums. Below are specific ways that water can inhibit or destroy materials:
- Dilution – the dilution of products with ambient water can be a serious concern if it lowers the concentration beneath tolerance levels. Diluted products are often ineffective or can be dangerous in certain circumstances.
- Contamination – the presence of water in some substances can be destructive to the end user. For example, petroleum products contaminated with water can cause corrosion in motors and in other devices.
- Composition change – there are some chemicals that can be fundamentally changed if moisture gets into drums or barrels. This change can introduce chemical unpredictability and even cause changes that are potentially destructive, such as converting a nonflammable substance into one that may ignite or explode.
Preventing moisture incursion isn't particularly difficult, but it can occur in ways that aren't often considered. Here are a few considerations for keeping water out of your barrels and drums:
- Tightly seal all drums – this should go without saying, but loose caps and lids are an invitation to moisture incursion. Even if water doesn't directly splash into the material, hygroscopic substances will readily absorb water vapor from the ambient atmosphere. That makes creating tight, vapor-proof seals a must, even when there is no visible water present.
- Use desiccants – besides maintaining good seals on drums and barrels, the use of water vapor-absorbing desiccants is helpful. These products can be kept in close proximity to stored products, and they are useful for removing atmospheric moisture that might otherwise find its way into barrels and drums.
- Access container contents under controlled conditions – avoid opening containers in the presence of rainfall or in highly-humid conditions, unless there are no other practical alternatives. Provide sheltered unloading and loading areas so that external moisture cannot easily find its way into the product.
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