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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Engines > Diesel
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  #1  
Old 10-09-2012
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Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Ok, time has come for me to enlarge my boat's fuel capacity...
What is the best fuel tank material available for diesel fuel? Aluminum? Plastic?
I have been looking for acceptable shape and capacity tank and I can't find it.. Custom tanks are expensive, my space and budget are limited... Would fiberglass/epoxy be a suitable substitute?

A link I found: http://www.passagemaker.com/magazine...ponent&print=1

Last edited by zaliasvejas; 10-09-2012 at 12:30 PM. Reason: update
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Old 10-09-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Monel due to its resistance to corrosion.
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Old 10-09-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Monel is probably the best material, but it isn't much of an option on a limited budget. Plastic tanks seem to work pretty well (I have one), but can get a bit pricey if you need a custom shape. I've heard good things about stitch and glue plywood/epoxy tanks. You can make them just about any shape and they are probably the cheapest option, if you're willing to spend the time and effort (and willing to get a bit messy).
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Old 10-09-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Plastic depends on size of the tank also as you can not put a baffle in them.

Wood and glass is okay - if you use a sealant that will not be affected by either diesel or water.

Aluminum of the right type and temper was the 'best choice' per Practical Sailor and again may be outside the budget.

I'd have a hard time going with a bladder installed in an enclosed space too much change of chafe doing it in.
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

The absolute best would be titanium. Ya ya I know buts it's really expensive... In reality it isn't much more than a custom aluminium tank, since for both of them most of the cost is labor and shipping, not material cost. But since it is immune to corrosion, it will outlast the boat.

Stitch and glue fiberglass is probably the cheapest option if you do the work yourself, just make sure to use a diesel comparable epoxy.
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Old 10-10-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

I've been going through this very debate myself -- after 25 yrs, my steel tanks gave up the ghost.

Here's what I've discovered: There is no universal "best material" answer. Each situation is different, and making the right choice will be influenced by many factors.
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Old 10-10-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

If you can keep the aluminum isolated from what it rests on then it can last 30+ years easy. I use G-10 spacer blocks and glue them to the tank with 4200. This prevents any moisture from getting between the G-10 and the alimunum tank. By leaving a dead air space around the tank it will stay dry and corrosion free.

More importantly is how you install it not necessarily what you install. In nearly every case of an aluminum tank having a leak it has been caused by an improper installation.

Proper attention needs to be paid to the cleanliness of the install and the tank should always be vacuumed out before installation. You don't want any dissimilar metals shavings in the tank and this CAN happen during manufacture and install.

The tank should not use any copper alloys for the fittings or dip tubes. This can create a battery inside the tank..

This tank had the deck o-ring seal leak and allowed salt water to enter the tank. The copper dip tube created a "hot corner" when it contacted the salt water and ruined the tank. Had this been a plastic dip tube and aluminum fittings, as it should have been, the tank would have been fine.


The rest of this tank was perfect at close to year 30. The "improper" use of copper tank fittings caused this failure.

There are no issues with aluminum tanks when properly installed and built to ABYC standards. Sadly most of them are improperly installed and thus aluminum gets a bad rap.

I have some boats with 45+ year old aluminum tanks that have never leaked a drop but they were well isolated from sitting in wet spots...

Also consider going up in thickness when you build. Many production boat tanks are built to the MINIMUM ABYC thickness of 0.090 wall (roughly 3/32"). Consider going to 0.125" (1/8") or better yet 0.1875 (3/16").
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

What Maine said....
And, BTW, it's "5000 series" aluminum.

I had a new tank constructed a few years ago by Coastline ( Coastline Equipment, custom marine tanks. )
to gain a major increase in capacity. Original tank had been there since 1988 and never leaked a drop.

Best avoid grp tanks -- increasing amounts of unfriendly added chemicals in what we have to buy nowadays as "diesel", and it's sometimes more difficult to get your insurer to OK it, as well.

I have a thread on tank design and replacement over at the EY.org site, if you want a link just pm me.

L
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Thanks, good info, fellas..
I am leaning towards glass/epoxy tank. I can make a fairly precise shape out of foam block and use that for a male mold... I really need to maximise the use of the space. Another thought...Would glass tank help with condensation inside the tank? Would you add insulation, aka foam sandwich to further reduce sweating?
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Old 10-11-2012
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Re: Diesel fuel tanks, what material is best?

Zalia,

No need to make a mold, just form it from plywood, then glass in the wood. It's a process called 'stitch and glue.' There is tons of information on how to do it, and for one off parts it faster and cheaper than making a mold.

Frankly I have never seen any tank that didn't have some condensation problems. The problem is that air must be allowed to enter into ever tank through the vent, so anytime the humidity is high and the tank is cooler than the air, you get condensation. Tank material really doesn't matter much.
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