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Hot cutting the tanks

When the Royal Holloway University of London wanted to expand the available area in its listed Boiler House building, used as a performance space for the drama department, it called in the expertise of DP Fuel Tank Services (DP FTS) to remove two giant fuel tanks.

Up until 1968, the 19th century building, near Egham in Surrey, was literally a boiler house, providing heat and power for the entire college, and then the boilers and generators were taken out and the massive open space that remained was turned into a performance facility. The two 120,000ltr fuel tanks that fed the boilers and generators were left in place until this year, when DP FTS was asked to begin the process of turning the space into a dance studio.

As the room operated as a containment bund for the tanks, the first thing DP FTS had to do was to pump out more than 20cm of contaminated water that had accumulated across the whole of the 22m x 10m floor.

The next step was to remove about 34,000ltr of water and 6,450ltr of contaminated gasoil from the two tanks and tanker it away for proper disposal.

The only access to the tank room was a small hatch, part way up the wall, so the second task was to knock through a doorway large enough to bring equipment in and the metal of the tank out.

Although they had recently contained gasoil, the tanks had been originally built to hold heavy oil, so they were constructed from 9mm thick steel, which had to be hot cut into sections that could be easily handled.

As well as two people in full PPE and breathing apparatus carrying out the cutting, because of the size of the tanks and the confinement of the room the operation required the construction of scaffolding platforms for safe working at height, and two people solely devoted to fire watching. Two powerful air inductors were also used to help with smoke removal.

As well as the two main tanks, DP FTS had to also remove a 1100 ltr fibreglass tank, originally installed to draw water from a sump hole in the tank room floor. Before work could start on this 2,000ltrs of contaminated water had to be pumped out and safely disposed of.

Finally, 280m of associated pipework had to be taken out and sent for recycling, the room jet washed clean and all water removed.

Visit our Commercial Oil Tanks page for more information and to see a video of Royal Holloway University