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Increase In Tank Storage Highlighted As Major Challenge


Tank Storage has long been an important factor in maintaining the capacity and continuity of chemical processes, particularly at a large-scale industrial level. But the indications are that the challenge has been made much steeper by the pandemic, which has raised demand for storage capacity.

As well as processing plants that will require additional elements like automatic tank gauging systems, there is also increased demand for food storage, a key issue at a time when travel constraints have impacted on the way food and other fast moving consumer goods are moved from producer to consumer.

In addition, there is also the longer-term trend of the overall growth of the food and beverage sector to consider, not least in developing countries.

Speaking to South African website Engineering News, market development manager for stainless steel supplier Columbus Stainless Lerato Mashigo said: “The food and beverage sector continues to grow and, with that, we continue to see positive movements in the fabrication industry to support this growing demand.”

However, she noted, this does vary from country to country; growth in South Africa itself has been held back by Covid-19 restrictions on the sale of alcohol, stunting the expansion of the industry.

Even so, the overall high demand for stainless steel does put pressure on suppliers. Ms Mashigo noted that this is particularly so in the food and drink sector, where the materials used in storage tanks “are required to have hygienic properties”.

“This means that no measurable chemical reaction should occur between the metal surface and the food source to prevent contamination,” she added.

For this reason, she stated, those choosing the materials for tanks should look towards stainless steel. While she acknowledged that the “initial material cost” is greater, this comes with the advantage of lower long-term costs on maintenance, fabrication and lifespan.

With these factors taken into consideration, Ms Mashigo noted, “stainless steel is considered the most cost-effective metal.”

The future of the storage tank sector is certainly the subject of much attention. A new report by Comtex on the tank storage sector has noted that the pandemic has clearly had a disruptive effect, but it still forecasts growth around the world in the storage sector over the course of the 2020s.

Among the areas studied concerns the implications of these developments on container shipping.  This is, of course, an area that has held the attention of everyone involved in supply chains and storage recently due to the incident with the Ever Given in the Suez Canal.

The fact that the vessel held up traffic in one of the world’s busiest waterways for a week, with the subsequent backlog taking several more days to clear, may have highlighted to many the need for everyone from food and drink firms to those involved in chemical processing plants to ensure they have a greater on-site storage capacity, so that any output is not impeded.

While enquiries go on to establish what went wrong with the huge container ship, the knock-on effects of this incident may focus minds on how to maintain capacity in the event of future supply disruption.