Portable Aboveground Gas Stations Are Now Available
In a collaboration set to transform the economic and environmental dynamics of distressed gas stations across the U.S., Gas Pos and AMS have partnered to provide the country’s first turnkey portable aboveground gas station (PAGS) solution. This comes at a time when gas stations, particularly smaller, often family-owned enterprises, face decaying underground tank systems and the resulting insurmountable costs of regulatory “red tagging” and tank renovation. The Gas Pos/AMS PAGS provides a flexible, future-ready, environmentally superior, and 100% compliant solution at a fraction of the cost of underground overhauling.
Joshua Smith, CEO of Gas Pos, says that underground storage tanks are in the midst of a crisis now bubbling up — sometimes even literally — in backyards or playgrounds. The problem stems from a 1999 regulatory change that mandated all underground tanks for petroleum products or other hazardous waste must feature two walls to prevent leaking. Not surprisingly, many stations waited until the deadline to begin installing the more expensive, safer tanks. As a result, stations with tanks older than 23 years are faced with a dual problem: Those tanks are likely out of warranty and are sufficiently aged as to be more prone to leaks and failure. Out-of-warranty tanks may not even be coverable by private insurance, and those that do cover it will likely not do so for an extended time.
As a result, Smith estimates that up to 90% of North America’s roughly 180,000 fueling systems may be in violation of their underground tank storage covenants. Smith would know, as Gas Pos specializes in fueling equipment and gas station point of sale systems. He states that store owners want to be compliant and update their tank systems, but the costs associated with doing so can be crippling.
According to Dr. Ron F. Sickels, with Accredited Fuel Solutions, Inc.: “The average cost of a new gas station with four gas dispensers and associated petroleum equipment such as underground storage tanks, concrete footings, piping, spill buckets, etc. is in the millions. The average cost to replace existing gas station components with new pumps, tanks, and accessories is $200-$300K. Not to mention several months to make these changes compared to several weeks for an Aboveground Storage Tank, (AST) system. This doesn’t take into consideration the environmental impact that Underground Storage Tanks, (UST’s) put on the owner, station location and the ongoing maintenance necessary to stay compliant with the local, state, and federal regulatory agencies. If the location has the necessary footprint to accommodate an AST system utilizing the latest environmentally compliant storage, infrastructure, and dispensing system, you will produce a station that is easier to maintain, environmentally safer, and less costly to install and operate.”
According to Josh Smith: "Both gas station owners and consumers are suffering right now. Store owners often can’t afford to upgrade, leading the state to red tag the station or outright shut them down. In a world where fuel supplies are already limited and gas prices are skyrocketing, taking supply off the market only exacerbates our problems. We’re here to help both owners & consumers."
Putting PAGS in Its Place
North America is quite comfortable with aboveground tank systems. They are commonly used for propane, natural gas, hydrogen, and many other fuels. However, aboveground systems remain extremely rare for gasoline and diesel due to cost and anachronistic regulatory constraints. This contrasts with many markets in Asia, where aboveground fuel systems have been in regular use for nearly three decades. Fortunately, regional and national North American authorities are beginning to understand that a better option now exists.
PAGS use cases typically fall into three scenarios:
1. Replacement. Conventional underground tank upgrading requires digging all tank infrastructure out of the ground, potentially including plumbing and electrical. With PAGS, all underground equipment can potentially be left in place until time and cost make excavation feasible. All PAGS equipment deploys onto the site surface and can typically be running within a short period of time. Gas Pos estimates that PAGS deployment “can be done for 80% less than the cost of digging everything out and dropping in new underground tanks.”
2. New stations. It typically takes about 10 months to go from breaking ground to a finished gas station with underground storage and a convenience store. Again, a PAGS will deploy significantly faster and at roughly one-third the cost of a traditional gas station.
3. Supplementation. Station owners may wish to add a new fuel, such as diesel, while preserving their existing (and perfectly compliant) underground tank systems. PAGS offers this capability in a fraction of the time and cost required for underground additions.
Ethan Henderson, director of operations at AMS, notes that a PAGS can be installed at sites that have never had a gas station. He points to one deployment in Nevada, where the town was built on a large aquifer, and the town council never wanted to risk contamination from an underground fuel system. However, because PAGS technology met all environmental regulations and posed so little long-term risk, the town approved a PAGS gas station.
“We seized on a regulatory change in 2008 that allowed for the development and patenting of several technologies around PAGS innovations,” says Henderson. “It meets UL, ANSI, and other regulations — and then some. The testing process is rigorous for the PAGS UL2085 rating, with tests including 2 hours in a 2,000-degree furnace, 12,000lb per square inch impact testing, and ballistics testing with several high caliber rounds, all of which are performed sequentially to push success to the limit. These systems are incredibly safe, and the regulations for success ensure that.”
Gas Pos’ Smith notes that PAGS are deploying in twenty-two states, and most states are eager to adopt code allowing for PAGS once they learn about its details.
Better for Tomorrow
From an environmental standpoint, not only does PAGS carry far less risk of leaks or other conventional hazards, it also makes installing on-tank filtration for fuel cleaning easy. Filtration removes dirt, sludge, and refining process distillates that creep into tanks over time. Additionally, filtration can prevent ethanol from being tainted by water from ambient moisture in the air, which decreases octane and causes engine problems. Also, owners can easily install cleaning devices on PAGS to prevent algae growth and meet new and emerging fuel standards.
AMS’ Henderson says that he is first and foremost an environmentalist, and he sees PAGS as a bridge to future environmentally friendly fuel solutions. He believes many station owners won’t want to commit to another 20 years of underground tanks at a time when electric and other “green” technologies are gaining market adoption. He notes that AMS has even aligned itself with an EV charging manufacturer so that EV charging can be installed concurrently with PAGS systems, when desired.
“A lot of change will happen in this space over the next five to ten years,” said Henderson. “That means this aboveground solution makes a lot more sense than continuing with underground, because you just don't know what’s coming. The track record for underground tanks, both economically and environmentally, is terrible. PAGS fixes this.”