Fuel tanks are found in various sizes and applications. Of course, we think of our automobile fuel tanks frequently as that is the tank, we have the most experience with. But fuel tanks are present not only in residential applications such as lawnmowers, weed eaters and tractors but also in industrial and aerospace applications. Every combustion engine offers some sort of fuel tank of varying size and configuration. Fuel tank inspections are not something that is required often, but when it is required, you want to make sure that you have the right tool for the job.
Because the tank, (whether it be gasoline or diesel fuel) holds a combustible liquid and gas the area is considered a hazardous inspection area or explosive environment. Whether the tank still has measurable liquid in the tank or just residual fuel and fumes the area is still considered hazardous and requires specialized and certified borescopes to complete the inspection.
Why would someone need to inspect a fuel tank? There are many reasons. Perhaps there is physical contamination that needs to be identified, mechanical parts or valves that need to be inspection or for police and customs inspection professionals there is a need to search for contraband. In addition, there could be tank cracks that need to be identified. Of course, cracks on the outside of a tank are much easier to inspect and document. These tanks could contain other hazardous and explosive chemicals that are not necessary used in combustion engines, but still need to be inspected internally.
Customarily there are 4 main reasons to inspect a fuel tank:
- Confirm the Stability and Performance of the tank: Older fuel tanks, especially those made of metal, inherently are at greater risk of breaking down and being compromised. Borescope tank inspections can identify internal issues that may warrant corrective action or replacement.
- Inspect the inside walls of synthetically lined tanks: Several modern fuel tanks are lined with protective coatings to prevent leakage. Using a certified borescope for explosive environments allows you to visually inspect the entire lined area of a fuel tank.
- Identify reasons for clogs with the fuel filter: Many modern fuel tanks in automobiles offer a non-serviceable fuel filter. A clogged fuel filter can result in lost performance as well as trouble starting, acceleration issues, engine sputtering as well as engine misfires. The gas tank borescope will allow you to enter the tank and inspect the in-tank fuel filter.
- Identify contamination and debris inside the tank: In time, debris can enter the fuel tank. Debris such as dust, dirt, sand, and other sediments can be found inside the fuel tank. A fuel tank full of dirt and contamination will make it hard for the fuel pump to push the fuel into the engine at the first start.
For most car gas tank inspections, a borescope with 2 meters (6.6 feet) is sufficient. This length is long enough to enter the supply path from outside the car and down into the fuel tank. Most all of the gas tank borescopes will provide at least 2-way articulation, and most will offer 4-way articulation. This will allow you to manipulate the tip of the probe to scan the entire area of the gas tank. Of course, with the introduction of Hybrid automotive engines it doesn’t remove the need for gas tank inspections as these engines still require a gasoline tank.
Airplane fuel tank inspection, helicopter fuel tank inspections and automotive fuel tank inspections are most common. Even though many of the fuel tank manufacturers have moved to fuel tanks with a plastic or synthetic configuration there is still a need to inspect the fuel tank. Usually, these smaller fuel tanks can be inspected with a smaller diameter borescope (6-8mm) with articulation. Usually these inspection are carried out with a Certified Explosion Proof Borescope that offers at minimum Class 1 Division 2 borescope rating. These Hazardous Inspection Cameras are available in diameters in 4, 6 or 8mm diameters with various lengths. The borescope fuel tank inspection is used for maintenance, repairs, contraband inspection or for law enforcement training.
The different types of fuels are:
What’s the difference between regular and premium gas?
Regular gas is rated at 87 octane in most states, while premium gas is often rated higher at 91 or 93. Fuel with a higher octane rating can stand up to higher compression before it detonates. Basically, the higher the octane rating, the lower the likelihood that detonation happens at the wrong time. On occasion, this singular occurrence will likely not harm your gas-powered vehicle. However, if it happens on a consistent basis, it may quicken the decline of your engine’s performance. Engines with high compression ratios or turbochargers often require high octane fuel found in premium gas for optimal performance and fuel efficiency. However, the majority of cars on the road today are optimized to run on regular gas.
Of course, before you start any inspection in a hazardous environment you should consult with your in-house Health and Safety department to determine what precautions need to be taken and whether you will be required to have a Confined Space Permit or any required PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). OSHA offers specific guidelines when working with Confined Spaces or functions that could expose someone to harmful chemicals. For some of these tasks there is a certification process that must be obtained prior to attempting these functions. Specifically, the Confined Space Permit will require that there is a designated Supervisor as well as attendants that can successfully perform rescue operations if there is a failure or injury during the inspection process. The entry will also require that you confirm air quality with an air quality monitor. The only way to safely detect a hazardous atmosphere is with a “calibrated direct reading instrument” as described in OSHA’s confined space standard 29 CFR 1910.146. A gas monitor is not the only component of an effective gas detection program.
The actual tanks to inspect could range in size form ounces to hundreds of gallons. Depending on the size of the container, the entry point for the camera and what is target inspection area, you may choose from a range of inspection devices.
For the smaller passenger vehicle, tractor, or commercial road vehicles the smaller diameter borescope will typically work well. We do recommend that you also source a gas tank flap holder. This device is used primarily by law enforcement and Customs Agents and allows a channel to introduce the borescope probe into the gas tank. This prevents the gas tank flap from crimping the probe and causing damage. The gas tank borescope will allow you to see into the tank pipe that supplies fuel to the tank and the inside of the tank that is not visible to the human eye. There are Class I Dive II videoscope as well as a Class I Div II fiberscope available to perform this inspection. The explosion proof videoscope is usually more popular and convenient as it provides on board capabilities to take pictures and record videos. The hazardous inspection fiberscope does provide very good imaging but does not easily provide the ability to take pictures and videos of the gas tank inspection.
When it comes to drug or contraband inspection equipment, USA Borescopes is frequently one of the first name to come to mind for law enforcement agencies around the country.
While USA Borescopes offers a wide variety of contraband and drug detection borescopes that can be used in gas tanks and other explosive environments, we also offer a number of inspection systems for Homeland Security and Border Patrol.
Our Law Enforcement borescopes are designed to allow the officer to quickly inspect the suspect vehicle gas tank, air ducts or door cavity for contraband in just a matter of minutes.
For the ventilation vents of a vehicle, we offer a flexible guide but that allows the officer to enter the vent panels without causing any damage to the vehicle of the borescope probe. This flexible borescope guide tube is 80 inches in length which is typically more than enough length to inspect the entire air path of a vehicle.
There is a gas tank opener device that will keep the fuel door of cars open to introduce the gas tank borescope. The purpose of the fuel door or the gas tank filler neck is to allow gasoline to enter the gas tank when introduced to the gas nozzle without having it spill back on you. The gas tank open wedge keeps this flap open while you introduce the borescope into the tank. This prevents the borescope probe from being pinched by the pressure of the flap and causing damage. For a number of Illegal drugs transporters, they feel that the gas tank is an opportune area to transport drugs as they feel that this is an area where a drug sniffing dog could not identify their payload.
We also offer a window wedge that will allow an Officer to introduce the borescope to either the exterior or interior of the door to look inside the door panels. This is a very common place for drugs to be stored as that are not visible to the average search. The borescope window wedge in simply introduced to the seal of the window and provide a gap to introduce the police borescope without causing any damage to the vehicle.
Today, Explosion Proof borescopes are widely used by police, Homeland Security, SWAT and other law enforcement and government agencies. These Explosion Proof borescopes are in demand due to not only the confidence and security of knowing that the system has been tested and proven safe for these volatile environments but also for their ease of use and ability to document findings. This police borescope or security borescope offers the ability to capture images and videos with the push of a button. Documenting findings with a time and date stamp that proves to be necessary for law enforcement professionals. The lightweight and handheld design of this certified borescopes makes the stressful job of identifying and capturing evidence much more manageable.
For larger tanks you may require an inspection camera with a larger diameter. Typically, larger diameters will provide greater output as the design and configuration allow for more lighting to be supplied. The P374 is a Certified Class 0 Inspection camera system. The P374 Camera is designed mainly for pipes with diameters greater than 2 inches. The P374 Intrinsically Safe inspection camera is available with 200 feet of working length and 1 inch diameter camera head. For use with tank inspection, we recommend a non-conductive pole with the Pole Cat accessory to allow you to view the sides of the tank. The Pole Cat attaches to the camera section and allows you to fix the camera head to any angle. We typically see the need for the P374 Inspection Camera requirement for in ground storage fuel tanks, specifically at gas stations.
Not all storage tanks, fuel tanks, chemical tanks or containers are designed the same or inspected the same but the ultimate goal of inspections is to ensure safety and serviceable conditions at current levels as well as for the future.
Individual situations may vary, but safety inspection for an explosive environment will generally include the following things:
- Emergency Procedures. There should be emergency procedures for fire, spillage, accidents an equipment failure.
- Emergency Numbers
- Emergency Stop or Cut off valves
- PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
- Safety Equipment.
- Site plan and Risk assessment.
Contact your Health and Safety Professional for safety precautions and requirements.
The Certified Explosive Environment Borescopes typically offer a higher cost of initial ownership. If your specific borescope inspection does not require this type of borescope inspection camera you may choose from our standard industrial borescope line.
If you have any questions about our Certified Explosive Borescope equipment, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have trained professionals that have years of experience to assist you.