Machinery fleet and workshop managers face a host of challenges to ensure safe and efficient handling of diesel, petrol, LPG and hazardous automotive service fluids they are called on to store, dispense and use as efficiently and safely as possible.
The issue extends across vehicles of all sizes – from forklifts and vans and rigid trucks, through to semi-trailers and on-road and-off-road mining, construction machinery and earthmoving equipment.
As well as excluding water – which is one of the biggest enemies of fuels – problems with storage and handling of aggressive and volatile substances often come down to valve and seal issues that can sometimes be very difficult to trace and equally hard to fix when found.
“Time-wasting and potentially hazardous sealing issues can recur constantly for years, leaking precious energy and posing safety hazards from liquids, gases and – worst case – explosive and toxic vapours,” says seals and gasket technology specialist Mr Vinh Lam of CSGtech component solutions.
“Correct storage and handling of dangerous goods is one of the most common workplace issues we address. Sometimes companies with a problem come to us at their wits’ end, because they thought they had solved the problem and it comes back time and time again. The problems involved can often come down to tiny, simple and apparently standard parts, such as seals and gaskets in their tankers, tanks and refuelling reticulation systems.”
The problem isn’t as simple as the issue that first meets the eye. “Even if the seal is the right profile and dimensional spec, it can still fail quite quickly if it doesn’t have the right blend of chemical resilience and ongoing sealing flexibility. The same type of part can fail for years, causing downtime, hazard and aggravation in fuel depots across a wide range of transport and industrial plant,” says Mr Lam, who is General Manager of CSGtech, a company dedicated to solving complex challenges involving seals and interfacing surfaces in production, process, reticulation, automation and dispensing technology. The company draws on a network of quality, trusted national and international suppliers of materials used for its custom-engineered products and compliance solutions, which are arrived at in partnership with clients seeking time-efficient and cost-efficient outcomes.
Mr Lam says that, when embarking on a problem-solving partnership, the company with the problem is more likely to advance their solution by preparing a good brief for the seal or gasket specialist.
The right questions
“Obviously, the best approach is proactive rather than reactive. We suggest you pose yourself some simple questions so you can clearly brief specialist suppliers in this specialist field,” he says. Preliminary questions to be addressed in briefing a seal or gasket supplier include:
- What range of applications are we looking at, including fuels and chemical loads?
- What range of materials do we need to seal, including types of pipes and valves?
- What are the operating conditions, including temperatures, chemicals and pressure loads?
- What are the particular traceability, compliance, safety and Standards criteria you must meet or exceed?
- What are the seal/flange conditions? Is there sufficient engineering/load capacity/space available?
- What do you like/not like about solutions currently being used/proposed?
- What is the design life of the joint?
- What is the target price range? Are we basing on price or performance?
“Seal and gasket material improvement is a fast-moving field, which is constantly moving forward to keep up with increased requirements for new technologies, new operating pressure, and new process fluids.”
“And older seal and gasket solutions may fail under the impact of new operating requirements – or contact with new fluids with which they are no longer ideally compatible. Sometimes too the old solution may do the job passably for a defined period, but there may be a new material available that will do it for longer and better.”
“The better you brief a seals and gaskets specialist, the better, quicker and cost-efficiently they can find options for you. It is in the interests of all concerned – the fuel and substance handling manufacturer, equipment user and safety compliance staff – to have this happen at the outset of production or problem-solving initiatives. Delay typically costs money, lost time and market opportunity – and possibly needless hazard.”