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MATERIALS FORUM VOLUME 30 - 2006

Edited by R. Wuhrer and M. Cortie


Institute of Materials Engineering Australasia Ltd

ALUMINIUM GEODESIC DOME ROOFS FOR BOTH NEW TANKS AND
TANK RETROFIT PROJECTS.

M. Doxey and M.Trinidad

HMT Pte. Ltd. (Singapore), Industrial Park 2A, #05-01, AMK Techlink, Singapore 567761
email: mdoxey@hmttank.com or mtrinidad@hmttank.com


ABSTRACT

Aluminium geodesic dome roofs that meet the design requirements of API-650, Appendix G are increasingly specified
for new tank construction projects and as a retrofit option on existing tanks. These domes utilise aluminiums light
weight inherent strength, corrosion resistance with low maintenance to span unsupported diameters of up to 60 metres.
This growing trend is based on numerous factors and this paper describes the various issues in detail.

Keywords: Aluminium, Corrosion Resistance and Emissions


1. HISTORY

While more than 10,000 aluminium domes have been
installed on petrochemical storage tanks in the United
States, only a fraction of that number have been
installed in the rest of the world. Although aluminium
domes have been in service on petrochemical storage
tanks in the United States since the 1970s, they only
began to be used in the rest of the world in the 1990s.
One possible reason for this is that the largest suppliers
of aluminium domes US based and selling
internationally is not something a company does until it
reaches a certain size. In a more general way, terminal
operators are a little suspicious of they regard as new
technology, which may help to explain why
aluminium domes, with their host of advantages, are
not used more widely. Another source or resistance
may be tank builders, who may prefer to build a steel
roof than buy an aluminium dome and install it as they
make more profit if they build the roof themselves. At
the customer level, some terminal operators may still
be unaware of the technology, or have doubts about its
performance and durability. Some tank farm operators
remain cautious about using aluminium for roofs due to
concerns about its strength and ability to withstand
turbulence but aluminium is equal in strength to steel
while being one-third the weight. Aluminium is a
light, trivalent, ductile and malleable metal. It is non-
sparking, non-magnetic and corrosion resistant.
Therefore attitudes are starting to change. Certain tank
builders recognise the benefits of aluminium domes
and are an advocate for them and more projects for
petroleum plants and chemical facilities, domes are
being specified by the customer.


2. MATERIALS

The primary factors in choosing materials for
aluminium geodesic dome manufacturing are as
follows:

Climate / exposure to elements
Structural strength
Corrosion resistance
Compatible with the product to be stored and
the surrounding environment
Cost considerations

The structural components and connections of the
aluminium geodesic dome roof are lightweight
extrusions fabricated from 6061-T6 or other recognized
alloy. The triangular non-structural panels are cut to
size, formed from series 3000 or 5000 aluminium sheet
with a minimum nominal thickness of 1.20mm (0.050
in.).

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Figure 1. Structural extrusions

Figure 2. Triangular panels


All bolting and fasteners are either:

7075-T73 aluminium,
2024-T4 aluminium; or
Austenitic stainless steel.

Only austenitic stainless steel fasteners are acceptable
when attaching aluminium to steel.

The gasket and sealing materials shall be compatible
with the stored product and remain flexible over a
temperature range of -60oC to +150oC (-80oF to
+300oF) without tearing, cracking or becoming brittle.

Skylight panels if fitted are fabricated from a minimum
of 6mm (0.25 in.) acrylic or polycarbonate sheet


3. API-650, APPENDIX G DESIGN
REQUIREMENTS

This appendix of the American Petroleum Institutes
(API) aboveground storage tank design code, API-650
establishes the minimum criteria for the design,
fabrication and erection of structurally supported
aluminium dome roofs. APIs definition of a
structurally supported dome roof is that the roof is a
fully triangulated aluminium space truss with the struts
joined at points arrayed on the surface of a sphere.
Aluminium closure panels are firmly attached to the
frame members. The roof is attached to and supported
by the tank at mounting points equally spaced around
the perimeter of the tank. Further minimum design
criteria include:

Unless otherwise specified by the purchaser,
the internal design pressure shall not exceed
the weight of the roof.
Structural supports for the roof shall be bolted
or welded to the tank.
Unless another method is specified by the
purchaser, aluminium shall be isolated from
carbon steel by an austenitic stainless steel
spacer or an elastomeric isolator bearing pad.
The maximum dome radius shall be 1.7 times
the tank diameter. The minimum dome radius
shall be 0.7 times the tank diameter unless
otherwise specified by the purchaser.
If skylights are specified by the purchaser,
each skylight shall be furnished with a curb of
4 or higher (to prevent ingress) and shall be
designed for live and wind loads.


Figure 3. Bolted structural support

Figure 4. Isolator bearing pad
ASSEMBLING AND TYPICAL
ATTACHMENT DETAIL
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4. REASONS FOR CHOOSING ALUMINIUM
GEODESIC DOME ROOFS

With some tanks more than others, there are issues
where having an aluminium geodesic dome roof would
be advantageous. For instance, it can help with odour
control and other emission control issues. Some
typical categories of products that might be stored
under a floating deck and aluminium geodesic dome
would include:

Petroleum
Water
Wastewater
Chemical

The main benefit of a aluminium geodesic dome roof
would be the long term maintenance cost savings.
Usually a cone roof is less expensive than an
aluminium geodesic dome but a cost saving can be
realized over the life of the aluminium geodesic dome
roof due to lower maintenance costs. Increasing
construction costs and rising steel prices for traditional
storage tank roofs have further enhanced the
desirability of aluminium geodesic dome roofs. In the
long run the aluminium dome roof is proven more cost
effective.

Aluminium geodesic dome roofs are often specified
when vapour space corrosion is expected to be a
concern. Vapour space corrosion occurs in the vapour
space of tanks, above the product on the underside of
the roof and the top of the internal surfaces of the tank
shell. Vapour space corrosion is accelerated by the
presence of moisture condensing on the walls and roof
as the temperature varies throughout the day and the
night. In the alternating wet and dry conditions, the
concentrations of corrosive compounds are often
increased. The rate of corrosion is often most severe at
the interface between the vapour and the liquid.





Figure 5 Tank corrosion mechanisms











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Figure 6 Roof plate perforations from vapour space corrosion

5. EXTERNAL FLOATING ROOFS (EFR)
VERSUS INTERNAL FLOATING ROOFS (IFR)
WITH ALUMINIUM GEODESIC DOME ROOF

External floating roofs (EFR) have a seal that goes all
the way around the perimeter of the floating deck. The
EFR deck, seals and the inner surface of the tank shell
are all exposed to the elements. In high humidity areas
the inner surface of the tank shell quickly becomes
corroded and will cause the seal envelope to fail
prematurely. EFRs require roof drainage which in the
advent of sustained heavy rain or snow can become
overwhelmed resulting in the roof sinking, normally
destroying the roof.

The design and construction of EFRs, especially the
larger diameter double deck type is complex and costly
requiring a lot of steel plate material. A tank fitted
with an aluminium geodesic dome roof with a Internal
Floating Roof (IFR) either aluminium or glass
reinforced plastic design and construction is less
complex with all the components being field
assembled.



Figure 7. Topside of EFR showing heavy corrosion debris from
inner shell surface


Figure 8. Destroyed EFR after sinking

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Figure 9. Aluminium IFR

Figure 10. GRP Vapour vault IFR


A direct comparison between EFRs and IFR fitted with an aluminium geodesic dome is shown in the table below:



Maintenance
(20 years)
Painting

Seal System

Drainage
System

EFR Material:- Steel



During the
operating
lifetime of the
tank, at least one
major repair is
required after 10-
15 years of
operation

Sand blast
cleaning and
painting is
frequently
required after
10 years
operation,
particularly on
topside of
EFR.
May require
replacement of
the Seal system
after 10 years of
operation

May require
replacement of
the Drain
system after 10
-15 years of
operation

IFR With Aluminum Dome


Maintenance free
No painting
required of
fixed roof.
Protects any
coatings on
IFR.

Replacement of
the seal may be
required after
10 years of
operation.
Replacement
seals for
converted roof
are less
expensive.

No drainage
system
required



6. RETROFITTING EXISTING TANKS

Why fit an aluminium geodesic dome over an existing
external floating roof? This is a logical question and
there are many legitimate reasons. Take a military
situation, for instance. Satellite technology could
possibly determine how much product is left in military
supply tanks based upon the level of the EFR. An
aluminium geodesic dome over the EFR would prevent
detection of empty or low supply.

Keeps rain and snow from entering the tank
and contaminating product.
No chance of roof sinking in extreme weather
Prevents corrosion of the steel roof by
eliminating standing water.
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Protects existing tank internal coating and
seals from UV and environmental damages
Environmental Regulations. Emissions are
further reduced. Product is preserved. Odors
are controlled.

One of the least expensive alternatives to
cover an existing tank.
Minimal weight has insignificant effect on
foundation design making retrofit easier.
Future parts replacements are less expensive.





Figure 11. Aluminium geodesic dome being fitted over existing EFR


7. CONCLUSION

The advantages of aluminium domes are primarily to
do with maintenance. In the 25-plus years that
aluminium domes have been in service, they have been
shown to be the most durable roofs for petrochemical
tanks. In spite of the fact that few aluminium domes for
petrochemical tanks are painted or coated, there have
been no reports of corrosion. This durability will lead
to more and more customers making aluminium
geodesic domes a first preference on both new projects
and repairing of existing tankage.


References

1. Aboveground Storage Tanks, by Philip E.
Myers, McGraw Hill, New York, USA.
2. API-650 Welded Steel Tanks for Oil Storage,
American Petroleum Institute, Tenth Edition,
Addendum 3, November 2003.
3. API-571 Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed
Equipment in the Refining Industry, American
Petroleum Institute, First Edition, December
2003.
4. Aboveground Storage Tanks : Corrosion,
Monitoring And Assessment, by Michael
Trinidad and Luis Carro, presented at the
Corrosion and Prevention conference held by
the ACA in Perth, Australia, 2004.
5. API-653 Tank Inspection, Repair, Alteration
and Reconstruction, American Petroleum
Institute, Third Edition, Addendum 1,
September 2003.

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