Preparedness blog

How to Store Fuel Properly

By Jeff and Amy Davis
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Fuel is one of the most important things that you can use in an emergency. Whether it powers a car, generator, or stove; you’ll need to make sure that you store fuel safely and that it is ready for when you need it. Handle all fuels with care. Remember that all of these could light at a moment’s notice. We’ve collected a few tips on how to properly store different types of fuels, where you should store them, and how long they can store.

Containers for liquid fuel
When storing fuel, or other fire-starting material, you’ll want to make sure to put them in a different colored container. Most of the time, liquid fuels are stored in red containers. At a minimum, containers should be obviously labeled.

Make sure that containers are sturdy, reliable and have a good seal on them. You want to make sure that the fuel won’t leak. You should also consider a container that isn’t clear or translucent.

Gasoline
The American Petroleum Institute recommends that you only store gasoline for up to two years. This recommendation does not include gasoline that has been treated with a stabilizer.

There are many types of stabilizers on the shelf that can get your gasoline to store for a few years longer.

While I've used gasoline that has been stored for years on my lawn mower, using "stale" gasoline that has been stored for a long time can have some diverse effects on your motor. The recommendation for 1-2 years of shelf-life would provide optimal gasoline.

Diesel Fuel
Surprisingly, diesel doesn't have a very long shelf-life. It can only last for 6-12 months.

The problem with storing diesel is that it begins to oxidize as soon as it leaves the refinery. Sediments begin to form that would clog the motor. This reaction can be slowed by keeping the fuel cooler and by adding stabilizers. The condensation from the gasoline can also form algae.

Some people who store diesel for a long time (the Navy, gas companies) use methods to stabilize their supply. These methods can be pretty expensive though.

We recommend that you store only a maximum of two-month’s worth of diesel at a time and empty the canisters into your car or generator when you rotate. (Thanks to Oblio13’s blog for the insight.)

Kerosene
Kerosene is one of the easiest fuels to store, and is more versatile than most people think. It does not evaporate as readily as gasoline and will remain stable in storage with no special treatment.

Kerosene has a shelf-life of about three months in a plastic container. Storing kerosene for longer than that can result in bacteria and mold forming in the container.

When you store the kerosene, be sure to label the container properly. You want to make sure that it doesn’t mix with gasoline or another type of fuel. You should store your kerosene in a different color container than gas to ensure that they are not mistakenly mixed.

Be sure to store the kerosene outdoors but protected from direct sunlight. Prolonged sunlight can degrade the kerosene.

 

ButaneStore Fuel properly

Butane isn’t as popular of a fuel as gasoline or kerosene but many people use the fuel for lighters or other small fire starters. Many backpacking kits use butane fuel.

"Butane comes in pressurized containers and the canisters are required, by law, to have instructions on the label regarding storage and usage of the product. Following the instructions will ensure that you keep your butane supply safe.

Proper storage is the first element in butane safety. Keep it in a safe place at home that is out of any children's reach. Many containers can withstand even high temperatures. Even if you live in a climate that is rather warm, your butane should still store well ... find a dry and cool place, out of the direct sunlight and away from any other sources of extreme heat.

Additionally, also make sure that the tip of the butane container is not damaged or clogged. If the tip is damaged or is clogged through use, remove the clog or throw away the container and buy a new one." (Read the Ebay article.)

Propane TankPropane

You’ll obviously want to store your propane in a well-ventilated area outdoors. Make sure that your propane tank is stored upright - probably on a concrete slab.

Don’t store the propane tank next to anything flammable. Also ensure that it is stored in an area where a large amount of water will not fall on the tank - for example, next to a gutter or in the open under the rainfall.

Never store the propane in a house or garage. Click here to read Propane 101’s article about proper propane safety.

Charcoal
Charcoal is a great option for cooking fuel. They might get your hands a little bit messier but that’s not always a bad thing. The good thing is that you can store this dry fuel inside your home! However, never cook with charcoal indoors!

You can store charcoal in a dry location - like a bin or metal canister. You can also make a waterproof container by placing the charcoal in a bucket and use a gamma lid to seal the top. This should keep the briquets by not letting moisture into the bucket!

Coal
According to the Fireplace Supplier Register, coal can be stored in damp places without harming it. It can also be retained in areas that have little or no protection from the rain and snow. If you choose, so you don't have to handle wet coal, you can cover it outside with tarps to keep it dry.

Store bagged coal inside the bags until you're ready to use it. It will be easier to store it and carry it to the stove. Coal either comes by the bag or by the truckload (if you order several tons). Loose coal is easier to contain if it's stored in wooden bins, but it's not necessary. (Reference to the eHow article.)

Firewood
Avoid the temptation to keep a lot of firewood in your home. You can obviously carry in a few logs indoors at a time, but the best location to store firewood is outdoors. It’s recommended that you keep your firewood at least 30 feet away from your house - not leaning against the house, next to the door. Ideally, wood should be kept off the ground too.

You can make a simple firewood holder out of two-by-fours in order to stack the wood properly. Be sure to stack the larger pieces of wood on the bottom of the pile. This will help the pile from leaning or falling over. Here is an article on how to build a firewood caddy.

You’ll want to use a cover to protect the wood from getting wet. You can purchase a specific log rack cover or a simple tarp will do. Make sure that the cover is secured so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.

You may notice that there are some bugs in your firewood. Do not spray your wood with insecticide! This can seep into the wood and fume in your house when you burn the log. Instead, the best thing to do is dry out the wood as quickly as possible. This will encourage most of the bugs to leave the wood.
Matches
charcoalThere are a variety of matches out there. Avoid placing cheap matchbooks in your kits and emergency supplies. They can absorb moisture a lot easier.

Instead, focus on matches that are waterproof and have longer stems. This will allow you to light things from a safe distance and make sure that your matches are safe from moisture.

If you don’t have waterproof matches, you can place your matches in a waterproof container. Make sure that the container is a thick plastic and isn’t stored in direct sunlight.

Remember to check out these useful emergency cooking and fuel items so you are always self-sufficient.

10 years ago
Comments
lynn
10 years ago at 12:32 AM
You can make your own waterproof matches by dipping standard wooden matches in melted paraffin, to give them a thin coat of wax.
Bob
10 years ago at 3:09 AM
Having tried gas preservatives StaBil and Seafoam,the Seafoam wins hands down. Tried the StaBil and you have a extremely hard time trying to start engines in the Spring after winter storage. The Seafoam was no problem starting my mower and generators. From experiance!
Shreech
10 years ago at 4:53 AM
I agree with Rick's comments above. I store gas in steel 55 gal drums. I stabilize, remove and replace 5 to 10 gal about every 3-4 months. The new gas has stabilizers in it and the old gas gets diluted with the new gas in my SUV (flex fuel). I have been doing this for 3 yrs with no starting/running problems. For a test I ran the truck on 100% old gas which was 2.5 yr old on average. No starting problems whatsoever. So I recommend my system to you if you are going to store gas long term. SRR. Stabilize, remove, replace. Also if using steel drums I recommend you ground them with a copper grounding rod and alligator clips to the drums.
Don Juan
10 years ago at 5:23 AM
I agree with Shreech and Icon. I've been storing fuels for several years now. Gas has a good 1 year shelf life with stabilizers added. Aditionally you rotate 10-20% out every couple of month and it becomes stable for life. Diesel, along with additives can last over a year. I have 2, 100 gallon tanks. I rotate 10-15 galons out of each every month. Kerosene....I don't think this stuff ever goes bad. Keep in mind also, all fuels need to be kept out of light and as cool as possible and rotate a percentage out regularly. I think the people that give thesde products a 2 month rating are the people that sell them. Kinda like cannned goods.
Tom
10 years ago at 6:38 AM
I also use a stabilizer with my gas storage and rotate like the others have mentioned and have had no problems in over 6 years of storing and using. One thing I suggest is to keep the fuel cans, metal or plastic, on wood above the concrete to avoid direct contact with the concrete surface. Years ago I was told this helps to avoid moisture buildup inside the cans during the changes in temperatures. I live in Missouri so we go from one extreme to another with lots of humidity. I have my fuel cans lined up so the oldest is used first. I keep the fuel tanks in my generator, lawn equipment and whatever filled to the max with as little air as possible. With the generator I rotate the fuel out once a year and use it in my vehicles replacing the fuel with new treated fuel. I have a tag on the generator that shows the fuel change date as well as the oil change and testing dates.
Denise
10 years ago at 7:40 AM
I agree with the above comments. I have almost all of the above mentioned fuel sources for use and emergencies. The Ready Store is suppose to help us with long term storage ideas and info, not short term. The safety comments are great but what do we do for long term emergencies??? I have enough kerosene to last for a winter in my garage stored in 30 gallon barrels (4 of them, suggested by Utah States Emergency and Disaster department). Utah state and the place I bought the fuel said with stablizer it can last as much as 15-20 years in the right conditions. It will turn a litte dark but will work just fine. Have had it 3 years now and used it a couple times ice fishing and works beautifully. The Ready Store needs give us useful info with good research or I am going to stop receiving emails from them!
John
10 years ago at 8:50 AM
It's probably a good idea to check your homeowner's insurance for limits on the amount of fuel you can store in an insured structure. I think my policy limits me to 5 gallons of gas.
Cindi
10 years ago at 9:08 AM
Can you show us a picture of the 'grounding' method described....I've no idea how to do the copper wire thing...and where do you get steel cans in Utah for storage?
kevin
10 years ago at 10:06 AM
i use finger nail polish to make water proff match it better then using wax and it dont gum up
Terry
10 years ago at 1:17 PM
I usually purchase 25gallons of gas for my generator in May or June, using 5 numbered 5gal gas cans. I purchase premium grade which seems to store better (or maybe I just think it does). Over the course of the summer, it gets rotated by filling the mower, then refilling that container, using a different container each time. Around mid-November I will add the cans to my vehicle gas tank, then start over the following spring. I have never had a problem with fuel used and rotated in this manner. I suppose, in reality I should keep the 5 containers full year-round. Maybe I will start this year.
sharlo
9 years ago at 10:05 PM
Will it harm charcole briquetes to store them on a concrete surface.
Believe All Things
9 years ago at 5:06 PM
For those of you storing gas in barrels or drums, which ones do you recommend? Also, do you store them in a shed or shelter away from your residence?
Bill
9 years ago at 7:13 AM
What is the best way to store Coleman fuel? How long does it last?
Greg
9 years ago at 7:37 AM
Keep It Simple: If you want to store gas long term, use non-ethanol gas & PRI-G. The neighborhood gas station has 10% ethanol and will go bad quickly. The ethanol is the culpit. Purchase gas from a small airport or a marina. Not all marina's are ethanol free, so make sure you ask. Store in well sealed metal has cans and your good for years. DO NOT use Stabil it has a short shelf life! Go to pure-gas.org for a list of ethanol free gas.
aviator
8 years ago at 1:53 PM
Duh... do NOT buy gas from an airport to use in generators or your car. All aviation gas (such as 100 octane Low Lead, or 100LL Which is blue in volor) contain LEAD. Unless your engines are 40 yrs old and require lead you will cause severe damage to your engine from overly hot combustion gasses and burn out your emissions systems. It will also require you to remove and clean your spark plugs with a brush every 100 hours of operation.
Dan
8 years ago at 4:59 PM
Having burned coal for many decades I don't agree with the claims that it can be stored outside uncovered. Eastern coal tends to be harder than what we have out west so this might not apply there. When I've left coal out it has turned from hard solid like lumps to crumbling, easily busted pieces, that are harder to start on fire and seem to produce less heat. Old crumbly coal will still burn but best storage practices would be to keep it in a weather protected coal bin and the fresher from the ground the better.
John
7 years ago at 10:32 AM
Would it be safer to store a plastic gasoline can in a metal box tithe holes in the metal box in case the gasoline ignites?
John Nylander
6 years ago at 2:47 PM
Can I store gasoline safely near a garage refrigerator? The fridge is about 3 feet from small. red plastic gasoline containers.
Joe
6 years ago at 11:47 AM
First Denise - you say " The Ready Store needs give us useful info with good research or I am going to stop receiving emails from them!" I didn't realize you were paying a subscription fee to get the information from the Ready Store. It's free girl. Stop complaining. Secondly, I get rid of old gasoline by letting it evaporate in the hot summer sun. Put it in a container and let it sit out in the sun. I also pour small amounts of it on my street so it will evaporate.