How long will an underground propane tank last?

propane tank in a garden

The Need for Underground Propane Tanks

Living out in rural areas, life is much different. Less traffic, neighbors are distanced, water comes from a well, and sewage is going into a septic tank. Electricity is typically available by the power company by extending wires from existing poles, then hooking the home up to a meter. However, some homeowners prefer to have gas as a source of energy, which brings us to the choice of above-ground or underground propane tank installation. 

Are underground propane tanks safe?

Above ground or underground propane tanks are intrinsically safe and should there be any propane leak, the soil or water will not be harmed by the propane. The underground propane tank regulations that have been established by the federal and local governments require that specific standards be followed in the construction and burial process.

Each unground propane tank must pass certain underground propane tank testing before they are released for use by the public, for commercial or residential use. Once a tank is installed at a customer’s site, they become responsible for protecting and the upkeep of their underground propane tank in addition to regular testing and recertification. The four main responsibilities of an underground propane tank owner are:

  • The general maintenance
  • Protecting the tank from corrosion and leaks
  • Protecting the tank against flooding and other extreme weather conditions
  • Have a complete and thorough understanding of the warnings, terms, and conditions of the warranty

The only person that should install and service an underground propane tank is a certified and qualified service technician. Even if you have outright purchased the propane tank, it should only be maintained and serviced by a technician of the same consideration. 

Can underground propane tanks leak?      

It is rare this happens, but yes, there can be leaks from an underground propane tank. However, not from the tank, but the lines connected to the underground propane tank. The leak is easy to find simply by smell. 

While natural and propane gas is odorless, the chemical Mercaptan is added to the product that creates an odor. That odor, like rotten eggs, will help you find where the underground propane tank lines are leaking. As you detect the odor, you can start digging by hand to find the leaking line Then repair or replace the line with the same type of material. 

Can underground propane tanks explode?

Yes, an underground propane tank is full of flammable material that is under pressure. However, because of the strict regulations for the manufacturing of propane tanks, they are durable and hardy containers. With the built-in safety precautions, exploding underground propane tanks is rare. 

In the case that an underground propane tank is subjected to excessive heat, like a fire, the contents inside the tank will heat up and expand. If flames or a resource that ignition is possible can result in an explosion.

Is it better to bury a propane tank?

As a hydrocarbon gas that is liquefied through pressure, propane gas is an excellent, clean-burning, non-toxic fuel. A great source of power for commercial and residential uses. But which is better – an underground propane tank vs above ground propane tank? Let’s review the advantages and disadvantages of both: 

Above Ground Propane Tank Advantages 

  • Less expensive.
  • Easy accessibility. 
  • Less expensive installation.
  • Long-term use.
  • Lower maintenance costs because the technician has easier access. 

Above Ground Propane Tank Drawbacks

  • An eyesore and distraction from any outdoor decor. 
  • Takes up outdoor space, minimizing room for gardens, gazebo, or swimming pool.
  • Vulnerability to vandalism and possible accidents with collisions. 

Underground Propane Tank Advantages

  • The propane tank is hidden from view.
  • Temperature controlled and not exposed to the weather. 
  • Safer if there a leak, the propane will absorb into the underground, safer from fire.
  • A non-toxic fuel, it is insoluble in water.

Underground Propane Tank Disadvantages

  • The cost of a physical propane tank is the same above or underground. 
  • The cost for excavation, labor, and the anodes.
  • Additional equipment and parts to use an underground propane tank. 
  • Requires sacrificial anodes to prevent tank corrosion underground. 
  • Property preparation for the excavation can be time-consuming and costly. 
  • Requires permit from the local government. 

How far does an underground propane tank need to be from the house?

An underground propane tank installation must meet several parameter requirements for safety that include the following: 

  • Minimum 20 feet from the house 
  • Minimum 10 feet from property lines 
  • Gas lines must be buried in the safest route between the house and the underground propane tank
  • Tank and lines cannot be buried near any potential ignition sources like the HVAC system or other electrical appliances
  • Cannot have any trees or possible tree routes near the tank or line
large propane tank

In Conclusion – What are underground propane tanks made of?

Heavy steel is used to manufacture an underground propane tank that is then painted with a mastic coating that prevents corrosion. These environmentally friendly tanks will last up to 40 years.