Preppers are ingenious people, and we can provide a lot of things for ourselves. Food? We can grow, hunt or forage it. Water? We might drill a well, set up a rainwater collection system or run a pipe to a nearby river and let the current bring it to our home.
Electricity? Solar panels, wind turbines or water wheels can produce that easily enough. Firewood? Cut it in the woods. Wool, crockery, iron, a bow and arrows, furniture, herbal remedies or charcoal? You’ll find plenty people in the prepper community ready to tell you how to make them yourself.
There’s one thing most of us have no chance of producing for ourselves, though, and that’s hydrocarbon fuels.
This is unfortunate, because while we can survive without hydrocarbon fuels life is a lot easier when we have access to them. If you want to operate a vehicle after the end of the world as we know it, you’re going to need a stockpile of gasoline or diesel to keep it going. The same goes for a generator, and that’s the option a lot of us have chosen for keeping the power on when the system collapses around us.
Propane stoves or refrigerators? The clue’s in the name – they need propane. All sorts of outdoor or survival equipment, from pressure stoves and lanterns to hurricane lamps and even the humble but reliable Zippo lighter, need some kind of oil-based fuel to run. If we want those things to keep working after the SHTF, we’re going to need to store fuel for them.
The problem is, all these fuels are dangerous. The safest of them, diesel, won’t explode but it will burn, and it stores a lot of energy. Once your diesel stockpile catches fire, good luck putting it out. Gasoline is even worse; it will burn, but the vapor will also explode.
As fuels get lighter – white gas for Zippos and Coleman stoves, butane, propane, hydrogen – it gets easier and easier for them to catch fire, and they tend to react more violently when they do. These fuels need to be carefully protected from any risk of ignition.
Fiery accidents aren’t the only way poorly stored fuel can kill you, either. As well as keeping them well away from people who play with matches, you also need to make sure your fuel store protects the fuel itself. Otherwise it can degrade, and when your life depends on it there’s a chance it will let you down. Here’s our handy guide to fuel storage.
Use Proper Containers
Gasoline, diesel, kerosene and other liquid fuels should only ever be stored in purpose, made, certified fuel containers. If you store them in anything else the fuel could become contaminated – or, worse, eat its way through the container, causing leaks and a huge risk of fire.
Any gas station will sell plastic containers that will store liquid fuel safely. Military-style jerrycans are also good; they have a high capacity, stack well and they’re very robust.
Propane and other gas fuels are easier to store, because they already come in suitable containers. You still need to be careful, though. Make sure gas tanks or canisters are protected from heat and physical damage.
Keep the damp away from them, too; otherwise the canisters could rust over time, creating leaks – and gas leaks are extremely dangerous. Even the spark caused by flicking a light switch can cause an explosion.
Locate Your Store Safely
Where you put your fuel store can make the difference between a safe and effective survival resource and a disaster waiting to happen.
Some things are obvious; if you have a fire pit, don’t build a wooden shack next to it and fill it with gasoline canisters. Let’s assume nobody’s going to make that mistake.
Look for other hazards, though. Don’t put your fuel store where a drunk driver who swerves into your yard can hit it. Don’t put it where it could get flooded, either. Containers bumping around in a flooded store can get damaged – and if fuel starts escaping it will float and spread.
Protect Diesel From Contamination
A serious issue with long-term storage of diesel is water contamination. If there’s air inside a fuel container, there’s water in there too. Over time that moisture can condense out of the air and land in the fuel.
This is a big problem, because water in the fuel is going to end up in the engine – and water is very destructive.
It doesn’t compress, so if enough water gets into the engine and the engine tries to compress it, things will break. Water in fuel also promotes algae growth, and that can clog injectors. It can even start rust inside metal containers or fuel tanks.
Minimize water contamination by filling containers to around 85% full; the less air in them, the less water – but they need some room for expansion, so don’t fill them 100%. Make sure caps are properly sealed to prevent more air being sucked in as pressure changes.
If diesel has been stored for a long time you can add a water dispersant additive to it, or buy a funnel that separates the water as fuel is poured through it. For vehicles you can even install a water separator in the fuel line.
Protect Gasoline From Time
Gasoline isn’t as badly affected by water as diesel – although you should still do all you can to keep water out of it – but it has a different problem. Unleaded gas goes stale quite quickly, sometimes in as little as a month.
It’ll still work as fuel for much longer than that, but it won’t be as efficient and it could damage the engine. To make it last longer buy ethanol-free gas, and add fuel stabilizer to slow its deterioration.
Fuel will be a valuable resource in a post-crisis world, but it can also be a danger. Apart from the obvious ones like fire, relying on contaminated or deteriorated fuel that wrecks the engine of your bug-out vehicle could be just as deadly. Storing your fuel properly will make a huge contribution to keeping you alive.
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