5 Long Term Fuel Storage Methods (For Off Grid Preppers)
Storing fuel is a crucial prepping detail. Since none of us knows when a SHTF situation will happen, there is no discussion around whether you should store fuel. What could be up for debate is how to store fuel long term.
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Imagine having to bug in for weeks or months without any fuel. Your generator and every appliance and device depending on it will be stalled, and if it’s during the cold season, the winter cold will be biting hard.
To crown it all, your bug in food supply will all have to be eaten cold, if that will even be possible. And if you rely on medical equipment that runs on electricity, it will be a double emergency for you.
Storing fuel is a crucial prepping detail. Since none of us knows when a SHTF situation will happen or when an extended blackout will hit your region following a natural disaster, there is no discussion around whether you should store fuel. What could be up for debate is how to store fuel long term.
There are several methods for storing fuel long term including building a fuel storage shed, using fuel stabilizers, using bulk storage containers, nitrogen blanketing, or using other simple preservation practices like rotating the fuel or storing it in your car fuel tank.
Because storing fuel can be a source of danger as much as it is a resource for survival, how you store it cannot be a chancing game. You have to be sure about how to do it.
So, while we tell you how to store fuel long term, we will highlight some vital safety precautions you’ll have to act by. In summary, here’s what to expect from the article:
Natural gas – Indefinite shelf-life (but less available).
Kerosene – Maximum 5 years.
Butane – 8-year shelf-life (in cartridges).
Coleman Fuel/White Gas - 5-7 years (in the original container).
Alcohol – Indefinite shelf life (all conditions constant).
Others (less common options that can also be stored long term).
Let’s discuss other storage details for each of these fuels
Wood is one of the cheapest fuels you can store, especially if you are prepping for bugging out in the wild or for off the grid living. Its energy uses are limited to heating your home and cooking, but wood also has the advantage of being readily available and a safe type of fuel when it comes to prepper fuel storage.
When stockpiling wood, consider that hardwoods (maple, hickory, and oak among others) give stronger heat when compared to softwoods (cedar, fir, and pine, among others).
Mixing the two when burning wood is recommended since softwoods are great when starting a fire and hardwoods keep it burning for longer.
Note too that hardwood takes longer to season (around a year) while softwood will be ready in six months.
While you can store wood indefinitely, its condition will depend on how well you store it. Wood can be infested by termites and collect moisture and this will reduce its efficiency.
As such, you should consider storing wood off the ground on thick wooden planks or cement blocks to keep insects off and enhance air circulation.
Note also that the energy output of wood goes down every year after the 4th year of storage, so rotating it every couple of years is advised. We’ll tell you how you can store wood long term later in the article.
Gasoline, like all other fossil fuel products, is made by refining crude oil through boiling and capturing its components at the boiling point of each fuel.
But, to be used in your vehicle or generator, refined gasoline needs to have other products added to it like detergents and alcohol (ethanol). This is key in making these fuels meet performance and emission standards.
By the time it is ready to sell, gasoline has several volatile organic compounds (VOCs), also present in diesel and kerosene but in lower quantities.
You can notice the VOCs in gasoline while you fuel the car through the visible fumes that escape from your car’s fuel tank, but these are what make the fuel in your car or generator burn.
If a lot of these VOCs escape from your gas, gasoline can easily revert to a low octane hydrocarbon fluid, less efficient or eventually useless altogether.
Because it is highly refined when compared to fuels like diesel, gasoline has complex molecular bonds. If these bonds break from exposure to air or water, your gasoline will revert to an unusable state.
This is also one of the reasons gasoline has a shorter shelf-life. It is, therefore, important that you know how to stockpile gasoline.
We will tell you some of the methods you can use to stockpile gasoline later, but we can anticipate that gasoline you can store gasoline for long by going for one of these options.
Store only ethanol-free gasoline.
Use a long term gasoline storage additive (fuel stabilizer)
Purchase specially treated and packaged gasoline such as TruFuel 4-Cycle Ethanol-free Fuel which can go up to 5 years. This is designed for 4-cycle engines and has superior performance, but it is an expensive option.
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Diesel is second to gasoline in popularity and another good choice of fuel for stockpiling. Heavy machinery and vehicles run on diesel and its stores for longer than gasoline, 18-24months, and longer with stabilizing fuel additives.
Long term diesel storage also outdoes gasoline storage because diesel is less flammable. Diesel is harvested at relatively low distillation levels in the fuel distillation process. Because of this, it is less volatile and, therefore, lasts longer in its original state.
While the safety precautions for gasoline apply also for diesel, it is important to bear in mind that algae and water are big enemies when it comes to diesel storage. As such, consider these additional safety tips for long-term diesel storage:
Ensure your diesel storage containers are tightly closed. If diesel absorbs water, it has greater chances of harboring algae which ruins both your diesel and any engine you use it on.
Treat your diesel with an algaecide which is what fuel stabilizers are essentially. This will prolong your diesel’s life beyond 5 years shelf-life since algae-free fuel is a clean fuel.
Keep your long term storage diesel tanks full to limit the possibility of condensation owing to the presence of air in the container.
Use the recommended yellow color containers to store diesel and label containers with a different color.
Propane is one of the cleaner liquid gases that are easier to store. It can be stored in tanks of different sizes, though you may need to find out what size of tanks is permitted for storage in your area. But how long can you store propane?
When kept tightly sealed in the original packaging and is free from leaks, dents or rust, propane can be stored indefinitely.
Because liquid propane is stored under pressure, it is vaporized into gas before leaving the can and being burned into energy. It is quite versatile in its uses including in stoves, heater, and lights among others.
Also, propane is heavier than air and can collect air in low-lying areas with the risk of explosion.
As a cleaner fuel option, propane produces carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor. But, if burned in areas with insufficient oxygen, incomplete combustion occurs, causing carbon monoxide production. It should, thus, be burned in a well-ventilated space.
When storing propane, bear in mind that exposure to oxygen makes it highly flammable and it should be kept away from open flames, static electricity, smoke, and electrical sparks.
Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels. It may not be the fuel you will be looking for when prepping for emergencies as most countries have natural gas supplied through public utility pipes and commonly used for heating and cooking purposes.
That also means the supply of natural gas will be disrupted during emergencies. Nonetheless, it is an excellent fuel storage option when available.
Natural gas has an offensive rotten-egg odor, purposely included for safety. It is also highly flammable and has a high-poisoning ability from carbon monoxide.
Because of that, it can cause quick fires when exposed to open flames and static electricity as well as poisoning that could lead to drowsiness and eventual death when inhaled for long periods.
Storage of natural gas is usually done underground by supplying agents or in designated above-ground tanks.
Kerosene, also known as paraffin, is a less used fuel considering its limited usage and the availability of more efficient fuels like gasoline and diesel. You can use kerosene for heating, in lighting lamps, and with cooking stoves.
Kerosene comes in different grades. The premium grade is presented in different options like the multipurpose odorless and smokeless Shabbos Paraffin Lamp Oil. Standard paraffin comes in K-1 or K-2 grades. The difference in kerosene grades is the amount of sulfur in the fuel. The K-1 grade has sulfur levels below 0.05%, which makes it acceptable for use in heaters and cookers.
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Kerosene is highly flammable and should be kept away from open flames, electrical switches and outlets, and pilot lights among others.
Kerosene also has intoxicating gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. It should, therefore, be used in a well-ventilated room and refueling done outdoors.
As concerns how long you can store kerosene, you should know that it has a shelf-life between 2 and 5 years and will do better when stored in the original packaging.
The standard storage container color for kerosene is blue. And like other fuels, adding a fuel stabilizer to kerosene will prolong its shelf-life.
Even though less common that the fuels already discussed, butane is a reliable long term storage fuel that is easily liquefied but also highly flammable. The colorless fuel is often used in lighters and torches or canned for heating and cooking purposes.
You should ensure good ventilation when burning butane as it produces both carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
This fuel performs poorly in low temperatures. As such, butane canisters should be stored above freezing temperatures but away from frames and extreme heat. Storing it next to oxidizing materials like chlorine or concentrated oxygen is also discouraged.
Instead, when storing butane canisters, ensure you do so in a cool and dry location with good ventilation. Good storage condition will give butane a shelf-life of 8 years.
Similar to propane, Butane is heavier than air and must not be stored in low-lying locations like basements and cellars as it will attract vapors with the risk of exploding.
Coleman Fuel / White Gas
Coleman Fuel, also known as white gas is a colorless fuel that is common among campers. It is extremely flammable but also highly efficient in freezing temperatures.
Note, however, that white gas produces large amounts of carbon monoxide and other suffocating toxins.
When storing white gas, ensure it stays in the original container and is kept in a cool, well-ventilated room. It should be kept away from ignition sources such as open flames, pilot lights, and high-heat material.
Tight-sealed white gas containers can be stored for 5-7 years under desirable temperatures. Once opened, white gas should be used within 2 years.
Alcohol is another of the less common fuels. But, alcohol is good for long term storage as it has a long shelf-life. It can be stored indefinitely as long as no leaks are allowed, considering that alcohol also evaporates.
Compared to other fuels though, alcohol burns less efficiently but will still cook and heat when you need to use it. One of the best qualities in the market is the Sunnyside 83432 Denatured Alcohol, Quart which can be used for stoves and other appliances designed for burning alcohol (not kerosene or oil burning stoves).
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Pure forms of alcohol are quite safe for indoor burning, but they can still produce a minimal amount of carbon dioxide and should, therefore, be burned in well-ventilated spaces.
When storing alcohol, consider its high flammable nature, and keep it away from any ignition risks including open flames and other chemicals.
Other long term storage fuels
The list of fuel for long-term storage is endless. However, your choice will be guided by your fuel needs, the ease of storage, and local regulations on long term fuel storage.
Here’s a quick list of other fuels that could be considered when prepping for fuel storage:
Liquid fuels: lamp oil, liquid paraffin.
Solid fuels: charcoal, coal, wood pellets.
And now that you know what fuels can be stored long term, we can discuss some of the long term fuel storage methods while referring back to the fuels to tell you which one can be stored with what method.
5 Long Term Prepper Fuel Storage Methods
Fuel storage and energy availability during emergencies go hand in hand. That makes two things extremely important to bear in mind:
It would be extremely wasteful to store fuel that you cannot use in the long run. It equates to not having prepped for emergency fuel at all.
As alluded to earlier, fuel can be at the same time a danger and a resource. As such, it should be stored appropriately using the most efficient methods.
So what methods should you use to ensure your fuel is still useful when you need it and it does not pose danger while in storage? Below are 5 recommended methods.
1. Build a fuel shed (underground or above ground)
A general rule when storing fuel long term is to do so in a location away from your home to avoid any fire dangers in case of accidents.
Building a shed at a distance from your home is, thus, one of the common ways of storing fuel. Of course, it is presumed that your gas is already packaged in the recommended standard containers.
Long term fuel storage sheds can take different forms depending on the type of fuel. Since a wood storage shed is the easiest and less complex to build, we’ll let the expert EPA show you how to do it in this video below on how to build a firewood storage shed. You can also download their Build a Firewood Storage Shed brochure for free.
Fossil fuel storage sheds can instead be a bit more complex to build. One way to make a fuel storage shed is to bury an insulated box into the ground in a shady location.
You can have the insulated box purposely made for the task or improvise with some old appliance or container such as a chest freezer.
You’ll need to put some pallets on the floor of the box to keep the fuel containers off the floor of the box and enhance airflow. The box is then closed to ensure insulation.
To provide ventilation, drill two holes at each end and lower vent pipes so that one end is inside the hole and another outside. You’ll need to create a screened and elbowed joint to keep the storage dry and prevent insects from going in.
Alternatively, you can make an insulated above-ground shelter with a raised floor and shelves to place the fuel containers. Good ventilation is always crucial.
Best fuels to store long term with a shed:
Butane and propane (above ground sheds with shelves and guaranteed insulation from high temperatures).
2. Use a fuel stabilizer
Fuel stabilizers can be your insurance when storing fuel long term. They are meant to stop the oxidation and chemical breakdown process that happens soon after fuel is made and can cause gradual degradation if correct measures are not taken.
Because fuels are a blend of chemicals, their molecules break down with time when they are exposed to oxygen and moisture. This is especially true of fuels that have high quantities of ethanol, which makes them hygroscopic (good at absorbing water), and water is the expert at speeding up the fuel breakdown process.
When too much molecule breakdown happens to your fuel, it will take a soapy form, a sign that using it with your appliances will either not get them running or spoil their engines.
To prevent this from happening and slow down the oxidation process, you can add a fuel stabilizer before sealing tight your storage fuel or storing it in your car tank. This will add a few more years to your fuel’s shelf-life.
We propose here two of the best-quality fuel stabilizers you will find in the market.
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Best fuels to store long term with fuel stabilizer:
3. Using bulk storage containers (for large amounts)
States may have different regulations about how much fuel you can store. If you live in a state that allows the storage of large amounts of fuel and that’s what you are looking for, an above-ground gasoline storage tank would work great for you.
In the US the use of bulk storage containers is regulated under 40CFR112 which defines a bulk storage container as one that is used to store oil for the purpose of storage before use, during use, or prior to distribution. That excludes oil in equipment and machinery.
Any bulk storage container is 55 gallons or bigger and can be installed above ground, underground, be bunkered, or partially buried.
When using bulk fuel storage containers, you will have to adhere to environmental requirements that may include:
Painting the fuel container to the standard color of the contained fuel.
Include high-level alarms with a visual and audible signal
Install an efficiency liquid-level pump to stop flow when a certain container level is achieved.
Include an audible or code signal for communication between the pumping end and the container gauge.
One common way preppers store large volumes of fuel is by using the 55 gallon drum. You’ll need to adapt the drum to an appropriate storage tank so that drawing fuel will be facilitated and the safety codes followed. The advantage of this is that you need less space to store your fuel since it all in one place.
Best fuels to store long term with bulk storage containers:
4. Nitrogen Blanketing (Tank Blanketing)
Nitrogen Blanketing, also known as Tank Blanketing or Tank Padding is a process used to introduce nitrogen into empty or partially full fuel tanks to prevent chemical reactions that can lead to explosions, oxidation, and water vapor absorption or oxygen, and other gaseous accumulations.
Doing so ensures that your fuel is shielded from oxidation reactions and can stay fresh and have a longer shelf-life.
Nitrogen is used in Tank Blanketing because of its inert properties, apart from being readily available and cheap to purchase. Also, Nitrogen Blanketing can be applied to both large-volume fuel storage tanks as well as small containers.
Opting for Nitrogen Blanketing for your prepper fuel storage will mean working with a specialized agent, thus it's not the most subtle method to prepp.
Best fuels to store long term with nitrogen blanketing:
5. Use simple fuel preservation practices
Since fuel storage is meant to preserve it so you can have it in a usable state when you need it, some simple preservative practices can also serve to help you have fuel for the long term. Here are two of the common ones:
The use and replace method
This implies rotating your stored oil before its shelf-life period expires so that you always have fresh fuel in case SHTF.
You can adopt rotating your oil as your usual practice so that you are always going for the older fuel and replacing it with a fresh supply. This will however work only for preppers who are consistently using fuel for energy.
Best fuels to store and rotate:
Leave your car fuel tank half full
They say the best place to store gas long term is in your car fuel tank. If you are storing fuel for your car, keeping your tank half full will give you enough fuel to get away from a danger situation, at least 100 miles away.
As with other storage containers, you can add a fuel stabilizer before filling your tank and starting your vehicle for a while so the stabilizer is evenly distributed in the tank.
A fuel stabilizer in your car’s fuel tank does not just keep the fuel fresh, but also ensures that you have no issues when you need to ignite the engine.
Long Term Fuel Storage Safety Precautions
Whichever of the above fuel methods you choose to use, there are some general safety precautions and practices that apply to the long term storage of fuels and should be followed to the letter. Here are the most universal ones.
Never store fuel inside your home or an off-grid cabin. Instead, ensure that your fuel is at least 100m away, in case of fire accidents.
While they have a longer shelf-life, gas fuels are harder to store and should not be stored in large quantities. Their high explosive capacity also makes them a more probable fire accident hazard.
Always consider using the recommended color and quality of containers when storing fuels. Doing so preempts interchanging fuels that should not be mixed and avoiding accidents. Quality containers also prevent fuels from releasing flammable gasses and vapors that cause a health hazard or absorbing moisture and losing quality.
All fuels are flammable and should be stored away from open flames, sparks, heated surfaces, power plugs, and locations with high temperatures, as well as near oxidizing agents such as chlorine or acids.
Fuel containers should always be disposed of appropriately as they can still hold fuel vapors or small residue amounts that are as flammable as the fuel itself.
Check with your state laws for details about which fuels are permitted and how much you can store long term before securing your fuel supply.
When handling fuels, always check the Safety Data Sheet on handling and storage such as this one for Butane cartridges.
It is advised to have a portable fire extinguisher with a rating of not less than 20-B at least 10 feet from the door of a storage or between 25-75 feet from the storage shed.
Prepper Long Term Fuel Storage FAQs
If some question you still have on storing fuel long term has not yet been answers, these frequently asked questions could give you what you are looking for.
How much fuel should you store long term?
While you should store the amount of fuel you judge enough for your needs, that decision is also subject to local fuel stockpiling laws and fire codes. The EPA recommends storing up to 5 gallons of gasoline.
Instead, the US fire department OSHA regulates that not more than 25 gallons may be stored in a room outside an approved storage cabinet.
Also, not more than 60 gallons of flammables with a flashpoint below 140oF and 120 gallons of combustibles with a flashlight above 140oF may be stored in a storage cabinet. Only 3 storage cabinets can be in one storage area.
Is it legal to stockpile gasoline?
It is generally legal to stockpile gasoline. But you’ll need to go by local regulations on stockpiling fuel which may vary from one state to another.
In Illinois for example, the Gasoline Storage Act of the state directs that it is unlawful for an individual, firm, or corporation to keep, store, sell, or transport gasoline and other volatile combustibles in a manner that would endanger life and property.
What fuel has the longest shelf life?
Propane, natural gas, alcohol, wood are some of the fuels with the longest shelf life if we consider fuel from a broad perspective.
But, among the common fossil fuel products, diesel has a longer shelf-life than gasoline and will stay fresh for 18-24 months compared to gasoline’s shelf-life of 12 months.
The shelf-life of both fuels can, however, be increased by using quality fuel stabilizers.
Long Term Fuel Storage Conclusions
Having a reliable source of power for when SHTF is something anyone desires, and that creates the need for storing fuel long term.
While there is no doubt anyone will say yes to the question of whether they should stockpile fuel for emergency, an answer to the question of “how to store fuel long term” is not so obvious.
Nonetheless, there are several methods you can consider including an outdoor storage shed for your fuel, using a fuel stabilizer to prolong the fuel’s shelf-life, using a bulk container, or rotating the fuel.
Storing fuel in your car tank can also save an emergency situation, while nitrogen blanketing is a rare but possible method.
If you are looking for gas can storage ideas, you should know that gas fuels are more flammable when compared to liquid ones. As such, they should not be stored in large amounts and should be stored under recommended safety conditions.
Also, be informed about local fuel storage regulations concerning fuel container color codes, fuel storage amounts, and other important safety guidelines in your area.
Every fuel is flammable, which makes it a source of danger if stored wrongly, but with proper storage, fuel is an indispensable prepper resource.
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