The purpose of insulating a stainless-steel tank is to provide thermal protection and temperature control for the contents inside the tank. This is a common requirement for many industries involved in processing, storage, or transport of fluids.
In this document, we explore the purpose of insulation, options that are available and offer a checklist of questions that A&G engineers will need to ask to propose an optimum insulation solution.
THE PURPOSE OF INSULATION
The purpose of insulating a stainless-steel tank is to provide thermal protection and temperature control for the contents inside the tank. Here are the primary purposes of insulation:
Temperature Maintenance: Insulation helps to maintain the desired temperature of the contents within the stainless-steel tank. It acts as a barrier that reduces heat transfer between the tank and its surrounding environment, minimising heat loss or gain. Insulation helps to stabilise the internal temperature, ensuring that the contents remain at the desired temperature for a longer duration.
Energy Efficiency: By reducing heat transfer, insulation improves energy efficiency by minimising the need for excessive heating or cooling of the tank’s contents. Insulated stainless steel tanks require less energy to maintain the desired temperature, resulting in lower energy consumption and associated costs.
Process Stability: Insulation contributes to the stability and consistency of processes that rely on maintaining specific temperatures. Industries such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, chemical manufacturing, and others often require precise temperature control for their products or processes. Insulated tanks help to ensure consistent and controlled conditions, leading to improved product quality and process efficiency.
Condensation Control: Insulation helps to control condensation on the tank’s surface. When there is a significant temperature difference between the tank and the surrounding environment, moisture can condense on the cold tank surface. Insulation acts as a thermal barrier, minimising temperature differentials and reducing the likelihood of condensation, which can lead to corrosion or other issues.
Equipment Protection: Insulation also helps protect the stainless-steel tank itself from external environmental conditions. By reducing temperature fluctuations and potential condensation, insulation can prevent moisture-related corrosion, extend the tank’s lifespan, and preserve its structural integrity.
Insulating a stainless-steel tank provides thermal insulation, temperature stability, energy efficiency, freeze protection, condensation control, and overall protection for both the tank and its contents. It is an essential measure to ensure optimal performance and longevity in various industrial, commercial, and residential applications.
There are several common methods for insulating a stainless-steel tank. The choice of insulation method depends on factors such as the desired insulation thickness, operating temperature, moisture protection requirements, and specific application. Here are some of the most used methods:
Spray Foam Insulation: Spray foam insulation involves the application of a liquid foam insulation material, typically polyurethane or polyisocyanurate, onto the tank’s surface. The foam expands and cures, forming a continuous and seamless insulation layer. Spray foam provides excellent thermal insulation, moisture resistance, and can conform to irregular shapes or surfaces.
Insulation Blankets or Jackets: Insulation blankets or jackets are prefabricated insulation panels or blankets made of materials like fibreglass, mineral wool, or closed-cell foam. They are custom-fitted and secured around the tank using straps, hooks, or fasteners. Insulation blankets are suitable for tanks that require removable or reusable insulation and are effective in providing thermal insulation.
Insulation Boards or Panels: Insulation boards or panels are rigid insulation materials, such as expanded polystyrene (EPS), extruded polystyrene (XPS), or mineral wool, which are cut to size and affixed to the tank’s surface using adhesives or mechanical fasteners. They are often used for larger tanks or where a consistent insulation thickness is required.
Insulation Coatings: Insulation coatings involve the application of a specialised coating material onto the tank’s surface to provide both insulation and protective properties. These coatings are typically elastomeric or ceramic-based and offer thermal insulation, corrosion resistance, and waterproofing capabilities.
Insulation Wraps: Insulation wraps consist of layers of insulation materials, such as fibreglass or mineral wool, wrapped around the tank and secured with bands or adhesive tape. Insulation wraps are commonly used for smaller tanks or where cost-effective and easy installation is desired.
Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs): VIPs are high-performance insulation panels that use a vacuum to eliminate air and gas between layers, reducing heat transfer through conduction and convection. VIPs offer excellent thermal insulation properties with thin profiles, making them suitable for applications where space is limited.
It’s important to note that the suitability of each insulation method depends on the specific requirements of the stainless-steel tank, including operating conditions, desired insulation performance, budget constraints, and installation feasibility.
A&G INSULATION CHECKLIST
To make an informed and accurate assessment of insulation requirements, A&G engineers will need a full understanding of customer objectives and operating parameters, including:
- What is the purpose of the tank? To assess insulation requirements, A&G engineers need to understand the buyer’s specific application for the tank, such as storage, processing, or transportation.
- What is the operating temperature range of the tank? What is the temperature range at which the tank will operate? This information is crucial for selecting insulation materials that can handle the desired temperature and minimise heat transfer.
- What are the average and extreme ambient temperatures in the tank’s operating environment? This will help in determining the insulation thickness and material needed to maintain the desired temperature inside the tank.
- What is the duration of temperature maintenance? How long will the tank need to be maintained at the desired temperature. This will help in selecting insulation materials that can provide the required thermal performance over the specified duration.
- What is the potential for moisture build-up or condensation on the tank’s surface? This will assist in determining if a vapor barrier or insulation with built-in moisture protection is necessary and selection of insulation materials that offer adequate moisture resistance.
- Are there design features that create the potential for thermal bridging? Thermal bridging refers to areas where heat can bypass or transfer through the insulation and compromise thermal efficiency, and usually occurs with features such as fittings, supports, flanges, and access points. Determine insulation detailing and the use of thermal breaks or insulating gaskets to minimise heat transfer through these points.
Having gathered essential information about the customer’s requirements, A&G engineers will:
- Consider the thermal expansion and contraction of the tank due to temperature variations.
- Evaluate insulation material options suitable for the application.
- Calculate the necessary thickness of insulation required, and,
- Ensure compliance with industry-specific safety codes, regulations, and standards relevant to the application and location.
A&G Engineering have been manufacturing stainless steel storage tanks and pressure vessels for 60 years. The unmatched combination of experience, flexibility, expertise, and technology for every A&G project serve to minimise production risk and ensure on-time, on-budget, and as-specified delivery.
If you have a technical query or want to find out how A&G can help with your next project, talk to our expert team by calling us on (02) 6964 3422 or email email@example.com with your inquiry. We look forward to hearing from you.