Christensen Oil – Storing Combustible Liquids Near Oil Storage Tanks

In summer, 2019, Christensen Oil was storing combustible liquids, wooden pallets, and other material within 25 feet of gasoline and oil storage tanks.  
The Maeser Neighborhood complained about this to the Fire Department.  

Christensen Oil stores combustible materials within 25' of a tank Provo Utah

Resolution — some materials have been moved farther away — the oil storage trailer, the wooden pallets, and many of the plastic barrels.  But some remain — plastic barrels on top of fueling stations, abandoned vehicles with rubber tires and wooden truck beds, and empty plastic barrels stored in a shipping container.  

Clear distance from oil and gasoline storage tanks
Observation: Between June 2018 and May 2019, Christensen Oil Co. has placed many combustible materials next to its main oil and gasoline storage tanks.

In 2018, the tanks were relatively clear to the west, east and south, with only a little clutter on the north.

Today, they are packed in with many different types of combustibles – parked vehicles, totes of lubricating oil, totes of diesel fuel, wooden pallets, empty (but not cleaned) totes that previously held oil, and shipping containers with unknown combustibles inside.

Christensen Oil Provo Utah Code Violation storing combustible materials near tanks.

This pile of stored supplies and combustible material makes a fire around the tanks much more likely to turn catastrophic. There is a mixture of highly flammable material stored in proximity with high flashpoint material that could catch fire and lead to a catastrophic series of escalations.

For instance, if the pallets caught fire, or if a pool of spilled gasoline caught fire, the resulting fire would melt the lube oil (Class III(B)) totes, and heat up the Class III(B) oil to its burning temperature of 300 degrees. With 8 totes of burning oil there would be enough BTUs of heat to put the gasoline tanks and piping at risk of melting, and then there would be 60,000 gallons of gasoline burning, which would incinerate 4 to 10 blocks of residential neighborhood.

The disorderly storage of combustible material around the tanks not only adds to fire risk, and fire spreading, but also reduces the options that firefighters have to extinguish or contain the fire. Storage of combustible material on all four sides not only adds to fire risk, but blocks visual and physical access to fight any fires.

Christensen Oil stores combustibles stores adjacent to tanks in Provo Utah

5004.11 Clearance from combustibles. The area surrounding an outdoor storage area or tank shall be kept clear of combustible material or vegetation for a minimum distance of 25 feet.

Oil and gasoline tank Requests:
Maintain a 25′ clear distance around the tanks. Move all stored vehicles, totes of diesel fuel, totes of lubrication oil, empty totes, wooden pallets, tanker trailers of petroleum products, and shipping containers of unknown contents more than 25′ from tanks.

Christensen Oil Provo – Stationary Dispensing Trailers Issue

Christensen is using old gasoline tanker trailers as stationary tanks for storing motor oil.

Problem: Tanker trailers used as stationary storage and dispensing tanks
Observation: Christensen Oil has parked two tanker trailers at the dispensing station at their south gate.

  • West truck license plate is ID TJ9710 (nonexpiring).
  • East truck is ID TJ9713 (nonexpiring).

They appear to be used for the storage and dispensing of petrochemicals. They have no
hazardous material placard, so we hope they are just lubricating oil, rather than gasoline or diesel fuel.

5003.5 and 5704.2.3.2 No hazardous materials placard on tanker trailer (required even for
Class III(B) combustible liquids)

5004.2.2.4 Secondary containment for outdoor storage tanks must be designed to control a
spill from the largest vessel. (This trailer has no spill containment).

Photo 1 2. July 10, 2019, when we walked down the street after-hours, we smelled gasoline and saw a bucket under one of the valves. This combination seemed dangerous, as there could be gasoline in the open bucket, leaking from the tank.

5704.2.2 Truck trailer shall not be used as stationary storage tanks

5704. Piping from above ground tanks needs to have vehicle impact protection. (This
has none).

5004.11 Stationary tanks may not have combustible materials stored within 25′ (These are
about 5′ from the gasoline storage tanks).

Possible violation – vehicle registration. These trailers are registered in Idaho, but have not left the State of Utah for several months. Verify that they have not exceeded the time period required for in-state use, and ensure that the appropriate State of Utah authority is receiving revenue for the registration of these trailers.

Please have the stationary tanker trailers removed from this location.
And ensure that no tanker trailers are used for storage or dispensing in the future.

If Christensen Oil does not remove the trailers, “red flag” them to have them removed from
the property. And assess monthly fines for failure to comply with code.

Christensen Oil Complaint #1 – No Permits for New Oil Storage Tank

In July, 2019, the Maeser Neighborhood complained that Christensen Oil had installed an oil storage tank without a permit. Construction permits for oil tanks are required by the International Fire Code, and have been required in Utah since at least 1997.  

On investigation, the Fire Department replied that a permit may not be needed, due to a Summary Judgement awarded Christensen in 2000.  

Later, the Fire Department reported that the tank contains urea, not oil.  It is unclear whether the tank ever contained oil.  

Also, our complaints of section 5704.2.9 were made in error, and do not apply to this particular tank.

Original Complaint:
Christensen Oil Co. added a new oil storage tank sometime in 2017 or 2018. It is about 20′ tall and 9′ diameter, 1200 cubic feet, or 9000 gallons. It is in the NE corner of the other vertical storage tanks near the intersection of 300 E and 600 S. We understand that no construction permit was obtained for this tank, nor is there an operating permit on file for this tank. Nor is there a Conditional Use Permit for a bulk petroleum storage tank in a Light Manufacturing zone.

Christensen Oil Co. President Todd Christensen has personally testified to neighborhood residents that he does not need to obtain permits to install tanks. We believe he has also testified to city code enforcement officials that he does not need permits to install tanks.

Photo 2. 15 fuel storage “silos” in 2017 Photo 3. 16 fuel storage silos in 2018. In May, 2019, Christensen Oil applied for a building permit to add additional oil tanks. The design for these tanks was found to be deficient in several aspects of the 2015 Fire Code. Given that President Todd Christensen believes he is exempt from some or many of the statues of International Fire Code, he has recently applied for a permit to build oil tanks that are in violation of fire code, we are concerned that this tank may have many fire code violations, in the construction, seismic reinforcement, piping, or other elements.

Violations: 105.1.1 Permit Required. Permits required for installing or modifying systems and equipment that are regulated by this code. Flammable and combustible liquids. A construction permit is required… to install, construct, or alter…. tanks.

Photo 4. Dispensing piping for tank 16 does not have vehicle crash protection. This tank needs to be reviewed for all statutes of 5704.2.9, including

5704.2.7 Design, fabrication and construction of tanks – does this tank meet the basic parameters set here?

5704. Fire protection of supports – does it have fire protection?

5704. distances from other tanks

5704. needs to be in spacing compliance with NFPA Table

5704. Normal and emergency venting

5704. Secondary containment

5704. Crash protection required at dispensing stations

5704. Overfill protection

5704. Pipe fill connections (appears to use “grandfathered” pipe connections – needs
to be upgraded for a new tank!)

5704. Top openings – this tank appear to fill and drain through the bottom. Must be modified to fill and drain through the top

5704.2.10 Diking capacity – does the “berm” around the tank and adjacent tanks contain
enough capacity to contain a spill from this tank?

Provo City Code 14.36.040.(3)(a), Adding additional oil storage tanks is also a violation of Provo City Code which governs whether nonconforming uses may be expanded.

Requires Conditional Use Permit, requires Certification of Occupancy, and Final Inspection from the authority having jurisdiction.

In the absence of permits and zoning, this tank should be removed.
a) Determine if this tank was installed without a permit, and whether it passes the visually
verifiable code requirements: piping from top, crash protection at dispensing station, minimum size retention facility for tank rupture, minimum standards for spill retention and keeping out of adjacent storm sewers or waterways.

b) If it fails any of the visually verifiable code requirements, then red tag it and have it taken out of service while a full engineering assessment is performed.

c) Levy a monthly fine, from the date of original violation, if this tank is found to be in violation of fire or zoning code and is not immediately taken out of service.