Friday, December 2, 2022

Gas cans, and how much fuel to store


Commander Zero recently linked to a source for reasonably-priced jerrycans (note that I said "reasonably priced", not "cheap"!  Ain't no such thing as a cheap new jerrycan these days . . . )  In a subsequent post, he discussed why it was a good idea to have some of those containers on hand, and how much fuel he felt he needed to store.

I entirely agree with him about the need for high-quality gas cans, and have a number of jerrycans in my own reserves.  Sadly, I paid higher than he did for 8 new jerrycans earlier this year - I got mine from Deutsche Optik;  high-quality, but a price to match (I paid less than they're asking now, though).

As to how much fuel to store, ask yourself how many of your vehicles and appliances need fuel, and how much;  then figure out how often and/or how long you'll need to use them in the absence of regular gas-station fuel (due to natural emergencies, shortages, or whatever).  I have a number of calculations I use.

  • I want enough to fill my vehicles' fuel tanks to the brim, plus have another tankful apiece that I can load into their cargo space.  That way, if we have to evacuate for any reason, we can go a fair distance without having to worry about refilling at gas stations that may already be swamped with other evacuees, and/or may have run out of fuel.
  • Over and above that, I want enough to run my generator two to three times a day, for about two hours each time, for a minimum of two weeks.  That's enough to keep my freezers cold, charge essential items like laptop computers and cellphones, and do anything else for which I'm likely to need power.
  • I may need gas for emergency tools like chainsaws, etc.  That's not a high priority for me in this area, but if you live in a heavily wooded area where trees might come down in a disaster, plan for it.
  • I may need gas for friends who need help.  I can't store enough for big needs, but the ability to spare them a couple of gallons here or there might be very useful.
  • I'm not worried about lawnmowers or garden appliances.  In a disaster where fuel isn't available, a neat, tidy garden is likely to be the least of my worries!
You'll have to make your own calculations about the amount you'll need, based on similar considerations.

There's also a legal aspect to consider.  Many towns and cities have fire regulations forbidding the storage of more than a certain quantity of fuel in domestic premises, and they usually require it to be stored away from the residence (i.e. in a detached garage, a garden shed, under a tarpaulin in the back yard, whatever - but not in the same building where people live!).  That's a very important consideration.  Such regulations exist for a reason, and we'd be very unwise to disregard them.

So, there's a foundation for your own calculations.  Work out how much you need and where you can safely store it, then buy the necessary containers to hold it.  If you can afford them, I very highly recommend jerrycans - they've been a world standard since World War II, and for good reason.  If you can't, the plastic containers sold at supermarkets and auto spares shops are a short-term solution, but they're nowhere near as robust, and aren't safe to carry in your vehicle, because the fumes can leak out.  A jerrycan doesn't have that problem.



Crackpot said...

I think the correct amount is the amount to get where you're going. If you don't know where you're going, there's no point in having the gasoline to get there.

If you're not going anywhere, the gasoline might help run a generator, sure, but there are two cases there: Either the situation will be over in a week or two, and everybody has the expectation that civil society will resume after a brief hiccup. Or the situation won't, and people don't, and a noisy generator is just calling attention to yourself.

In the first case, what you're preserving is comfort, not necessity, so budget accordingly. In the second, you're either going somewhere, or you aren't, and if you aren't, a running vehicle may just be another way of calling attention to yourself.

Crackpot said...

The correct amount of fuel is the fuel to get where you're going. If you aren't going anywhere, then the situation breaks down into two situations:

In one, people basically expect society to go back to normal in a week or two; a generator might keep you alive in a blizzard or extreme heat, or it might just be a luxury.

One two, people don't. In this case, generators and running vehicles may just be ways of calling attention to yourself, and whatever benefit they provide is likely to be very short-lived anyways. So the question returns to where you're going.

Dov Sar said...

Another thought for those who drive a diesel; many people use home heating oil, and that can be used in an emergency for diesel. Most tanks are 275 gallons;; that is a lot of spare fuel for an emergency.

LL said...

You should add a fuel stabilizer. Can be purchased at a minimal cost anywhere.

Ed P said...

I'm sure you know about this already, but for long-term storage of gas there are additives available to prevent degradation, such as this UK one:

nick flandrey said...

I usually have 7 five gallon containers as my "base" storage. I typically add to that for hurricane season, but didn't this year. I have them stored in a "Flammables" metal cabinet, in the shade between my garage and fence. It never gets sun there, which helps with the thermal cycling. I add Sta-bil to every can.

It's so humid here that thermal cycling will "pump" moist air in and out of your typical gas cans and that water will condense and contaminate your fuel. The same thing will happen in your gennie if you leave it fueled, and can happen even with an empty tank. To combat the issue with gas cans, I use a hand pump to transfer the fuel from the can to the point of use, and never suck up the last inch of the can. I don't have a good technique to keep the water out of my gennie, so this year I'm going to try an empty tank, and open carb bowl. Any water that does get in should drain out the open carb bowl. This makes it more inconvenient to get the gennie going, so I converted one to propane.

I used an aftermarket kit to add propane to my Honda EU3000i. I had to abandon the rusted metal gas tank. At some point I'll replace it but for now, propane it is.

I keep a lot of propane on hand too, and have shifted most of my 'first line' fueled preps to use 1 pound bottles of propane. Stove, lantern, heaters, hot water, and now generator. (The gennie uses a BBQ bottle, not a small one.)

Switching to propane gives me a much more stable storage situation, makes it easy to start up my gennie on short notice, and saves my gasoline as a backup (for my bigger gennie) and for transportation.

And for a real world anecdote, during Ike, I ran my generac 4800 gas gennie for 14 days while we were 'grid down'. 10 gallons a day, if run 24hours. Which you don't do, because at night it attracts very unwanted attention. That experience led to adding the inverter based honda, it isn't as capable, but it is very quiet compared to just about any other gennie.

I ran both the honda and generac during last season's freeze and power problems.


Oh, have some extra empty gas cans so that if gas is available, you can easily get some. During Ike I had spare empties with me whenever I went out, and if I found gas that didn't have a line, I filled them. Never had to stress about finding enough gas.

tsquared said...

Fuel stabilizer in Diesel gives the diesel fuel just over a year shelf life. The F350 can run 950 miles on 55 gallons of diesel.

Xoph said...

Don't forget things like bar oil, fuel oil for your chain saw, spare chain, spare bar. Also spare oil, etc. for your generator. Might even want to have a full overhaul kit available.

Get some battery operated freezer monitors and alarms. That way you can run your gen only when needed.

A solar panel, a car battery and an inverter can add extra life to your fuel storage (can't plan on sunshine, but it's quiet and can give peace of mind over night. Also while powering the freezer you can recharge the battery)

Propane is good, not as energy dense as gas, but simpler maintenance wise.

Rob said...

Good cans are really important, that link looks like a good deal!
Gasoline needs to be cycled, it has a shelf life even with stabilizer. You have to keep up on it. Propane keeps better.

In the end it comes down to what are you setting up for? Really bad weather/natural disaster or the fall of civilization?

Mind your own business said...

Bottom line is that if things really go tits up, you will run out of gas or diesel. No matter how much you stored. And fuel stabilizers only slow degradation, not prevent. And diesel is hygroscopic ... water contamination and biofouling will get you if varnish formation doesn't.

Any plans that are really long-term, not stopgap, will be to get used to not having petroleum-based fuels. Or much electricity (though solar panels may help you limp along with limited power for decades). Bad diesel will still burn in a kerosene lamp or lantern.

Look at how people lived in the early 1800's. That will be our future.

Jonathan H said...

As mentioned above, don't forget about thermal exposure - store gas in as cool a place as possible.
Out here in the desert, the garage get REALLY hot in the summer so stored gas, even with stabil, doesn't last long.

Hightecrebel said...

Just so people know, Stabil is for short-term storage - think storing something for a season or two. It's not designed for truly long-term storage.

For that you need something like Pri-G (gasoline) or Pri-D (diesel). There are other brands that are similar.

I've stored gasoline (no ethanol) with Pri-G in surplus Jerry cans for three years, in an insulated shed, with temps the shed ranging from -10F to 118F. And all this about 800 yards from the Atlantic ocean, so plenty of salt in the air. I've seen diesel stored for six years in similar conditions used in vehicles and heaters without issue as well. I wouldn't normally recommend storing it that long, but it can be done if you forget to rotate a can or have so much stuff stored in the way you can't get to it