Store Gasoline Safely This Season

Prepare for the season’s farm work and stormy weather by properly storing gasoline in your barn or garage.

by Dani Yokhna
Red gasoline container and protective gloves
Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Store gasoline in a proper red container and label it clearly. Allow for gasoline expansion by not filling the container all the way to the top.

Red portable gas cans are a symbol of both hurricane season and the American garage. Many farmers and homeowners understand the importance of keeping extra fuel in a garage, shed or barn, especially to prepare for farm disasters during storm season. But while it’s helpful to keep a little extra gasoline around for farm-machinery fuel backup or to guard against high gas prices, storing it improperly in an enclosed area can have devastating effects.

Gasoline will expand at the rate of 1 percent for every 15 degrees the temperature increases, according to In other words, if a gasoline can is filled with 5 gallons of fuel when the temperature is 32 degrees, the contents will expand more than 3 ounces when the temperature hits 82 degrees. This fuel expansion, along with vapors generated when the gasoline is heated, can cause an overfilled can to leak or burst if there’s no expansion space.

In addition, gasoline vapors are both toxic and explosive. Gasoline can leak throughout the barn or from the garage into the house, turning a safe structure into a gas chamber. Besides the negative health effects of breathing these fumes, these vapors are explosive and could ignite by an open flame, such as the pilot light from a stove or furnace, causing a farm fire.

Protect yourself and your farm from a gasoline-related mishap this season by implementing these five tips:

  1. Store fuel in UL-classified containers (red for gasoline, blue for kerosene or diesel), and label them clearly.
  2. Store gasoline away from the house, if possible, and away from electrical equipment.
  3. Keep gasoline containers locked up to prevent the accidental poisoning of children or animals.
  4. Keep stored gasoline fresh by adding a fuel stabilizer, and limit evaporation by avoiding exposure to the sun.
  5. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, it’s possible for gasoline to spontaneously ignite while filling up portable containers due to the buildup of static electricity on the container. To avoid this, place your gasoline container on the ground before filling, touch the nozzle to the can to dissipate the electrical charge, and continue to keep the nozzle in contact with the can while filling. 



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