Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants (POL) Storage and Distribution Systems Knowledge Area  

by Joseph C. Dean, P.E., and Steve Geusic, P.E., for Corrosion Policy & Oversight (DCPO), (DASD) [Materiel Readiness]

Updated: 11-20-2019


Although, the word "corrosion" is most often associated with "rust" and the oxidation of other metals, 10 U.S.C. § 2228 defines corrosion as, "the deterioration of a material or its properties due to a reaction of that material with its chemical environment." It is inclusive of the deterioration of all materials, which can be caused through sun exposure, moisture (mold and mildew), wind, and other environmental factors.

Facilities affected by corrosion include, but are not limited to petroleum tanks (above and underground ground storage tanks (AST) and (UST)), POL pipelines, and associated structures such as valves, pumps, and fasteners. Corrosion of POL pipelines and storage tanks can occur on the exterior due to atmospheric effects and soil corrosivity as well as internal corrosion. As a result, corrosion effects often remain unseen or unnoticed until they are inspected by various non-destructive examination methods.

Understanding Corrosion Science as it affects POL pipelines, storage tanks and associated structures will help the designer and Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization (SRM) manager make decisions that create facilities that are life cycle cost effective and more durable.


Perhaps one of the most important aspects of fuels facilities management is understanding the roles, responsibilities, funding sources, and authorities related to every location and type of system (e.g. pipeline, valves, tankage, pantographs, cathodic protection (CP) system, etc.). Planning and executing an effective fuels facilities corrosion prevention and control CPC program will help to effectively maintain the facilities and ensure mission support. This Knowledge Page includes CPC insights and information related to POL Storage and Distribution systems. It does not address issues related to the division of responsibility between the Defense Logistics Agency and the Military Services. For specific guidance on that topic see DoDM 4140.25 , Volume 8, DoD Management of Energy Commodities: Energy Commodity Infrastructure Operations. Funding for the sustainment, restoration, and maintenance (SRM) of POL Storage and Distribution systems often competes with other requirements. Leveraging funds from multiple sources such as DLA helps to address overall deficiencies. However, non-DLA capitalized facilities such as generator tanks and pipelines may result in unchecked corrosion deterioration, which increases the risk of fuel leaks, tank failures and disruptions to operations. See DoDM 4140.25, Service level instructions, and WBDG resources for more insights into how to manage these issues.

The reliability of POL Storage and Distribution systems has a huge impact on our daily lives and mission effectiveness. System integrity is a function of good design decisions and sustainment activities for the storage and distribution of liquid fuels that support aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles. Sustainment actions include tank and piping inspections, CP testing, maintenance and repairs. In areas of high chloride environments, such as marine locations, the effects of corrosion on carbon steel POL systems are more aggressive. Coating failures will lead to small areas of corrosion and will tend to increase. Installations in these locations spend considerable amount of resources addressing the corrosion in order to reduce the rate of corrosion damage. See the Environmental Severity Classification (ESC) web page and the Corrosion Toolbox to assist in identifying the correct CPC approach.

The WBDG includes an extensive library of Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) and Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS) that incorporate material selection, coatings, CP, and a combination of CPC-related factors that must be considered in the design and maintenance of these facilities to lower the life-cycle costs attributable to corrosion. The designer and sustainment professional must understand and leverage this guidance. As in most criteria documents, best practice and mandatory design, construction and sustainment requirements are described. Because the risks are so high with POL storage and distribution systems, these criteria documents must be carefully leveraged to ensure good life cycle and operational results.

Corrosion at a Valve Cover (Guam) and an Example of Above Ground Support Corrosion

Corrosion at a Valve Cover (Guam) and an Example of Above Ground Support Corrosion

Design and Durability Issues

In paragraph 3-5, Specification Requirements, UFC 1-200-01 (2018) DoD Building Code (General Building Requirements), requires the use of UFGS in accordance with UFC 1-300-02. UFC 1-300-02 UFGS Format Standard (April 2017) paragraph 1-4.1 Content Guidance, requires that designers "provide bracketed or tailored options, and Notes to the Designer, in the UFGS sections when the selection of a material, component, or system for corrosion prevention, life cycle cost effectiveness, or durability depends on the location, application, conditions, or atmospheric and chemical environment. In the notes, provide direction on identifying and selecting those variables." UFC 1-300-02 also states that "ISO [International Organization for Standardization] 9223 and Environmental Severity Classification (ESC) factors, [should be used] to help specify when to use materials, coatings, and other design elements in a given project location or atmospheric environment. Additionally, provide direction on what item to use based on other relative criteria such as soil corrosivity, ultraviolet exposure, solar radiation, biological, or other factors causing deterioration of a material or its properties because of a reaction of that material with its chemical environment." Ideally, all components of POL storage and distribution systems should address corrosion vulnerability and durability.

ESC is explained in the ESC Web Page and can be calculated for the specific location under consideration in the ISO Corrosivity Category Estimation Tool (ICCET) Toolbox. The Appendix D Table is also provided for a quick view of specific installation ESC Zone calculations, although the designer should utilize the ICCET Tool for the most accurate "C" classification. If the ESC zone lies between C3 and C5 an added level of corrosion protection is required to ensure a more durable life cycle cost effective facility. This includes the selection of more corrosion resistant coatings, material selection, and design details consistent with that ESC Zone.

Corrosion of POL facilities can occur on the exterior due to atmospheric effects and submerged conditions such as soil corrosivity. External corrosion such as pitting and surface erosion can occur due to the external environment. Internal corrosion can occur as a result of a variety of sources including condensation, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) evolution, the water dropping out of the fuel and sitting on the tank bottom for a long duration, and biological activity. Fuels such as biodiesel, low-sulfur diesel, and fuel containing high levels of ethanol can be corrosive.

Fuel Storage Tank - Combined Corrosion Effects

Fuel Storage Tank – Combined Corrosion Effects

Corrosion can degrade components such as pipes, conduits, valves, fasteners, and tanks. Identifying the corrosive forces and employment of POL CPC design, construction, and sustainment strategies include:

  • Identification of the appropriate, ESC Zone for above ground structures
  • Identification of the corrosivity of the environment existing in soils:
    • Resistivity
    • Moisture
    • Acidity
    • Chlorides, sulfides, and bacteria
    • Differences in soil composition
    • Stray currents
  • Identification of the internal environment and chemistry of tanks, pipes and conduits, valves, and pumps
    • Vented environment
    • Fuel type, properties, and additives
    • Filtration and prevention/removal of contaminants and sludge/sediment
    • Sulfur content – The reduction in sulfur content results in a reduction in overall lubricity and conductivity of the fuel. A lower lubricity level can cause premature wear, damage, and corrosion to metal parts
  • Selection of appropriate materials including compatibility with the fuel product
  • Prevention of dissimilar metal corrosion
  • Ensuring that good and durable design geometrics are included in the completed or repaired facility
  • Grounding and bonding locations and details
  • Use of protective coatings, linings, isolators, and corrosion inhibitors
  • Visual and non-destructive examination of the POL Storage and Distribution systems in accordance with recognized standards
  • Operation and inspection/maintenance of leak detection systems
  • Consideration of alternate materials for components proximate to salt water and in areas of high environmental severity. Select appropriate materials and coatings for vaults and pits, and consider isolation at conduit penetrations
  • Prevention of entrapment of water and moisture intrusion
  • Consultation with subject matter experts and stakeholders when appropriate
  • Providing close attention to construction practices that can increase corrosion risks:
    • Field modifications and material substitutions
    • Improper storage of materials
    • Damage to coatings
    • Field cuts and cut edge corrosion
    • Elimination of crevices
    • Reduction of rough and sharp surfaces
    • Ensuring appropriate coating selection, surface preparation, and application
    • Improper welding
    • Improper selection of fasteners and lack of corrosion protection for fasteners after installation. Note that fasteners are always problematic; it may be caused by the fastener itself, or it could be caused by the area around the fastener where coatings have been damaged or where galvanic corrosion occurs
    • Improper installation of gaskets and other features that would allow leakage and infiltration into the structure (e.g. pipeline, valves, access manhole, CP feature, etc.)
  • Note: UFC 3-190-06 Protective Coatings and Paints and various UFGS provide detailed information on coating requirements and guidance for various components and systems (see the Relevant Codes and Standards) section at the end of this Knowledge Page for additional insights and resources).

Cathodic Protection (CP)

UFC 3-460-01 Design: Petroleum Fuel Facilities requires CP for underground steel tanks and tank bottoms of aboveground vertical tanks. CP is also required for all carbon steel and stainless–steel underground and underwater piping associated with underground storage tanks. Properly installed and maintained CP systems can reduce life cycle costs by indefinitely extending a utility's lifecycle. These systems can also reduce the potential liability from premature failure of utilities, such as jet fuel leaks, while also ensuring the avoidance costs associated with the leaks such as fines, environmental cleanup, remediation and disposal of contaminated soil, and monitoring requirements. According to paragraph 2-1, UFC 3-570-01, Cathodic Protection, "Petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) systems, waterfront structures, and utility systems have been found to be the most critical facilities in terms of a combination of risk from corrosion, the need for continuous direct support of base operations, and the life cycle cost effectiveness of utilizing appropriate corrosion control systems." Paragraph 2–2 states that CP is mandatory "regardless of soil or water corrosiveness" and CP systems and protective coatings must be provided for buried or submerged metallic structures to include "Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants (POL) pipelines" and "Underground POL/gas storage tanks, piping, and ancillary items." CP systems are not useful for structures that are not buried or submerged.

Coatings and CP should most always be used in conjunction with each other as required to safely sustain POL distribution and storage. Both are required by law for USTs and certain POL lines. For additional information on CP see Continuing Education DoD Courses (login account required) and Cathodic Protection Knowledge Area. See also CP assessment, design, installation and sustainment (see UFC 3-570-01 Cathodic Protection and UFC 3-570-06 O&M: Cathodic Protection Systems).

On the left: Cathodic Protection System (Quantico MB) On the right: Impressed Current Cathodic Protection System for Underground Storage Tank

On the left: Cathodic Protection System (Quantico MB) — On the right: Impressed Current Cathodic Protection System for Underground Storage Tank

Common systems and structures requiring protective coatings and CP regardless of soil or water corrosivity include:

  • POL pipelines – aboveground and underground
  • POL system components – valves, nuts & bolts, meters, pumps, etc.
  • Underground and above ground storage tanks (UST and AST)

For POL distribution pipelines the key parameters affecting internal pipe corrosion are:

  • Percentage of water in fuels and composition (pH, Alkalinity, Dissolved Oxygen)
  • Ferric scale
  • Flow conditions
  • Biological activity
  • Disinfectants
  • Corrosion inhibitors
Guam POL Pipelines

Guam POL Pipelines

Facility SRM managers need to maintain in–house CP expertise to perform the day to day routine maintenance and inspection. DLA funds annual inspection and testing of CP systems associated with DLA–capitalized POL facilities. CP is a specialized area of electrical technology so in-house electrical technicians need to be provided the resources to obtain and maintain their knowledge in CP.

Criteria Highlights

While not a complete list, some specific UFC and UFGS highlights follow. For a complete list of resources see the "Relevant Codes, Standards, and Guidelines" Section at the end of this page.

  • UFC 3-190-06 Protective Coatings and Paints and the MIL HDBK-1110 which provides guidance on the application and composition of protective coatings to military structures fixed in place, curing mechanisms, environmental and safety concerns, surface preparation, selection for different substrates and structures, application, inspection, and failure analysis.

  • UFC 3-460-01 Design: Petroleum Fuel Facilities, with Change 3 addresses corrosion design issues to include impacts of ethanol, hazards related to corrosion, certification issues and tank size, CP, corrosion on underground submerged piping systems, and corrosion resources, guidance and references. Soils shall have a minimum electrical resistance of 50,000 ohm–cm. Foundation material should be neutral or alkaline with a pH greater than 7, a chloride concentration less than 300 ppm, and a sulfate concentration less than 150 ppm as specified by DoD Standard Design AW 78-24-27.

  • UFC 3-460-03 O&M: Maintenance of Petroleum Systems provides guidance on corrosion-related inspections for specific system locations, pitting corrosion impacts, and CP systems.

  • UFC 3-501-01 Electrical Engineering provides the governing criteria for electrical systems, explains the delineation between the different electrical-related UFCs, and refers to UFC 3-570-01 for CP requirements. UFC 3-501-01 should be used for design analysis, calculation, and drawing requirements.

  • UFC 3-570-01 Cathodic Protection provides policy and design requirements for CP systems which include fuels–related applications and associated qualification requirements for professionals providing design and engineering advice. The UFC provides the minimum design requirements, and must be utilized in the development of plans, specifications, calculations, and Design/Build Request for Proposals (RFP).

  • UFC 3-570-06 O&M: Cathodic Protections Systems provides guidance for inspection, operation, and maintenance of CP systems and should be used by field personnel to perform scheduled inspections and preventive maintenance, and to troubleshoot and repair defects.

  • UFGS 02 65 00 Underground Storage Tank Removal addresses removal and disposal of underground, non-hardened tanks and piping used to store petroleum products, waste oils or hazardous wastes in accordance with Federal, State, and local regulations. EPA requirements are addressed.

  • UFGS 09 90 00 Paints and Coatings covers the requirements for painting new and existing interior and exterior substrates, and other miscellaneous materials. High–performance or specialty coating requirements, or protective coating of industrial structures or facilities such as towers and water storage facilities are addressed in other UFGS.

  • UFGS 09 97 13.15 Low Voc Polysulfide Interior Coating Of Welded Steel Petroleum Fuel Tanks provides requirements for a Low VOC (< 50 grams/liter) two–coat polysulfide modified novolac epoxy – PMNE coating system for interiors of newly constructed, Navy bulk fuel storage tanks.

  • UFGS 09 97 13.27 Exterior Coating of Steel Structures covers coating repairs of aboveground piping and equipment.

  • UFGS 33 08 55 Commissioning of Fuel Facility Systems discusses submittal requirements and testing of coating applications prior to fuel delivery (e.g. as-built drawings, equipment warranty documentation, etc.)

  • UFGS 33 52 10 Service Piping, Fuel Systems provides extensive guidance on CP control systems, flange protectors and pressure relief valve corrosion protection.

  • UFGS 33 52 43.11 Aviation Fuel Mechanical Equipment provides extensive guidance for equipment component corrosion resistant decisions.

  • UFGS 33 52 80 Liquid Fuels Pipeline Coating Systems and UFGS 33 52 43.13 Aviation Fuel Piping covers the requirements for interior and exterior coating of aboveground and buried, carbon steel, liquid fuel pipelines.

  • UFGS 33 56 10 Factory–Fabricated Fuel Storage Tanks describes CP, corrosion protection systems and installation procedures to resist corrosion impacts.

It is recommended that the designer carefully review each criteria document to ensure that the appropriate materials are selected and placed in service along with the associated processes. Submittals may include shop drawings, product data, samples, test reports, certificates, manufacturer's instructions, and operation and maintenance data.

Petroleum Storage Inspections

There is an inherent environmental risk where POL storage tanks and distribution systems are concerned. A system failure may result in a release to the surrounding areas and an interruption to the mission of the activity and the weapons systems that it supports. Fuel spills, mechanical failures, tank leaks, all result in an interruption of service if not addressed immediately. Conducting an aggressive preventive maintenance program (see UFC 3-460-03) along with required regulatory compliance inspections, such as API Standard 653, STI SP001, and API 570, will contribute to risk reduction. During these inspections attention to CPC throughout the life cycle will significantly further reduce the risks.

Vertical Upright Aboveground Storage Fuel Tank (JBER) - Cut and Cover Underground Storage Tank (Guam)

Vertical Upright Aboveground Storage Fuel Tank (JBER) – Cut and Cover Underground Storage Tank (Guam)

Shop Fabricated Above Ground Storage Tanks (Quantico MCB) - Shop Fabricated Aboveground Storage tanks and piping (Guam)

Shop Fabricated Above Ground Storage Tanks (Quantico MCB) – Shop Fabricated Aboveground Storage tanks and piping (Guam)

Several sources provide meaningful insights into petroleum storage issues. For example:

  • UFC 3-460-03 O&M: Maintenance of Petroleum Systems provides the following corrosion related insights:

    • "The principle source of iron rust is corrosion in pipelines, storage tanks, or other inline steel components." Results could include "restricting or clogging of fuel separators, silting and plugging fuel control components and nozzles, and wear and scoring of petroleum fuel components by abrasion."

    • "Inactive systems may accumulate water at low points and cause corrosion or biological activity leading to solids contamination."

    • "Microbiological contamination usually appears as a brown, black, or gray slime-like deposit that adheres to the inner surface of fuel tanks. This results in corrosion of fuel system components also known as Microbial Influenced Corrosion (MIC), clogging of filters and erratic operation or petroleum fuel quality indicating systems. …and can cause significant damage to tanks and piping and environmental problems in very short periods of time." CP does not seem to mitigate microbial influenced contamination for diesel storage tanks.

  • EPA provides the following insights on corrosion and USTs in the storage of diesel fuel.

    • Storing a fuel that is not compatible with an UST system may jeopardize the integrity of the UST system and cause a release to the environment.

    • The corrosion may cause metal components inside both steel and fiberglass UST systems to corrode. This can possibly shorten the lifespan or affect the serviceability of components, including limiting the movement of floats on automatic tank gauging systems, operability of mechanical devices designed to prevent the chance of overfilling the tank, or ability of shear valves to shut off flow of product in the event of a release.

    • Corrosion may cause dispenser filters to clog and be replaced more frequently and could potentially limit the proper functionality of equipment designed to test for leaks in fuel product lines.

    • EPA recommends UST owners check for corrosion in their tank systems storing diesel fuel, and if they find corrosion, repair or replace equipment as necessary to ensure proper functionality."

  • See also "Data About The Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program" for additional UST insights.

Lessons Learned and Input From the Field

  • Consistent with DoD Directive 4270.5 (Military Construction), utilize the CPC criteria and information hosted on the Whole Building Design Guide including UFC, UFGS, Engineering and Construction Bulletins (ECB), and performance technical specifications. If necessary, mark–up guide specifications (e.g., UFGS) with prescriptive CPC requirements.

  • Replace USTs with ASTs.

  • Use aggressive preventative maintenance programs to ensure that there is early detection of deficiencies and reduction of deterioration due to coating failure and/or corrosion.

  • Coordinate utility work with utility owners.

  • Ensure that corrosion prevention is discussed at the design/construction kick-off meeting and implemented on the plans at each submittal stage.

  • Ensure that POL storage and distribution systems as-built drawings are included in the e-OMSI package [UFGS 01 78 24.00 20 ] at facility turnover from the Construction Agent.

  • Review and coordinate projects by a committee of public works design and maintenance, safety, environmental, and security to ensure projects are fully coordinated before work begins. This is especially important when dig permits are required, ensuring that minimal damage to existing buried structures occurs.

  • Ensure that funding is sufficient to include CPC materials and coatings that are life cycle cost effective, appropriate for the environment where the project is located, and that are able to reach the intended service life without extensive preventative or corrective maintenance.

  • Ensure that personnel engaged in CPC decision-making activities, such as acquisition, design, inspection, maintenance, and repair, have appropriate training and qualifications. See UFC 3-460-01 Design: Petroleum Facilities, paragraph 2-13 Cathodic Protection and 2-13.3 Structures for examples. See also CPC Competencies, CPC Training, and D, CPO Recommended Facilities Corrosion Training Summary for additional insights.

  • Once facilities are in service, control corrosion prevention through proper maintenance practices and adequate sustainment resources.

  • Ensure that the CP systems are maintained and checked based upon recommended cycles.

Technology Projects

Several ODASD (MR) sponsored Test and Evaluation Projects related to POL Distribution and Storage are underway or completed. Some of these projects have resulted in improvements and updates to criteria including:

For further information see the Technology Projects Table. Note also that the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma are conducting research on microbially influenced corrosion (MIC) and "Bio-Deterioration of Materials in Biofuels"


A few items to remember and apply are:

  • Maintain and conduct an active preventative maintenance program to include inspections that focus on CPC.

  • Maintain and inspect CP systems.

  • Incorporate good Design Geometrics.

  • Awareness and application of ESC Zone.

  • Ensure that the design component or assembly complies with the requirements from the RFP, including performance technical specifications, referenced UFC and UFGS documents.

  • Ensure that the design drawings and specifications address CPC through proper choice of materials and coatings.

  • Select and specify materials and coatings that have low life cycle costs, are durable, and minimize the need for preventative and corrective maintenance. Initial investments in corrosion prevention are typically more life–cycle cost effective than maintenance, repair, and replacement of prematurely degraded components.

  • Design and specify POL storage and distribution systems to reach the intended service life, including the use of enhanced materials, coatings, and appropriate application of CP as defined in UFC and UFGS criteria in severe corrosive environments.

Obtaining POL Distribution and Storage Related Subject Matter Expert (SME) Assistance

Design criteria must be selected and executed based upon the requirement and the environmental conditions that exist at the facility location (see Corrosion Toolbox). Discipline Area SMEs provide valuable consultation skills developed from years of experience assessing corrosion prevention requirements in differing environments.

POL storage and distribution systems and the associated security and anti-terrorism aspects cross multi-discipline areas and may require more persistence by designers and maintainers in obtaining necessary insights from SMEs. The SMEs can assist with the translation of local conditions into the interdisciplinary solutions that provide immediate and long-term benefits to the installation and its SRM bottom line costs. Typical consulting services provided by the SMEs include:

  • Petroleum Infrastructure and SRM
  • Structural Engineering
  • Utility Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Waterfront Engineering
  • Aviation Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Multi-discipline coordination
  • Materials analysis and selection
  • Problem assessment
  • Hazard and Failure analysis
  • Environmental Severity impacts
  • Pollution Control & Assessment
  • Review and assessment of contractor deliverables
  • Quality evaluation and assurance
  • SRM analysis and recommendations (system inspection and testing assistance)
  • Assessment of the sustainability and durability of new technologies
  • DLA coordination
  • Anti-terrorism threat analysis, protection technologies and materials

Relevant Codes and Standards

Criteria on the WBDG are generally based on industry standards. An industry standard is an established norm or requirement about technical systems, usually presented in the form of a formal document. It establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes and practices. Industry Standards can also be found in the form of reference specifications. The standards referenced in criteria are usually written and maintained by Standards Organizations (see also WBDG Taxonomy. It should be noted that the guidance, references and UFC/UFGS list is extensive. This section is not intended to be complete. It is intended to serve as an assist and a reminder that this area is complex and poses a high risk to individuals, installations and the environment. Appropriate design, construction and SRM actions are absolutely essential. Paying attention to the "small stuff" as well as the "large" will result in a facility that will meet life cycle expectations. See the following for additional guidance and information.

Department of Defense

Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC)

Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS)

DoD Manual

AFCEC – Air Force


American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Public Works Technical Bulletin (PWTB)

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

NACE International

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

Industry Organizations

The following Industry Organizations are identified in the UFCs and UFGSs associated with POL distribution, storage and associated components. The relevant Standards are listed in each criteria document and are too extensive to list here.

Additional Resources


Publications / References

DoD and WBDG CPC Facilities Training


Obtaining SME Assistance for DoD Installations

Federal Facility Criteria: