How to Store Gasoline Long Term

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By Dennis Howard •  10 min read

Preppers know, or should know, that the three most basic concerns in any survival situation are water, food, and shelter.

Long-Term Gasoline Storage

In disaster situations, another critical need is fuel to keep things operating. The most prevalent fuel used for transportation and power generation is gasoline.

A gasoline storage supply is important if you plan on running a generator during a critical incident. That’s why, in this article, we’ll be breaking down:

Storing gasoline long-term is a problem. Storing gasoline in large quantities poses even more problems.

You must consider how dangerous gasoline storage can become if proper containers are not used. You must also contend with the deterioration gasoline suffers when storing it for a long period. Failure to consider these issues can have disastrous consequences.

There are some ways to mitigate these problems. Unfortunately, you cannot store gasoline indefinitely. Time is the biggest enemy of gasoline. Whatever method you chose to store gasoline must include a rotation component that uses the stored gas regularly to prevent it from becoming unusable.

Why Doesn’t Gasoline Store Well?

To understand why gasoline doesn’t store well, you have to look at the chemistry of this product.

What we call gasoline is actually a blended product. This blend contains several volatile and flammable liquids mixed to meet government regulations for emissions when burned in your vehicle’s engine.

Typically, the gasoline that goes in your car or your generator contains pure gasoline, blend stocks which are usually proprietary mixes from the retailer, and ethanol.

Pure Gasoline Vs. Blended Gasoline

Pure gasoline, as it is produced at the refinery, has a shelf life under normal circumstances of 3 to 6 months.

However, finding pure refined gasoline at a service station is almost impossible. Some retailers mix blended products that improve mileage and are supposed to help keep your car’s engine running better. Some of these blended products contain stabilizers to help increase the storage life of the gasoline blend in an underground storage tank.

The Ethanol Situation

Almost all gasoline sold in the United States contains at least ten percent ethanol alcohol. Ethanol shortens the shelf life of gasoline to as little as two to three months. Ethanol-blended gasoline in the gas tank of a vehicle or a generator may go bad in as little as one month.

Gasoline Enemies and What They Produce

Evaporation, humidity, and heat all contribute to the short shelf life of gasoline, even when stored in the best containers on the market.

Gasoline that is past its useful life has less combustible properties, meaning it produces less energy. Some of the blended products can break down into compounds that can damage your engines.

Storing Gasoline For the Long Term

If you use the proper stabilizing additives, store your gasoline in the best storage containers you can buy, and keep your gasoline under optimal conditions, you may extend the storage life for up to 3 years.

However, this is the outside edge of the envelope. I would not recommend any plan that counts on keeping stored gas this long.

Additives and Stabilizers

There are any number of products marketed for long-term fuel storage. These products work in several ways to extend the shelf life of fuel storage.

Mostly, they slow down the oxidation process, which is the chemical enemy of stored fuel. A fuel stabilizer can help disperse water or bond with the water that may mix with your stored gas.

The Ethanol Component

Most gas sold at gas stations in the United States contains at least ten percent ethanol alcohol. Years ago, lead was mixed with the gasoline to improve engine performance and to keep engines from knocking or pinging.

Unfortunately, lead is poisonous and emitted from gasoline engines’ exhaust fumes. Ethanol has since replaced lead in gasoline to raise the octane level and prevent engine pinging.

Note: Contaminated gas in fuel tanks is a huge problem that can damage engines requiring huge repair bills.

Water is the Problem

Ethanol is also hygroscopic. This big word means alcohol will absorb water from the air. Water vapor is a natural component of the air around us. If the ethanol in your gasoline absorbs more than 500 parts per million of water, this water and ethanol combination sinks to the bottom of the gas tank. This ethanol and water mixture won’t burn, and your engine won’t start. Your gas tank may begin to rust and further contaminate your engine’s fuel system.

Do Additives and Stabilizers Work?

That depends on who you ask. From a chemical standpoint, most of these products mix with water and alcohol to mitigate the problems.

Most fuel stabilizers are petroleum products. These mixtures contain proprietary blends of hydrocarbon products that work as anti-oxidants, lubricants that bond with the gasoline, and, in some cases, mix with any water in the gasoline to make a burnable product.

Before you add fuel stabilizer to the gasoline in your car or other gas-powered equipment, you should check the manufacturer’s recommendations about using fuel stabilizers in the fuel tank.

Some vehicle manufacturers sell their own line of fuel stabilizer products or recommend specific brands for use in their engines.

When you store fuel, you may want to add a fuel stabilizer to help keep your gas fresh up to a year.

Gasoline Storage Methods

How you store your gasoline can impact your fuel storage as much as adding products to lengthen the life of the fuel.

In addition, improper storage of gasoline is dangerous and can lead to potentially deadly results. When you store gasoline long-term, you are essentially putting a bomb in your storage facility.

Start With a Proper Container

The Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that gasoline stored in a workplace be kept in an approved container with a flash-arresting screen, a spring-closing lid, and a spout cover. Of course, if you are a homeowner, you don’t need to follow OSHA regulations. However, putting gasoline in the wrong kind of container is a dangerous practice.

Your best bet is metal gas cans that meet OSHA requirements and are DOT-approved. These containers have all the requirements to safely transport gasoline or store it around your home or workplace.

Plastic Vs. Metal

Most homeowners opt for a plastic gas can for storing small amounts of gasoline for home use. Under regular circumstances, these containers work fine. However, if you plan long-term gasoline storage in quantities of more than a few gallons, you must upgrade your storage plans.

Under no circumstances should fuel be stored in glass containers or in a plastic jug not meant for fuel storage. In any circumstance, fuel should only be stored in a sealed container that is properly rated and certified.

Store Gasoline in the Proper Environment

Where you put your gas containers to keep gasoline stockpiled is an important consideration for both the longevity of the gas and the safety of storing gallons of gasoline around your home. There are some considerations to ensure that your gas is stored properly and safely.

Gas stations store large quantities of gasoline by putting the tanks underground and out of the way. A gas station also turns its gasoline supply over quickly, which keeps fresh gas always on hand. Homeowners who are storing larger quantities of gas don’t usually have the advantage of underground storage like gas stations.

Considerations for Storing Gas

When you start planning to store more gasoline than a few gallons, there are some things that you should take into consideration. Gas needs some special conditions to make sure that you avoid some potentially serious situations.

Moderate Conditions are a Must

To keep gasoline fresh, it should be stored in an approved container in an area where it isn’t exposed to direct sunlight, extremes of heat or cold, and where the gas cans are protected from accidental damage. A storage shed or detached garage is suitable in many areas of the country. However, in areas where extreme cold or extreme heat can be expected, more temperate conditions should be provided to prevent stale gas over time.

Don’t store your gasoline containers outside where they are exposed to direct sunlight. Sunlight can deteriorate some plastic containers. Exposure to weather, such as rain or snow, can compromise the integrity of even the best metal gas storage containers.

Do Not Store Gasoline in your Home

Never store gasoline inside your home. This admonition extends to attached garage spaces. Gas vapors are extremely flammable and pose a huge risk from static electricity and the pilot lights of other appliances such as water heaters. Ignition sources for gasoline vapors can be found in the most innocent places. Under the right conditions, even flipping a light switch can cause highly flammable gas vapors to ignite.

Static electricity can also be an ignition source. Carpets can build up large static charges, and a spark at the wrong time around your gas container can spark a fire from the gas fumes. Gas cans should be stored to avoid static electricity.

Be Aware of Local Laws and Regulations

Local laws and zoning regulations may impact how much gasoline you can store at your home. Even your Homeowners association may have rules regarding how much gas you can store at your home.

Check carefully with your local fire department about local rules and regulations for fuel storage at your home. The fire department is also a good resource for learning more about the best ways to store fuel at your home.

Rotate your Stored Gasoline Regularly

Maintain a schedule of when you store fresh gas or put new fuel into your storage rotation. Always used the oldest gas in your storage first to avoid finding old gas in your inventory.

You should label your gas container with the date it was filled with freshly pumped gas to ensure that you always have fresh gasoline. Fresh fuel is a must for operating your vehicle and your gas-powered tools.

Dealing with Old Gasoline

If you do find that you have let your stored gasoline sit too long, it is important to dispose of that old gas properly to avoid environmental or legal problems. Check with your local gas station. Some will accept old gas for recycling or disposal.

Never pour old gas onto the ground. This can contaminate local water sources and may open you to legal action. Proper disposal of old gas can be a challenge in some areas.

Final Thoughts – Staying Safe Storing Gasoline

Many people wonder how to store gasoline long term. It isn’t as hard as you may think, but safety and environmental concerns must be considered when planning a long-term storage solution.

Following a few basic concepts will ensure that you have plenty of gasoline during a crisis, such as a power outage. Finding that your fuel tank is filled with stale gas can have disastrous consequences for you and your family.

Dennis Howard

A life long hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman, after surviving a devastating tornado in his home town, he saw the effects on people's lives as they struggled to cope. He built his first bugout bag a few weeks later and has been a dedicated prepper/survivalist since that time. After a career as a fireman, Dennis opened a retail store (FFL approved) catering to the military, law enforcement, and like-minded individuals. The store built their own AR platforms. Furthermore, Dennis was also an NRA instructor in both long gun and handgun as well as a certified range safety officer. Read his full interview here.