February 28, 2021

How To Build a WTSHTF Gas Station, by Samantha B.

Gas is often not stored safely. A vaporized single gallon of gas cause catastrophic consequences if it ignites or explodes. People often store gas in 5-gallon cans. Cans are placed in barns, outbuildings, and garages alongside valuable equipment or stored household goods. Some people even store gas in the basement of their home in cans that are not properly sealed.

Our primary reason for constructing this gas station was to have a safe place to store fuel and provide some security from short to moderate gas supply disruptions. We also wanted to avoid unnecessary trips to town just for fuel.

Where are you located on the gas supply chain?

My husband and I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. If there is any supply disruption in oil and gas refining in the Gulf of Mexico, our area is the last place to receive fuel. A refinery accident several years ago led to gas shortages. If you are in an area that is the last to receive critical supplies like fuel, then having a small supply at home can allow you to get to work or school until supplies stabilize. We saw a lot of people that did not have the fuel they needed to conduct business. Those with longer work commutes had a tough time.

Storing just 25 extra gallons could have made a huge difference for a lot of those people.
Here is how we put together our gas station for very little out of pocket cost—many of the supplies we had laying around from previous construction projects and tasks around the farm. I encourage you to be creative when considering what materials you use. We used sheet metal for our shed, but scrap wood, pallets, and shingles would have worked just fine too!

The Pallet Platform

We had a single pallet. My husband expanded it with treated scrap lumber left over from other projects. We wanted a large enough platform for two barrels so we could have two grades of gas. Regular for our truck, Kawasaki Mule, and walk-behind tractor and ethanol-free for our weedeaters and chainsaws.

The Shed

The framework was built around the pallets. Matt used some treated boards and a few untreated to build the framework for the roof and sides. We have been working on some barns, so we have some small pieces of metal laying around. Technically we probably needed them to finish up the barns, but one side was just the cover sheet they included when they dropped off metal. Of course, the cover sheet is a different color, but who cares. The metal is the thicker gauge normally used for the sides of industrial buildings, so the whole structure should be pretty durable over the years. The first thing that will fail is likely the pallets and lumber that the barrels are setting on. Pouring a little concrete pad and then using some lumber for air space between the barrels and the concrete would prevent that, but we just used what we had.

The Barrels

Make sure that you get a barrel that is made for holding gas. It is vital for safety reasons. Gas vapors do build-up, but they can be safely contained in the right barrel. We are lucky enough to live very near a place that sells a lot of barrels in various sizes and types. Matt bought two brand new oil barrels for less than $30 each. They are a full 55 gallons, and although when empty, they are lightweight enough for a single person to pick up, they are bulky.

You will want to make sure they are well secured during transport so that they don’t roll around and get dented or damaged in any way. They are painted on the outside to prevent rust, but the paint can be chipped pretty easily. You can always repaint them whatever color you desire or put a fresh coat on occasionally so that they last longer.

Filling the Barrels

My husband and I live on a mountain. Most of our property is only accessible by 4×4 vehicle or walking, so it is up to us to haul gas. Plenty of farms get gasoline and diesel delivered by local gas companies. There is a minimum purchase, and they have to be able to actually pull up close enough. For people like us that want to keep around 100 gallons max on hand, it wouldn’t be practical anyway.

We haul our gas in 5-gallon cans and pour it into the barrel. You don’t have to completely fill your barrel all at once. We only have five cans, so we filled our barrels 25 gallons at a time.

Stabilizing the Fuel For Long Term Storage

We use a fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh. It is a very inexpensive fuel additive. At the moment I think you can get a container of Sta-bil that will treat up to 80 gallons of gas for just under $12. Reportedly, it will stabilize gas for up to 24 months. Ethanol-free might last that long, but I kind of doubt that regular gas will stay that good for that long with stabilizer.

Ethanol-Free Premium Versus Regular Gas

Ethanol-free gas will stay good longer but it can be harder to find in some areas. Avoid storing gas that has a high ethanol content for an extended period of time. I consider anything more than 10% high ethanol content.

Pumps

When Matt and I discussed our pump options, we agreed that we wanted a pump that was very basic with no batteries or electronics to deal with. I found a cast-iron hand-cranked pump. It is a bit of work to use. You have to pump it for a little while to prime it before gas will come out. We don’t have to gas up that much, so that is not a huge deal for us.

You may want to get a pump that is less work if you are not up for the physical work of hand-cranking for a minute or two. If you had to pump 10-15 gallons, you might get tired of the pumping even if you are in excellent physical condition.

I honestly thought I had bought a pump that broke at first because it seemed like the gas wasn’t going to come out. It is just that you have to get it primed good, and that was not something we were aware of.
You can get battery-powered or electric pumps. We purchased a pump that we can use with a small 12V solar battery system since our gas station is not close enough for regular electricity to be an option.

I advise keeping a siphon or manual pump around in case it fails. The idea is to have gas on hand all the time, so a backup pump that doesn’t rely on electricity makes sense. An inexpensive siphon pump is under $20 if you don’t want to spend the money on a heavy-duty cast iron manual pump.

One of the first problems we had was the hassle of pumping gas back into a can in order to pour it into a vehicle. To solve this, we just bought a 10 ft 1inch diameter hose that fits the pump head. Make sure you measure your pump outlet before buying a hose. You want a tight fit.

5 gallons of gas in the Kawasaki Mule will keep us running around for 6 weeks, and gallons of mixed gas will go a long way in the chainsaws and weed eaters, so we really don’t have to pump gas that often on our homestead.

Larger Storage Tanks and Pumps

For those that plan on storing larger quantities of fuel, it may be worthwhile to invest in a heavy-duty fuel transfer pump. These are around $250 at Northern Tool. If you want to store a lot of gas you can use a heating oil tank. If the tank is elevated on a stand, then you can gravity feed your fuel.

Preventing gas evaporation

Since we do not pump gas daily, we remove the gas pump and seal the barrel with the screw-on cap that it came with. This prevents any vapors from spacing. This is important to remember because, over time, you can lose a lot of gas due to evaporation.

Preventing water damage to barrels

Wind can blow rain in. We noticed that the bottom of our painted metal gas barrels started to get some rust due to water blowing into the front of the gas station. We are adding a drop-down waterproof cloth in front. We chose Sunbrella fabric. You can buy it by the yard on eBay. It is commonly used to reupholster outdoor furniture.

Mud and water splatters

We initially did not have gravel around our gas station. We have since added 1-inch gravel and that solved the problem. This can also help you level off your spot before building.

Alcohol-based HEET will absorb water from gas, but it is important to do whatever you can to prevent water from getting into your stored gas in the first place. A little water in gas can be removed pretty easily and at a low cost. If you are going to store ant significant quantities of gas, then it is a good idea to keep a few bottles of HEET around just in case. This stuff even works if the gas is already in the tank of the vehicle or machine you are trying to use. Sometimes condensation can get in a tank if it sits for some time, especially in the winter.

Octane Booster

Older gas can be revitalized up to a point by using an octane booster. How much it helps depends on the age and condition of the gas in question. It may be worth it to have few bottles on hand for WSHTF. Octane booster could be helpful if you have to salvage gas during a long-term emergency. Just because a vehicle won’t run doesn’t mean the gas is not valuable.

Gas barrels can make a loud noise when pressure changes. Gas barrels are made to hold pressure. When there are big temperature swings, the pressure can change within the barrel. This change results in a loud noise that can be alarming if you don’t know what it is. It is similar to someone running up and hitting the barrel really hard. It is nothing to be concerned about, but I think that people should be aware so it doesn’t scare them the first time it happens.

Gas storage for smaller needs and spaces

Remember that it is always better to store flammables away from your main living space. I know that is challenging in a lot of areas, but a small outbuilding is better than in your main home. Here are a few storage containers that you can buy. Be sure to use fuel stabilizer whenever you add fresh gas.

Gas Caddy

You can purchase metal gas caddies online that have a pump and nozzle. These caddies have wheels and hold around 30 gallons of gas. They are very nice and make storage easy. The disadvantage is the cost. You can expect to pay $200-$250.

Metal Gas Cans

Metal jerry can style gas cans are better than plastic gas cans. Make sure they are sealed properly and keep them off the ground. A used pallet works well.

Conclusion

It is important to take steps to store gas safely.

Storing some gas protects you from supply disruptions and price fluctuations. Gas can be stored for up to two years if kept in a good container with fuel stabilizer. Keeping extra gas on hand can prevent some trips to town, thus saving you time and money.

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