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The Best (And Safest) Way To Stockpile Gasoline

The Best (And Safest) Way To Stockpile Gasoline

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Stockpiling supplies for an emergency is at the very core of survival. Unfortunately, though, not everything stores well, especially when we’re talking about months and years. Most food items don’t store well, but we are able to make up for that by the way we preserve and package them. Other items aren’t quite as easy.

Gasoline is one of these items. I think we all would agree that a good stockpile of gasoline will be extremely valuable in just about any survival scenario. The problem is in finding a way that we can store gasoline without it going bad.

What Makes Gas Go Bad?

Gasoline is not a simple chemical substance, such as ethanol or citrus acid. It’s a mixture of a number of different hydrocarbons, with the actual carbon ranging from four to 12 in a single atom. The fractional distillery which refines gasoline from petroleum also mixes in various additives, intended to help a vehicle’s performance.

Most of the chemicals in gasoline are highly volatile. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t mean that they burn easily, but rather that they evaporate easily. It is the gasoline vapor, not the liquid gasoline, that we burn.

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Typically, the most volatile parts of the gasoline mixture are also the most reactive or most flammable. As gasoline sits, these volatile parts evaporate, leaving the less flammable parts in place. While an internal combustion engine will still burn those parts and work, some efficiency will be lost.

The second thing that can go wrong with gasoline is that certain parts of it will oxidize, mixing with oxygen in the air to form new compounds. These new compounds are not as reactive as the original ones and, in fact, can cause problems in an engine. These new compounds congeal together, forming particles of a gum-like substance that can plug injectors and fuel filters. Fortunately, these are visible and filterable from the gasoline. They also cause the smell of the gasoline to change to a distinctly sour one.

Finally, the third culprit in the process of making gas go bad is water. The heating and cooling of the gasoline causes water to condense on the inside and outside of the container. The water condensation then mixes with the gas, reducing its reactivity.

What About Ethanol? 

Stockpiling Gasoline The Right WayIn recent years, there has been a push to add ethanol to gasoline, in order to extend gasoline supplies. Typically, the gasoline we buy is 10 percent ethanol, or grain alcohol.

Chevron states on their website that adding ethanol to gasoline has no discernible effect on its life expectancy. However, ethanol is known to draw water out of the air, so it would seem that gasoline augmented with ethanol would absorb more water than pure gasoline would.

With all this, it would seem that it is virtually impossible to store gasoline for a prolonged period of time. Nevertheless, there are things that can be done in order to make it possible to store gasoline for months or even years.

To start with, gasoline needs to be stored in truly airtight containers, whether metal or plastic. I prefer metal myself, as plastic containers can allow some small amount of oxygen to pass through. Generally speaking, the seals on plastic containers are made of plastic and there is a mold line running right through the sealing surface. Metal containers, on the other hand, do not have a mold line to contend with and use rubber seals.

During World War II, one of the ways that gasoline was shipped to the South Pacific was in five-gallon Jerry cans. Even with months of storage and shipping, the gas wouldn’t lose any of its potency. I use a 55-gallon drum, which seals tightly and has a non-sparking brass valve. The bung has been reinserted in the hole with Teflon tape to ensure that there are no air leaks.

The fuller the container is, the less air there is in it to react with the gas. This will reduce the possibility of evaporation, oxidation and water contamination. However, a gas can should not be filled completely because some space needs to be left for expansion of the gas when it is hot.

It is safer to store gas outside the home, perhaps in a shed. But it is better for the gas if you can store it in a cool, dry place. The more consistent temperature will eliminate the expansion and contraction of the gasoline, allowing the container to be filled more. This also will reduce the likelihood of condensation by not allowing the gas to get cold enough to cause it.

Gas additives, such as Sta-bil, work well to extend the life of gas as well. They claim that they can add an additional six months to the life of the gas, without any other additives or change. Sta-bil works by replenishing chemicals that may have evaporated from the gas, and also reduces oxidation.

Another aid in storing gas for prolonged periods of time is to rotate your stock. Every month use five or 10 gallons of your existing stock and replace it with fresh gas. That ensures that you always have fresh gas on hand.

Finally, always be sure to filter any old gas, when using it in an internal combustion engine. That will allow you to remove any of the oxidized solids which have formed in the gas. This one step can make it possible to use gas that otherwise wouldn’t be usable.

What advice would you add on storing gasoline? Share your tips in the section below:

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32 comments

  1. Do not store gas in your basement, especially if your furnace/gas water heater are there. Stupid to even suggest this.

    • Someone already mentioned that the PRI brand fuel stabilizer can be added yearly, while STA-BIL only makes the claim “up to 12 months”. I have heard reports of PRI-G being tested out to to 12 years ( the article above states 10). I’d also point out the possibility of purging the air in a fuel storage setup and replace that space with a gas that won’t react with the fuel (nitrogen)

      Some questions for the the group: is it true about the new formulation of diesel being more inclined to go stale than once- upon-a-time, and what’s the deal with fuel refined in summer versus winter ( and is one Better for storage)? Is there any negative effect of storing E-10 long term versus straight gasoline? I assume most people here know about puregas.org

      • at one time(during the first full model year of the diesel VW Rabbit) kerosene was added to diesel to keep it from getting “thickened=up” during the colder months of the year here in Maine .Gasolene did not need this precaution.

  2. There are products known as Pri-g (for gasoline) and Pri-D (for diesel fuel) that will give fuels very long storage lives—up to ten years. They come in quart bottles similar to those for motor oil, and only a very small quantity is required per gallon.

    • Good info. Thanks!

    • Yes, I use both Pri G and D. They suggest you add the product to the gas or diesel once a year. Been using it for years and love it. Although, I rotate my fuels every year, it is still gives me piece of mind. I also use Ethanol free gas in all my small gas engines and my vehicles when close to home as the stations which carry it are few and far between. Ethanol even at 10% has caused me to have to rebuild a weed wacker and mini tiller.

    • Thanks for the tip. Would Pri-G be as good with gasoline in plastic containers (EPA Rated)?

  3. I store stabilized premium (93 octane) in metal NATO Jerry cans (Army-Navy store). Rotated annually. Stored in a shed in SW FL. Burns in my vehicle nicely.

    • Do you really need 93 Octane?

      I teach motorcycle safety, so I deal with a results of engines designed to be run at 40MPH running at 10MPH and idling for extended periods of time, so I have to clean plugs a lot. Several years ago, I thought that maybe I could use a higher octane and solve the problem. The result was more fouled plugs and lower mileage. Normally I get 14 MPG from a bike that gets 75MPG on the road. Running 93 I get 9MPG.

      Higher octane gas has a higher flash point. So, if your engine does not have the compression to reach the higher temperatures needed, you are wasting your money in un-burnt fuel.

  4. For long term storage, NEVER use gasoline with ethanol. Either get ethanol-free gasoline or aviation fuel (available from a local fixed base operator at your local airport). AV gas is best because it is refined to a higher stadard than automotive gas. While stabilizers will help improve the shelf life of gasoline with enthanol, it will still get stale, causing gummy deposits which leads to problems, especially in carburated engines. If you are spending the money to store gasoline do it right and store the highest quality you can buy.

    • Avgas is great if, you can afford it, +50%, can get through airport security to get to the FBO to buy it.
      Distance is also a problem, for me it is 40 miles to a small airfield where I can get it.
      Some small airfields won’t sell it to you unless they either know you or you have a plane.
      I had a Piper 200 Arrow for 20 years,
      got tired of airport security when just trying to get to my plane each time.
      As stated, I have been storing gas since 1979 (after storm).
      Started with gas with MBTE or whatever the hell it was called, then transitioned to the ethanol.
      The primary vehicles are jeeps with injectors, but have many small engines, they are fueled from the same supply, such as two generators, chain saws. water pump, large snow blower, lawn tractor.
      I have never had a problem caused by stored gas in any of them, but again, I change it out every year.
      Installed an added generator last year that runs on propane, one less item to change out, big one runs on diesel and is three phase.
      Generator gas is changed out every year, tanks are dated, it is then burned in the jeeps.
      All small engines including the generators are run dry at the end of each run or the season.

  5. Here in the northeast, my stored gas will last for two years with stabil added.
    I use USGI 5 gallon steel cans, have 20 of them.
    I rotate the gas out each year.
    For ease of rotation, I use yellow and white electrical tape on the handle for quick ID.
    The tape is marked with magic marker with month and year filled, plus the amount of stabil added.
    tape color alternates by the year.
    All cans are stored in a well vented metal building along with propane tanks.
    There are no ignition sources within the building and the lighting is of the explosion proof type.
    Will never be caught again like in the blizzard of 1978.

  6. I run a Propane powered generator, multiple 100lb bottles, indefinite life as far as I know, the size of my tanks are easier to manipulate….as for gasoline, 93 octane(non-ethanol) for use with my saws, mowers, other equipment. Usually I dump the last of my 93 into my Jeep and refill the can(plastic), I keep no more than one or two cans of gas on hand, my truck is diesel and is always atleast half full, and have one fiver, just incase….as for the basement theory, cool temps=low lying fumes, these fumes will creep….think about someone that splashed a bit of gas on a pile of dead leaves, ignite that fuel and watch tha dance….same for an air tight shed or garage, fumes will build…ask anyone in the Fire Department….

  7. For the same of us total novices it would have been nice to be told how to filter instead of just being told to filter the gas before use.

  8. Hello, Let me start by stating that I am a traffic safety professional: I own and operate a motorcycle safety training school. So I deal with gasoline, storage, and small engines (carburated and injected), and I have learned a lot about the subject of gasoline.

    I just read your article about stockpiling gasoline. Pretty good, some things that you might want to add in a later article:

    1. Any gasoline engine will run off gasoline with up to 10% ethanol. That being said:

    a. Shaken not stirred: Ethanol and gasoline do not bond very well, when mixed, they will start to separate as soon as the mixture stops moving. This is the reason that fuel trucks that transport gasoline, have a separate compartment in the tanker for the ethanol: it is mixed as it is pumped into the storage tank at the station. So, if gasoline/ethanol is stored for any length of time it needs to be shaken or stirred very well prior to use, especially if the whole container is not being used at one time. Example: if you have a 5 gallon container that has been sitting for a month, the ethanol will be floating on top of the gasoline. If you only use 1/2 of that container, the mixture of ethanol to gas can be as high as 20%. With that much ethanol, if the engine runs it may stall when a load is introduced, because ethanol does not have the explosive power of gasoline.

    2. Ethanol is corrosive. Have you noticed that fuel tankers are now shiny and not painted, or that gas stations have been changing out their storage tanks a lot lately, or that the gas tanks in your car/truck is now plastic and not steel. The reason is that ethanol is so corrosive it has to be transported in stainless steel tankers or it will eat the steel of the tank. It eats the steel fast enough that it is cheaper to buy a stainless steel tanker, than it is to replace them as they rot

    3) Ethanol can damage internal combustion engines, especially older carburated engines.
    a.Unless the rubber based products have been replaced with synthetic products, the ethanol will cause them to deteriorate which clogs the carburetor/injectors or in a worst case scenario, if a fuel line leaks onto a hot engine, could cause a fire. (Curious Note: the owners manual for a 1988 Jeep Cherokee states that if the owner uses Gasohol ,IE ethanol- gas mixture, the warranty is void.)

    b. ethanol is corn based and as a result if left to sit in a carburetor for as little as a week without use, mold will start to grow, clogging the jets/injectors.

    4) Ethanol removal. If you choose to store gasoline for an extended period of time and there aren’t any ethanol-free stations around, the ethanol can be removed prior to storage. Ironically, ethanol’s desire to absorb moisture that hurts our engines can help us as well. Most gas-ethanol mixtures are 10% ethanol. So, in 10 gallons there is 1 gallon of ethanol.(15% will have 1.5 gallons, etc)
    a. determine how much ethanol is in the gas. add equal or slightly greater amount of water (distilled is best, but tap will work).
    b. Mix very well. A drill with a paint mixer bit works really well.
    c. let sit, time varies by temperature an volume. The ethanol will bond with the water and sink to the bottom. If you can use a transparent container, you can see the separation. You can now suck the gas off the top or drain the water from the bottom if your container will allow.

    Just some of my thoughts.

    T.S. Daub

    • Shannon Daub: I would be very afraid to use a drill to stir gasoline as the inherent sparks of the motor could easily ignite gasoline.

    • DO NOT follow Shannon Daub’s advice in her comment here. She’s wrong about quite a few things.
      1) Ethanol is not corrosive to metal. Moonshine stills are made from steel, both stainless and otherwise, and last for YEARS despite being in contact with the most reactive form of ethanol: hot vapor.
      2) Ethanol is not “corn based”. It is the name of a particular type of alcohol. It can be made from rye, barley, wheat, sugar cane, beets, corn, potatoes, apples or whatever. Furthermore it does not support the growth of mold. Have you ever found mold on an old bottle of bourbon? Me neither. This is because the ethanol is distilled and separated from the remaining sugars and nutrients. And bourbon has many times the nutrients of ethanol used in fuel. Now imagine adding 9 bottles of gasoline to that bottle of bourbon. How much mold do you think is going to grow there? Exactly NONE.
      3) Do not add water to your gasoline. Whoever tells you to do this is wrong. Furthermore DO NOT use power tools with open sparks around gasoline fumes. Definitely don’t use those tools agitate gasoline and create MORE of those fumes. If you do need to stir gasoline for some reason use clean, unfinished dry wood, like a survey stake or unfinished canoe paddle, or a non sparking brass rod. Things with paint, varnish or plastic are not a good idea as the gas may dissolve them and gum up your carb or injectors.
      4) Do your own research. Right now you have a choice between listening to me or to Shannon Daub. You shouldn’t act on what either of us says without knowing the facts for yourself. I hope my post helps you out and keeps you from making expensive, potentially harmful mistakes. More than that though I hope it inspires you to find out the facts for yourself. If you’re basing your prepping on the comment boards of a site like this, you’re doing it wrong.

  9. When using old gasoline (as a last resort), through what would you pour it to filter out any particles of gunk? Filter paper? Cheese cloth? How big are the particles of gunk?

  10. Being a vol. Fireman for 20 years…..for the love of GOD, do not store gas in basement!

  11. I have been long term storing gasoline for 15 to 20 years now. We live where hurricanes are regular here on the gulf coast so you better be prepared. That being said I always have run stabil at double the strength it says to on the bottle. We have 2 stations that sell non ethanol fuel but I have not used any of it. I may in the future if need be,it cost quite a bit more. Especially if you are storing more gas. My fuel is stored above ground on wooden shelves in a storage building that has ventilaton on a ridge vent and vents right above ground level. All vents have screens to keep out insects rodents and the like. I also have 2 grounding rods on the building. The gas is stored in regular 5 gallon plastic gas containers. I have never had a carburetor,fuel injector, or other fuel issue problem in all those years. As a matter of fact when I started storing this fuel with stabilzer some how my carburetor and injector issues ( you know how you would get hesitation or hard to start sometimes or run on)went away and got better. I guess the stabilzer is good for the fuel system. Until this ethanol with stabilizer causes problems I will stay with it. I store this fuel just like this for 2 years with no rotation without ever having a problem. Of course unless a hurricane arrives and I have to use this fuel. Now I need mechanical propane equipment since propane stores so much longer.

    • I live in a warmer climate which suits bio-diesel and it keeps for years. Bought a diesel generator and our main car is diesel. I have been using bio for 11 years and have no pump trouble although making it and using it there is a learning curve such as filter and fuel hoses. My small tractor is also diesel and storage is a lot safer than petrol. Cost comes in at about 25 cents per liter. We can carry enough to do 4000 K trips in our Toyota Land cruiser and the fuel needs to age. Bio goes solid at zero so it’s a warm area fuel.

  12. Any thoughts about putting 50 gallons of non-ethanol gas in a 55 gallon drum with good sealing bungs and drawing about 25″ of vacuum on the drum to remove as much oxygen as possible. You would need a special setup on one bung with a valve.

    • Inches of water or mercury?
      Too much vacuum will lower the vapor pressure and INCREASE the volitiles evaporating out.
      Better to have a nitrogen vapor space purge at a couple inches of water positive pressure.

  13. Good article here are couple tips.
    Gasoline should never be store in and uphill location. If fumes leak (they are heavier than air) they can ignite from 50 feet or more.
    This happened to a friend of mine. It resulted in the demise of a new Chevy.
    Also the Starbrite company makes a stabilizer “Startron” which is the best I’ve found.

  14. Ragnar Benson! You still exist? We’re not worthy! Love your books!

  15. Oddly enough, I stored gas with sta-bil when gas prices were cheap. 5 years later I checked on it & quite a bit had evaporated from some of the containers (red plastic gas cans with black spouts & yellow tip caps you see everywhere). I poured some out into a clear bottle to visually inspect it, & it was a bit darker, but nothing floating in it, no water, nada. Clean pure (but a little darker) gasoline. Poured it in the minivan & used it up so I could buy more. I will rotate my stock much sooner next time around lol.
    Not bad for sitting FIVE years.

  16. StaBil works pretty well. However, I’ve discovered another one made by Power Research inc that actually works much better. PRI-G is a fuel additive that will preserve the fuel much longer…years, in fact.
    I bought a case and intend to buy another to have on hand for future use, trade, what-have-you. Great stuff.
    they also make an additive for diesel and small engines

  17. Our generator is hooked up to propane, which I believe will last a lot longer, just wish we had a tank farm…

  18. we have a company in uvalde texas that has a bulk tank in back that has no ethenol in it.have 5o gallons of this stored ..have 2 gen that run on gasoline or propane.have 3000 gallons of propane.by far the best
    there are business that have gasoline with no ethenol .do some research ….dm have had bad luck with the stabil.made a shelic in the gas….dm

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