Long-term forecasts of global energy consumption continue to predict rising global energy demands, driving the need for increased oil and gas storage and handling solutions. As owners and operators consider how to address new terminal projects or facility expansions, appropriate project management and execution approaches are vital.

When it comes to complex projects, it is natural to focus on the equipment that has the longest lead time or threatens to impact the budget. While the tank itself is a key element, new terminals and terminal expansions require comprehensive, upfront evaluation of the overall project scope to meet operating goals. An engineer-procure-construct (EPC) approach uses proven processes, in-house knowledge, and experience in available technologies to meet terminal project objectives with reduced risk and optimized operability — addressing the project holistically rather than focusing solely the tank.

Smarter Terminal Design

An upfront understanding of a terminal site and the available space for terminal expansion projects means greater options for asset and equipment decisions. Instead of designing a project around a predetermined tank solution, an EPC partner evaluates tank options and site constraints based on working capacity and spacing requirements to develop the right option to meet the operational goals.

A comprehensive evaluation of sites, codes and regulations reveals the optimal tank and equipment options around which a project will be developed. For example, if acreage isn’t available, owners can expect an EPC partner to offer alternatives for smaller-diameter tanks, higher shell heights and hydraulics to meet requirements. Additionally, properly evaluating the processing needs in concert with the storage for natural gas liquids (NGLs) can save significant capital and maintenance costs compared to standard or prefabricated process units. Custom-designed solutions for metering, filtering, refrigeration and vapor recovery can be optimized to minimize capital costs while providing significant operations savings over the life of the asset.

Site Optimization

Every proposed project site requires a critical and upfront evaluation of its potential challenges and design considerations. In addition to evaluating available transportation infrastructure to support a terminal, owners must examine regulatory and code requirements along with physical site features and limitations.

EPC services include extensive, careful initial site assessment to help identify how the balance of the site will evolve, over and above identified tank locations. Wetlands and flood plain review, restricted space and land grading, and environmental review are just some of the comprehensive evaluations that occur at a project outset to optimize a site and control cost.

Code requirements determine tank spacing and sizing to see that the volume of storage is met while efforts needed to prepare the site are minimized. Avoiding a one-size-fits-all tank solution allows owners the flexibility to get the most out of a site while achieving budget and schedule goals by reducing piping runs, electrical lines and wasteful terminal infrastructure. Smart layouts also maximize construction productivity by considering site logistics for material deliveries, laydown and construction sequencing.

Strategic Environmental Compliance

Avoiding a predefined tank solution gives owners the flexibility to address environmental regulations and code restrictions before the detailed design stage. This helps operators realize front-end cost savings that also align with environmental requirements.

Specific environmental permits, such as an air permit, are identified for terminal projects upfront. Any requirement that will affect tank design, type and technology — a geodesic dome or internal floaters, cooling, pressurization or gas blanketing — is evaluated and incorporated into the scope to help shape the entire project execution. Alternatively, products and compositions can be evaluated to consider blending or other scenarios that can minimize costs.

Unlike tank fabricators offering a standard package, EPC partners provide extensive in-house engineering capabilities to design what is needed for the site and help determine the right technology for the project. Evaluation of environmental restrictions, setback requirements, land optimization and balance of site at the conceptual design phase helps meet project objectives that a standard, predefined tank package cannot accommodate.

Competitive Sourcing

Owners can expect an EPC partner to competitively bid all tanks, equipment and needed assets after initial scoping and evaluation defines project requirements. Tanks are often the bulk of any terminal project; therefore, operators benefit from EPC partnerships where tank brand and fabricator purchases are unbiased. Through competitive bidding, owners have increased options and potential savings, even for schedule-driven projects, with consideration given to all aspects of safety, design, schedule and constructability. This offers the owner significant cost savings.

Terminals incorporate a large range of systems, assets and ancillary equipment. Whether storage tanks, loading equipment, transmission lines, digital controls, supply systems or support buildings, all assets should be evaluated for the optimal selection.

Whether they involve completing a new terminal facility or the upgrade and expansion of an existing site, terminal projects that take advantage of a wide range of disciplines deliver more successful project outcomes. Partnering with a proven EPC provider, like Burns & McDonnell, to lead the design, planning and execution of a project can result in effective outcomes for terminal owners and operators.


From a single tank to full-scale terminal construction, tanks represent a critical component of terminal and pipeline projects. Learn how to streamline and efficiently manage construction for storage, terminal and logistics project success.

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Brian Highfield, PE, is a department manager at Burns & McDonnell, where he leads a team that specializes in the midstream oil and gas market. Brian is experienced in designing new booster stations and fuel terminals and providing design and construction support for design-build terminal projects.