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The Anatomy of an IBC Tank & Why It Matters

If you haven’t already read our blog on “everything you need to know about IBC tanks”, then the one thing that’s worth mentioning again here, is that IBC stands for intermediate bulk container, but what makes up the anatomy of an IBC tank and what do these features offer? 

The IBC skeleton: rigid, folding or flexible 

There are three types of IBC tanks – rigid, folding and flexible, with the rigid kind being the most commonly used. These tanks are a versatile and reliable option when it comes to storing and transporting a variety of products across a range of industries, whether it’s paints, chemicals, food syrups or simply water. Which IBC tank skeleton is best for you depends on the materials you’re storing or transporting in your IBC but essentially, like the human skeleton, the choice between a rigid, folding or flexible IBC structure determines the stability, shape and overall form of your IBC tank. 

The “skin” of IBC tanks: metal or plastic? 

IBC tanks are often made from metal or plastic, or a composite construction of the two materials (such as galvanised steel and plastic.) The majority are made from a high quality, durable plastic polymer, the most common polymer being high density polyethylene, or HDPE for short. This is essentially the skin of the IBC tank, and it’s there to protect the vital substances and components within.  

Some IBC tanks can have a double wall adaptation (think of it like a second skin), which is useful when the purpose of the IBC tank is to store or transport hazardous substances. The double wall feature means the IBC comes with an inside and an outside container, and IBCs which are intended for storing hazardous systems will often also have an integrated spill containment too. This makes it safe to both store and transport IBC tanks containing hazardous substances and chemicals.  

The IBC circulatory system has valves, pumps and pipes 

IBC tanks are most commonly used for storing and transporting liquids, as well as granules and powers. They come in various capacities, with the most common being 600, 800 or 1000 litres depending on the needs of the consumer. Their secure closure system provides an airtight seal, meaning the contents of the IBC remain uncontaminated whilst being stored or transported. The tanks come with a large screw cap lid and a bottom outlet valve. This makes filling up and emptying IBC tanks a simple and straightforward task. This system of pipework,valves and in some cases pumps, all of which makes the IBC tank easy to use and transport, works a lot like the human circulatory system. Valves control the flow and release of fluids, the network of pipes facilitate the flow of those liquids and pumps, which can be attached to IBC tanks move the fluid through the pipes to and through the valves, just like the human heart pumps blood around the body. 

Special IBC tank adaptations 

Manufacturers have offered more customisation options to meet specific industry requirements, such as different sizes, shapes, and valve configurations which makes IBC tanks even easier to use. For example, you can buy IBC adaptors to fix onto the IBC’s valve, and allow different fittings to be attached. One example of a different fitting which can be attached to an IBC adapter is a hose tail fitting. This screws into the valve so the hose can be connected directly. Similarly, a range of different lids can be purchased depending on how the contents in the IBC need to be looked after. For example, a vented lid allows air inside the container which is necessary if the product inside needs to be prevented from stagnating.  

Depending on what’s being stored or transported in the IBC tank, covers and heating jackets can also be purchased. IBC tanks with extra UV protection are also available. So whether it’s to protect the IBC from the elements or to help insulate and maintain temperatures inside the container, consumers can purchase the relevant products to ensure the contents of their IBC are stored and/or transported under optimal conditions.  

Liners are also available to fit IBC containers, which can help to dispense products from the IBC tank. For example, liners with air bladders improve dispensing and evacuation of the product, and ultimately leave less residual product in the liner.  

So what’s special about the anatomy of the IBC tank? 

They can be recycled… 

Because IBC tanks are made from recyclable materials, such as plastic, steel or aluminium, their anatomy means they can be recycled at the end of their life cycle. If they’re made of HDPE plastic, then the tank will be shredded into smaller pieces, washed and melted into pellets which can then be used to create new plastic products. And if they’re made out of metal, then the metal will be melted and reformed into new products.  

They can be reused… 

Before they’re recycled however, IBC tanks can be reused for different purposes. However, because IBC tanks are used across a number of industries, such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, chemicals and agriculture, it’s essential they’re professionally cleaned before they’re reused. Because they can be used across different industries, a professional and thorough clean ensures there are no trace chemicals left behind and the IBC tank can be used safely for its next purpose.  

Here at Fleetclean, we have 30 years experience when it comes to the tanker cleaning business, meaning we have the expertise and the equipment to deliver a first class clean which meets industry standards. Our operating site has specialist washbays, including a dedicated food grade IBC cleaning bay with filtered air and temperature controlled high pressure wash systems in order to achieve a superior clean of food grade IBC tanks. Similarly, we also have a dedicated bay for cleaning IBC’s which have previously contained chemicals, and we’re able to clean virtually any chemical IBC with our expertise and equipment. We also offer periodic IBC testing and inspection (2.5 years and 5 years), as well as IBC maintenance and repair to increase their longevity.  

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