How to Calculate Heat Losses From Storage Tanks

Updated April 17, 2017

Storage tanks are used to hold industrial chemicals. Some chemicals require heating to prevent freezing or to assist in pumping operations to the process. Although many storage tanks are insulated, some are not and exposed to the atmospheric temperatures. If materials require a certain temperature for storage or pumping, the calculation of heat losses from storage tanks is a necessary activity.

Determine the size of the storage tank for the purposes of exposed square footage. This is crucial for the determination of heat flow out of the tank. For instance, if the storage tank is 12 feet high and has a diameter of 8 feet, then the circumference is PI (3.1416) x diameter and the surface area is the circumference multiplied by the height. This is calculated by 3.1416 x 8 x 12 or 302 square feet.

Determine the heat transfer rate through the tank metal. This can be located on a table such as one found in the references. For instance, if the tank is insulated, exposed and has a liquid inside at a temperature of 32.2 degrees Celsius, then the heat transfer rate (α) is 0.4 Btu/hr ft^-16.7C.

Determine the ambient (atmospheric) temperature the storage tank will be exposed to. For instance, assume it is winter and the temperature drops to 0-1.111 degrees C.

Calculate the heat loss from the storage tank using the formula Q = α x A x dt, where Q is the heat loss in Btu/hr, α is the heat transfer rate in Btu/hr ft^2 F, A is the surface area in square feet and dt is the temperature difference of the tank fluid and ambient temperature. This is calculated to be 0.4 x 302 x (90-30) or 7,248 Btu/hr of heat loss.

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About the Author

Brian Baer has been writing since 1982. His work has appeared on Web sites such as eHow, where he specializes in technology, management and business topics. Baer has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.