MEC tanks get overhauled

A drone view of the Marshalls Energy Company’s six million gallon fuel storage facility with renovations underway: A newly installed seawall protects the facility and scaffolding is visible around the three tanks that are currently under renovation. Photo: Jeremy Farrington.

The Majuro Fuel Tank Refurbishment project, funded in part by both Marshalls Energy Company and the Asian Development Bank, is well underway.

For many Majuro residents, the glimpses they can see driving by the MEC power plant and tank farm include a 180-foot tall boom crawler crane and scaffolding surrounding three tanks currently being worked on. Prior to any of the work occurring on the actual fuel/diesel tanks themselves, the existing seawall that protected the tank farm, was raised and secured. This was to protect the facility from the increased frequency of storm and tidal surges.

A total of 2,538 concrete seabee units were built by local contractor Joemar Developments and installed by CCB Envico (Australia), raising the protection level of the tank farm from the ocean by six feet along the length of the tank farm.

With the seawall work complete late in 2023, refurbishment work has commenced in earnest on the tanks themselves, which had in places started to show signs of bad corrosion on all tanks. Safety regulations require that the current steel thickness shall not be less than two-thirds of the original steel thickness. On these safety requirements many of the tanks have a reduced storage capacity due to the damage that has occurred over many years since they were built in 1982.

The project’s scope is about refurbishing six of the eight existing tanks and constructing an additional two new, smaller tanks along with upgrading the associated pipework, pumps and bringing in a new monitored and modern control system that is suitable for a tank farm of this size. Once complete, the original capacity of each of the tanks refurbished will be restored, addressing a key component of the overall MEC energy system.

This project has been seen by MEC as its top priority project for many years.

“Refurbishment of the fuel tanks has been the number one priority project for a while at MEC,” said Steve Wakefield, MEC’s Chief Technical Officer. “Without adequate and reliable storage of diesel the whole RMI economy would be severely limited. Everything from power generation, land transportation, inter-island transportation and fishing boats would be impacted with these tanks.”

Jack Chong Gum, MEC’s CEO went further “Refurbishing these fuel tanks is about guaranteeing energy security” which considering most of the current energy generation in the RMI is based on diesel generators, shows the importance of the tanks, pumps and pipelines to energy security in the RMI as the country begins a transition to renewable forms of energy over the next 25 years.

Work is progressing well on site by the contractor Pacific Energy Projects Limited from New Zealand.

Jeremy Farrington, from Turquoise Projects who is overseeing the build for the ADB and MEC, states that the first tank, tank number three, is due to be handed back to MEC for use in the second quarter this year.

“The tank will be as good as new when it does and will be ready for another couple of decades servicing Majuro,” he said.

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