In the petroleum storage industry, floating roofs tanks are one of the most common causes of incidents. Despite this, there is little knowledge about floating roof failures and little focus on floating roof tanks as a safety hazard in the industry. However, with the constantly increasing focus on safety in combination with high profile events such as hurricane Harvey (reported to have caused dozens of floating roofs to sink in under 24 hours) this can be expected to change.

One possible reason for the low focus is that floating roof failures have so far been regarded as unpredictable events. However, this paper shows that most serious floating roof failures are in no way unforeseeable. Instead, they are the logical consequence of less critical failures that are not emergencies, but that were not detected – or sometimes even neglected – and thus allowed to escalate to serious failures that cause major damage and process upsets.

Today, risk assessment and management sciences together with learnings from previous incidents have reached the point where most serious floating roof incidents are entirely preventable. In combination with new technology that continuously and around the clock monitors the status of the floating roof this has the potential to dramatically decrease one of the main risks associated with oil storage. Applying this knowledge and technology means failures can be detected before they escalate which allows taking preventive measures to safeguard plant, people, and business. Being proactive when it comes to floating roof failures will thus not only increase safety, but also avoid process upsets, reduce downtime and generally increase efficiency in the industry.