Whether you are storing acids, chemicals, lubricants, combustible fuels or water, the importance of correctly specified tanks cannot be understated. The risks with incorrect storage include contamination, safety concerns over handling, and structural issues with the tanks which may not be rated to contain the fluids.

In addition to GRP tanks, the two most popular materials for storage tanks are steel and plastic. These materials have several virtues and pitfalls unique to them. In this article, we’ll discuss what these are to help you choose the right tank.

Steel tanks

Steel tanks are made from a high-quality stainless steel. They are mainly used to store liquids in the food and beverage industries, as well as in chemical production, cosmetics manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industry.

Metallic Storage Tanks


The two biggest benefits of steel tanks are they can be fabricated into any shape and size and they can support a wide range of pressures, up to 3,400 psi and more. This makes them a versatile option for holding both liquids and gases.

Steel tank advantages

  • Recyclable at the end of its life
  • Can be fabricated to any size and shape
  • Suitable for high-pressure applications
  • Suitable for storing gases and liquids
  • Non-porous, so will not absorb contaminates
  • Extreme chemical resistance across a wide pH range
  • Theft-resistant due to the strength and weight of the steel

Steel tank disadvantages

  • Heavy and difficult to move
  • Could corrode with incorrect material storage (chlorides)

Overall, the virtues of steel storage tanks outweigh the pitfalls, unless you need to store chlorides, in which case you will want a GRP tank or a plastic tank.

Plastic tanks

Plastic tanks are made from HDPE (high-density polyethylene). They are cheap and easy to make, mainly used for storing corrosive chemicals and holding oils and fuels. They are free of odour, taint and toxicity, making them inert.

Plastic Storage Tanks

The two biggest benefits of plastic tanks are they are lightweight compared to steel and can be used to store chlorides and chemicals that can corrode steel. This makes then suited to different applications, although these can also crossover.

Plastic tank advantages

  • Recyclable at the end of its life (HDPE and PE)
  • Stiff, strong, tough and resistant to chemicals and moisture
  • Can store chlorides and chemicals that eat steel
  • Lighter than steel, making installation and transportation easier
  • Available in a wide range of shapes
  • Pliable, allowing deformation without damage to the internal tank

Plastic tank disadvantages

  • Not as tough as steel
  • Not as secure as steel
  • Supports lower pressures than steel

Overall, plastic is an excellent choice for chemical storage in secure facilities. The material is inert and supports chlorides that eat stainless steel.

Choosing the right tank

Hopefully, this article has given you a decent idea about what type of tank you need.

Read our article important considerations when choosing chemical process and chemical storage tanks for more helpful tips and advice.

We fabricate steel and plastic tanks to any specification, including vertical cylindrical tanks with or without insulation, horizontal tanks, atmospheric bulk storage chemical tanks, bulk silos, pressure vessels, dual containment tanks and much more.

For a chat about your needs, call us on +44 (0)1922 418005 or email sales@pdfl.uk.