Behavior of Unanchored Oil Storage Tanks: Imperial Valley Earthquake

by Medhat A. Haroun, (A.M.ASCE), Asst. Prof.; Civ. Engrg. Dept., Univ. of California, Irvine, Calif. 92717,

Serial Information: Journal of Technical Topics in Civil Engineering, 1983, Vol. 109, Issue 1, Pg. 23-40

Document Type: Journal Paper


The performance of ground-based liquid storage tanks during past earthquakes revealed a more complex behavior than was implied by design assumptions. However, the analysis of damage was made without the benefits of records of the ground motion involved. The Imperial Valley earthquake of 15 October 1979 offered a unique opportunity to advance the understanding of the behavior of unanchored oil storage tanks under strong motion earthquakes. Several accelerograms were recorded in the vicinity of a steam power plant and near a tank farm where some tanks suffered structural damage. Field observations indicated that bottom plates of some tanks had lifted off the foundation and that few of these tanks developed an elephant's foot bulge. A brief description of structural and nonstructural damages of unanchored tanks during the Imperial Valley earthquake is presented. Methods and techniques currently used for predicting seismic behavior of tanks are outlined. Finally, a detailed analysis of the performance of tanks during the earthquake is carried out to investigate the validity of current standards and codes.

Subject Headings: Storage tanks | Ground motion | Energy storage | Earthquakes | Steam power | Power plants | Seismic design | Agriculture

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