Unless you are already living a retrograde, off-grid lifestyle chances are you depend on quite a few gasoline-powered tools and conveyances in your life.
Everything from lawn care equipment to automobiles and the ever important generator runs on gasoline and considering that the cogs of commerce that make this precious liquid fuel so readily available are incredibly, and increasingly, fragile this means you’ll need to have a stash of your own on hand if you want to go to the distance during an SHTF event.
Unfortunately, of all the liquid fuels you might choose for long-term storage gasoline is among the worst.
Most modern straight out of the pump gasoline blends will only last a few months at best before being rendered useless and unusable, and even so called pure gasoline is not too much better than that.
This makes storing large quantities of gasoline for long periods of time quite the logistical headache for preppers, especially when you lack specialty handling and storage equipment.
However, it is possible to greatly simplify your gasoline storage endeavor with a little bit of know-how, proper prior planning and a few select additives.
In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about storing gasoline for the long haul.
Gasoline is Versatile but Short-Lived
As mentioned above, gasoline is an excellent high-performance fuel used in all kinds of tools and vehicles around the world, but is overwhelmingly popular in North America.
Everything from your backyard leaf blower to the highest of high-performance automobiles use gasoline, and everything in between.
How sad it is then that you’ll be playing the equivalent of musical chairs with your gas cans if you want to keep anything on hand but a cursory backup fuel load for your primary daily driver.
There’s no two ways about it, gasoline goes bad fast, and depending upon the type of gasoline you have on hand and how it’s stored you might only have 30 days before it is entering dodgy territory.
If you are very lucky, purchase the right gasoline and store it in an ideal container in ideal conditions you might get 6 months on the outside.
That is just not a long time! Hell, most of us have food in our pantries that will last a lot longer than that if we don’t do anything special to it, and other consumables like ammunition can last for years or decades.
Heck, even the propane cylinder sitting under our gas grill has a shelf life in excess of three decades!
Is this a sign? A sign that we should switch to something besides gasoline to simplify our liquid fuel storage problem? That’s definitely an option, but it isn’t necessarily the one I would pick.
Luckily, there are easy things you can do to greatly extend the storage life of your gas.
Type is Everything When You Need Long Shelf Life
It all starts with the blend, or type, of gasoline that you purchase. Make no mistake, the principal factor that will affect the usability of your gas is always going to be time, but it is the type of gasoline that you purchase that will dictate whether or not you have very little time, or a lot of time, and that’s a fact.
In the United States, there are two consumer grades of gasoline that are most commonly encountered.
The first is gasoline with ethanol in it, properly called ethanol gasoline blends, and the second is pure gasoline, which isn’t really pure pure, but is a solution that is overwhelmingly made from gasoline.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of gasoline sold at pumps throughout America today is ethanol gasoline blends.
You can say whatever you want to about the detergent properties of ethanol, the cost savings, the this, the that: The bottom line is that ethanol gasoline blends have extraordinarily short shelf life.
All gasoline blends over time lose their volatility due to degradation of their combustive compounds, and that means your gas can go bad, but ethanol gasoline are even worse because the ethanol separates from the gasoline itself over time, floating on top like an oil slick.
Once that happens, the gasoline is no good.
And don’t think you have a bright idea just because it occurred to you to swirl it or mix it together again and hope for the best.
Chances are that’s not going to happen, because the ethanol compounds oxidize, that is decay, faster than the gasoline itself.
Even worse, ethanol gasoline blends love to soak up water and that means any condensation that forms in your storage containers is going to contaminate your gas worse than if you were storing it pure gasoline.
From the outset, your ethanol gasoline blend will have a shelf life of anywhere between 30 days to 90 days, and not much more. If you can track down a supplier that still sells pure gasoline, your average lifespan will be greatly extended to about 6 months. That is definitely a big improvement, but still not as long as we would prefer if we are storing large quantities of gas.
In any case, that is ideal. You’ll need to take care of proper storage containers, keep an eye on the conditions the gas is stored in, and strongly consider the use of specialized additives to attain that shelf life or extend it. More on that below.
Appropriate Containers are a Must
Storing gasoline in proper containers is absolutely essential for maximizing storage life. You shouldn’t need me to tell you this, but you never, ever want to store gasoline in any container that is not approved for holding it unless it is an emergency and you have absolutely, positively no other choices.
For our purposes, this narrows down our selection to gas cans and larger fuel storage drums although certain specialized containers like fuel bladders are an option.
Here’s the trick, gasoline is highly volatile, as mentioned above, and also quite corrosive and this makes long-term storage in any container tricky business if we want the container uncompromised and the gasoline uncontaminated.
For smaller quantities or portability, plastic or metal gas cans are your best bet, preferably ones that are vented.
For storing massive quantities that you can feed directly into tools and vehicles using pumps, or distribute to smaller containers for various purposes, you can use fuel storage drums.
Both have advantages and disadvantages, but the big argument on this subject comes from what material the storage container is made out of, be it large or small.
Plastic storage containers have the advantage of being basically corrosion-proof, meaning they will not rust at all.
Metal containers, as you probably guessed, even modern ones that are made to a high standard, can rust and this rust will contaminate your gasoline with a cloudy look that can impair or even damage an engine.
This is usually a problem with older, degraded or unlined steel containers but it is still a problem you’ll have to look out for.
Whichever container you decide to use, don’t store any of them in contact with concrete or masonry, as this will exacerbate condensation problems.
Pallets or even a couple of scrap pieces of wood are all that is necessary to get your gas storage containers up off the unforgiving concrete of your garage or outbuilding.
Storing your gasoline in the correct, approved container is only half of the battle, however. The other half is the conditions that you store the gas in.
Storage Conditions Also Play a Part
The storage life of your gasoline will be significantly impacted by the temperature and overall climate it is stored in, and there is a bit of a double whammy at play.
First, extreme temperatures hot or cold will reduce the lifespan of your gasoline. What’s worse, temperature fluctuations will also reduce the lifespan of your gasoline and might greatly degrade the quality of the gas by contaminating it with water, water formed by condensation.
Wet, damp weather or being moved from a warmer to a colder environment or vice versa will start condensation forming on an inside your container.
Once enough water has contaminated your gasoline, especially a problem for ethanol gasoline blends, it will start causing problems in your engine or even fail to operate it.
This is obviously a problem because gasoline is extremely dangerous, being extraordinarily flammable and emitting copious amounts of noxious fumes.
Sure, it would be nice if we could just bring gasoline inside the house and not worry about it but this is the last thing you want to do, and most of us are not lucky enough to have climate controlled garages or out buildings or we can afford our gasoline a stable temperature environment.
All you can do is plan around this factor.
If the temperatures are generally mild and steady in your area, your gasoline will enjoy a longer shelf life. If the temperatures are extreme or fluctuate regularly know that your gasoline will not last as long, all other things being equal.
Consider the Use of Stabilizers a Must for Max Life
If you have ever nosed around in your local auto parts store, you have probably noticed those small, slender bottles of fuel stabilizer on the shelf.
These seemingly miraculous additives claim that they can extend the shelf life of your stored gasoline by two to three times! That is a heck of a claim, and though I could certainly understand why you’d be cynical I am happy to report that these additives, by and large, work quite well.
Adding a correct ratio of fuel stabilizer to a quantity of gasoline will dramatically improve the storage life of the gasoline if you add it when the gas is fresh.
Fuel stabilizer doesn’t do anything to turn back the hands of time if you have gas that is on its last legs already.
One other thing to note is that these stabilizers are blend specific, meaning that broadly you’ll have a fuel stabilizer for ethanol gasoline blends and then fuel stabilizers for straight gasoline.
It is also worth mentioning that the stabilizers for ethanol gasoline blends are not quite as efficacious as the ones for pure gas, although they do meaningfully extend the shelf life of ethanol blends by several months.
The good news is, if you really want to store a large quantity of gas for the long haul, is that stabilizers for pure gasoline can extend shelf life up to and in excess of one year! That’s pretty amazing, and though you’ll have to factor in this cost per gallon for any quantity you consider storing the time and aggravation savings alone make it well worth the investment.
Consider Seeking Out Long-Storage Fuel for Prepping
Although not something you probably want to go through the trouble of acquiring or investing in for fueling your daily driver, you should definitely consider seeking out a retailer of specialized long-storage gasoline particularly for building up your supply on hand.
This long-storage gasoline is exactly what it says on the tin: gasoline that is manufactured in a variety of different octanes and specially optimized for a long, stable storage life, typically at least a year but capable of going 2 years in storage with no problems depending on the manufacturer.
Note that this storage life is straight out of the pump, no additives and no trickery necessary on your part!
To say that this is a massive increase in storage life performance over typical commuter grade gas is the understatement of the decade.
Believe it or not, these gasolines are out there in a surprising variety of blends and formulas, both landed and unleaded, with other specific characteristics for various vehicles or applications.
As you have probably surmised already, this is not gasoline that is regularly advertised by gas stations or other suppliers that you are likely to pass in your typical travels.
But happily, it isn’t too difficult to find, either. Run a search for gasoline suppliers in your area, and include the search terms of long life or long storage life gasoline and you should come up with at least a couple.
You’ll probably have to drive out of the way to get it, and there might even be a minimum quantity purchase involved, but I cannot impress upon you enough how easy it will make your life.
For best results, store this long storage life gas in a ventless container to help prevent contamination and you can make stockpiling huge quantities of gas relatively painless and rotation an infrequent chore.
Gasoline is a vital consumable that most preppers need to have on hand in quantity, but it definitely isn’t going to make it easy on you.
The vast majority of consumer-grade gasoline sold at corner gas stations have very short shelf lives, anywhere from 30 days to 6 months on the outside if you are lucky enough to obtain a pure gasoline blend.
This creates many headaches when it comes to rotation and investment of money, but luckily proper planning, correct storage solutions and seeking out long-life gasoline can turn a huge pain into an easy chore.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.