Fuel and its storage are important factors for consideration for preppers and homesteaders alike. Those of us who have stores gasoline for any length of time will be aware that it has a limited shelf life. To store a sufficient store for the long term, therefore, poses some issues and problems that need to be overcome. Some people may consider whether freezing gasoline may be a viable option to extend the usable life of stored gasoline.
You cannot extend the shelf life of gasoline by freezing it. Gasoline freezes at a wide range of very cold temperatures that are determined by the additives and composition of the fuel. It is not normally possible to sustain temperatures of between -40F (-40C) and -200F (-128C) since most domestic freezers do not get to these low temperatures.
Why does gasoline freeze at such low temperatures, and if freezing is not an option, what other methods can you use to store adequate supplies of gasoline? These considerations need to factor into your fuel stockpiling plans, whether for prepping or use on the homestead.
What Is The Shelf Life Of Gasoline?
Gasoline does not come with a pre-determined shelf life, and suppliers will not give you the expected shelf life. This is because the life expectancy for how long the fuel will stay good to use in your engines is determined by the composition of the fuel, additives that have been included in the fuel, the environmental conditions, and the method that is used to store the fuel.
Because of these different circumstances that are difficult to establish, the shelf life of gasoline can be difficult to predict. In certain conditions, gasoline will only be good for a few months, but in other conditions, it may last up to a year. This unpredictability of the stability of gasoline is what makes the long term storage of this prepping necessity a huge challenge!
Gasoline will degrade faster in hotter and more humid conditions than in cooler dryer conditions, so the area in which you reside or are trying to stockpile your fuel will have a bearing on how long it will last.
So is freezing gasoline a possible solution to increase the shelf life of the fuel?
Can You Freeze Gasoline?
Gasoline can be frozen with liquid nitrogen, which has a temperature of -320F (-196C), and even if gasoline is frozen with liquid nitrogen, it melts really fast when the temperature rises a few degrees.
Maintaining the frozen state after freezing with liquid nitrogen is, therefore, difficult. Most people do not have access to liquid nitrogen, and working with this substance adds another level of danger that makes it not feasible as a solution to this problem.
So what about my domestic freezer, you may ask? Most domestic freezers operate in the range of between 0F (-18C) and -13F (-25C). These temperatures are not cold enough to freeze gasoline, so trying to freeze gasoline in your home freezer is not a viable proposition.
Most fuels have ethanol added to them, which poses a problem for the fuel if there is any air or moisture in the container that holds the fuel when it freezes or thaws. Ethanol absorbs moisture, and it can absorb this moisture directly from the air. Any condensation in the container during a freezing or thawing process, will increase the amount of moisture that the ethanol absorbs, which basically contaminates the fuel and reduces its shelf life.
The problem that motorists have in cold climates where their “fuel” freezes is the fuel lines that moisture and condensation in the pipes freezes and blocks the pipes. This constricts the flow of the fuel in the pipe so that not enough can get through to the engine for ignition.
Diesel fuel freezes at the much higher temperature of 32F or 0C, and additives are normally added to diesel fuel in colder climates to prevent the fuel from becoming cloudy or starting to gel at these temperatures.
When diesel fuel gets too cold, some of the components become vicious, and as a result, clog fuel lines, pumps, and fuel jets. The additives prevent this process to allow the fuel to stay in a liquid state at lower temperatures.
So what measures can homesteaders and preppers take to store gasoline long term and have the fuel viable when they need it?
How To Store Gasoline
There are several ways you can increase the life of your stored gasoline, but none of these methods will guarantee that the fuel will be viable if stored for a number of years.
For this reason, if you stockpile gasoline, it would be in your interest to have a program whereby you cycle your fuel. With this strategy, you need to use the oldest fuel in your storage and replace it with new fuel.
For example, if you need to fill up your truck with fuel, rather go to your fuel stockpile and fill up your truck with your oldest fuel and then refill your storage containers with fresh fuel.
This is the most effective strategy to ensure that your stored fuel will stay viable for the longest possible duration, along with the measures we will mention. This also means that you will need to keep detailed records of when each container was filled with fresh fuel so that you can keep track of the age of the fuel in each container.
Here are some additional suggestions you can implement to help your fuel to last as long as possible.
- Make sure your containers are completely airtight. Gasoline will absorb moisture directly from the air, which will contaminate the fuel and cause it to degrade faster. If your tanks are not airtight. Leaking vapors can pose a health risk and a fire hazard.
- Fill your containers as full as possible. This will limit the airspace between the fuel and the lid and once again limit the moisture that the fuel will absorb.
- Metal containers are better for long term fuel storage. Plastic fuel cans degrade over time due to the corrosive nature of the fuel and can lose its structural integrity and burst. Metal cans may be more expensive and heavier, but they will hold their structural integrity for longer. Just check them for signs of rust periodically. The containers should be approved for the storage of gasoline to make sure they will stand up to the rigors of storing fuel.
- Store the fuel in a location where there are no high temperatures. High temperatures increase the rate at which the fuel denatures, so store your container where they will not be in direct sunlight. High temperatures also make the fuel want to vaporize, which increases the pressure in the container. High temperatures can cause containers to burst.
- Protect your gasoline from temperature fluctuations. Extreme heat and extreme cold and the temperature fluctuating between these extremes cause the fuel to degrade faster. Store your fuel where it will have as constant a temperature as possible.
- Store away from high humidity. High humidity can not only contaminate the fuel but if your fuel storage tanks are metal, the humidity can promote rusting of the tanks.
- Store gasoline away from potential ignition sources. Because gasoline vapor is heavier than air, it can travel surprising distances and still be dense enough to ignite. Things pilot lights for gas burners and geysers and sparks from workshop tools can be potential ignition sources for vapors.
- Rotate your gasoline stores. Use your gasoline supply on a rotational basis so that you use the oldest fuel first and replace it with fresh fuel.
If freezing gasoline was a viable option, it would make storing this necessary resource a lot easier. Unfortunately, freezing fuel is not an option, so we will have to come up with more creative ways to store gasoline and implement a strategy for managing your fuel stores.
One may even venture into the train of thought of whether gasoline is the right fuel to stockpile or not. At some point in a disaster situation, you are going to exhaust your fuel supply, and it may be a considerable time before you can re-supply.
An alternative you may consider is converting to diesel-powered vehicles and generators and investigating making your own bio-diesel. This will ensure that when the gas stations run out of supply, you can still keep operating!