Title:
Modular LPG Tank Storage System and Method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present disclosure relates to a LPG tank storage assembly. The tank storage assembly includes a cage module and left and right doors hingedly coupled with the cage module. The cage module also includes a plurality of rails disposed adjacent a bottom of the cage module. The rails are configured to confine at least one tank between a set of two rails of the plurality of rails. The rails are also sloped downward from the back to the front of the cage module. A first cage module may be vertically coupled to a second cage module.



Inventors:
Fecko, Joseph G. (Mesquite, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/759711
Publication Date:
10/16/2008
Filing Date:
06/07/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B73/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROHRHOFF, DANIEL J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER BOTTS L.L.P. (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tank storage assembly, comprising: a cage module comprising a plurality of rails disposed adjacent a bottom of the cage module and configured to confine at least one tank between a set of two rails of the plurality of rails, the rails being sloped downward, from the back to the front of the cage module; and left and right doors hingedly coupled with the cage module.

2. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the cage module is configured to confine at least four tanks spaced from each other, each tank being configured to contain approximately 33.5 pounds of liquefied petroleum gas.

3. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the slope of the rails is greater than or equal to 1 degree and less than or equal to 5 degrees.

4. The tank storage assembly of claim 3, wherein the slope of the rails is approximately 1 degree.

5. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the cage module further comprises at least one backstop disposed adjacent a rear of the cage module and between the set of two rails of the plurality of rails.

6. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of feet, each foot being configured to adjust the height of the tank storage assembly.

7. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, further comprising a cover disposed atop the cage module, the cover being sloped downward from the front to the back of the cage module.

8. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the tank storage assembly comprises galvanized steel.

9. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the left and right side doors each comprise: a hinge; and a handle, the hinge and the handle being configured to be selectively coupled to either a right or a left side of the door.

10. The tank storage assembly of claim 1, wherein the cage module comprises a first cage module and a second cage module, the first cage module being vertically coupled with the second cage module.

11. The tank storage assembly of claim 10, wherein the second cage module is substantially identical to the first cage module.

12. The tank storage assembly of claim 10, wherein the left and the right doors are hingedly coupled to the first and the second cage modules, the first and second cage modules and the right and the left side doors forming a dual cage module assembly.

13. The tank storage assembly of claim 12, further comprising a first and a second dual cage module assembly, the first dual cage module assembly being vertically coupled with the second dual cage module assembly.

14. The tank storage assembly of claim 13, further comprising a cover disposed atop a top-most dual cage module assembly, the cover being sloped downward from the front to the back of the top-most dual cage module assembly.

15. A tank storage assembly, comprising: a first cage module being vertically coupled to a second cage module, each cage module comprising a plurality of rails disposed adjacent a bottom of the cage module and configured to confine at least one tank between a set of two rails of the plurality of rails, the rails being sloped downward, from the back to the front of the cage module; each cage module being configured to confine at least four tanks spaced from each other, each tank being configured to contain approximately 33.5 pounds of liquefied petroleum gas; the slope of the rails being approximately 1 degree; each cage module further comprising at least one backstop disposed adjacent a rear of the cage module and between the set of two rails of the plurality of rails; each cage module further comprising a plurality of feet, each foot being configured to adjust the height of the tank storage assembly; a cover disposed atop the cage module, the cover being sloped downward from the front to the back of the cage module; left and right doors hingedly coupled with the first and the second cage modules, each door comprising a handle and a hinge, the handle and the hinge being configured to be coupled to either a right or a left side of the door; and the tank storage assembly comprising galvanized steel.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/911,775, filed Apr. 13, 2007, entitled Modular LPG Tank Storage System and Method, which is hereby incorporated by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure is related to the storage of liquefied petroleum gas (“LPG”) tanks and more particularly, to a modular LPG tank storage system and method.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Storage vessels or tanks are used to store volatile liquids and gases. For example, LPG tanks are used to contain liquefied petroleum gas such as propane. LPG tanks come in a variety of sizes and are used for a variety of purposes (e.g., to hold the propane gas that powers certain forklifts).

It is often advantageous for end users to maintain a number of tanks at a particular facility. Full tanks are maintained in order to replace tanks that are emptied. Empty tanks may be maintained on site until they can be returned, exchanged, and/or refilled.

For example, end users of propane powered forklifts often store many tanks on site (both full tanks and empty tanks). Propane powered forklifts may be used in a variety of applications. A large warehousing operation may require numerous propane powered forklifts to support its warehousing function, while small warehousing facilities may only require one or a couple of forklifts to move material and products. A single forklift may use an entire tank of propane relatively quickly, when in use for a long period of time.

Of course, the use of propane is not limited to powering forklifts, rather there are hundreds of uses of propane. Naturally, different propane users have needs for different quantities of propane tanks. When not in use, these LPG tanks may need to be stored in such a way that they are protected from exposure, damage, unauthorized use, or theft.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The teachings of the present disclosure include a modular LPG tank storage system and method for use, that is capable of being modified to meet the storage needs of LPG tank users that maintain several LPG tanks on hand at a particular time.

In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, a tank storage assembly includes a cage module and left and right doors hingedly coupled with the cage module. The cage module also includes a plurality of rails disposed adjacent a bottom of the cage module. The rails are configured to confine at least one tank between a set of two rails of the plurality of rails. The rails are also sloped downward from the back to the front of the cage module. In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, a first cage module may be vertically coupled to a second cage module.

Each storage assembly may be made to accommodate any number of LPG tanks. For example, in accordance with a particular embodiment, a single module assembly may accommodate four LPG tanks. In another embodiment, a dual module assembly may be configured to accommodate eight LPG tanks. In another embodiment, modules may be added to allow the assembly to accommodate as many as twelve, sixteen, or more LPG tanks. Regardless of the specific configuration, modules may be coupled together to accommodate practically any number of LPG tanks. In fact, modules of different sizes may be coupled together (e.g. a four tank assembly (single module) may be coupled with a twelve tank assembly), to provide even more flexibility to an end user faced with particular space or configuration constraints.

Technical advantage of particular embodiments of the present invention include a system that provides storage and protection for multiple LPG tanks. Being modular, the system is capable of being expanded to allow the storage of additional LPG tanks by merely securing a second or third module, etc., on top of or alongside a first module.

Further technical advantages of particular embodiments of the present invention include a rail system for holding LPG tanks in a cage. The rails may be sloped downward from the rear of a module to the front of a module. This may facilitate easier removal of a full LPG tank when its use is needed.

Still further technical advantages of particular embodiments of the present invention include doors to secure the LPG tanks in the modular cage storage system. The doors are configured to be secured to either the right or the left side of the cage module. In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, the doors are “reversible” and can be used as a “left-hand” door, or rotated 180 degrees and used as a “right-hand” door. The invention also allows for the hinge or the handle to be placed on either the right or left side. Thus, the end user is provided with substantial flexibility in meeting space and layout constraints associated with the area(s) the end user designates for storage.

Other technical advantages will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from the following figures, descriptions and claims. Moreover, while specific advantages have been enumerated above, various embodiments may include all, some, or none of the enumerated advantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete understanding of the present embodiments and advantages thereof may be acquired by referring to the following description, taken in conjunction with accompanying drawings, in which like reference numbers indicate like features, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of an embodiment of the present invention showing the LPG tank storage cage with four LPG tanks;

FIGS. 2A-2E illustrate views of an LPG tank storage cage and various components thereof;

FIG. 3 is an isometric view of a dual module cage assembly in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is an isometric view of a foot bracket in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate views of a particular embodiment of a cover that may be used to protect the cage and/or its contents.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure is directed to the storage of liquefied petroleum gas (“LPG”) tanks. A storage system in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention may also provide protection and security for multiple LPG tanks. The cage assembly may be located indoors (e.g., a warehouse) or outdoors (e.g., exposed to the elements), and may be used to store LPG tanks that are used for various purposes. Alternative embodiments of the present invention may include a lid or cover that may protect stored LPG tanks from the elements (e.g., rain or snow) when the LPG tank cage storage system is placed outdoors.

In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, an LPG tank storage system may be configured to store 33 pound bottles which are commonly used for various purposes (e.g., to power forklifts) LPG tanks may be referred to as vessels, tanks, cylinders, or bottles. A 33 pound bottle may have the capacity to hold 7.7 gallons of pressurized propane weighing approximately 33.5 pounds. It may have a water capacity of 80 pounds of water. Its overall length may be 27.3 inches, and its outer diameter may be 12.2 inches. An empty 33 pound bottle may weigh 36 pounds. The present invention should not be interpreted to be limited to the storage of a single size of LPG tank, but rather the teachings of the present invention may be used to create a storage system(s) for a variety of different LPG tank sizes. LPG tanks stored by the system(s) and/or method(s) of the present invention may be in compliance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) or Department of Transportation Regulations.

In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, a single LPG tank cage module may store four—33 pound LPG tanks. A set of doors configured for the single module system, may be installed to secure the four LPG tanks. In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the LPG tank storage system may include a first and second module for storing LPG tanks. The second module may allow storage of up to four additional LPG tanks. Accordingly, when the first and second storage modules are at capacity, eight LPG tanks may be safely secured and stored. The dual module storage system may include a set of doors configured to fit the two storage modules that are stacked on top of each other. Additional modules may be added to allow the storage of twelve or more LPG tanks.

FIG. 1 illustrates a cage module assembly 10 in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention. Cage module assembly 10 may be constructed from ten gauge carbon steel and may include cage module 12 and left and right single module doors 14. Cage module assembly 10 is shown in FIG. 1 with four 33 pound LPG tanks. Each bottle rests on a set of two rails 30. Each set of rails holding a bottle is positioned such that each bottle is not allowed to come in contact with the bottle adjacent to it. In particular embodiments of the present invention, there may be less than one inch separating adjacent bottles when each bottle is properly located between a set of rails.

Cage module 12 may include three back bars 22. Each back bar may be vertical and run from a bottom cage angle bar to a top cage angle bar at the rear of cage module 12. Each back bar 22 may be positioned to prevent a tank from being removed from the rear of the cage module assembly 10. Without the three back bars 22, it may be possible to remove a tank from the rear of the cage module assembly 10 when that tank is not immediately adjacent to another tank. In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the back bars 22 may be replaced with a single sheet of steel that encloses the back of cage module assembly 10.

Cage module assembly 10 may include single module doors 14 that are attached to cage module 12 by hinges 15. Single module door 14 may include door handle 18. Door handle 18 may include a handle slot 20. When single module doors 14 are in their closed position, a lock may be received through handle slot 20 of each door handle 18 to lock cage module assembly 10.

Side bar 24 may run along each side of cage assembly 10 to prevent a bottle 16 from being removed through the side of cage module assembly 10. Likewise, two top bars 26 may run along the top of cage assembly 10 to prevent access and removal of bottles 16 from cage assembly 10 through the top.

Cage module 10 may also include four top brackets 28. Top bracket 28 may be configured to receive a ⅜th inch bolt. Similarly configured “mirror-image” brackets are disposed at the bottom of the cage. By bolting together a first and a second module, a dual module assembly may be created. In so doing, top bracket 28 may be used to secure a corresponding bottom bracket of a second cage module.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, a cover may be coupled to cage module assembly 10. The cover may be comprised of galvanized steel and be structured such that it slopes from higher in the front to lower towards the rear to allow rain water to run off the cover and away from the stored LPG tanks if cage module assembly 10 is located outdoors. A cover in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention is illustrated by FIGS. 5A and 5B.

Cage module assembly 10 may also include four foot brackets 13. Foot bracket 13 is further illustrated by FIG. 4.

FIGS. 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, and 2E illustrate another embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 2A illustrates an isometric view of cage module assembly 40. The basic structure of cage module assembly 40 is created by welding together angle bars in the form of a generally rectangular box. All outside and inside joints may be welded with a continuous weld. All connections may be butt welded.

The box structure of cage module assembly 40 may be constructed with long angle bar 42, vertical angle bar 44, and short angle bar 46. Four long angle bars 42, four vertical module bars 44, and four short angle bars 46 may be used to create the box structure of cage module assembly 40. Vertical angle bar 44 may be configured to receive the attachment of a hinge at cage hinge mount 64.

Rails 48 may comprise angle bars positioned a certain distance D (see FIG. 2E) from each other, where D is an inside dimension. Cage module assembly 40 may include 4 sets of two rails 48 for a total of 8 rails. Each set of two rails may hold one LPG tank. Further, each rail may be slightly sloped from higher in the rear to lower in the front to facilitate easier removal of a full LPG tank. Between each set of two rails 48 is backstop 50. Cage module assembly 40 may have four backstops 50 configured to prevent the bottom of an LPG tank from being shoved through the rear side of cage module 40. Thus, the bottom of an LPG tank may touch or nearly touch backstop 50 when it is properly placed on rails 48 and secured in cage module assembly 40.

Backstop 50 may be configured in a T-shape with “ears” that extend horizontally under rails 48 (see FIG. 2B). This raises the rails to provide a slope of the rails from higher in the back of the cage, to lower in the front of the cage. In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, the slope may be one to five degrees, and slope from back to front.

Additional structural support for cage module assembly 40 may be created by adding flat bars in particular locations. Such flat bars may also function to secure an LPG tank in cage module assembly 40. Side flat bar 52 may be welded at each end to a first vertical angle bar 44 on a first end and a second vertical angle bar 44 on a second end of side flat bar 52. Top flat bar 56 may be welded to short angle bar 46 on a first end and welded to a second short angle bar 46 on a second end of top flat bar 56. Vertical flat bar or back bar 54 may be welded to a first long angle bar on a first end of vertical flat bar 54 and welded to a second long angle bar 42 on a second end of vertical flat bar 54. Cage module assembly 40 may include three vertical flat bars 54, two top flat bars 56, and two side flat bars 52. Each end of a flat bar may be welded across its end to secure it to a corresponding angle bar. One weld may be used per end of a flat bar.

Cage module assembly 40 may include four bottom brackets 60 and four top brackets 58 to facilitate securing a first cage module assembly 40 to a second cage module assembly 40 as described with respect to FIGS. 1 and 3. Each top bracket 58 may be welded to long angle bar 42 and short angle 46 on the top of cage module assembly 40, and each bottom brackets 60 may be similarly welded to long angle bar 42 and short angle bar 46 on the bottom of cage module assembly 40.

In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, a cover may be coupled to cage module assembly 40. Short angle bar 46 may include cover mounts 47 which may be configured to allow a cover in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention to be coupled to cage assembly 40. The cover may be coupled to short angle bar 46 in two places using ⅜ths inch bolts and nylon lock nuts. Similarly, the cover may be coupled to the opposite short angle bar 46 to secure the cover to cage module assembly 40.

Several dimensions and measurements are illustrated in FIGS. 2C, 2D, and 2E. These measurements are provided as an example only, and are subject to substantial modification within the teachings of the present invention. In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, these dimensions may be as follows (in inches): A=58.7, B=17.0, C=30.0, D=7.73, E=14.00, F=8.35, G=4.48, H=14, I=5.5, J=8.0, and K=9.0 (e.g., tolerance plus or minus 0.03).

Cage module assembly 40 may include a left and a right single module door 62. Each single module door may include two door sides 70, door top 74, and door bottom 72. Each of the above mentioned components of single module door 62 may be composed of angle bar. Door side 70 may be welded at one end to door top 74 and at the other end to door bottom 72. The welds may be butt welds. Single module door 62 may include steel mesh 66. Steel mesh may be welded to door top 74 and bottom 72 and door side 70. Steel mesh 66 may be welded every four inches for a length of four inches. Steel mesh 66 may be expanded metal 1 and ½ inch—#16F and 0.048 inches thick. In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, steel mesh may be welded to vertical angle bars 44 and short angle bars 46 to more fully enclose the side of cage module assembly 40.

Single module door 62 may include handle 76. Handle 76 may be mounted to door side 70 with two nylon lock nuts each being configured to receive a steel bolt (⅜″-16). Each door side 70 includes handle mount 78 and door hinge mount 68. Single module door 62 is substantially symmetrical with respect to center line 80. The symmetry of single module door 62 allows for one door to be fabricated and secured to either the left or the right side of cage module assembly 40. To create a right side door of cage module assembly 40 handle 76 is attached to the left side of single module door 62, and the right side of single module door 62 is attached to vertical bar 44 with a hinge. As discussed above, in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, the doors may be reversible. Also, a left side door may be created using the same door but switching the handle to the right side and mounting the left side of single module door 62 to vertical angle bar 44.

Single module door 62 may be in a generally rectangular shape with the long dimension being 29.15 inches and the short dimension being 16.0 inches. The angle bars forming single module door 62 may be composed of steel bar bent to allow two portions of the bar to form generally a right angle. Each portion of the angle bar may be two inches in width.

FIG. 3 illustrates another embodiment of the present invention. Dual module assembly 86 is composed of a first single module 88 and a second single module 90 stacked on top of each other and bolted together. Dual module assembly 86 is capable of holding eight LPG tanks, four in a first bottom module 88 and four more in a second top module 90. To secure a top module to a bottom module, a ⅜ths inch bolt is received through the bottom bracket of a top module and the top bracket of the bottom module. On top of the second module a third module may be bolted to increase the storage capacity of the cage to twelve LPG tanks. A cover may also be secured to the top of the second or third module, whichever is the top-most module. Dual module assembly may also include four foot brackets 104.

Dual module assembly 86 may include two dual module doors 92. Dual module door 92 may include door top 97, door bottom 98, and two door sides 100. Dual module door 92 may also include steel mesh 102. Door side 100 may be 33.0 inches long, and door top 97 and door bottom 98 may be 29.15 inches long. Dual module doors may be fabricated and function in accordance with the teachings of single module doors as described above. Dual module door 92 may be mounted to dual module assembly 86 with two hinges in two places. The first hinge may be attached to dual module door 92 and vertical angle bar 44 of first cage module 88, and a second hinge may be attached to dual module assembly at a vertical angle bar 44 of a second cage module 90. Accordingly, dual module door 92 is configured to fit two cage modules stacked on top of each other with minimum or no modification required to either cage module.

FIG. 4 illustrates foot bracket 110 in accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention. Foot bracket 110 includes foot 114 and threaded portion 116. Foot 114 may be rotated clockwise to reduce the height of one corner of a cage module assembly. Foot 114 may be rotated counterclockwise to increase the height of one corner of a cage module assembly. By adjusting each of the four foot brackets 110, the cage module assembly can be made to be substantially level when the surface it rests on is not exactly level. Foot bracket 110 also includes four bracket mounts 112. Bracket mounts 112 are configured to mount to vertical angle bar 44.

FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate a particular embodiment of a cover or lid that may be used in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. Cover 120 may be used on the cage(s) of FIGS. 1-3 to provide protection to the cage and/or its contents and may be particularly useful for applications in which the cage is located outdoors.

Cover 120 may be secured to short angle bar 46 of cage module assembly 40 with a ⅜″ bolt received through cage mount 122. Cage mount 122 may be a substantially square opening having a side length of approximately 0.390 inches. When cover 120 is in position on top of cage module assembly 40, cage mount 122 may align with cover mount 47 of short angle bar 46.

Cover 120 may be constructed of 22 gauge G-90 carbon steel. It may have a bend radius of 0.030 inches, and may be 58.840 inches long and 30.145 inches wide. Several other dimensions and measurements are illustrated in FIG. 5B. These measurements are provided as an example only, and are subject to substantial modification within the teachings of the present invention. In accordance with a particular embodiment of the present invention, these dimensions may be as follows (in inches or degrees): L=30.145, M=15.997, N=6.804, O=89 degrees, P=1.195, Q=1.473, R=91 degrees, and S=2.000.

Although the present invention has been described in several embodiments, a myriad of changes and modifications may be suggested to one skilled in the art, and it is intended that the present invention encompass such changes and modifications as fall within the scope of the present appended claims.