Title:
Modular tank unit for ship, barge and rail transportation
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular tank unit for utilizing vessels of opportunity to serve as carriers for transportation and handling of specialty liquids or flowable particulate products or to serve as a terminal ashore receiving and dispensing to truck, rail, barge or other receiving facilities. The modular tank unit has a rectangular intermodal framework of predetermined dimension and tare weight permitting its transportation by cargo vessel, hopper barge and by rail for positioning inland or at shore facilities. A tank may be adapted for other modes of transportation and may be removably secured within the rectangular framework. The modular tank unit in its smaller dimension can be transported empty by rail and can be positioned in the field by portable crane. The modular tank unit defines a pump compartment having a pumping and draining manifold and portable pump and valve assembly for fluid handling, enabling the modular tank unit to be “active” for power energized pumping or “passive” for gravity discharge.



Inventors:
Deberardinis, Nicholas W. (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/825051
Publication Date:
05/28/2009
Filing Date:
07/03/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/23.91, 220/86.1, 220/630, 220/668, 220/1.5
International Classes:
B65D88/12; B65D88/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KIRSCH, ANDREW THOMAS
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JAMES L. JACKSON (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A modular tank unit comprising: a generally rectangular intermodal tank framework defining a plurality of upper and lower corners and having a standard intermodal width and length, and a maximum intermodal height of substantially 17 feet and having sufficient structural integrity for lifting and movement of said generally rectangular tank framework by crane, fork-lift and other container handling apparatus, said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework defining a tank receptacle; international standard intermodal lifting and locking fittings being fixed at said plurality of upper and lower corners of said generally rectangular tank framework; and a tank being located within said tank receptacle and being supported by said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework.

2. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: fork-lift receptacles being defined by said generally rectangular tank framework and having sufficient structural integrity to permit handling of said generally rectangular tank framework and a tank by a fork-lift truck; and said tank being composed of a plurality of tank panels mounted within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and causing said tank to have a generally rectangular configuration.

3. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: a plurality of tank supports being located within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework; and said tank being removably supported by said plurality of tank supports and being adapted for other modes of transportation.

4. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: a tank support structure being secured within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and having tank support members configured for supporting a tank of a particular geometry; and a plurality of lifting and locking socket fittings being mounted to said tank support structure and facilitating locked retention of said tank support structure within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework.

5. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework having the general form of a parallelepiped having bottom wall framework members; said tank being defined by tank panels fixed to said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and defining at least one sloping bottom wall of said at least one tank and being in supported engagement with said bottom wall framework members; a sump arranged to receive liquid residue within said tank and being collected from said sloping bottom wall; and a controllable tank filling and discharge mechanism supported by said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and being in fluid handling communication with said tank and said sump.

6. The modular tank unit of claim 5, comprising: said controllable tank filling and discharge mechanism being releasably mounted to said tank framework.

7. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: said tank being defined by a plurality of substantially flat panels each being fixed to one another and being supported by said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework; and

8. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: a pump receptacle being mounted on generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and being located externally of said tank; and a pump and manifold system being located in said pump receptacle and being selectively operated to pump fluid into said tank and being selectively operated to discharge fluid from said tank.

9. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and said tank being supported on a truck bed for highway transportation; and said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and said tank having an intermodal height, together with the height of the truck bed, not exceeding 13 feet and having an intermodal width of substantially 8 feet, permitting highway transportation thereof.

10. The modular tank unit of claim 1, comprising: said tank being supported in removable assembly with said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework; and fluid inlet and discharge conduits being provided for said tank and permitting filling and discharge thereof.

11. The modular tank unit of claim 10, comprising: tank supports being located within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and receiving a rail car tank in releasably supported relation and permitting intermodal transportation thereof.

12. A modular tank unit for intermodal transportation and for land based terminating, comprising: a generally rectangular intermodal tank framework having the footprint of a standardized cargo container and defining upper and lower corners and a maximum intermodal width of 8 feet, an intermodal length, and a maximum intermodal height of 17 feet, said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework defining a tank receptacle and having sufficient structural integrity for lifting and movement thereof by crane, fork-lift and other conventional container handling apparatus; a tank located within said tank receptacle and together with said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework having a tare weight permitting transportation thereof by cargo vessels, waterway hopper barges and rail cars; and lifting and locking sockets being mounted to said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and receiving lifting devices permitting lifting and handling of said modular tank unit by crane, permitting locking of stacked modular tank units and permitting modular tank units to be locket together on block.

13. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: a pump and manifold assembly being removably mounted to said tank framework and being selectively positioned in releasable fluid pumping connection with said tank and being operated to selectively discharge fluid from said tank and pump fluid into said tank

14. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: said tank being composed of a plurality of tank panels fixed to said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and defining top, bottom, side and end walls forming a tank configuration of substantially rectangular parallelepiped form, said bottom wall having sloping bottom surfaces sloping to a sump,

15. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: said tank and said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework defining a pump compartment within said tank framework and externally of said tank; and a pump and valve controlled manifold assembly being mounted within said pump compartment and being connected in pumping communication with said tank.

16. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: tank supports being located within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and receiving a rail car tank in releasably supported relation and permitting intermodal transportation thereof.

17. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: a tank support structure being positioned within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and having a plurality of tank supports of a configuration corresponding to the configuration of said tank and having a plurality of lifting and locking sockets establishing selective locking of said tank support structure within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework; and said tank being a railway car tank removed from its railway wheel assembly and being positioned within said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework and in supported relation with said plurality of tank supports and being secured to said generally rectangular intermodal tank framework by said plurality of lifting and locking sockets and retainer members.

18. The modular tank unit of claim 12, comprising: a power energized fluid handling system having fluid connections for filling and discharge connection with said tank; and said power energized fluid handling system having a mounting framework containing a motor driven pump, a pump control system and pump conduits and having mounting devices for mounting thereof externally of said tank framework.

19. The modular tank unit of claim 17, comprising: said plurality of multidimensional metal panels being corrugated metal panels.

20. The modular tank unit of claim 17, comprising: said plurality of multidimensional metal panels being flat metal panels cooperatively defining smooth internal tank wall surfaces and defining a tank structure suitable for storage and transportation of food products; and a plurality of fillet panels being connected with said multidimensional metal panels at top, bottom and side walls of said tank structure and defining smoothly curved surfaces facilitating ease of tank cleaning.

Description:

RELATED INVENTIONS

Portable liquid cargo tanks or containers capable of being employed for instant terminaling and ship conversion have been developed as exemplified by U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,365,980 and 5,460,208, both issued to Nicholas W. deBerardinis, the inventor of the subject matter presented herein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to containers or tanks within which liquid or fluidized solid particulate cargo can be stored and can be transported by differing types of cargo carriers including ship, open inland hopper barge and rail transportation systems. The containers or tanks are designed to be releasably retained by the cargo carrier systems and are transferable from one container adapted cargo carrier system to another. More particularly, the present invention concerns a self-contained liquid cargo container having integrated therewith a replaceable pumping and valve controlled manifold system for loading and discharging liquid cargo as desired and for transferring liquid cargo from one tank to another. The present invention also concerns storage and transportation tanks that are capable of being employed as instant cargo terminating for storage and distribution and have maximum limitations of height, width and length that facilitate transportation of a predetermined volume of product and can be shipped either empty or completely filled and without any requirement for special permits for handling by container ship, hopper barge and lowboy trucks.

This invention also relates to a container capable of use as a prefabricated, self-contained and self-supporting liquid products terminal transportable to remote locations for immediate use for storing and dispensing liquid products in large quantities (“bulk liquids”). In addition, the container can be combined with other containers to form a series of containers serving as a single large but portable terminal facility. The container either can be active and dispense its liquid product by a pump, or it can be passive and dispense its liquid products by gravity or by attachment to an external pump, such as a portable pump or a connection in series to an active container. In addition, the modular tank unit may also be used to easily convert all or part of a dry cargo vessel, waterway barge or rail car to a temporary or permanent liquid products carrier.

This invention also relates to methods of using a container to quickly and easily create a bulk liquid products storage and dispensing terminal facility for flammable, explosive, hazardous and non-hazardous liquid products, as well as certain flowable bulk dry products, even in remote and primitive locations lacking basic support services such as electricity. Such a facility would be capable of storing and dispensing such products immediately upon arrival.

This invention also relates to methods of using a container to quickly and easily convert all or part of a dry cargo vessel, hopper barge or rail car into a carrier for flammable, explosive, hazardous and non-hazardous liquid products.

This invention also concerns methods of using two or more containers to establish a loaded terminal facility at a location previously lacking available terminal facilities for bulk flammable, explosive, hazardous and non-hazardous liquid products and bulk pneumatically flowable dry particulate products.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Bulk liquids are traditionally transported in specialized tanker vessels. These ships are relatively few in number compared to dry cargo vessels and require specialized terminal facilities for discharging their cargo ashore for storage and further distribution. These bulk liquid terminals are usually provided with a power source to pump the stored liquid out of the terminal.

Dry cargo vessels are generally configured to transport a plurality of containers of standardized sizes and shapes (“standardized cargo containers”) which are described below. The conversion of dry cargo vessels into liquid product carriers is desirable in order to increase the number of vessels able to carry bulk liquid products. Further, the use of multiple discrete liquid product containers to convert the dry cargo vessels for liquid handling capability is preferred in order to maximize the increased flexibility conversion offers in determining the portion of a vessel's dry cargo capacity to convert into liquid cargo capacity.

In addition, many commonly transported and stored liquid products require certain safety features on their containers. Petroleum products, for example, require that pressures within a container be maintained within a certain range in order to prevent the development of an explosive or combustible condition within a tank or an implosion of the tank should a negative internal pressure be developed. Also, an inert gas blanket must fill the ullage (the space between the surface of the liquid and the top wall of the container) in order to prevent an explosive or combustible gas mixture from developing. Oxygen-containing gases, such as air, must be excluded from any place in which petroleum vapor might gather in a dangerous quantity, therefore, a proper venting system is required. Fire-fighting or fire-prevention systems also may be needed. Tanks for petroleum products may be provided with a fire retardant foam generation system which will be automatically energized in the event an elevated threshold temperature is sensed internally or externally of the tank or container.

Many locations have the ability to make liquid products from local raw materials, but currently lack a terminal facility or tank farm to store the manufactured liquid products pending the arrival of an appropriate carrier. Therefore, these locations export raw solid materials instead of manufactured liquid products, to their economic detriment. It is desirable therefore to provide modular tank units that can be used individually or in concert to provide a storage and terminating facility without necessitating the time and expense for construction of a permanent terminating facility.

Currently, a liquid products terminal facility or tank farm able to receive off-loaded bulk liquid cargo or to store bulk liquid cargo pending the arrival of a liquid products carrier must be constructed using traditional means encompassing much expense, pre-planning and requiring a lengthy period of time for its construction.

The inventor, except for the teachings of U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,365,980 and 5,460,208, mentioned above, is not aware of any container that can be used to convert all or part of a dry products carrier into a liquid products carrier and that can also be used as a transportable, prefabricated bulk liquid products terminal capable of rapidly creating a storage and dispensing facility for bulk liquid products even in remote and primitive areas or to be easily loaded and unloaded aboard a dry cargo vessel. Further, this inventor is not aware of the existence of portable products containers that are of specific dimensional and volumetric ranges to permit their transportation by cargo vessels, hopper barges and railway hopper cars.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,746,034 to Ata et al. discloses a portable liquid container which can be stacked up to three units high. When stacked, the containers can be connected in a manner permitting the upper tanks to drain into the lowest tank. Liquid is discharged solely by gravity through a valve located underneath the container which is connected by a pipe to a hole located in the lowest point of a floor which has four sloping triangular portions whose apices converge at the lowest point.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,782,973 to Wiese discloses a storage tank having a double-walled bottom which permits the insulation of the tank bottom, and a flanged discharge valve suitable for the double-walled bottom configuration for gravity discharge of the liquid.

U.S. Pat. No. 2,328,080 to Hansen discloses a stationary storage tank located inside a housing designed to reduce condensation and with a hood or cowl located over the tank to facilitate the exit of fumes from the housing and to prevent moisture, dirt and other undesirable elements from entering the housing.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,814,290 to Gerhard discloses the use of a trough in the interior of a tank to promote easy draining and cleaning of a liquid cargo tank that has a plurality of compartments.

The above containers are not specifically designed to serve as a dual purpose transportation container and terminal for storing and dispensing bulk liquid products, including flammable or other hazardous liquid products. None provide access for a person to enter the container, none has an active means of pumping the stored liquid out of the container, none has an active fire protection or control means attached, nor does any have a means for providing and maintaining an inert gas cover when necessary or required, or for venting the container other than directly into the atmosphere at the tank top.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,781,139 to Lohse discloses a detachable power unit comprising an internal combustion engine and an energy transducer for attachment to freight containers.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,386,605 to Lafont discloses a large plastic bag able to permit standard modular size demountable cargo containers to carry bulk liquid cargo instead of packaged cargo.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,143,588 to Exler discloses a ventilation system comprising walls and channels inside a “deepfreeze” container to maintain an even temperature and humidity throughout the interior of the container transporting standard dry cargo at a controlled temperature.

U.S. Pat. No. 2,954,003 to Farrell et al. discloses a liquid products tank capable of transporting liquified gas at low temperatures in the hold of a ship using cables, keys and keyways to secure the tank so that changes in the size of the tank due to temperature extremes will not affect the ability of the ship to transport the tank. The tank is suspended within a thermal barrier so that it may carry cryogenic cargo without significant warming and without harmful contact with the ship's structure.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,067,713 to Meesen discloses a freighter for low-temperature liquified gas comprising tanks of light alloy metal mounted in a series of corrugated and beveled guides within the insulated hold of a ship to allow movement of the tank in all directions due to changes in tank dimensions brought about by temperature extremes of the liquified gas cargo to be carried in the tanks.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,115,984 to Henry et al. also discloses a tanker for carrying low-temperature liquified gas comprising at least one multiple compartment tank in an insulated hold specially constructed for use aboard the tanker.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,107,803 to Sylverest discloses a self-contained and self-powered sea terminal which floats on the surface of the sea designed to store and discharge liquids through pumps located onboard the terminal.

None of these prior art references discloses the degree of transportability and features necessary to allow a container for flammable, explosive, hazardous, or non-hazardous liquid products both to be carried aboard a dry cargo vessel thereby permitting its use as a liquid products carrier), and to be used as a prefabricated, transportable liquid products terminal facility for use in areas lacking needed terminal facilities. These features in a container allow the shipment of liquid products aboard a greater number of types of vessels and to a greater number of places.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is therefore an object of this invention to provide a liquid products container that can be transported to a desired location lacking a liquid products terminal or tank farm (even to a remote location lacking an available electrical supply), and can serve as a prefabricated, self-contained terminal immediately able to store and dispense flammable, hazardous or explosive liquid cargo, as well as non-hazardous liquid cargo and many types of pneumatically flowable pulverulent dry bulk cargo, such as cement, lime, sulphur, etc.

It is another object of this invention to provide a multiple-container liquid products terminal facility wherein each of the containers is provided with a protective compartment which is adapted to receive a portable or replaceable power energized pumping and valving system permitting power energized fluid handling to and from single or multiple containers when the containers are situated within a carrier or are employed in concert to create a terminating facility.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a multiple-container liquid products terminal facility at a remote location without undue expense or unnecessary duplication of equipment by using a single active container in association with one or more passive containers, or by using one or more passive containers in association with some other external pump source or in a location and manner permitting gravity discharge of the containers' contents.

It is a still further object of this invention to provide a liquid products container that can carry many types of liquid cargo and be easily loaded onto and carried aboard a dry cargo vessel, thereby converting said vessel in whole or in part to a liquid products carrier and increasing the amount and type of transportation available to carry bulk liquid cargo.

It is another object of this invention to provide a storage container for liquid products capable of dispensing its liquid product immediately upon its arrival and filling at a desired location, even in a remote area.

It is a still further object of this invention to provide an economically efficient means for remote locations to store and dispense various amounts of bulk liquid cargo under necessary storage conditions pending the arrival of an appropriate carrier.

It is a still further object of this invention to provide a method for increasing the number of vessels able to serve as an appropriate carrier for bulk liquid products or bulk flowable dry products.

It is a principal feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank that can be secured within and transported by a wide range of different cargo carrying systems including container carrying cargo vessels, open inland hopper barges operating in rivers and intercoastal waterways, railway hopper cars, container handling trucking systems and the like.

It is another feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank that can be employed for liquid cargo storage and transportation and has the facility for shore-side storage and liquid cargo handling and also has the facility for independent movement on bodies of water by means of tow-boats and the like.

It is also a feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank that incorporates an on-board pumping and fluid handling system having a power energized pump, desired piping, hoses and valves to permit power energized loading and off-loading of liquid cargo and permits transfer of liquid cargo between similar tanks.

It is also a feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank that incorporates an on-board pumping and fluid handling system that is designed and installed in a manner facilitating simple and efficient installation and removal from a cargo transfer compartment located within the lower portion of a tank framework and facilitates personnel access to the cargo transfer compartment when the tank is installed in a carrier for transportation.

It is an even further feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank that may be filled or discharged by gravity if desired and is of a particular external dimension and geometry permitting mounting of the tank apparatus for transportation by any of the various types of carriers that may be used for transportation and handling.

It is also a feature of the present invention to provide a novel portable liquid cargo container or tank having a dimension permitting connection and locking of the bottom of the tank to conventional container connection points and having a height that is sufficiently low to permit a conventional barge cover to be mounted to a barge and in covering relation with the tanks that are secured within a barge.

Briefly, these and other objects are obtained by a liquid products container comprising, in its preferred configuration, a hollow body for liquid products having a size and shape able to fit directly, without modification, into the container cells of a containerized cargo vessel or into the hold of a bulk dry cargo vessel for easy and rapid transportation to a remote location. The container further preferably comprises a power source, a deep-well pump, a firefighting system, a venting system, a pressure-control system and an inert gas system. These features allow immediate use of the invention as an independent terminal for bulk petroleum products, other flammable, hazardous or explosive bulk liquid products, and non-hazardous bulk liquid produces or flowable dry bulk produces regardless of available shore facilities.

In its preferred configuration, this container has the footprint of a standard shipping container with two short side walls and two long side walls, but has the overall height of approximately five standard shipping containers stacked one on top of the other in their normal shipping mode. The storage tank and supporting structure are preferably four standard shipping containers high, and the top frame and associated devices are no more than an additional standard shipping container in height. The height may be varied in order to fit various dockside crane capabilities or vessel configurations without changing the basic function of the unit. The footprint may be varied to fit any other mode of transportation without changing the basic function of the unit.

The container preferably has two basic forms: passive and active and each container is convertible from passive to active simply by installing a replaceable power energized pumping and valving system in a power system compartment. The container comprises standard container lifting attachments on its top and fork-lift channels at its bottom. It has devices for controlling the pressure inside the container, for providing and maintaining an inert gas cover in the ullage, and for preventing or fighting fires. Preferably, it has two conduits and fittings at its bottom that terminate at hose or pipe connection fittings for connection to one or more other containers, a pipeline, or a gravity dispensing outlet, or for connection to a dispensing valve. To reduce clingage and residual liquid product, the bottom floor is preferably slanted from each short side wall toward a centralized drain section which is in communication with drainage and pumping fittings. The drainage and pumping conduits exit the container via hose or pipe connections that are located in the power system compartment. In the absence of a power energized pumping and valving system or in addition thereto, the container is capable of being gravity drained simply by opening a drain valve within the power system compartment. The power system compartment is of proper dimension and location for access by personnel for operation of the replaceable power energized pumping and valving system.

The active container comprises, in addition to the above, a pump for pumping its cargo out and through a dispensing device such as a loading arm (or rack), and, preferably, a meter with a prover to measure the amount of cargo dispensed, and a power source for the pump, which may either be connected to a local power supply, such as steam or electricity, or to an internal combustion engine connected to the container itself.

In its preferred method of use, an empty modular tank unit is loaded into the hold of a dry cargo vessel. The tank unit is then attached to a common vent system that also serves any other similar units loaded into the same cargo hold. One or more containers may then be filled with bulk liquid cargo (or pneumatically flowable dry cargo), thereby converting the dry cargo carrier at least in part into a liquid products carrier. If the cargo is to be transported to a port lacking a liquid products storage and dispensing facility, at least one unit remains empty. The vessel then sails to a remote port lacking a liquid products storage and dispensing facility.

If the remote port has a liquid products storage and dispensing facility, the cargo can be off-loaded directly into such facility. However, if the port lacks such a facility, the empty unit is off-loaded first. A first full tank unit on board the vessel then discharges its cargo into the off-loaded empty tank unit. Once transfer of the liquid cargo into the off-loaded unit is completed, the now-empty first tank unit is off-loaded, such as by means of a shore based crane or shipboard crane and is then filled with cargo from a second full unit still in the vessel's cargo hold. This process continues until all desired units and cargo are off-loaded. This process results in a new storage and dispensing shore facility able to immediately dispense liquid (or flowable dry) products.

The same process can be used to move the terminal and cargo overland to a location remote from the shore by transporting one or more empty containers by truck, train or other transportation means from the port to the desired location where they are off-loaded, transferring the cargo of a filled first container by tank truck, tank cars, pipeline or other transportation means from the port to the new location, filling the empty container, transporting the now-empty first container by truck, train or other transportation means to said location, and filling it with cargo transported by tank truck, tank car, pipeline or other transportation means from a second full unit. Again, this process continues until all desired units and cargo are transported to the desired remote overland location.

Of course, trucks, trains or other transportation means configured for carrying standard containers can be used to transport filled and empty containers overland as well, with the same process as for dry cargo vessels being used for loading and unloading.

According to the best mode of practicing the present invention a generally rectangular portable liquid cargo container or tank is provided having the rectangular tank footprint of a conventional cargo container or a cargo container of other standard dimension. Though discussed herein particularly as a liquid cargo container or tank, it should be borne in mind that a cargo tank embodying the principles of the present invention can also be provided to handle pneumatically fluidized solid particulate as well. The portable liquid cargo container or tank is provided with locking receptacles at its bottom corners, permitting the tank to be locked in releasable assembly within a cargo container cell of a ship, hopper barge or rail car for safe transportation. In one form of the invention the tank has a preferred height of 16′ 6″ and a maximum height of 17′0″ enabling the tank unit to be transported by railway hopper cars with adequate clearance with respect to bridges, tunnels, overhead wires and the like. When the modular tank unit is to be transported by hopper barge on rivers or other waterways, this maximum tank height also permits a barge cover to be installed to cover the mounted tanks within the cargo container cells of an inland river or waterway hopper barge.

The modular tank unit (MTU) is a portable tank which sits on or above the ground and has a standard foot-print of a container no higher than five container high, no wider than will fit into a standard container cell (or multiples thereof, if adjusted to accommodate wider tanks, and no longer will fit into a standard container cell). The MTU is designed to have an “active” form with its own designed pumping and draining manifold and pump system and a “passive” form with the pumping and draining manifold and pump system removed and limiting the MTU to gravity discharge of the tank contents. The MTU is preferably provided with one or more sloped bottom walls defining a sump which has communication with the pumping and draining manifold and pump system via pumping and draining conduits that extend into a worker accessible pump system compartment. The pumping and draining manifold and pump system of the MTU may be composed of metal, non-metal or composite components and may be skid mounted so that it may be easily installed within or removed from the worker accessible compartment. The MTU itself may be composed or metal or non-metal components and is provided with a system for vapor recovery and an upper wall having a worker access hatch and access ladder, thus providing for internal tank inspection and cleaning when needed. The MTU functions as a self-sustained terminal for receiving or delivering liquids to or from rail cars or trucks. Additionally, the tanks can be fitted with apparatus for wholesale and retail dispensing. The tanks may have fork-lift slots permitting them to be moved around for positioning in the locale. The principle use of the MTU is to utilize vessels of opportunity for transportation in all bodies of water, and rail for location positioning inland or at a shore based terminating facility.

Each of the tanks or containers of the present invention is provided with a tank framework to which is mounted corrugated or flat plate material that defines the sides, ends, bottom and top walls of a sealed liquid tight tank. The bottom wall of the tank is defined by wall panels that slope downwardly to a discharge opening located at or near the center portion of the tank.

The sloping bottom wall of the tank, within the tank framework, defines a fluid handling compartment within which is located a pump and fluid handling unit having connection hoses and conduit that are connected with a tank discharge located at the bottom center of the tank. The pump and fluid handling unit is provided with suitable control valves to permit filling and discharge of one or more tanks that may be connected in series or parallel via the use of suitable connection hoses. The pump and fluid handling unit is in the form of a portable unit that can be easily and simply installed or removed via the use of a fork-lift truck.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

So that the manner in which the above recited features, advantages and objects of the present invention are attained and can be understood in detail, a more particular description of the invention, briefly summarized above, may be had by reference to the preferred embodiment thereof which is illustrated in the appended drawings, which drawings are incorporated as a part hereof.

It is to be noted however, that the appended drawings illustrate only a typical embodiment of this invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope, for the invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments.

In the Drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view showing a modular tank unit representing the preferred embodiment and best mode of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an elevation view showing the right end portion of the modular tank unit of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an elevation view showing the left end portion of the modular tank unit of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a is a plan view showing the upper or top wall portion of the modular tank unit of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along line 5-5 of FIG. 1 and showing the lower portion of the modular tank unit of FIGS. 1-4;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view showing the framework and wall sheeting or panels of the lower portion of the modular tank unit of FIGS. 1-4;

FIG. 7 is an end view showing the framework of the modular tank unit;

FIG. 8 is a partial sectional view showing the framework of the lower portion of the modular tank unit and particularly showing the sloping bottom wall and centrally located sump;

FIG. 9 is another partial sectional view showing the framework of the lower portion of the modular tank unit and particularly showing the bottom wall and grating support members of the worker access compartment;

FIG. 10 is a plan view of the worker access compartment of the modular tank unit of FIGS. 1-4 further showing the grating support members of the worker access compartment;

FIG. 11 is an isometric illustration of a replaceable power energized pump and valving system which is designed for installation in the worker accessible compartment of the modular tank unit is FIGS. 1-10;

FIG. 12 is another isometric illustration of a replaceable power energized pump and valving system which is designed for installation in the worker accessible compartment of the modular tank unit is FIGS. 1-10;

FIG. 13 is an isometric illustration showing in broken line a generally rectangular tank framework and showing tank supports supporting a tank within the framework;

FIG. 14 is another an isometric illustration showing the generally rectangular tank framework of FIG. 13 and showing the detailed configuration of the tank support members, with no tank present within the framework;

FIG. 15 is a plan view of a tank support structure having tank supports and either being a fixed structure within the framework or a portable structure that is secured and locked with respect to the framework structure;

FIG. 16 is an end view of the tank support structure showing the configuration of the tank supports and further showing lifting and locking sockets by which the tank support framework or tank support structure is handled;

FIG. 17 is a sectional view showing one end portion of an alternative embodiment of the present invention having a removable pump and valve compartment that is located externally of the external tank framework and further showing internal tank surfaces having smooth intersection as is desirable for handling food grade materials; and

FIG. 18 is a sectional view similar to that of FIG. 17, showing a different mounting location for a removable or non-removable fluid handling or pump and valve system.

DEFINITIONS

The term “intermodal” as used herein concerns containers and other structures that have particular dimensions and are otherwise adapted for some or all of the various modes of current day transportation including sea, rail and truck transportation systems. The term “intermodal length” as used herein concerns containers and other devices that have a suitable length, such as 30 feet, 40 feet, 53 feet, etc that adapt them for being placed, locked or otherwise secured in or on the transportation cells of various sea, rail and truck carriers. The term “intermodal width” as used herein means containers and other transportable devices having a width of substantially 8 feet so that they may be received within the intermodal transportation cells of various types of carriers and having a width permitting transportation in accordance with standard roadway regulations. The term “fluid” as used herein is intended to encompass liquid cargo material and other solid particulate cargo that is capable of being fluidized and caused to flow by means of injected air or other gas.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings and first to FIG. 1, a modular tank unit is shown generally at 10 and is preferably of generally rectangular configuration, having a tank framework structure shown generally at 11 and providing a pair of generally parallel side walls 12 and 14 and a pair of generally parallel end walls 16 and 18. The modular tank unit further defines a top wall structure 20 and a bottom wall structure 22. Though shown to be of generally rectangular configuration, it is to be borne in mind that the modular tank unit may have other forms without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Typically, however, the modular tank unit is intended to be received and locked within the container cells of a cargo vessel, hopper barge or train car; thus the footprint that is defined by its bottom structure is typically the same as that of a conventional cargo container. The bottom portion of the framework of the modular tank unit defines corner fittings 24, 26, 28 and 30 that receive the positioning and locking pins of a container cell and thus permit the modular tank unit to be precisely position and locked to the vessel or other carrier structure. The top of the tank framework defines tank lifting fittings 32, 34, 36 and 38 that are adapted to receive lifting apparatus to permit lifting and handling of the tank by dock based lifting apparatus. Preferably the tank lifting fittings are standard container lifting sockets which are located at the upper corners to the tank structure. The lifting sockets also permit stacking of another modular tank unit or a cargo container to provide for multiple stacking of tanks or containers as desired.

The modular tank unit of the present invention has a maximum height permitting it to fit on a standard river hopper barge and a standard rail “well” or container car without requiring any special adjustment or equipment. The modular tank unit has a maximum tare weight to fit on a standard river hopper barge and a standard rail “well” or container car without requiring any special adjustment or equipment. The modular tank unit is also of a dimension to be received within the hull of a river hopper barge three tanks wide and four tanks deep to construct a tank barge with a certificate of inspection by the United States Coast Guard. Additionally the modular tank unit is designed to operate as a self standing terminal ashore, meeting or exceeding safety standards and capable of loading from and discharging to trucks and rail without needing additional or external equipment and can be operated manually or by remotely controlled apparatus. Though shown in the drawings as having tank walls constructed of corrugated material such as steel, it should be borne in mind that it is not the intention to limit the spirit and scope of this invention to tanks with corrugated walls. The walls of the tank may be manufactured of smooth or flat plate material that is preferably steel, but may be composed of any suitable non-metal material for the intended service.

The top wall 20 of the modular tank unit 10 is provided with an access hatch 40 having a man-way hatch opening that is normally closed by an access cover 42. The top wall may also be provided with an inert gas injection system 44 to permit the dispensing of an inert gas, such as nitrogen into the ullage to thus maintain a non-combustible and non-explosive environment within the tank. The inert gas injection system 44 includes a gas supply 45, which may simply be in the form of a compressed gas bottle and has a pressure regulator 47 which maintains a desired range of inert gas pressure within the tank The top wall or any other portion of the tank may also be provided with a system 49 for dispensing fire retardant foam or other fire retardant medium within the tank to suppress any fire or unusual temperature conditions that may occur within the tank during its shipment, storage, dispensing or other handling.

To permit worker access to the top wall 20 for purposes of inspection or service activities, the end wall 18 is provided with a permanently mounted ladder structure 46 that basically extends from the bottom to the top of the framework structure of the modular tank unit. If desired however, the ladder 46 may not be permanently mounted to the framework structure but may be of portable nature so that it can be moved from tank to tank as needed.

To enable the modular tank unit to be moved about a site, such as a terminating or dispensing site, the bottom of the framework is provided with fork-lift openings 48 and 50. Preferably the framework is provided with internal fork-lift tubes 47 and 49, shown in FIG. 5, that are in registry with the openings 48 and 50 and thus permit the arms of a fork-lift truck to enter fully into the openings without coming into contact with any other part of the framework or bottom structure of the unit. Additionally, the tubular members 47 and 49 are of sufficient structural integrity that the metal will not become bent or yielded even when maximum fork-lift forces are applied during lifting and handling of the tank by a fork-lift truck. This feature minimizes the potential for deformation of the tank structure when the tank is being moved about.

As shown at the right hand portion of the elevational view of FIG. 1 and in the end elevational view of FIG. 2 the lower portion of one of the ends of the tank defines a worker accessible region 52 within the generally rectangular framework. The worker accessible region 52 is defined in part by an upper tank wall panel 54 and a substantially vertical tank wall panel 56 are fixed to tank framework members. Opposed sides 58 and 60 and a front part 62 of the worker accessible region 52 are open except for the presence of vertical tank framework members 64 and 66 and horizontal tank framework members 68, thus permitting a worker to enter the worker accessible region and conduct activities concerning pumping or draining the tank or pumping from one tank to another. If desired, the substantially vertical tank wall panel 56 may extend to the upper framework members

As shown in FIGS. 8, 9 and 10 the tank framework 11 provides generally horizontal bottom support members 70 that are configured to support a bottom tank wall 72. The generally horizontal bottom support members 70 are configured to define sloping bottom wall portions 74 and 76 and to define a centrally located wall portion 78 defining a sump 80 for collection of tank contents in a manner permitting draining or pumping thereof. This feature permits substantially all of the tank contents of the modular tank unit to be discharged either by pumping or gravity discharge. This feature also permits efficient cleaning of the tank, such as by internal spray cleaning, when a modular tank unit is intended to be changed from one fluid medium to another.

As is evident from FIGS. 9 and 10, within the worker access compartment a support grate framework is shown generally at 82 and includes external side framework members 84 and 86 and end framework members 88 and 90. Internal framework strut members 92 and 94 are connected with the external framework members and divide the grate framework into four generally rectangular framework components. As shown in FIG. 9 a grate member 96 is shown to be resting on and positioned by the grate framework and permits a worker to walk on the grating to accomplish fluid handling activities. The grating is open, thus permitting any spillage of liquid to pass through the grating and be caught by a bottom wall that defines the bottom wall of the worker access compartment. Thus, nominal spillage of liquid or dry material from the tank unit will be contained until such time as it can be recovered and disposed of.

Within the worker access compartment may be located a power energized pumping and valve controlled manifold system shown generally at 100 in FIGS. 11 and 12. The modular tank unit is provided with pump discharge conduits, each in valve controlled communication with a power energized pump 101, that permit selective pump discharge either into the upper portion of the tank unit or from the lower portion or sump of the tank unit. The pump system incorporates a manifold 102 with an appropriate conduit arrangement permitting the pump 101 to be utilized for suction, such as for filling of the tank from a remote source of fluid, or for pumping, such as for discharge of fluid from the tank. The pump is driven by an electric motor 104 The power energized pumping and valving system may be skid mounted, thus permitting it to be efficiently assembled to or removed from a worker access compartment. A single replaceable power energized pumping and valving system may be selectively employed to provide fluid handling activities for a plurality of tank units. When a power energized pumping and valve controlled manifold system is located within a worker access compartment and is connected with the fill and discharge conduit system of a modular tank unit, the tank unit is deemed “active” because of its self contained pumping capability for filling and discharge. In the alternative, when a power energized pumping and valve controlled manifold system is not present within a worker access compartment, the tank unit is deemed “passive” because it can receive fluid only when it is pumped by another pump mechanism and it can discharge fluid only by gravity discharge or by being connected to the suction of a remotely located pump.

A control box 106 is mounted adjacent the pump and motor and contains the various electronic components that facilitate selective and automatic control of the various fluid handling systems of the tank unit.

An alternative tank framework is shown generally at 110 in FIG. 7 and is defined by a plurality of vertical support members 112 and 114 and by external transverse strut members 116 and 118 and by internal framework strut members 120. As explained above, corrugated or flat tank panels are fixed, such as by welding, to the various tank framework members and collectively define a tank compartment.

It is desirable, according to the principles of the present invention to provide a generally rectangular tank storage and transportation framework having corner fittings enabling the framework or the framework and its contents to be lifted, handled and transported by various intermodal carrier systems. With reference particularly to FIGS. 13-16 a rectangular framework is shown generally at 130 and is provided with upper and lower longitudinal structural members 132 and 134, which for purposes of clarity and understanding are shown in broken line. The rectangular tank storage and transportation framework 130 is also composed of horizontal and vertical end structural members 136 and 138 and is provided with upper and lower corner fittings 140 and 142 or standard container lifting sockets that enable similar tank storage and transportation frameworks to be locked in stacked relation and/or locked in block or side by side relation by means of conventional locking pins and locking mechanisms. Especially when the frameworks are being transported aboard a ship, barge or other vessel, it is appropriate that they be secured or locked with respect to container cells of the vessel and locked in stacked relation as well as being locked in block or side by side relation to maintain the security of the cargo as the vessel is subject to wave action, wind and other elements. The same is true when the tank transportation frameworks are stacked onto carrier systems such as train cars, trucks and the like.

A plurality of tank support structures 144 are fixed within the lower portion of the framework 130 and are adapted to provide support for one or more tanks 146. The tank 146 may conveniently take the form of a rail car tank that is simply lifted from its rail car wheel assembly and positioned within the framework and onto the tank support structures 144. The tank support structures 144 may be of any suitable form, such as in the form of a plurality of tank support cradles of the nature shown in FIGS. 13 and 14. Additionally, the tank support structures 144 are provided with locking devices, such as lifting and locking sockets, permitting the tank or tanks to be secured and locked in assembly with the tank support cradles. This system permits a rail car tank to be simply and efficiently removed from its wheel assemblies and placed within an intermodal transportation framework.

As shown in FIGS. 15 and 16 a tank support structure is shown generally at 150 which can be simply placed and secured within a generally rectangular intermodal transportation framework of the nature shown in FIGS. 13 and 14. In this case the tank support structure is shown to comprise longitudinal structural members 152 and 154 to which a plurality of transverse tank support cradles 156 are fixed. If desired, each of the tank support cradles may take the form shown in FIG. 16, defining arcuate tank support surfaces 158 or tank support surfaces that are configured to receive the lower portion of a tank of other design. The transverse tank support cradles 156 may each be provided with lifting and locking sockets 160 and 162 or in the alternative the tank support structure may be provided with corner lifting and locking sockets, thus permitting lifting and handling of the tank support structure as well as the generally rectangular intermodal tank support and transportation framework.

Referring to FIGS. 17 and 18, to ensure maximum tank volume within a given tank frame dimension and provide for loading and offloading fluid of one or more tanks, it may be desirable to provide a replaceable fluid handling or pump and valve system that is releasably connected to or mounted on the tank framework but is intended to be located externally of the tank framework. A generally rectangular intermodal modular tank system embodying the principles of the present invention is shown generally at 170 in FIG. 17 and comprises a tank framework structure 172 having upper and lower horizontal framework structural members 174 and 176 and vertical framework structural members 178. Corners of the tank framework are provided with lifting and locking sockets such as shown at 180 and 182, thus permitting the modular tank systems to be lifted and handled by crane devices and permitting locking of the modular tank systems to transportation systems, such as ships, barges, trains and trucks or to be locked to one another.

Tank panels, such as side panels 184, end panels 186, top panels 188 and bottom panels 190 are fixed in suitable fashion to interior surfaces of the various structural members of the tank framework. For handling various non-food grade solid and liquid materials, the side, end, and top tank panels may be composed of corrugated metal material, such as steel, aluminum, or composite metal materials. Typically the bottom wall will be composed of substantially flat metal material so that product movement will not be compromised by corrugations. When food grade liquid and solid materials are being handled all of the panel members will preferably be composed of a flat, smooth material such as steel, stainless steel, aluminum, etc. The tank panels may be lined with any of a number of polymer materials if desired for compatibility with the particular liquid or pulverant material for which the tank is particularly designed.

When food grade material are being transported by the modular tank system of the present invention the tank may need to be cleaned after a material has been discharged. Cleaning of the tank may be necessary to prevent the development and growth of bacteria, especially in tank corners where the tank panels are joined. For this reason, filet panels, such as shown at 192, 194 and 196 are connected to and merge smoothly with the side, top and end wall panels of the tank structure. This feature eliminates any sharp corners within the tank and provides for ease of internal tank cleaning.

Modular tank units constructed according to the principles of the present invention can be provided with permanently mounted power driven pump, valve and piping systems to facilitate loading and discharge of the tank contents. However, to minimize the cost of the modular tank units it is desirable to provide power driven pump, valve and piping systems that are of portable nature and can be temporarily mounted on or near a tank framework when needed for purposes of loading and unloading one or more modular tank units. When not needed the portable power driven pump, valve and piping system may be removed from a modular tank unit and can be used elsewhere or stored for future use. To ensure that modular tank units equipped with power driven pump, valve and piping systems have maximum volumetric capacity for a tank framework of a given dimension, as shown in FIGS. 17 and 18, a power energized fluid handling system, shown generally at 200, is provided with a pump framework 202 having lifting and locking sockets 204 that are adapted for locking connection with the lifting and locking sockets 180 of the tank framework. This feature provides for temporary mounting and support of the fluid handling system by the modular tank system and externally of the tank framework. The fluid handling system may be of the character shown in FIGS. 11 and 12 or may have any other suitable form and characteristics that may be employed within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The pump framework 202 has bottom and top structural members 206 and 208 and end structural members 210. The pump framework 202 also incorporates mounting structural members 212 that are designed and constructed for removable attachment to the tank lifting fittings 180 and for releasable attachment to the end structural members 178 of the tank framework.

The embodiment shown in FIG. 18 indicates that the portable power energized valve, pump and piping unit may be temporarily mounted to the lower portion of the tank framework if desired. Also, if desired the portable power energized valve, pump and piping unit may be temporarily mounted to the sides or top of the tank framework if desired. It is only necessary that the tank framework be provided with connection mounts of any suitable character so that the portable power energized valve, pump and piping unit may be releasably mounted at any suitable location on the exterior of the tank framework that is suitable for the manner by which the tank framework is handled or positioned. A power energized pump 214, pump control 216 and pump conduit system 218 are mounted within the pump framework 202 and thus are removable from the modular tank unit when the power energized fluid handling system 200 is detached from the tank framework and removed. The framework 202 of the power energized fluid handling system 200 may be provided with exterior closure or cover panels if desired to ensure that the pump unit is protected from contamination by dust, dirt, oil, water that might be present in the local environment. When needed, the portable power energized valve, pump and piping unit is simply lifted by a crane or other lift system and moved to a desired location on a tank framework, where it is secured in place by means of lifting fittings, mounting pins or other connection and locking devices. After mounting of the pump unit exteriorly of the tank framework, hoses or conduits of the pump unit will be connected with loading and discharge conduits of a modular tank unit and an electrical connection will be made to provide electrical power for operation and control of the pump unit and any additional accessories that may be provided.

The partial sectional view of FIG. 18 illustrates a generally rectangular intermodal modular tank system which may be substantially identical with respect to the modular tank system set forth in FIG. 17, the difference being the location of a power energized fluid handling system which is designated 200a on the tank framework. In FIG. 18 similar reference numerals are employed to identify similar components as compared with FIG. 17. The power energized fluid handling system 200a may be releasably connected to the lower portion of one end of the tank framework so that it may be more readily accessible by workers standing at the level of the ground, floor or support surface “S” on which the intermodal modular tank system rests. Alternatively, the power energized fluid handling system may be temporarily or releasably mounted to a side portion or a top portion of the tank framework. The power energized fluid handling system 200a may be releasably connected with the tank framework by means of lifting and locking sockets such as shown at 209 and 211 or it may be releasably connected with the tank framework by means of mounting pins that are received by registering mounting openings or by means of simple bolt and nut assemblies.

External mounting of the power energized fluid handling system permits the tank to have maximum volume within the tank framework and permits the intermodal modular tank system to be manufactured at minimal expense. A power energized fluid handling system may then be selectively mounted to the tank framework of an intermodal modular tank for filling or discharge of the tank. When a number of intermodal modular tanks are interconnected to form a terminal a single power energized fluid handling system may be used to accomplish filling or discharge of a number of tanks.

In view of the foregoing it is evident that the present invention is one well adapted to attain all of the objects and features hereinabove set forth, together with other objects and features which are inherent in the apparatus disclosed herein.

As will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, the present invention may easily be produced in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The present embodiment is, therefore, to be considered as merely illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the claims rather than the foregoing description, and all changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalence of the claims are therefore intended to be embraced therein.