Napa Valley Earthquake: Lessons in Wine Storage Best Practices

Whenever an earthquake happens, the clean up leaves clues about safe storage of liquid materials. In 2014, a Napa Valley earthquake left winery operations with thousands of broken wine bottles and damaged and crushed storage tanks to clean up. 

Let’s take a look at what happened, best practices for wine storage, and how you can protect your wine stock from potential damage. 

Napa Valley Earthquake Storage Takeaways

Thea 6.0 earthquake literally crushed several of a vineyards wine storage tanks. “It looked like some giant hand just came down and crushed them and the wine came out of them,” said James Caudill, spokesman for The Hess Collection. As a result, precious wine inventory was lost, a large clean up effort was required, and expensive tank replacements needed.

So, what are some of the lessons we can learn from this earthquake?

1. The material of the tank matters. 

The material used in the construction of the storage tank makes a big difference. Steel and stainless steel tanks are rigid in construction. They lack flexibility to absorb shocks and impact. As a result, we see steel tanks crushed from the seismic shock and impact of the earthquake.

However, high-density cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) storage tanks offer a robust, yet flexible material with the ability to resist high impact. XLPE’s resistance in the face of impact and movement offers safe storage for wineries and chemical use.

2. Seismic restraint systems help protect tanks from damage. 

A properly engineered seismic restraint system protects the storage tank from damage. It helps to prevent a catastrophic failure of the tank that results in losing valuable content stored in the tank (wine), or a costly environmental clean up (chemical spill).

The size of the polyethylene storage tank, the weight of the fluid, and the type of material or chemical being stored, as well as the physical address of installation will determine the restraint system required to prevent damage to the tank as well as the structures around the tank during an earthquake. Stainless or galvanized steel clips and cables hold the tank in place.

Polyethylene Tanks: The Option for Safe, Cost-Effective Wine Storage

Polyethylene storage tanks provide the solution to safe storage with a cost advantage when compared to stainless steel tanks. We offer wineries storage tanks that meet FDA requirements in a variety of sizes.

In fact, during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, hundreds of Poly Processing storage tanks were located in the earthquake zone. None of these tanks failed and employee safety was maintained.

As mentioned, poly tanks are strong yet flexible, resisting impact and movement damage. We take a conservative, cautious approach to designing a tank restraint system to prevent failure of the tank and minimize damage and loss of tank content materials in the event of an earthquake or natural disaster.

After seeing the damage done to Napa Valley’s stainless steel wine tanks in the recent earthquake, polyethylene storage tanks might be the solution you are seeking.

For more information on polyethylene wine storage tanks, download the wine storage system guide today.

Download Wine Storage System Guide


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