Australia 2010

A circumnavigation (with risks).

The case of the leaking petrol can.

Man runs on diesel, however we carry a small Honda generator that uses petrol (gas for Americans). To supply this we used to have a 10 litre steel jerrycan. Yesterday this can ruptured rather spectacularly. (Note that the photograph below is a fake done with PaintShop, I forgot to photograph the real can before I got rid of it!)

Exactly how this happened is a mystery to me. Any explanation would be gratefully accepted.

The jerrycan was bought new in the UK and had been in use for at least a year. As well as being specifically made for petrol it was "explosion resistant" in that it was packed with a metal foil. The can was shipped to Australia empty. It was filled with 9 litres of unleaded petrol a few days after we arrived and remained this way without problem until we took the ferry to Tasmania. Before we were allowed to board the ferry we had to dump the petrol and fill the can with tap water.

On our return from Tasmania the can was emptied of water and allowed to drain. It was then filled with 250ml of petrol and shaken. The contents were emptied and the can again filled with 9 litres of unleaded petrol.

For about a week the can was carried in an external locker at the rear of Man. Yesterday on returning to Man after a short walk a pool of about 1 litre of petrol was found under the locker. On opening the locker the Jerry can was found to be nearly spherical, and clearly under immense pressure. The temperature was around 32°C.

With some difficulty the lid of the Jerry can was released (I estimate the pressure as over 10 bar). With the pressure released the rate of leakage was reduced to tolerable levels. The interior of the locker and the spill were washed with lots of water. The can was taken to the nearest fuel station for disposal (you would think a fuel station would know what to do with 8 litres of unwanted petrol - they didn't!).

In the time it took to drive to the fuel station appreciable pressure had again built up inside the can.

I can only assume that some chemical reaction was taking place between the steel can, the (aluminium?) foil, the water and the fuel. Under other circumstances the sudden release of a litre of petrol could have been very inconvenient.