Sustainable safety with stainless steel IBCs

Heatable container and Cube

Market-driven, reusable solutions for the processing, storage and transport of hazardous goods

Neunkirchen, September 2021 To prevent harm to people, animals and the environment, hazardous goods must be processed, stored and transported safely. And the more dangerous the substance, the more reliably it has to be secured. This has to be the guiding principle and that’s why only officially tested and approved containers should generally be used for hazardous goods. Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) have proved to be essential accessories for a range of different industries. Selecting an IBC is based on a number of factors, in particular the construction type, the suitability for or resistance to certain media, as well as its hazardous goods classification. Equally relevant is its fire behaviour, meaning the length of time it can resist fire and the time interval before uncontrolled leakage of the hazardous substance occurs. In this respect, metal containers are superior to both plastic and composite IBCs. The “gold standard” IBCs are those made of stainless steel. The material is suitable for low, medium or high hazard substances, is extremely durable and, with sustainability in mind, is completely recyclable and reusable.  

Intermediate bulk containers stand for customer-oriented container solutions and for the storage, filling, heating and discharging of hazardous goods, as well as their transport in accordance with ADR/RID regulations, containers made of stainless steel are the preferred choice. For processing engineering tasks, stainless steel IBCs can be used both in the production and processing of liquid, paste-like and solid substances. This occasionally gives rise to complex questions, which can only be answered individually for each application. 

The spectrum available on the market ranges from officially approved standard IBCs like round, silo and tank containers right up to customized special solutions. Type approval for hazardous goods containers involves making sure they fulfil the requirements for water tightness, stackability and handling by crane and forklift. The responsible body in Germany is the Berlin-based “Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing” (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung) known by its abbreviation “BAM”. 

Universal standard systems and bespoke special solutions

Companies like SCHÄFER Container Systems manufacture IBCs from stainless steel, but also provide support in process development and optimisation. The product range includes standard systems with volumes of 465 – 1,500 litres as well as bespoke special solutions produced on a one-off basis. Stainless steel IBCs can be cleaned of all residues via a DN 400 / DN 457 manhole. Approved discharge valves and coupling elements guarantee they can be used safely on automatic filling and emptying systems, for example. 
As a result, stainless steel IBCs often have hazardous goods approval straight from the factory. Permanent approval is legitimised by recurring inspections at the legally specified time intervals, similar to the general inspections for motor vehicles. These well-engineered reusable containers have a further benefit in that they are suitable for handling by crane, forklift or other pallet lifting equipment and are designed to be stackable. Depending on the application field, accessories, such as stirring devices, level gauges, insulation and coatings, can be individually adapted to suit the purpose.  

Certified fire safety 

However, their application fields and the requirements they can meet have not yet been exhausted. To be able to utilize the benefits of stainless steel IBCs for more and more scenarios, they are constantly being developed and improved. Their increasing use as transport containers for the chemical industry has made fire resistance an important issue. Fire resistance in modern stainless steel containers is significantly higher than in containers made of plastic. They can withstand fire for at least 30 minutes without sprinklers, a fact proven by the BAM.

Models like the SCHÄFER Cube are focussed neither on particular industries nor on application scenarios, but on economic aspects. The most striking difference of this reusable stainless steel container is its frameless, lightweight structure. The design and the weight-saving construction make this IBC ideally suited to almost all requirements of the chemical, paint, pharmaceutical and oil industries. The container is factory-certified to ADR and approved under UN 31 A/Y for packaging groups two and three for the transport of liquid hazardous substances up to a filling density of 2.0 kg/litre. 

Positive balance - economically and ecologically

So it’s no coincidence that in material processing industries stainless steel IBCs are now being used for various tasks in almost every sector. Special design features, such as deep-drawn, bottom sections with low dead space volumes make residue-free emptying possible without any additional aids or equipment. Thanks to the material used, sophisticated solutions can be cleaned out thoroughly leaving no residues, even to the point of being germ-free. Stainless steel IBCs are more or less predestined for use with hazardous substances. At the end of their expected life cycle of 30 years and more, they can usually be completely recycled, thus supporting efforts to conserve raw materials and save energy. 

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Christina Fuss

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Christof Ermert

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