Predictive repairs pave way for Navy fuel tanks

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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To speed up Navy fuel tank repairs and reduce costs, Defense Logistics Agency Energy is working with Naval Facilities Engineering Command to remove inefficiencies and better respond to customers' needs.

Streamlining processes and using “Predictive Repairs” has helped reduce repair time from two years down to a year.

“Before 2015, the average pace of returning Navy tanks to service was about four to six per year but in fiscal 2019 we hit a new record returning 51 tanks,” said Dave “Stick” Douglas, chief of DLA Energy Navy Sustainment, Restoration and Maintenance Branch. “We’ve increased Navy and Marine Corps tanks returning to service and reduced out of compliance tanks from 237 to 81 in the past four years.”

Douglas’ role is to oversee the repairs and maintenance of Navy and Marine Corps fuel infrastructure including 700 tanks, piers and pipelines at 97 sites worldwide that store 26 million barrels of bulk fuel for the Warfighter. 

Using forecasting and historical tank reports, the team estimates the costs of internal coating, repairs, welding, patching and any external repairs needed and issues the contract. If unanticipated repairs occur, we can modify the contract while the contractor continues to work the predictive repairs, Douglas explained. 

Mark Jackson from the NAVFAC for the Southeast Region is leading the continuous process improvement initiative to reduce tank service time to about six months.

“DLA Energy does a great job of supporting the Navy and our SRM efforts across several different programs,” Jackson said. “We are working together to make it happen.”

Jackson put together a cross-functional organizational team comprised of representatives from DLA Energy, NAVFAC, Army Corps of Engineers, Air Force Civil Engineering Command, Navy Petroleum Office and Fleet Logistics Center representatives to identify areas for improvement and save money.

Together, they identified 25 areas for improvement.

“We plan to save $15 million per year – money which can then be reinvested in to other projects like piers and pipelines,” Jackson said.

DLA Energy and NAVFAC are also looking at emerging technologies, including drones, to expedite inspections.

“We used a drone at naval air station in Texas,” Jackson said. “The problem is the robots don’t do well at the bottom of a tank with sludge in it – and any tank that has been around for a year or two has sludge.”  

Douglas said they are always looking for new methods.

“If you can inspect a tank with fuel in it, you can save a lot of time and money and maximize fleet lethality,” he said. “It’s critical to repair tanks right away because you never know when you’re going to need them.”

Douglas credits the progress to his project management team and stakeholder relationship. “We work well together to decide priorities and ensure everyone needs are met,” he said. 

DLA Energy’s Facility Sustainment Directorate is responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining 75% of the Department of Defense’s petroleum, oil and lubricants infrastructure worldwide.