Propane Tanks, OPD & Requalification Regulations

Does your boat’s propane tank need requalified?  And what the heck is an OPD?

All boat propane tanks are legally required to be requalified after 12 years and then reinspected every 5 years!  Scroll down for the Requalification Requirements.

An OPD is a legally required overflow protection device for any propane tank manufactured after September 30 1998.  You can tell if your tank has an OPD valve because you’ll have a triangular valve wheel to turn the propane on.  The rest of us good old boats, like s/v Winterlude have a circular valve wheel on the tank.

Our tank is a horizontal tank and is exempt from the l998 OPD regulations, however, you cannot believe how many propane refilling stations are unaware of the regulations and refuse to refill our horizontal tank.  Just for the record, we never had a problem getting it refilled while cruising outside the US – I guess other countries aren’t concerned that propane refiller folks might blow themselves up?

Our horizontal propane tank, manufactured before October 1, 1998 is exempt from the OPD valve regulations, but not everyone knows that!

Recently we took our tank to get it refilled in anticipation of a few months of cruising and the same place that filled it last year said “nope” – no OPD valve, no refill.  David tried to explain, but they were adamant and he left mad, forgetting to pick up my zucchini (the closest propane refill place is also the best Cuban veggie stand, go figure!).

We had to drive all the way to the propane dealer in Ft Myers, FL for Amerigas to get the tank refilled.  They were the only ones we knew that knew the law/regulations about horizontal propane tanks.

For some reason, horizontal propane tanks manufactured before October 1, 1998 are EXEMPT from the OPD valve requirements.  Since our tank is a very nice aluminum tank added when the boat was manufactured … that would be 1985 … and it’s a horizontal tank, it’s exempt.

Here’s a link to the US Government Department of Transportation Regulations for OPD Valves and Propane Tanks if you want the information straight from the regulations. 

OPD’s were required in the 1998 edition of NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. The requirements were modified in the 2001 edition to exempt certain horizontal cylinders.  The OPD is required on all propane cylinders between 4 pounds and 40 pounds propane capacity.   Our boat common size propane tank holds 20 pounds of propane.

Our round valve indicates a non-OPD valve. OPD valves are triangular. You can see some of the regulation stamping on the tank collar

REQUALIFICATION REGULATIONS

Just because our tank is exempt from the OPD regulations, does not make it exempt from the requalification regulations.   Huh?  What are the requalification regulations?  Most propane DEALERS (not refillers) will requalify your tank if it passes inspection.  There was a fee, but I don’t remember what it was.

Requalification is required for all propane tanks 12 years after the date of manufacture.  We didn’t know that and no one ever questioned our tank until 1998 came along with the new OPD valve regulations.   But then we left the country until 2010 so we completely forgot about it because other countries weren’t concerned.

When we returned, we were concerned that the tank might be leaking … after all it was 25 years old … so we took it to BalGas, the propane place, to have it checked out.  That’s when we found out we had to have it requalified, which they did for a small fee, stamped it with a requalification date followed by an “E” and sent us on our way.

That was 2010.  The regulations say we have to have it inspected every five years, so the next inspection will be 2015.  This is likely a very good idea.  It would be a complete shame to end a fun cruising life by blowing ourselves up with a propane tank that’s too old.

Finally, someone who knows the regulations and will refill our tank! Time to go cruising!

Actually we might consider replacing the tank with a new aluminum tank with an OPD valve just to eliminate confusion.  The problem is that new aluminum tanks are expensive AND we would have to totally reconfigure our propane locker to accommodate the new size — that means busting out fiberglass and making the existing locker bigger – which would then compromise other lazarettes.    Aaarrrgggg….   As long as ours is in good shape, we’ll continue to get it recertified & inspected and deal with busting out fiberglass at some future date!

Anyone else refitted a horizontal tank with an OPD valve?  Please leave a comment and share your experience — we may need the information some day!   🙂  THANKS!  Jan

 

Comments

  1. We refitted ours, but only because we didn’t know about the exemption. We took it to get it filled and they wouldn’t touch it. I’m not really sorry we did, because we now have new tanks and know what we’re starting with. The boat hadn’t been taken care of properly and I just didn’t want to trust my life to tanks that I knew nothing about. The tanks are 11# ones and they weren’t that expensive at a local supply house. Our propane locker takes 2 of these instead of one big one.

    Deb
    S/V Kintala
    http://www.theretirementproject.blogspot.com

    • Deb – our big concern was the age of the tanks as well. We thought about retrofitting if it hadn’t meant tearing out fiberglass and rebuilding the propane locker — with nowhere to expand. So before we made that expensive commitment, we had the tanks inspected, not even realizing they needed to be “requalified” every few years. It all turned out good except the hassle to get the tank filled. Our tank was taken care of well and the latest inspection showed it’s still sound and as good as new. We know the alternative is probably somewhere over the horizon, but what else is new with old boats! 🙂 It can get in line with the teak decks (which don’t leak – knock on wood!) and other major projects.

  2. David Alan says:

    I just discovered this document published for Texas Propane Filler’s Instruction Guide.

    It quotes the National Code prominently on this exact point. On page 10 it quotes, NFPA 58: 5.7.3.5, stating the horizontal cylinder exemption. On page 11 it even has a test question on this point. While especially helpful to us Texans, it should be a good reference for others, too.

    http://tinyurl.com/TexasLPStudyGuide

    Your state may have a propane association that also cites this authoritatively.

    I will print a copy of this guide and keep it for reference in my LP compartment, in the case of uninformed personnel.

    I will also try to have a larger propane refiller provide the sticker mentioned in 58: 5.7.3.6:

    Horizontal cylinders exempted from the overfilling prevention device requirement must be marked with a label to
    indicate that they are not equipped with the device.
    NFPA 58, §5.7.3.6

    Ironically, I couldn’t find a free download of the relevant NFPA Code 58, the NFPA site wants to charge big $$ for a book or download.

    I truly hope this helps others.

    David in Texas

  3. Hello I was just reading your story and also just wanted to say I don’t own a boat propane tank but I have a aluminum 6 pound upright tank for my shop torch and just had it Re certified and thought they were going to install a OPD valve but they called me when it was done and I saw the same old valve so I asked and they told me its not OPD required and safe. I think i’m good for 5 or 7 more years yay!!

  4. Ben,

    NFPA 58
    5.7.6.5 The following types of cylinders shall be exempt from the requirements of 5.7.6.1 through 5.7.6.4 for installing a listed overfilling prevention device.

    (1) Cylinders used in industrial truck service and cylinders identified and used for industrial welding and cutting gases.

    (2) Cylinders manufactured prior to October 1, 1998 and designed for use in horizontal position and where an overfilling prevention device is not available.

    Someone above posted incorrectly 5.7.3.6 this has to do with regulators not OPD vavles. I have the NFPA 58 book.

  5. I was refused service in getting my RV tanks refilled at the local propane refiller/gas stop (C Stop at 129 Ellendale in Dallas, Oregon) because my tanks were 10 years old. Both were in great shape, no rust and both had OPD values. Even though I showed them the regulations on my IPad the two clerks said no refills on tanks older than five years. I even showed them Amergas’ own website (they are an Amergas refiller)which was contrary to what the clerks were saying but they still refused to refill my tanks. My advice: refill at establishments that know the regulations!

  6. Looks like I have the exact same tank as yours. Mine is a 1994 Manchester 10 lb tank with the same old valve. My valve started leaking at the handle shutoff point, but I see all the new valves are oriented 90 degrees off! The handle is easily reached on the old valve and I would hate to have to remove the tank every time I want to access the handle.

    Has anybody found a new valve with the handle orientation as seen in the photos in this post?

    • Ours doesn’t leak, so we don’t have the issue … yet. David looked at the new horizontal tanks at West Marine and it appeared the handle would be facing up — but we didn’t pay alot of attention since ours doesn’t leak, so we could be wrong. GOOD LUCK! Let us know what what you discover, we may be interested in the future. 🙂 Cheers! Jan

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