Thoughts and perspectives from the team.

Differences Between Shop-Built Tanks vs. Field-Erected Tanks

AUTHOR T Bailey, Inc.

PUBLISHED Dec 8, 2020

Trying to decide between a shop-built and field-erected tank? Each option has its own advantages and while it may initially seem like a difficult decision, the best tank option for your situation can usually be made clear by answering the following questions: 

  • What’s your budget? 
  • How much storage capacity do you need? 
  • How tight is your project’s deadline? 

Keep these questions in mind while you read through this blog post and you should come out the other end knowing which tank is ideal for your job site.

Shop-Built Tanks vs. Field-Erected Tanks

There are three primary differences between field-erected and shop-built tanks. These are: 

  1. Cost. Shop-built tanks are generally the more affordable option, as field work is more expensive than shop work. 
  2. Size. Field-erected tanks have no size limit, while shop-built tanks are limited to transportation capacity. 
  3. Timeline. Tanks fabricated start-to-finish in the shop have a much more dependable deadline than field-erected tanks because the shop is a controlled environment, not susceptible to disturbances like the weather. 

Continue reading to learn more about these and other differences, or contact T BAILEY INC. to request an evaluation of your situation. Our tank fabrication experts can calculate the costs and benefits of shop vs. field construction for you, helping you make the best choice for your tank project. 

Cost & Timeline Differences Between Shop-Fabricated and Field-Built Tanks

Generally, shop-built tanks are more affordable than field-erected tanks. This is because shop-fabrication occurs in a tightly controlled environment, mitigating weather delays, and other environmental hiccups. 

Another reason why shop fabrication is cheaper is that shop-built tanks can be built faster than field-erected tanks. This is because shop crews work in assembly-line fashion, with different departments quickly executing their stage of the fabrication process and then rolling the tank on to the next team. At T BAILEY INC., we reduce costs even further, as our facilities include a state-of-the-art paint and coatings shop — eliminating the need to ship tanks to a separate coatings contractor. 

For these reasons and more, shop-built tanks are usually cheaper and faster to build than field-erected tanks. 

Size Differences Between Field-Erected and Shop-Built Tanks

While shop-built tanks are often more affordable to build, this advantage disappears once tank capacity passes a certain size — usually the hundreds-of-thousands-of-gallons mark. 

This is because shop-built tanks can only be as big as the truck or barge shipping them to the job site. And while T BAILEY INC. has the ability to ship tanks reachings 20’ in diameter by 20’ high, these pale in capacity when compared to field-erected tanks — which can easily reach 150’ tall or 150’ in diameter. 

Consequently, for projects requiring millions of gallons of capacity, field-erected tanks tend to be the way to go. 

If you opt for a field-erected tank, the tank parts will be fabricated in the shop and then delivered to the job site. There, a field crew will erect the tank on site. Once construction is complete, a paint and coatings crew will be sent to finish the tank. 

Pros & Cons of Shop Tanks vs. Field Construction

So which kind of tank is right for you? When it comes to budget and timeline, the general rule of thumb is that shop-built tanks are usually the better option. 

Of course, this changes once storage capacity tips into hundreds of thousands or millions of gallons. For jobs requires vast storage capacity, field-erected tanks tend to become the more affordable solution. 

That said, there are some unique situations where the storage capacity calls for a field-erected tank, but shop-built tanks are still the best option. 

For example, we were contracted to build tanks for a fuel farm in remote Alaska. At first look, the requested storage capacity seemed to call for a field-erected tank. But, after running cost analysis, we discovered that it was actually cheaper for us to deliver turn-key shop-built tanks than send out a field team for on-site tank construction and painting. 

An Industry-Leading Tank Contractor Near You 

Still not sure which kind of tank is ideal for your situation? If your project is a complex one, then it’s best to recruit some professional insight. 

Here at T BAILEY INC., we’re not just a fabrication shop — we’re a general contractor that understands the whole process and all the concerns that come with tank fabrication

For a professional analysis of your job, please contact our team today. We’d be happy to help you figure out whether or not a shop-built or field-erected tank is right for you.