How To Build a WTSHTF Gas Station, by Samantha B.

Gas is often not stored safely. A vaporized single gallon of gas cause catastrophic consequences if it ignites or explodes. People often store gas in 5-gallon cans. Cans are placed in barns, outbuildings, and garages alongside valuable equipment or stored household goods. Some people even store gas in the basement of their home in cans that are not properly sealed.

Our primary reason for constructing this gas station was to have a safe place to store fuel and provide some security from short to moderate gas supply disruptions. We also wanted to avoid unnecessary trips to town just for fuel.

Where are you located on the gas supply chain?

My husband and I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. If there is any supply disruption in oil and gas refining in the Gulf of Mexico, our area is the last place to receive fuel. A refinery accident several years ago led to gas shortages. If you are in an area that is the last to receive critical supplies like fuel, then having a small supply at home can allow you to get to work or school until supplies stabilize. We saw a lot of people that did not have the fuel they needed to conduct business. Those with longer work commutes had a tough time.

Storing just 25 extra gallons could have made a huge difference for a lot of those people.
Here is how we put together our gas station for very little out of pocket cost—many of the supplies we had laying around from previous construction projects and tasks around the farm. I encourage you to be creative when considering what materials you use. We used sheet metal for our shed, but scrap wood, pallets, and shingles would have worked just fine too!

The Pallet Platform

We had a single pallet. My husband expanded it with treated scrap lumber left over from other projects. We wanted a large enough platform for two barrels so we could have two grades of gas. Regular for our truck, Kawasaki Mule, and walk-behind tractor and ethanol-free for our weedeaters and chainsaws.

The Shed

The framework was built around the pallets. Matt used some treated boards and a few untreated to build the framework for the roof and sides. We have been working on some barns, so we have some small pieces of metal laying around. Technically we probably needed them to finish up the barns, but one side was just the cover sheet they included when they dropped off metal. Of course, the cover sheet is a different color, but who cares. The metal is the thicker gauge normally used for the sides of industrial buildings, so the whole structure should be pretty durable over the years. The first thing that will fail is likely the pallets and lumber that the barrels are setting on. Pouring a little concrete pad and then using some lumber for air space between the barrels and the concrete would prevent that, but we just used what we had.

The Barrels

Make sure that you get a barrel that is made for holding gas. It is vital for safety reasons. Gas vapors do build-up, but they can be safely contained in the right barrel. We are lucky enough to live very near a place that sells a lot of barrels in various sizes and types. Matt bought two brand new oil barrels for less than $30 each. They are a full 55 gallons, and although when empty, they are lightweight enough for a single person to pick up, they are bulky.

You will want to make sure they are well secured during transport so that they don’t roll around and get dented or damaged in any way. They are painted on the outside to prevent rust, but the paint can be chipped pretty easily. You can always repaint them whatever color you desire or put a fresh coat on occasionally so that they last longer.

Filling the Barrels

My husband and I live on a mountain. Most of our property is only accessible by 4×4 vehicle or walking, so it is up to us to haul gas. Plenty of farms get gasoline and diesel delivered by local gas companies. There is a minimum purchase, and they have to be able to actually pull up close enough. For people like us that want to keep around 100 gallons max on hand, it wouldn’t be practical anyway.

We haul our gas in 5-gallon cans and pour it into the barrel. You don’t have to completely fill your barrel all at once. We only have five cans, so we filled our barrels 25 gallons at a time.

Stabilizing the Fuel For Long Term Storage

We use a fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh. It is a very inexpensive fuel additive. At the moment I think you can get a container of Sta-bil that will treat up to 80 gallons of gas for just under $12. Reportedly, it will stabilize gas for up to 24 months. Ethanol-free might last that long, but I kind of doubt that regular gas will stay that good for that long with stabilizer.

Ethanol-Free Premium Versus Regular Gas

Ethanol-free gas will stay good longer but it can be harder to find in some areas. Avoid storing gas that has a high ethanol content for an extended period of time. I consider anything more than 10% high ethanol content.


When Matt and I discussed our pump options, we agreed that we wanted a pump that was very basic with no batteries or electronics to deal with. I found a cast-iron hand-cranked pump. It is a bit of work to use. You have to pump it for a little while to prime it before gas will come out. We don’t have to gas up that much, so that is not a huge deal for us.

You may want to get a pump that is less work if you are not up for the physical work of hand-cranking for a minute or two. If you had to pump 10-15 gallons, you might get tired of the pumping even if you are in excellent physical condition.

I honestly thought I had bought a pump that broke at first because it seemed like the gas wasn’t going to come out. It is just that you have to get it primed good, and that was not something we were aware of.
You can get battery-powered or electric pumps. We purchased a pump that we can use with a small 12V solar battery system since our gas station is not close enough for regular electricity to be an option.

I advise keeping a siphon or manual pump around in case it fails. The idea is to have gas on hand all the time, so a backup pump that doesn’t rely on electricity makes sense. An inexpensive siphon pump is under $20 if you don’t want to spend the money on a heavy-duty cast iron manual pump.

One of the first problems we had was the hassle of pumping gas back into a can in order to pour it into a vehicle. To solve this, we just bought a 10 ft 1inch diameter hose that fits the pump head. Make sure you measure your pump outlet before buying a hose. You want a tight fit.

5 gallons of gas in the Kawasaki Mule will keep us running around for 6 weeks, and gallons of mixed gas will go a long way in the chainsaws and weed eaters, so we really don’t have to pump gas that often on our homestead.

Larger Storage Tanks and Pumps

For those that plan on storing larger quantities of fuel, it may be worthwhile to invest in a heavy-duty fuel transfer pump. These are around $250 at Northern Tool. If you want to store a lot of gas you can use a heating oil tank. If the tank is elevated on a stand, then you can gravity feed your fuel.

Preventing gas evaporation

Since we do not pump gas daily, we remove the gas pump and seal the barrel with the screw-on cap that it came with. This prevents any vapors from spacing. This is important to remember because, over time, you can lose a lot of gas due to evaporation.

Preventing water damage to barrels

Wind can blow rain in. We noticed that the bottom of our painted metal gas barrels started to get some rust due to water blowing into the front of the gas station. We are adding a drop-down waterproof cloth in front. We chose Sunbrella fabric. You can buy it by the yard on eBay. It is commonly used to reupholster outdoor furniture.

Mud and water splatters

We initially did not have gravel around our gas station. We have since added 1-inch gravel and that solved the problem. This can also help you level off your spot before building.

Alcohol-based HEET will absorb water from gas, but it is important to do whatever you can to prevent water from getting into your stored gas in the first place. A little water in gas can be removed pretty easily and at a low cost. If you are going to store ant significant quantities of gas, then it is a good idea to keep a few bottles of HEET around just in case. This stuff even works if the gas is already in the tank of the vehicle or machine you are trying to use. Sometimes condensation can get in a tank if it sits for some time, especially in the winter.

Octane Booster

Older gas can be revitalized up to a point by using an octane booster. How much it helps depends on the age and condition of the gas in question. It may be worth it to have few bottles on hand for WSHTF. Octane booster could be helpful if you have to salvage gas during a long-term emergency. Just because a vehicle won’t run doesn’t mean the gas is not valuable.

Gas barrels can make a loud noise when pressure changes. Gas barrels are made to hold pressure. When there are big temperature swings, the pressure can change within the barrel. This change results in a loud noise that can be alarming if you don’t know what it is. It is similar to someone running up and hitting the barrel really hard. It is nothing to be concerned about, but I think that people should be aware so it doesn’t scare them the first time it happens.

Gas storage for smaller needs and spaces

Remember that it is always better to store flammables away from your main living space. I know that is challenging in a lot of areas, but a small outbuilding is better than in your main home. Here are a few storage containers that you can buy. Be sure to use fuel stabilizer whenever you add fresh gas.

Gas Caddy

You can purchase metal gas caddies online that have a pump and nozzle. These caddies have wheels and hold around 30 gallons of gas. They are very nice and make storage easy. The disadvantage is the cost. You can expect to pay $200-$250.

Metal Gas Cans

Metal jerry can style gas cans are better than plastic gas cans. Make sure they are sealed properly and keep them off the ground. A used pallet works well.


It is important to take steps to store gas safely.

Storing some gas protects you from supply disruptions and price fluctuations. Gas can be stored for up to two years if kept in a good container with fuel stabilizer. Keeping extra gas on hand can prevent some trips to town, thus saving you time and money.


  1. If you live in an area with many kids or where strangers travel through, you may want to take steps to conceal or secure your storage area. Security could be a locked door, or a chain link fence around the enclosure. Concealment could be shrubbery or a crescent moon carved in the door to the shed. Or, simply an open shed with a few trash containers, in which maybe 30 gallon barrels are hidden, under a paper bag of recycle cans. Regarding pumps and hoses, steel pumps (like Samantha B got) and hoses with grounding wires in them are preferred. Slower pumping rates through plastic hoses will give time for static charges to bleed off.

    While the article is about gasoline, it is very adaptable to most flammable products storage.

    I have thought about this often, and this article certainly helped get my scattered thoughts in order. Thank you.

    1. Love this article. Thank you for writing it.

      If folks can afford it, I really like this pump. It does a great job filling all my containers and equipment out of a 15 gallon barrel. No mess, no funnels, no drips, no spills. The suction pipe is a bit short for a taller barrel, but you could extend it. It runs on D cell batteries.

      Out here we quit using Stabil and stick to PRI-G for gas and PRI-D for diesel. It costs less than Stabil for the number of gallons you can treat. Pri-G actualy rejuvenates gas and we re-treat stored gas every year.

      Best wishes

      1. I second the comment about the small battery powered transfer pump from Amazon. It’s perfect for transferring from 5-gallon jerrycans to generator, lawnmower, etc. I bought one recently and wish I had done so earlier.

  2. Great article from a fellow North Carolinian. In the past I have stored (2) 55 gallon drums of gasoline for 2+ years with no problems. This was after doing some testing of course. I found that PRI-G worked better than stabil for long term storage. I also added a small amount of Marvel Mystery oil, and had no problems even in fuel injected motors.


  3. Great article! We live in a surburban area area and store gasoline in our garage.

    We will be looking at garage sales this summer and buy a large plastic box for storing 5 gallon cans at the back of our back yard. We will vent it.

    Thank you for this article, reminded me to get holing on our “list”.

  4. 2003, on our ExpeditionVehicle build, I realized the factory fifty-gallon tank was barely adequate for five-hundred miles.

    I like acquiring fuel in low-tax places, I like range… but I especially like the ‘low-tax’ part.

    To keep me happy, I added a 140-gallon ‘saddle’ tank on the opposite side of the vehicle.
    A pair of saddle tanks is usually standard-equipment for heavy vehicles such as semi-trucks and dump-trucks (aka ‘tippers’).
    I acquired my tank from a heavy-truck dismantler… after foraging through piles of different size tanks.
    Some of the removed tanks were rectangular steel, some were aluminum tube of different diameter and length.
    I chose aluminum, my factory mounts are close and high to help avoid dragging on rocks and stumps.

    With that success under my belt, I thought ‘why not…’!
    So… I fabricated a rugged mount for an additional 120-gallon tank on the toy-hauler.
    50 + 140 + 120.
    In theory, our range — travel without stopping at a service-station — is Anchorage-to-Acapulco.

    For a stationary supply, I think discarded heavy-truck fuel-tanks, engineered for a million miles of safety, are a potential alternative to upright 55-gallon drums or five-gallon cans.
    Build a supporting frame, add a transfer pump, and you have home-based filling-station.
    A few appropriate extinguishers is probably a good idea.

    For security, instead of a delivery truck, I think I would fill my stationary transfer tanks from a mobile transfer tank in my pick-up truck.

    Speaking of mobile transfer tanks:
    I remember waiting at a commercial transfer station in Latin America.
    The pick-up truck in front of us was loaded with 55-gallon drums.
    Filling each drum lowered the truck rear bumper a few inches.
    With probably close to seven or eight drums in the bed of his pick-up, he was looking at close to… a lot of weight.
    Leaving the concrete apron of the station, his dragging bumper tossed a delightful shower of sparks.
    So, there is that.

    1. Marge, gas weighs about 6 pounds/gallon. With 7 barrels he was carrying 385 gallons of gas, so at 6 pounds/gallon he was carrying about 2,300 pounds of gasoline. I once saw a statistic about the stored energy in gasoline being compared to that of a stick of dynamite, I have forgotten but I am sure it was not less than a 1:1 ratio. The OKC federal building was destroyed with a diesel fuel+ammonium nitrate fertilizer mix concealed in a U-Haul truck, and I believe the 1993 WTC bombing was a similar homebrew.
      It’s not the same as straight gas, but any stored fuel can be dangerous, and might attract the kind of attention most people don’t need from either government agents, thieves, or malcontent miscreants.

  5. Beware, in a pre-shf environment there are local, county, state, and federal regulations dealing with storage of fuels. Most require a containment means in case of a leak. An epa required cleanup could bankrupt the average home owner. There are even regulations on how many 5gal cans of gasoline you can transport at one time.

    1. +1

      Also, be sure to review your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it has any clauses that would allow it to escape paying claims if you have more than ‘X’ quantity of fuels stored on your property, whether within a flammables cabinet or not. For example, here in SoCal you can have no more than a total(!) of 25 gal of fuel on your property without a special permit, which would include expensive storage upgrades and inspections. I learned this because I had six 5-gal containers, which raised questions about a potential citation.

  6. Thanks for the concise, well written article. It lit a fire under me to finish my own fuel station!

    I hope other SB readers with practical experience will expand on not only gasoline storage, but diesel as well.

    Will the poly plastic drums work with diesel? What about venting and, in my neck of the woods, big humidity and temperature changes?

    I know I’ll need a Cetane booster preservative and an anti algal…

    Thanks for sharing your practical experiences!

    1. I use the poly barrels from the car wash-type sources.

      There are several caveats:

      Eliminate all oxygen possible (fill all the way up).

      Treat with PRI-D.

      Ensure anti-microbe treatment before sealing container.

      Bung container tightly to prevent loss of volatile components, other wise fuel won’t burn well. So DO NOT VENT storage containers.

      Keep out of sun.

      Use good seal on cap and use a bung wrench to close tightly.

      Later on, if you smell fuel smell, you haven’t sealed containers.

      This site has a 77 minute interview link that describes the process the Engineer Steve Harris taught me to do it.

      Look for the Long Term Fuel Storage link

  7. I’ve gone to storing our gas in Jerry cans with lids that screw in tightly against rubber gaskets. This prevent the escape of vaporized gasoline. I add stabilizer. There are zero emissions.

  8. I highly suggest a concrete pad under the storage area and in front of it where spills may occur. To make our air clean the “Do-Gooders” changed for formula of gas by add a chemical that supposedly makes it cleaner to burn. Problem is now that chemical is the #1 ground water contaminant in the country. Putting down some cement/concrete will help stop any spills from entering your ground water. I live in an area that is glacial till (basically gravel) and very little clay. My well is 45’ deep so anything spilled/leaked will probably end up in my drinking glass. In theory the cement will not allow the gas to get into the soil and will evaporate before permeating the cement.

    1. Definitely something to think about . . . . worst case scenario, a tree falls on your storage area and now you have 110 gallons of gasoline soaking down towards your water supply.

  9. Great article, thanks for posting.

    My county limits fuel storage to 5 gals under dwelling roof, with no restrictions outside of that. Right now, most of the stored fuel is in the pre-built shed out back. I worry about wildfire, & the Summer heat & humidity. Long term planning is for facility like yours, using concrete block, thin shell dome, aircrete lean too or lift lid, or earthbag. Maybe an IBC, to go with the 55, 30 and 5 gal storage I have now. If you have an enclosed building, you might want to add a 12v blower fan, like for boats, to clear the air before entering.

    I have been slowly replacing gasoline powered tools with battery operated ones,
    but I still have gasoline powered generators, though one is duel fuel. Gasoline
    rotation is beginning to be a problem with no power outages in a couple of years. I have started buying E00 93 oct, at the local Murphy station, just for the storage life.

    Folks should research alternative powered transport: electric, diesel, etc, even if
    it is just an UTV.

    An Ebike powered by solar might be a good low cost alternative, compared to a Tesla and might be safer during a fuel shortage with fewer vehicles on the road.

    Gasoline is the Achilles heal of private transport in the USA.

    If an entity wanted to reduce private travel, all they would have to do is limit gasoline production, either through regulation or direct action.

    Society would still run on Diesel, with gasoline being a thing of the past and that is the stated goal of some of the country’s leadership.

    New private diesel vehicles are illogically expensive, the new Jeep 4dr Wrangler is $60K, and their are no low cost alternatives. I have been looking for an 25 year old truck for years now, but they are expensive and sell quickly.

    If you have an airplane using 100LL, you might want to consider changing to JP or diesel powered engine when feasible, or electric if practical.

    Gasoline will probably become expensive and scarce in the coming months.

    1. >>”If an entity wanted to reduce private travel, all they would have to do is limit gasoline production, either through regulation or direct action.”<<
      Or, they could destroy our national ability to produce fuel independently of OPEC and subject Americans to steep price increases – as forecast as a result of the Biden administrations proposed policies ($10/gal).

  10. I use the five gallon cans she spoke of to transport gas, but I also use them on a covered outdoor rack for storage. Mine are metal. I acquire them at farm auctions and have several, along with some two and one gallon cans to carry emergency gas in. Stabilizers and octane enhancers are always good ideas if you have stored the gas for very long.

    Excellent piece.

  11. That thing is dangerous, in my professional Inpression

    You need a tub under the building large enough to hold at least one barrel,
    is your punp is non-arcing ?

    Have you nonarcing light and an earthing system for this place

  12. Always vent a tank when it is being emptied. I was present when a 55 gallon barrel was being emptied with a simple hand operated pump. At about the half way point the barrel suddenly imploded with enough force that it jumped 6 feet into the air and then split open when it landed on the concrete floor. Quite the mess to clean up. Vacuum pressure can be powerful. A broken nose and a dislocated wrist was the damage, but it could have been much worse. Always vent.

    1. Remember one of the last Mythbusters’ shows a giant steel railroad tank car imploding from just atmospheric pressure vacuum. We live at the bottom of a sea of air.

  13. Understand that HEET and most octane boosters are ethanol. It is counter productive to search and buy higher priced ethanol free gas to then just add ethanol to it.

    The biggest issues with gasoline storage are tanks and cans that “breathe” or are vented. Yes, gasoline evaporates but more importantly the lighter, smaller chain hydrocarbons evaporate first and that is what kills the ability for an engine to start or keep running with “old” fuel. Also as the lighter hydrocarbons evaporate some of the additives precipitate and they gum up the fuel system.

    Breathing cans and tanks also allow water vapor to enter and then when it condenses it sinks to the bottom of the tank and is entrapped. If the fuel has ethanol it will dissolve into the alcohol and make the gas more corrosive.

    Sealing your steel drums is very wise and is of far greater benefit than any gas stabilizers.

    I dug into stabilizers a good while ago and could find no peer reviewed research that they are effective. Looking at the chemistry of say PRI-G for example it is mostly a basic mineral oil made by Shell called Shellsol D-60 . Maybe they help, maybe they don’t but if you shell (no pun intended) out some hard earned bucks for them, of course you’ll be absolutely certain they work. They certainly won’t hurt using them, just don’t expect miracles, especially if the gas container is not sealed well.

    1. I use plastic 5gal cans. I’m not thrilled with them, but I can carry them to the shed, fuel rotation is easier, containers are cheap, and they are easy to empty with a simple syphon. I watched my cans expand to bulging and contract as if collapsing. A few years ago I reached out to a Chem E I knew from college who built refineries for a living for more information about fuel. Gasoline is actually a mixture of different length hydrocarbons, including some that light ones that are actually dissolved in the fuel being gases at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. These extremely light distillates are important for cold weather starting and should help with any starting. As you mention, sealing the metal can is so important for trapping the light weight distillates for winter starting. I worry I’m losing the light weight distillates through my plastic cans or their lids.

      As for PRI-G, I’ve read that at least some of the fuel stabilizers have biocides in them, though I don’t know what kind of chemicals are used. I believe military fuel has both biocides and de-icers in them.

  14. I have military surplus aluminum gas & diesel tanks (600 gal each) that I found for about $300 each sitting in a purpose built concrete storage area. I will tell you that the initial pump installation was easy, however, my gas pump has now just quit. This happened right after filling it. Can’t find anyone crazy enough (including myself) to replace it while sitting on 600 gallons of gas. My point is to not skimp on the quality of the initial pump purchase and to have a backup hand pump just in case. It’s not going to be fun pumping 600 gallons of fuel by hand but I guess it will help me with my most lacking part of preparedness which is physical fitness. I’ll report back in a few months with a new measurement of my arm girth. Please let me know if anyone has any suggestions.

    1. I think the pump should pull from the top of the tank.
      Inside, the ‘drop tube’ connected to the pump fittings leaves a space at the lowest part of the tank.
      In that space, moisture and debris can safely settle.

      Draining — gravity flow — from a valve at the bottom of the tank risks polluting your post-tank filters with that settled moisture and debris.


      We acquire our diesel transfer pumps at Coastal Farm And Ranch in Oregon.
      The brand is Fill-Rite, and they run from:
      * a) light-duty plastic 12vdc 6gpm to
      * b) extreme-duty all-metal rebuildable ‘continuous’ rated 12vdc and 24vdc 35gpm.
      Our filters are standard Racor brand on a dual in-line manifold with moisture separation.
      To simplify stocking, we use identical filters on the boat.

    2. Using brass tools will help to eliminate sparks but they are expensive and will be softer than the materials that you are using them on, so finesse is better than force. Good nonferrous stainless steel tools are second best. If the tanks are outside, doing the work on a windy day will help to eliminate fumes/gasses from accumulating thereby reducing ignition if a spark should happen. Actually an empty tank leaves more explosive fumes than a full tank. I would be crazy enough to do it, as it can be done safely. If you do pump all the gasoline out of the tank, you should leave it open and ventilate it to remove all fumes before starting work.

  15. It’s important to keep plenty of fuel stabilizer on hand.

    But keep in mind that fuel stabilizer itself has a shelf life and can go bad, unless treated with a product called Stabilizer Stabilizer (TM).

  16. I started storing gasoline back in the 70’s during the energy crisis. I buried 2 open top 55 gallon steel drums in the ground, leaving the top of the drum sticking out of the ground by about an inch.
    I was able to put 4- 5 gallon plastic gas cans in each barrel, and then secure the cover on the barrel with the ring clamp. I’m able to store a total of 40 gallons.
    The barrels lasted about 25 years before they rusted out. I replaced them with plastic barrels.
    I treat the fuel with Sta-Bil and I store it for 2 years, I then use it up and replace it.
    Having the fuel in the ground keeps it at a fairly steady temperature.
    I recently built a pressure treated platform out of 4×4’s and 3/4″ plywood to go over the barrels to hide them. I keep some firewood on it so that no one will think that it is hiding something.

  17. Thanks for the letter! So glad to see attention called to this issue again. As we enter the third term of Obama bureau-rats and oil demand returns and the prices rise (remember $4 fuel) and who knows what else is done to us fuel storage will be useful on several levels.

  18. I live in a single-family residence neighborhood, and have a full time job. There’s no room and no time for me to make my own gas station. So I choose the easy alternative: whenever my car’s fuel gauge shows 3/4, I refuel my car. That’s cheaper, less time-consuming, and safer. Of course, the tradeoff is that this won’t last long. Still, I can get at least a few days of traveling if I’m careful about how I drive.

  19. I was fascinated by how closely the author’s fuel depot construction mirrored the method I used to build my “poultry palace”. I used 4 pallets – measure to make sure they really ARE the same size – on a bed of gravel, and then in-filled the pallets with more gravel. The sides are the same leftover steel siding sheets that were cover sheets to my shop’s metal, I was lucky to have several of each color but each side is a different color. I even had a boatload of screws left from the shop’s construction. My biggest cost was the expense of 4x4s for the corners and 2x4s for framing the walls and roof.

  20. Aviation 100 LL fuel remains stable for well over a year. It is not suited for anything with a catalytic converter on it due to the fuel’s high lead content. If you run it, expect to clean your spark plugs more frequently to remove the lead boogers from the electrodes. Some FBO’s will not be willing to sell it to you unless you are putting it in an airplane. Tell them it is for your race car and give them a wink and most will sell it to you. Develop your relationship with the FBO by dropping off treats on Saturday mornings. Avgas is going for around $5/gallon these days.

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