Stainless tankers lose the nickel

May 31, 2007
A 600% jump in the price of nickel has sent prices skyrocketing for the stainless steel commonly used to build cargo tankers that meet DOT hazardous materials regulations

A 600% jump in the price of nickel has sent prices skyrocketing for the stainless steel commonly used to build cargo tankers that meet DOT hazardous materials regulations, doubling the cost of bulk tank trailers in the last four years. A new tanker from Brenner Tank replaces the nickel-based “austenitic” stainless steel with a “lean complex” variant that is not only lower cost, but also offers other advantages, according to the manufacturer.

Using more chromium and less nickel, lean duplex stainless steel isn’t a new material, but up until the sudden rise in nickel commodity prices was not considered cost-effective for bulk tankers, according to John F. Cannon, Brenner’s vp of sales & marketing. “When we talk about savings with lean duplex, we’re literally talking about thousands of dollars per cargo tank,” Cannon said.

In addition to lower cost, the new stainless steel has significantly higher tensile and yield strengths, as well as increased pitting resistance and better temperature-change properties, according to the manufacturer. Surface finish compared to the high-nickel material was an issue, but the company says it has worked with suppliers “to achieve a surface finish acceptable to the tank trailer industry.”

A prototype of the new stainless tanker will be on display at Brenner Tank’s Fond du Lac, WI, headquarters on June 13. Production units will be available in the fourth quarter, according to the company.

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