Vehicle-impact bollards are often required by building and fire-safety codes to protect equipment located in
or near traffic routes. In the petroleum world,
bollards have more than proven their usefulness
as the first line of defense to protect dispensers
in the forecourt.
Bollards also have long been used to protect LP-gas (propane) cylinders in storage or
exchange cabinets. These systems must meet
the requirements in Section 312 of the International Fire Code ( IFC). The IFC is widely used
in the United States and, along with National
Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard
58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, provides
the basis by which most jurisdictions regulate
propane safety. The governing IFC provisions
Section 312.2 Posts. Guard posts
shall comply with all of the following
1. Constructed of steel not less than 4 inches
(102 mm) in diameter and concrete filled.
2. Spaced not more than 4 feet (1219 mm)
between posts on center.
3. Set not less than 3 feet (914 mm) deep in
a concrete footing of not less than a 15-
inch (381-mm) diameter.
4. Set with the top of the posts not less than
3 feet (914 mm) above ground.
5. Located not less than 3 feet (914 mm)
from the protected object.
312.3 Other barriers. Physical barriers shall
be a minimum of 36 inches (914 mm) in
height and shall resist a force of 12,000
pounds ( 53,375 Newtons) applied 36 inches
(914 mm) above the adjacent ground
As detailed as these sections appear, they
lack well-defined performance goals for
vehicle impact protection. In addition, important
variables such as soil type, soil compaction and
paving materials—all of which will affect bollard
performance at a propane installation—are not
addressed in the regulations.
Since propane cylinders are robust enough to
withstand rough handling during transportation
and use, and cylinder storage and exchange cabinets are also solidly constructed, the National
Propane Gas Association (NPGA) Cylinder Exchange Council has for years questioned whether
bollards are truly needed to protect cylinders in
cabinets. To answer that question, the NPGA
funded a three-year (2011–2013) research and
testing initiative that was conducted by International Code Consultants of Austin, Texas.
The project included three phases:
1. A review of relevant research and regulations
associated with vehicle impact resistance;
2. A full-scale testing program; and
3. A code advocacy program to make necessary
changes to the IFC.
This article summarizes the high points of
the scope and results of the project. (To link to
and read the complete report, see the online
version of this article at www.peijournal.org.)
The conclusions and results of the study are
obviously important for PEI members involved
in propane cylinder storage cabinet installations.
Just as important, the NPGA’s process may serve
as a textbook example for other groups seeking
major code modifications in the future.
Phase 1: Literature Review
In a facility providing propane cylinder
storage or exchange, physical barriers may be
designed to serve one or more purposes, ranging
from providing drivers with a visual deterrent to
actual protection of the cylinders against low-speed or high-speed vehicle impacts.