Managing Fuel

Fuel management can be a complicated task, and anyone approaching the problem maintaining a fuel supply needs to understand the benefits and limitations. Wherever possible, humanitarian organizations should seek to outsource fueling services, using direct delivery or refueling stations where possible. Unfortunately the humanitarian landscape requires direct active management of fuel supplies in many instances. 

As a general rule, fuel should be treated as a specialized sub-category of storage and transportation, and requires special attention. Humanitarian agencies working in disaster settings should consider making special precautions and procedures for fuel management, especially if fuel management becomes a large part of the portfolio of activities.

Common Terms in Fuel Management 


A nozzle, hose or other device that is used to deposit or deliver fuel from a storage container to a vehicle or another storage container.


A meter that is used to record the follow of fuel, usually liquids measured in litres. Flowmeters are usually used for recording usage over time.


A common unit for transporting liquid fuel. The most common unit of drum is a 200 litre drum.


The act of draining or removing liquid or gas from a tank/drum/canister or other form of container.

Hot Work

Any activity or process that generates a source of ignition, this could be through a flame, heat or a spark. Activities such as welding are considered “hot work.”


The temperature at which flammable fuels become combustible when exposed to an external ignition source. Different substances have different flashpoints.

Fuel Reservoirs

Any container of any kind that used to hold fuel. This may include canisters, drums, tanks, bladders and other form factors.

Phase Separation

The gradual separation of a mixture of compounds into two distinct compounds. In the case of liquid fuel, phase separation entails fuel separating into different layers, including impurities and water.

Stale Fuel

Fuel that is old and has become impacted by chemical changes. Stale fuel is inefficient and can impact the performance or even damage engines.