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Ming-Sen Hu and Chia-Rei Tao

Department of Military Meteorology, Air Force Institute of Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, R.O.C.
E-mail: mshu1227@gmail.com; tao1xx@gmail.com
IMETI 2015 N5007_SCI
No. 16-CSME-50, E.I.C. Accession 3936

The capacity of ship’s oil tanks is usually designed as a tabled form in order to obtain oil volumes by
using the measured ullage heights. However, the tank walls easily deform or distort due to long-term heavy
loading. This phenomenon may cause serious errors that the carrying capacity in oil tanker does not match
with the values of the tabled form. In this paper, we perform an oil tank volume calibration project that aims
to develop a tank volume calculation and report a generation software with trim and list corrections. The
current internal specification for each tank is measured first, and then all specification data measured can
be input to this software system to calculate each tank’s volume. These calculated results will be verified
by actual delivery volume tests. This software system has been applied to the Der-Yun Oil Tanker of CPC
Corp. The result shows that the overall error of calibrated volume for all tanks is under 0.1%. It is proved
that this system highly improves the correctness of the vessel’s carrying capacity.

Keywords: tank calibration; volume calculation; trim/list correction.



La capacité du réservoir d’un pétrolier est habituellement calculée à partir d’un format établi pour obtenir
le volume de pétrole en utilisant les mesures de hauteur de jaugeage. Toutefois, les parois du réservoir sont
facilement déformées ou distordues par les chargements lourds sur le long terme. Ce phénomène peut causer
des erreurs graves, faisant que la capacité du réservoir ne correspond pas aux valeurs dans le format établi.
Nous présentons dans cet article un projet de calibration du volume d’un réservoir de pétrolier dans le but
de développer un calcul de volume, et un logiciel de génération de rapports avec correction de l’assiette
et du gîte. Pour commencer, pour chaque réservoir, les spécifications internes réelles sont mesurées, et
ensuite toutes les données de spécifications sont entrées dans le système pour calculer le volume pour chaque
réservoir. Les résultats obtenus seront vérifiés par les tests de volume à la livraison. Ce système est appliqué
chez Der-Yun Oil Tanker of CPC Corp. Les résultats obtenus montrent que le taux d’erreur globale de la
calibration de volume pour tous les réservoirs est en-dessous de 0.1%. Il est prouvé que ce système améliore
considérablement la justesse du calcul de la capacité de transport d’un pétrolier.

Mots-clés : calibration de réservoir; calcul du volume; correction de l’assiette et du gîte.

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An oil tank is primarily used to store and carry petrochemical products. Because of its massive volume, it
is difficult to apply direct methods to measure the volume (or mass) of the tank. Generally, it is an essential
principle that the measured value of the ullage level combines the temperature and pressure to calculate the
volume. The other method is to measure the sounding and cross reference the volume table of the tank to
generate the corresponding values [1, 4, 5]. However, because of long-term heavy loading, the oil tank walls
easily distort or deform [3, 11]. This phenomenon may cause serious errors that the carrying capacity in the
oil tank does not match with the values of the tabled form. The errors affect the oil business transactions,
which require accurate volume measurements of the associated products. Therefore, the volume calibrations
of the tanks must be implemented.
In this study, we took the Der-Yun tanker (Chinese Petroleum Corporation, CPC) as an example. The
Der-Yun tanker fits in 12 oil tanks separated on the Port side (left-hand side) and Starboard side (right-hand
side), and each side has six tanks. Each tank has a serial number (Tank No.) respectively from 1–5P, SLOP-
P and 1–5S, SLOP-S etc., as shown in Fig. 1. All tanks are separated by trapezoid metal bulkheads, and
equipped with metal sloping plates on their flanks. These devices are used to strengthen the tank structures
[2, 9]. Every tank has sounding tubes, suction pipes, inlet pipes, and metal crew ladders, etc. In terms
of the calculation of the tank’s volume, first, measure the liquid surface level (UTI ullage) and then cross
reference the volume table to convert the corresponding values [2, 4]. However, the oil tank distortion may
cause errors on the actual oil volume and the value obtained from volume table (allowance value <0.3%). It
seriously affects the accuracy of the oil tanker’s capacity, and results in the burden of oil volume revision.
The traditional ASTM methods include liquid calibration by meter, calibration by linear measurement
and calibration by vessel drawings and so on [6, 12]. The internal electro-optical distance ranging (IEODR)
method [8] is a new method proposed recently. The IEODR method is applied to ground-based vertical
cylindrical tank’s volume calibration originally, but some studies have noted that it also has a good accuracy
on the ship’s oil tank [7]. In this article, we have made a special research project by implementing the
revised IEODR method on volume calibration of the Der-Yun tanker. A tank volume computation and
report generation software system with trim and list corrections were developed. First of all, we measure
the current internal specification for each tank, and then input all measured specification data to the software
system to calculate the volume of each tank. These calculated results were verified with the actual delivery
volume tests. Finally, the new volume tables are generated based on the computation output to control the
error range under 0.1%.

Fig. 1. The vessel oil tank disposition of CPC Der-Yun tanker.

836 Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016
Fig. 2. The measured specification of no. 3P and 3S cargo tank.

Fig. 3. The procedure of tank volume calibration.


In this study, the volume calibration procedure of the Der-Yun tanker shown in Fig. 3 is explained in the
following steps:

1. The current specification measurement of tanks: Measure the specification parameters of each tank in
all directions by laser theodolite or rangefinder [13, 14]. These parameters include the lengths from
the right to the left, the lengths from the front to the rear, the height from the top to the bottom, the
length and height of sloping plate, the length and height of each bulkhead, position of inlet and outlet
pipe and the dimensions of various obstacles inside etc. Figure 2 is the measured specification of no.
3P and 3S oil tanks.

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Fig. 4. The cross section of liquid level gauging.

2. Build up all measurement data: All of the measured data were classified and input to the software
system for archiving to the file.

3. Tank volume computation: Calculate the volume amount in every millimeter (mm) vertically based
on the structures of the various oil tanks.

4. Delivery oil volume test: Before the oil tanker unloads the oil products in the harbor, we measured the
liquid surface level (ullage) of each tank and calculated the corresponding oil volume in the software
system. On the other hand, the liquid volumes through the flow-meter were recorded as reference
values. Then we compared the calculated volumes with the reference values for all the tanks. If the
overall error is under 0.1%, it indicates that the result meets our requirements. Then go to step (6). If
the overall error is above 0.1%, move to step (5) and adjust the tank error parameters.

5. Tank error parameters adjustment: Carry out the tank specification measurement manually. Many ex-
isting error parameters must be considered in the volume calculation due to the limitations of manual
measurement. The major considerations are the error parameters for tank length and width. These
parameter values may be adjusted by comparing the calculated volume with the flow-meter value of
each tank. Through the error parameters adjustment, errors between the calculated volume and the
reference volume may be reduced.

6. Tank reports generation: There are three tables generated automatically for each tank in the system:
the ullage volume table, the trim correction table and the list correction table.


The cross-section structure of liquid level gauging is shown in Fig. 4. From cross-section view of Fig. 4,
the highest part is near the middle of the oil tank, and then decreases gradually toward both the end sides.
LHeight is the height of left sidewall. LBase is the baseline. UM max is the maximum height of measuring
ullage. Um is the measured ullage. Sh = UM max − Um is the actual sounding height. The actual oil volume

838 Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016
Table 1. The algorithm of portside tank slice volumes in 1 mm thickness.

(a) (b)

Fig. 5. Two ullage tapes gauging construction. (a) Ullage detector hangs vertically and points to the center of the
earth; (b) Ullage detector points to tank bottom through a sounding tube.

TankVolumeSh may be obtained from the summation of slice volumes as shown in Eq. (1). Table 1 shows
the calculation algorithm of portside tank slice volume with height ∆h within 1 mm thickness.
The LCDiff refers to the height difference from the left sidewall and the central line, the UCDiff is the
height difference from the gauge point to the central line, the TLength and TWidth respectively are the
tank length and width, the TLError(∆h) and TWError(∆h) refer to the error adjusting parameters for tank
length and width with height ∆h, and the SlopePlateVolumeInMM(∆h), ObstacleVolumeInMM(∆h) and
BulkheadVolumeInMM(∆h) represent separately the computing function of the height (∆h), 1 mm is the
slice volume of the sloping plate, the obstacle slice volume and bulkhead slice volume. Consequently, the
tank volume at Um ullage can be obtained from the volume of tank body under height Sh by subtracting
the sloping plates volume, obstacles volume, bulkheads volume, and finally adding the error adjustment

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Table 2. The trim correction formula.


When a tanker is not on an even keel at the time of gauging, the vessel’s trim or list correction must be
taken into account to accurately determine the oil volumes on board. As far as trim and list correction are
concerned, some recent studies employ a framework of measurement that hangs the ullage detector vertically
in the tank and points directly to the center of earth [5], as shown in Fig. 5(a). Yet this research involved a
framework of measurement that inserts a ullage detector into a sounding tube and points to the bottom of
the tank, as shown in Fig. 5(b). We proposed the trim correction formula and list correction formula to deal
with issues occurring within various ullage ranges.

840 Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016
The trim angle φ of a vessel is defined as the difference of the fore draft mark MF and the aft draft mark
MB , i.e., φ = MF − MB . It may be divided into two cases: “Case 1: φ < 0” indicates that the aft has a
larger draft mark and “Case 2: φ > 0” indicates that the fore has a larger draft mark. Table 2 shows the
trim correction formula for these two cases, where L is the length between fore and aft draft marks and
T = |MF − MB |. The wedge region in the formula refers the area where the liquid is only in contact with
three tank walls. It can be divided into upper wedge region and lower wedge region depending on the
calculated UT value in expression (2) or (3). Also if UT > UM max in Case 1, it is in the lower small wedge
region; or if UT < 0 in Case 2, it is in the upper small wedge region. UT 2 in Table 2 represents the corrected
ullage for the trim while the gauge falls in wedge regions. Utilize the trim correction formula as shown in
Table 2. The value of Um can be revised as UT first, and then the actual sounding height Sh = UM max −UT
can be calculated.
The list angle θ of the tank measured by the inclinometer is shown in Table 3. It may be divided into
two cases: “Case 1: θ < 0” indicates the ship tilts to starboard side and “Case 2: θ > 0” indicates the ship
tilts to portside. Besides, the gauge points of portside and starboard side are not located at the center of the
tanks. They are all near the centerline of the vessel. So we need to define the portside formula and starboard
side formula for each case. Table 3 shows the list correction formula for the abovementioned four cases.
Similarly, it needs to consider the upper (small) wedge regions and lower (small) wedge regions for each
case as the trim formula in Table 2. The UL2 in Table 3 represents the corrected ullage for list while the
gauge falls in wedge regions. Through the list correction formula in Table 3, the Um can be revised as UL
first, and the actual sounding height Sh = UM max −UL can be calculated.


The tank volume calculation and report generation software system has been developed in this research. The
initial screenshot is shown in Fig. 6. The user may start from selecting the desired tank number. Next, input
the UTI ullage, the trim difference, and the list angle etc. Then press the “Level calibration and volume
calculation” button. In accordance with the input parameters, the system will calculate the corrected height
and the corresponding tank volume automatically.

(a) (b)

Fig. 6. The screenshot of system execution. (a) Trim correction and volume calculation. (b) List correction and volume

Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016 841
Table 3. The list correction formula.

For example, Fig. 6(a) demonstrates that when the trim difference is 0.52 M, the ullage height is corrected
from 1910 to 1926 mm, and the tank volume is calculated as 769.263 M3 . Figure 6(b) shows that when the
list angle is 1.5 degree and tilted to portside, the ullage height is corrected from 2480 to 2400 mm, and the
tank volume is calculated as 744.013 M3 . The rest of page frames in the execution screen may allow users to
archive various report files, to print the tank volume tables, trim correction tables, and list correction tables,
and to output the wedge region volume tables.

842 Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016
Table 4. The calibration coefficient table of the Der-Yun tanker (test date: 12 December 2014).
Tank UTI Ullage Trim Diff. List Corrected Tank PD Difference Error (%)
No. (mm) (m) Angle Height (mm) Volume (M3 ) Meter (M3 ) KLS
1P 2390 1.27 0 2420 519.421 1044.343 0.378 0.036
1S 2330 1.27 0 2360 525.3
2P 1900 0.52 0 1916 766.378 1534.316 1.325 0.086
2S 1910 0.52 0 1926 769.263
3P 2480 0 1.5 2400 744.013 1481.013 1.061 0.072
3S 2520 0 1.5 2440 738.061
4P 2020 0.9 0 2050 778.079 1565.998 –0.867 –0.055
4S 1980 0.9 0 2010 787.052
5P 1970 2.03 0 2023 585.224 1167.627 1.129 0.097
5S 1970 2.03 0 2022 583.532
Total 6796.323 6793.297 3.026 0.045


In this research, the tank volume tests and calibrations on the Der-Yun tanker were carried out for 16 times
from July 2014 to February 2015. When the Der-Yun tanker stayed in the port, we measured the ullage of
10 oil tanks on board from no. 1P to 5S, and recorded the tank volumes through a flowmeter (as reference
volumes). The SLOP-P and SLOP-S tanks were excluded because their capacities were small enough to
be ignored. The tank volumes were able to be calculated according to the measured ullage in the software
system. Later, we compared the errors of the calculated volumes and their cross-reference volumes. If the
overall error of these ten tanks is under 0.1%, that indicated that the calculated results meet the requirements
of the study. If the overall error is above 0.1%, we have to adjust the tank error parameters, and then
recalculate the tank volumes until the results conform to the project requirements, The results are shown in
the procedure flow of Fig. 3.
Table 4 represents the calibration coefficients of the Der-Yun tanker volumes test on December 14, 2014.
As the table shows here, the Corrected height column was obtained from the UTI ullage column with trim
correction and list correction. The Tank Volume column was calculated on the basis of the corrected height.
The PD Meter field is the total flow-meter volume of portside and starboard side tanks. The Difference
column is the difference (error) of the sum of portside and starboard side tank volumes minus the PD meter
volume. The Error (%) column is the error percentage of the above difference. The following is an instance
of volume calibration. The sum of no. 1P and 1S tank volumes is 1044.721 (= 519.421 + 525.3) M3 . The
difference between the sum volume and the flow-meter volume is 0.378 (= 1044.721 − 1044.343) M3 . The
error percentage is 0.036% (= 0.378/1044.373). The overall error is 3.026 (= 6796.323 − 6793.297) M3
and its error percentage is 0.045% (= 3.026/6793.297). This overall error percentage is under 0.1%. The
result agrees well with the project requirement.
After the calculations in the Der-Yun oil tanker was undertaken, the tank volume tests and calibration
works for 16 times, and the volume tables of all tanks were reestablished. In order to analyze the volume
calibration performance in this project, statistical comparison of the total errors between the new tables and
current tables is shown in Table 5.
Table 5 shows the statistics of overall errors in tank volume tests done 16 times. The “Cur. Table Volume”
refers to the total volume of the 10 oil tanks from the current volumes based on each tank’s Um (marked as
A), “New Table Volume” refers to total volume of the 10 oil tanks from the newer volume table based
on each tank’s Um (indication is B), “PD Meter Volume” is the total volume of the 10 oil tanks through
the flowmeter (indication is C), “Cur. Diff.” refers to A-C, “Cur. Error (%)” is the current total error

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Table 5. The statistical comparison of the overall tank volume errors.
No. Test Cur. Table New Table PD Meter Cur. Diff. New Diff. Cur. Error New Error
Date Volume Volume Volume (M3 ) (M3 ) (%) (A – C)/ (%) (B – C)/
3 3
(M ) (A) (M ) (B) 3
(M ) (C) (A – C) (B – C) C × 100% C × 100%
1 2014/7/27 6650.59 6666.006 6665.6 –15.01 0.406 –0.225 0.006
2 2014/8/3 6863.84 6881.903 6880.9 –17.06 1.003 –0.248 0.015
3 2014/8/24 6816.74 6839.819 6840 –23.26 –0.181 –0.340 –0.003
4 2014/10/16 5982.37 5999.996 6000 –17.63 –0.004 –0.294 0.000
5 2014/11/4 6622.53 6638.969 6637.111 –14.581 1.858 –0.220 0.028
6 2014/11/9 6836.91 6856.903 6857.16 –20.25 –0.257 –0.295 –0.004
7 2014/11/15 6846.66 6865.662 6861.34 –14.68 4.322 –0.214 0.063
8 2014/11/19 6724.41 6740.558 6742.81 –18.4 –2.252 –0.273 –0.033
9 2014/11/26 5989.68 6002.991 5999.54 –9.86 3.451 –0.164 0.058
10 2014/11/28 5082.62 5092.476 5088.02 –5.4 4.456 –0.106 0.088
11 2014/12/5 6008.71 6021.317 6020.31 –11.6 1.007 –0.193 0.017
12 2014/12/11 6838.44 6856.087 6847.5 –9.06 3.171 –0.132 0.046
13 2014/12/14 6781.21 6796.323 6793.297 –12.087 3.026 –0.178 0.045
14 2015/2/3(1) 1972.14 1957.524 1957.4 14.74 0.124 0.753 0.006
15 2015/2/3(2) 4453.97 4456.307 4456.6 –2.63 –0.293 –0.059 –0.007
16 2015/2/3(3) 6845.48 6863.96 6867.4 –21.92 –3.44 –0.319 –0.050

Fig. 7. The analysis curves of the overall volume errors. (a) Analysis curves of (A – C) and (B – C). (b) Analysis
curves of |Cur. Error (%)| and |New Error (%)|.

percentage ((A – C)/C×100%); “New Diff.” refers to B-C, “New Error (%)” is the new total error percentage
((B – C)/C×100%). From the statistical values, they show that the overall volume obtained from present
tables is close to the the actual flow-meter overall volume. Also its overall error percentage is already close
to 0.3%. Three test results had surpassed 0.3%. Thus it is understood that the present volume tables were
erroneous. The overall errors of the new table (B – C) are less than the overall errors of the present table
(A – C). The overall error percentages of the new tables are under 0.1%. The result is in keeping with the
demand of the project.
Figure 7(a) shows the analysis curves of the current overall volume error (A – C) and new overall volume
error (B – C). For the most part, the “A – C” curve is below the zero level, the absolute mean value of
|A – C| is 16.339 M3 , but the “B – C” curve is very close to the zero level, its absolute mean value is
1.744 M3 . Figure 7(b) shows the analysis curves of the absolute values of current volume error percentage
|Cur. Error(%)| = |(A – C)/C × 100%| and new volume error percentage |New Error(%)| = |(B – C)/C ×
100%|. The distribution of these two curves is similar to Fig. 7(a). The mean value of |(A – C)/C × 100%|

844 Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2016
is about 0.25%, and the mean value of |(B – C)/C × 100%| is about 0.03%. We compare these two mean
values; the latter value has been reduced to one-eighth of the former value (0.25% : 0.03% = 8.3 : 1).

The purpose of this study is to solve the problems of the oil tank volume table error by developing a software
system in a research project. A modified IEDOR method has been successfully applied in this research. The
validity of the software system has been verified for 16 times by comparing with the actual volumes carried
by the Der-Yun oil tanker (CPC). The corrections have been made by adjusting volume error parameters after
each verification operation. The goal of this step is to achieve the volume calculation error to 1/1000. Using
the modified IEDOR method, higher volume calibration accuracy is obtained than in the other methods by
adjusting tank error parameters iteratively. Finally, the new volume tables, new trim correction tables and
new list correction tables for each tank have been created. On the other hand, we found that the mean error
percentage of new volume tables can reach 0.027% after 16 verifications. It is only one-tenth of the existing
mean error percentage (0.291%).

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