An Intermediate bulk container or IBC Tote
or Pallet Tank, is a reusable industrial container designed for the transport and storage of
bulk liquid and granulate substances. Intermediate bulk containers are stackable containers mounted
on a pallet that are designed to be moved using a forklift or a pallet jack. IBCs have
a volume range that is situated between drums and tanks, hence the term “intermediate“.
The most common sizes are 1,040 liters or 275 U.S. gallons or 229 imperial gallons and
1,250 liters or 330 U.S. gallons or 275 imperial gallons. Cube shaped IBCs give a particularly
good utilization of storage capacity compared to palletized drums – one 275 gallon IBC is
equivalent to five 55-US-gallon drums, and a 330 gallon IBC is equivalent to six 55 gallon
drums. The most common IBC is the one-time use plastic
composite IBC; a white/translucent plastic container housed within a tubular galvanized
iron cage that’s attached to a pallet. IBCs can be manufactured out of a number of materials
depending upon the needs of the shipper and the legal requirements that must be met. In
addition to the plastic composite IBC, intermediate bulk containers are also manufactured out
of fiberboard, wood, heavy gauge plastic, aluminum, carbon steel, and galvanized iron.
Heavy gauge plastic IBCs are made of reinforced plastic that requires no steel cage; they
have a pallet molded into the bottom so the entire unit is manufactured as a single piece.
Folding IBCs are also made of heavy plastic, however, their sides fold inward when the
unit is empty allowing the IBC to collapse into a much smaller package for return shipment
or storage. Flexible intermediate bulk containers, made of woven polyethylene or polypropylene
bags, are designed for storing or transporting dry, flowable products, such as sand, fertilizer,
and granules of plastic. Almost all rigid IBCs are designed so they can be stacked vertically
one on top of the other using a forklift. Most have a built-in tap at the base of the
container to which hoses can be attached, or through which the contents can be poured
out into smaller containers. Advantages of the IBC
There are many advantages of the IBC concept: Being cubic in form they can transport more
material in the same area than cylindrical shaped containers and far more than might
be shipped in the same space if packaged in consumer quantities.
Composite IBCs rely on plastic liners that can be filled and discharged with a variety
of systems. The manufacturer/processor of a product can
bulk package a product in one country and ship to many other countries at a reasonably
low cost where it is subsequently packaged in final consumer form in accordance with
the regulations of that country and in a form and language suitable for that country.
Galvanized iron IBCs have an expected lifespan of more than 20 years.
Shape and dimensions IBCs can be manufactured to a customer’s exact
requirements in terms of capacity, dimensions, and material. The length and width of an IBC
is usually dependent on the pallet dimension standard of a given country.
History In 1992 the concept of the IBC was patented
by inventor Olivier J. L. D’Hollander working for Dow Corning S.A. It was inspired by the
patent of a “Fold up wire frame containing a plastic bottle”, patented in 1990 by Dwight
E. Nicols for Hoover Group, Inc. Uses
IBCs may ship and store: Bulk chemicals including hazardous materials
or dangerous goods Commodities and raw materials used in industrial
production Liquid, granulated, and powdered food ingredients
Food syrups, such as corn syrup or molasses Petrochemical products, such as solvents,
detergents, or adhesives Rainwater when used for rooftop rainwater
collection Used IBCs are the basic building blocks for
many home aquaponic systems Acquisition
Intermediate bulk containers may be purchased or leased. Bar code and RFID tracking systems
are available with associated software. Fire Hazards
Plastic IBCs containing combustible or flammable liquids may melt or burn rapidly, releasing
their entire contents when exposed to a fire, increasing the fire hazard by the sudden addition
of the combustible fuel. For metal IBCs, Test Reports by Bundesanstalt
für Materialforschung und -prüfung show that – if equipped with a venting device – the
metal IBC will withstand a fire for at least 30 minutes.
See also Bulk box
Flexible intermediate bulk container Intermodal container
Spill pallet Tank container
Further reading Yam, K. L., “Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology”,
John Wiley & Sons, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-08704-6 References
^ “Pallet Dimensions”. Tankmanagement.com.au. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
^ “Patent US5269414 – Intermediate bulk container – Google Patents”. Google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-14.
^ “Patent US5002194 – Fold up wire frame containing a plastic bottle – Google Patents”. Google.com.
1988-11-21. Retrieved 2013-10-14. ^ “NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation,
Assessment of Hazards of Flammable and Combustible Liquids in Composite IBC’s in Operations
Scenarios”. Nfpa.org. Retrieved 2013-10-14.