What is an IBC tank?

2 April 2024 53 view(s) 6 min read
What is an IBC tank?

Intermediate bulk containers, also known as IBC tanks or IBC totes, are an incredibly useful storage and transportation solution used across many industries worldwide. They come in a range of sizes, types and materials, each with their own unique benefits. 

In this article, we'll take a closer look at exactly what IBCs are, what they are made of and what they are commonly used for.

What is an IBC tank?

Types of IBC tank

What are IBC tanks made of?

What can you store in an IBC? 

Frequently asked questions

What is an IBC tank?

IBC stands for intermediate bulk container and IBC tanks are also known as IBC containers, IBC totes or pallet tanks. They are usually reusable and are used to store and transport large amounts of liquid, semi-solids and dry materials.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines IBCs as meeting the following criteria:

  • Has a capacity of 3 m3 (3 000 ) or less;
  • Can be handled mechanically with or without integral or detachable devices;
  • Contains liquids, pastes or solids (for instance powders or granules);
  • Must be resistant to the stresses imparted during handling and transport as determined by tests.

Types of IBC tank

There are two broad types of IBC tanks available on the market. The one you need will depend on your intended use for the IBC as each type has its benefits and drawbacks. We’ll explore these in further detail below. 

Rigid Intermediate Bulk Containers 

Rigid IBC tanks are most commonly constructed using materials such as High-Density Polyethene (HDPE), steel or a combination of the two, often referred to as a caged IBC. 


They are incredibly versatile and can be used to store a variety of dry goods and liquids including hazardous materials. 


Because of their rigid structure, they can also be stacked, making them a great choice if you’re looking for a space-saving solution. Rigid IBCs are common across all industries including food, manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and pharmaceutical industries. 


At Kingfisher Direct, we stock a range of new, reconditioned and rebottled caged IBC containers in various sizes. 

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers

Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers or FIBC for short, are usually made of a thick woven polypropylene or polyethylene material. They are mostly used to transport and store dry materials such as sand, aggregate and powder. They can also be used for liquids and semi-solids, however, these need to be specially designed to do so. 


Although they are ‘soft’ in terms of being flexible, they are very durable and can be collapsed when empty. Flexible IBCs are commonly used in the food, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.  

What are IBC tanks made of?

IBC tanks can be made of a range of materials including, polythene, HDPE, carbon steel, stainless steel and even cardboard. 

The most common type of IBC tank is constructed using high-density polyethene (HDPE) ‘inner bottle’, surrounded by a galvanised steel frame or aluminium frame.

What can you store in an IBC?

IBCs are versatile and can be used to store a wide range of materials and liquids. They are commonly used for the safe storage and transportation of potable water, rainwater, chemicals, solvents, grains, food ingredients and materials such as sand or aggregate. 

Their suitability to store these materials depends on the materials they are made of and the certifications. For example, if you wish to store food or water for human and animal consumption, then the IBC should be marked as food-safe and BPA-free. If you intend to store or transport hazardous materials, the IBC tank will need to be UN-approved.

Our range of FSSC Food Grade and UN-approved IBCs are suitable for transporting and storing groups II or III substances or drinking water. 

What is the difference between a reconditioned IBC and a rebottled IBC?

A reconditioned IBC is a container which has been used previously. The bottle will be cleaned thoroughly both internally and externally, followed by an inspection and leak test. Because these bottles have been used previously, it is not advised that reconditioned IBCs are used for drinking water.

A rebottled IBC is a container that features a brand-new inner bottle with a reused cage. Because the inner bottle has been replaced, these types of IBCs can be used for storing drinking water and animal feed.

Benefits of Intermediate Bulk Containers

IBCs are incredibly versatile and provide a cost-saving solution for transporting and storing products.

Easy to stack and store

Because of their cubic shape, rigid IBCs can be stacked for efficient storage. This helps to reduce the amount of space required to store large quantities of products and materials.

Easy to transport

As well as being easy to store, IBCs are also easy to transport. Providing they have a suitable frame they can be moved with either a pallet jack or forklift without the need for additional pallets.

Customisable

IBCs are incredibly versatile and can be customised depending on the needs of your business. You have the option of multiple IBC fittings and accessories including connectors, pumps, hoses, taps, pipes and valves. These can be used in a variety of configurations, depending on the intended use of the IBC.

Durable

IBCs made from HDPE or steel are incredibly durable, making them ideal for transporting products over long distances or storing materials and liquids for an extended amount of time.

Reusable

Many IBC tanks are reusable and they have a long life span providing that they are maintained and inspected regularly. 

The IBC “bottle,” or the inner portion of the IBC container, can be cleaned and reused, reducing the need for reinvestment in new storage containers.

Cost-effective

There are also cost-effective ways to source an IBCs. Instead of buying new, you have the option to purchase either rebottled IBCs or reconditioned IBCs depending on what you intend to store in the IBC.

Choosing the right IBC tank for your needs

Kingfisher Direct is an expert supplier of new IBCs, reconditioned IBCs, rebottled IBCs and IBC accessories. Whether you require a small quantity or need to order in bulk quantities, our team will be able to advise you.

For further information about our range of IBC tanks and accessories, please contact our sales team on 01777 858009 or email sales@kingfisherdirect.co.uk

Frequently asked questions

What is the life expectancy of an IBC container?

With proper care and maintenance, IBCs can last anywhere between 5 and 10 years. The lifespan of an IBC will depend on several factors including, the material that it is made from, how it is handled, its exposure to environmental conditions and the maintenance and inspections it receives.

Are IBC tanks safe for drinking water?

Both new and rebottled IBC tanks are suitable for drinking water. Because reconditioned IBCs may have been used to store chemicals, it is not advised to use these for drinking water. Even if they have been thoroughly cleaned, cross-contamination can never be fully guaranteed.

Do IBC tanks freeze?

IBC tanks will be susceptible to changing temperatures and in colder climates, they could be at risk of freezing and splitting open if the correct steps are not taken. IBC jackets and heater covers are a good solution for helping to keep IBCs insulated and protected from freezing temperatures.

Do IBC tanks need a cage?

In most cases, IBCs will require a cage, particularly if you wish to stack them and move them with mechanical equipment. They are also a lot more structurally sound than flexible IBCs, making them more resistant when handling or transporting them. 

That being said, it is possible to use a flexible IBC bag made of thick polypropylene, but these are only suitable for dry solid materials such as sand, granules and powder.

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