Walbro Expands Multi-layer Fuel Tank Production Capabilities

More stringent evaporative emission standards fuel demand for new fuel tank technologies; Walbro expansions include Cass City, MI, plant upgrades.

Responding to the growing demand for fuel tanks that meet increasingly stringent clean air standards, Walbro Engine Management is expanding its multi-layer fuel tank production capabilities with new facilities and equipment around the world.

Walbro’s multi-layer fuel tanks are used in lawn and garden, recreational and marine products. Manufacturers in these markets are transitioning and positioning fuel tank technology to meet the stringent evaporative emissions standards being imposed on their products.

“As tighter and tighter evaporative emission regulations are implemented and enforced, our multi-layer fuel tank technology provides customers with a reliable solution that ensures compliance to the end of a product’s life cycle, using a variety of fuels,” says Tony Martin, president and chief executive officer, Walbro Engine Management. “Our expanding manufacturing capacity and footprint, coupled with additional technical support personnel, will help ensure that our fuel tank business is positioned to bring the latest technical solutions to our customer base around the world.”

Recent Expansions

Walbro installed its third blow-molding machine in Cass City, MI, at the beginning of this year. A current expansion of the Cass City facility is underway to house additional blow molding machines, with the fourth machine scheduled for installation in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Additionally, Walbro has established a blow-molding plant in Chonburi, Thailand, in support of its customers in the Asia-Pacific Region. This facility is scheduled to be in production by the fourth quarter of 2011 and is positioned for multiple machine installations. With a multi-customer lineup, further expansion within the region is forecasted, aided by Walbro’s policy of extensive customer support including application engineering, validation capabilities, certification assistance and production startup.

Walbro hit the one millionth tank milestone in 2010 since installing the first machine in 2007. The Company expects to produce one million tanks within 2011 with forecasted annual production rates of two million units in 2012, and over three million for 2013 as demand continues to grow.

Multi-layer Technology

The success of Walbro’s non-metallic fuel tank line is based on the use of multi-layer co-extrusion technology. The tank’s six-layer construction includes a vapor barrier that effectively contains hydrocarbon emissions, allowing it to meet evaporative emissions standards. In addition, Walbro’s multi-layer tanks are almost unaffected by ethanol, an important durability issue, especially as the use of ethanol fuels increases in the coming years.

While multi-layer fuel tanks are relatively new to the small engine arena and these markets, they are established technology in the automotive industry, where evaporative emissions standards first appeared. Dating back to 1992, Walbro’s pioneering efforts in multi-layer tank technology for automotive applications puts the company on the leading edge of evaporative emissions solutions for today’s non-automotive applications ranging from small tanks for hand-held trimmers to larger tanks for riding mowers and recreational applications such as ATVs, two-wheelers and snowmobiles.

“Multi-layer tanks are a well-proven technology in terms of safety, emissions and durability,” says Christopher Quick, global fuel systems director, Walbro Engine Management. “Millions of multi-layer tanks are used in global automotive production annually, and are validated to meet expected vehicle life of up to 150,000 miles or 15 years.”

“Multi-layer technology is extremely robust compared with other approaches, ensuring a reliable hydrocarbon barrier solution to meet product end-of-life requirements,” Quick adds. “Walbro’s multi-layer tank technology provides consistent and repeatable low evaporative emission performance throughout the life of the product, which is a major advantage as evaporative emissions standards become more stringent in the future.”

“Customers in the small engine markets are fast becoming aware of the advantages of multi-layer tanks versus other technologies and are driving the growth of multi-layer tank technology, as was the case in the automotive market,” says Quick. ”The use of multi-layer tanks eliminates a lot of worry and uncertainty, especially considering long-term durability compliance. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) permit Walbro’s multi-layer tank technology and our MLT products to be certified without the need for extensive, costly and time-consuming tank testing.”