Composite Covers are Covering the Retail Fueling Industry

By OPW | Oct 12, 2017

All-New Matador Composite Cover to be featured at the 2017 PEI Convention at the NACS Show

Manhole covers, which provide access to underground fuel-storage tanks, may appear to be simple, straightforward components on the forecourt, but closer investigation reveals that they are anything but that. In fact, considerations regarding health and safety, aesthetics, materials of construction and the atmospheric conditions in which they areMatador Cover used play a prominent role as the access cover has evolved over the years.

The growing availability and use of composite multiport systems continues an industry-wide trend to develop forecourt fuel-storage and delivery components and systems that take advantage of the benefits of GRP composites.

Traditional access covers were usually made of metal, but steel covers were found to have a number of inherent drawbacks for the site operator. Among them are: 

  • Heavy Weight: makes them harder to remove
  • High Maintenance: they are susceptible to rust and corrosion, necessitating the need for repainting, etc.
  • Permanent Set: over time the lid could deflects and form a “bowl shape”
  • Slip Hazard: steel covers are typically more slippery when wet or covered with ice

An initial solution to these concerns was found in the creation of smaller steel access covers that were easier to handle and maneuver, which resulted in a reduction in injuries. However, in Canada especially, the drawbacks regarding corrosion and expansion remained even with the smaller steel covers. Winter weather conditions require the use of salt to keep the forecourt clear of ice and snow. This results in the inevitable corrosion of the steel, while extreme cold temperatures lead to expansion of steel access covers.

Acceptance of Composites

Recognizing the shortcomings of steel covers, the industry has experienced growing acceptance of access covers that are constructed of highly engineered glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) composites. These covers weigh only one-third that of its steel counterparts, while maintaining a strength-to-weight ratio that allows them to absorb the abuse that occurs on the forecourt. Also, composite covers don’t corrode when exposed to the elements and have a low coefficient of expansion. Therefore, the shape of composite covers is not affected as weather conditions change. In addition, they can be manufactured in any color that the forecourt operator requires with no need for additional painting or upkeep, which helps achieve consistent branding at the site. Non-slip materials and tread patterns can be molded into the cover to resist slipping of people or skidding of vehicle tires.

Composite covers were an immediate hit with operators in the petroleum- and convenience-retailing industries. Almost 90% of large diameter covers (those 36 inches and up) found on the forecourt are now made of composite materials, with more than half of all other access covers constructed of composites. In Canada specifically, composite covers are being used in roughly 70% of forecourt installations and at fueling sites from the country’s southern border all the way to the Arctic Circle.

Next Generation Composite Technology

A noteworthy advancement in recent years in the design of the access cover and spill containment has been the addition of composite materials to the multiport system. A multiport system has two small composite spill containment covers located in a larger composite cover. The smaller covers can be removed in seconds, which allows easy access and quick connection of hoses to fuel-delivery and vapor-recovery piping. Water intrusion was a big issue with the original steel multiport designs. Composite multiport systems are engineered to prevent water intrusion into the fueling system, which is a critical consideration for the operators of retail and commercial fuel sites.

Introducing the Matador Composite Cover

Gain independence from heavy steel covers with this all-new Matador Composite Cover. OPW engineered the Matador with next generation composite technology to make it the lightest cover in the industry to compete with any cover on the market for use at petroleum retail operations, in addition to use for commercial and industrial driveway applications. 

Available in 37" and 42" options, the Matador Composite Cover is lightweight, water resistant and extremely durable. Standout features include a steel frame, stainless steel recessed lift handle and a polyethylene skirt with a flair that prevents corrosion and rust. The lightweight design and slip-resistant tread pattern helps to prevent the risk of back, foot and hand injuries. The Matador makes sump accessibility safer and easier than ever before. 

OPW offers the leading line of Composite Manholes on the market for use at petroleum retail operations and commercial and industrial driveway applications. Lightweight and durable, our composite covers are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes. From general tank sump access to multiport and single port fill sump applications, to interstitial sumps and monitoring wells, we have every application covered with watertight and easy to remove options.  Plus, multiple colors are available.

For more on composites and the all-new Matador, please visit