Blog June 20, 2012

What are the liquids in tank containers and what are they used for?

By Nicola Byers

When I see box or tank containers travelling along the motorway, I always look to see if they belong to one of our customers.  It’s not just me, all my colleagues do too!  I can guess what type of goods may be inside the box containers – IT equipment, clothes, toys, flat pack furniture, audio visual equipment etc, etc.

However, when I see tank containers, I always wonder what could be inside, bar the obvious liquids such as oil, milk and of course wine! What might they be? Where are they going?
I thought I’d do some research on the internet into some of the liquids carried and see what they are used for.  Here is a list of the five most interesting ones I found:

Cashew Nutshell Liquid

A versatile bi-product of the Cashew industry. The nut has a shell of about 1/8 inch thickness and the inside is a soft honey comb structure containing a dark reddish brown viscous liquid.  It has innumerable applications, such as friction linings, paints, laminating resins, rubber compounding resins, cashew cements, polyurethane based polymers, surfactants, epoxy resins, foundry chemicals, and intermediates for the chemical industry.

Fatty Alcohols

Produced by bacteria, plants and animals for purposes of buoyancy, as source of metabolic water and energy, biosensor lenses (marine mammals) and for thermal insulation in the form of waxes (in plants and insects).  They are mainly used in the production of detergents and surfactants. They are components of cosmetics, foods and as industrial solvents. They also find use as emulsifiers, emollients and thickeners in the cosmetics and food industries.

Caprylic Acid

Found naturally in the milk of various mammals and it is also a component of coconut oil and palm kernel oil. It is used for the treatment of bacterial infections or as a food surface sanitizer in commercial establishments.  It is also used in the manufacture of dyes and the production of perfumes.


Sugar alcohols that are added to foods because they are of lower calorific content than sugars.  They are, however, less sweet and are often combined with high-intensity sweeteners. Polyols are also added to chewing gum because they are not broken down by bacteria in the mouth and so do not contribute to tooth decay. Sugar alcohols may be formed under mild reducing conditions from their analogue sugars.


A additive, although it is highly toxic in large quantities.  Redistilled, as oil of mirbane, nitrobenzene has been used as an inexpensive perfume for soaps. It is also used in shoe and floor polishes, leather dressings, paint solvents, and other materials to mask unpleasant odors.