Oil and Fuel Storage Regulations

Non-compliant oil storage can mean prosecution and a hefty fine. To help you avoid the costly and difficult consequences of a spill or leak, we discuss how to store oil, where to locate it and how long to store it for, with a simple and easy-to-read oil storage regulations checklist. If you still have questions at the end of this page, simply give our expert team a call on 0330 123 1144 and we’ll be happy to help.

Whether you’re storing red diesel, kerosene, heating oil, white diesel, lubricants or any other fuels or oils, we have the tools and expertise to help you ensure a safe and environmentally friendly fuel storage solution.

Table of Contents:

Common causes of an oil tank leak

Oil Storage Regulations

Whether you’re storing oil at your business, organisation or home, it’s vital to comply with UK regulations to not only ensure the safety of the environment and those nearby, but to also avoid huge clean-up costs or even worse, prosecution.

Over 15% of pollution occurrences reported each year are as a result of an oil spill or leak. This is extremely hazardous to the surrounding environment and poses a risk to the area as well as nearby wildlife and vegetation.

Oil leaks occur from issues such as:

    • Failures in tank structure
    • Damage to equipment e.g. sight gauges
    • Failure of components at the boiler end of system e.g. flexible hoses

To avoid such problems, it’s important to invest in regular inspections to ensure your tanks are compliant with current legislation and are in tip-top condition.

There are different regulations in place, depending on where you store oil and how much you are storing.

Oil Storage Regulations

Building Regulations

Storing less than 3,500 litres of oil at your home

If you have a new or replacement oil container installed at your home, for example for central heating, you must follow the Building Regulations. There are different rules in place, depending on how much oil you are storing.

Storing less than 30 litres of oil at home

Whether you own a home, motor vehicle, boat or aircraft, you can store up to 30 litres of oil without having to inform anyone. Different storage containers are required when storing small amounts of oil, depending on the quantity:

  • Plastic container – up to 10 litres
  • Metal container – up to 20 litres
  • Demountable fuel tank – up to 30 litres

Storing between 30 litres and 275 litres of oil at home

You can store between 30 and 275 litres of oil at home but you must notify your local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA) in writing, including your name and address as the occupier of the storage place or the address where the oil is stored.

You can store oil in:

  • Transportable metal or plastic container
  • Demountable oil tank
  • Mixture of the above, providing no more than 275 litres is kept onsite

Storing between 275 litres and 3,500 litres of oil at home

You can store between 275 and 3,500 litres of oil at home but you will need a petroleum storage certificate and a licence which can be obtained from your local PEA. This will last up to 3 years and is non-transferable. They may issue conditions regarding how and where it must be stored.

It must not be stored in your living facilities and must not be pumped from an oil tank at your premises.

Storing over 3,500 litres of oil at home

If you wish to store more than 3,500 litres of oil at home, you must follow the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 which also apply to businesses. We discuss more below.

Oil Storage Regulations (2001)

Oil storage regulations for businesses

If you store 200 litres (or more) at a business, marina, public sector building or organisation, it must be stored in a bunded tank, bowser or other fuel container, such as an intermediate bulk container (IBC), mobile bowser or drum.

Domestic oil storage regulations

If you store 3,500 litres of oil (or more) at a domestic dwelling, including houseboats and barges, you must also keep it in a bunded tank, bowser, IBC or drum.

Fuels included in the Oil Storage Regulations (2001)

The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 apply to many types of fuels and oils, including:

  • Red diesel
  • Diesel
  • Petrol
  • Biofuels
  • Kerosene
  • Vegetable oils
  • Waste vegetable oil
  • Waste cooking oil
  • Waste synthetic oil
  • Lubricating or hydraulic oils
  • Solvent oils
  • Synthetic oils
  • Liquid bitumen-based oils
  • Cutting fluids
  • Insulating oils

The legislation also applies to the below generators and transformers if connected to an oil supply with a capacity of 200 litres (or more):

  • A generator in everyday use with a tank that powers the generator if the oil is in storage for more than one day
  • Standby (emergency) generators
  • Transformer header tanks that are fitted to the transformer using a one-way feed pipe
  • Exemptions from the Oil Storage Regulations (2001)

    The rules do not apply to:

    • Liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
    • Hydrocarbon products (as solid)
    • Solvents that are not oil-based
    • Aromatic hydrocarbons

    They also don’t apply if you store these types of waste oil, but you may need an environmental permit:

    • Mixtures of diesel and petrol no longer fit for use
    • Oil drained from a vehicle’s engine
    • Gearbox oil
    • Oil for turbines

    The rules do not apply if your storage tanks are:

    • Underground
    • At a refinery
    • At a site that’s in charge of the onward supply of oil, instead of selling directly to the end user
    • In a building with walls and a roof that would prevent any leaks into the environment

    Please note, storing oil in a building may entail additional fire safety measures to be adhered to under the Building Regulations. Get in touch with your local council to find out whether this applies to you. If the building is on a farm, you must ensure you meet the agricultural storage requirements.

    Oil tank design standards

    Both plastic and steel oil storage tanks must meet the main British Standards and Oil Storage Regulations. UK bunded fuel tanks are ISO 9001:2015 compliant so they will not only meet your requirements but also comply with the required regulations.

    If you choose not to comply with these regulations, you could be fined up to £5,000.

    Oil Storage Regulations

    Fixed oil tank regulations

    Fixed oil tanks must meet the British Standard 5410, or:

    • If your tank is plastic, the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) standard OST T100
    • If your tank is metal, it must meet OFTEC standard OFS T200 or British Standard 799-5

    A single fixed tank, IBC or mobile bowser

    Fixed tanks must be bunded, as a drip tray won’t be able to contain large amounts of leaks and spills. They must meet British Standard 5410.

    A single container’s bund must have the capacity to hold 110% of its contents. So, if it can hold 2,500 litres, the secondary containment must have a capacity for 2,750 litres.

    Please note, if the containers are hydraulically linked but in the same containment system, they are seen as one tank.

    Multiple fixed tanks, IBCs or mobile bowsers

    Secondary containment that holds multiple containers must have an equivalent capacity of whichever is the greater of these two measurements:

    • ¼ of the combined capacity of the containers
    • 110% of the capacity of the largest container

    Please note, if the containers are hydraulically linked but have different secondary containment, each bund or drip tray must have a capacity of at least 110% of the combined volume of the containers.


    All piping including fill pipes, draw off pipes and overflow pipes must be away from anywhere that poses a risk of damage by impact. Any aboveground pipework must be supported, for example by using a bracket that’s connected to the nearest wall.

    Domestic oil pipes are usually made from plastic-coated soft copper tubing which means they can be easily manipulated. Commercial pipes tend to be made from steel which provides extra protection from damage or vandalism; however, they are more prone to corrosion. They should be painted in a protective coating to reduce the risk of deterioration.

    Delivery pipes

    Some fixed tanks have a permanently attached flexible pipe to dispense oil. As a result, the pipe must be located inside a secure cabinet that has a drip tray and is locked shut when out of use.

    If not:

    • The pipe must be contained within the bund
    • There must be a lockable valve where the pipe exits the tank, which must stay locked when out of use


    Some fixed tanks have a pump which is a potential source of ignition. It’s therefore imperative that they:

    • Have a valve in its feed line to stop any oil from escaping if the pump or feed line is damaged
    • Be located in an area away from damage by impact
    • Be protected from thieves e.g. locked shut when not in use or stored in a lockable enclosure

    Vent pipes, valves and taps

    A valve is needed to prevent oil flowing in the event of a fire. It must be:

    • Before the point of entry
    • Outside the building
    • Activated by a remote sensor
    • Locked when out of use
    • Visible from the filling point

    Pipes are a potential source of an oil leak so they must have shut-off valves which are fire safe when tested to BS EN ISO 10497.

    If a fixed tank has a permanently attached pipe, valve or tap, to avoid oil escaping, they must be:

    • Located within the bund
    • Structured to ensure that any oil flows down into the bund
    • Locked shut when out of use to avoid leaks (this doesn’t apply to vent pipes)

    Remote filling

    A remote fill refers to when you fill your tank at a fill point that’s outside of the secondary containment – so the drip tray or bund captures any leaks. Please note, the tank may not be visible from the fill point during a remote fill.

    If you top up your tank using a remote fill pipe, it’s important to use a drip tray to catch any oil that could escape during the delivery.

    Overfill prevention

    If a fixed tank’s vent pipe and the actual tank are out of sight when the tank is being topped up, it must be fitted with an automatic overfill prevention device. This is to ensure that when the tank is full, the oil flow is either cut off or an alarm is raised.

    Screw fittings / fixed couplings

    Some fill points of fixed tanks have a screw fitting or fixed coupling for when they are refilled. It’s important to ensure they are kept in good condition to avoid them corroding or getting debris trapped inside.

    Oil tank support

    If your oil tank isn’t supported, it increases the risk of a spill or failure. In spite of varying ground conditions, the tank’s base must provide continual structural support:

    • Suitable for the weight of the tank and its contents
    • Made of concrete, stone or paving stones
    • Big enough to extend 300mm past the exterior of the tank
    • Sturdy and non-flammable

    Sight gauges

    A sight gauge is a way to measure the contents of a bottom outlet oil tank. It must be:

    • Located within secondary containment
    • Fitted with an automatically closing valve
    • Fitted with a bracket(s) along the length of the sight gauge tube that fixes the tube to the tank so that it can’t be knocked over
    • Properly supported and secured to prevent it from coming loose


    You can also gauge oil tanks using a drip rod which is constructed from non-sparking earthed alloys. The rod must only be used in the tank it was designed to avoid inaccurate readings.

    Please note, dipping can lead to a potential source of ignition and produce frictional sparking, heating and static electricity. It’s important to take care when carrying out checks using this method.

    Oil Storage Regulations

    Fixed tanks with underground pipework regulations

    You must ensure that the pipework is shielded from physical damage if the oil tank has underground pipework.

    • Prevent vibration damage from lorries when driving over ground that has pipework underneath
    • Lay down specialist tape or permanently mark the ground above the underground pipework to prevent anyone from digging on top of tank fittings

    If your pipework is steel or copper, it’s at risk from corrosion. To protect it from degrading, you can use a plastic coating or put it in a trench filled with material such as compacted sand to drain any water and reduce rusting.

    Drums and IBCs

    Any drum or IBC that’s marked with the letters UN (United Nations) meets the required design standard. If it doesn’t contain the marking, it’s important to contact Beesley Fuels as soon as possible to check that your oil tank is compliant.

    If your bowser has a permanently attached tap or valve, they must be fitted with a lock that remains shut when not in use to stop oil flowing through.

    Secondary containment

    When storing oil, you must ensure that secondary containment is installed around the tank to minimise pollution risks from oil leaks. This can be in the form of a drip tray or bund that’s either integral to the tank or built around it.

    Please note, secondary containment doesn’t include:

    • Double skinned tanks if surrounded by a second outer skin for added strength
    • Oil separators


    What is a bunded tank?

    A bund is an outer case (second skin) which holds the oil tank or container and therefore catches any oil that leaks. All fixed tanks must be bunded by law, however it’s also recommended that all types of containers are bunded or use drip trays underneath for safety.

    If your tank doesn’t have a bund, it’s important that you check the secondary containment has the required capacity, depending on what the tank is storing.

    How much should a bund hold?

    A bund must be able to hold 110% of the maximum contents of the tank and be impermeable to water and oil. Please note, it’s the capacity of the tank, not the quantity of the oil that applies.

    A bund needs an extra 10% margin for various reasons:

    • To avoid overfilling
    • To prevent the loss of the tank’s contents
    • To cater for sudden tank failure
    • To catch rainfall during a spill

    Design standards for bunds

    A bund can be manufactured as part of a tank system (an integrally bunded tank) or made out of concrete or masonry. It’s recommended that they are rendered or coated on the inner surfaces of the base and walls to ensure they are impermeable.

    You must make sure that the bund meets ISO 9000 regulations:

    • It’s non-corrosive
    • Oil and water cannot pass through / escape
    • Pipes, valves or openings cannot let the bund be drained
    • Its capacity can hold 110% of the tank’s capacity
    • If a fill pipe or draw-off pipe passes through the bund base or wall, the gaps must be sealed to prevent oil from escaping
    • Every inch of the container and its counterparts must be contained by the bund, including the valves. This rule applies in all cases except where the stored oil has a flash point that’s less than 32oC. If this is the case, then the sight gauges, valves and other equipment can remain outside of the bund

    Drip trays

    A drip tray is attached to the base of an oil tank to contain any drips and small leaks and prevent them from reaching the ground. They are not suitable for containing large amounts of fuels and oils.

    Get in touch with Beesley Fuels to find out more about our bunded tanks drip tray products.

    Storage barrels and drums regulations

    A barrel or drum’s secondary containment, which tends to be a drip tray, must have a capacity equal to or more than ¼ of the drum it’s holding. If the drip tray can hold more than one drum, it must be able to hold ¼ of the combined capacity of all the drums it can hold.

    Please note, this also applies if you use the tray to hold a single drum.

    To put this into layman’s terms, if your drip tray can hold four 205-litre drums, it must have a capacity of 205-litres, even if it’s holding just one 205-litre drum at any given moment.

    At Beesley Fuels, our oil barrels are made from welded mild steel so they’re are ideal for storing a vast array of fuels and oils and they can be personalised to your exact needs. They vary in shape, capacity and size and are accompanied with a range of ancillary products to ensure handling your products is a safe and environmentally-friendly operation.

    Mobile bowser regulations

    Bowsers with permanently attached delivery pipes

    A bowser must have locks fitted on certain pipes, pumps and valves to prevent oil from flowing when out of use, including:

    • Flexible delivery pipes that are permanently attached – the lock must be at the point the pipe leaves the bowser
    • A manually operated pump, such as a hand pump
    • The valve on the delivery end of the flexible pipe that’s fitted to an automatic pump, such as an electric pump, which must automatically close when not in use

    2019 updated ADR road carriage requirements

    Any diesel bowser used to transport fuel on public roads or across public spaces must be officially classed as an IBC. To be classified as an IBC, it must meet the following requirements:

    • 110% of the bowser must be bunded
    • It must be double-skinned
    • It must be checked every 30 months for external wear and tear
    • It must be pressure tested and internally inspected every 5 years
    • It must have the UN symbol and the IBC code
    • All road-worthiness tests must be logged and documentation kept safe

    All IBCs made after 2004 should automatically meet the IBC standards as per ADR regulations but it’s important to check with your documentation to confirm.

    Oil storage regulations on farms

    Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) (England) Regulations (SSAFO)

    If you store over 1,500 litres of fuel oil on a farm for agricultural purposes or you’re building a new storage facility or making substantial changes to an existing one, you must follow the SSAFO regulations.

    Where to store fuel oil on a farm

    • You can store fuel oil in one or multiple locations across your farm
    • It must be stored in an oil tank or drum that meets ISO 9000
    • It must be stored more than 10m from inland or coastal waters e.g. yard drains, land drains and dry ditches
    • You must follow the Defra Groundwater Protection Code if your tank is underground

    Your agricultural fuel oil tank must be bunded (have secondary containment) to reduce the risk of environmental damage from oil leaks and spills.

    Farm Oil Regulations

    Where to locate your oil tank in your business

    • In areas of minimal risk of damage by impact, machinery or the elements to avoid pipeline breakages leading to a spill
    • Away from an ignition source
    • Away from flood plains
    • At least 10m away from inland or coastal waters
    • At least 50m from a spring
    • On an impermeable surface if near to drop-off points

    How far an oil tank must be from your house

    • On a platform with at least 0.3m around the edge of the tank
    • 1.8m from non-fire rated eaves of a building
    • 1.8m from a non-fire rated building/structure e.g. garden shed
    • 1.8m from doors and windows in a fire-rated building/structure e.g. a brick house/garage
    • 1.8m from liquid fuel appliance fuel terminals
    • 0.76m away from a non-fire rated boundary e.g. wooden boundary fence 0.6m away from trellis and foliage if not part of a boundary e.g. hedge or trellis

    If you don’t follow the above regulations, you must fit a fire protective barrier with at least 30 minutes fire-rating. The distance between the tank and fire barrier must be at least 300mm, unless a greater distance is stated by your tank manufacturer.

    You can keep an oil tank in a garage or out-house, but it must be within a 60-minute fire-rated self-contained chamber.

    Oil tanks planning permission

    If your house is a listed building, you need planning permission to install a new oil tank.

    The rules concerning extensions and additions for the installation of domestic oil tanks specify that you don’t need planning permission if:

    • The tank isn’t stored in front of the principal elevation fronting highway
    • The maximum height is 3m The maximum height is 2.5m if it’s within 2m of the boundary
    • No more than half of the area surrounding the original house would be covered by additions or other buildings

    Oil tank leaks responsibility

    An oil tank leak is the responsibility of whoever uses, stores, fills, transports or manufactures hazardous substances. You are also in charge of cleaning up any spills that occur and dealing with any consequences. It’s advised that you ensure you have home insurance in place that covers any costs associated with an oil spill.

    House insurance and oil tanks

    Most home insurance policies don’t include repairs or incidents involving your heating oil tank in the standard cover, although it’s likely it will cover fuel theft and the environmental clean-up costs. We suggest that you check that all of these aspects are covered in your policy.

    Oil Storage Regulations

    Storing diesel in plastic containers

    Yes, you can store diesel in plastic containers; however, the quantity stored determines what kind of container is required:

    • Plastic container – up to 10 litres
    • Metal container – up to 20 litres
    • Demountable fuel tank – up to 30 litres

    Plastic oil tanks life expectancy

    Oil tanks have a typical working life of up to 20 years, but they face an increasing risk of expensive tank failure over time.

    Your oil tank must be inspected annually by an OFTEC-registered technician which includes the pipework between the tank and boiler. You could schedule this as part of your yearly heating system service.

    Replacing oil tanks

    It’s important to visually inspect an oil tank for cracks, leaks and corrosion regularly and to replace an ageing tank as soon as you notice any defects to safeguard against spills and leaks.

    Oil Storage Regulations

    How to dispose of oil tanks

    It's paramount that you properly dispose of any oil tanks. This should be done by a professional company who will decommission it as per UK governmental guidelines. From large industrial tanks and bunds to small domestic heating oil tanks, we have the specialist equipment and expert engineers to uplift any fuel, clean out your tank and dispose of it safely.

    It's vital that you don't attempt to remove an oil tank yourself as this could lead to environmental damage from a spill or leak.

    Before decomissioning (disposing) of any oil tank, we fully assess the works via a Site Survey to determine the kind of service that's required. This will give you complete peace of mind that the service we provide is the most cost-effective option for your fuel storage system.In most instances, for an above-ground tank, we will carry out either a full tank removal or if it's underground, we will de-gas it and then fill it with foam.

    To find out more about our tank disposal services, get in touch with Beesley Fuels today on 0330 123 1144.

    The importance of being aware of leaks in underground oil tanks

    You can check underground pipework for any leaks using a permanent leak detection device that’s attached to the pipework. It will detect any changes in the pressure of the pipe and compare flow in and out of the pipe.

    If you don’t fit a permanent leak detection device, you must test the pipework for any leaks during the installation and then every 5 years if it contains mechanical joints or every 10 years without mechanical joints.

    A mechanical joint explained

    A mechanical joint is a fitting that connects two (or more) pieces of separate pipe, for example, compression or threaded fittings. It’s important to be able to visually inspect each joint when required.

    Please note, welded, soldered or braised joints and continuous pipework made from metal or plastic are not classed as mechanical joints.

    At Beesley Fuels, we offer technical advice for all storage facilities and have a wide range of tanks and ancillary products on hand to ensure you handle fuels and oils in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. Get in touch today on 0330 123 1144 to learn more.

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