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Storing Oil at a Home or Business

When oil is stored in containers, whether for use as heat or fleet fuel, the individuals and organisations who store it must comply with government regulations on safety and environment protection.

This section explains how to store oil safely at your home or business, the current regulations for oil storage, and which rules to follow to avoid pollution penalties.

Oil Storage Regulations for United Kingdom

Drums, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), tanks, and bowsers (mobile containers) are typical containers used to store oil in large quantities.

Having an oil storage container at a business (e.g. farming businesses), or at your home, means there are strict rules to follow.

As a rule, the property owner will be the person with the legal responsibility for the container (e.g. business owner, site manager).

Note: Some of the regulations for storing oil safely in the United Kingdom differ. It will depend on whether oil is being stored at home, at a business, or on a farm.

Checking and Labelling Oil Tanks

Oil is a valuable commodity. It is best to check the integrity of the tank every month, and especially before you have it filled. Furthermore, be familiar with the proper steps to take in case of accidents (e.g. a leak or a spill) and consider having an alarm fitted.

You should have oil storage containers inspected at least once a year – and conducted by a professional. Hence, they will be able to inform you when it needs replacing.

As with all hazardous materials, the label should identify the contents being stored inside the actual container.

Storing Oil at Home

In most cases, having a new or a replacement oil storage container installed at a home in England (e.g. to fuel a cooker) means you would need to meet specific building regulations.

The Approved Document J came into full effect in October 2010. This statutory guidance explains more about the storage of fuel systems and combustion products.

Even so, it is worth noting that most building and planning regulations differ for homes in Scotland, Wales, and in Northern Ireland.

Important: You would need to follow regulations for storing oil at a business if the container you use to store it is capable of holding at least 3,501 litres (see below).

Choosing Tradespeople to Install Oil Tanks

You may be able to avoid having to get building regulations approval by choosing a tradesperson who is already registered with one of the ‘Competent Person’ schemes.

A registered tradesperson can self-certify their work for compliance with building regulations. Furthermore, they may be able to handle building control issues on your behalf (e.g. common objections).

If not, you would need to contact your local council authority to get a Building Control Notice. Then, you would need to arrange for an inspection and pay for it yourself.

Note: Failing to get building regulations approval means you would not get the certificates of compliance. This is likely to cause problems (e.g. via a local land search enquiry) if you decide to sell your home at a later date.

Penalties and Enforcement Notices

Failure to comply with building control procedures is a serious offence in the United Kingdom. Hence, the person who installs the tank may face prosecution and receive a hefty fine for non compliance.

Furthermore, property owners have the responsibility of ensuring the work of tradespeople meets the relevant regulations. If not, the local authority can force you to have faulty work fixed – and make you pay for having it done.

Risk Assessment for Oil Leaks and Spills

The tradesperson who installs the storage tank will conduct a risk assessment. As such, they will tell you whether the tank needs a ‘bund’ (e.g. some type of secondary containment).

If so, all bunded tanks must be:

  • Capable of holding 110% of the original capacity.
  • Impermeable to fluids (not allow oil or water to pass through it).

A bund wall of some sorts will be necessary if the tank can hold more than 2,500 litres of oil, or the actual location is in a place whereby (all apply):

  • An oil spill could run into an open drain or through a loose manhole cover.
  • An oil spill could run over hard ground and reach:
    • A drinking water source.
    • Coastal waters.
    • Inland fresh waters.
  • Its location is inside the inner zone of SPZ1 (check if you are in a groundwater protection zone).
  • Vent pipes cannot be seen when filling the tank (e.g. the delivery tanker would be parked a significant distance from the container).
  • The location is within ten (10) metres of coastal waters or inland fresh waters (e.g. a lake, or a stream).
  • The location is within fifty (50) metres of a drinking water source (e.g. a borehole, or a spring).

All oil storage containers must have an appropriate sticker showing the contents and be displayed in a prominent position. The label states how to look after the oil and what to do if there is a spillage. The installer will apply the correct sticker, but you can also order new stickers online (e.g. from ‘Oil Care UK’).

Storing Oil at a Business

The oil storage regulations in the United Kingdom apply when the container at a business is capable of holding at least 201 litres of certain types of oil.

Furthermore, the same regulations also apply to many of the public sector buildings, such as churches, hospitals, residential care homes, and schools.

Note: You would need to follow the oil regulations for businesses if the oil container can hold at least 201 litres of (all apply):

  • Industrial Oil Tank StickerBiodegradable oils (e.g. used in hydraulics, lubrication)
  • Biofuels
  • Diesel
  • Kerosene
  • Liquid bitumen-based products (e.g. coatings for a road surfaces, damp proofing or waterproofing products)
  • Oils used as solvents
  • Petrol
  • Synthetic oils (e.g. motor engine oil, waste oil)
  • Vegetable oil and plant-based oils (e.g. aromatherapy oil, sunflower oil, waste cooking oils)

However, the regulations do not apply to certain other materials, including:

  • Aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. benzene, toluene).
  • Hydrocarbon products that are solid when unheated (e.g. bitumen).
  • Liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
  • Solvents that are not oil based (e.g. trichloroethylene).
  • Waste mineral oils drained from vehicles, and mixtures of diesel and petrol that cannot be used as vehicle fuel.

Important: Some of the regulations for storing oil safely at a home or at business premises differ in Scotland, Wales, and in Northern Ireland.

Business Oil Storage Regulations Exceptions

There is no legal requirement to follow oil storage regulations if it is stored as agricultural fuel oil on a farm (e.g. used for heat and power), for a farmhouse (e.g. your home), or:

  • For distribution to other places.
  • In use, such as lubrication in a hydraulic system.

Also, the regulations will not apply if the containers used to store oil are situated underground, at a refinery, or:

  • At premises in preparation for the onward distribution of oil (not premises selling oil directly to end users or to premises that use it).
  • Inside a building that is capable of capturing leaking oil (your local council will confirm whether you must meet any extra fire safety regulations).

Note: In some cases, storing certain types of waste oils means you would need to apply for an environmental permit.

Oil Storage Tank Installation at Businesses

When you are choosing someone to install an oil storage tank at a business, it is always best to choose someone from the ‘Competent Person Register‘ (e.g. participating in the CPS).

The Environment Agency produces further guidance on oil storage regulations for businesses and responsibilities for the protection against pollution.

Penalties and Enforcement Notices

Failing to follow safe oil storage regulations can result in a fine. The Environment Agency (EA) can also serve you with an anti-pollution works notice. The notice would force you to bring the tank up to the legal standards and requirements.

Environment Agency
Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Monday to Friday: 8am to 6pm
Check UK call charges

Storing Oil on a Farm

Some of the rules and regulations on oil storage differ depending on what it’s being used for and where it’s being stored. For example:

  • As agricultural fuel oil used for running a tractor or grain dryer, or to heat a farmhouse.
  • For a separate part of the business (e.g. to fuel vehicles that are being hired out).

Important: The main section contains further information on government guidelines for the treatment and safe disposal of waste materials and reducing its impact on the environment.

How to Store Oil Safely in the United Kingdom