Keeping Your Domestic Oil Tank Safe

If you have an oil storage tank, then you have a responsibility to install it correctly and safely, as well as to maintain it in a safe condition. Domestic tanks are generally 3,500-litres and under and are intended to supply oil to one family dwelling for cooking and heating. This post tells you how to keep your tank and your family safe.

All about your tank

These days, oil tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made from plastic or steel. When you install a tank, you’ll be advised by a trained technician about the size that you need, depending on your usage and the size of your house.

You should, regardless of the tank’s size and material, have it inspected at least once a year as part of your system’s service. Oil tanks do have a working life of around 20 years and so the time will come when you need to replace yours. If you leave it too long you risk an even more costly tank failure, as well as the loss of all that oil from You should get at least a couple of years’ notice before the tank is considered to be too old.

You also have to look after the environment

All tank owners must guard against oil spills and some areas of the country require you to have a bunded tank. A bunded tank is one that’s contained within a larger outer tank which can hold 110% of the inner tank’s contents. If the inner tank fails, the oil will be contained safely so it doesn’t pollute the environment. If you’re near a river or another water body, you’ll probably need a bunded tank.

Your tank’s location

Fires in oil tanks are rare, but they do happen, so every tank must comply with fire separation regulations so that the oil is kept well away from sources of ignition or heat.

Ideally, tanks should be situated:
1.8 metres away from non-fire-rated building eaves;
1.8 metres away from non-fire-rated buildings or structures;
1.8 metres away from openings in a fire-rated building (like doors or windows);
1.8 metres away from oil-fired appliance flue terminals;
760mm from non-fire-rated boundary structures like fences, and
600mm from screening (foliage, trellises and so on) that isn’t part of the boundary.
It’s not always possible to comply with all of these regulations, in which case there must be a fire barrier with a minimum of a 30-minute fire rating. There should also be at least 100mm between the tank and the fire-rated barrier.

Sometimes the tank can be installed inside a building like a garage or outhouse, but the tank itself must be contained in a 60-minute fire-rated chamber. Take advice from your technician here.

Offer enough support

It’s vital that the tank has a strong, stable base and enough support, as oil is heavy and spills can be disastrous.

The base of the tank must be:
strong enough to support a full tank;
non-combustible, level and imperforate, and
made of concrete, stone or paving slabs and big enough to extend by 300mm beyond all sides of the tank.

If your tank isn’t supported well enough, it can become weakened over the years, which can lead to cracks and oil spills. It’s important to inspect the base at least once a year, especially after winter, when cracks in the base may develop.



Manic Mama of 3, wife of shouty singer Gav, blog writer, stationery obsessive, bed jumper, Brighton based social media consultant and semi-pro juggler of it all!

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