oil tank regulations

Oil storage regulations are in place to protect you, your family and the environment from harm, whether it’s for commercial or domestic use. This guide has everything you need to know about keeping your oil tank safe and compliant with the regulations.

Domestic oil storage tanks are easy to forget about once installed, but the Environment Agency and the FPS (Federation of Petroleum Suppliers) recommend that homeowners have their oil tanks checked once per year by an OFTEC inspector.   

Ensuring your oil storage tank meets the oil storage regulations and is in good condition is important when you consider the environmental impact of an oil leak and the heavy fines that can be handed out. In some cases you may even be prosecuted if you breach the oil storage regulations.   

This guide will outline the specific fire and safety precautions, environmental protections and rules that are in place around the storage of oil.  Please note this information is specific to the regulation of oil storage in England. The regulations in other UK countries are similar, but we encourage you to confirm the details with the local authority.  

Definition: domestic oil storage tank  

An oil storage tank is considered to be for domestic use if it holds less than 3500 litres, supports a single family dwelling (i.e. a house, not a block of flats), and the oil is used for heating and/or cooking purposes.  

Fire and safety regulations, if your tank is connected to a boiler  

There are a number of regulations about the location of domestic oil tanks and once your tank is connected to a boiler it is covered by the OFTEC regulations. These regulations are in place to reduce the risk of fire. While the risk of fire is relatively low, it’s important that these distances are complied with.   

OFTEC regulations state that tanks must be located:  

  • On a platform or stand with at least 300mm around the edge of the tank
  • 1.8m away from non-fire rated eaves of a building
  • 1.8m away from a non-fire rated building or structure (for example a garden shed or gazebo)
  • 1.8m away from openings (windows or doors) in a fire rated building or structure (for example, a brick built house/garage)
  • 1.8m away from the flue terminals of oil fired appliances
  • 760mm away from a non-fire rated boundary (for example, a wooden property/boundary fence)
  • 600mm away from screening that does not form part of the boundary (such as a decorative trellis or hedge).

Oil Storage

If you are simply storing oil in a tank on your land there are some rules that still apply as set out in the Oil Storage Regulations from the Government. These include meeting the building regulations for oil tanks. For more information on this see the building regulations section below.

Oil Tank installation and building regulations

All oil storage tank installations should comply with local Building Regulations.  

OFTEC registered technicians are able to self certify their oil tank installations in England and Wales, without approval from your Local Authority Building Control.  

Should you choose work with someone who isn’t registered with a scheme like OFTEC you will be required to arrange inspection from your local building control authority, which will have time and cost implications.  

With regards to planning permission for the installation of domestic oil tanks, the regulations regarding extensions and additions stipulate that you DO NOT need planning permission if:

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

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

The other building regulations requirements for oil tanks you need to be aware of include:

  • If the tank is to be stored above the ground, it will need a protective shield to guard from fire
  • The oil storage tank will need extra protection from spillage and leakage if there is ground water nearby
  • A fire valve should be fitted where the pipe will enter the building   

Environmental protection & bunded tanks   

It is true that oil spills from domestic tanks are rare, however, they are both damaging and expensive to clean up. It’s best to reduce risk in the first instance. The bunded oil tank regulations illustrate cases where you will be required to install and use a bunded oil tank to provide additional protection.   

A bunded tank is simply a tank with a second skin (a ‘bund’). To be compliant the bund must hold 110% of the tank’s capacity, and be impermeable to water and oil (i.e. must not let water/oil in or out).  

You will need a bunded tank if you answer yes to ANY of the following.  

Is your oil storage tank located in a place where

  • Oil spills could run into a drain or manhole cover?
  • The tank vents can’t be seen by the delivery person because the tanks are too far away from where the tanker can park?
  • It’s within 10 metres of lakes or streams (any inland fresh water or coastline)?
  • It’s within 50 metres of a potable (drinkable) water source, like a spring, borehole or well?
  • Oil spills could run over hard ground until it reaches potable water sources, fresh inland water or coastlines?  

You’ll also need a bund if your tank can hold more than 3,500 litres of oil in England or if it can hold over 2,500 litres in Scotland. Please see our bunded tanks FAQ for more information on bunded tanks.   

Additional recommendations

A typical oil storage tank has a functional life of 20 years. Do not hesitate to replace an ageing tank.

Visually inspect your tank for cracks, leaks or wear every time you fill it.  

Make sure your oil tank is inspected by an OFTEC registered technician (including the pipework between the tank and the boiler) at least every 12 months. You may like to schedule this as part of your annual boiler service.  

More information

Octane is registered with OFTEC and our technicians are qualified to inspect, remove and replace domestic oil tanks and bunded tanks. Don’t hesitate to replace a damaged tank, even if it’s full. Octane can drain the oil and polish it before returning it to your new tank.

If you have questions on the oil storage tank regulations please give us a call and we will be happy to help.