What is bulk fuel storage, and how is it regulated?

It goes without saying; that fuel can be an extremely dangerous substance since it is highly flammable and its mistreatment can result in devastating fire and explosions. With this in mind, it is your responsibility as a commercial bulk fuel storage tank owner to ensure its safe storage that is entirely in line with The Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014 (PCR), the Petroleum Enforcement Authorities (PEAs), as well as the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR). As well as these, there is the Control of Pollution Regulations (2001) which relate to the storage of diesel. 

What is bulk fuel storage? 

‘Bulk storage’ usually refers to more than two hundred litres (200L) of fuel that is stored in a bulk fuel tank either underground or above-ground. Keeping such a large reserve of fuel can allow for a fast return on investment and limit downtime for heavy machinery companies, those with a large fleet of vehicles to operate, as well as the agricultural sector. 

Can you store petrol above ground?

The short answer to the question is ‘yes’. The tanks fit for this purpose should be insulated, fire-proofed, bunded, and comply with both EU and UK petroleum storage requirements. It is more common for petrol to be stored in underground tanks, and there is an exemption for small petrol tanks (up to 2,950 litres) that are commonly used on the likes of marinas and golf courses. 

It is very important that you as the person responsible for the property or premises ensure the correct checking and labelling of your above-ground bulk fuel storage tanks. Doing so encompasses getting your oil storage container inspected every year. The professional carrying out this evaluation will be able to tell you when and if your bulk fuel storage tanks require replacing. The Oil Care Campaign suggests that you personally inspect your fuel tank at least once a month and learn the necessary precautions and action needed in the case of a potentially very dangerous oil leak or spill. 

Can you store diesel above ground?

Yes, you can store diesel above ground; however, the installation will need to comply with the Oil, Solid Fuel and Renewable Heating Technologies (OFTEC) guidelines OFS T100 and OFS T200, as well as the requirements of The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish equivalents. There are numerous petrol and diesel above-ground storage tanks on the market manufactured to meet requirements outlined in the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, or (DSEAR) as well as other legislation marking the proper dispensing of petrol and the storage of flammable liquids in fuel storage tanks.

How many Litres of fuel can you store at home vs business?

At home

If you are storing more than thirty litres (30L) but fewer than two-hundred-and-seventy-five (275L) litres of petrol at your home residence or at non-workplace premises, then you are legally obliged to inform your local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA). 

More than 275 litres but less than 3500, you will need to be in receipt of a petroleum storage certificate which can be applied for through your local council and obtained from the PEA. This licence is valid for a total of three years and is non-transferable.  For storing anything over three thousand (3000) litres at home, you are required to follow stringent regulations for business as well as apply for planning permission in order to install the large tank that is necessary for such a volume of fuel. 

How much petrol oil can you store without a licence?

In short, you can store more than 3500L at home, but you must apply for planning permission, and you’re allowed to keep up to 30L at home without informing anyone. Think of up to 30L for personal use only for powering your home, your motor vehicle or boat, for example. If you are storing up to 30L, then below is a helpful guide as to which bulk fuel storage tank you need to be using: 

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

At your business location

As laid out by Nationwide Fuels, if you’re storing in excess of 200 litres of fuel at your business premises, then you must follow the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) regulations of 2001. 

This legislation refers to the bulk storage of the following fuel types: 

  • Red diesel or gas oil 
  • Bulk white diesel 
  • Kerosene 
  • Biofuels 
  • Hydraulic oils
  • Industrial lubricants 
  • Synthetic oils (such as motor and waste oil)
  • Liquid bitumen-based products

There are, however, some exceptions in relation to bulk fuel storage whereby legislation differs. These exemptions include oil stored underground, waste mineral oil storage, a private home-dwelling where Building Regulations oversee the storing of fuel storage tanks, as previously mentioned, as well as agricultural use of oils for heat and power production, covered by Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil), 1991. 

       Storing fuel on a farm in England or Wales for agricultural purposes? 

Then you must follow Storing Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil regulations. 

        Storing fuel on a farm for non-agricultural business purposes? 

In this case, you must follow the rules that relate to businesses. 

Do you need a licence to store fuel on your premises?

In line with current government regulation, if you wish to store more than two hundred and seventy-five (275) litres of petrol for domestic purposes, then you must have a petroleum licence. This licence will include your name, the address of your site, the duration for which your licence is valid and any other conditions your licensing authority may impose. 

All above-ground bulk storage tanks must adhere to the Building Regulations and feature the following:

  • Fixed tanks and oil drums 
  • IBCs (Intermediate Bulk Containers)
  • Mobile browsers 
  • Generators and Transformers

These above-ground bulk fuel storage tanks should be professionally installed and registered with a company that will be able to tell you if your bulk fuel storage tank requires a secondary containment (bund) or not. Above-ground bulk fuel storage tanks are required by law to be bunded so that they meet The Control of Pollution Regulations requirements. 

How do metal fuel tanks compare with plastic tanks?

When considering the best material for your fuel tank, it is imperative to conduct your own market research in order to select the best option for you and your commercial needs. 

There are advantages to both steel fuel tanks and plastic ones with the main plus for steel being its durability. Steel is long-lasting, and offers far better security when considering how simple it would be for thieves to drill holes in plastic rather than through steel. On top of this, it is possible to purchase steel fuel tanks with a capacity of up to 120,000 litres whereas for plastic this number is around 6500 litres. 

Steel fuel storage tanks are often priced very competitively, however their downfalls lie in how they are more difficult to manoeuvre in comparison to plastic fuel tanks, and they are subject to corrosion over time, especially if water is allowed to build up inside the tank. 

The advantages of having plastic fuel tanks include how they are easier to install as they are lighter in weight than steel fuel storage tanks. Plastic is an insulator, and thus, the transfer of heat to the fuel is delayed. Since plastic fuel storage tanks are seamless, they are far less prone to failure and it is, by nature, able to regain its natural shape in the event of deformity. 

Despite the many advantages of having a plastic fuel storage tank, they don’t come without their pitfalls. They can become weak if exposed to the elements, in particular if left in open sunlight, and there is a limit to their size – their maximum capacity is approximately 6500 litres as previously stated, which drastically falls short of the maximum capacity for steel fuel storage tanks at being able to hold up to 120,000 litres. 

Do DSEAR and HSG176 apply? 

DSEAR applies to petroleum and kerosene storage. In the case of diesel, the product is less flammable and provided there are fewer than 150,000 litres of it stored, then there is little to no risk of mist or spray. The tank used will be manufactured to a recognised standard, and as a result, the requirements of HSG 176, do not need to be applied.

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