Protect your oil storage from theft

Theft of heating and diesel oil has been a concern for many years. Your oil is valuable and you need to look after it.

A rise in the price of fuel often gives rise to increase oil theft with fuel tanks at farms, transport depots and domestic properties being targeted.

More recently, theft of hazardous waste oil from garages and workshops has become an issue. If you produce or hold the waste oil you have a Duty of Care to ensure the security of your oil storage. You are accountable for its fate until it’s properly transferred/consigned to a legal waste management operation.

Tank location

The location of a tank can have a significant impact on whether it’s likely to be targeted by thieves. If your tank is close to a path or road, and out of view it’s a far easier target than tanks that can be seen from your windows.

When you choose where to put your oil tank you must refer to the Building Regulations. They include minimum requirements you must meet to protect the tank from the effects of fire or a heat source that may originate nearby.

If you use buildings, walls or fences to hide your tank, be aware that while they may hinder thieves from accessing your oil they can stop you seeing your tank. Make sure your tank isn’t so enclosed that oil can’t be delivered safely.

Locking devices

Consider buying a lockable filler cap or padlocks to prevent unauthorised access to your tanks contents. Unfortunately, these devices will not prevent thieves penetrating the tank wall or interfering with the oil supply pipe.

Security lighting

Installing security lighting can be very cost effective in making a tank difficult to target. Low energy ‘dusk-to-dawn’ lighting with movement sensor positioned close to the tank often provides sufficient lighting to illuminate any suspicious activity. However, this is only really effective if the tank is overlooked.

Defensive planting

Surrounding a tank with dense or prickly vegetation can offer a natural disguise to an oil tank. Thieves are often reluctant to risk cutting themselves or tearing clothes that may identify them as the offender.

Remember, don’t let the plants overtake the tank. Maintain all the plants around your tank so there’s a minimum space of 600mm around the tank to permit filling and inspection.

Oil level alarms

Consider installing an electronic oil level monitoring device. Select one with an audible indication if there’s a sudden drop in oil level. These can sound at the tank or remotely to warn you of oil loss which could indicate theft or major tank failure.


CCTV can be a good security measure if you use it together with other security features, not as the sole protection for your tank.

For CCTV to be effective consider:

  • what you hope to achieve by using CCTV
  • how much you are willing to spend
  • if there’s sufficient lighting for the camera to capture images
  • what you’re going to record the captured images on
  • how you’ll provide the police with any evidence that might be captured

Where can I get further advice?

For general advice on the installation of heating oil storage tanks and oil tank maintenance, contact a competent person. Competent Person Scheme (CPS) operators typically offer a local technician search facility online or by phone. CPS operators can be found online at the Competent Persons Register.

If you would like further information on protecting your fuel tank, contact your local Crime Reduction Officer on 101.