Getting a new oil tank for your home: things to think about

If you need to buy a new oil tank, or replace your existing one you need to make sure you comply with the law but you need to think practically too. This information will help you understand what you should look and ask for when you get tank installation quotes.
You need to consider:

  • where you will put your tank
  • the type of tank you need
  • access for you and the delivery driver who fills the tank
  • correct installation to maintain the tank warranty and reduce fire risk
  • removing your old tank and pipework
  • your insurance company’s requirements

We recommend that you get advice from a competent tank installer. They can help you comply with legislation and make sure the tank works for your needs. They will look for nearby watercourses, loose fitting manhole covers, wells, boreholes, a high water table or sensitive groundwater areas. Any of these may affect where you can put your tank and may mean you need secondary containment to comply with the law. A competent person can give a value for money service as they will help you avoid potential problems or an illegal tank installation.
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.

Where you put your tank

The impact on your property, health and the environment from an oil spill that may go undetected, especially from an underground tank or pipework, can be severe. You need to think carefully about the best place for your tank and make sure you comply with local building regulations .
We recommend your oil tank is installed outside, above ground within a secondary containment system. Position your tank to minimise risk of pollution and maximise its security. Consider placing it in view of a frequently occupied room so you can keep an eye on it. Theft from oil tanks is becoming increasingly common.
We don’t recommend oil storage tanks are installed underground. You may need planning permission to install an underground oil storage tank. If you think this is your only option contact your environmental regulator for their advice before ordering or installing a tank to discuss if this is possible, safe or legal. There may be restrictions on where you can install underground tanks in sensitive groundwater areas.
Oil tanks may be installed inside a building, but will require secondary containment; this may be a legal requirement. The tank should be contained within a fire resistant chamber located at the lowest possible level in the building. If you have, or are considering this type of installation, ask a competent tank installer for advice.
You should check if the area where you plan to put your tank is in a flood zone. There’s a high risk of damage to oil tanks in an area that floods. Our flood guidance has more advice.

What type of tank do you need?

Above ground tanks

Choose a tank that has been manufactured to a recognised relevant European, British or industry standard. These show that a tank has been manufactured and tested to strict quality standards. Oil tanks should be clearly marked with a nominal (maximum) filling capacity to assist with ordering fuel. All new tanks must display information on what actions to take if there’s an oil leak or spill. If this is missing from your tank you can get a sticker from us.

Underground domestic oil tanks

Only tanks that are specifically designed and constructed for underground use should be buried partially or wholly underground. Special design allows underground tanks to withstand the pressure exerted on the outside of the tank when it’s empty. We recommend you seek specialist advice if you are planning on installing an underground tank. Ensure your tank installer follows the tank manufacturer’s instructions for installing an underground domestic oil tank, especially the maximum depth, amount of infill and concrete. Tanks should be encased in concrete and be located a minimum of two metres away from any vehicle movement or parking areas.

Second hand tanks

If you’re considering buying a second hand tank make sure you have it inspected by a competent person before you have it installed. There’s a risk that previous use and moving the tank may compromise the container. This could include corrosion, ageing effects of sunlight or damage to threads, seals and fittings. While this damage may appear to be slight it can lead to longer term problems and you are responsible for the oil you store at your home; see our page on the impacts of oil spills for what this could involve.

Never buy a tank that’s deformed or out of shape, or for metal tanks with visible rust and plastic tanks with whitening, cracking or splits.

Access to your tank

Both you and your deliver driver will need clear access to and around your tank so you can regularly check your tank is OK and to allow the tank to be filled safely.
Think about:

  • where the tank is, make sure there’s room all around the tank so you can visually inspect it and for the driver to stand when the tank is being filled
  • where the fill point is, can the delivery driver get there, with the delivery hose, without climbing over obstacles or through hedges
  • where the oil tanker can park

If you’re in any doubt, ask your fuel delivery company to check your site.

Correct installation

Get the base for your oil tank right
Building Regulations require oil tanks to be installed on a stable level base that extends a minimum of 300mm past the widest point of the tank in all directions. This will help prevent fire spreading to your tank from near-by plants or buildings.
The base can be constructed of either a 100mm thick slab of concrete or closely butted paving slabs of minimum 50 mm thick. In both cases, the base must be constructed on a sound foundation appropriate to the ground conditions.
Elevated tanks
Where oil tanks need to be elevated, for example to supply a range cooker, it’s important that the tank is correctly supported and the manufacturer’s installation instructions are followed. Plastic oil tanks must be supported across their entire base.

Remove your old tank and pipework

Any oil tank and pipework you no longer use should be decommissioned, disabled, and clearly marked. Preferably, have the tank and pipework removed by a professional as soon as possible to avoid them being filled in error and causing a pollution incident. If the pipework can’t be removed it should be permanently capped to make sure no one inadvertently tries to use it. Your competent tank installer should be able to take the old tank and pipework away as part of the work to fit your new tank; you should specify this in your contract of work.

Your insurance company’s requirements

We advise you to take advice from your insurance company who may have a view on the location of the tank in relation to how it may affect your building and contents insurance. They may also be able to offer advice on the tanks security which may have a bearing on your premiums.