Check your oil tank

Heating oil can cause serious problems if it gets into the environment. It can pollute rivers, harm wildlife and contaminate ground and drinking water. It's not just the cost of losing the oil - clean up costs can be significant and aren't always covered by household insurance policies.

Check the condition of your oil tank regularly

It is vital that oil is only ever stored in tanks that are in good condition. Both the tank and pipe work should be regularly inspected and you should never buy more oil than you can safely store.

What you should do

If you have a domestic oil tank you should take action to make sure it is safe. You should:

  • site tanks as far away as possible from drains, streams and ponds
  • inspect tanks, pipes and other equipment for leaks, damage and interference once a month - any problems should be fixed as soon as possible by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) technician
  • arrange for the boiler and tank to be serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC technician - this should include any underground pipe work
  • monitor how much oil you use - if the volume of oil being used suddenly increases, there could be a leak
  • supervise oil deliveries - never allow your tank to be overfilled and do not order more oil than you can safely store
  • note if the level of oil in your tank drops suddenly, if your boiler starts cutting-out or if you detect any unexplained odours or ground movement
  • check that your home insurance covers clean up costs on both your property and neighbouring land, and always tell insurers immediately if there is a spill or suspected spill
  • try to stop the oil soaking into the ground or going down drains if a tank starts leaking and contact your insurance company to arrange for an OFTEC technician or ISAA/UKSpill accredited clean-up company to come
  • use secondary containment (such as a bund) as this will prevent oil from escaping into the environment if a leak occurs - this is a legal requirement for domestic tanks which store more than 3,500 litres
  • make sure underground tanks are leak tested at the recommended intervals (three-five yearly for underground tanks)
  • if your underground tank is more than 20 years old, make sure it is leak tested every year and consider replacing it with an above ground tank

If you notice a drop in oil level, don’t assume that oil has been stolen as leaks of underground fuel lines can often be ongoing for some time before oil contamination becomes visible. 

What to do if there's a spill or leak

To read advice on dealing with oil spills from a domestic tank, go to:

More useful links

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