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Where should an oil tank be placed?

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A fact that is not particularly well know is that oil storage is governed by building regulations. Oil is obviously very hazardous if it leaks out or if the tank is overfilled and as such, there are a number of factors which need to be considered when you are planning the installation of a new tank or the replacement of the old.

If a survey indicates that you can legally install a single skinned tank, this needs to be sited so that any free oil does not find its way underground and into water courses. With a single skinned tank, there are only a couple of millimeters of plastic or steel separating a huge amount of fuel from the outside world and so the regulations clearly state that the tank MUST be more than 10m away from controlled water, which would typically be a stream, ditch, soak away or a septic tank. The single skinned tank must also be at least 50m away from a borehole, spring or a well. Common sense must be used as the tank cannot be installed on a hard surface whereby any oil coming out of it can run into controlled water. Any position where the vent cannot be seen from the fill point is also not permitted.

Installing a Bunded Oil Tank

If you are installing a bunded oil tank, the above factors need not be a limitation. However, bunded or single skinned tanks must also adhere to the fire protection aspects of the regulations.

The new tank must be 760mm away from the property boundary. The only exception to this rule is if the boundary is a substantial wall, which gives at least 30-minutres of fire protection and reaches at least 300mm beyond the height and the ends of the tank. In this instance, the boundary itself is acting as a fire screen wall. The tank needs to have at least 300mm between it and the wall for inspection purposes.

The tank must be positioned so that it is at least 1.8m from any windows, doors, boiler flues, eaves and fascia and any structures such as outbuildings and greenhouses. The fire regulations are designed to protect the tank from a fire as opposed to protecting the building, so the idea here is that if the property or building is on fire and the door or windows blow out, 1.8m is a sufficient distance from the building for the tank to be deemed safe from catching fire as a knock-on effect. Again, the tank will need to be 300mm off the wall of the property but as long at the necessary clearance is achieved from the obstacles above, the tank can go near to the house.

Sometimes a fire screen wall can be built between the new tank and the boundary or building. Bear in mind however that this wall will need to be 300mm higher than the top of the tank and extend 300mm beyond the ends. If you do not choose a model which is quite low or if you tank needs to be lifted up to gravity feed the appliance, this wall is likely to be rather ugly and intrusive in your garden – but sometimes this is the only way to enable you to put the tank where you want it.

Thinking about the logistics of filling the tank, does the location that you have in mind enable the fuel company to fill the tank directly? It is well worth asking them what the maximum length of hose is on the lorry that will be making the delivery as you want to avoid a situation whereby the new tank is installed in a very discreet and unobtrusive area down the garden – but no-one can get their lorry anywhere near it. A 2” steel remote fill line is sometimes a solution, but not with single skinned tanks and this is likely to be costly.

If you are planning to put your tank beyond the front elevation of your property, it may well be that planning permission is required. If in any doubt, it is always easier to pick up the phone and have a conversation with building control prior to having the work done as this avoids the awkward possibility of trying to obtain retrospective planning. The same is true if your home is listed and as this will be your responsibility the oil tank installer will assume, if they are asked to replace the tank, that any necessary permission has been sought and granted.

Thursday 29th July 2021
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