How to store oil safely and legally

Do oil storage controls apply to my business?

If you store any kind of oil at your commercial premises you may need to comply with a number of regulations controlling its storage. This will depend on how much and what type of oil you store, the type of site you have and the containers you use.

Comply with Oil Storage Regulations

The Oil Storage Regulations aim to ensure that you store oil safely and minimise the risk of pollution. They affect:

  • industrial and commercial businesses and institutional sites who store oil above ground in containers holding over 200 litres
  • private dwellings with containers storing more than 3,500 litres

Businesses who refine or distribute oil will also need to comply unless they store more than 2,500 tonnes of oil and are regulated under the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations.

These regulations apply to oil stored in containers both inside and outside of a building including:

  • tanks
  • intermediate bulk containers
  • oil drums
  • mobile bowsers

The Oil Storage Regulations do not apply if:

  • your container has a capacity of 200 litres or less
  • the oil is stored in a container wholly underground
  • the oil is stored on a farm and used for agricultural purposes
  • the oil is stored at a private dwelling in a container with a capacity of 3,500 litres or less

From 31 December 2015, the regulations now apply to all other remaining oil containers.

Comply with agricultural fuel oil regulations

If you store oil for agricultural use on a farm, for example to produce heat or power, you must comply with separate regulations that govern how you must store it.

Register waste management licensing exemptions for storing waste oils

You must register an exemption from waste management licensing for certain activities. If you have an exemption you must comply with the exemption conditions.

If you store waste oils at a different site from where it was produced you will need to register a Paragraph 12 exemption.


If you store more than 2,500 tonnes of petroleum products you will need to comply with the COMAH Regulations. You may need a major accident prevention policy, have to submit a safety report and prepare an on-site emergency plan.