How to store oil safely and legally

Oil storage container requirements


To store oil safely you must comply with the requirements of the Oil Storage Regulations on primary containers. These are the main containers oil is stored in, and include:

  • tanks
  • intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) used for transport and storage
  • oil drums
  • mobile bowsers - an oil container that can't move under its own power, but can be moved between locations

Check your oil containers

You must use a strong container that won't leak or burst in ordinary use. If they are properly maintained, containers should last at least 20 years.

Proprietary tank systems are made with integral secondary storage containment for the primary container. You should consult the manufacturer of these systems for information on their appropriate use and whether they comply with oil storage legislation.

Oil storage containers must be stored within a suitable secondary containment system, for example a bund or drip tray.

If your container has any fittings and pipework, for example sight gauges, valves, fill or draw-off pipes or vent pipes, you must ensure they are located and operated correctly.

Good practice for oil storage

Even if the Oil Storage Regulations do not apply, you should still store your oil responsibly and use appropriate containers which meet the regulations. You can download best practice guidance on above-ground oil storage tanks (PDF, 1.1MB).

Make sure your storage tank has been type tested to a recognised standard and manufactured to an ISO 9001-compliant quality assurance scheme, for example:

  • polyethylene tanks should comply with OFS T100
  • steel tanks should comply with either BS 799-5 or OFS T200 and be corrosion-resistant

Make sure your container is marked with the product type and maximum capacity. You should also attach a notice with information on safe delivery and emergency procedures. This is available from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

Make sure only competent qualified technicians install or decommission your oil storage tank.

Ensure tanks are fully drained of oil and water before they are taken out of use. This liquid is a hazardous waste and must be disposed of legally. Contact NIEA if you find evidence that the ground underneath a tank has been contaminated.

Tanks and equipment contaminated with oil are classed as hazardous waste.

You can download guidance on the safe storage of drums and intermediate bulk containers (PDF, 1.2MB).