Learn About Oil Storage & Related Regulations

Find out about the oil storage regulations in place to protect the environment and public health.

What is Oil Storage?

Oil storage keeps petroleum products and other oils in large, specialized containers for long periods. These containers, or tanks, help to facilitate the safe, efficient, and reliable storage of crude oil and other petrochemical products.

These tanks can hold a wide variety of crude oil and refined petroleum products, from diesel and gasoline to fuel oils, all stored for long-term use to meet future energy demands.

Oil storage is an integral part of the oil transportation process as it helps to ensure the safe delivery of these essential resources. Storage capacity varies according to the type and volume of the product.

What are Oil Storage Regulations?

Oil storage regulations are designed to protect the environment and public health by ensuring that oil stored in tanks meets specific safety standards. These regulations are intended to prevent spills and leaks from causing harm to people or the environment.

The regulations cover both onshore and offshore operations. They cover tank design, containment systems for tank overflows, oil spill prevention plans, and emergency response policies for onshore operations. For offshore operations, some additional requirements may include double-walled containment systems and remote sensing technologies that detect oil leaks.

In addition to outlining the technical requirements of oil storage facilities, these regulations also detail the responsibilities of operators who store various petroleum products. These include properly maintaining equipment and reporting any incidents related to the storage or transportation of petroleum products.

What are the Benefits of Following the Regulations?

Following oil storage regulations can have numerous benefits for big and small businesses. For one, properly storing oil products is essential in avoiding accidents that could be costly and put human lives at risk. Regulations guide safe practices and the measures needed to minimize safety risks when handling and storing hazardous materials safely and securely.

Companies that demonstrate their commitment to adhering to regulations by showing a track record of compliance can often get lower rates from insurers if they need to claim because of an accident or disaster.

Furthermore, oil regulations help ensure businesses remain in compliance with government standards. It can save companies from hefty fines or being barred from specific markets for violating codes.

Different Oil Storage Regulations

Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established regulations for oil storage tanks, which include requirements for tank design, containment systems, and emergency response plans.

In general, oil storage compliance regulations address the following issues:

  • Types of containers for storing oil
  • Storage capacity of a container based on its size
  • Inspection of oil storage containers and equipment
  • Qualifications required for oil storage workers

Below are the regulations for different storage tanks:

Above-Ground Storage Tanks Regulations

OSHA’s standards for above-ground storage tanks are comprehensive. Key things to be mindful of include the following:

  • There should be no combustion in above-ground tanks, regardless of whether they are stored indoors or outdoors.
  • Above-ground and indoor storage tanks require the painting of pipes to guard against corrosion.
  • It is crucial to construct above-ground oil storage tanks on concrete islands to minimize the chance that out-of-control vehicles will strike them.

OSHA has extensive regulations to be followed when storing fuel tanks above ground. For example, the government specifies the minimum distance a tank must be away from any structure.

Underground Fuel Storage Tanks Regulations

Regulations for underground fuel storage tanks include the following requirements:

  • Upon installation of underground storage tanks, owners must notify the relevant state agency about their existence (including details such as their size, location, etc.).
  • Sellers of underground storage tanks are required to explain the notification process to purchasers.
  • Tanks used underground must meet specific performance standards.
  • If a qualified state official believes the owner of an underground storage tank will be able and willing to address a tank leak (or the possibility of one), that official may require that owner to do so.
  • Routine inspections are required if underground storage tanks are within 1,000 feet of a drinking well or community water system.

Design Standards for Containers

The safety and security of oil storage tanks depend on design standards for containers. The design of the tank must be able to contain any potential spills, as well as protect against corrosion and other environmental hazards.

Drums and Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC)

Drums and IBCs that display the ‘UN’ designation comply with the required design standard. The ‘UN’ designation means the container is suitable for storing and transporting hazardous materials, including petroleum products.

Fixed Tanks

Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), an industry body for the oil heating sector, has established design standards based on British Standard 5410 for fixed tanks. These standards are.

Moreover, bunded and underground tanks have different requirements.

Bunded Fixed Tanks

Below are the part requirements of fixed tanks:

Sight Gauges

  • To prevent the sight gauge tube from being knocked over while in use, it must be fastened to the tank by brackets.
  • The gauge should have an automatic closing valve.


  • The placement of fill pipes, draw-off pipes, and overflow pipes should minimize the risk of impact damage, such as away from driveways, tanker turning circles, and forklift truck routes.
  • They must have barriers around them to prevent any impact from damaging them.
  • A bracket connected to a wall must support any pipework above ground.

Delivery Pipes

  • Whenever your fixed tank has a flexible pipe permanently attached to it to dispense oil, the pipe must be stored in a cabinet that is securely closed and has a drip tray.
  • Ensure that the pipe is contained within the bund.
  • Oil tanks must have lockable valves at the exit valves.
  • The valve must be locked when not in use.


  • Ensure that the feed line has a valve to prevent the tank contents from emptying in case of pump or feed line damage.
  • Position them in a way that minimizes the risk of damage by impact, for example, away from driveways, tanker turning circles, and forklift truck routes, or protect them with bollards or barriers.
  • Lock the pump shut when not in use, or cut the power to it so it cannot run, or enclose the pump in a lockable cage to prevent oil theft.

Vent Pipes, Taps, and Valves

  • Bunds must contain pipes, taps, and valves.
  • Ensure that oil is directed vertically into the bund from pipes, valves, and taps.
  • Only taps and valves should have locks and be locked shut when not in use.

Overfill Prevention

The vent pipe and tank itself must be visible if an automatic overfill prevention device is to be installed when any tank is filled. These devices could shut off the oil flow when the tank is full or alert the filler with some alarm or fixed tank probe.

Screw Fittings or Fixed Couplings

  • Fill points with screw fittings or fixed couplings must be used when you fill a fixed tank.
  • Keep your screw fitting or fixed coupling in good working condition.
  • Check the screw fitting or the fixed coupling each time you fill your tank to make sure it is not corroded or clogged with debris.

Fixed Tanks With Underground Pipework

If your tank has underground pipework, protect it from damage by:

  • Avoiding vibration damage caused by lorries driving overground with pipework installed beneath it
  • Placing a layer of specialist tape above the underground pipework to alert anyone digging near the area

In the case of corrodable materials such as steel or copper, you must protect the pipework from corrosion by:

  • Using plastic-coated pipe
  • Using compacted sand for the trench to drain the water during the installation of the pipe

Checking for Leaks

  • Permanent leak detectors can be fitted to pipework to detect leaks by measuring changes in pressure and comparing flow into and out of the pipe.
  • Ensure that any permanent leak-checking device is working correctly and tested at appropriate intervals.

Without a permanent leak detection device, you must test your underground pipework for leaks in these intervals.

  • It is recommended to inspect mechanical joints every 5 years.
  • If it does not contain mechanical joints, perform the procedure every 10 years.

Mechanical joints connect two or more pieces of pipe, such as compression or threaded fittings.

SafetyCulture for Managing Respirable Dust

Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.

Get started for FREE

FAQs About Oil Storage

Above-ground tanks store crude and refined oil, finished products, and natural gas. These tanks must be placed underground at retail outlets such as gas stations for safety purposes. In cases where land storage is at capacity, the most expensive option is to utilize tanker ships as temporary storage.

Any part of a building or construction that isn’t fire resistant, such as doors, windows, eaves, and cladding, must be at least 1.8 meters from an oil tank. This distance should also be kept from combustible material, such as trees and shrubs. Keeping the oil tank at least 3 meters from your home or property is best to be safe.

Different regulations for installing oil tanks about property boundaries vary from region to region. Still, as a general rule, if the tank is less than 3500 liters, it should not be installed within 760mm of a fuel boundary, e.g., a fence, assuming there are no outlets or buildings nearby.

The ideal placement for your tank is either on the ground or below. Avoid placing it above the roof line as it should remain accessible for deliveries and maintenance and avoid any potential damage from machinery, the weather, or other external impacts.

Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.