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Preventing Pollution When Storing Fuel for Generators - Make Your Oil Storage Tank Last 20 Years

Published by Jason Koffler on 24 June 2019

If you store oil for refuelling a generator, there are rules in place to minimize the chances of any oil escaping from your storage tank and leaching into the environment. If you do experience a leak or any damage to your tank, and you are responsible for any pollution or environmental damage, you may be committing a criminal offence. You could be liable for a fine or prosecution. It is essential that you are aware of your obligations and the regulations, according to where you are in the UK.

The Best Storage Tank and Location

First and foremost, wherever you are in the UK, your oil storage tank should be of sufficient strength and structural integrity that it won’t burst or leak in ordinary use. Position your tank according to local building regulations, and where there is minimal risk of damage by any impact. Carefully consider fire protection, access, maintenance, and security requirements, and have the tank installed by a qualified tank installer or a member of a professional scheme.

A fixed oil storage tank must be made to British Standard 5410, marked with the letter UN for United Nations, or meet design standards according to whether it is plastic or metal. Plastic containers must meet Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) standard OST T100, and metal containers must meet standard OFS T200 or British Standard 799-5.

Generally speaking, plastic tanks have a 10-year design life, and steel tanks can be expected to last for around 20 years. In addition, tanks can be coloured to match your installation requirements – steel tanks can be painted.

The Law Surrounding Water Pollution

In England and Wales, it is against the law to cause water pollution. In England, the Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing the regulations surrounding oil tanks. They may serve you with an Anti-pollution Works Notice requiring inadequate facilities to be brought up to standard if they deem it necessary.

In Scotland, the Water Environment (Oil Storage) Regulations 2006, (OSR Scotland) apply. Where oil storage results in pollution, this may constitute an offence, and non-compliance with regulations may result in them taking enforcement action against you.

Determining Whether the Rules Apply to You

According to the government.uk website, if you store oil, you must follow the rules according to where you are in the UK. The rules might be slightly different if your storage containers are underground, at a refinery, at premises for onward distribution, or stored in a building with walls and a roof that would capture oil if it were to leak. There are different requirements for storing oil on a farm for agricultural purposes.

Types of Oil:

Oil includes petrol, diesel, kerosene, biofuels, vegetable oils, waste cooking oil, synthetic oils, oils used as solvents, biodegradable oils, cutting fluids, insulating oils, and liquid bitumen-based products.

The rules apply to generators, standby generators, or transformers that have a connected oil supply tank with a capacity of 201 litres or more. You must abide by the rules if you have a generator that is in daily use and do not use the tank in one day, or a transformer header tank that is connected to the transformer by a one-way feed pipe.

The rules apply if:

The storage tank has a capacity of 201 litres or more and it is installed at any business, or a public sector building like a school, hospital or leisure centre.

The storage tank has a capacity of 3,501 litres or more and is installed at a home or residence.

Single Skinned and Double Skinned Tanks

Single skinned tanks are made from one layer of steel or plastic. They must be put into a secondary containment system, which can be a drip tray or a bund. A bund is an outer case, or a second skin, that is installed around the tank to catch any leaking oil; fixed tanks must be bunded.

A bund must be able to hold 110% of the capacity of the container, be impermeable to oil and water, and must not have a pipe valve or opening that will allow the bund to be drained. Bunds can be manufactured as part of a tank’s system, or constructed from masonry or concrete. Double skinned tanks have two layers of steel or plastic with a very small space between them.

Ancillary Equipment

Ancillary equipment refers to the fittings and pipework, and includes valves, filters, sight gauges, vent pipes, and so on. There are rules surrounding ancillary equipment to prevent accidents, spills, leaks or overfilling, as well as the fill point on your tank. If the fill point is outside the secondary containment system, you must use a suitable drip tray to catch any oil that is spilled during deliveries.

Ancillary equipment must be within the secondary containment system to retain the oil in the event of any discharges. Make sure you are fully compliant with the rules surrounding ancillary equipment for your tank and purpose by checking the government.uk website.

Pipework and Pumps

A tank used for refuelling is likely to include a pump and flexible hose to deliver the oil to reduce the chance of oil spills. Flexible delivery pipes should have a tap or valve which closes automatically when not in use, have a lockable valve where the pipe leaves the tank, or the pipe should be enclosed in a secure, lockable cabinet with a drip tray.

Position the dispensing pump where it is least likely to be damaged by collision, and fit a valve in the feed line to avoid losing the contents of the tank if the pump or feed line is damaged. Contain any potential leaks with a bund or drip tray.

There is a risk of explosion with pumps for oil with a flash point below 55°C. For this reason, you should not place them within the secondary containment system. If your pump is within the secondary containment, take care to ensure it cannot become submerged by positioning it above the 110% containment level. The pump should be adequately secured to prevent theft of the oil.

Preventing Pollution

If you fill your tank via a remote fill pipe, you must use a drip tray to catch any oil that is spilled.
The delivery and dispensing area around your tank should have an impermeable surface and be isolated from surface water drainage systems to prevent pollution.

Keep the manufacturer’s and installer’s information for your tanks in a safe place.
Leave the markings and stickers on your tanks when you install them.
Your tanks should have an Oil Care Campaign tanks sticker that gives you information about what to do if you have an oil spill.
Protect your oil storage tanks from the risk of fire by following Building Regulations.

Maintaining Your Storage Tank

You and a registered OFTEC technician should inspect your tank, secondary containment, and pipework regularly, and take action to repair or replace any worn or damaged parts immediately.

Remove any condensation water that has accumulated within the tanks. Remember that any rainwater, oil or debris taken out of the bund could be contaminated and you should dispose of in line with waste management legislation. Keep a log to track your oil usage so you can easily see if you’re suddenly using more oil, which could indicate a problem.

You should keep a spill kit with commercial sorbent products, sand or earth close to your oil storage to deal with spills, and have an incident response plan in place to deal with spills should they occur. In the event of a spill, take immediate action to stop oil getting into any drains or watercourses and call the UK-wide incident pollution emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60. It’s operational 24 hours a day.

When you store oil for a generator or for another purpose, it’s important you do all you can to prevent any oil from contaminating the environment. Failure to do so could land you in trouble, ruin your reputation, and cause damage to your property, your neighbor’s property, water systems, and the surrounding land.