Oil Tank Owner Responsibilities

An owner of a commercial heating oil tank, such as those used for providing fuel oil to a commercial oil tank system, has several important regulatory and environmental responsibilities related to the safe storage and containment of heating oil on their property.


With regards to regulatory duties, when undertaking routine servicing or arranging for tank replacement, the service engineer who visits a commercial property is obligated to thoroughly inspect the existing commercial heating oil storage tank.

The engineer carries out this inspection in accordance with industry standards as prescribed by the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), providing a written report of any observed deficiencies, non-compliances with regulations, or general recommendations for rectifying identified issues associated with the integrity or function of the heating oil tank.

Common problems reported may include advanced corrosion or deterioration of the metal tank body itself which risks potential leakage, or water ingress into the fuel oil storage tank – which risks transferring tank debris into any downstream boiler components or freezing within oil lines during cold weather conditions.

Oil Tank Owner Responsibilities

Unlike natural gas boiler regulations overseen by Gas Safe that require specific standards compliance and established procedures for utility supply discontinuation if rules are violated, there are no equivalent mandated compliance correction actions nor supply cut-off threats from OFTEC related to domestic heating oil tanks.

That being said, in extreme cases where an exceptionally degraded commercial heating oil tank poses imminent safety risks, the attending OFTEC engineer may exercise personal professional judgement and deny servicing an existing boiler or installation of a boiler replacement system until the deficient fuel oil storage tank itself is fully replaced by the owner.

However individual engineers are not granted formal authority to compel a commercial tank owner to take preventative compliance actions. Nonetheless, the responsibility still lies with the heating oil tank owner to responsibly address any identified issues to ensure safe ongoing operation.

Oil Tank Owner Responsibilities

Separate from regulatory responsibilities, as the owner of a commercial heating oil tank, additional environmental duties also apply related to avoidance of potential leakage and land contamination events. The tank owner bears all direct financial responsibility and liability for environmental remediation in the event any volume of fuel oil unintentionally spills or leaks from a deficient, poorly maintained heating oil tank. Excavation and removal of contaminated soils and associated long term impacts linked to cleaning up oil spills can be extremely costly. Thus as a fuel oil tank owner, you share an encompassing duty to proactively maintain your oil storage infrastructure to consistently ensure the safe containment of the petroleum product with no potential for release into the surrounding environment.

Both commercial property insurance policies and specialty supplemental oil spill insurance policies provide certain financial protections linked to contamination events originating from heating oil tank failures, however all such policies necessitate disclosure of known tank deficiencies beforehand, require documented annual inspections by certified OFTEC engineers, mandate timely correction of identified tank issues, and often explicitly exclude gradual long term leakage events from coverage.

In summary

While formal regulatory requirements are relatively limited, the duty of care for safe operation and environmental responsibilities endowed upon owners of heating oil tanks used for storage of fuel oil are still quite expansive. Necessary proactive prevention of leakage, rapid response cleaning of contamination events, constant performance of repairs and general maintenance to avoid any gradual release of heating oil, alongside carrying adequately extensive insurance policies constitute the core components of owning and operating a heating oil tank and boiler system.

When recommendations for replacing ageing tanks are issued, expedient action is highly advisable since the high costs of repairs or environmental harms which could follow from inaction will likely overshadow preventative replacement expenses when weighed retrospectively after a contamination event has occurred. Some modern oil distribution companies even offer customized long term payment plans intended to ease the financial burden on households needing to purchase replacement domestic heating oil storage tanks. With advanced planning and by upholding the many facets of duty as a heating oil tank owner, one can safely operate this equipment on a commercial property and rest assured the potential for avoidable environmental incidents has been consciously minimized.

We hope this article was helpful for you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us. We’re here to help you with your oil storage needs.

Commercial Oil Tank Services