Above Ground Oil Storage Tanks (PPG2)

3. Legal background

In England and Wales, it is against the law to cause water pollution and there are specific regulations that may apply to your oil storage tank. Non compliance with these regulations is an offence and may result in enforcement action being taken against you.

In Scotland, the storage of oil is regulated by the Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006, (OSR Scotland), as detailed below. Where oil storage results in pollution of the water environment, this may constitute an offence under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005, as amended. Non compliance with these regulations may result in enforcement action being taken against you.

a) Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations
In England, above ground oil storage is regulated by the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001, (OSR England). Oils covered by these regulations include petrol, diesel, vegetable, synthetic and mineral oils. They apply to most industrial, commercial and institutional sites storing oil in containers over 200 litres and to private dwellings with containers storing more than 3,500 litres. The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing these regulations throughout England and may serve an Anti Pollution Works Notice requiring inadequate facilities to be brought up to standard. Answers to a number of frequently asked questions are available on our web site at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/osr

In Scotland, oil storage is regulated by the Water Environment (Oil Storage) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (OSR Scotland). These regulations apply to any kind of oil including petrol, diesel, mineral oil, heating oil, lubricating oil, waste oil, vegetable and plant oil but don’t include uncut bitumen. They apply to the storage of any volume of oil, except private dwellings storing oil in a container with a capacity of 2,500 litres of oil or less. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), is responsible for enforcing these regulations throughout Scotland and may serve an Enforcement Notice requiring inadequate facilities to be brought up to standard.

Throughout this guidance we’ve highlighted text indicating areas that must be complied with under both the English and Scottish oil storage regulations. There are tables covering what you must do where these regulations differ. Where the term ‘must’ is used, this refers to your legal requirement under the OSR England or OSR Scotland where they apply (see References 6 and 7). 

OSR England applies to: OSR Scotland applies to:
Above ground oil storage in containers over 200 litres.
Private domestic oil tanks over 3,500 litres.
All above ground oil storage (except domestic oil tanks of 2500 litres or less).
Portable containers of less than 200 litres*.
Above ground oil storage in containers of 200 litres or more.
Waste oil storage
- see PPG8, Reference 8.
Oil stored on farms - see Reference 9.
Oil stored in buildings - see Section 6.
OSR England - exemptions OSR Scotland - exemptions
Waste mineral oil storage - see Reference 8.
Oil stored on farms for agricultural heat and power - see Reference 9.
Oil stored in buildings. Follow good practice recommendations.
Oil stored wholly underground.
Premises used for refining oil.
Premises used for the onward distribution of oil to other places.
Oil stored in accordance with PPC Part A permits.
Oil distribution depots for onward distribution to other places.
Oil stored wholly underground, unless it’s in a building.

* In Scotland any oil storage container must be strong enough not to leak in ordinary use. Portable containers with a storage capacity under 200 litres don’t have to comply with the more prescriptive requirements of the OSR Scotland, such as secondary containment, which apply to the remainder of the list in the table.

The differences in implementation timescales between OSR England and OSR Scotland are:

OSR England OSR Scotland – phased implementation
All non–exempt oil storage in England must comply with the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001. New non-exempt tanks installed after 1 April 2006 must comply.
Tanks within 10 metres of surface water or 50 metres of any borehole or well must comply.
After April 2010 all remaining tanks must comply.

Appendix A contains a checklist to help you decide whether improvements are needed to your oil storage system to comply with the OSR in England and Scotland. You must consider the timescales for the Regulations to decide when your oil storage must comply.

Similar regulations will be introduced in Northern Ireland and may follow in Wales. You can contact us for more advice.

b) Building Regulations
Oil tanks connected to fixed combustion appliances, like central heating boilers and cookers, need to comply with the building regulations that apply in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales (Reference 10). These regulations include requirements for both environmental protection and fire safety. If you’re having a new or replacement oil tank fitted or having your tank altered, you should check with your local authority (usually your local council) to see how these Regulations apply to your oil storage tank, or you can have the tank installed by a member of a professional scheme (see Section 15).

Even if your oil tank isn’t covered by any of the Regulations above, following these guidelines is good practice and will minimise the risk of your oil causing pollution. In some sensitive locations, we may ask for more stringent environment protection measures than are described here.

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