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18 June 2018
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For many organisations the storage of fuel presents unique challenges that are often logistically complex and highly time-sensitive. Kurt Wachter of Adler and Allan explains what FMs should keep in mind.

Credit: Shutterstock

6 June 2017 | Kurt Wachter

Handling and storing fuel of any kind demands an effective strategy and a high degree of due diligence to avoid serious damage to the environment, colleagues’ health, property and the asset itself, resulting in downtime. 

The sheer amount of fuel-powered equipment that firms rely on means the need for a robust storage, maintenance and contingency procedure is paramount – particularly to make sure the equipment used on an operation remains within the law and is safe for colleagues to use.  

Most businesses encounter issues with fuel storage at some point, particularly when the fuel in question is used as a resource rather than a product – but with the right amount of planning and knowledge most risks can be mitigated or even eliminated. For FMs working in industries that regularly handle fuel this is clearly a pressing issue, as the repercussions for those who fail to comply are serious.  

Be familiar with the law

The EU has a set of regulatory standards in place to prevent environmental catastrophe and also ensure that fuel is of a consistently high-quality standard across the continent. 

Oil is the most common pollutant in the UK, so the government also subjects businesses to its own domestic storage regulations to help prevent unnecessary spillage and exposure to groundwater. In most commercial and industrial sites a secondary containment system (known as ‘bunding’) should be installed on any tank exceeding 200 litres to prevent leakage. A properly maintained bunded tank will radically reduce risks to the environment and is mandatory for any storage device within 10 metres of a watercourse. Additional advice from the Environment Agency should also be sought if a tank is within 10m of inland coastal waters or 50m of a well or borehole. Essentially, as there are penalties of up to £50,000 and 12 months in prison, it’s better to be safe than sorry.   

Note also that for this legislation ‘oil’ encompasses most commonly used fuels – including petrol, diesel and biofuel – restating the need for properly maintained storage and handling equipment. Most FM service providers are likely to come into regular contact with fuels that are controlled under UK storage regulations, so it’s crucial to ensure that measures are in place to avoid falling foul of the law. 

Inspections are regularly carried out on behalf of the government to assess whether sites pose a pollution risk. A facility found to be in violation is issued with an anti-pollution works notice – and often remedial action is required. Continual violations carry the risk of considerable fines and site closures, leading not only to waste but possibly huge losses in revenue and operational productivity.  

Understanding fuel is key 

Understanding how fuel behaves is vital for any organisation that wants to minimise risk and make the most of its fuel assets. In recent years EU directives have seen the introduction of biofuels, which contain a biological component to meet emission reduction targets. This means that fuel is prone to contamination and degradation – including bacterial growth – so the need for regular maintenance is greater than ever. 

Equally, the oxidation stability for non-biofuels can mean that solids build up over time, leaving open the possibility of serious damage to fuel distribution systems. All fuels are subject to degradation of some kind, meaning that nothing should sit stagnant for long. It’s generally agreed that a fuel turnover period of six months is ideal; anything that sits for longer than this should be tested for damage, and may require fuel polishing to bring it back into use. 

Maintenance procedures

Fuel tanks should be inspected annually and while safety and legal responsibilities ultimately lie with the owner, it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure correct storage procedures are followed meticulously. Fuel is the lifeblood of many businesses, so it should be safely stored and maintained in a way befitting its precious status. 

More information:

HSE - storing petrol safely

Kurt Wachter is divisional manager at Adler and Allan