What Should I Do If I Discover My Oil Tank Is Leaking?

What should I do if I discover my oil tank is leaking? More often than not we hide our oil storage tanks as far from sight as we can.  Out of sight out of mind.  But this is a habit we really should break.  A Hundred litres of home heating oil spilled in the wrong place can have considerable consequences, now scale that up to 200 litres, 500 litres, 1000 litres even and the mind starts to boggle. But all is not lost…….

We should build regular checks of the state of our tanks, their fittings and their base into our regular garden routine.  This does not always have to be carried out by a heating engineer, a watchful regular eye is all you need in order to monitor and pick up on any small defects that might become large issues down the line.  This small exercise could save you considerable heart ache and stress.

So, down to the nitty gritty.  If you find yourself dealing with a leaking tank check first if the leak is from the tank fittings or the tank itself.  So, once you have answered this first question you are half-way there.

  1. If the fittings are leaking, then you need to turn off the isolation valve. It will be either a quarter turn lever or a circular shut-off valve which you will have to keep turning until the leak stops.  There are rare cases where the fitting that sits inside the fabric of the tank fails, and we will get to that later after you have tried everything else.
  2. If the tank has split and oil is being spilled from it your best bet is to initially do two things; firstly, get a basin and place this below the split to help prevent the home heating oil getting to the ground. Secondly, get a bar of soap from your bathroom / utility room.  Rub the soap into the fissure in the tank over and over until the hole fills up with soap.  This will forma temporary “stopgap” and stem the flow, but you will still need the basin and you will still need help.
  3. In both of the above scenarios where you have had an oil spill from your tank further action will be required. The best-case scenario where you have a simple leak from your tank fittings can be repaired very easily and your heating restored promptly. However, there will be soil impact that depending on the location of our tank could be migrating through the soils to drains, sewers, foundations or a neighbour.  This will need to be professionally investigated by a suitably qualified and experienced oil spill remediation consultant.  Ideally this needs to be done as soon as possible, why?  Home heating oil is self-lubricating and travels through the ground much faster than water which tends to stick to everything that it encounters.  A consultant such as GAEA who is specifically set up to respond to oil spill emergencies such as this and can attend immediately, investigate your property, repair the leak, restore your heating and contain the oil spill to stop it spreading.
  4. In the event that your tank has split causing the oil spill Gaea can install a temporary tank and maintain heating to your home on a temporary basis whilst carrying out the necessary emergency works.
  5. Now, going back to the rare event we mentioned earlier where the fitting inside the fabric of the tank fails, this will require a second tank immediately as if you don’t transfer the oil to a second tank there will be nothing you can do but watch all of the oil drain from your tank into the ground and cause untold damage to your property, possibly streams and rivers and your neighbours.

So, if you find yourself in the unfortunate and stressful situation of dealing with a leak from your tank follow this advice and you should be in a much better position than if you did not.