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The Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations came into force in October 2014, combining and updating all previous legislation on petrol storage.

The primary purpose of the legislation is to ensure that petrol is stored and handled safely, recognising it to be a dangerous substance and highly flammable liquid that can give off vapour and be easily ignited when not stored and handled safely.
Consequently, there is always a risk of a fire and / or an explosion if there is a source of ignition nearby, for example a naked flame, an electrical spark or similar.

The Regulations apply to workplaces that store petrol where petrol is dispensed directly into the tank of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, i.e. retail and non-retail petrol filling stations; and non-workplace premises storing petrol, for example private homes and clubs/associations.

Operators of, and employees at petrol filling stations
Operators of petrol filling stations with dispensing equipment comprising:

  • a static tank (either an underground or fixed above ground petrol storage tank);
  • a containment system as part of petrol dispensing equipment; and
  • a pump where petrol is dispensed directly into the tank of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine,

require a petroleum storage certificate to illustrate compliance with the law on keeping petrol on dispensing premises. 

The owner of a new site or a site that has been out of operation for over twelve months needs to apply for a storage certificate.

The storage certificate will be issued by the local Petroleum Enforcement Authority, known as the PEA (formerly the Petroleum Licensing Authority or PLA), and in circumstances where one is needed applications should be made at least 28 days in advance (you can apply up to six months in advance).

The PEA must be satisfied that the containment system for petrol at dispensing premises may reasonably be used to store petrol without creating an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of any person, before granting a storage certificate.

To meet the requirements of the regulations and obtain a certificate operators must supply specific drawings to the PEA, including:

  • a drawing of the layout of the dispensing premises, and
  • a drawing of the containment system, including storage tanks and pipe work, and
  • a drawing of the drainage system for petrol.

The drawings are essential and should also be readily available after a certificate has been issued.

Payment of an annual fee is required to maintain the certificate, the cost being determined by the volume of petrol held.

When a significant change (a prescribed material change) is made at a premises a new storage certificate containing the up to date drawing reference numbers needs to be sourced.

The regulations include a list of what is meant by a ‘prescribed material change’ to dispensing premises, with specific guidance also provided on circumstances that may render a certificate invalid, the format in which drawings need to be submitted to the PEA and what has to be done in the event of a change of operator.

Anyone refused a storage certificate for any reason can follow this up in the first instance with the appropriate PEA, and if necessary the decision can be appealed to the relevant Secretary of State.

The regulations also prohibit sales to those under the age of 16 and stipulate the type and capacity of portable containers that can be filled with petrol, i.e.:

  • plastic containers up to 10 litres
  • metal containers up to 20 litres
  • a demountable fuel tank.

A petroleum storage certificate is not required for a workplace if:

  • you store petrol in a static tank and dispense it only into containers;
  • you store petrol in a mobile or movable storage container, whether you dispense into the tank of a vehicle with an internal combustion engine, or into containers.

Persons who store petrol at home, or at a club/association or similar premises
Up to 30 litres of petrol can be stored at home or at non-workplace premises without informing the local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA) as long as it is stored in suitable portable metal or plastic containers, a demountable fuel tank, or a combination of both.

Anyone wishing to store more than 30 litres of petrol and up to a maximum of 275 litres of petrol at home, club/association etc. is required to notify the local Petroleum Enforcement Authority in writing, giving name and address as the occupier of the storage place or the address where the petrol is stored. Again it can be stored in suitable portable metal or plastic containers, a demountable fuel tank, or a combination of both.

Where up to 275 litres of petrol is stored at such premises it is also appropriate to highlight the common storage requirements, which are:

  • petrol is not stored in living accommodation
  • petrol is not dispensed (i.e. it is not pumped either manually or electrically from a storage tank)
  • if the storage place is not in the open air a direct exit to open air and ventilation to this exit is required
  • all reasonable precautions should be taken to prevent any sources of ignition or heat that would be able to ignite the petrol or its vapour
  • petrol in the storage place should only be used in the fuel tank of any internal combustion engine in quantities (not exceeding 150 millilitres at any one time) or for cleaning or as a solvent for repair purposes.

Any person or organisation storing more than 275 litres at non-workplace premises who doesn’t have a licence needs to apply to the local PEA. The licence will specify a name and where the petrol is to be kept; it can be granted for up to 3 years and is not transferrable. The local PEA may attach conditions to the licence with regards to how the petrol is stored.

Petrol in the fuel tank of a vehicle, including boats and aircraft, does not count when you are calculating the total amount you are storing. Storage on a vehicle does count however, with a maximum of 30 litres allowed in a maximum of two suitable containers. Carriage of petrol is covered by the Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) and the agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road  (ADR).

You can dispense petrol at home, club/association etc., if the local PEA issue you with a licence for storing more than 275 litres of petrol, and the licence includes conditions relating to your storage and dispensing arrangements. Without a licence to store petrol, you should not dispense petrol into the tank of vehicle with an internal combustion engine, either by manual or electrical means.

Designers, manufacturers and / or suppliers of portable petrol storage containers
The Petroleum (Consolidation) Regulations 2014 retained the basic design safety features of previous legislation. Containers must be designed and manufactured as follows:

  • have a nominal capacity no greater than 10 litres if made of plastic and no greater than 20 litres if made of metal
  • have a total capacity between 10% and 15% more than the nominal capacity
  • be made of either metal or plastic that is suitable and safe for the purpose and will not significantly degrade due to exposure to petrol or naturally occurring ultra-violet radiation
  • be designed and constructed so that reasonably robust and not liable to break under the normal conditions of use, the escape of liquid or vapour is prevented, petrol can be poured safely from it, and is not unsteady when placed on a flat surface
  • be marked or labelled in a legible and indelible form with the words ‘PETROL’ and ‘HIGHLY FLAMMABLE, an appropriate hazard warning sign, the nominal capacity in litres, the manufacturer’s name and the date and month of manufacture.

Other premises
The regulations do not apply at workplaces that do not dispense petrol (defined previously).

At premises where there may be dispensing of petrol into containers, such activity is considered ancillary and not of the scale intended to be covered by the regulations.

Such workplaces continue to be covered by: The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR).

Where petrol is used as part of a work activity, it is also possible to fill UN Approved containers for petrol which have a larger capacity than the regulation provides for a suitable portable petrol container.  This is provided specific requirements are met.

As part of their risk assessment, the petrol filling station may want to agree specific arrangements regarding the filling of the containers.

The petrol filling station, workplace, and work activities involving the filling, storage and use of the UN Approved containers for petrol, continue to be covered by the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR), with the requirement to assess the risk from dangerous substances and minimise the risk.

General Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t store petrol unless you have to. If you do, store it safely.
  • Don’t take petrol into living accommodation.
  • Keep it out of the reach of children. 
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight.
  • Remember, an empty container that previously held petrol may also be unsafe because of the fumes which can remain.  Keep the cap of the container securely fastened, and follow the same advice as for storing petrol.
  • Follow petrol station safety instructions whenever filling a petrol tank or portable container.  Containers must be placed on the ground when filling.
  • Make sure petrol fuelled equipment has cooled down before refilling it with petrol.  And only fill the tanks of such equipment in the open air away from buildings.
  • Never use petrol as an accelerant to light fires.