Industry Focus on Heating Oil Tank Safety

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has identified heating oil tank safety as “the most important issue affecting the heating oil industry …”. The main safety concern is to avoid the accidental release of fuel oil from the oil tank itself or other tank system components, such as fill or vent piping, oil supply line, etc.

Tank Inspection is the Key

For aboveground tanks, regular visual tank inspection by knowledgeable technicians is probably the best measure that an Oilheat Dealer can take to minimize the risk of tank failures. This has been the industry norm and is still the best approach to tank evaluation. This practice is recommended by NORA, by tank manufacturers and by insurance companies.

Visual inspections can catch most of the problems with tanks and tank systems. Corrosion inside the tank cannot be seen, but most internal corrosion leaks develop slowly and will be noticed as a wet spot on the tank exterior by visual inspections before there is a release of oil. Installing inexpensive leak containment trays under oil tanks will offer protection between inspections and prevent damage from most corrosion leaks.

The great value of early detection of deficiencies is to be able to recommend corrective service or a tank replacement before there is a significant problem. Spill avoidance is the reason that insurance companies want Oilheat Dealers to inspect tanks.

Data Management

Inspecting tanks is one thing, but recording and storing the information in a useful format is quite another. That’s why we’ve developed the TANK CHECK™ software – an interactive web based data storage and analysis system.

Now, instead of just gathering tank information and squirreling it away in a notebook or file drawer, you can put that data to good use, protecting both your customers and your business. The software evaluates risk factors and identifies unsafe tanks. And it allows you to print out Tank Inspecttion Reports to share with your customers.

When deficiencies are noted, these reports can be the basis for service or upgrade recommendations. They might even give you a reason to decide not to deliver to high risk tanks. With TANK CHECK™, you can help customers to avoid damaging and costly problems and you can reduce your own liability exposure. How’s that for peace of mind?

Our Goal: Inspect EVERY Tank

Obviously, TANK-CHECK™ provides a greater measure of safety for you and your customers as more of your tanks are entered. The goal should be to have all of the tanks that you deliver to included in your database. Because our hope is to maximize oil tank safety industry wide, we have made TANK CHECK™ available at minimal cost. Depending on the number of tanks you enter, your annual charge per tank could be as little as 99 cents! You may want to charge for this service but, at that price, you can also look at TANK CHECK™ as a complimentary value added benefit for your customers without worrying about trying to charge for it at all. Remember, it’s certainly in your best interest to be recommending tank system upgrades which will generate new profit and reduce your liability risk for oil releases. Most likely, you’ll easily recoup the minimal cost for TANK CHECK™.

What About Inspection Technology?

We live in a digital age, so it’s natural to wish for technologically advanced answers to every problem. Unfortunately, there are many situations where this simply isn’t possible, and one of them is aboveground home heating oil tank inspection.

We have evaluated several technologies but, so far, we have found that testing home heating oil tanks in place, and with any degree of reliability, is virtually impossible. Hand held ultrasonic testers are used by some people, but we cannot recommend this technique as being meaningful. Because of the way it works, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack and it can’t be used at all on welds and tight contours. So, the chance of missing a potential leak is much greater than that of finding one. That doesn’t seem like much of a service to a customer and it seems to us to have the effect of increasing your liability, rather than reducing it.


For more information about Home Heating Oil Tank corrosion, testing and protection, please request our publication "TANK SENSE" What You Need to Know About Heating Oil Tanks” by calling 508-892-4717 or by email to

Magazine Articles (copies available upon request):

"Four Tips For Avoiding Oil Tank Corrosion"; Oil & Energy, August 2006.

"Aging Oil Tanks: Is Testing the Answer? Who's Liable? What Can You Do?"; Oil & Energy, April 2004.

In August, 2006 NORA published the 2nd Edition of its comprehensive (312 pages) guide titled "Heating Oil Storage Tanks - Guide for Quality Installation and Maintenance." NORA also offers a handy pocket booklet for technicians titled "Technician Service Guide & Tank Inspection Procedures." These publications are available at